I owe a heartfelt apology to all of my faithful readers. Every night for the past few weeks as I went to bed having let yet another day go by without posting an update on my life in Australia I experienced overwhelming guilt. It has taken a while to get settled and over jet lag and used to classes while meeting people and running off trying to take advantage of the relative calm before an unforgivingly active semester begins. That said, there is no excuse for me. I’ll do better in future as my life takes on a more rhythmic quality, and I will try to make up for my lapse in informativeness with this rather lengthy specimen of literature that I put forth now.
The last weekend of July was an amazing one spent in Cairns where I lived for six months in 2004. It was Skye’s birthday (a friend from Australian high school) on July 25th and she invited me up to celebrate at her party on the 26th. She invited me while I was still living in Spain, andI decided to just go for it since I figured that the weekend right after the first week of classes wasn’t going to be too stressful. I am so glad that I decided to go!
The trip did not begin in an ideal fashion as my JetStar flight was delayed by a ridiculous three hours!!! We didn’t take off until midnight even though we were supposed to get in to Cairns by 11:20. Michael picked me up anyway which was nice of him and I was able to make a bunch of friends with the people around me on the plane. Even though I was exhausted when I walked into the house, it felt great to be “home.” My old house in Cairns looked pretty much the same with a few superficial changes. The computer had been moved upstairs, there was a filing cabinet in “my” room that Lizanne uses as an office and Borodin one of the Labradors that reign supreme in the house, was a bit more deaf than I remember. These things presented no obstacles for feeling right at home immediately and I proceeded to check my email and sink into bed vowing to get up early in the morning to have breakfast with Michael before he went to work. The bed was heavenly comfortable and I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.
I did wake up early in the morning but it wasn’t early enough to catch Michael for breakfast. He’s an early riser and every morning usually before 6am he gets out of bed, walks the dogs down the road and back again and then returns for breakfast, the paper and a shower before he heads off to the surgery for work (on a week day). He left me a note and a key to the house in case I wanted to go somewhere and told me he would call if he could get out of the surgery to come home at lunch time. It was time for me to wash my dirty clothes that I had dragged up from Brisbane. It’s not really very expensive to do the laundry at the college where I live, but I was allowed a carry-on bag on the plane and I would have time to do the laundry while I was in Cairns so I decided to at least get some of the dirtier and more important items washed while I had the time. I sat around reading my archaeology book and dealing with internet stuff until my clothes were done and drying which is when Michael called me to tell me he had time to come home during lunch and take me into town if I wanted. I got ready and Michael and I had quick peanut butter sandwiches for lunch before we left the house. Michael loves peanut butter as well as mixing peanut butter with lots of different spreads and substances. He is unique in that in this country where they think that peanut butter and jam is odd because of the mixing of savo(u)ry and sweet flavo(u)rs and the mixture of peanut butter and chocolate is generally unthinkable…except for Michael. Michael really wants to try Reese’s peanut butter cups, so I’m going to have Mom bring them when she comes to visit. I am getting ahead of myself though, as usual.
I went to the Cairns city center to find some of the stuff I’d been searching for–a bathing suit, jeans etc. I was waiting to see if Skye would call me to hang out but she was kept busy all day. Still I reoriented myself to the city, took some pictures and had a poke around the shopping center. Michael picked me up just before the shops were going to close and we took the dogs for a walk when we got back home. On the way back up the street, Harmina pulled into her house and I got to say hello. It was great to see her after these four years even though we didn’t get to talk for long. Michael and I had to go because we were going to go out for dinner. I had made us reservations at Michaels suggestion at a restaurant that used to be called Pencil’s but is now called The Naked Nut. I can’t explain the name because it’s supposed to be a surprise for Mom when she comes to visit, and she will most definitely read this entry, but have a think of all the possible reasons it could be called The Naked Nut and post them as comments on this entry. Most creative gets a post card from Australia :). Four years ago this restaurant is where Lizanne, Michael, Harmina, Graeme, Nicola, Mavi and I went after the land slide kicked Lizanne, Michael and I out of our house at 1:30am sometime at the end of March. I know because I have their now former business card in my scrapbook from those six months. The food was just as delicious as before and I think Michael was surprised that I remember exactly when we went there.
Dinner with Michael was very pleasant and I got to sleep relatively early after the day’s walking around. The next morning I got up in time to have breakfast with Michael. It was Saturday and he wasn’t on call so he and I had the day free. It was the day of Skye’s birthday and I had arranged to meet with Skye, Emma, Lori and Amanda for lunch. Out of the four I had only seen Amanda in the four years I’ve been away when she came to the United States to see relatives. I don’t think I can say that Amanda and I were really that close when I was in Australia before. In 2004 she was better friends with Mavi (my Chilean best friend/sister/soul mate who was hosted down the road from me in Cairns and with whom I spent most of my Australian social life) but after those couple of afternoons walking around NYC we somehow closed the gap and are now incredibly good friend. I feel that I discovered commonalities that I never knew existed and so seeing Amanda again is the easiest thing in the world. It was that way with all the girls at lunch. So much time had past since any of us had hung out together. Even between all of them, some of them had not seen each other in years. It was pure dumb luck that everyone of us happened to be in the same vicinity around Skye’s birthday and we could all come and enjoy celebrating with her. Still, even with all that time between all of us, we slipped into joking, laughing, kidding around, reminiscing and catching up as if only a few days had passed rather than a few years. No matter how many times this situation replays itself in my life–friends coming together and enjoying themselves as if no time has gone by–I will never cease to be amazed and deeply moved by the experience. It is comforting to know that some things, however small, remain the same in a world that tends to change so quickly.
