Port Douglas and Back to Palm Beach

After we got back from Magnetic Island, Brittany, Emily, and I left on a road trip to Port Douglas! We broke the trip into two days to make it easier since its a bit of a long drive. We got on the road on Wednesday morning and made our way to the first destination, Mission Beach. It was three hours from Townsville to Mission Beach, so we stopped at a really cool place called the Cardwell Spa Pools first. I had googled images of this place when Brittany told me we were going there, and it looked so beautiful I couldn’t wait to see it in person! The water is naturally a super icy blue color, and in the rainy seasons you can even swim in it! Unfortunately there was a sign that said no swimming now, but we did dip our toes in just to feel the temperature (it was cold!). We stayed there for a bit and took some cool pictures before getting back in the car and heading the rest of the way to Mission Beach.

Brittany booked a really cute Airbnb right across the street from the beach. Literally we could see the beach from the breakfast table! We immediately ran over to check it out when we got there, and it was completely empty! That’s been one interesting thing to me. All of the beaches we have gone to this portion of my trip have been so empty. They’re absolutely gorgeous beaches, but nobody is ever really there! Its just a score for us, we love a good private beach! The weather had been really bad that whole day, and the skies looked like they were going to open up again. Instead of going out to dinner, we went to Coles and bought some salmon and Thai salad to make for dinner. Emily cooked for us and it turned out delicious! By the time we were done eating, the rain had really picked up, so we decided to just be cozy and hang out at the house. We ended up making a bubble bath in our really big jacuzzi tub and watching a movie on my laptop! We had a good laugh making bubble beards. It was a really fun night.

Thursday morning we woke up early for the sunrise! We put on jackets since it was a little chilly from all the rain and skipped across the street to watch the sun rise over the ocean. It was a bit cloudy still, but it ended up being a gorgeous sunrise. Brittany took a time lapse video that I’ll put below! We had originally planned to stay at Mission Beach for a while and lay on the sand, but since the weather was bad, we voted against it. I Instead, we went back to the house and ate breakfast before getting back on the road to keep going to Port Douglas.

Again, we made some stops along the way. This time we stopped at a few different beaches Brittany knew of to check them out. Again, NOBODY was there!! We found a swing hanging from a tree and took turns swinging and having the best time. It was so fun. I hope one day I live on the beach so I can have a swing like that in my backyard!

We stopped in Cairns next to have lunch. We planned on walking around the Cairns Esplanade, but it had just closed a few days prior for renovations. Instead, Emily and I got BOGO waffle cones at Baskin Robins, and then shortly after all got lunch at a pizza place called Crust. This was the FIRST pizza I’ve had since being in Australia that I actually enjoyed. It had rocket (or arugula for you American folk), avocado, a yummy pesto drizzle, and other really good toppings. I let Brittany pick our pizza and I am glad she did!

After Cairns was the last hour of our drive before Port Douglas. We stayed at Brittany’s parents time share at the Ramada Resort, which was incredibly nice! Our room wasn’t ready when we got there, so we went and window shopped in the strip area. Brittany ended up getting some really cute things all for $5 each! I unfortunately didn’t find anything that fit me. But it was for the best, since my suitcase was dangerously full. When our room was ready, we got all checked in and then went to the beach there to check that out. Then it was time for a cocktail and some room service. We had an early night, since the next morning Brittany and I were going to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef!

This is something I have dreamed of for forever and never thought would be a reality. We woke up early to get picked up and taken to the marina, and I was over the moon. We boarded our boat, the AquaQuest, and got our snorkel gear ready. It was a 90 minute ride out to our first snorkel site. The water was freezing, but we hopped in anyways! What I saw when my mask went underwater literally took my breath away. It was such an amazing thing to see in person, and the GoPro picture I have don’t nearly do it justice. We swam around for as long as we were allowed before getting on the boat to head to the second and last spot of the day.

When we got back on the boat, they were going to be serving lunch. We went to our little bucket to get our towels only to find they were gone! The woman sitting next to our bucket on the bench said she saw a family come and take them, and we knew exactly who she was referring to. Brittany went to go confront them and they said they didn’t take them, and they had the same resort towels we did. She said they had brought four, but there were five of them and they all had a towel. Which would make sense, since we did find one of our towels in their bucket soaking wet. We ended up just sharing that one the best we could since the mom started to give us major attitude.

The second spot was just as incredible as the first. Brittany and I took turns using her GoPro to take pictures of each other and the fish and coral. We saw so many cool fish! She has all the pictures and videos on her GoPro still, but I was able to snag a few to post on here. We swam around for a while until I got the most painful toe cramp and then calf cramp of my entire life. I honestly thought I was going to drown because I couldn’t use that leg at all to keep myself afloat. For safety reasons (LOL), I went back to the boat, and even got another bad cramp on the way there. I guess I needed a banana. I wish I had waited it out, though, because Brittany said only a few minutes after I left, someone grabbed at her flipper and pointed out a turtle! She said someone ended up scaring it away, but I was so jealous to not get to see it.

After our 90 minute ride back to Port Douglas, we got a ride back to the resort and then met back up with Emily, who hadn’t joined us for the day. The three of us went to the beach just in time for sunset and enjoyed our last evening together before I left the next morning. We went back to Coles to get a quick dinner to make at home, since we had such an early wake up call Saturday morning and Brittany and I were exhausted from our day. We watched National Treasure and called it a night.

We left our resort at 3am to drive the hour to Cairns airport, where I was leaving on a 6am flight. I was so sad to leave Brittany and Em. It was so nice to get to see Brittany after so long and spend such quality time with her. We really had a blast and made some super fun cousin memories I will never forget. Thanks again for having me, Brittany! I was shocked at how many people were at the airport so early! I had to wait in a really long line for both check in and security, but made it on my flight with no issue. It was a three hour flight from Cairns to Sydney, and then I had an almost three hour layover in Sydney. I had a friend come to the airport to surprise me and keep me company for the time I was there, but the airport security wouldn’t let me leave the international terminal since I didn’t have an Australian passport and my flight was sooner than three hours away. I felt super bad about it, but it was extremely thoughtful of them nonetheless.

At around noon Sydney time, I boarded my crazy long flight to Dallas. The flight was over 15 hours in length, but thankfully this time I was able to sit in the extra leg room seat I paid for! It was in an emergency exit row, so I had heaps of room. The only downside was that I couldn’t keep any of my belongings with me, they had to be stowed in the overhead compartments. I tried my best to stay awake for an hour or two on the flight before attempting to sleep, and I was so tired I thought for sure I would pass out. I’m never one to sleep well on planes, and that rang true for this flight as well. I slept for 30 minutes here and there, but I wouldn’t guess I ‘slept’ more than a total of two or three hours tops. I did catch up on some shows and watched some new movies, though.

I landed in Dallas a bit late and had only an hour to go through customs, recheck my bags, go through security again, and get to my gate. I was a bit nervous. When I got off the plane, I was handed a boarding pass for my connection that was in an orange envelope, to alert the airport workers that I had limited time to make my flight and would need express attention. It worked like a charm going through customs; I have never had such an easy experience! When I went to baggage claim though, I had to just wait on my bags like everyone else. No special help there. And luck would have it, my bags were the second to last to come off the belt. I basically sprinted from there to the security, where I had been given a special “TSA Pre-Check” slip of paper.

However, the man at the line said they weren’t doing pre check anymore. Which made absolutely no sense to me since I was holding a paper that I had just been given that told me I had those benefits. I explained my flight was boarding in only 15 minutes in a completely different terminal, and he just pointed to the main line. Annoyed, I waited anyway. When it was my turn to go through, they flagged my bag. I had no idea what could’ve been the problem since I hadn’t added anything to that bag since it was cleared through security in Sydney. The man then asked if I had an iPad in my bag, which I did. However, I have taken many flights in the past few months and have not once taken the iPad out of the bag and it hasn’t been an issue. I told him that, and he gave me the dirtiest look and said, “Well isn’t that so good for you. I do things differently here. If I want to check a bag, I will. If you give any attitude, I’ll just keep it.” I was dumbfounded. I hadn’t said anything with any attitude at all, although I wanted to. But I shut my mouth so quick and watched as he went and put my bag through again, yelling at someone else in the line that they “didn’t put their bag on the belt correctly”. He clearly was having a bad day or something, but I eventually did get my bag and had to sprint as fast as I could to the SkyTram and take a ride to my terminal. I ran so fast to my gate, and was rushed onto the plane and the doors shut only a minute later. I was so happy I ended up making it on time! I sat next to the most adorable older man named Mike, and the two of us talked the entire flight to Fort Lauderdale. He was flying down to visit his son, and the two of them were taking a trip to Bimini to swim with wild dolphins for a week. What an awesome trip!

Once I was off the plane, it took everything in me to not sprint to baggage claim where I knew my family was waiting for me. Once I rounded the corner and saw them, though, I couldn’t even help myself. I almost cried, I was so happy to be hugging my mom and dad! Then Finn came from around a different corner and tackled me from behind. I couldn’t stop hugging everyone! We went to a really good pizza dinner (FINALLY some really good pizza, something I have been craving!) and then went home to see Gracie when she got home from work. We went to church as a family on Sunday morning, and then had a delicious dinner out with friends that might as well be family.

I’ve been home for just over 24 hours now and I can’t stop smiling. I didn’t realize just how much I missed being home and with my family until I got back! I am so grateful for the time I had while in Australia. My mom has made fun of the way I am speaking countless times…apparently the way I say “r” has changed, but I can’t figure out why! Maybe its just a little souvenir from my home away from home. I fully plan on incorporating many of my new Australian sayings into my daily conversation, so if you plan on talking to me, you’ve been warned. Thank you to everyone who followed along and wished me well while I was gone. Your comments and support didn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated. I can’t wait to head off on my next adventure, whatever it may be!

xo, Hannah

“Stuff your eyes with wonder – live as if you’ll drop dead in 10 seconds. See the world, its more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.” – Ray Bradbury

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Cardwell Spa Pools.
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Yummy salmon, made by Em!
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Bubble beards!
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This pizza was delicious! I don’t remember what it was called, but it was so good.
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Swinging on my swing, just loving life.
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One of the places we stopped at a lookout!
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Our snorkeling boat for the day!
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Thankful for nice strangers who offer to take your picture.
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About to jump in!
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The lighter area in the water is the reef!
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This clam was GIANT!
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There were a huge group of these black fish swimming around.
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This coral was so beautiful.
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It went on for what seemed like forever!
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I always knew I was meant to be a mermaid.
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Of course there had to be a GoPro selfie!
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Another really cool coral formation.
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Cartwheels on the beach during golden hour.
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One last hug at the airport! Thank you for having me, Brittany!
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Tons of leg room on my 15 hour flight!
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I spotted the Harbor Bridge and the Opera House from my flight into Sydney!
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So happy to be home!

