I’m digging through the archives with this post and after reading how I wrote back then perhaps it should have stayed in the archives. However, these journal entries I am sharing are fun to look back on and take a trip down memory lane. About three years ago I thought they were lost. I typed them at a time when smartphones were not a thing yet and no one traveled with laptops. I thought I was cool using my Pocket PC to type them back in 2005 but perhaps I looked like a nerd, who knows. While everyone else in my group wrote in a notebook or journal mine were saved digitally. Now, that is cool and makes this easy but it bothered me to think these cherished memories were only in pictures or my mind. When I found them over 10 years later it was a joyful relief!
This summer will mark 15 years since these journal entries were written. Considering the extra time at home during this pandemic and not being able to go anywhere, aside from the store for essentials, I thought I’d share an experience that changed my world, literally, forever back in the year of 2005. If you can make it through the unedited and unfiltered writing of a 17 year old boy kudos to you! At the very least it may paint a picture of how far 15 years changes someone, definitely their writing ability. For those who traveled with me for those 3 life-changing weeks I hope you enjoy reading about an experience that did something for you that can never be taken back.
This started in the fall of 2004. I received a letter in the mail from an organization called People to People. It is an organization that was founded by President Eisenhower in 1956 to help people to understand one another. “He recognized the surest way to break cycles of fear and misunderstanding was for people to understand one another. He knew that for this to be effective, it must come not through governments but through the hearts of people yearning for dignity, freedom, and peace.” I took that from the People to People website but that was the same message I received back then. It was inspiring! I wanted to become a student ambassador!
I’m still not sure how I got that letter, whether I was nominated by someone or because of my solid academic standing, but I was instantly curious and persistent. When I showed my mother the opportunity I don’t know how she agreed to even take the initial steps to pursue this new dream. First off, there was an interview that took place to be accepted. That in itself has a hilarious story that only my mom can give it justice telling.
The next thing was coming up a large amount of money from this trip and considering I came from humble beginnings I’m surprised it continued on but it did. We, and by we I mean a huge part by my mom, started creating letters to send to friends, family, and local businesses in my community of Pipestone. Many very gracious donations and a few fundraisers and the goal was met. I think writing this is also a huge thanks to all of those people who helped make it happen all these years later. I was a young kid and don’t think I appreciated it as much then as I do now. Thank you! All of you started something that by this age of 31 (for a few more weeks!) would create many experiences and friendships that scatter the globe.
Over the next several months the new batch of soon-to-be student ambassadors would meet each month to prepare for the three week journey to New Zealand and Australia. This was an undertaking for me and a great bubble breaker. To this point in my life I had been to only the neighboring states of Minnesota and a couple trips to Indianapolis to visit my aunt and uncle. The big kicker, I had never been on a plane in my life and the first time was going to be to the other side of the world. Not many receive this opportunity. It was a blessing and I was ready to do my best and take it in as well as any 17 year old possibly can. I was sure to be mind blown and caught up in it all to probably miss absorbing some of it. Looking back, I’m grateful to have seen it with young eyes but it has been on my list to return ever since and see what it would be like now.
This was going to be my first significant time away from home, other than a few days for numerous things growing up. I never went to camp as a kid. A lot of things like that scared me. I was afraid of new kids. Finally, I was going to be approaching my senior year of high school and some confidence caught up with me. I was ready! Well, it helped that I convinced my best friend Erik to join for the journey. Also, after a few of those monthly meetings the nervousness subsided and friendships began to form. I knew as that departure day came closer the only thing I was possibly nervous about was having everything I needed. Leaving home behind was far from my mind. It was the beginning. The beginning of a lifelong passion to see and interact with other people from different cultures all over the world!
One of the tasks presented to each one of us was a journal entry to describe what this journey as a student ambassador meant. This is the beginning of what I’m going to share from the mind of my 17 year old self. Enjoy!
