Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Melbourne Zoo

 Melbourne Zoo is located in Royal Park, the closest zoo in relation to my apartment. It is a large and beautiful zoo with a sizable collection of native animals, which is dwarfed by nearby zoos, but still worth seeing. They keep local animals partly for education, but mostly for tourists. With the help of a few people at Como Zoo, Judie in particular, I was able to get in touch with a lovely zookeeper here named Megan. Thanks to her, I was able to come and spend a couple days meeting Aussie Bush keepers and learning about their animals. It was such a treat!

There was a lot of information to take in while I visited the zoo. I was unfamiliar with many Australian names of keepers, so undoubtedly have some of them wrong. Please let me know if you notice any obvious mistakes made in this blog entry. 

The first day began with me following Megan as she did the last of her morning duties. She cleaned out the cage of a beautiful tree kangaroo who happily bounced around tree branches as she raked the dirt below him. I read an article about tree kangaroos which described them as marsupial monkeys, for they are highly agile, arboreal creatures. She coaxed him lower with an avocodo to get his weight and then left him to enjoy the messy meal.

Close to the tree kangaroo was the back size of the wombat exhibit. Wombats are much larger than I had pictured. My best description would be a sizable pig, with muscles of a pit bull, and fur of a chinchilla. However, they are marsupials with pouches. Unlike most marsupials, their pouches face backwards so the babies won't be bombarded with dirt while their mommas dig burrows. One wombat in the zoo's collection was very protective of his area. For keeper safety he was lured into a large wood box when anyone needed to get into the exhibit. Only problem was he chewed his way out of the box! When I visited, they had begun using a larger carnivore box, with metal designed to hold big cats. It was working for the moment. The other wombats were fine to be around people.

After this, Megan loaded many large tree branches into her buggy (golf cart) and headed over to the koalas to give a keeper talk about them. She quickly cleaned the exhibit, switched out the old branches for new ones, and started the talk. Koalas occur naturally throughout much of the eastern coast of Australia. They are closest relatives to wombats, both having backward pouches. Koalas can carry Chlamydia, often causing infertility and sometimes eyesight loss. I always pictured koalas like a marsupial sloth given how much energy must be spent on digestion, but they are quite agile. They can jump from branch to branch without much effort at all. 

At this point, Megan introduced me to Norman, an invertebrate keeper. All of the bugs in his collection could be found naturally in Australia. One species of stick insect was especially notable, The Lord Howe Island Stick Insect (Dryococelus australis). This species was last seen in the early 1920s, when black rats were brought by boat to the remote habitat on Lord Howe Island, off of Sydney on the east coast. The invasive rats completely wiped out the endemic stick insects and they became officially extinct. It wasn't until 2001 that live specimens were found and captured on the volcanic rocky outcrop known as Ball's Pyramid approximately 15 miles from LHI. Two pairs were brought back from the tiny population of 20-30 individuals fround to exist. One pair went to Sydney, the other to Melbourne. Melbourne Zoo was the first to breed them and now has quite the collection. 

Just after hatching, the young are kept in medium sized, open air terrariums within a long greenhouse type tent. They are very small and bright green. Due to their color and size they are diurnal, eating leaves of their favorite plant during the day. As they get older and molt, they change into a darker color no longer allowing them to blend into the leaves. This causes a switch in activity, making them fully nocturnal. At such point the stick insects are moved to a different greenhouse void of individual cages. They are given wood boxes to use during the day and small plants to nibble on throughout the night. There are also buckets of sand for egg laying. The eggs are unidentifiable from a small seed to an untrained eye. I couldn't tell the difference at all. The eggs are kept in small, lidded, plastic cups until they are hatched.

The government of New South Wales (the state which Sydney is in) plans to eradicate the black rats over the next several years. At which point, the Melbourne Zoo population will be reintroduced to Lord Howe Island. Here are a few videos that show you the same areas I visited while there.

Video of documentarian Sir Attenborough visiting Butterfly House and LHISI at Melbourne Zoo.