Trip to Magnetic Island

On Sunday morning, Brittany, her friend Emily, and I got up early to go catch a ferry to Magnetic Island! It is only a short 35 minute ferry ride from Townsville to Maggie, and it was really cool because the ferry even takes your car over, too! On our way, we saw a humpback whale out in the distance! His/her whole tail came out of the water! I have never seen a whale before, so this was crazy exciting for me. We met up with one of Brittany’s coworkers, Shauna, who is the marketing coordinator for their company, FantaSea Magnetic. Shauna was able to borrow a company car that had 4-wheel-drive to take us around the island, especially parts that required some off-roading, and in exchange we posed for some shots for their social media marketing! We already got a picture on their Instagram, which was super fun!

Our morning started with brekky at a cute pirate themed restaurant called Scalawags. I ordered a fancy hot chocolate and pancakes. The best part about pancakes in Australia is that they all come with ice cream. They were just as delicious as they looked. After brekky, we headed to a few different hikes with lookouts. Maggie Island has some of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. Everywhere we went, it just kept getting better!

The best part of the day was going to Radical Bay. To get here, the 4WD on Shauna’s work truck was put to good use. The road has tons of potholes, and some were incredibly deep. It was a bit scary to navigate down the road, but the beach was absolutely stunning. There were only a few other people there, so we basically had the place to ourselves! Shauna had packed two different yummy plates with fruits, cheeses, and meats for us to eat. Brittany and I played a ping pong type game, we laid out in the sun, and really enjoyed the day! I’ve missed the beach; normally in the summer I am super tan but my skin hasn’t seen much sun this trip! Plus the beach just makes me feel like I am at home. I loved every second of it.

After Radical Bay, we went to a cool spot where there are a ton of wild rock wallabies, and we spent some time feeding and petting them! There was a really sweet older man who gave us some seed to feed them, and directed us on which ones were the nicer ones and how to get them to come closer. Brittany said she sees him here all the time, and he clearly has made a good relationship with the wallabies. There even were a few moms that had babies in their pouches! We stayed there until the sun was close to going down, and then Shauna took us back to our backpackers hostel, Bungalow Bay, so we could check in.

We had leftover BBQ chicken from the night before, so we brought it to make more sandwiches and save money on food. We were all exhausted from getting up early and being so busy during the day that we showered and got to bed pretty early. Wrapping around the walls of the cabin, in place of where a piece of wall should be, was a screen so that you could hear to the outside. I didn’t think anything of this until we were trying to go to sleep, and all we could hear was crazy birds! At the time I didn’t even know they were birds. The little curlews, which are super adorable birds that we’ve seen walking around the island, scream. Not chirp, or any normal bird noise. Full on scream. This was quite the realization while I was trying to fall asleep! We had a good laugh about them, but quickly fell asleep anyways.

Monday morning we were up early to eat some brekky and get a good start to the day. We ate muffins and fruit before heading out to hike some more! We did a bunch of trails that all led to the most amazing views. On the first hike of the day we saw a wild koala in a tree! It was so cute, I wanted to hug it so bad! If they weren’t so violent I might’ve tried to… My favorite trek of the day was one that led us up to the Forts that are on the island. Brittany knew a secret way to climb all the way to the top so there wouldn’t be any obstructions to our view or our pictures. We ended up sitting on top of the fort for a really long time, just enjoying the perfect 360° views of the entire island. On our way down, we heard some rustling in the bushes, and a snake slithered out onto the path! Emily knew right away it was a venomous snake, so I had a mini heart attack until it was gone. Even though we would’ve preferred to stay away from anything venomous, Emily and Brittany keep saying I’m a good luck charm for all of the animals we’ve come across so far this trip!

Brittany is for sure a Maggie Island pro. She took us to Picnic Bay, which is another completely secluded beach area with tons of huge, beautiful rocks on the edges. We were completely alone and it truly felt like paradise! I even took a nap while laying in the sun. We took some fun pictures, climbed the rocks, and saw a group of sting ray swim past us in the water. We planned on doing another hike later that afternoon but were having way too much fun relaxing on the sand.

We did end up leaving eventually, but only to go to another beach for sunset! Horseshoe Bay did not disappoint. We took a time lapse video and kicked ourselves after we stopped it because the sky just kept growing more and more colorful and beautiful! We sat on Brittany’s cute mermaid towel until the sky was dark, and then went to grab take-away fish and chips to bring back to the accommodation. It was Bingo night, and still happy hour, so we enjoyed our dinner with some champagne and got way too competitive with our Bingo cards. Brittany won a round, and then Emily did, too! Multiple people called Bingo at the same time as both of them, so Emily had to compete in a dance off to see who would be the ultimate winner of the free jug of cider. She KILLED it and won!! My cheeks hurt from smiling and laughing so much. We stayed up later than the night before, named some of our curlew friends that Emily was feeding her chips to, and went to sleep laughing some more about the crazy animal noises that were coming from outside.

Tuesday was a slower start. Since we had to check out of the hostel and also head back to Townsville around 11am, we decided to just eat our breakfast and lay out by the pool for the few hours we had before we left. I am LOVING the weather here in Queensland as opposed to Sydney! It is much more like the Florida weather I am used to. I absolutely loved Maggie Island, and I can see now why Brittany spends so much of her free time there!

We got back to Brittany’s and had a lazy rest of the afternoon getting ready for the next leg of our trip! We took a bit of a rest, made a snack, and then watched The Greatest Showman (BOTH of our first times! NO clue how I waited this long to see it, I loved it!) before dinner. Brittany took me to IMC Steakhouse, a restaurant she has been working at for the past few years. The filet was to die for, topped with a garlic butter sauce and a salad and chips on the side. Then we went with Brittany’s roommate Mietta to a little cocktail bar called Hooch & Fellow. Since I only ever drink wine or champagne, she basically told the bartender to make me something fruity. I was terrified to see what he’d bring me, but it ended up being really yummy! It was nice to meet all of Brittany’s coworkers and friends, and have genuine conversation to catch up on our lives. I will cherish this time together forever!

Next we set out on our road trip! Lots of fun stuff coming in the next few days before I leave Australia. We’ve got to pack it all in! Stay tuned!

xo, Hannah

“Minds on a permanent vacation, the ocean is my only medication.” – Zac Brown Band

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How pretty is the design in this hot chockee?
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Arthur’s Bay lookout with Brittany.
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In the background is the S.S. Adelaide, a cargo ship that sunk. The tide went out so far on this particular beach that we could almost walk to it! It went out even further after this was taken!
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Some fun pics on Radical Bay.
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Featured on FantaSea Magnetic’s Instagram page!
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Emily, Brittany, and I at Radical Bay!
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Hi, baby wallaby!!! He was so sweet and holding my hand while he ate the seeds.
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This one must’ve been hungry; we each took turns feeding it and got a picture too before he ran off!
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This was our cabin we stayed at in Bungalow Bay! So cute and tiny, and perfect for the trip!
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Our little wild koala friend.
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The water was SO blue!
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This was the rock steps on our way up to the Fort lookout. I thought the rock was so pretty! This is also where we came across that scary snake…
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Beautiful views as far as the eye could see.
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This is me *attempting* to pull of the Little Mermaid pose…didn’t go too well.
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Love you, cousin!!!
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This was taken at the top of the Fort lookout. It was magnificent! (PS Go Gators!!)
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The most beautiful sunset at Horseshoe Bay. Jesus is an incredible artist.
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Emily was a winna winna!
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Cheers to yummy wine and steak!
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Very yummy (and expensive…) post dinner cocktails at one of Brittany’s favorite spots!

“See Ya Later”, Sydney

My eight weeks in Sydney, Australia has officially come to an end. What I thought would feel like an eternity away from home actually went by in the blink of an eye. I do not have the words to properly say enough about this experience, and the words I will say won’t come close to doing it justice. I learned more about myself than I ever dreamed I would in just two short months. I truly believe I am leaving this city a new person than when I arrived, and its a person I think I will like very much.

I definitely made the most of this week I had off work! Monday I wasn’t feeling well, so I rested most of the day. I did make my way to the University of Sydney, which was just across the street, to walk around their campus and find the infamous graffiti tunnel I’ve heard so much about. It reminded me an awful lot of Norman Tunnel on UF’s campus! Then I went to a quiet little spot by a lake and caught up on the travel journal I’m keeping in addition to this blog. When everyone got home from work, we ate dinner and hung out in the living room.

Tuesday morning, Tommy, Kat and I woke up early to head to Circular Quay to watch the sunrise at the Opera House. It was a bit cloudy, so I was nervous it wouldn’t be as pretty as I’d hoped, but it ended up being gorgeous. We were freezing our booties off, but it truly felt magical to be standing in the soft morning light in such an iconic place with no one else around. We took some pictures and headed to our favorite diner, City Extra, and ate pancakes overlooking the Harbor. Tommy and Kat left for work from brekky (is this not the most fun word?? I am for sure making this a thing in Florida), and I left on a little walking adventure.

It was the most wonderful day, and starting it in such a beautiful place put me in the best mood. I walked across the Harbor Bridge and chatted with my mom and dad for a little. I got to explore Wendy Whitely’s “secret” garden that had a perfect view of both the Bridge and the Opera House. This took me to Luna Park, an amusement park across the Harbor from the Opera House, where I sat and talked to John and my friend Courtney for a very long time. Its hard to keep a conversation short when there is so much to be caught up on! I soaked in the sun and the stunning Harbor views from the bench I was sitting on and couldn’t help but pinch myself that this place is real. Instead of taking a bus home, I walked the few miles back to Forest Lodge to enjoy the weather. I ended up walking 13 miles during the day!! Since I was up late the night before and woke up really early, I took a bit of a nap before I had to get up and get ready.

Tuesday night, I got to attend the Hillsong Conference as a night delegate! This basically means I got to just purchase a night ticket instead of the full Conference ticket. I was beyond excited to go; I’ve known about Hillsong Church and their Conference for a few years, and always thought it would be a bucket list item to go. I never realized it would actually happen! The only bummer about the night delegate ticket was the seating location. Since it was basically overflow, we were all seated behind the stage, so I wasn’t able to see what was happening except on the screens they provided, although that was more than enough! Simply being in the atmosphere of more than 30,000 believers in a sold out arena singing their hearts out to Jesus had me crying and so overwhelmed in the best way. Hillsong United lead worship, Pastor Chris Hodges from Church at the Highlands gave a message, and I couldn’t help but cry while also grinning from ear to ear. It was an incredibly moving experience, and I left with an indescribable feeling of fulfillment and awestruck wonder at how great my God is!

