Our flight from Auckland to Brisbane was an early one. We arrived at the airport around 7am and rushed around the “car park” trying to figure out where to turn in the rental car. By the time we found the parking lot and filled out the return papers I realized we only had fifteen minutes left to check in for our flight. Of course, now days they want you to do that stuff through a machine, which is cool and all, until you get stopped every time because your passport picture was taken when you were 16 and you no longer look that much like your 15 year old self.
After checking in we headed for security which was actually a lot more leaniant than both Oklahoma City or LAX. I didn't have to take off my shoes or my jacket. I was walking off from a surprisingly easy and breezy security approval, and as I turned around to see if Matthew had made it a large security woman tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to come with her. She pulled me a side and told me to put my backpack and purse on the metal table in front of me. I noticed everyone else was walking past with no problem and I wondered what I could have possibly done wrong this time. Just when I was starting to tense up the security guard started asking me questions about where I was going and where I had been. When she seemed excited to hear I had been in New Zealand, I could tell she wasn't going to hold me hostage in the airport. She then waved a big wand over my arms as I extended them like she instructed me too and then told me she had to swipe my bag to check for explosives. She almost giggled when I told her I didn't carry explosives with me. I asked her if I was a random test and she said yes, I just happened to be the first female out of security and that got me a free ticket to be tested. She did laugh when I said, “Oh, good, I won!” After a few more seconds the machine decided my bag wasn't going to explode and the lady told me to enjoy my trip to Australia.
While Matthew was shaking his head and commenting that I always have these random things go wrong, like with the machine and with the security testing, it wasn't until later that I had yet another little go with the TSA officials. This time we had arrived in Brisbane and I had just passed my customs clearance. It was about 11:30 and my breakfast had worn off so I reached in my purse and pinched off a big bite of blueberry muffin I had been saving since earlier that morning. As I chewed my muffin and looked around for the next step in getting out of the airport, I turned around to see a tall skinny guard with gray hair looking at me. “What's that you're chewing on?” he asked with a gruff face. “A blueberry muffin” I said with a smile full of food. He told me to give him my customs form so I did. He wasn't the customs guy though, he was just a random security guard standing around. He then proceeded to ask me if I had any other food on me. I said “yeah, I got a bag of nuts in my backpack.” I knew I was supposed to say that because Matthew had already lectured me about claiming the food or else they'd make you throw it out. The guard asked one more time if I had any fruit or beef jerkey and I said no, just a muffin and nuts. Finally he circled something on my card and pointed us in the direction of our next stop.
Once again, Matthew gave me a hard time about always getting into TSA trouble. I decided it had to be my bright colored outfit, my cheerful smile and my whimsical backpack that made me look like a terrorist. Next time I go to an airport I'm wearing all black and painting a teardrop next to my eye so I can get through all the checks without being accused of being a psycho.
The flight to Brisbane was faster than expected. What was supposed to take 3 ½ hours only took 2 hours and 50 minutes. I wrote down my New Zealand experienes the whole time. The kiwi dude next to me watched Bob's Burgers the entire way and Matthew flipped between Amy Shumer and Family Guy.
After making it through all the crazy TSA shennanigans, we strictly followed the instructions Matthew had written down on my notebook: “Turn left at the coffee place or something.” Though these instructions had been a joke several times that morning, sure enough we walked through the exit doors, and looked left of the coffee place to see a lady standing there with a sign that said: “Global Work and Travel: Haley H + Matthew H”. I got a little over excited and told her to hold up the sign while I took a picture of it. She introduced herself and quickly took us to a private parking lot with a cool silver van waiting for us.
Our driver's name was Mandy and she was in the shuttling business with her husband. They had two vans and shuttled people between Surfer's Paradise and Brisbane. She had a contract with Global to pick up people from the airport. Mindy had four kids, the youngest was 10 and the oldest had already left the home. Mindy had picked up a girl from Canada just an hour or two before us. She said the girl waited until the week before she left to tell her parents she was going to be in Australia for six months.
An hour in the car took us to a funky little beach town with tons of shops and restaurants, big waves and all sorts of people. Welcome to Surfer's Paradise.
First we checked into the hostel. I wasn't quite sure what to expect but when we opened the door to room 318 and saw a small bathroom and one small main room with two bunkbeds, I knew I had pictured it correctly in my mind. Each bed was numbered and our keys corresponded to the bed we were assigned. The beds had ony one pillow and one white sheet each. The room was plain and there was no art on the walls. I loved it. The balcony overlooked the other hostel balconies full of random young people here and there and also gave a beautiful site of the beach and part of downtown. We did have a great location for an accomondation, everything was just a few steps away.