Video of a man visiting the breeding and housing area for the LHISI at Melbourne Zoo.

After a full tour of the stick insects, Norman brought me to another giant greenhouse tent. All around were small potted plants. Each plant was a different species, and each plant species had its own unique caterpillar munching on it. The plants were all standing free within the tent, but the edges of the room were lined with open air terrariums. This was where the newly formed chrysalises were kept until the butterflies emerged. Each day the butterflies were caught and brought into the butterfly house. The butterfly house is a beautiful tropical room filled with native butterfly species. The potted trees are hidden within the room for butterflies to lay their eggs on. Each week or so there trees get rotated back into the greenhouse to begin a new cycle.

Before leaving the invertebrate area, Norman wanted to show me one last thing. He had me hold out my hands, and on them he placed a Giant Burrowing Cochroach. It's legs were covered in sharp spikes for digging. The one I held, Norman explained, was a mother. He lifted up some substrate to show many smaller versions of what was in my hands. GBCs are unique in that they give birth to live young and then continue to care for them for months. They eat mostly leaf litter and are native to Queensland (North-East Australia.) I placed the cochroach back into her terrarium, thanked Norman, and left with Megan to to find Sheila.

Sheila was a large carnivore keeper that offered to let me visit the Sumatran tigers. This is the only animal I saw which cannot be found in Australia. There were three tigers behind-the-scenes, all siblings. The female was currently being separated from her brothers due to them entering breeding age. The tigers all had lovely exhibits, though not as large as the keepers would like. The tigers seemed fully content and calm. Shelia took some deserved pride in explaining how she has never seen tigers so naturally content or at such healthy weights as hers. The female walked up to the fence to greet Shelia who responded with a quick pet. All three tigers were born at the zoo. Sheila explained how the zoo only feeds the cats fully feathered, furred, and boned meat. This gives them much more enrichment than raw cleaned meats, sometimes taking hours to finish a meal rather than seconds with the alternative. In addition, they recycle a lot of tree branches from other exhibits, such at koalas, as well as incorporate various enrichment toys.

As I was watching the tiger, being careful to keep a foots distance, Sheila asked me if I'd like to bottle feed her. I was shocked that I would be allowed to do that, but jumped at the opportunity.  Shelia left and soon returned with a large syringe specially made for this sort of thing. The tiger knew the drill. She waited, eagerly rubbing her face along the fence in front of me. I pressed the syringe through the fence holes and slowly let it drip out milk. She lapped it up quickly. When I was done, we had a closer look at the boys and then left with a thank you to Sheila. 

After seeing the tigers, Megan thought I might like to see some monotremes (egg laying mammals), which of course, I did! I followed as she prepared food for the platypus. It's food consisted of crustaceans, blood worms, and small fish. These were dumped into an approximate 40 gallon aquarium. The aquarium connected to a long wood box. Megan went to the far end of the box and opened the lid. Inside there was a second, smaller wood box with bedding materials inside. She opened the second box, and I was able to catch a glimpse of the platypus as it ran out into the far end of the large box, away from our view. 

Platypuses (always thought it was platypi, but all of my books say platypuses) are mostly nocturnal, as night is when they go looking for food. Looking isn't quite the right term however, because they don't hunt with their sight. Instead, they have electroreceptors within their bill that pick up the slight electricity produced by their prey.  Female platypuses build burrows and incubate their eggs. They have no pouches or nipples, but do produce milk through two ducts on their belly. Male platypuses produce poison through spurs on their hind legs. It's like platypuses are Gods left overs after making all the other animals. Weird stuff.

The platypus just wanted darkness so he could sleep and wasn't interested in his food at all, so we let him be and went over to see the echidna, who was housed in an exhibit with some tree kangaroos. Upon walking into the exhibit the echidna began to follow me around, sniffing my shoes. It had a small yellow band around a single spike on it's back for identification. Echidnas are insectivores. They have no teeth, but instead use a sicky tongue to lap up food. I expected them to look a lot like porcupines, but they look more like a mix between an anteater and a hedgehog. Their backs are covered with fur as well as spikes. While echidnas are monotremes like platypuses, they do create a pseudo pouch by contracting abdomen muscles around their single egg. The baby, aka "puggle," will stay attached to its mother until it begins growing its own spikes. When this happens, it will be moved into a burrow to stay for the remainer of its youth.