Wednesday was a bit slower. I began the packing process that morning, and was immediately reminded of how much stuff I brought on this trip. I am a habitual overpacker, but I didn’t realize just how bad until I brought basically everything I owned to a new country! I did a little bit and got overwhelmed, so I gave up. I left the accommodation and walked around a really pretty park called Blackwattle Bay before heading to Darling Harbor and checking out the Maritime Museum! I was surprised I enjoyed it as much as I did; initially it was just something to do to kill time, but it ended up being really cool to see the Australian history.

Wednesday night, we had our last family cooked meal of tacos! Kevin went to the store and picked up all we needed and everyone pitched in to make a delicious spread, including homemade guacamole courtesy of Christina! We had a ton of fun cooking together, and it started to hit me how much I would miss it. I will even miss the kitchen, which half the time I hate because things barely work and its only clean for about an hour each day. So many memories have been made in that kitchen that I can’t possibly think of it as bad anymore. After dinner, we all watched Shrek and stayed up way too late, as usual. Omario and Tasha had their last day of work, so I was excited to spend the day with them Thursday.

We left the house around 10am to head to run some last minute errands and souvenir shopping before meeting up for lunch at Thai-riffic, the BEST Thai food I’ve ever tasted. Kat had the day off too, so the four of us had a great time hanging out together. The rest of Thursday was spent packing until everyone got home from work. Christina and Tommy took Friday off to spend with us, so we decided we would all go out on Thursday to celebrate our last real night in Sydney. We went to a place called Cargo Bar in Darling Harbor, and then went to a club called Ivy. Ivy normally has a $30 cover charge, but on Thursdays is free, so it was packed. We had a great time dancing together while we made jokes about the music that was played. I even took my first shot, something I said I’d do back the first week we were here. It was not good, but I followed through on my word!

Friday morning, Tasha, Christina, Tommy, and I went for ‘brunch’ (if you can call it that) at a dessert place called C9. I got a yummy coffee milkshake and thought about how badly I will need to get to the gym when I’m home! Australia’s food is just too good to pass up. It is Bastille Day this weekend, so after the dessert we went to Circular Quay to enjoy some of the festivities! There were all sorts of tents set up with food and different goodies to buy. It took a lot of restraint to not spend any money there! We got to sit in the sun (it was another GLORIOUS day) and listen to some live music until it was time to go home to finish packing and shower before dinner.

Pastabella was the dinner of choice for Friday (remember the pasta in a bread bowl?). I subtly had been dropping hints that I wanted to revisit, and then Christina got the plans in motion. I got the same pasta as before, and it was just as good as I remember it. I also was again a member of the clean plate club, which was a very proud moment for me, since I normally can’t finish all my food. We ate and talked, shared highs and lows of our trip, maybe shed a tear, and then went back to Little Red Wolf so Omario could cash in his free scoop from his loyalty card. Jonathan, the man who owns the shop, gave him the scoop without stamping it so he could come get another free scoop next time he is in Australia! I hope that is incentive enough to get him to visit again, because I told him I’d come along!

The rest of the evening was spent watching one last family movie, this time The Great Gatsby. 20 new interns just moved into Forest Lodge, so Omario had to be put up at a hotel the last night to make room for them. It was a bit odd to see so many new faces and know that they are essentially replacing us. There’s even another Hannah, so I told all my friends that they have to remember me as the “better Hannah” and not forget me! Saying goodbye to Omario that night was way harder than I’d anticipated it being. We have gotten so incredibly close, and I was not prepared for the water works. I bawled like a baby while hugging him and asking him not to leave! Thankfully he goes to the University of Alabama, so I’ll see him sometime this semester!

Saturday morning came way too quickly since I got very little sleep. It was terrible to hug all my friends goodbye. I know that we will all stay in touch, and I’ve even invited them down to Florida to come visit, but it is hard to realize that we will never be together in this place again like we are now. I tried to keep it together, but obviously my attempt was futile. Thankfully, I only let myself completely lose it once I was in the taxi and my driver said, “Okay, wave goodbye to your friends!” as he rolled down the window. It was not a pretty sight. I cried the whole way to the airport and then cried more sitting by the check in since I was so early they wouldn’t even take my bags. Then I was kicking myself that I left the house so early when I didn’t need to, and regretted that I could’ve spent more time with my friends. I’m sure it was better that way, since I was a mess anyways, but I missed them the second I drove away.

I am now in Townsville visiting my cousin Brittany for a week before heading home next Saturday! We have tons of fun things planned and I am excited to see her and explore this new little part of Australia. She got me from the airport and I got to meet her super cute dog, Bandit. He made me realize how much I miss my dogs and I didn’t even know it! The three of us ate lunch right by the beach and then came home to hang out and relax a bit before a yummy dinner of Sweet Baby Rays Crock Pot BBQ Chicken. I make this at home often, so it was delicious and familiar.

Reflecting on my time in Sydney has me very emotional. I am overwhelmed with gratitude, for so many things. I am grateful for the opportunity my parents provided me by sending me here. Australia was one of the number one places on my bucket list, and here I am living out that dream! I would be nowhere without their love, guidance, and encouragement to pursue my dreams no matter what they are. I am grateful for the internship I was placed at, even though I sometimes struggled with it. It gave me insight into how to deal with conflicts as well as navigate an environment I might not have been 100% comfortable in. I am grateful for the lifelong friendships I have made. The six strangers (and then Kevin!) that I was terrified to meet for fear they wouldn’t like me have quickly become some of my closest friends. They became my new family and my support system, and I will be forever grateful for their love, kindness, acceptance, and friendship. I am grateful I now feel as though I can call Australia my home. I left a large piece of my heart in Sydney and I fully plan on returning one day in the future, and maybe for a bit longer than just eight weeks! Most importantly, I am so grateful for the journey I embarked on. I never imagined that I would go to the other side of the world, completely alone and knowing no one, and make it out alive. Instead of allowing my fear to ruin me, I truly thrived. I can see so many changes in myself in just these two short months. My independence and confidence have both grown immensely, I am not as scared to try new things, and I now see myself as more capable of things than I ever have before. I got bit by the travel bug, hard. I can’t wait to see where else life takes me, and I am excited to make the most of every second.

xo, Hannah

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” – Winnie the Pooh

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The inside of the Graffiti Tunnel at USYD!

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Opera House right before the sun came up.

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I think I see it peeking through!

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Love you, Kat.

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I love that you can see the reflection of the sunrise on the windows of the Opera House!

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Can you tell we were cold? I couldn’t feel my fingers or my nose! I tried to keep my hands balled in my sleeves as long as I could.

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All by myself at the coolest place with the most magical sunrise.

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The Bridge was beautiful! If you look closely, you can see people at the very top doing the Bridge climb.

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Stunning, and not a person in sight.

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The view while I was walking across the Bridge.

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Panorama from the Bridge!

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Did you go anywhere with me if I didn’t make us take a selfie?

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Luna Park ferris wheel.

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This thing is a bit creepy, but still really cool!

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The Hillsong Conference was one of my favorite parts of my whole trip.

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13 miles!!! Woohoo!!

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National Maritime Museum entrance sign.

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This is a replica of the boat Kay Cottee sailed across the world on.

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Here is Kay Cottee’s story!

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This is an anti-submarine helicopter. Pretty cool!

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This is the description for the helicopter.

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Selfie with Kat!

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Of course a selfie with my Soul Sista, too!

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Thank you for being such a sweet friend, Tash!

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This picture cracks me up. I love you, Omario!!!

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First shot!

Coffee Crunch shake at C9! It was so delicious!

Live music at the Bastille Festival at Circular Quay.

One last family dinner 😦

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Saying goodbye to Omario…all the waterworks. And his stupid sticker.

How AMAZING does this avocado toast look?! It tasted even better. Such a yummy lunch with Brittany!

Sweet Bandit, Brittany’s dog!

Last Week of Work!

My last week of work is officially over! I was able to work one less week than I had initially planned since I have been working more hours weekly than were required. This gives me an extra week to explore Sydney before I have to leave next Saturday! I am so excited. I have been working so hard while also taking advantage of every free moment I have, but I still feel as though there are so many more things I want to do before I leave! I hope I can leave Sydney feeling like I completed everything I had wanted to do.

This week went by so fast, as most of the weeks have. Monday I had off because of the snowboarding trip, and Tuesday Aisha told me we were working from home, so I didn’t even go into the office until Wednesday! But I tried to keep busy. Monday I did absolutely nothing but walk to the grocery store. I was so sore from snowboarding I could barely move! Muscles I didn’t even know I had were aching. Thankfully by Tuesday I was feeling much better, but working from home gave me another chance to lounge around in my pajamas and fully recover while I finished my task list. I’ve been working on all of the DANII social media accounts, and my hard work isn’t going unnoticed. Our follower count is up, as well as the number of people who signed up to be a DANII Friend, which is an annual $20 donation to the Foundation. I am so happy to see such immediate results from something I had been putting so much of myself into!

Tuesday night, all eight of us went out to dinner with Tasha’s mom and her friend, who were in Sydney visiting for the week! We had a delicious meal at a restaurant called Ribs and Burgers, and got extra thick salted caramel ‘thick shakes’ to end the night. In Australia, apparently a ‘milkshake’ is literally just milk. In order to get anything remotely resembling the consistency of the kind of shake I like at home, you have to order it ‘extra thick’! It was so nice to meet Tasha’s mom; I absolutely loved her. Although I wasn’t expecting anything less, since I adore Tash!

Wednesday we all relaxed after work, made dinner, and hung out in the living room watching Sing. Omario cooked us chicken and vegetable stir fry for dinner, which ended up being so good! Thankfully he likes to cook and has been including me on his meals; we’ve made it an *almost* every day dinner date! I am loving these evenings with my friends. It is starting to set in that we don’t have much time left together and its making me incredibly sad.

Thursday and Friday were busy in the office. I was working hard to make sure I was able to finish all of the tasks Aisha had assigned to me before I left. Thursday night I was feeling incredibly lazy, so I grabbed some take away pizza on my way home from work and later met up with everyone for gelato at our favorite place, Little Red Wolf, just down the street from our house.

Friday was my last day of work. It was the most gorgeous day outside, so I was in the BEST mood! Aisha had us come in at 10am, so I was planning on sleeping in a little bit before work. Every day, I walk with Tommy and Omario to the train station, so I figured since it was my last day, I’d walk with them anyway. Instead of going all the way to North Ryde station, where I get off for work, I got off one station early at Chatswood to walk around their outdoor shopping area. It was so warm, the sun was shining, I was FaceTiming Stevie for a bit, I couldn’t have been happier! Until I saw a Belgian waffle stand and got myself the most delicious waffle I have ever had (except in Belgium itself!). It was a waffle with strawberries, bananas, ice cream, and gold chocolate, which was a mix of Belgian milk chocolate and caramel. Initially I wasn’t planning on getting the ice cream, mainly because it was only 9am and then also because it was $5 more, but the man who was making it gave it to me for free since I was “so beautiful” and the first customer of the morning. Add that to the good mood!

