… or in the words of Adele, hello from the other side (of the world). The only island that’s a country, the only country that’s a continent and the only continent that’s an island; make no mistake about it, Australia is one big place. The long second flight certainly made me appreciate this.
After landing in daylight (and getting a stamp in my passport, yay!), my vision of a swift exit from customs with my easily identifiable bright purple suitcase with pink straps was compromised by the fact that several people on my flight had bright purple suitcases with pink straps. As if someone had flicked a light switch, it was dark outside by the time I met the friendly driver from UQ who was there to pick me up. Upon hearing that I was from Scotland, he spent the whole journey telling me his opinions of the country, including, most notably, how having to pay to use a public toilet in Perth during his holiday had quite put a downer on the whole trip. Fortunately Pitlochry was nice.
The last few days have been a whirlwind. Averaging 7 hours of sunshine a day throughout the year and nicknamed the “sunshine state,” Queensland weather has certainly lived up to expectations. Currently around 36 degrees (it has been a close run thing but I’ve not melted yet, don’t worry), the days vary only between hot, hotter and hottest, and bright, brighter and brightest. I have been told – shock horror – that I might have to wear a jumper in winter, but only in the unlikely scenario of temperatures falling below 22 degrees.
My two chemistry PhD flatmates kindly gave me tours (with a short intermission to observe some scanning electron microscopy on one of the two very complicated looking machines for this in Australia) of both their QUT (Queensland University of Technology) campus and the UQ (University of Queensland) St Lucia campus, where I will be based.
A quick google search tells me that the population of St Andrews is 17,000, Perth’s population stands around 47,000, Brussels has a population of 1.1 million, but Brisbane beats them all at 2.3 million. In fact, UQ has 50,836 students, more than the entire population of Perth and more than 6 times the student population of St Andrews (7,775). It’s pretty big to say the least.
Accordingly the UQ St Lucia campus is huge (114 hectares). Located in a bend of the Brisbane river, the beautiful campus incorporates 3 lakes, a great court and several museums and libraries.
But the thing I like the most is the amazing wildlife all over the campus! Spotted while eating my lunch today…
The pedestrian crossings in Brisbane are a bit strange. When the green man appears they sound like what can only be described as demented woodpeckers, especially when several go off at once (perchuum-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun).
However today on campus I saw a more peaceful pelican crossing. Literally.
As well as exploring the campus, I hopped on the city sightseeing bus to see more of Brisbane. My two favourite stops were Mount Coot-tha and South Bank. Mount Coot-tha was originally home to the Turrbal Aboriginal people who came to collect “ku-ta” (honey) produced by the native stingless bee. It has the highest peak in Brisbane and the panoramic views are stunning!
South Bank is dubbed “Brisbane’s premier lifestyle and cultural destination” and is a mix of parklands, restaurants, exhibitions and even contains an artificial beach. I can definitely see myself spending a lot of time here, it has such a chilled atmosphere.
The bus then went under a large canopy in Waterfront Place which is not a form of sun protection, despite what you might assume, but actually there to protect pedestrians from falling windows in a city skyscraper. Due to a design fault in the building the windows just keep, well, falling out, with around 200 doing so so far.
While adapting to everyday life here, I have confused myself several times when paying for things as their 10 cents are smaller than their twenties and the 2 dollar coin smaller than the one dollar coin. However this sensible country does not have 1 or 2 cent coins so no more carrying around hundreds of coppers (although not such good news for my penny collection).
Despite the distance from home, one of the first things I saw in Australia was an advert for Downton Abbey, a lot of the shops are the same plus lots of people have connections to the UK, so it actually feels a lot closer to home than it really is. A similarity I didn’t anticipate is the number of umbrellas. I took great satisfaction in firmly placing my umbrella in a drawer at home, but it turns out everyone uses them here for sun shade!
It has been a whirlwind few days and I think the jet lag has finally caught up with me, but I’m very excited for everything to come in the next 5 months.