Journal Entry #1 – Preparation as a Student Ambassador
I feel that the role of a student ambassador has a lot to do with common sense. You should be respectful to the other culture and follow their rules. Show care, be friendly, kind, and be patient. You must not be disrespectful under any circumstances because the job of a student ambassador is to bring peace and break sterotypes that are formed about other countries. Don’t go by sterotypes you have heard in your home country. Try to free your mind of those and be open to learn about the other way of life. People must look out for the other ambassadors to make sure they don’t mess up some peace they have worked hard to form. That is what I feel is the role of a student ambassador.
Day 1 – June 19, 2005 (US day)
We went to the airport in Sioux Falls and we learned some things we needed to know. Then we left for a hour and a half flight to Denver. We ate McDonalds there and then got on a 2 hour flight to L.A. We got to L.A., ate McDonalds again and then waited in the airport for six hours till the other groups got there. We got on a Boeing 747 for our 12 hour flight to Auckland. The plane had games, movies, and music. It was a great fun flight but the food wasn’t that good. Then we got to Auckland. (Day lost due to traveling across the International Date Line)
Day 2 – June 21, 2005 – Arrival in Auckland, New Zealand
We started off the day by arriving in Auckland at 6 AM and then going through customs which went well. Then we boarded a charter bus and went around the city and up to the top of a hill to get a great view of the harbor filled with tons of boats because New Zealand has the highest boat ownership rate in the world. One out of five people own a boat. Then we road a while on the bus till we got to the town of Waihi which consisted of a gold and silver mine. The town depends on the mine. I thought the mine tour was rather boring. Me, Erik, Conner, and Jacob Dilley went to KFC and had some normal food. We had some Mirinda which was an orange FIZZY (another word for POP). Then we got some excitement when we went to a school and we visited with students on their lunch break. It was really cool because a lot of the kids liked sports and knew all about players on my home states professional team. They even knew music artists and all the cultural stuff going on in the States.
They showed us some war challenge chants that can be used to challenge other warriors or other teams in a rugby match which is very popular here. The Lions rugby team is the team. It was a very interesting and great time. Then we got to go to the beach in the town of Tauratura where the wind was blowing and waves were coming in hard. It was such a great sight for me because I’ve never been to a beach and I always wanted to see the waves coming in like they were. I loved the beach.
Then we came to our hotel and swam with some of the guys. The Kingsgate Hotel was a great hotel. We hung out and had a great time fooling around. That sums up Day 1.
Day 3 – June 22, 2005
A quarter after six is way too early compared to me waking up at 10:30 in the States. So that put a slow start for me to my day. Then we ate some breakfast. After that we made our way to the Agrodome where they had a sheep show. It was very interesting because the dogs would climb up the pyramid of sheep on top of their backs. The Merino was the sheep at the top of the pyramid. We then got to pet the sheep and dogs. I thought the whole experience was great because it was a lot different then the ones in my hometown. It helped show how New Zealand people do one. I really thought the gifts shops were expensive. It cost 39.95 for a winter hat. Then we went back to our hotel to see the counselor. He talked politics about stuff in his country. It went over my head because I am not interested in politics. So I kind of zoned out. Then we went to Skyline … where we ate hamburgers and then went on a great luge ride twice. It was great because I don’t think luge rides are common. The town of Rotorua was a neat town, except for the fact that it smelt really bad because of the sulfur. We then got back on the bus and went to Thermal Wonderland at Wai-O-Tapu. It was a really interesting place because I’ve never been to a volcano like that. The sulfur smell was the only downside to the place, but the green colored water was cool and all the hot springs where water flowed out. The tour guide was really funny because he would tell us info and then crack jokes. It was a really unique experience. We then got to go to the Maori and meet the Maori people. We got to be welcomed in a traditional ceremony. A Maori warrior came and challenged Jacob Dilley. Then we got situated in the big house as they called it to set up for our communal sleeping. Then we got to see how they cook their food in such a different way. They cooked there food underground by heating volcanic rocks. We then got set up to eat and they served us great food. I thought the food they served us was the best we ate so far. We then went to the concert section of the eating house to watch a Maori concert. The women sang and danced and the men performed a Haka (a war dance or something they used to challenge their opponent in a Rugby game). The girls then went up their to perform a song with the Maori women. Then the boys went up there to perform a Haka. It was really cool. Then we got to see Sally Rice, JoAnn, Kay Kassube, and Fred go up to perform the ball with a string thing. Then we got to go back and get ready for bed in the big house which was a very cool place because they had poles with people engraved on it that they knew all the life history about. My roommates were Jacob Dilley and Erik Henriksen. It was fun sleeping on mattresses lined up like they were and when the lights were out people would make noises that were really funny. That puts a wrap on Day 3.