I got to work and starting finishing up and tying all the loose ends to the social media campaign I’d been working on. Patrick had told me he was going to come in to say goodbye, but he never made it in. He was such an amazing help to me during my time here in Australia and with DANII, and my experience would have been completely different without him! Around 2pm, Aisha said she needed to talk to me, and I got so nervous by the way she said it, thinking I did something wrong. I followed her into the conference room to find all of the travel agent girls in there with a cake and a card addressed to me! They threw the sweetest little going away party, and I genuinely cried because I am so grateful for how welcoming they have been. The cake, a pavlova, was so airy and scrumptious, and the card was signed by everyone in the office. I felt so loved, and that’s when it really hit me that I am so close to leaving!

Even walking to the train station got me feeling all sappy. Since work is so far away, I won’t be going back to that station again. It would be my last commute home. All the things I walk past that are beautiful but I sometimes take for granted…I felt like my feels hit me like a bus! However, I was still in the happiest mood. I treated myself to some Sushi Hub (which might be one of the things I miss most about Sydney!) and headed home, but I ran into Jade on the way! Jade is a ball of sunshine, so seeing her happy smile made me even HAPPIER! We walked home together, and then I went with Kat, Tommy, and Omario to a bar so they could grab some dinner, too.

Saturday started off with cereal and TV on the couch before heading out to Market City for last minute souvenir shopping. We looked around for an hour or two before walking to the Sydney Fish Market to try to get lunch. It was SO packed! There wasn’t a single place to sit, so we decided to try Darling Harbor instead. We chose a cute little restaurant overlooking the Harbor, got fish and chips and a glass of wine/beer, and enjoyed the beautiful weather. It was incredibly windy on Saturday, which made it feel a bit colder than it actually was. On our long walk home from Darling Harbor, we stopped again at Little Red Wolf for some gelato. Omario is determined to get a free cone using the stamps he has accumulated on his rewards card, but he is still two scoops away. Jonathan, the owner of the shop, is so friendly and we always have a nice chat when we go in.

Saturday night was a lazy one; we all lounged on the couch and watched Blockers. As usual, I stayed up way too late hanging out, but had to wake up early for church Sunday morning. My friend Jess came to pick Omario and I up and take us to Hillsong Church! I was so excited. I have been looking forward to attending this church the entire time I have been in Sydney, but I haven’t had a full Sunday free to go! It lived up to all of my expectations. They even had smores after the service, and Omario ate his FIRST one! I have no clue how he’s made it through 20 years of life without a smore, but I was happy to be there to witness such a critical moment in his life.

Chris Hodges, the pastor at Church of the Highlands from the States, was the guest pastor this week. He spoke on spiritual nearsightedness, and making sure we as Christians open our eyes to what Jesus sees. It was incredibly moving, and I loved his whole message. One thing he said really resonated with me and I haven’t been able to forget it. “If God answered all of your prayers, would it change the world or only change you?” WOW. Talk about conviction, am I right? Pastor Chris is here because he is a guest speaker at the Hillsong Conference that starts on Tuesday! I had no idea the Conference was happening this week; it has been one of my goals to attend one day, and I have already purchased my ticket to attend one of the night sessions!

After church, the three of us went to lunch and met up with Tommy. Then we went back to Market City so Omario could get some more things he forgot to grab Saturday. We went home, relaxed for a bit, and then headed out with Kat with the intention to go meet up with Christina and Jade. While we were on our way, Christina said it wasn’t totally worth it, so we stopped and grabbed a bottle of wine and went back to watch a movie. It was freezing Sunday evening anyway, so I was happy to be bundled in pajamas and a blanket!

Now I have this last week off of work to do all the last minute things I want to do while in Sydney. On Saturday, I head to Queensland to spend a week with my cousin Brittany before heading home to Florida the Saturday after that. Time has gone by crazy fast, and I am so grateful for every second of it. Monday I woke up with a terrible migraine, so I am taking it slow today, but the rest of the week is jam packed full of fun while I try to soak up every last bit of this amazing city. I can’t believe 8 weeks has gone by so fast. One more week to go!

xo, Hannah

“Time flies when you’re having fun!” – Unknown

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My delicious waffle from the Chatswood market!

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Pavlova cake with strawberries and chocolate powder. YUM! The sweet ladies at DBT have been so amazing and welcoming to me. I won’t forget their kindness!

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Last day coming to this station. Thanks for getting me to work, North Ryde!

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My favorite sushi place!

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Hillsong Church!!! I am so happy I was able to come here, even if it was on my last Sunday!

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Omario with his FIRST smore! He loved it.

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Beautiful Jess! Our friendship is so special to me.

Snowboarding in Jindabyne

This past week has been so fun-filled and action packed! With my time in Sydney coming to an end, I am glad that we are making the most of every single second! Monday through Wednesday were really busy at the office. Aisha, the new woman who was hired to replace Isha, was in the office training under Isha all week before she officially leaves to start her new job. Aisha helped me to start a social media campaign, and I am excited to learn as much as I can from her in the short time I have left at DANII. Monday was Donna’s birthday, so we celebrated with cake around lunchtime! Wednesday we had a big celebratory ‘going away’ lunch since Isha is leaving, a few women from the travel agency are going on long holidays, and then I leave soon to go back to the States.

Tuesday night, a handful of us spent about a half hour doing ab workouts in the living room of our accommodation. I’m sure it was quite a sight! We did the Cha Cha Slide Plank Challenge, followed by some other miscellaneous ab exercises. While the video looked intimidating at first, it was actually super fun! I’d recommend it if you want to feel your ab muscles burn a bit 😉

Wednesday night, all of the interns met up with Maria, our on-site program director, for hot chocolate and desserts at Max Brenner. I have never tasted a more delicious hot chocolate in my entire life! They were served in the cutest little ‘hug mugs’, and I totally would’ve bought one to bring home if it wasn’t $23 (and if I had room in my suitcase)! We discussed the progress we’ve made in our internships, both professionally and personally, as well as talked through some of the challenges we may face with reverse culture shock when we go back home. When Maria first said we might have a hard time adjusting back to regular life at home, I almost laughed. How could I have trouble adjusting to my normal schedule back at my own house and with my family? It was only when she passed out a list of things we might encounter and how to deal with them that I realized going home is going to make me homesick for Sydney. This little life I have made for myself here these past six weeks has been wonderful; the friends I’ve made, the adventures we’ve taken, the routine I’ve established, I’ve grown to love all of it. Going home will be an adjustment in itself, which I never would’ve realized until I got there. I am glad to have some ways now to combat any struggle I might face, and I am sure being home and with my family will make the process so much easier.

On Thursday, we met up with Maria again, but this time for an Escape Room experience! I have only done one other Escape Room prior to this one, and it honestly stressed me out! So I didn’t have crazy high expectations for how this one would be, but we did great! For the most part, the eight of us worked really well as a team, and Maria helped where she could. We were able to escape with 10 minutes left on the clock! After the escape room, Maria took us to a really nice Italian ‘farewell dinner’. Those of us that are leaving in two weeks filled out some paperwork and left comments for Maria to take back to the company, and we enjoyed yummy pasta and garlic bread. Then we went home and watched We’re The Millers before heading to bed.

Friday morning Tommy, Omario, Kat, and I started prepping for our weekend trip to Jindabyne to go snowboarding! We booked a package deal that included transportation, accommodation, some meals, equipment hire, clothing rental, and ski lift tickets! Before we left, we had to get some gloves and hats and other miscellaneous things to keep warm in the snow, so we all got matching hats that I absolutely love. We left that evening on a bus to drive six hours to our little hostel, and when we got there we immediately were fitted for clothes and our snowboarding gear. It was almost 2am by the time we went to bed, and we had a 6am wakeup call for breakfast and to head up to the mountains. We reserved a room just for the four of us, and we were thankful to not have to share a bedroom with strangers! We did share a bathroom with another room, which was quite the experience. There were six to eight people in the other room, and it didn’t seem as if any of them were too concerned with leaving the shared bathroom clean for us. I will spare the details, but it was gross.

When we got on the bus to drive to the mountain, our guide Amy told us it was supposed to be snowing all day! I immediately was giddy with excitement, since I have only seen snow fall one other time! I’ve skied and been in the snow plenty of times before, but I always seem to miss the snowfall. Sure enough, while we were driving, the snow started coming down, and it didn’t stop! ALL DAY! I was the happiest person and honestly couldn’t stop smiling all day long. We hit the bunny hills first so we could try to figure out what we were doing on the snowboards since none of us have ever been snowboarding before, and then spent the rest of the day on the yellow hill (harder than a bunny slope but easier than a green) to keep practicing. By the end of the day, the four of us were doing really well! I was proud of us for learning something new and actually getting decent at it. We were all tired and sore by the time we went back to the hostel for dinner. By 8pm, I think we were all showered and practically ready for bed! Instead of going to bed, we went to the hostel’s bar for happy hour. Amy gave us coupons for free drinks, and we hung out for an hour or so before the exhaustion really hit and we went to bed.

Around 1am (although we didn’t know it was 1am at the time), we heard loud yelling from the room across the hall that we shared the bathroom with. A few of the guys who were staying there had gotten into some sort of argument, and were shouting profanities at the top of their lungs. This obviously woke us up from a dead sleep, and I was really concerned for their safety (and unnecessarily, ours, even though we were in a separate room with the door locked). The fight sounded like it was getting a bit physical, and their yelling got louder. Kat, being very frustrated and tired, decided she was going to tell them to stop fighting. I had my sleep mask on and was facing the wall, but I heard the door open and almost had a heart attack! I whipped over so fast to see Kat walking out of our room and yelling back at the other guys to shut up! The guys were pretty drunk, so I was terrified for Kat, but she just came back to the room grumbling about how loud they were. We all had a good laugh about it after the door was shut and locked again. What possessed her to leave the room, I will never know. Thankfully all quieted down shortly after and we were able to fall back asleep for another early wake up call.

Sunday morning we woke up sore, but ready to hit the slopes! The snow was a bit icier, which I found made snowboarding a bit more difficult. We graduated from our little yellow hill and did some greens and even a blue or two! I was way more cautious with my movements for fear of falling and hurting myself. Of course I had a handful of really good wipeouts between Saturday and Sunday regardless, some worse than others. I landed pretty hard on my wrist in the morning, and it got a bit swollen, which made me even more scared to fall. I wasn’t going to be a quitter though! We had less time to snowboard on Sunday since we had to head the six hours back to Sydney, so I didn’t want to waste any time. We mapped out a route to be able to get to the highest peak in Australia and snowboard back down to our meeting point from there on a green hill.