Megan lured the tree kangaroo down with an avocado half for a picture. It was no work to get the echidna to come over since he was now sniffing at the bottom of my pants leg. Very curious animal! The tree kangaroo grabbed his treat and then sat with his back turned away from the camera. As soon as he looked over, the echidna had just lost interest. Thankfully, I got one picture. 

Now, I can't remember the name of the last keeper I met that day. I want to say his name was Pete, but that may be because he simply looked like a Pete to me. He generously let me follow him as he feed the kangaroos, wallabies, and emu. By this time, I was tiring from the very full day and I kept accidentally calling the emus ostriches. I do know the difference, but it made me feel like a fool. Despite my words refusal to cooperate, it was great to be so close to all these native animals! This was an open exhibit that the public could walk through, sometimes even petting the animals. 

Before leaving I got a quick look at a cassowary, some Asian elephants, and a group of Rothchild giraffes. I had spent the entire day at the zoo and was quite tired from trying to learn and remember so many new things, in addition to the excitement of the amazing generosity I recieved. I left the zoo and returned home immediately. Upon arriving home, I fell asleep, only to wake up in the middle of the night. At noon, I finally woke up from a horrible nights sleep. I had been invited to come see more at the zoo that I had missed the previous day. I made it to the zoo at 2pm; not as much time as I would have liked, but at least I was well rested. 

Megan met me by the giraffes and led me over to Ang, who was currently working on cleaning the bandicoot cages. Eastern Barred Bandicoots are a critically endangered species in the state of Victoria. (That's the state I'm in.) Melbourne Zoo is part of the recovery program, breeding and releasing them to help with population stability. The bandicoots are not on exhibit, but are kept In large identical cages side by side. It slightly resembles a horse stables. Bandicoots are nocturnal, so I didn't get to see any, but it was still quite nice to learn more about them and see how they are kept. In pictures, they vaguely look like rats with especially long noses.

While walking back to take a short break with the keepers, Ang mentioned that he was a music fan. He was interested about the fact that I grew up right outside of Nashville and was delighted to find out that I was his six degrees of separation from Jimmy Buffet. Apparently several of the zookeepers are huge fans, playing his songs every day in the food prep room. One keeper even emailed me a video of their band singing a cover. 

After a quick "morning tea" (they have morning and afternoon teas here), Ang took me to see the aviaries. They were pretty incredible! The great flight aviary is a long raised pathway under a dome. It slowly transitions through three Australian biomes with the greatest diversity of birds: woodland, wetland, and rainforest. All of the birds were native and it was quite funny to see so many American "pet store" birds flying around. Ang kindly named each one as we saw it, but I could one retain a few species names. My favorite was the Satin Bowerbird, a blackish-blue bird, which was building a small bower (nest) on the ground and just beginning to decorate it with blue items it found within the aviary.

After the great flight aviary, he took me around to see the other many native aviaries within the zoo. We also passed by a Tasmanian Devil exhibit with the Tassy running all around. After going through a finch aviary, and seeing a kookaburra, we came to an aviary with a noticeably different bird inside. It was bright yellow with some brown and black markings, but what was noticeable were the tuffs of feathers coming from its cheeks. It looked like it had sideways horns off of its face. This was the Yellow-Tuffed Honeyeater. 

The zoo was about to close, so we headed back to the keeper break room. I said my thank yous and goodbyes to everyone and got a short ride to the nearby train station. The next day I dropped off a thank you note at the front gate as well, just in case I missed thanking anyone along the way. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Royal Botanical Gardens and Microbat Expedition

Within Melbourne there is a garden much larger than Fitzroy Garden. The Royal Botanical Garden is a huge area filled with various landscapes from around the world. I'll add a link to more pictures from the garden and bat project to this blog and Facebook once I can get them all uploaded.