Day 4 – June 23, 2005
The day started at 6:00 AM. We got dressed and went to breakfast where we had another great meal. We had pourage (oatmeal), eggs, and ham. Then the leader, John, of the Maori told us the story behind the mural on the wall. It gave a sense of understanding behind the Maori people. He was a cool guy. Then he played the Mauri traditional musical instrument. It was a beautiful sound. Then we said our goodbyes and left the place on our same old bus. The Maori was such a great time. We then got on our boring old bus and drove to the Huka Jet place. We put on our life jackets and went on the Huka Jet. Our driver took us down the river and did 360’s with the boat and we could feel the water in our faces as the boat whipped around. We then went to Lake Taupo and got out to grab some really light pumice rock. Then we went to the Flat Hills restaurant and ate. That night we arrived in Wellington at our hotel where the cool Texan people we staying. We then pretty much ate and had a great time ambassadating. That sums up day 4.
Day 5 – June 24, 2005
The day started off by eating breakfast at the hotel. Then we got on the bus again and went to the New Zealand capital building next to the beehive where the Prime Minister is. The tour guide at the building took us to the conference room and told us about the New Zealand government. Their government isn’t as strong as the United States’s government in my opinion because it’s not necessarily in the best interest of the people because they don’t even know who they are electing. We got in one big group and took a picture of us as a group in front of the capital building because I broke the rules and brought the camera into the building. Then Greg took us to a cheap discount store called the Warehouse, similar to Walmart. Then we went to the largest museum in the southern hemisphere, Te Papa. Then Greg took us to downtown Wellington and we had time to go to a bunch of shops. Paige, Brandi, Cameron, and Me found a Kodak store to get my pics put on a CD. Then we found a sweet lower price clothing shop called Jay Jays that is really popular in Australia because it’s an Australian store. Then we went to eat at a New Orleans restaurant called the Quarter. Me, Jacob, Cameron, and Nathan were ambassadating with all the waitresses and asking them to yell out, “Can I get a What, What?”. One of them eventually did and we answered it was really cool to talk with Kiwis. Then we went to the music studio and Kit showed us how to use the program Sony Acid program and then made our own sound clip using a whole bunch of different types of music. Now we can go on the website and download everyone’s music. We then met up with the other group who did a news telecast. Then we went back to the hotel and went into the game room and watched the news video as a group because they gave us a dvd. Then we got ready for bed. That caps off day 5.
Day 6 – June 25, 2005
We started by once again getting up at our hotel. Then we got on the bus AGAIN and went to the ferry terminal in Wellington and said our goodbyes to our great bus driver Greg. We got on ferry shortly after and went on that for like 2-3 hours. I just stood outside chillin with some of my newly made friends and enjoyed the scenery and took pictures. We then got off the ferry in some town and met our new bus driver, Murray. So then Jacob added another name to his stuffed kiwi. It’s now up to Steve Martin Greg Fred Bruce Murray. We then drove to Richmond and met our host family. I got to go with Adam and me and Adam are like good friends on the trip so it was all cool. Bob was the dad we met and Damian was the 15 year old son. We tried to go to a rugby game but went to the wrong place so we just went to their home. We ate some regular home sweet home food. It was chicken and some mash potatoes. Mmm! Then we had some Milo which is like hot cocoa. Then we got ready and watched the big rugby game between Great Britain Lions vs. the New Zealand All Blacks and they performed that Maori Haka to intimidate the Lions. The All Blacks won and then I got to send some pictures back home on their cpu. Then me and Adam hit the hay and so did their other son David who was 17 and Damian.
