The moment we set foot on Sydney the cold bitter winds and ice of Illinois were but a distant memory, which is exactly where I wanted them.
The worldwide Augustana College experience
The final stop on our 10 day trip to the Gulf Coast was New Orleans. Almost 11 years ago, Hurricane Katrina devastated much of the city and displaced tens of thousands of residents, most notably in the Lower Ninth Ward and New Orleans East. Following The Storm, as locals call it, planners proposed converting both areas to green space and moving residents to other parts of the city. In New Orleans East, Vietnamese residents who initially came to the city as refugees in the 1970s, successfully opposed the plan and the creation of a landfill in their neighborhood, as documented in the film A Village Called Versailles. In the years since Katrina and the BP oil spill, which negatively impacted the livelihoods of local fishers, Vietnamese residents have worked to develop an urban farm on vacant land in New Orleans. Early on Tuesday morning, students visited the VEGGI Farmers Cooperative in the Versailles neighborhood to learn about different growing techniques and organizing strategies in and around the garden. Gardeners grow and sell produce to restaurants in the central city, and are collaborating with youth food justice groups in the region to increase involvement by younger residents. Students also learned about the challenges that residents face as a result of the marginalization of New Orleans East within the city, particularly following Katrina. While many Vietnamese residents returned to the city, a significant portion of New Orleans East’s population has not.
The Louisiana trip was a truly rewarding experience! A combination of passionate and engaged students and professors, amid a rich, interactive landscape, created the perfect environment for learning and bonding. In our journeys we became familiar with some of the major problems that plague southern Louisiana and the Gulf Coast region. These problems include, but are not limited to: salt water intrusion, coastal erosion, poverty, segregation, and the hypoxic zone. Though some of issues may seem unrelated, they all form fibers of the precarious web that is the Gulf Coast region. In one-way or another everything is interconnected; and, because of it, these problems perpetuate one another.
A great example of this phenomenon can be seen in the relation to the growth of petroleum industry and the growth hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico. As the petroleum (oil and gas) industry has grown, constructing oil rigs and laying down endless miles of piping, southern Louisiana has experienced major coastal erosion. In the past century nearly 2,000 square miles of land—nearly the entire state of Delaware—have been lost to the sea. Consequently, there has been a seismic disappearance of coastal salt marshes, which filter out unwanted chemicals (i.e. phosphates and nitrates from Midwestern agricultural run-off). Without these marshes, phosphates and nitrates freely flow into the Gulf of Mexico, in effect, creating the second largest hypoxic zone, or “Dead Zone”, on the planet. So, in short, construction oil pipelines and oil rigs throughout southern Louisiana has indirectly caused the growth of the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico.
Geography students spent the weekend in Cocodrie, a tiny fishing village and vacation spot on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana. It’s also the site of LUMCON, the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium. Researchers at LUMCON are credited with discovering the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic or Dead Zone, which is a vast area the size of Massachusetts that is deprived of oxygen. While hypoxia is naturally occurring, dead zones have expanded significantly in the Gulf and around the world because of increased nutrient runoff from agriculture. The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is primarily the result of agriculture in Illinois, Iowa and other places Midwest, and has major social and environmental consequences for Louisiana coastal communities.
On Wednesday, geography students took a tour of Norco with the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, a non-profit organization working with local communities impacted by the petrochemical industry between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
On Monday, 12 Geography majors and 2 professors began their 10-day regional field trip to the Louisiana Gulf Coast. The class will visit sites in Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Cocodrie and New Orleans to learn about water management, coastal erosion, urban geography, and environmental justice in Gulf Coast communities.
Well. It’s official. I am a terrible blogger! Okay, maybe not quite “terrible” but I am about a week behind. Instead of boring you with what last week was, I’ll simply give a brief overview:
Monday through Thursday- I started my internship at Life Changing Experiences, which runs a program called SISTER2sister. This foundation is incredibly small-they operate out of a one room office and rely heavily on grants and donations to operate, but they do amazing work. They work with Sydney’s marginalized and at-risk teen girls and give them a positive role model that they may not have in their lives. Honestly, their work is indescribable and probably extremely underrated for what they have accomplished.