What is a herbarium? 
"A herbarium is a scientific collection of preserved plants and fungi. The National Herbarium of Victoria is Victoria's primary plant biodiversity research institution. Our scientists are authorities on Australian plants and fungi and are part of a worldwide research network. Our research is underpinned by Australia's oldest and most comprehensive herbarium collection, comprising more than 1.2 million specimens, along with botanical literature, artwork and historical material."

In order to meet local researchers and see some native wildlife, I decided to do a one day Earthwatch expedition. This was the be held within the gardens. My train ran 30 minutes late. Once I arrived at the gardens, I attempted to take a short cut to get to the meet-up location on time. As I walked I received a phone call from a girl, Ellie, who wanted my help researching Little Penguins. I tried to compare availability with her, but it was nearly impossible without a calendar and out of breath from speed walking through the massive gardens. I had to get off the phone and ask her to email me the information to go through once I returned home. Hopefully I didn't ruin that opportunity! 

After a little while, I realized that shortcuts don't really work is gardens that size. I called a the phone number on my forms to let them know I was lost within the garden and might be a little late. One of the researchers, Tanja, came on a golf cart or "buggy" to pick me up and take me to the meet-up place. In my defense, it is doubtful I could have found the meet-up spot even if I had followed the directions. 

Inside a gardener's building, I met the project group. There were two researchers, Caroline and Tanja. Tanja was from Germany, while Caroline was from Australia. Both were pursuing their PHDs with this research. There were three other girls helping with the project as well, making us a group of six. 

The evening began with introductions and a short talk about the itinerary. We were going to be catching microbats, not the larger bats like flying foxes, but rather bats of similar size to the ones you would find in the US. After, we split into two equal sized groups to set harp traps throughout the gardens. I went with Tanja's group. The traps were disassembled metal poles wrapped in canvas and tarp within a bag, much resembling an unmade tent. We fit the poles together into a hollow square, pulled down two top poles which unraveled strings resembling a harp, hung canvas around the bottom with a tarp between, and added more poles for extra height. The traps were aligned on pathways, under tree arches. The bats would try to fly under the trees, meet the harp like barrier, and fall into the canvas. The tarp would keep the bat from crawling out of the trap. 

This was one case when wearing heels while doing field work would have been helpful. 

After setting up all eight traps, we headed back to the main building for a slideshow presentation on the research being done and local bat species, followed by a movie about bats from around the world. The biggest take away from this was learning that bats give birth to babies 1/3 their own weight, and sometimes they have twins. Think about that. It's like a 100lbs woman giving birth to two 30lbs babies! Ouch! 

We also ate various snacks, several of which were new to me. Everyone insisted I do a Tim Tam slam. The Tim Tams were small chocolate bars filled with a hard chocolatey caramel. I bit off a corner from each end and used it as a straw for warm milk. This softened the whole cookie like an Oreo soaked in milk. The goal was to eat the entire thing before it fell apart. The Tim Tam was yummy, but the warm milk wasn't so good.

So, after some time, we put on our "head torches" and went back out to check the traps. On the way, I told everyone about my first sighting of native wildlife. (Not including common birds.) I had been walking out of my apartment one evening and spotted an animal perched outside on a deck railing. I thought that I had finally spotted a bush-tailed possum. This animal was supposedly everywhere at night, but had eluded me. As I stared up at the animal, it crept into the light of a nearby window; there was just enough light to make out that it was a cat. :( Suddenly from above the roof flew a giant bat! It was the size of a large bird, but undeniably a bat, a flying fox to be more specific. I had yet to see a possum and I asked the group to point it out to me if they saw one. 

Almost immediately they spotted one. I was given a small stick and told to try to get the possums interest with the stick. It worked for long enough to get a good look at the adorably fluffy creature and one good picture. We also saw a ring-tailed possum, but it ran before anyone could get a picture. 