To get to this peak, we had to take what was called a ‘T-bar’ up a mountain. It is this weird T shaped bar that you hook behind you and hold on while it pulls you up on your ski or snowboard. We watched a few people do it before we tried it ourselves. Omario and I were going to go on it together, but we didn’t hook the bar properly behind our legs, which made us fall. The T-bar continued to move, though, since it is machine operated, and it whacked me in the face. Hard. Immediately I knew my nose was bleeding, but I didn’t want to make a huge deal so I just rolled over and was holding on to my face to try to get my head to stop spinning. The T-bar operator ran over and asked if I was bleeding, and I pulled my glove away to find a puddle of blood. He had me sit off to the side while Ski Patrol was called to take me via snow mobile to the medical center. When I tried to get off and go into the building, I almost passed out, so they kept me a while to make sure I didn’t have a concussion. My nose continued to bleed for a while and was pretty swollen, but the doctor cleared me for both a broken nose and a concussion, so after a while they sent me down the ski lift to meet back up with my friends.

Thankfully for me, I got injured right at the end of the day, so I only missed the last few runs my friends did before it was time to get back on the bus and go home. We ate some food and went on our way. I was so glad to change out of my wet ski gear and into comfortable clothes for the long bus ride. What was supposed to be a six hour drive turned into a bit longer than seven hours after our bus broke down on the side of the road. Our driver worked quickly to try to fix it so we didn’t need to call for a backup bus, and after about an hour, we were back on our way. I have never been more grateful to crawl into bed and go to sleep!

I am so proud of my friends and myself for trying something new and being willing to learn together! The only thing that would’ve made the trip better is if all eight of us had gone. With only one more weekend left here in Sydney, I am glad we made this one incredible. We all woke up incredibly sore Monday morning, but it just adds to the memories. It was a weekend I won’t forget!

xo, Hannah

“Snowflakes are kisses from Heaven.” – Unknown

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Max Brenner hot cocoa in a hug mug!

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This chocolate pizza was AMAZING.

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Maria ordered us some fondue, too!

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Escaped with 10 minutes to spare.

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Sunrise over Lake Jindabyne, right behind our hostel.

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Getting ready to snowboard down our first hill! I love that you can see how much it was snowing in this picture!

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This was at the top of the yellow hill we mastered by the end of Saturday.

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It was so snowy and beautiful!

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Up we go on the ski lift! We made an awesome friend from Zimbabwe that took this picture for us!

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At the top!

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Honestly this place was so gorgeous!

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Selfie!

Thanks for making sure I didn’t slide backwards off any cliffs!

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There wasn’t a cloud in the sky on Sunday!

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Omario and I made a snowman friend!

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I loved looking at the snow capped mountains.

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HOW SURREAL IS THIS???

Look mom, I’m doing it!!!

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How cute are our matching hats?!

Me and my Soul Sista!!

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Almost to the top of the highest peak in Australia. The views were stunning.

Blue Mountains and Bondi Beach

This past week in the office was very slow. I didn’t have much to work on, minus a few small things here and there, so I tried to make the most of my time by doing school work. Isha told me Monday that she’s been offered a new job as an Events Executive, and she is so excited about it! I am thrilled for her; what an incredible opportunity to grow and learn in her field. Obviously, I will miss her during my last few weeks here at DANII. I hope whoever is hired in her place is as smart, hardworking, and kind as Isha is!

As usual, evenings and the weekend are my favorite part of the week (but let’s be real, who doesn’t love going home from work to hang out with friends?). This week was so rainy. We only had one sunny day, and quite honestly I am surprised none of us are sick from being wet and cold! We spend our evenings watching movies and making dinner together, catching up on the boring or exciting details of our days, and just enjoying the company of our little Australian family. This week we’ve watched Coco, Every Day, Black Panther, The Parent Trap, and even an episode of America’s Got Talent. Every Day was the first movie we’ve watched that wasn’t very good, so that was a bit of a bummer, but we still had a good time making fun of it afterward. Even though our movies are usually over by no later than 10:30, I seem to always get sucked into being social for a few more hours. I have serious FOMO if even one person is staying up! Plus I tend to talk…a lot…which doesn’t help my case. Thank goodness for that Spark my mom sent me in the mail; without it, I’d for sure be a zombie at this point!

The weekend started out really great. Patrick knows I have not been too busy at work since there isn’t a ton we are working on, so he gave me Friday’s off for the rest of my internship! Since I only have three weeks (WHAT) left here in Sydney, I am thankful I will be able to add an extra day to my weekends! This Friday was very laid back, and it ended with Omario getting a tattoo he’s been talking about for weeks. Christina even spontaneously got her cartilage pierced! The words on Omario’s tattoo, “Tutto Torna”,  mean ‘it all makes sense’ in Italian. He’s been so excited, and it really turned out so great. I debated getting a tattoo of my own but chickened out. Even though I think I am pretty set on what I would get, I still get nervous I won’t want it somewhere down the line. So I think that I will save that experience for another time.

After the tattoo, our party of eight headed to the cutest little Italian restaurant, Pastabella, for a nice dinner. It was pretty busy, and we were all starving, but the food was most definitely worth the wait! I ordered fettuccine in a vodka sauce, and it came served in a bread bowl! These are the carbs I’ve been really craving. Just imagine my excitement! And yes, I did eat every single bite. Not a single regret about it, even though I did have to pass on getting gelato because I thought I might explode otherwise. The night ended pretty soon after, as we had an early wake-up call the next morning!

6:30am, we were out the door heading to Central to be picked up for our day trip to the Blue Mountains! Our tour guide, Essie, was a little over a half hour late, but we finally got on our way at around 8:15am. I picked up an Australian version of non-drowsy Dramamine to help with the long bus trips we’ve been taking, and I was really glad to have it because Essie was quite a crazy driver!

Our first stop was Featherdale Wildlife Park. This is where we got to see more kangaroo, dingoes, penguins, and even take pictures with a koala! I wanted to hold a koala really badly, but one of the trainers told me it’s illegal in New South Wales. So I guess I need to go somewhere else in Australia while I’m here to get a snuggle in!

While we were feeding the kangaroos, there was another tour group there who were violently handling the animals. The one woman grabbed the kangaroo by its tail and yanked it back when it started to move away from her. It obviously freaked out, and the trainer said she was having a panic attack and needed some space. I felt so bad for the poor thing! The trainer was taking care of it, although I couldn’t help but notice how the woman walked away unbothered and continued to manhandle the other animals. I was surprised no trainer asked her to leave.

The rest of the Wildlife Park was really cool. I loved seeing all of the native Australian animals so up close and in such a free way. Most just wander around looking for any visitors who might have food to give them.

Right before we left the Park, Omario, Tasha, and I split the price of a picture with Victor the Koala. Omario was terrified. He didn’t want to get too close to it, so in our picture, he is so far away from us that we could crop the photo and it wouldn’t even look like he was in it! He didn’t mind the distance though, especially when right after our picture, Victor started to lean over and smell Tasha’s hair. Omario was positive he was going to bite her and he moved even further away!

After that, we left and headed the rest of the way to the Blue Mountains. Our first stop was Gordon Falls lookout. We walked down a few steps and onto this incredible platform that overlooked the entire valley. The views took my breath away. There were incredible mountains and trees for as far as the eye could see. We took some pictures there before moving onto another lookout that had a perfect view of “The Three Sisters”.

“The Three Sisters” are a triple rock formation that has an interesting backstory. Legend says that the rock formation depicts the here daughters of the Aboriginal Katoomba tribe who were turned to stone. This lookout was much larger than the one before, but the views were just as spectacular. Everywhere I looked reminded me of the magnificent handiwork of our Creator. It boggles my mind that people can see things as beautiful as the Blue Mountains and question the existence of God. It truly was an unbelievable sight. We were all pretty cold though! It was about 40°, but it felt warmer if we were in the sun.

We went to another lookout next, called Govett’s Leap, and ate our lunches. The lunch was a bit of a disappointment, so quite a few of us were getting incredibly hangry. I felt bad for Essie, and I tried not to have too much of an attitude, but I was starving. She kept saying she didn’t have time to take us anywhere else to even grab some chips or something quick, which definitely caused some frustration. We also were told in our tour itinerary that we’d be taking a trip to Scenic World, which is the tourist attraction of the Blue Mountains, but there are quite a few cable cars to take down into the canyon to hike around. Essie said she didn’t want to do that because the hike hurt her knees, and a few people were very angry that the tour was not what we were told it would be. I tried to have a good attitude about it, since truly the day was very fun and the sights were well worth the few hiccups we experienced. The day ended with dinner and The Parent Trap, which couldn’t have been better.

On Sunday, Christina, Tasha, and Omario had a wine tour day trip planned, so the five of us that were left decided to go back to Bondi Beach and surf again! Kevin, our new roommate, didn’t get to go with us last weekend so he was really excited to go. Jade and I woke up a bit before the others and whipped up a bunch of pancakes, eggs, and a fruit bowl to have a little family breakfast. It was absolutely delicious and a perfect way to start our morning! We got to Bondi and the waves were HUGE. Immediately I was a bit worried, but the boys were so excited that I had to pretend like I wasn’t scared! The guys in the surf shop remembered us from the week before, got us fitted for wetsuits, gave us boards, and sent us on our way!

Kat and Jade decided they weren’t going to surf, so Kat brought her camera and decided to be our photographer. She got some awesome shots of us surfing (or attempting to surf) and also the water and the town. We went out into the water and tried to get past where the waves were breaking, and it was practically impossible. I was treading water for what felt like forever and I wasn’t getting any further. I finally let myself ride the wave like a boogie board back to shore so I could take a breather, and Kat informed me we had been out there for 40 minutes. I was exerting every ounce of energy I had to try to get out past the waves for a whole 40 minutes and got nowhere, which was discouraging. We rented our wetsuits and boards for two hours, so I knew I needed to keep going. Finally, I did catch a pretty good wave and rode it all the way to the shore! Kat was a phenomenal photographer and made me look like a pro. She got pictures of all three of us standing up on our boards, which I was very impressed by since there was not a ton of actual surfing happening. I basically spent the two hours trying to swim out, trying to get on my board and being flipped off, or getting completely knocked down by a wave! One wave hit me really hard and I flipped underwater a few times and slammed my head on the sand, which hurt incredibly badly. I had to go sit out for 15 or 20 minutes and genuinely felt like I might have gotten a concussion (don’t worry, I am fine!). We got some pizza, which is the first pizza I’ve had since I’ve been in Australia that was actually really good, and then took the long bus ride home.

