The end of the program

Upon returning to the backpackers' in Brisbane, we all set about the crazed task of writing up our final research papers from Heron Island. The general mood was that this would not be our finest work. A certain amount of spring-fever/senioritis set in. It was the end of a magical three months. Many were in the throws of planning their post-program trips to New Zealand or Bali. Yet, we somehow needed to pull off a paper (allegedly better than our previous papers from Moreton Bay Research Station on Stradbroke Island) in two days. Given the generally studious atmosphere of the hostel, everyone more or less scattered to the various city locations that best facilitated studiousness. Some went to the UQ campus. Others walked down to various cafes or the State Library in Southbank. That is where I spent the better part of the days. I scrambled with the data analysis, conclusion, and discussion with the research paper.

Here are some photos I took of Brisbane during the week, mostly while walking home from the library.

We worked really hard, and in the end, I feel alright about the paper I turned in. It certainly could have used another week of revision and work, but I turned in what I could given the time constraints.

On Wednesday night, a group of us went out to have an amazing dinner with Renee (one of our tutors from Heron Island) and a few of her friends. One was from South Africa, and she and I had a lovely chat about Cape Town (in addition to discussions about queer issues, racial privilege, and other such things). She helped fuel my excitement about my next study abroad trip.

After that, we met Toby (Dr. T, as he is now known to the group since his dissertation was completed and his PhD awarded) at a bar. I had a coke, chatted with him briefly, and then excused myself as the place filled up. I was tired from the paper writing (and the general lack of sleep from Carnarvon and Heron) and wanted to crash.

The next morning, a bus came for us and took the whole lot of us out to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, a zoo dedicated to the preservation of Australian fauna. Although it was a touch odd to see so many of these animals that we had had the privilege of seeing in the wild locked up in pens and cages, it was still an exciting experience.

The cutest sleeping flying fox tongue


Tawny frogmouths (not just a stripper name, also a bird!)

It was a dingo!

Sleeping Tasmanian devil

sleepy taz!

And from among the ratites, some of the world's largest Gondwanan bird relics:

The cassowary

and the emu

kudos for the unimpressed

A wombat made a rare diurnal appearance

And came out to sun its belly...squee!

Hello, you're upside down.


A beautiful perentie, which is the largest lizard in Australia and up there in the world.

Mertens' water monitor
As cool as everything was, from the platypus tanks to the reptile house (including a type of snake whose enclosure was designed to look like a suburban backyard), the peaks of Lone Pine surely are the kangaroo petting zoo (where you wander around hand-feeding a bunch of kangaroos and wallabies) and the koala-fondling exhibit. That's not really its name, but you get to hold a koala...

Yes! We had a nose-rubbing snuzzle moment!

It was all almost as cute as this:

Now I know where they got the idea for those backpacks.
It also was the birthday of Ross (our guy from the International Programs Office) and we sang him a loud American "Happy Birthday" much to the dismay of his British modesty.

After Lone Pine, we returned to the backpackers' to shower and get dressed for the farewell dinner. We knew that neither Ross nor Toby would be there, but everyone else we had been in contact with would. It was our chance to formally close the program and have our send off. It was the reason any of us brought nice clothes to Australia.  Storms were brewing north and west of the city, which brought a special ambiance to the evening on the rooftop of one of the campus buildings.

There was the dinner. There were speeches, teary in the case of Dr. John's delivery of a Kipling poem or humorous in the case of Tibbett's send off. There were songs (including a version of Waltzing Matilda). There were skits (by request, the Tiny Ecologist came back to go snorkeling and re-enact an alternate ending to Jonathan's and my encounter with the blue-ringed octopus). There were the awarding of the prizes for our photo competition (something we had to submit our entries for while also completing our papers). And then there was the yearbook and whole ton of hugs, photos, and tears. Over the course of several weeks, Alyssa had designed a yearbook (apparently the first time ever for this program) that included some less-than-flattering pictures of each of us with nicknames, superlatives, and letters from the lecturers, tutors, and the programs office. Jemma and Justine had managed to get it printed and delivered to the dinner (those women are pure magic). I am rather pleased that I was selected as "most likely to make an inappropriate joke at any moment." My work here was finished.

I won't bore you with pictures of us all hugging each other and saying goodbye. I probably did not take as many photos of my companions as I ought to. It was a special evening.

But no goodbye is good unless it is completely and excessively drawn out.

So, we all bussed back to the hostel and then wandered out for an evening in the West End. Fortunately, they picked a mellower and more spacious bar where people could have drinks, and yet I could still have a soda and tolerate holding conversations. Even after that, there were farewells at the hostel throughout the evening, the following morning and that next afternoon.

Eventually, I made my way with all my bags (Mia and Jacqui helped me haul them to the bus station) to my friend Antony's place. He was kind enough to offer me a place to crash for the remaining two nights I had in Brisbane as well as a ride to the airport. He is a true demonstration of the warmth and generosity I discovered in Australia (as is his family for allowing me in, while they prepared for a family vacation of their own).

All in all, I was ready to be home. Sure, part of me wished to make Brisbane my home, but I missed my fellow and my animals. I missed my own bed and the view out the front door of San Gorgonio peak and the sun setting behind it.

I am so grateful to have had this experience. Ever since I was a child, I dreamt of studying abroad as well as going to Australia. It had not crossed my mind until I was there that those two life-long dreams could actually come true simultaneously.

Ross, Jemma, and Justine at the Program Office were an amazing resource and warm hosts to the group of us Californians. Chris Salisbury, John Hall, and Ian Tibbetts were amazing educators (as well as the guest lecturers and tutors we worked with). Heather (my homestay hostess, and I assume everyone else's homestay families) gave us beautiful homes to reside in. It was all amazing.

I was blown away by the beauty of Australia, both natural and human. I do hope to make it back there, and I urge anyone to get there.