The security guy had moved the traps off of the path so he could drive through, but never put them back, keeping us from catching any bats on round one. We moved each trap back to their original spots and checked on them again after an hour of so. We caught two bats the second time. Both were Gould's Wattled Bats. The first bat was a lactating female, and the second was a juvenile male. Juveniles can be determined by looking at joints within the fingers of the wing. The male had several mites on him. Seeing them crawl around was the creepiest part of the whole night. 

^ Caroline is entering data, while Tanja is examining the bat. ^

^ Showing how they tell juvenile from adult bats. ^

^ The female bat ^

^ The male bat. ^

Neither researcher wore gloves. I asked why. They stated that they were both rabies vaccinated and were hardly ever bitten or scratched. Most of the bats they worked with wouldn't be able to break through the skin. Even if they did get bitten, they would just get a booster shot. I chose not to hold any bats myself, since I've grown much more comfortable wearing gloves when working with bats. While Australian bats don't carry rabies, they do carry a similar Lyssavirus. The rabies vaccine protects against both, but it's still better to be safe.

The bats were released and we all prepared out cots for bed. It was too cold for me to sleep well. I curled into a ball and shivered my way through the little bit of night left. Next time I'm bringing a heavy duty sleeping bag! There were no more bats caught by morning, so we went out with Caroline to take down and pack up all the harp traps while Tanja stayed behind to cook breakfast. Breakfast was amazing! We had toast with scrambled eggs, roasted tomatoes, and mushrooms. I might have just been super hungry. Everyone packed up their belongings after breakfast and said goodbye. There are a few more opportunities to assist in local bat research outside of earthwatch coming up soon. Hopefully I will be able to join in on those as well.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Notes on Australia

Flashlights are torches.

A doona is a blanket. (Not sure how you spell it.)

Drivers are on the right side of the car, and cars drive on the left side of the road. Can't tell you how many times I've tried to get in drivers seats or looked the wrong way when crossing the road.

American food is not the same here! Compare country menus of Dominos or KFC and see the difference.

Ketchup is tomato sauce, and tomato is pronounced with a soft a. KFC charges 50 cents per packet!

Shoe string French fries are called fries, but anything thicker are chips.

Burger King is called Hungry Jacks.

If you want something to-go, you have to ask for takeaway.

Nobody has a clue what corn bread is.

Cookies are called biscuits.

Outlets have individual on/off switches.

Calendars that you hang on the wall are calendars, while calendars you can carry are diaries.

Australians eat their national animals, the kangaroo and emu.

While there is Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, there is never more than one shelf of options. Plus it's expensive.

People say fortnight often.

Washcloths are face washes.

Service people don't get tips. 

The money here is very colorful and each bill and coin is a different size. One and two dollar coins are gold, while coins under a dollar are silver.

Aluminum is Aluminium. You spell and say the extra i.

Toilets have two buttons on them. From what I have gathered, the button on the left does nothing but makes the sound of water running, while the button on the right unleashes Niagara Falls. 

While on the subject, toilets often get their very own rooms here. I have only been in a few houses that have toilets in the bathrooms.

Cheers is a term used frequently. It means many things, but mostly hello, thank you, and when drinking. It is also an effective way to confuse Americans, as we have no idea how to respond.

American TV and music is most of the entertainment here. There is some British stuff mixed in, and very little Australian. There a quite a few zookeeper fans of Jimmy Buffet over here.

The word "every" is said by fully pronouncing the letter E. It is possibly the only word I can say with an Australian accent.

Speaking of letters, the letter Z is often pronounced as "zed." A few people have corrected me when I spell my last name. 

Phone numbers are different based on if you have a land line or cell phone, and sometimes who the carrier of your cell phone is as well. Most numbers start with 0, but sometimes the 0 can be skipped. Sometimes the second number isn't needed or it is simply implied that it is a landline. I prefer the American way.

Emails are often opened with "Greetings" and signed with "Regards" or "Cheers."

"How ya goin?" is what they say instead of "How are you doing?"

"Good on ya" is a saying that I haven't quite deciphered yet. I believe it's close to "good for you."

