We are reaching the end of the first week in our homestays. Most of us have been placed in suburbs of Cairns, anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes outside of the city. I am living with a single mom and her daughter in Trinity Park, which is about a half hour commute by bus into Cairns. The bus system surely fits the stereotype of laid back Australia—every time I have taken the bus it has been around 10 minutes late. But it doesn’t matter at all because no one cares and no one gets frustrated about it! Somehow people get where they need to be on time.

The area I am in is a classic Australian suburb. All of the houses are one story, many have pools, and several boast solar panels. I am a 20 minute run from a gorgeous beach. Being summer here, it is the height of JELLY season, so getting in the water is not an option (some beaches have jelly nets but not this one). The box and irukandji jellies are rampant and can land you in the hospital with one quick sting (and the irukandji are so small they often make it through the nets).

During our homestay we are conducting a suburban bird project. In the early mornings (6:00AM) I go out and bird watch for an hour. Our first paper is going to be written on our findings of this project. We are comparing the abundance and diversity of birds in a 15m x 100m x 2m (3,000m2) suburban transect of land to a natural transect of the same size. I have a SIT group member as a neighbor and we are planning to compile our data so we will be analyzing data from two 6,000m2 plots. One of the aims of the project is to examine ecological determinants of bird community composition, so we will also sample the vegetation in our transects. I am enjoying bolstering my bird watching skills—and it is amazing how quickly I have learned about the birds in my area. When I went in to Cairns yesterday I could identify almost all of the birds that I saw. Everybody has a small bird watcher inside of them I am beginning to believe.

Next on board for the semester is the Aboriginal camping trip, which I am looking forward to a lot. The rain has not yet started pelting down relentlessly here so we are hoping that it isn’t all being saved for when we are sleeping outside but either way it will be a blast. Hearing my homestay mum talk about their preparations for cyclone Yassy last year was crazy, quite similar to what I remember of the ice storm of 1997 in Maine. So for now, I’m birding, swimming, suncreening, eating veggie aussie burgers (a veggie burger with beet root, pineapple, and an egg on top), running, walking, and woking to absorb every second of every day.

Until next time!

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