July 28 simply vanished. One minute she was flying high above the Pacific Ocean bound for Australia it was July 27, when after the 33 hour flight, it was July 29.
"We started flying morning of the 27th and got there the morning of the 29th," she said.
This, of course, was the product of the fact that Drag - as part of the People to People Ambassador program - had crossed the international date line during the trip. She would in fact make up the day in the return flight by living through two Aug. 15.
"We saw the sunset twice," she said, though she actually only saw one since she slept through the other.
When she arrived in Sidney, Drag might as well have been home since crossing Sidney Harbor is an exact replica of the Bayonne Bridge.
Sidney and Bayonne are the only two places in the world where this uniquely designed bridge is used.
A student ambassador
Drag, a student in Bayonne High School, took the vacation of her lifetime after being selected as a student ambassador with an organization called People to People.
The organization was founded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 to promote cultural understanding among people of various countries. Eisenhower hoped that if people from different cultures got together in an atmosphere of peace and friendship, they countries would so as well.
Although the organization sponsors trips to many places around the globe, Drag was picked for one of the most spectacular trips offered. Along with Drag, Robin Collins of Bayonne was also on the trip.
Toured the east coast of Australia
Australia is the sixth largest country in the world. It's about the same size as the 48 mainland states of the USA and 50 percent larger than Europe, but has the lowest population density in the world - only two people per square kilometer.
Because she arrived in the morning, she did not sleep for the first day. In a group of 39 other students from around the United States, Drag toured Sidney Harbor, viewed the bridge, then the famous Sidney Opera House, and visited an exhibit on opals where she saw an egg-sized opal worth about $1 million.
Australia produces 95 percent of the world's precious opals and 99 percent of black opals.
The students spent two days in Sidney staying in a hotel that Drag described as "pretty snazzy" and then began a road trip up the east coast that would eventually take them to Cairns at the northeast corner of Australia.
"We were never really out of sight of the ocean," she said, although the group made side trips along the way, some of which included spectacular views - one mountain camping trip involved crossing over the tops of trees in cable-like contraptions and daring climbing activities that were "outside the comfort zone," as tour guides put it.
Signs along the highway warned of kangaroo crossings similar to signs here that warn of deer. Also highways provided unique crossings for koalas, where poles similar to telephone poles allowed the creatures to climb over and then by netting cross over the highway, climb down on the other side, thus avoiding traffic.
The group paid a visit to the dolphin center on Tangalooma on Moreton Island, a place discovered by explorer James Cook in 1770. The one time whaling station has become the home of the Tangalooma Wild Dolphin Resort. Here Drag and her companions encountered pelicans, engaged in the curious sport of sand tobogganing and went on a snorkeling exploration of 11 wrecked ships off the coast before meeting the local dolphins. In the distance, she also saw humpback whales in migration, and was treated to lessons on the environment.
"We learned about why ocean life is threatened," Drag said.
Australia boasts over 10,000 beaches - more than any other nation - so it was only natural that Drag and the others would play a lot of volleyball. Although she did learn about cricket and rugby as well. She also got to play nut ball which she described as "sissy basketball" because you don't have to dribble.
Timtams, yes, Vegemite, yuk!
The trip also included staying with a local family for a couple of days. The troop of 39 was broken up into groups of two or three, who stayed with local families to see what life was like. Drag and her friend Kelly got to stay with the Pearce Family.
"We got to see what a family did," Drag said.
While nothing dramatic, she said, occurred during her stay, Drag said it was a lot of fun, and was particularly pleased to be introduced to Timtams, a chocolate-coated cookie with a creamy center. Oddly enough the treat has American roots since the creator was attending the Kentucky Derby in 1958 when a horse by that name won.
Drag also got to try Kangaroo meat, which she described as "chewy beef" and crocodile chowder which she said was very tasty. But she said she couldn't stand Vegemite, a sandwich spread made from Brewer's Yeast.
During their trip of a crocodile farm, the bus broke down, and - comparing it to a scene from the horror film Jeepers Creepers II - Drag said the troop of 39 students and their guides had to hike about three blocks to the farm.
"Most of the people ran," Drag recalled, although when she finally got to meet and hold young crocodiles, she said she liked their company, and might have thought about bringing one home except they tended to grow up to 23 feet long.
But she said the wombats, which she met later in the trip, were even more appealing.
Visiting the Great Barrier Reef
She was amazed by the 52-acre farm they visited because the people had their own mountain on it. She got to play with a cow and learned to crack a whip. The trip also included what were called "team building activities" such as three legged races on the sand.
The trip also included a visit to The Great Barrier Reef - mounds of coral that formed along the eastern coast of Australia.
"Most people think it's right off the coast, but it's not. You have to travel by boat for two hours to get to them," she said.
In order to snorkel here, sections of the water were fenced off against sharks. She said the water was perfectly clear, but also extremely salty, causing minor cuts to sting. Here she got to watch a sea turtle which can stay underwater for 20 minutes at a time.
Later, the group would visit the lighthouse at Brisbane, the eastern most point in Australia where they again saw humpback whales and dolphins.
Good food and boomerang tossing, too
During the trip north, Drag and her companions also got to visit with the Aborigines, who are descendents of the first Australians. Drag said these people were similar to Native American Indians, but seemed more part of the everyday culture of Australia.
"They have pretty good food, too," she said.
Here she learned to throw a spear and a boomerang, and learned some of their history at the cultural center. One of the highlights of the trip included a visit to Capricorn Caves, which is home to five species of bats, although because they visited during daylight hours, she did not see many. However, she did see the spectacular interiors of the cave and took up the challenge of the guide by taking the most difficult route out
Drag missed home
This was an educational trip as well, so Drag and the others got to meet with government officials, visit local schools and learn about various cultures.
In a reference to the school uniform debate going on back in Bayonne, Drag said all the kids in Australia wear uniforms.
Along with a whip she purchased during the trip, Drag brought home a small didgeridoo (often spelled didjeridu), a musical instrument that has been created by Mother Nature and hollowed out by termites. Now all she and her boyfriend need to do is figure out how to play it, she said.
As amazing as the trip was, Drag said she missed her friends and family back in Bayonne, and was glad to come home.
Although she has many people to thank for helping sponsor her for the trip, she was particularly grateful to John's Health Food which held a raffle that helped her raise the money for the trip.
"I wrote everybody who helped me to tell them how grateful I am," she said.