Friday- Kendra, Sarah, Jill, and I all took the trip to Paddy’s Market! As amazing as it was, it was extremely overwhelming. There were so many booths and stalls and smells and colors, and just wow! It was great to finally get down there and see what it was all about; as well as find the real deals for clothes and stuff. We then went to lunch and walked back towards the accommodation and went to a chocolate bar! Which was just as great as you’d probably imagine. There were so many chocolate options, I got the “milkshake”; one thing I can’t get over (and I’m discovering I miss terribly) are the milkshakes here. Although they’re great, it’s simply just frothed milk, I really just want an American milkshake!
Saturday- The girls from yesterday plus Taylor and Rachel and I all went to the aquarium. Kendra and I had the absolute time of our lives and were transformed into little kids again. We honestly spent at least 15 minutes in each area, if not more. Overall if you like the aquarium and have a day to kill, I’d recommend it! Afterwards, we split up and Kendra, Sarah, and I went to the Queen Victoria Building where we shopped. It sounds like an expensive place BUT if you travel far down into the depths of the Lower Ground level, you will find the truly affordable shops. When we got back to the accommodation, everyone got ready for the night. For the first time since leaving New Zealand, we all went to Scubar. The lines were long and it was absolutely packed. Overall, we had a great time, light on the drinks but heavy on the dancing.
Sunday- Very relaxed day. Honestly, no one really did much. Ken and Sarah went to the Rocks while another group of girls went to Paddy’s. I was in the minority and slept mostly.
Sydney is an amazing and diverse city packed full of interesting things around every corner! As of yesterday we’ve been here for two weeks, and boy have they been fun and busy!
Our first day in Sydney was spent in orientation with CAPA, where they went over some important information about our assignments, internships, and showed us how to use the public transportation system. Sydney has buses, light rail, trains and ferries, all under a unified payment system called an Opal card. The Opal card is pre-loaded with money and then at each station there are posts to “tap on” and to “tap off”. By touching the card to the magnetic reader before you get on and then again after you get off, it automatically calculates the correct fare by location. So far I have used the bus, light rail and train, and am planning on using the ferry next weekend. Having never lived in a city with a train (I’m from Des Moines, IA), I like the train the best, because it is new and exciting and in my opinion quite fun!
Sorry Disney if I infringed on any copyright laws, but the song was just too perfect to pass up! As you probably have noticed dear reader(s?), I have not posted in quite a bit! And I apologize for that! The lack of consistent wifi and adventures that filled my days put me a bit at a (dis)advantage. I can honestly say that I had the time of my life in New Zealand! It was absolutely amazing and breathtaking!! Words really can’t describe it and pictures will truly never do it justice. Just believe me when I say that you need to put it on your bucket list.
Now, I am in Sydney. We have been typical tourists and gone to all the spots that you should go to and done all the things that you should do. After four days of fun and adventuring, we start our internships tomorrow! As sad as I am to see relaxation go, I’m excited to get back into a routine and learn more new skills to apply to my life! I will keep this post short and I will try to start posting weekly!
When I think of summer, I think of sun and beautiful weather. So when I got the chance to travel during the Midwest’s most brutal season (aka winter) I jumped at the opportunity. I applied and was accepted into the Australia Term Abroad- which also came with the added perk of going to visit New Zealand for 13 days. How could I turn that down?! And after a year of planning and 60 hours of traveling later here I am!
Back to my first statement. Summer. When someone thinks of summer, they’re probably thinking sun and hot and nice weather with no clouds in the sky, right? Me too! However, we got off the plan on the first of January of the new year to…gray skies and rain. Not quite the summer I was expecting. Nonetheless, we were not going to let that stop us! Once we gathered our bags and made it through customs- almost seamlessly- we were ready to take on our first stop, Auckland, New Zealand. Instead of the planned foot tours our guides decided to simply do bus tours around the city, which even by bus and rain was still beautiful! Although the heavy rain stopped by dinnertime, after so much traveling I really was ready to just go to bed. Which I did, promptly at 11 pm.