Matthew and I woke up starving the next day. We were both still exhausted from our plane ride and socializing with the other foreigners sounded a bit tiresome so we decided to go out on our own for breakfast. We wondered around a few places and saw Thai food, korean food, sushi, and finally, the sign for paradise. Literally, we saw a plastic hot air balloon that read “Pancakes in Paradise.” I think we agreed pretty quick that this was this place for meal number 3 down under.
After being greeted by a caucasian woman with broad shoulders, we placed our orders. Matthew opted for the all-you-can-eat pancake special because it was only $10. I went all out and ordered Passion Pancakes, which was two buttermilk pancakes topped with strawberries, bannanas, whipped cream, ice cream and a drizzle of passionfruit juice. I will definitely say, those were the best pancakes I have ever had. Maybe it was the fact that I was finally, at 24 years old, getting to eat ice cream for breakfast and no parent was around to tell me I couldn't. That day I fulfilled a dream of my own that I have had since age six.
After nearly licking the sides of my plate clean, I watched in amusement as Matthew tried to get his money's worth for the all-you-can-eat pancakes. He had finished the first four with no problem, and immediately ordered a second round. The second four were much more challenging by the look on his face. I laughed as he slowly cut into each bite, determined to finish but so full he was going to make himself sick. Sure enough, after pancake number 6 he decided to throw in the towel. The waitress said the record was 25 pancakes in one sitting. We asked if she had ever seen anyone do that and she said no but watching someone eat 10 was very painful.
After breakfast we had one mission: to find pantyhose. I had forgotten to pick some up while I was packing and I needed them for the dress I was wearing to our orientation the following day. We first went to the mall and checked several female clothing stores, having no luck at all. I decided to ask one of the ladies who worked in the store and she said there was a place that sold them called Woolworths that was just down the escalator. What surprised us was that the store down the escalator was a supermarket. How cool to have a grocery store in the middle of the mall, I thought. Sure enough, on aisle 7, I found small black tights for $8. On the way to the check out I also picked up a couple of glue sticks so I can get started on my scrapbook.
When we got back to the hostel we saw Belgium down in the lobby, all packed up and waiting for her bus. We sat down and had one last chat with our new friend. She was off to Brisbane for a night and then would be making her way up the coast to Cairns. She was much more relaxed now than she was when we met her 24 hours earlier. She informed us that she had applied for at least eight jobs while she was here and two or three of those had seemed hopefully. She was really hoping the au-pair job for a family with two small girls would work out. They had offered her food and housing but because the job only required three hours of work a week, she would still have to find a second job. She was okay with this though, because it was a good start and it meant that she at least wouldn't have to worry about where she would stay our what she would eat. That brought her great peace of mind. We then gave her big hugs and wished her good luck on her travels. She did the same for us and said she really hoped to take her mom down to Kangaroo Island and stay with us in August for a few days. Out of everyone we had met so far, Belgium was the most excited about our KI job. She thought the opportunity was fantastic and the thought of living on an island made her squeal with delight.
Back up in the room, Edward was laying on his bed blasting music. When Matthew and I walked in the room he popped up and asked us how breakfast was. We had been gone for several hours but really didn't have much to show for it other than a pair of pantyhose and some gluesticks. Pretty quickly the three of us decided a trip down to the beach was what we needed most at that moment.
The walk to the beach was a short one, lined with shops and tourists.
“Have you eva dun bodee sefing?” he asked Matthew as we put down our things are started walking towards the water.
“Yeah, I was doing it yesterday, actually.” Matthew said as his feet made the sand squeek.
I looked up and verbally noticed the difference in the size of the waves compared to the day before. They were much bigger. The three of us waded out into the water until it came up to our torsos. For the next thirty minutes we jumped and dove and pushed and pulled against the strong ocean waves. It was a fun sensation to see a huge wave coming and just before it would hit me, I would dive under water and feel the current woosh over me.
Several times I didn't dive deep enough and the current picked me up and moved me ten to twelve feet back towards the beach. At one point this happened and the current turned me around and sucked me underwater for an uncomfortable amount of time. I guess it was just enough to remind me that the ocean was a big strong place and I needed to respect it and admit that I wasn't invincible.
