Monday, December 31, 2012

Last Weekend in Australia: Surfers Paradise.

After Michal left, I had one weekend left in Brisbane. In Australia really. It was a really peculiar sensation that I don't think I ever actually came to terms with. I just seemed to be going through the motions, trying to absorb it all without realising what I would be leaving behind, except fully aware that I would be leaving summer to go back to winter. Jonny came home from work one day saying that he was invited to go to the Gold Coast for the weekend - Surfers Paradise specifically. As I had spent enough time in Brisbane and didn't want to over stay my welcome, I had thought about going there for the weekend anyways so it worked out that we would have one last weekend together and C & J could see more of the country. Funny how some things just work out so perfectly! I had talked up Paul's Backpackers Big Night out bar crawl a lot - I really should do their marketing or be one of those girls that sign up suckers on the street - which excited C & J and Paul said he could see if he could get a deal for them. We booked a bus down for Friday night and were on our way. 

28th floor.

 Friday was usually Paul's day to himself, when he could do absolutely nothing, but he met up with us after he finished work and we had finished our little bout of shopping and sightseeing around Surfers. I was still desperate for some Christmas presents and still empty-handed. Instead of a night of Breaking Bad and Philly, Paul invited us around to his place in the Q1 building and promised us a night out on the town.
coastal sunset views from the tallest building.
  He always joked that I lucked out with my first and only couch surfing experience as I got to - a couple times - stay in the nicest building in Surfers and go on bar crawls for absolutely nothing. I would respond, yes this is very true, but more importantly, I think about the friend I made from my first and only couch surfing experience. And Paul could say nothing more to that except to agree by smiling.
 Once again, I was absolutely thrilled that I could introduce my friends to my friends and they not only got along really well, but really liked each other. I couldn't have been happier.
I just had such a fun weekend, with had my camera in my hand, so please forgive all the photos that I want to share. There's not much to say, except for giggles and smiles and the pictures to prove it.

My friends are mad talented...
My friends can dance.
My friends are strong and cute.

My friends are good looking.
They are really good at hat stealing (like me) and dancing (unlike me).
My friends have the cutest relationships. 

My friends like to eat Skittles that are free in the bar and give them away to rando's who trust us enough to eat them out of our hands.

The following day was spent wandering around the shops and stores, uselessly, again. As much as I was looking forward to going home for Christmas, I couldn't get in the holiday spirit. Maybe it was the 30degree weather, or the fact that I was wearing shorts and t-shirts for as long as I could remember, or that the beach was just a block away. None of the stores seemed to have anything that would be deemed worthy of bringing back as even souvenirs, let alone Christmas gifts. So, I did what I usually do, and am best at: I went to eat. I went to my favourite little Thai place I had been to before that was down a little alley way and had a huge plate of spicy veggie pad see eww noodles that I couldn't resist eating the entire dish - even though the two big lads next to me didn't finish their meals...
Saturday night ultimately came and it was time to round up the backpackers. Time for my last night out before the last of the good-bye's. I couldn't have asked for a better night. 

Christmas in Brisbane. Kinda.

Palm Trees. Summertime. It's hard to believe it's Christmas. But, there are actually Christmas windows in Brisbane. They even have snow. Why Australians have to pretend Christmas is like what it is in the Northern Hemisphere, I have no idea. It wasn't exactly Saks Fifth Ave, but it made me smile. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Next 37 km

I forgot to post this awhile ago, but while I was on Fraser Island, bumping along in the back of the 4X4, we passed a road sign just like the one posted above and I thought to myself, what animal is that before I realised that it was a cautionary sign for an upcoming bump in the road. There are so many animal signs in Australia, and we saw so much WILD LIFE on Fraser Island, that it was a natural assumption to immediately think it was a sign to watch out for an animal. Kinda like the one below. 

Michal Comes to Brisbane.

Michal comes to Brisbane! Michal comes to Brisbane! 
I said earlier, third time's a charm in Brisbane.

Carly: Does your friend have a place to stay yet? She is more than welcome to stay here.
Me: Really? That's so nice, I'll ask her.
Carly: Yeah no problem, you can choose who you want to sleep next to you on the pull-out.
Me: OoOh Really?!

Michal just couldn't not come to Brisbane. It was destined for us to meet up one last time again in Australia. From the very first city of my travels, to the very last. Carly had also finally heard back from one of the hairdressers she had sent her CV to and asked to come in for an interview, so we had more than one reason to treat ourselves out to dinner. We went down the road in Woolongabba to Chalk Hotel, which after walking into and up to the upstairs dining area and bar I realised I had been there before when I visited Ted and his friends in October. It was an odd realisation to be in an area I currently knew so familiarly but remember arriving to the same place in a taxi, thinking it was in the middle of nowhere Brisbane, a place I could never find again or would never see again - but here it was. It happened to be a burger + Jug dinner deal and trivia night. It definitely wasn't the $19 special or the burger that won us over, but the jug sealed the deal.
I don't think any of us actually grasped the concept of having a jug of beer to ourselves as we placed our orders. It was the biggest meal I had eaten in ages. And we didn't win trivia. We didn't even come close. But it was a lot of fun.
An English, two Scottish, and an Irish walk into a loud, dark bar....all we need is a Welsh and the jibber jabber confusion of accents that make up our conversation, or what we think is a conversation, would be complete. 
 case in point: Wild Hogs in Scottish sounds exactly like Whale Talks. Like that is even the name of a movie. But it is what I heard, and what I wrote down diligently, nodding my head convincingly as Jonny so confidently proclaimed the name of the movie to answer the trivia question. If only Dory was there to translate.