Day 7 – June 26, 2005
We began the day by getting up and having some good ol’ corn flakes with some peaches on top and some Milo. Then me, Adam, David, Damion, there oldest son Daniel (24), daughter Abby (9), Sean (6), Nathan (4), and Johnty (3) all went out tossed a rugby ball around and they taught me how to toss it and put the spin on it. Rugby is such a brutal sport and now I know most of the rules. I love it. The younger kids are also so friendly and fun to be around. Then we got in the car and drove to Kateriteri and saw some Kiwis do the mid-winter swim. Then we went up the hill and went to Kaka-Pah-Point. It has a big sign with arrows to places around the world and distances to them. Then we drove to Abel Tasman National Park and saw where many people start their hikes. We got some good pictures of Golden Bay from there. Then we drove up hill for a while and went to Hawke’s Point. We got some much better pics of the Bay from there because we were WAY up there. Adam, David, Damian, and me then threw rocks down the cliff and they stubbled for like 20 seconds through the trees. Then we got back in the car and went down this path around some hills where they filmed some of the Lord of the Rings scenes. They had limestone rocks filling the hills and they had had some weathering. We then reached Howard’s Hole. We went on 45 minute hike deep into a forest and there really was no clear path. The forest was thick and you could easily get lost. We walked through the tree area till we reached a little valley between rocks like on the hills. We went up the hill that was like 10 minutes. It was very tiring. We got to the lookout and it was like jagged rocks that you’d stand on on a cliff but there was a magnificent view. It was very dangerous. Then we tried to find our way back down. We got back to the bottom and made our way to Howard’s Hole. We went near the edge in between two rocks. It was icy and you had to be very careful. You couldn’t even see the bottom. It was like 176 meters down. The top of the hole above us had to be like 300 feet up because you could see the trees at the top and they were small. Then we made our hike back. Bob (the dad) got a ways ahead us guys found a pond that had ice frozen over on top so we were throwing logs and rocks on it trying to break it. Finally we got a big log like 10 feet long and heaved that in and broke it. Then we caught back up and got out fo the forest and had some Milo and cookies. We then got in and drove back down the hill and went into a town and had some ice cream. Then we headed home. We watced TV for a few minutes and then Erin (the mom) had dinner ready. It was corn, peas, mashed potatoes, and roast beef. So we ate up and then we got the spot light ready and the 12 gauge. Adam, Daniel, Damian, me got in Daniel’s SUV and went possum hunting. It was cool because Daniel drove like a teenager gunning it through the winding driveway paths up and down hills. We finally spotted one. We got out and they shined the light on it. Adam took a shot and hit it a little. Then I shot at it and killed it. We took a picture of us holding it and I had a a cigar in my mouth, not lit of course. Then we went back home and went out hunting on foot but had no luck. We got back in from the cold and had some Milo again. We then talked with Erin and Bob. The 19 year old daughter was then home and we met her. She was very pretty. Everyone in the family was good looking. They were like the perfect home stay family. Exactly what I wanted. It was like normal but in a different country. Then we went to the other house to go to sleep. Me and Adam talked with David for a little bit because he stayed in the same room as us. Then it was lights out and that pretty much ended our fun with our home stay family.
Day 8 – June 27, 2005
We woke up and got ready. Me and Adam went in the house for the last time to eat breakfast and give our host family our gifts to them. We then got in a big group and put my camera on a chair on top of the table and set the timer. I rushed over to the group and Adam, Me, and the Powick family got a picture taken together.
