Since I last posted on my blog, I finished my semester at ACU, camped in Australia, soaked up the sun in the Gold Coast, celebrated my friend’s 21st birthday, and lived out of a van in New Zealand. I’ve said goodbye to a lot of people who have become so important to my life here, and now I’m trying to fit in as much as possible before I journey back to America in just one week. I feel like I’m moving at 100 miles per hour, but in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want to take some time to stop and reflect.
Yesterday was the first time in my life that I had ever missed a family holiday. The first thing I did when I woke up was FaceTime my family, who was cleaning up from dinner when I called. They told me that they accidentally set a place at the table for me, which simultaneously made me laugh and miss them. Thankfully, I had plans to celebrate with my little Aussie family, including Matt, who got to celebrate his first Thanksgiving!
|The Gasbarres' favorite Thanksgiving food - Nonna's tortellini|
We all brought something to contribute to the meal. Although we had to substitute kangaroo meat for turkey, we did a good job sticking to the traditional Thanksgiving foods. I made sweet potato casserole, which is one of my favorite Thanksgiving foods. I used Aunt Ro’s recipe, and it was a big hit! It was quite funny to cook it with Matt, who was appalled by the amount of butter and sugar went into the recipe. I really enjoyed being involved in the process of cooking the meal. This is not usually the case at home because I trust my mom, Aunt Ro, Grandma, and Nonna to do a great job. Also, I’ve always passed up on opportunities to cook because I didn’t know how. Having been in Australia for 5 months now, I’ve had no choice but to learn. I’m thankful to Australia for that- for making me push myself to try new things.
|sweet potato casserole... not even sure you could consider it a vegetable anymore|
We all gathered on Friday afternoon outside our building for the meal. We wanted to do it on Friday instead of Thursday because it was closer to the time that our families would have been celebrating at home. We had mashed potatoes, a chicken (which I had to carve, just like a turkey), green beans, sweet potatoes, and pie. In traditional Thanksgiving fashion, I didn’t eat all day in preparation for the feast. I felt really thankful that I was surrounded with such good friends. Although our Aussie Thanksgiving was a huge success, I don’t plan to miss many more big holidays with my family at home.
I’ve found that I’ve been feeling more and more grateful as my time in Australia decreases from months to weeks to days. I remember walking around North Stradbroke Island with my friends at the beginning of the month. We were blown away by the beauty of the coast and its wildlife. With just one turn of the head, we could see kangaroos on land and giant sea turtles and dolphins in the water. Ashley looked over at me and said, “I could cry, I’m so happy here,” and I knew she wasn’t exaggerating because I felt the same way. I had put so much energy and thought into planning my semester in Australia, but I never expected to be counting sea turtles in the ocean as they came up for air. Those surprise moments that I could never have planned but took my breath away were the things for which I am most thankful. I am thankful for the people I met that shared those moments with me, and I want to let them know how much I appreciate them.
Room 100 – Of all the people in the world who could have been my roommates during my semester in Australia, I’m so glad it was you guys.
Gianna- I knew I would like you from the moment you responded to my initial Facebook message in all caps, but I knew I would love you when you gave me an extra-long hug the moment we met. I am so happy that I can use our special knock on our shared wall and you come running. More than just loving you as a friend, I respect you so much. You are so passionate about your films, hair dye, art, and adventure. Thanks for coming back from class on Mondays to hang out with me, for spontaneously getting in a helicopter with me, for snuggling with me in our graffitied van, and for being my go-to on this side of the world.
Rachel- Thank you for being one of the sweetest people I have ever met. You are so kind, so fun, and, surprisingly, so much trouble. Thank you for driving in New Zealand, always yelling at Gianna to get in the elevator, and being your best self. Thank you for keeping life interesting in our room. I can’t wait to visit you in Fairfield.
Ashley- I knew we were going to have a great semester together after we talked on Instagram. I love that you always want to have fun and care so much about other people’s feelings. I think my dance moves improved just by watching you at the club. Thank you for letting me borrow your clothes (literally every single time we go out). Thank you for taking the far side of the tent so I could feel a little less nervous about being abducted in New Zealand. Thank you for reminding me to take advantage of every minute of our last couple weeks. Most of all, thank you for staying an extra week so that we can explore Melbourne together.