Angle Triangle also got us a point. 

Earlier that day, I had run into Inken randomly again on the exact same corner of Elizabeth and Edward Street in Brisbane as we were crossing the street heading in opposite directions both times. The second time, with Lovina, they told me they were leaving their jobs at the call centre to move to the Outback to work at a hostel. It happened to be their last night in the big city of Brisbane, in urban civilisation, so they were going out. I promised them I would meet them out for one last good bye, one last separation from Team Horsefly. Throughout all of our Australian travels, this would be the last until we all meet up again in another foreign country. So, Michal and I sauntered into town in the dark along the river with the city lights reflecting in the calm water. We chatted without reserve, catching up on all we hadn't emailed about. It was like we hadn't been apart since Surfers Paradise a month ago.

Brisbane doesn't have a big night life scene and as we arrived into the quiet streets, we were lead to what seemed to be the only bar open. As it was the only bar open in town, it was absolutely packed.
Met up with Chris again. But, what's with that guy's shirt?

Michal and I devised a plan to split up to each end of the bar and see who could be served first in the sea of thirsty backpackers, crammed like sardines up against the bar as shoulders snuggly still found room to strut to the music. Without knowing it, Michal and I were both served and we both had the idea to buy two rounds as to not have to get crushed into the ardent crowd again. Brilliant, we are.
Bitch, please. 

Being the busiest bar in Brisbane that night, and as it happens regularly in Australia, Chris was also there. So it was Byron Bay, Fraser Island, and Whitsundays all together in Brisbane for one last goodbye.
Reunited. With some goober (not Chris). 

The following day, Michal and I were left by the busy worker bees to enjoy the sun. We wandered hungrily along Grey Street, unsure of what type of food would satisfy insatiable us. I couldn't stop thinking about noodles and we agreed on a little Japanese place with outdoor seating along the sidewalk that advertised agreeably cheap prices. We sat down outside with a menu until I realised the price for the same exact thing was $4 dearer than what was on the sign. It looked like the same restaurant, the staff seemed to be working at both, the food was similar if not the same, but we couldn't figure out why the prices were different. Being the cheap, fastidious backpacker, I refused to pay more for what we had thought we were committing to. For $4 less, we just moved two tables down, with the same sidewalk views, had a limited food selection instead of the menu-book, and just had to order at the counter instead of being served table-side. This is what happens when you're on a budget, you only see prices and demand the most bang for your buck. Sure I could have had my usual piece of toast and cheese and Michal could have had her cup o'soup diet, but please, this was Michal and Shauna reunited for one last time in Australia.
I could have easily and happily had a second bowl of noodles if we weren't heading over to the lagoon to sunbathe.
fake lagoon.

One last sunbathe to soak up the Australian sun before it would freeze off in the Irish winter winds. One last sunbathe meant one last burn and a blistered sunburnt lip. 

When we couldn't see our sun damage - sunglasses on or off - we decided we would buy dinner for C & J as a thank you for letting us stay with them. We had talked about having a big BBQ as a bon voyage but most of the people I knew in the city had left by then so it was just the four of us, with Reginald in his tweed looking after our cold beers in the pool, our forkless salad, and kangaroo burgers.
When in doubt, the pool can also be a refrigerator. Just don't leave the guests unattended.
No diving, Carly. 
I felt so lucky to have such good friends to laugh with and friends from around the world who I met around Australia who were now friends with each other.
Michael, Joan, Carlos, and Shaun. 

I didn't want to say goodbye. I had met Michal towards the beginning of my trip, and here she was towards the end. Even if we hadn't traveled the same trip together, she was always there. She was like the boyfriend you keep because it's safe, the one you stay together with so you don't have to be completely alone. Like the high school boyfriend you don't break up with when you go off to Uni until you have securely found your place with your new friends...and a new boyfriend. The one that even if you're not together, you know he's only a phone call away, there to text whenever, or to talk to when you go home at night. Even when I didn't have that boyfriend anymore, and was traveling utterly alone, Michal was still there. Michal was always a phone call, a text, an email, a Facebook message away reassuringly telling me that I would love the Fraser Island trip and Whitsunday sailing, giving me suggestions of places she had previously been to as I arrived in a new place alone, sharing with me her own solo escapades as we ventured in opposite directions amongst the country, but then somehow managing to make plans with each other to meet up again. I hope she stays in her beloved Sydney, I hope she still gets to travel the rest of the world despite her love for Sydney, I hope she moves to London to live near me. I hope she even gives sake another chance. I know we'll stay in touch. I know we'll see each other again. Somewhere in this world. With a glass, no a bottle of wine, to catch up and laugh until we have stitches or pee ourselves. 