It felt really special because I felt like I was right at home. They treated me like family. I got to become great friends with them and they even taught me how to throw a rugby ball. Adam, Me, David, and Damian even joked around with each other like we were great friends. I’m definetely not going to let this friendship end because we might not see each other again. Then we got in the car. Bob took us to the school where the bus was waiting and David and Damian came with to go to school. David was going to be coming to Australia in two weeks because they get a break from school and he’s is going to play rugby there. We said goodbye to them and got on the bus. We rode the bus and eventually drove along the coast. We stopped at some place in the along the road where we ate. Then we decided to go across the road to the beach where wind was crazy and blowing huge waves in. Some of us guys decided it would be cool to take off our shoes and socks and roll up our pants and let the waves blow in and hit our feet. Eventually we moved in closer and closer and the waves splashed up and got our pants soaked and our shirts partly. Conner ran in and let a wave take him and he went under and surfaced about 30 feet up-shore. The water was so cold and it felt horrible when we got on the bus because we were wet but it was an experience to remember. Then we drove to Christchurch where we went into the Antarctic Centre. We toured the building and went in a weather simulator and went in the vehicles they use in Antarctica. It was like a ride. We also got to talk to one of the guys in Antarctica over a speakerphone. Then we left that place and went to a restaurant for supper and it was like a small animal facility. We ate and then fed deer with our hands and then went on a tour. We saw kiwis, birds, swans, and other animals. Then we went to our hotel and I chilled with Ethan in our room till like 1 o’clock. It was fun. Then I hit the hay.
Day 9 – June 28, 2005
We started the day by getting up and continuing our daily routine of eating breakfast and leaving the hotel. We then went to the Full On Camp. We got there and the people stormed the bus. They had so much energy. They told us to go inside with our shoes off and slide on the carpet. We then played some weird tag games. Then Dave gave us a lecture on attitude and what we were to embark on that day. Then we got on the buses and headed to Mt. Hutt. Me and Erik talked to a 21 year old Jason about snowboarding, America, and other sports and neat stuff. He was going to be the photographer for the day. We got there and ate some not so great food. Then we put on our harnesses. We headed up the hill till we got to the top where the platform was. Jacob was really freaking out because he was so scared. I went and did the repell right away. I was like the 7th person. Dan was the guy who got to lower me down. It was kinda scary leaning back because I felt like he was going to let go. I walked backwards down the cliff till I got to the overhang where I couldn’t anymore. Then I just dangled there till I reached the bottom of the 200 and some feet. Then I just waited at the bottom for a long time till everyone came down. Me, Erik, and Conner ran down the hill a ways just to have some fun. I then enjoyed the Alps and the view. The people told us that Lord of the Rings was filmed around the mountains near us. That was cool because that’s what I wanted to see in New Zealand. Then we got to the last person which was Jacob and he was trying to hang on to the cliff. He then was like half way down and he asked for a What What. Then we headed back to camp and went outside to play catch with the rugby ball and throw rocks on the pond. Then we went inside where we got a boring lecture again from Dave. We then ate and got free-time and we played catch in the building. Then we ate again and found out we didn’t have a bed-check. We all then just chilled and talked for a while. I then went to my bunk-room where I slept on the 3rd bunk and we all talked in our room and then went to sleep.
Day 10 – June 29, 2005 – Arrival in Sydney, Australia
We woke up and had breakfast and then boarded our bus and headed to Christchurch. We then went to downtown and got free-time to roam. I bought a official size rugby ball and a book on where all the Lord of the Rings sites were. I got to get a Mountain Dew too. That felt great to down one of those. Then we went to the airport and checked in and by the time we got done with that we had to board. I switched seats and sat by Jacob where the middle seat was empty. We put the kiwi mascot there. His name was officially Steve Martin Greg Fred Bruce Murray Sean Clem Dave Jason. Jacob and me then went and took some empty seats by the window where there was a lot of leg room. We listened to the music and talked till we reached Sydney, Australia. I could see the Olympic Stadium from the plane. It was really cool because that’s where I watched the 2000 Olympics for how many days when I was glued to the TV. Then we got off the plane and went through customs. We got on the bus and met Mary our guide for all of Australia. She took us to the Aquarium located near Darling harbor. We ate there and went through the aquarium. I saw a crocodile, many different kinds of fish, a huge crab, turtles, huge sharks, seals, stingrays, Nemo, and Dori. It was so cool. I went into the gift shop and bought some sweet postcards of the Opera House, Sydney Harbor Bridge, and the skyline. Then I went outside to view the harbor and the cool boats. That was pretty much the day because we then went to our hotel and chilled some more and went to bed.
Day 11 – June 29, 2005
I started the day by not eating breakfast because I took light milk and it tasted like crap. Then we board the bus to head to the Sydney Harbor Bridge. We went in and looked at the wall where it showed celebrities that have climbed the bridge.