Over all the Australian accent sounds like a British accent made slurred and southern to me, much like a thick Louisiana accent in America. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Apartment Search (Part 2)

Make sure to read Part 1 before reading this blog!

After moving into the house with Annie, Jess, and Nina, I began searching for a more permanent apartment. The competition for the non-sketchy shared room places was insane. Space would be claimed within a day of a posting. After trying a few places, I decided to go for something else-bungalows. Bungalows are basically studio apartments attached to or on the property of full houses. From what I was seeing, most of the houses were family owned in good neighborhoods. The problem- they were far away. But many were close to railway stations, so I decided to give them a shot. I called many places. 

The first place I went to was in Dandenong, roughly an hour away from the city. The only technology I have here is my ipad and a cheap phone. The ipad is only useful when it is linked to the internet, and the phone is only able to call and text. I had looked up directions before leaving, but I got off the bus a couple stops early and my directions became worthless. So I began walking in the general direction I thought I should go. It wasn't the right way. I tried to ask one lady for help finding the address. She obviously ignored me and walked faster. I didn't think I looked that scary... too much mascara? Who knows. At this point, it was clear I was going to be later than the agreed on time. I called the lady I was supposed to be meeting and explained where I was, that I was lost, and asked if she knew how to get to the house. It was difficult to understand her accent, but before I could figure out what she was saying, the phone disconnected. There was no answer when I tried calling back. As I continued down the road, I saw a seafood truck with a man setting up a seafood buffet for some kind of party. I went up to him and explained what happened and asked if I could borrow his iPhone to get directions. I knew I was close. He agreed. When I handed it back, he said that he could tell from my accent that I was American, and assumed I probably was doing a working holiday. He said he needed more help with serving over the holidays and to send him my resume if interested. I left with directions and a company card. Finally, I made it to the house, but the family wasn't there. Just then the the lady called me. She had gone to get me from where I was lost! I thanked her and explained that I had found my way. Soon she pulled into the driveway. Out of the car hopped an Indian Australian family. The lady I spoke to, her husband, and their 3 year old son. I appoligized for the trouble and thanked them again for the effort to help me. 

The property was beautiful. There was a stone patio, with a grill and outdoor furniture set, all surrounded by orchids and succulent plants. (No Dad, I didn't steal any for you.) The bungalow was one large room with three closet doors at the end. The first closet held a mini fridge and hot plate. The second closet held a toilet and super tiny shower. The third closet was a real closet/pantry. The place came with a small bed. I would have to install my own internet. They informed me that there were three other people looking at the place that day. While I needed a place, the distance, minuscule kitchen, and lack of internet were too much. I thanked them again, and headed back to the closest bus stop. At that part of town, the bus only came by once an hour. I had just missed it. It started raining. So I played bubble shooter on my ipad the whole time under a tiny shade structure. This particular bus stop was adjacent to a school. The kids, in thier adorable oversized uniforms, kept walking across the street, causing a traffic jam and delaying the bus by another fifteen minutes. I swore to myself that I would not get a place so far away.

The next day I went to see another bungalow in Watsonia, which seemed a bit closer. It also was directly across the street from the railway station. The way there was flawless. (I'm slowly getting better at this navigating without GPS thing.) The real estate lady was running late so I stood awkwardly in front of the house for a period of time. A man that I think lived in the house walked out and asked "Waiting for Sew?" (Yes, that is how you spell her name.) I said yes, which he replied by saying "Okay. She'll probably be here soon." Then he turned and walked to the train. Soon after, Sew did show up. She and her husband had gotten stuck in traffic on their way over. They were an older couple. She handled finding tenants, rent, and such. He did repairs and remodels. 