Christmas in Brisbane.

My lovely Scottish house mates wanted to have a typical Australian Christmas, which involved an Australian Christmas tree. They decided they wanted to make, or drink, their Christmas tree with green VB cans, or really, any can that was green. Possibly some red ones and the shown blue ones to look like decorations. We brewed over endless ideas and possibilities of how to build it, what shape and 3D form it could take, white wine angels on top, tinsel and lights delicately draped around it, whether or not to use tape or just balance them one on top of the other and hope the breeze of the AC wouldn't blow them over. I contributed towards my free rent with beers, with a deeper understanding that this was part of their thirst-quenching Christmas spirit and the start of an intoxicating Australian tradition. I wouldn't get to see the final product of this Very Bogan Christmas Tree, nor would I be around to finish the rest of the chocolates in my advent calendar, but I am sure it came fully into a boozy fruition. 

Dear Australia,

I really like you. I like you a lot.

Love, Shauna

It all happened so fast. At one point while in Mission Beach, alone and far away, an idea sprouted and I planted it in Dad's head, but displaced it in the back of my mind to slowly germinate. I felt a bit lost, broke, and exhausted from traveling. I was at a point, again, where I wasn't sure which direction of life I was heading towards and any decision could waver the compass' arrow.* I just had a little over a month left in sunny Australia before my visa was up and I thought about just giving in and going home. All the decisions and options of what to do with the remainder of my time could easily be dissipated and solved if I just left them all behind and went home. Home, you may ask, is where? My flight back was booked on miles and Dad checked to see if they could be changed. The only options he could find were to fly either on Christmas back to America, when my family would be in Ireland, or on the 8th of January which wouldn't make any sense to leave just a week early. So, the idea to leave evaporated into the humid heat of northern Queensland and I continued making plans to get back to Brisbane and find a job. 
After dismissing all regional work, finally deciding I didn't want to spend the rest of my time here working towards a second year that I wasn't even sure I wanted to return for, I was set on finding a holiday job. I was flying out of Brisbane, I had friends that were there, it was close to the Gold just made sense to go to Brisbane. The only hitch was that I had promised to be in Sydney for Christmas and had made plans for New Years Eve there too. So, technically I had two weeks to work in Brisbane, a week in Sydney, then another 2 weeks of work in Brisbane. Who would hire me for that amount of time - even if I lied about how much time I had there? Sydney was too expensive that I barely gave two thoughts about looking for a place to stay and a job there. 

I didn't think it would be hard to find a job, given most places usually hire extra staff around the holiday season, but I couldn't find any job. I didn't even get any responses back. There were no appropriate jobs posted on seek or indeed or gumtree. I blindly wrote to places of interest, in hopes that they might like my resume or just need some extra help. I wrote to all the Irish pubs in the city - just to confuse them with my wonky accent. I printed out my resume and went around to all the hostels to ask if they were hiring. Everyone said, come back in the new year. I had a place to stay for free (I paid rent with tree-building beer cans) but I couldn't justify staying in Australia for a month, just for the sake of seeing out the rest of my visa, if I wasn't working and I was done with traveling. So the idea that was already planted in Dad's head and buried in the back of my head, began to flourish. It was hard to cancel New Years Eve plans and to think about not only leaving my friends, but the sunshine warmth of summer and to finally leave behind the entire year that was my Australian Adventure. But, once the idea developed into a realisation that I could spend Christmas with my family in Ireland, I was all set and started to check out. The fact that I could pull of a surprise and not tell Jess I was coming made it all the more exciting. Once I realised all this, I went back to happy holiday mode and decided to just enjoy and take advantage of the rest of my time in Australia, trying not to spend the dim remainder of my money, and to soak up as much sun as possible. I think also the fact that I was going to Donegal rather than flying back to America made leaving somewhat more ok. It wouldn't be easy to leave, but I was actually really really excited. 

* I think I should buy a Magic 8 ball as my indecisive compass. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

X Factor in Brisbane.

Carly and I were walking into the city centre one day when we heard screams. Screams that came in waves like voices on a roller coaster. As we wandered down the pedestrian mall, the screams got louder and we could see a swarm of people - mostly teeny bopper girls. "It must be Jason Bieber" I murmered to Carly. Two seconds later, a guy behind us repeated the same thing.
It was however, after a couple of staring from standing on a bench and not recognizing anyone in the crowd, we asked the person next to us who said it was a group from X Factor. I remember watching X Factor in Melbourne and remembered that some of the contestants who didn't make it into the single finals were made into a boy band group by Ronan Keating.
They looked familiar after that, but still hadn't heard any of their songs and wondered how terrible it must be to have to work their way through this crowd of screaming, grasping girls in the sweaty heat of the day.