The weekend really was a lot of fun, and I am enjoying staying really busy! The only two down sides to the weekend was that I somehow lost $20 out of my pocket at the Wildlife Park, and then Tommy lost his Opal card (that still had $28 on it) on our way home from surfing. We had a good laugh about it since there was nothing else we could do. We were all so exhausted from our busy weekend, so we got to bed pretty early. Its a new work week, and I am excited since its a short one! I’ve taken the last two days of the week off for our last big weekend trip! I can’t wait to post tons of pictures!

xo, Hannah

“For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:20-21

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Omario’s tattoo! “Tutto Torna” means ‘it all makes sense’ in Italian.

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Delicious fettucine in a vodka sauce served in a BREAD BOWL!!!!! So yummy.

Entrance to Featherdale Wildlife Park

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This little kangaroo was being lazy.

Pretty birds!

Mama Dingo and her babies!

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Cute baby wallaby.

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Feeding the sleepy kangaroo.

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Omario, Tasha, and I with Victor the Koala.

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This view was unreal!

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Selfie with my Soul Sista!

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Cheese!!!

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Seriously so gorgeous.

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The sun was shining so bright all day! It made it feel a bit warmer.

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Three Sisters!

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Tommy, Kevin, and I surfing for the second time at Bondi Beach.

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The waves were so much bigger than the first time we went!

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Kat’s beautiful photo of Bondi and the big waves.

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Here we go!

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This was after attempt number 387 of trying to catch a wave, so instead, I boogie boarded in. Why couldn’t I be more like the guy in the background?

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I finally got one! (I promise the waves were WAY bigger than they looked!!)

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I absolutely love this photo and the little rainbow that is in the corner!

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The water could not have been more beautiful.

Surfs Up, Dudes!

I am happy to report that the food poisoning has completely passed and I am feeling 100% back to normal! This week has gone by really fast. Wednesday I went to work half a day since I was sick, and Isha told me to go home early to get more rest. She had an exam Thursday and wouldn’t be coming to the office until at least 2pm, and between still not feeling the best and not wanting to go to work for only two hours, she told me I could take the whole day. It takes me over three hours round trip, and $9 in charges on my Opal card each day to go to work, so it didn’t seem too logical to be in the office for only two hours unless there were pressing things to do.

Instead of work, I slept in and caught up on all the sleep I missed from being up sick. I felt really well rested for the first time in a while, which brightened my spirits and started the day on a good note! I ate a late breakfast and went on my way around noon to find something fun to do. I took a scenic route to the Sydney Fish Market and walked around by the water there. I was bummed that I wasn’t hungry, because everything (that was being cooked, not the raw stuff!) smelled and looked so yummy! I left from the Fish Market in the direction of Darling Harbor, walked around Barangaroo Wharf and did the Wulugul Walk, which I did not know was a thing until I got there, then headed into Circular Quay. I decided to walk across the Harbor Bridge, and the views were even better than I’d expected them to be! They have an option to climb to the very top of the Harbor Bridge, but it is more than $300AUD! I would love to do it, but I decided a nice free walk would be much better, specifically for my wallet. While in the middle of the bridge, I took some panorama shots and then FaceTimed my roommate from home, Payton, to show her the view of the Opera House and the whole harbor. We chatted for the next hour or so, even though it was almost 2am her time, and I was happy to catch up with what’s going on in her life since I’ve been gone. I walked 10 miles the whole day, and it was truly the most beautiful day we’ve had since I got here!

Thursday continued to get better, if you can believe it! The Incredibles 2 premiered that night, so Omario, Tasha, Christina, Kat, Tommy, and I all went to see it at its opening time! It hadn’t even come out in the states yet, so we were probably some of the first people to officially see the movie. No spoilers, but you HAVE to go see it. I absolutely loved it, but I will leave it at that 😉

Friday was a slow day at work, which was a bit boring since I was so excited to go home and go on our Vivid cruise! We all got ready and headed to Darling Harbor. Our evening cruise also had drinks and a buffet, so we all were excited to eat! They had a delicious spread with spring rolls, meat pies, salad, potato and pasta salads, and bread. We each also given one drink, so I chose a yummy glass of champagne. We got to cruise around Darling and Sydney Harbor and watch the last of the Vivid lights, and it was beautiful! A bit chilly, so we didn’t go out on the deck too much, but we took some good pictures regardless.

Saturday was a more laid back day. Christina and Jade went to Canberra, the capital, with a friend of Jade’s. The rest of us did some shopping! Every Saturday, a little flea market gets set up just down the street from our accommodation. Everyone already went to it on the Saturday I worked the Jelly Bean Ball, so I have really been wanting to go, and I was not disappointed! All of the stands had such pretty things, and I was able to find some good souvenirs to bring home for my family and friends. The rest of the day was spent mostly window shopping. We got a delicious Thai lunch and walked around one of the big malls in the city. It was nice to get out and enjoy the day. The whole weekend was absolutely beautiful weather!

Sunday might have been my favorite day of the trip so far (and yes, I know I say that too often)! We got to take a surfing lesson at Bondi Beach, which is Australia’s most famous beach! I was terrified I was going to be terrible and freezing cold, but it honestly was a blast, and I was surprisingly really good! I stood up on my first wave, which I was very proud of. We got to rent wetsuits, so I wasn’t even the slightest bit cold. The water felt really warm in comparison to the air. The day was supposed to be extremely overcast and windy, with a high of only 53°. It ended up being 60° and so sunny! The day couldn’t have been better for surfing. I can speak for everyone when I say we all loved it. We are already trying to plan another day to go again! I only had one or two good wipeouts, one of which made me feel like I was going to black out when my board fell out from under me then shot back and slammed my head. After a few minutes I was fine to keep going, though. The waves were on the smaller side, which was perfect. I would’ve been far too intimidated if they were huge like the instructor said they were the day before! We only had an hour of a lesson, so it went by way too fast. One of our three instructors kept dragging me further out to catch the slightly bigger waves, and it was a blast! Also, in almost all of my pictures, my tongue is sticking out in concentration. Don’t judge.

After surfing, we went home to meet our new roommate, Kevin! He is here with our same intern company and is living with us for the remainder of the summer. We all grocery shopped and then went home to make a family pasta dinner, just like we did on our first night together. I also bought a little cake as a celebratory “Welcome to Australia” dessert for Kevin’s arrival. We had a nice time chatting and all getting to know our new friend. He had quite the experience getting all the way over here, so I definitely related to his travel struggles.

Our fourth week here in Australia has now come to an end, which means I am officially more than halfway done with my trip. That realization hit me like a ton of bricks. While I have had a few moments of severe homesickness, I have surprisingly been faring really well and am having the time of my life. It is sad to think that in less than four weeks, I’ll be leaving this place and these incredible friends I have made. We will never be together in this capacity again, which is definitely sad. They’ve been by my side through this life-changing experience, and I will be forever grateful for the impact made by each and every one of them. I am looking forward to making the most of every minute we have left here in Australia! More fun weekend trips to come.

xo, Hannah

“When the surf’s up, your life is too.” – Wilhelm Sverdvik

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Sydney Fish Market

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The Fish Market had all sorts of figures outside each of the shops that each wore an apron with the name of each restaurant.

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View of the water from the fish market!

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The Sydney Harbor from the top of the bridge!

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I couldn’t be up on the bridge with that beautiful scenery without taking a selfie!

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Our Vivid cruise ship.

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The Opera House and the Harbor Bridge, all lit up for Vivid!

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Love my Tash. And this champagne!

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Hang loose, dudes!

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Posing at the Iceberg Pool!

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Cheesing hard because I am now a pro surfer! 😉

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Twinning with our pigtail french braids.

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Loved catching ‘party waves’ with my sweet friends!

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The boys.

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I may look like I’m about to fall, but that’s just me trying really hard to concentrate on not falling!

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The whole group! Bondi Beach is stunning.

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The instructor told me if I put my hand in the water, it would help me learn how to turn. So I tried it, and may or may not have completely wiped out right after this picture was taken. But there’s no photographic evidence, so did it actually happen? 😉

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Reppin’ Palm Beach (and Lilly Pulitzer, thanks Gracie!) all the way from Bondi Beach!

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This was the view of Bondi Beach from the top of the Iceberg Pool. The water in the pool is natural ocean water!

 

 

Seals, Penguins, and Kangaroos, Oh My!

The rest of week three went by so smoothly. Between Thursday and Friday, I probably did three total hours of work, so it was very relaxing. Isha and I tied together the loose ends from the Jelly Bean Ball and started to get organized for the DANII Foundation’s annual Jelly Bean Cruise that is happening in September. I have been working with the cruise’s scholarship winners since I got here by collecting their information and keeping them in the loop with what they need to know. Friday morning was slow, too, and Patrick came in and told Isha and me to take the rest of the day off to kick-start the long weekend! Monday is the Queen’s Birthday, which is a national holiday, so we took advantage of the extra day off. He also gifted us each a bottle of very nice champagne for all we did to help make the Ball a success. The Foundation raised over $300,000, and I am truly humbled to have been a part of something that will make an incredible impact!

I was so happy to leave early on Friday. It was only 1:15, so I treated myself to some sushi from one of my favorite little spots on my walk home from Central Station. Then I was able to relax a bit and have some down time before Tasha came home early, too! She normally works until after 7pm, and she got out before 3pm. I guess everyone was excited for the weekend! We sat in my room and watched part of a movie on my laptop until everyone else got home around 6pm. It wasn’t the best weather, so we ended up staying home for dinner instead of going out. A few of us went to the pub that is right below our accommodation and got some pizza, which wasn’t very good. Then all seven of us, and a few of the other people living in our same apartment, watched SpiderMan: Homecoming in the living room before getting to bed early for our big day trip on Saturday!

We left the accommodation at 6:30am to head to Port Stephens! Port Stephens is a smaller town about three hours drive North from Sydney. We had a bus pick us up from Central Station, and we headed on our way. Our first stop was Walkabout Wildlife Park, which was about an hour and a half from Sydney. This is where we got to go walk around with wild kangaroos and emus and other miscellaneous Australian animals. It was so much fun. We were given instructions on how to be safe with the animals, so I followed all the directions while I got the pictures I wanted and pet the kangaroos. One kangaroo in particular was very interested in the strings on my rain jacket, and he started to try to eat them! When he whipped his head towards me to grab it, I obviously freaked out and got scared. He wasn’t trying to hurt me, but at the time I genuinely feared for my life! Especially after all those videos Tommy and Omario made me watch about kangaroos beating people up. My friends who were taking pictures got photographic evidence of the progression of my reaction, which is absolutely priceless. Those pictures will most likely continue to be my favorite ones from the whole trip.