Before too long Matthew decided it was chow time so we walked downstairs and around the corner until we found a place called “Greek Street” that sounded like a good idea. I had an Australian pale lager beer and a Chicken Caeser Gyro. Matthew had an Australian light lager beer and a chicken caeser salad. While we ate we watched some funky birds walk right next to us and perch on one of the other tables.
I really wanted to dip my feet in the water so Matthew indulged me while I walked out to the beach, got my feet wet and came back to the sand. We weren't in swim suits so we went and got another beer instead at an Irish Pub we found around the corner. After spending ten bucks for one drink, we decided to head back to the hostel for a change of clothes and then a swim on the beach.
When we arrived in our room we were surprised to see a girl our age with dark skin and bright freckles laying on one of the beds. Instantly she got up and shook our hands and introduced herself. She was from Belgium and had been backpacking for three weeks already. She had left Belgium and stopped in Singapore and Hong Kong and then flown on to Australia where she had just seen Sydney and a wonderful place she continuously referred to as Bayron's Bay. We all sat in the room and chatted for a good twenty minutes. She talked about all the places she had been to and we explained to her where Oklahoma was and what we did when tornados happened. She was a really neat girl with a fun demeanor and great English skills. I kept telling her how impressed I was that she had done all this backpacking by herself and she kept assuring me that it was super hard and she was currently very stressed about not having a job yet.
After a bit we realized there was an extra bag in the room and around that time a tall skinny guy with dark hair and tan skin walked in. Through a thick French accent he introduced himself as Edward. Edward was our fourth roommate and he was from Paris. He had also just came from Bayron's Bay and was passing through on his way to Sydney.
After a few more minutes of chatting, Edward decided we would all go out tonight and we all agreed. Matthew invited our new friends to the beach but Belgium needed to job search on the 30 minutes of free wifi and Edward needed a nap.
* * *
The beach was invigorating. At first we jumped in the water and had the most fun splashing up against the waves. I kept jumping into the waves and letting the water swoosh around me and push me under. Matthew was jumping with the current of the wave and body surfing them as far as he could go. Over and over we jumped and played in the waves. I was laughing and enjoying it so much that I didn't want to stop. Unfortunately the lifeguard police flashed their lights at us and told us we had to swim within the marked flags and we weren't doing that. He then told Matthew that it wasn't that we weren't strong enough swimmers, it was that he didn't want all of the Koreans following us thinking they could do the same thing.
So Matthew went and sat on the beach and I walked down to the flag-marked area and played in the knee-deep water. Each wave crashing over me felt like it was healing my soul. I always feel that way when I'm in the ocean. Maybe it is the salt water, or perhaps it is the sand. I don't know, but I think there is something magical about it. I laid in the water and let my thoughts wander for a good while. I thought about the ocean and how unbelievably huge it is. I thought about the water surrounding me and how it was the same ocean water that touched the shores in Los Angeles. I thought about how lucky I was to be here, in a wonderful place with “paradise” in the title of the town. To my left I indeed saw lots of Korean families. One man held a toddler that would squeel each time he was bounced into the water. Another family had three or four small children running in and out of the water jibbering something in their native tongue.
After a while I decided my lips had turned into french fries, or at least they tasted like it, so I went back up the shore to find some chapstick and see if Matthew was bored yet. To my surprise, Matthew was very occupied digging a world record breaking hole. He was so excited to show me how deep his hole was that he had been working on for fifteen minutes. “Put your arm down there!” he commanded me. I knelt down and put my arm down into the hole. “Wow! It goes all the way up to my elbow!” We laughed at how deep the hole was but then Matthew decided he could do better. “Excavating” he called it. With each new swoop of sand out of the hole came a new addition of sand in the huge pile that was now making a mountain. My job was to pack the new sand onto the mountain and keep it from looking like a boob. Why is it, we asked, that all sand castles end up looking like boobs? We couldn't come up with an answer, we only knew that this was going to be a mountain and not a boob. A few minutes later Matthew stopped and asked me to arm-measure the hole again. I stuck my arm straight down and this time the hole went so far as to reach a few inches above my elbow. “See if you can fit my whole arm in there! All the way up to my shoulder!”
Then things got real. Matthew got busy digging and I named the mountain “Honesty Mountain” because we had some talk about how we honestly dug the hole all by ourselves. As the mountain grew, so did the hole. Some kids ran by and pointed at our awesome work, then some adults walked by and laughed in delight. After a bit it was time for the final measurements. I laid flat on the ground, careful not to touch the weak parts of the sand that were starting to give way, and I put my arm straight down. The bottom of the hole touched the tip of my middle fingernail and the top of the hole reached to my shoulder. The excavating had paid off. Now it was time to work on Honesty Mountain. I poked finger holes around the mountain to give it some caves and character. Then I made streams and rivers with the mark of my fingernail. I then decided we needed more stuff so I ran and got a few sea shells and one stone. These would be the big rocks and one mountain climber. While I had fetched the shells, Matthew had decided to build a tunnel that ran all the way through the cave, complete with a road for people to drive on. I made a tunnel sign to hang above the road way and then we worked on creating a road that went from the tunnel, all the way down on to the ledge that led into the deep hole. Although the road went that far, it was actually just a culdesac where people could turna round before they ran their cars into the hole. Because if they ran their cars into the hole, we decided the results would obviously be fatal. By the time we finished our creation and stepped back to marvel at it, the lifeguard was talking into a megaphone, telling us that the beach was now closing. Satisfied with our work, we decided to call it a day and walk back to the hostel.