Lunch turned into a leisurely shopping expedition around Cairns Central (the shopping mall that amused me four years ago because it was full of Australians that felt it unnecessary to wear shoes…many people don’t even where shoes to drive in this country) and we all picked up bits and pieces to top off our outfits for that night. Amanda took me home on her way back to her house (listen to me, I call my house in Cairns “home” without even thinking about it) and I rested and got ready for the evening’s festivities which were lovely. All of Skye’s family, friends and co-workers got together at this bar/grill type thing for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. It was the girls all over again but some other people I remembered from school were there as well and it was good to catch up with them too. I spoke with Skye’s mum who remembered me and was glad to see me. She’s been doing some traveling herself so she told me about her trip to India. After exhausting the bar/grill, we went to a club, but people’s feet hurt (not mine! My new black dress shoes are awesome!) so we just sat around people watching and talking until it was time to go home. Amanda was designated driver and she took me and Emma home. I would have liked to do a bit more dancing, but I had a giant purse with me which made that awkward, plus none of the other girls wanted to dance and I didn’t want to dance without them. It was one of the first times I actually enjoyed being out at night which I suspect has everything to do with the absence of cigarette smoke in the club–a BIG change from Spain and a welcome one.
I got home and quietly let myself into the house, turning off the lights as I went to my room and leaving my door cracked a little so Michael could look in as he got up to see if I was there. I woke up unreasonably early the next morning considering my late bed time, but I didn’t want to fritter away my last day in Cairns. Michael and I went to town and walked around a bit–the days were very pleasant and sunny while I was in Cairns which was lucky because the weather had apparently been very poor before my arrival with rain every day…although in Australia rain can hardly be considered entirely poor weather. They need all the water they can get. But anyway, it was very pleasant to walk around the city center taking pictures and enjoying the sights. Michael took me back to Edge Hill, a neighbo(u)ring suburb to meed Carla for lunch. You have all met Carla before in the Italy entries–she’s my Australian “sister.” She emailed me just before I left Spain telling me that she was in Brisbane for a couple of weeks “benchwarming the city for my arrival” as she put it. I was excited to hear from her and told her immediately that I would be in Cairns and that we should have lunch. That’s exactly what we did and Michael even joined us for a tasty bite at a little cafe in the suburb’s center shop area. We drove Carla home and I ended up staying at her house chatting to Helena (Carla’s mum) a bit before Carla and her Chinese exchange student and I took a walk along the Esplanade. Carla invited another friend and we passed the time on our walk playing on random playgrounds that were dispersed along the boardwalk and also trying to name all the 50 US States. That was a fun game.
Stan (Carla’s dad) picked us up and brought me back home in time for me to get ready for dinner at Harmina and Graeme’s. I didn’t think the trip could possibly get better, but it did as soon as I walked into the house that was my second home four years ago. I probably spent equal amounts of time at Harmina and Graeme’s house as at home with Mike and Lizanne because Mavi lived there and it was sometimes preferable to being by myself. Walking in to see Harmina and Graeme’s happy faces welcoming me back and receiving big hugs from all was so exciting. We had a delicious dinner from Harmina’s ridiculously good repertoire of easy to cook, easier to eat dishes and we spent a couple of hours enjoying the food and catching up with each other. Once again, I found it easy to slip back into life with my old friends but this time I noticed a little more that I seem to have grown up a little. I don’t often get that feeling too much since certainly haven’t grown, I will always get carded in bars and usually I feel like I never want to lose track of my inner child, but that evening I was an adult living a life that was interesting to talk about and I was comfortable in that role. I guess I know I am an adult, but it doesn’t feel that way sometimes. University students are generally stuck in a non-category–we are not quite adults but are also old enough not to act like moody adolescents…at least that’s how I feel most of the time. Categories are silly anyway.
The night didn’t go overly late but it was full of laughter. At one point I was laughing so hard I felt like my lungs were going to pop–Graeme told a joke presented some time ago by their son Nigel. It was about the cat and the piece of toast in an anti-gravity chamber. You know how cats always land on their feet? And a piece of toast just after it has been buttered if dropped will invariably land butter side down? Well if you strapped the piece of toast to the cat’s back, butter side up, and dropped it from a height inside an anti-gravity chamber, it would simply never hit the ground. It would just turn over and over in mid air for eternity!