After the Wildlife Park, we got back on the bus and drove another hour and a half north to Anna Bay, where we got to go sand boarding! This was an awesome experience. There were tons of sand dunes, and the company provided us with little snowboard looking things that we got to use to slide down them. They were super steep, so none of us wanted to go down at first, but once we went down one time, we kept wanting to do more! The hardest part was walking back up the hill in the deep sand. It was quite the leg workout and we were all winded by the time we reached the top. Our bus driver/tour guide, Billy, told us we wouldn’t be able to go more than eight times, since our legs wouldn’t be able to handle the climb. I thought he was just being dramatic, but after maybe five times, I was done! I also got hit with one of the boards towards the end, and I could’ve sworn my either my hand or a few of my fingers were broken. They immediately bruised and started swelling up. Thankfully, they are fine now, just a bit scratched and yellow from the healing bruises.

After Anna Bay, we went to Port Stephens to get lunch and then board a dolphin sight-seeing cruise. It was an hour and a half long, and we got to see a whole bunch of dolphins! There were a few that were racing the boat, and it was so cool to watch them swim and jump out of the water. We were absolutely freezing. The entire day had been raining off and on, so we were all a bit damp; the cold ocean breeze didn’t help too much, but we made the most of it! Once we were done on the cruise, we walked around a little outdoor market and waited for Billy to take us back to Sydney. We were all tired when we got home, so we made dinner and hung out in our pajamas with the same people who watched the movie with us the night before.

Sunday was another full day. We started the morning with the Sydney SEA LIFE Aquarium, and finished by going up 250m into the Sydney Eye. The two attractions are located in Darling Harbor, and there was a combination ticket you could buy to get into both places for less than if you were to purchase the two separately. The aquarium was fun, but very small. I was a little underwhelmed, as I had been expecting something much larger. The Eye, though, was unbelievable! It had been a super rainy day, but when we got up to the top, it was clearing up a bit and there was a massive FULL rainbow! I have never seen anything like it in my life. It was a complete circle, and I could see every part of it! I will attach a video below. We got there just in time, because it was only visible for about two minutes after we first saw it. I was completely in awe.

After our busy day in Darling Harbor, we went home to eat dinner and do some face masks. We were so tired, so getting to sit down and rest was very welcomed. It was funny to watch the boys (particularly Tommy, who had initially been extremely opposed) put their face masks on. We didn’t all get a picture, but I wish we had! We had some good laughs about it, for sure. As usual, we all stayed up way too late talking and laughing. I constantly feel like I am running on such little sleep, but making awesome memories with my friends could not be more worth the minor exhaustion.

Monday was the Queen’s Birthday, which is a national holiday! The first two days of the weekend went by way too fast, so we were all really glad to have another day to explore. We got up around 9am and left for Circular Quay, where we boarded a ferry to the Taronga Zoo! Honestly, this has to be one of my favorite places we have gone so far. I heard great things before going, but also some complaints that it was too small, and I was nervous it would be disappointing like the aquarium. Those reviews couldn’t have been more wrong! I absolutely loved it. We got to take a sky tram to the top of the park, and the views are incredible. The zoo is right on a hill that overlooks the entire harbor. We kept stopping to take pictures everywhere we went because we couldn’t believe it was real! There were kangaroos, koalas, reptiles, elephants, monkeys, penguins, a full seal show like something I’ve only seen before at Sea World, and so much more. The only animal we didn’t see that I wish we could’ve were the otters. Tommy talked about wanting to see them all day and when we finally got to where their exhibit was, there was a sign saying they weren’t out that day. He was definitely bummed, but I think we all loved (almost) every second of the day.

After we left the zoo, we went to our favorite little diner in the Harbor and got the best hot chocolate I have ever tasted. I didn’t dress appropriately for how cold it was, since it had been warmer earlier in the day, so I felt like the hot chocolate defrosted me from the inside out. Omario, Jade, and Tasha went to an amusement park to walk around for a bit after the hot chocolate, and Christina, Kat, Tommy and I went home to make dinner instead. I had every intention of finally going to bed early, but as usual, talking and laughing continued past midnight. As you can imagine, my Tuesday morning alarm was not a fun wakeup call!

Tuesday I got to sit in on one of DANII’s board meetings, which was so interesting to observe. I feel like I learned so much about how a foundation is run and how they make their most important decisions. The rest of the day went pretty quickly and after work, Omario sent me a message asking me if I wanted to go on adventure. Of course, I said yes. Turns out, the adventure was going 30 minutes away from our accommodation to bring Tommy shoes for a pick up game of soccer he signed up for. Not my initial idea of an adventure, but I had nothing better to do. We had some trouble getting there (got on the wrong bus and then got kicked off the right bus when the driver said it was last stop even though Google Maps said we had two more stops to go), but we ended up staying to watch Tommy play and then all got some Chinese food on our way home. I thought it was yummy, but apparently, my body disagreed. I was up all night with what I can only guess to be food poisoning. I went in late to work on Wednesday after feeling like maybe everything was out of my system, and I am so grateful Isha was understanding about it. I am excited it is a short week. More fun weekend plans coming up fast! Hopefully I am back to feeling 100% in no time.

xo, Hannah

“If you’re confident enough, every zoo is a petting zoo.” – Unknown

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Uh….what are you doing?

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Wait, stop! That’s my jacket!

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HELP!

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Squad conquered the sand dunes!

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This was our bus we traveled in all day Saturday.

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On our dolphin cruise!

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Tasha and I were freezing our butts off!

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Shark at the aquarium.

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Loved this turtle. It had a bubble butt and couldn’t properly float, so they had metal things weighing it down slightly!

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Cute little penguin. He was posing for me.

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This snake can eat a person. I snapped this quick picture and got the heck away from it!

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We call ourselves “Soul Sistas + Tommy”. Thankful for their friendship.

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This is the view from the giraffe enclosure at the zoo!

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Mommy and baby giraffe!

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This place doesn’t even look real!

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The whole group, minus Omario who was too busy watching gorillas fight.

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Me and Kat!

Days Off and Care Packages

My makeshift ‘weekend’ of having Monday and Tuesday off work has been so great! Omario and Tommy stayed home from work Monday and the three of us hung out all day. We walked around to look for different things to do, went in just about every Ugg store in Sydney, got a delicious lunch of fried rice in Spice Alley, went grocery shopping, and made it back home just before the rain came. We even stopped into K-Mart (which is basically the Australian equivalent to Target back home) and I snagged a new jacket. It doubles as a raincoat but is also very warm. It was supposed to be awful weather all day long, so we were pleasantly surprised when it was sunny, albeit chilly, for the majority of the day. We even stumbled upon an “O’Connor” street! Monday night, the 6 of us (minus Tasha, who came in towards the end since she works later than the rest of us) sat in the common room and watched the new Jumanji movie together.

Tuesday was much more laid back. I went to bed super late Monday, and I enjoyed sleeping in a little bit. I woke up with a pretty bad headache, so I pretty much sat around and relaxed. The weather was terrible; it was pouring the entire day, which made me feel a little better about being so lazy. Omario ended up coming home early from work, and we sat in my room after lunch and each read a book for a few hours and listened to the rain. Tuesday night we all sat in the common room again and enjoyed another movie; this time it was Mother’s Day. I may or may not have cried a bit at the end because it made me miss my own mom. So far I’ve been handling the homesickness surprisingly well, but there are definitely moments where it hits me harder than others.

I have loved how much walking I am doing this trip! Each day, I am walking approximately 5 miles to and from work. Even on the weekends, we are keeping up a good pace and trying to walk most places we go unless it is too far. Monday, the three of us walked over 9 miles on our little adventure. My feet were hurting by the time we got back home, so I knew we had gone far. It didn’t help that my feet were still hurting already from standing all day on Saturday, either!

I am so relieved that the Jelly Bean Ball preparation is over. It was quite an exhausting experience. Isha and I are still finalizing the last details of auction sales and invoices, counting remaining stock, and tying up miscellaneous other loose ends. We should be completely done with the Ball by the end of this week. After that, I am not sure what I will be working on, but I am excited to find out.

It was pouring when I got to Central Station on Wednesday after work, so I decided to hop on a bus instead of walking home. The bus didn’t stop at its normal stop, so I was dropped off about half a mile from my apartment and walked the rest of the way in the rain. I had a new rain jacket on, so my clothes were, for the most part, staying dry. That is until a bus drove by through a puddle and completely SOAKED me. I was definitely not in the best mood when I got back, and just wanted to quickly take a warm shower. I was walking down the hall to drop my stuff off in my room and change when I saw a package leaning up against my door. Even before I made it all the way to my room, I recognized my mom’s handwriting and immediately started to cry. She surprised me and sent me a little care package with some Spark, pictures, gummies, and a sweet note. It hit me all at once how badly I miss my family! It was comforting to know they are thinking about me while I am away. It was such a special way to end my evening, and I forgot all about the bad mood I had or how wet my clothes were. I was just happy to have a piece of home all the way here in Australia.

I really am loving it here in Australia! Especially this short work week. I am working three days, then have a three day weekend since it is a holiday weekend, which means next week is only a four day work week! When I have to go back and do five full days, it’s going to feel like the longest week ever. But, we will take that when it comes. There are so many exciting weekend trips planned that are coming up so fast, and I can’t wait to share!

xo, Hannah

“The most simple things can bring the most happiness.” – Izabella Scorupco

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On our adventure Monday, we stumbled upon this little alleyway with a bunch of bird cages hanging above the street!

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Over 9 miles of walking!

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Look what I found!!! Of course I had to snap a picture.

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Is my mom not the best?? Spark, some of my favorite candy, photos of my family, and a little note. I am so thankful for her.

Busy Bee and the Jelly Bean Ball

This post is long, fair warning! I have been so crazy busy, I have not had time to make an update for the past week. So here it is! Monday mornings make me so sad the weekend is over. Especially last weekend; we made some awesome memories. It was the final week leading up to the 2018 Jelly Bean Ball, so we were told we would be very busy! I was excited to see how it all came together on Saturday night, because it truly was quite the production.

There was a lot of preparation to do at the actual event space, so Friday Isha and I headed over to begin working. We were put up in the hotel for Friday and Saturday night, which is such a luxury! The hotel is right overlooking the Sydney Harbor, so I was really excited to stay there. The view from the hotel room was amazing! Even though we were insanely busy, it was another little adventure to add to my list.

This week was very stressful for me. I still have not quite figured out just how to do everything around the office, and I feel like I have been given a lot of tasks. They are all important, and being so close to the Ball, I was constantly nervous I might accidentally mess something crucial up. Isha has been really encouraging and helpful in making sure that I feel confident in what I am doing, which I really appreciate!

