Jan. 31, 2000

by Alexis Madrid

Notre Dame’s softball team and head coach Liz Miller took full advantage of the University’s midsemester fall break and spent 10 days in Australia from October 16-26, 1999.

October 16: We departed for Los Angeles Airport and were greeted by some of the parents from California. They brought IN-N-OUT hamburgers (which are a specialty of California) along with cupcakes, goody bags, and large bottles of water. It was especially exciting for me because it was the first time I saw my family since I came to Notre Dame in August.

October 17: We arrived in Sydney, met our host family and headed to their house.

October 18: Woke up at our host family’s house – ate breakfast and bought a seven-day transportation pass for trains and ferries. Took the train from Pymble to Circular Quay and met the team at the pier.

One of the most interesting and enjoyable parts of Australia is the food. For the most part I ate at places where they served sandwiches. The bread in Australia is very thick and fresh. I soon realized that restaurants always spread a thin layer of butter on both slices of bread unless you say otherwise. That was lesson number one. Another lesson that I learned was to never eat what they call vegemite. Vegemite is a yeast-like spread that almost looks like jam, but definitely is not. They spread the vegemite over their toast and the Australians claim to enjoy it, but I didn’t think it was so tasty. Enough with the bad. A lot of the food I did enjoy. In Australia, they serve a lot of fresh fruit. While on the airplane ride to Australia, I learned that lemonade is not lemonade – it is actually what Americans call Sprite or Storm. For lunch one day, the team went to have pizza and it was served without sauce which we then learned was how it is normally served unless you ask otherwise. It was still very good.

After all the exploring of food, we went shopping most of the day at what they call The Rocks. The Rocks is a strip of stores and restaurants which is close to Circular Quay and is filled with places to buy souvenirs and our favorite, Copenhagen Ice Cream at the Magnum Ego. After shopping, we looked around the famous Opera House and decided to reserve tickets for a showing of the Italian play, La Boheme.

At the end of each day, we took the train back to our host family’s house. My roommate for the stay was (junior pitcher) Jen Sharron. She and I were very lucky to have Tom and Judy Prichardas our hosts. They were great cooks and made us delicious dinners and a great pancake breakfast with fresh fruit.

October 19: We met at Circular Quay and I believe we climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge that day. The team and coaches broke up into three different groups and we had a mini training session. We wore matching jumpsuits and had hearing pieces so we could hear our leader.

Climbing Sydney Harbor Bridge was the most fascinating event. Once we reached the top of the bridge, the view was incredible. Looking in both directions it seemed like I could see forever. I looked as far as possible and I could see the earth actually curve.

October 20: Today we went to the Wild Animal Park and we passed by the sites for the 2000 Olympics. The buildings and stadiums were all very similar in structure with white supporting structures that looked like spider legs.

When we reached the animal park, we were greeted by an animal keeper who held a snake around her neck. Surprisingly, coach (Liz) Miller let the keeper put the snake around her own neck. It was a Kodak moment.

The first place we went to was the Koala exhibit and we all took a picture with a koala that looked like it was asleep. Then we went off to the kangaroo walk-in exhibit. That was my favorite part of the animal park because we were able to hand-feed the kangaroos and one even had a baby in her pouch. In addition to the koalas and kangaroos, we also saw dingos, Tasmanian devils, alligators, poisonous snakes and exotic birds.

October 21: Today we woke up early and brought our bat bags into the city. The team met at the pier and then took a ferry to Manly Beach. What I enjoyed most about the transportation in Sydney was that it was so relaxing. I found myself able to enjoy the beautiful sites and come to grips with the fact that I was actually in Sydney, Australia. My favorite ride was sitting on the outside of the ferry on the way to and from Manly Beach. The skyline, the amazing houses on the shore, the waves, and being with my teammates was all I could ask for. When we got to Manly Beach we took a small bus to some fields to practice. I was unaware until we got there that Australia only has two dirt infields and the rest are grass.

October 22: Today we all moved to Manly Beach. Another thing that was difficult to get used to was driving on the other side of the car, as well as on the other side of the road. Jen and I were constantly getting tense because we thought Tom and Judy were driving on the wrong side of the road. After settling in at our resort, we dressed in our uniforms and left early to get a closer view of the Olympic sites. Before we knew it we had to leave for our games. We had a doubleheader against a team that I believe was 18- or 19-and-under. They were a good team and I think we both played very good games.

October 23: We were going to leave early to go play another doubleheader, but it was raining. It was a very low key day and a few of us went shopping while some stayed indoors. We also had one of our three team runs along the coast of Manly Beach.

October 25: We took a ferry over to Darling Harbor and visited the Darling Harbor Aquarium. There was an IMAX theater, a mini mall and also a big mall with a food court, the aquarium and a big entertainment building. The aquarium was very neat because there were transparent floors so the fish and sharks could swim underneath our feet. It was also amazing to see jellyfish after jellyfish in the water surrounding the harbor.

October 26: We departed for home sweet home, Notre Dame, Ind.