So much for adulthood 😀
The next morning was Monday. Michael had work and I got up to say goodbye to him and make everything ready to be picked up and taken to the airport by Skye, who is SUPER nice for doing that. It turned out by some twist of fate and Lorie had the same flight as I did on the way back to Brisbane, so we had a bit of company for each other. Skye, Lorie and I had a coffee in the airport waiting room. Stringent airport security regulations have not yet made it to Cairns, so you can take more than a small plastic baggy of liquids on your flight and loved ones can still see their departing family members right to the gate and wave as they walk up the terminal to their plane. It’s like walking back in time to be in the Cairns airport. The flight was only a tiny bit delayed and got into Brisbane at a relatively normal time and had the rest of the afternoon and evening to relax, unpack and prepare to start my second week of classes.
The second week of classes passed in a whirl. My Aboriginal Anthropology class has interesting content but a really boring professor. My Historical Archaeology class has boring content and an interesting professor and my Australian History and History of Popular Music from Elvis to Madonna classes have both interesting professors AND interesting content. All in all not a bad deal for me class-wise. Last week was also “Come and Try” week at the UQ athletic facilities, so I decided to try out the Capoeira class that they offer. I was the only one in abadas (pants) and I think I was the only one that had been practicing for two years, but it was really fun and the professor used me for demonstrations. Yay! I will register for it. At least it will be something structured to do. I also purchased a bike from a student that had it locked up on campus with a “for sale” sign on it. It’s a great little bike and I got it for a good price. I plan to use it a lot to take little relaxing rides around campus and to go places that aren’t too far away. I want to be able to do something fun for exercise and there are great bike trails all over the city. It will be easy enough to sell when the semester is over. I’m excited that life is falling into place so quickly. I was also able to catch up with Lizanne who had been in Brisbane since the day I left it to go to Cairns. We effectively switched places. Hah! But Lizanne was in Brisbane for a music festival in which her school orchestra was competing. I met her and my old voice teacher for dinner on Wednesday night, also enjoying the pleasure of meeting Lizanne’s best friend Paula and Paula’s son Miles at that dinner and we all had a lovely time. Cairns High ended up getting in to the finals of the Fanfare competition and so I alerted Sam, a high school friend and Fanfare alum, that the concert was on and we went together in support of the orchestra that proved to be INCREDIBLE! I had no idea that the high school kids were so good! They didn’t win due to the presence of a truly fantastic percussion ensemble, but everyone played extremely well. I was pleasantly surprised. Lizanne and my voice teacher were disappointed after the concert, but such is life. They’ve won before and they certainly did a noteworthy job. I had fun spending time catching up with Sam too. I had seen him briefly during Orientation Week but this time we really got to chat. It was a really fun evening.
Last weekend was here before I knew it and I was off to Noosa for Saturday and Sunday to try my hand at surfing. Noosa is a little beach town on the Sunshine Coast, just north of Brisbane. The cool thing about Brisbane public transport is that if you buy one ticket, you can use the ticket on any form of transportation as long as you buy the ticket for the correct zone. It only cost $9 for the four-hour trip up the coast and that included two transfers. The hostel we booked was comfortable and conveniently located and provided extremely reasonably priced food. The surfing lessons were also a very good deal with a two hour lesson complete with board and wet suit for only $45 and that included and additional two hours of kayaking on the river whenever you wanted. Saturday we had a 1:30-3:30pm surfing lesson in which we went over the basics of the board and the procedure for catching a wave standing up. To my utter astonishment I managed to stand on my first try!!! After another missed attempt I stood up AGAIN on my third go, but then I lost it and didn’t stand up again the entire time.Still I felt pretty good about my first two hours on a surf board and even though my body was aching from my capoeira lesson the previous day, it was well worth the effort.
Everyone was completely exhausted on Saturday night and had to fight to stay awake until 9:30pm which is when we decided to pack it in. Ditte, Yash and I were in one room and Victoria and Claire were in another. There was an extra guy in our room who was just traveling around by himself and we chatted a bit before we all dropped off to sleep. We had agreed to make and early start since we had to be at the meeting place for kayaking by 8:45am. We got our stuff together, stored it in the storage room of the hostel and spent a couple of hours paddling along the river that was calm and beautiful. We subsisted on a rather unbalanced diet of left over breakfast food and buy one get one free ice creams that day, but such is the life of a traveling student and we got Thai food upon our late return to Brisbane. It was a short trip but a very full one and I think we made the most of it. While we were waiting to catch the bus Yash and Ditte went off on a walk, I napped on the beach and Victoria and Claire took turns strolling, shopping and napping. It was completely relaxing, I caught up on my diary (that I have also been neglecting, sadly) and I got some good exercise and fitful rest.
Now I’m back at school again. I used this day, Monday again, to do some reading and run some errands around the city. I saw the friends who couldn’t or chose not to come to Noosa and told them all about my surfing adventures. I am now succumbing to the exhaustion that fills the end of each day and usually prevents me from informing my family back home of my whereabouts and activities via this electronic medium. I am glad I’ve finally posted and I hope to be more regular in the future. I am having an excellent time and although my work is really going to begin in earnest, I feel prepared for the challenge and excited for the prospect of so many exciting times left to be had in Australia.
Thanks for staying tuned and bearing with me. Fear not! There will most certainly be more to come.