It would be too tedious to go into all of the little tasks, but the small tasks add up and take a lot of time! We have been working our booties off, and there wasn’t much down time at all. It was definitely overwhelming to make sure all of the final details fall into the right place, but we managed slowly but surely.

As for evenings, each day I look forward to spending time with my friends. I love to come back to the accommodation and hear about the stories from their internships. Everyone is doing something different, so all of the stories are unique. Sometimes we have good days, and then others are bad, but we always eat dinner around the same time and sit on the couch and just talk. This week we’ve even started playing Mario Kart on the Nintendo Switch Kat brought!

On Wednesday it poured practically the entire day. Thankfully, God’s timing is perfect. It let up just enough at the times that I needed to walk to the train station and then home from work. While commuting in the morning, I saw a beautiful rainbow and had to stop and snap a picture. I wish I could’ve gotten a better angle, but it was the sentiment that mattered. It is such a powerful reminder that God’s promises to us are renewed each and every day. It put a huge smile on my face that I serve a God who is so faithful and merciful. He is SO good to me!

Then on Wednesday night we had a little Mario Kart tournament, and a few of us went for ice cream. There is a super cute little gelato place less than 10 minutes of a walk away from our accommodation. I got half a scoop each of red velvet and cinna-bon. DELICIOUS! I also won first in one Mario Kart race, but then placed 8th in the next, so I was quick to hand my remote to someone else to avoid more embarrassment.

Omario and Tommy and I are usually the last ones up, so the three of us hang out and laugh about the stupidest stuff for almost an hour before finally saying goodnight and going to our rooms. It has become a daily thing, and I look forward to what funny thing we will do or watch on YouTube each night. After we went to Palm Beach and played with the wallabies, a few of us said we wanted to find somewhere to hold koalas or see kangaroos. Omario didn’t want to because he said that koalas were vicious, but we all said we wanted to see them anyways. That evening, Omario had a video of koalas attacking each other to show me as proof of why he doesn’t want to hold them. We had a good laugh about that. Funnier videos have followed, since that one was a bit awful; Omario’s reaction to it was the best, though.

Thursday was a really nice day at the office! Extremely busy and a bit on the stressful side, but Patrick took me out of the office for a bit to run some errands and grab coffee, so I appreciated the change in scenery. When we came back, we finalized packing all the items up into boxes and attaching shipping labels (which I hand wrote) to each of them, that way the hotel knows which boxes go to the ballroom for the DANII event. This took a bit of time, but thankfully we had Patrick’s help. I honestly have no idea how Isha and I would’ve managed without him! We spent the rest of the day organizing, printing, and framing all of the item descriptions for all of the different auctions and raffles, and had it all ready for movers to take to the hotel Friday morning. Friday was spent organizing auction vouchers, making sure we had everything packed into the truck to go to the hotel, and a LOT more printing. I apologize to all of the trees we killed this week.

The planning for this Ball has been a whirlwind! Thursday and Friday were both later nights, and Isha and I didn’t even leave to head to the hotel to work on the centerpieces until 7pm! I’ve felt like I worked nonstop the entire week, and I feel like I was working fast and still there was just more and more to do.

Friday started out rough. It was the first day I really felt the weight of being homesick. Gracie graduated from The King’s Academy, and I was so sad to not be there. Thankfully, my mom FaceTimed me when she had her solo so that I could hear her sing. I was on the train heading to work when she was graduating, so I was a total crying wreck while commuting that morning. I really embarrassed myself I’m sure, but I couldn’t help it. The whole day was tough on me, since I wanted more than anything to be home with my family. But I didn’t have much time to sit around and be sad, there was WAY too much to do. It was nice to talk to them on my lunch break and hear about the graduation. But the day started with the house manager of my accommodation letting me know that I was to move rooms that morning. I was freaked out, since I was about to leave for work and wasn’t going to be back until Sunday afternoon. Thankfully, one of my friends was home, and he helped me run back and forth down the hallway and move all of my stuff into the new room! I was originally in a double room by myself since the single room they had was unavailable when I moved in. I was fine with the double; it was just two twin beds, and I was sleeping in one and storing things on top of the other. My new room is a bit bigger though, and has a queen bed instead of a twin! While the actual moving process was so stressful, I am happy with how cozy I have made it. Since we were running late now to work, we took a bus to Central instead of walking, and it just happened to be National Donut Day! There is a Krispie Kream in Central Station, so we quickly popped in to get a free donut. The line was thankfully short enough that we were not late to work!

On Friday night, Isha and I got to the hotel and went straight to the room to start blowing up balloons to make the centerpieces for the Ball. There were 48 tables, each with a cluster of eight balloons surrounding flowers. This meant we had over 380 balloons to inflate and tie, so it took us a bit of time, but we had fun with it! Our hotel room overlooked Darling Harbor, and we got to see more Vivid lights and even the fireworks! It was very exciting. Then we got to go to the club level and get some dinner and drinks. The views were beautiful and I didn’t want to leave, but it was already close to midnight and we needed to get as much sleep as possible before we started really setting up for the event.

Saturday morning came with a 7am wake up call. Isha and I went to the club level again for breakfast before heading down to meet the volunteers. Only four or five people ended up showing to help out with the morning set up, which was extremely underwhelming. There was so much to do and not nearly enough people to do it. We needed to fill 500 goodie bags for the guests, set up all the centerpieces on the tables, set up the live and silent auction items, set up the merchandise tables, and a bunch of other miscellaneous stuff. It was nonstop the WHOLE day. From the moment I woke up, until I went to bed at 4am, I sat down for maybe 20 minutes to eat a quick lunch with Isha. When I say my feet have never hurt so bad…it is no exaggeration.

The day was a whirlwind. There was so much going on. Thankfully, nothing crazy went wrong! We ended up missing one box of mirrors, which were a part of the centerpieces, so someone went out and bought more. Other than that, set up went smoothly. Everyone arrived around 6pm, and I loved seeing how beautiful everyone looked when they walked into the hall! I was wearing a pink DANII polo shirt, while other volunteers wore purple. There were only three of us in pink shirts, which signified that we were team leaders. Some people had questions I didn’t know the immediate answer to, but otherwise I felt confident I was directing people the right way.

The Ball officially started at 7pm. Since I was a team leader, I didn’t have a specific role. I was mainly walking around making sure the other volunteers were doing what they were supposed to be doing, that guests were content and didn’t need anything, and I sold some occasional merchandise. I was responsible for checking up on the celebrity table (consisting of cast members from an Australian sitcom, Home and Away. I guess they figured since I never have seen the show that I wouldn’t fangirl over the stars too much. Everyone at the celebrity table was very sweet! Since I was already on a roll with the celebrities, I also got to check in on Paulini, the headliner, and update her on the schedule and check if she needed anything. Paulini was in the final four contestants of the first Australian Idol! She was also seemed very sweet in the short time we spoke. She had an amazing performance, as well. It was so fun to hear her sing and see everyone having fun out on the dance floor.

Honestly, the night flew by so quickly and I don’t even remember much of what I did! I do remember how badly my feet were hurting! Not sitting down all day and not drinking enough water really were a bad combination. My body is feeling it for sure. I was to wear a black skirt or pants with black shoes to go with my polo, but the only black shoes I have are wedges. So that’s what I wore, and I just toughed it out.

Probably my favorite part of the night was hanging out with Isha and the other girls from the travel agency side of the office. Sarah, Cassie, and Mihaela normally volunteer at the event, but this year went as guests. Sarah especially was a huge help, before and during, as she has volunteered with the Jelly Bean Ball for all of the previous six years. The three of them came out to find me and Isha about halfway through, and we all took silly pictures in the photo booth. Mihaela and Cassie even snuck out some champagne for me and Isha to get to celebrate a bit! I really have grown to love each of the girls in the office!

At the end of the Ball, Donna recognized me on stage for the work I have done to help finalize the details of the night. It was so sweet and unexpected. She gifted me a gorgeous bouquet of flowers that are now sitting on my desk in my new room. She also thanked Isha for all the hard work she put into the Ball. I cheered really loudly for her. She tirelessly worked to make this event a success, and I am so happy to have been a small part of helping her bring it all together.

As soon as the silent auction closed, it was clean up time. It took us a few hours to get everything taken down and packed in boxes, labeled, and in a special room to await pickup on Monday to then be delivered back to the office. By the time I got back to the room, it was after 3:30am. I took a quick shower and got into bed and basically passed out! I was supposed to have surfing lessons on Sunday through the intern company I came here with, but the weather was really bad and they got postponed.

Instead of surfing, my friends and I went to Darling Harbor and bowled at a super cool bowling alley. If you spent $6 or more at the bar/restaurant, you got a free game of bowling. So we bought the first game, and then after dinner and some drinks, played a second one for free. It was a really fun night. I won the first game, by some crazy stroke of luck, and then tied for second the second game. I suck at bowling, so this was very exciting.

Its been a very long week, and I am grateful that Patrick is letting me take Monday and Tuesday off to rest a bit from the stress of the Ball. I plan on sleeping in a little bit Monday, and then trying to find some fun things to do in rainy weather (it is supposed to rain ALL WEEK). I have tried to convince some of my friends to take off either Monday or Tuesday so I am not alone and we can do more fun stuff. We will see who actually does!

I am grateful for all the work I have been doing with the DANII Foundation so far. It hasn’t been easy, by any means, but seeing everything come together at the Jelly Bean Ball was incredible. Getting to hear stories from people who have Type 1, how it affects them, and how the DANII Foundation has completely transformed their lives was truly humbling and eye opening. I am so thankful to be a small part of such a great cause. I am waiting to hear the final total of funds raised, and I am excited to see how that money makes an even bigger impact.

“The fruit of your own hard work is the sweetest.” – Deepika Padukone

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Honestly, how cool is this rainbow? Jesus is so great.

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Tommy and I got a free donut for National Donut Day!

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Darling Harbor is STUNNING when its all lit up for Vivid! We blew up more than 380 balloons for the centerpieces, and it was so cool to have this view outside the window!

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The club had a bunch of yummy finger foods, and free champagne!

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This was my view when I woke up. CRAZY!

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Set up for the merchandise table.

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These are some of the DANII merchandise available to guests for purchase. The bears are so soft!

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48 tables, each set for about 10 people. The decorations turned out beautiful!

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A close up of the centerpiece.

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Sarah, Mihaela, Cassie, Isha and I in the photobooth! Love these women.

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Donna outdid herself with these flowers! The bouquet is stunning.

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Omario and I split this drink so we could get a free game of bowling!

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Love these people! Even if they suck at bowling 😉