This property was almost as pretty as the first. There was a large garden behind the bungalow and honeysuckle growing along the fence. That's right people! They had my favorite flowering vine growing all along the propery! There were bright green and yellow birds flying over and a fig tree in the corner. The bungalow was currently being rented by a foreign couple that spoke little English. They had found a house to buy and would be moving within the week. Inside, the room was about half the size of the previous bungalow. The refrigerator was larger, but not full sized. There was a kitchen sink, counter space, and cabinets, but once again only a hotplate for cooking. The bathroom was slightly larger. No internet. If there had been internet or a full kitchen, I would've probably taken the place, but it was a hard sell without either. 

Next I went to an "open inspection" for a studio apartment in Kensington. This was an actual apartment complex with a vacancy on the second floor. There was a middle eastern family finding an apartment for their twenty something daughter there as well, but only one vacancy. It was awkward. This place was in a great location to the city. Like the others though, there was only a hotplate for cooking and no internet. In addition, there was no furnishing.

I decided that maybe bungalows/studio apartments weren't the best places for me. I really like to cook so I wanted a kitchen with at least an oven. I can't go six months without baking cookies! Plus, I'm pretty sure all of my family would think I died if I didn't have internet for any more than a day or two. So I shifted my plan and began looking at shared houses again. I upped my price range by $20 a week and started looking for shared houses with individual rooms. I found another website called flatmates and created a profile. I put my general wants for a place and contact info on the profile, then scrolled through apartments needing roommates. I emailed back and forth with many people but they either wanted longer lease agreements or the apartments were too far from the city/in a bad part of the city. 

One evening I got a text from a guy named Kevin. He said that there was a house in Kensington with a room available. It was four girls looking for another girl to move in. I asked how he was related to the house and he said he owned it. I asked for him to send pictures of it. He sent one picture of the outside of the house and one of the bedroom. The outside of the house looked overgrown and in disrepair, but the room looked good. I asked when I could come see it in person. He said he could pick me up from the train station around 4pm. One problem- he had said in the description he sent that it was very close to the station. I refused the ride and said I'd just meet him there, but I needed an exact address. He sent the address. I already had it of course. It was fully visible on the photo of the outside of the house. The addresses were different. I was curious and it was still early morning, so I hopped a train over to see for myself. I found both houses. They were two blocks apart, but totally different houses. I went back and and text him that the pictures and address didn't match. He never responded.

While searching the flatmates website, I found a much less sketchy apartment. The girl I contacted, Ellen, was moving to the UK after just graduating college. She wanted someone to take her lease over until fall (March). She had two roommates, a guy and a girl, both upperclassmen in college. I went to go see the apartment and it was perfect. We all gathered in the kitchen to discuss me moving in. Ellen seemed okay with me moving in within the week. The roommates seemed hesitant, so I asked what they thought about it. It was then that they revealed they had no idea Ellen had started looking for someone to move in. This was all a surprise to them. I explained that I understood, but I did really like their apartment and needed a place for the same amount of time they needed someone to live there and to please consider me. I continued emailing and texting back and forth to Ellen and Hayley, one of the roommates. Finally, they all agreed that I could move in. 

Moving was quite the ordeal. I had to buy a new bag to fit my magically multiplying luggage. I bought a cheap rolling grocery bag because I've wanted one after seeing all those lucky people not straining thier biceps on the walk back from the grocery store. I stuffed both bags completely full, cleaned the room I was leaving, and headed to the train. Now, I had a heavy purse on one shoulder, a much heavier bag over the other shoulder, and was dragging behind a very full rolling grocery bag. I wore healed boots because they were too big to fit in the bags. While making my way to the train, the wheels of the new bag started falling off. I had to sit all my stuff on the ground to fix the wheels. Shoulda gotten the expensive bag! This delayed me from getting to the station and I missed the train. I took the next one scheduled twenty minutes later. The walk from the train to the apartment is pretty short, but boy it felt long! My shoulders couldn't take all the weight of the bag on one shoulder at a time, so I make-shifted it into a backpack. Not what it was made for, but it helped a lot! I arrived at the apartment feeling simultaeously exhausted and like super woman. So I am now in Moonee Ponds, a suburb of Melbourne, living with Hayley and Kevin. (Please note that this Kevin is in no relation to the creeper who gave me the wrong address.)