Keiko – Thank you for being the first person to join me in Room 100 to end my streak of loneliness. I’m so happy that I got to know you and even meet your mom. Thanks for teaching me about Asian food and cosplay. I hope I get to see you if I’m ever in Santa Clara!
The “Aussie Posse” ... Devon, Savannah, Liz, Leanne, Nicole, Danielle, Jiorden, Katie, Daphne, Rachel, Ashley, Gianna - I could not be more thankful for all the time that I got to spend with you. I have never felt more comfortable with a group of girls than I did with you guys. Thank you for all the beach trips, Thursday nights at Prohibition, and Bachelor viewing parties. So much changed as we explored different parts of Australia, but you guys were a constant. Thank you for always being around to hang out, get food, “study,” explore the city, watch movies, or whatever. I know that you guys will be life-long friends, and I can’t wait to meet up in the upcoming years for trips around the world, weddings, or whatever life throws our way. I can’t imagine what my time in Australia would have been like without you, and now I’m looking forward to finding you all in America.
Nolan- Thank you for saying yes before I even finish offering up the ideas. I am so happy that we were able to see so much of Australia together- Cairns, Sydney, Byron Bay, and Alice Springs wouldn’t have been the same without you. Thank you for seeing beauty in everything and for always allowing time in our itineraries for sunrises and sunsets. I will never forget how you literally jumped for joy when we saw a rainbow over Sydney Harbor at Watson’s Bay. Thank you for not getting annoyed by my backseat driving when you drive fast on curvy roads (even though I know you got it). You are such a special person, and I’m so glad Sammi told me to look out for you. I’ll see you in Pittsburgh or Erie or Chicago or Canada or Africa or somewhere.
Troy – Thank you for helping me to feel comfortable in Brisbane. You were the go-to person for cool hikes and great views. Thanks for coming over for family dinners and bringing us food throughout the semester. Thank you for taking us to see the galaxy. Thank you for waking up at 4 AM to say goodbye before we flew to New Zealand. I’m jealous that Ashley and Gianna got to visit you in Singapore, so I plan to do the same one day!
Matt – Thanks for being so much more than my crazy story and one-time Tinder success. I am so happy that I met you and continued to talk to you even though the circumstances didn’t encourage it. Thank you for making two trips to Brisbane and for inviting me to meet your family and friends in Sydney. I had so much fun with you and them, and I will never forget the time we spent together. Thank you for translating Australian slang. Thank you for immediately Googling any city I was planning on visiting to tell me the best places to go. Thank you for reading my blog every single time I posted something. Most of all, thank you for reminding me to live in the moment.
Mom – Thank you for selflessly encouraging me to travel to Australia for the greatest adventure of my life so far. Thank you for encouraging me to take risks. Thank you for reminding me to be brave when I worried about poisonous animals or volcano eruptions. Thank you for never excessively worrying about me on the other side of the world so that I could call you telling you how I just jumped out of a plane or was about to bungee jump. Thank you for sending me Facebook posts about cool things we’re going do when I get home to help me get over my post-trip sadness. Most of all, thank you for reminding me that I am missed and loved. Somehow, I feel even closer to you after being away than I ever have before. Remember that no matter where I am, I will always be your girl!
I could go on forever giving thanks to individual people who have made my life better in the past six months. If you have ever read one of my blog posts, commented on a picture I posted, called me to catch up, or reminded me that I am missed somewhere else in the world, I am thankful for you. I am thankful for so many people, and so many places, and so many experiences, so this month I’m celebrating “Thanks-throwing” rather than “Thanksgiving” as I throw thanks into the universe.
I found this quote on the wall of a sandwich shop in Byron Bay back in August, and it couldn't be more true than right now. Going home is such a bitter-sweet blessing, but I am so happy to be returning to my family and friends in one week, knowing that I am leaving Australia with no regrets.