I backed up a few feet and noticed for the first time, that if I stood up and braced myself while the waves swooshed over me, I could tell that they reached at least as tall as I stood. Then I looked in front of me where Matthew and Edward were still bravely facing and I noticed the waves went way over their heads. I thought about my heighth and the strenght of my body and how I was getting tired of being beaten by the ocean and so I decided to go sit in the sand with just my feet in the water. I could watch the guys have fun and not have to worry about drowning myself.
A few minutes later Matthew came up to where I was sitting. He was breathing heavier than normal and looked like he had just finished a wrestling match.
“Those waves are brutal.” he said as he approached me.
I agreed and said even in the shallowest part of the beach, the water was still able to push me and pull me and spin me around, even as I sat on my bottom!
We both looked out and watched Edward go deeper and deeper, fighting the waves with full bravery. After a few minutes Matthew went back out to the competition and I was alone again, happy with my thoughts of the beach. I watched as five asian guys locked arms and walked into the water backwards. An older woman was following them with a camera and they were all laughing and cutting up like boys do. I must have been staring hard because one of them caught me and smiled and waved hi to me. I laughed and waved back just as all five of them, still locking arms, fell backwards into the water and then arose with cheers and laughter.
One thing Matthew and I kept comparing notes on was that Asians were different from everyone else. Their style was different, their humor was different, and even their way of site seeing was different. Nevertheless, I laughed pretty hard as I watched this crew of Asian youth.
When Matthew and Edward came back up the beach, finally exhausted, I asked them if it was dinner time yet. Edward had volunteered to cook for us and I was really looking forward to a homemade French meal.
At the supermarket I asked Edward what he was making for us.
“Meal. Prepare. What food will you cook?”
“Ah! It is a surprise. It is surprise to me too” he said as we all laughed. I looked around at the groceries for the first time and found myself amazed with the cereal aisle. Not only did they have ten different kinds of oat cereal, but they had the healthiest looking cereal bars I had ever seen and next to that stood rows and rows of fresh oats, quinoa, and bran products. All of the healthy things I try so hard to find in America were all right in front of me in the masses. When I looked up I turned to my left and saw Matthew just as mesmerized as I had been, except over bread.
“Where did Edward go?” I asked as I approached my bread-studying friend.
“Oh man, he's all over the place.” We looked up around and spotted Edward walking quickly into one aisle and out of another. He really was all over the place. I watched him go towards an aisle, pick something up and then turn around and intently walk to another part of the store. We watched for a while before we worked up the energy to try and catch him.
Edward insisted on paying for all of the $42 worth of groceries he had picked out, as long as Matthew and I bought the beer. Edward told us to pick out the beer and meet him back at the hostel where he would be cooking.
The liquor store was a bit confusing. You could buy a 6-pack of beer for twenty-four dollars or option number 2 was to buy a case of beer for $50. We searched for an inbetween size for several minutes before giving up. Everything was 6 or 24. We then compared brands and labels of dozens of beers we had never heard of. Finally we decided to try a beer that seemed to be very popular in Australia, XXXX Summer Lager. I chose the summer lager over the light lager simply because the box looked like more fun.
Back at the hostel I was in charge of getting the plates and bowls while Matthew snuck the beer up to the room and fixed a six-pack to take to the kitchen area. This was because we didn't want other people drinking our beer, I was told.
The lady at the front desk was very nice when I asked how to rent a set of plates for the evening. She said it was a cash-only deposit of $10 per set so I had to run back up to the room and grab $30. When I made it back down to the front desk there was a super charming Aussie man working instead of the lady I had talked to. I told him I wanted to rent out three sets of plates. He smiled and said, “Sure, what's your room number.” My face made a funny shape as I tried really hard to remember. He was already smiling and saying no worries by the time I guessed 135. He leaned over the computer and asked me what my last name was. I spelled it out for him and he laughed and said “318.” I told him I had two of the numbers right so I was close. He said “no worries” again and asked me which bed number I was. So with that and the handing over of thirty Australian dollars, he turned around and brought me back three large tupperware boxes. I slowly picked up the stack, praying I wouldn't drop them all. He asked if I had it and I said I thought so.
