Australian whitewater

Brookfield residents Anita Mohney and Kelsey Zolnier white water raft in the Tully River with others participating in a month-long trip to Australia this summer sponsored by International Student Volunteers.

By Tom Davidson

Herald Staff Writer

BROOKFIELD -- Kelsey Zolnier and Anita Mohney were 19-year-old college students in search of adventure.

The Brookfield High School 2006 alumni found it in the land Down Under, when they took part in a monthlong program sponsored by International Student Volunteers.

Miss Zolnier heard about the program in one of her classes at Youngstown State University and “mom said ‘go,’ ” agreeing to help pay about $3,000 in fees and for air fare.

So she “gave it a burl” as an Aussie would say.

She talked Miss Mohney, her friend and classmate, into going along. Together, they flew half a world away into a different hemisphere to help build trails, move rocks, remove weeds and to have the time of their lives.

They learned that Brisbane, Cairns, Airlie Beach and Byron Bay are more than places on a map. They played with kangaroos and petted koala bears. They roughed it at times and ran out of money.

They made friends and fell in love with the only country that’s also a continent.

“We might go back next summer and work over there,” Miss Zolnier said.

They left June 14 and spent the first two weeks tearing out umbrella trees and lantana, invasive plants in the Australian outback, building trails up hills and steps made out of wood under the gaze of “Big Don” the Aussie who supervised their labors.

It was hard work, they said, and Miss Zolnier was bitten by a spider and had to take a 45-minute ride to a hospital. By the end of the fortnight, Miss Mohney said each of the seven American members of their group sported battle scars.

The second leg of their trip was billed as an adventure tour and they tried skydiving, snorkeling, surfing and sightseeing.

“That was insane,” Miss Zolnier said of the skydive.

Overall, both said the trip was a learning experience and gave them a chance to learn about a different culture.

They tried kangaroo meat and liked it and learned that “Aussie Mexican” food is awful, Miss Mohney said, as is vegamite, the spread most know only from the “Men at Work” song lyric.

The Australian McDonald’s serves healthier food than here and a “Hungry Jack’s” is much like a Burger King.

Australians like Americans, but dislike America, Miss Zolnier said.

“They’re very humble people,” who aren’t in a hurry, she said. “It was refreshing.”

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