After a sandy shower and a wardrobe change, all four of us roommates sat around and watched an episode of Chopped on the Food Network. It was the first time I had seen a television set turned on since I had left America a week ago. Edward, the French guy, was really into this cooking show. I was starving before I started watching it so watching it was fun but sort of torturous. By the time the show ended it was 8:30 and I suggested we go eat. Belgium was saving money and still searching the web for jobs so she declined, but Edward and Matthew decided it was a good idea to go eat.
As the three of us roamed a foreign city smelling aromas and looking for a good restaurant, we saw a hibachi grill that impressed Edward, a sushi place that impressed me, and BBQ joint that impressed no one. As we turned another corner we see a sign that says “Alfresco's” painted in red, white and green. Edward asked if we liked Italian food and we obviously said “uh, yeah.” I asked Edward if he was going to be dissapointed eating Italian food outside of France but he assured me he liked all kinds of food. I realize now that I am writing this that Italian food comes from Italy and not France. Thankfully Edward was still learning English.
Dinner conversation was super interesting. We learned that Edward was 24 and had a sister the same age as Matthew's sister, only Edward didn't care too much for her. His Dad was the director at a university and his mother did payroll for a big construction company. Edward was on a student visa for 7 months in Australia so he could learn to speak English fluently. This was month 6.
Several times throughout dinner I would be listening intently to what Edward was trying to say when he would pause and get flustered and tell us to wait one second while he asked Google. He would then type something in his phone and read the translation for us. This worked about 50% of the time. The other 50% of the time we would have to interpret the google translation and then explain a weird rule about English. One example of this was when we were talking about smoking cigarettes and how the best way to stop is to quit solely on willpower. Edward did not know the word willpower but he was saying the French alternative. Matthew and I were trying to fill in his sentence with words like, “mentally,” “determined” and “hard work.” When he asked Google to translate from French the English word that came up was “will.” We suggested he meant “will power” but then had to explain what will power was. He smiled and said, “Yes! In French we say "volonte" for that word.” Then Matthew and I would take turns learning the French pronunciation for the word he was saying.
Edward ordered an amazing Italian dish I had never heard of. He also told us the correct way to say “Parmesean cheese” and it sounded much prettier than how I normally said it. Edward ordered us a bottle of Shiraz from the Barossa Valley in Australia and asked if we would like to split it three ways. It was a very smooth Shiraz, much more fresh than the Yellowtail Shiraz that I sometimes bought back home.
After dinner Edward suggested that we walk down to the beach. The beach is magical during the day, but even more so after sundown. All three of us walked along the shore line discussing all sorts of things. I actually let my thoughts wander quite a bit. I was contemplating the beauty of the city around me when suddenly Edward stopped and told us not to move. He pointed to dozens of small specs at our feet and I got a little worried. “What is it?” I asked. “I think it is a small jellyfish,” he said. He then poked one with his big toe and I squealed and ran towards the shore. It was too soon in the trip to get stung and I wasn't going to risk it. About that time Matthew and Edward broke out in a huge laugh and decided to tell me the truth. They were seashells.
A few more (meters) down the beach and we saw the same birds I had seen earlier. “Mine, Mine, Mine” I said to myself and giggled.
“Hey Edward, do you know the movie 'Finding Nemo'?”
Yeah about the fish that goes to P. Sherman, Wallaby Way, Sydney?
“Is this Disney?” he said in his thick French accent.
Matthew explained it was the movie with the clown fish and the funny one Dory. I added that it had the cool turtles that said “dude” and “noggin” a lot.
“Oh! Ne-mo! Yes I have seen that one.” Edward had heard my pronunciation wrong.
I then pointed to the funny birds and said, look those are the birds from Nemo. “Mine, Mine, Mine”
We ended the night playing one game of pool on a tiny pool table with tiny little balls and tiny little holes. I had a drink in my hand but I still dozed off for a second while watching the guys play. A few minutes later Matthew said his eyes were super droopy and then finally Edward told us he needed to sleep so his epilepsy wouldn't flare up.
I barely remember the walk home because I was so sleepy. Even though the others complained about the thinness of the mattresses, all I remember was sleeping like a baby.