Slowly but surely I made my way in the elevator, out of the elevator and down the hall to the kitchen area. When I got to the cooking area Matthew saw me and laughed. I know I looked silly but I was really afraid I was going to drop the dishes. He quickly took them from me and handed me a beer. Edward was moving quickly over the stove making his version of Mexican tacos.
While the men cooked and discussed manly things, I walked around the commons area and picked up several brochures to study. There was a yoga class downtown on Thursday, a drum healing session on Friday and a bus tour from Sydney to Perth that all sounded like things I might want to do. By the time I got through reading the second pamplet, Matthew and Edward were briskly walking towards me with a hot skillet, an arm full of beer and a a few grocery bags full of things.
“Outside” they instructed me. So I picked up my beer and pamphlets and followed them out the sliding doors and onto a beautiful patio area that was high enough to give a pretty view of the streets but low enough to give a view of the many hostel rooms above us. The view was beautiful, the food-even better. I hadn't ate since my 10am Passion Pancakes and seeing how it was around 8pm, I was starving.
As I devoured through the most delicious French-made Mexican food I had ever ate (okay, the only French-made Mexican food I had ever ate) I couldn't help but to stop and soak it all in. It was so surreal. Here I was 7,000 miles from home having dinner on a rooftop filled with dozens of other similar-minded young people. As I looked up at the hostel building I thought about how each room was filled with a different group of randomly mixed individuals. Each of those individuals had their own story, their own goal they were fulfilling. We were all here together, exploring the world in different ways. Some people just needed to leave their home, others needed to prove something, some of us were here to chase dreams and some were just joining in with a group of friends. It was a very powerful thing though, all these young people conquering the world at the same time. We were all young, single and without kids. That's what we had in common; the fact that we were all taking advantage of the extremely small window between college and family. The magical thing is that within that small window lies the most amazing experiences, and though we all had family and friends who doubted us, envied us and made up their own excuses for not going, we were the brave ones. We were the courageous few who saw a chance and took it. We wouldn't be the ones who will say, “I wish I would have.”
It was very strange to me. Back home I was a novelty. Not many people had been given this opportunity, much less thought much about doing it. Not many people would ever actually the town I grew up in. The only other person I know my age who has done something similar is my friend Jamey who broke barriers by going to India for an 8-month mission trip. I mean, really, out of all the thousands of people I am aquainted with, I could only name on other person who was doing something similar. And yet, here we were, in a 12-story building full of young people doing just that. At times it seemed like there were a million of us and everyone was backpacking, but then Matthew would remind me that we were all a very small percentage of the world population.
“Are you guys smoking pot?” I looked up and saw a girl with blonde hair and burnt skin standing over our table staring at us. She looked a little wild, like maybe she hadn't slept much in a while. Suddenly registering her question, I looked around the table and saw tortillas, chips, salsa, a yoga pamphlet and some empty beer bottles. No where on our table did I see pot.
Matthew and Edward shook their heads and told her we didn't have any pot. The girl shrugged her shoulders and said if we did have some she would want to take a hit. Then she turned around and walked towards the kitchen like she was in search of something.
“Seen Citee tonight guys?” Edward had been telling us about this cool night club called Sin City. He said he had never been but it was obviously a cool place because his friends from Canada were going there tonight also.
“We can do that.” Matthew and I agreed to “Seen Citee” but before we could leave the table we had to prove to Edward that we could properly introduce ourselves in French. “Bojour...Mah-chu...”
After dinner the three of us went to Sin City and met up with two of Edward's Canadian friends. The girls were super fun and together we all danced until we realized it was 3am. Edward and Matthew and I could not believe it was 3am, but we knew we needed to call it a night. The whole walk back to the room Matthew kept saying, “That was so fun!” Edward was laughing and talking loudly about the funny people we had seen. We were still talking loudly when I opened the door and saw two legs sticking out from bed number two. I shushed the guys as we all filed in, staring at a man sleeping in blue underwear. He wasn't under the sheets or anything, he was just laying there sleeping and here we were staring at him like a specimen.