Will Smith, Hayden Christensen, Matt Damon, and Mary Kate and Ashley were among them so it was cool to know that we’d be walking where they did. There was also the torch used in the 2000 Olympic Torch Relay in a glass case. We then went in and got our suits and took everything lose off because it was mandatory. We then put on our belts. Then we got handkerchiefs and hats to clip on. Then we went and got radios, headsets, fleeces, and a raincoat to were. Our guides John and Adrian then led us to the bridge. Adrian was cool plus he looked like my friends dad. We went up the cat walks and under the road way till we got to the arch. We then walked all the way to the top of the bridge, the center point. It was and amazing view. We got pictures taken with me, Conner, and Jacob and the Sydney Opera House in the background. It was so cool because I was in my favorite city in the world. It was the place I always wanted to go to and one of the main reasons I went on this trip. I realized that this was where Olympians competed five years ago when I was seeing the place on tv. I felt like the world’s greatest. We then walked down the bridge and Adrian started talking to us about the idea of using something to break the water came from because there was a guy who dropped his tool belt to break the water when he fell off the bridge. There were like only 16 people who died working on the bridge. The bridge was built using heated rivets and pounding them in. Then he talked to us about Napolean Dynamite. He said that it wasn’t released big but it became a hit the same way it did in the United States. It was cool to hear an Australian talk about a movie like that that was so huge in the States. He then took us down the bridge and inside to undress and change. Then we went and got our pictures and shopped in the gift shop. After everyone got back we went to the Hard Rock Cafe in Sydney, Australia. I ate a cheeseburger that tasted so good because it was like American food and it had ketchup. I then took pictures of Elvis, Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon painted on the ceiling. I also got one of Elvis’s car. I bought a shirt there too. Then we went to the Sydney Opera House. It was a building I had always wanted to see. It was a fantasy of mine. We went to a gift shop near the SOH. I bought a frame and some sunglasses. Then we entered the SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE. It was so cool. I was in the SOH. Sasha and Angela showed us the concert theater and the stage theater and told us about the designer. We got to see his mural too. We took pictures from inside the SOH. The concert and stage places were so cool because of how everything worked. The concert room was huge. Then we ended our tour there. It had been so neat. Then we went back to our hotel till 6:30 to get ready. I went to the internet cafe place and checked my email and contacted by friend from back home. I also got my updates on all the sports. The day got better because I got to find out my favorite basketball team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, drafted by favorite college player from my favorite college basketball team, the North Carolina Tar Heels. I then went back and got ready. I put my tie on, grabbed my camera and put on my shades then went and boarded the bus. We went to our place where we got on our boat. We went on our cruise of Sydney Harbor. We ate good food and I put my shades on and got my picture taken with the other girls who had theirs with too. Then we danced. They played great music and we all had a blast without the chaperones except Fred……..I went out on the deck and felt the Sydney air. Then I think it started to finally hit me that we were in Sydney, Australia. I finally got to see how beautiful the city was. I got many pictures of the Sydney Opera House, the skyline, and the bridge. I stayed outside enjoying the most beautiful view I had ever seen. I then knew I would definetily come back some day. I then went back inside and danced some more till we pulled to shore and we departed the boat and our cruise was over. We then went back to our hotel and chilled and went to bed because we had to get up at 4 the next morning.
Day 12 – July 1, 2005
Me and Ethan woke up 15 minutes past when we were supposed to be on the bus. We drove to the Sydney airport and checked in. We got there and had to wait a little bit because of a delay. There was fog in Brisbane. Then we boarded the first plane to Brisbane. Then we arrived there and boarded our second plane. I was so bored on the plane I started to fill out the P2P study guide. Then we arrived in Mackay. It was pretty neat because we walked down stairs from the plane right outside. It was a small airport. Then we met our new bus driver and drove to Whitsunday. On the way there we had our highlight of the day. We watched Finding Nemo in Australia. Then we stopped at O.U.C.H. to learn about the Great Barrier Reef that we’d be snorkeling at tomorrow. Then we left there and rode the bus to get on our ferry to Long Island. FantaSea took us there and we went and put our stuff in our rooms at the resort. Then we went swimming and then ate and went swimming and walked the beach for the rest of the night. The place was like one of those paradise places because the beach was beautiful, it was warm, there were palm trees and everything else too. The place had birds with skinny legs running around and there were wallabies everywhere too. You could get like within five feet of the mini-kangaroo creatures too. Then after walking the beach I called it a night and went to bed.
Day 13 – July 2, 2005
We woke up about the same time as we usually wake up and went and ate breakfast. Then we got ready and headed for the ferry and rode that to place where we met the ferry the first day and got on the bigger boat. We then started off towards the Great Barrier Reef. I spent most of the time on the top deck looking at the ocean and feeling the nice breezy air hitting my face. We went out into the ocean till you couldn’t see land anymore. We got to the Reef World station that is secured near the reef. Then we went on that and down into the viewing chamber. We saw all the fish swimming right near the window. There was a diverse collection.
There was even this big fish named Wally who was a type who had a hump on his head. We learned that fish of his type start off as females and then have a chemical sex change and become a male. We also learned that is how clown fish develop but in the opposite way. So Nemo would turn into a girl in his later life. Then we left that and got into the sub where we would be in a viewing chamber underwater. It was like a boat because it never became submerged. We drove along the reef seeing the coral and all the fish. Then we went and ate and then had free-time. We put on our wet-suits and gear and hopped into the water where we got our pictures taken. Me, Erik, Jacob, and Conner all posed. We then went snorkeling. There were a few times when I went underwater and my snorkel got filled with salt water. It was disgusting. We swam near the reef and looked at the thousands of fish swimming around and near the reef. We saw shiny blue fish, thin silver fish, yellow fish, orange fish, striped fish of different colors, and even Nemo fish. We even got near Wally and got to pet him underwater. He was a very friendly and humble fish. He had fish that like swam on him and would go with him as he ate and would get there food. Then I got out used the restroom took a break and got back in one more time but without out the wet-suit because it wasn’t really needed. It was quite an experience snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef. Then we got back on our boat and headed back to land and then boarded our other ferry to get back to Long Island. We got there and ate supper then Adam, me, and Conner went diving in the long pool. We did that for a little while then went and got in the warm spa. That felt good relaxing. Then I went and found Erik and we went to the basketball and tennis courts that we just found out about because I saw the mini golf sign and asked about that and I noticed a basketball under the desk. We played that for a little while. There were no nets and the courts had a thin layer of sand on the court but it felt good to play something you play all the time at home and that you miss. Then we played some tennis and Conner and Andrew came over and hit some balls with us too. Then I spent the rest of the night walking around or sitting by the hammock that Jacob, Conner, and Andrew were in and talked to them. Then I went back and packed up and took a shower and went to bed.
Day 14 – July 3, 2005
We woke up at like the same time again this morning. I pretty much rolled out of bed and went to breakfast to eat some cornflakes. Then we went and got our group picture taken by the beach. We then went to the ferry and went back to the port where we’d meet our bus. We packed the coach with our luggage and got on for our six hour bus ride.
This is where the journals ended. I thought I had them until the very last day but the requirement to do them may have been suspended at this point. Writing a journal was the last thing you wanted to do as a young person on such a trip but years later I am thankful to have them. A few more days are missed including some time at resort for a couple days that was filled with many amenities and activities and beach access (pictured above), as well as time with a koala at a zoo, more bus rides, time with the Aborigines people, and countless moments of laughing before ending in Brisbane to start a long journey home.
If you made it this far I commend you for reading all that. For me, it feels like a lifetime ago but it was the beginning of something that became a thirst inside for the many years to come. There have been many countries and many new people since that trip but it is a part of me that I’ll hold onto and hopefully reminisce about someday with the people who were part of it. It was a gateway to the globe, to see the far reaches of the planet and meet new people. It was a start to a lifelong path that now features an older self who, while I am not a student in school, is still a student ambassador to all parts of the world.
To all my fellow student ambassadors: I hope this takes you back to your old journals and to those memories we shared.