Sunday, October 29, 2006


Richard was gracious enough to take me to the airport at the ungodly hour of 5:30 AM for my 7 AM flight. In my semi-conscious state, I was questioning my travel planning abilities, but also very glad that I was flying in Australia where you can still show up to the airport with only an hour before your flight. Definitely a plus at this hour of the morning!

I arrived at the airport and realized the reason for the speediness. Nobody checked my ID. Not once. I got my boarding pass from an automated machine that got my name off of my credit card and then went straight through to my gate, pausing only a moment to zip through security, where they also did not check my boarding pass. Didn't even check to see if I was flying. Interesting. They did, however, pause to take my cuticle scissors, because that a clean manicure is definitely the sign of terrorist activity.

I slept the entire flight (which usually happens, no matter the hour) but had even surprised myself when I realized that I had already had a dream by the time we took off. Maybe the five hours of sleep was not the best decision I made last night!
I arrived in Brisbane a short two hours later, refreshed (save the slight crick in the neck, but what can you do) and found my way to the passenger pick up lane where a short time later I was met by my friend Aaron. Aaron is an ex-GAP employee who came to Denver on exchange a couple of years back and he has graciously volunteered to be my tour-guide and host for the weekend that I'm in town. (This is a very good thing!)

First order of business: breakfast. Apparently, Aaron is suffering from that syndrome that effects the newly single, and so he has come straight from his Friday night activities that ended on buddy's couch to pick me up. We head to Fortitude Valley, once red-light district of Brisbane (and still apparently a bit dodgy) that is making bold attempts at poshness. We find a cafe on James street with outdoor seating and settle in for some catching up. (Spoon Deli and Cafe - best French toast ever!)

In order to walk off some of our breakfast, we head down James street and pop into Mambo's (say ma'am-bows), an Australian surf brand that is coming into its own. There are loads of brightly-colored tshirts with kitschy Hawaiian prints and as much as I would love to buy one, the memory of sitting on my suitcases in order to zip them up last night is still too fresh.

Next stop (and second illegal parking job of the day) is Wickham Street, Chinatown and the Saturday morning Brunswick Street market. This market is not quite the fresh-food type that drives Melbourne, but more the upscale flea-market variety where you go to find tshirts, sun hats, and a new pair of sunglasses. Since we needed none of the above, it was a quick tour of the market and back to the car.

A twenty minute ride in the car along the river and up into the hills and we arrive at Mount Coot-tha (say couth-a), the lookout of the city where all tourists end up. The view was outstanding, if a tad hazy, but as Aaron had said at least three times so far today, Brisbane was definitely due some rain. Aaron pointed out the University of Queensland, the GAP offices, the river, and highlights of the CBD. We were definitely in need of something to drink, so over some ice tea, Aaron told tales of the GAP Brisbane office and why he made the move Coffey not so long ago.

Then began the recruitment speech. (I made the mistake of telling him that Melbourne would like to have me back.) Discussion of corporate politics over, we headed back downhill to his house where I sit in the lounge room with all the windows in the house open and a breeze flowing through the house while I put this together. I've acquired that dewy glow that you get in the heat and humidity, and it is definitely a nice change from the cold and rain I left in Melbourne this morning!

We spent the afternoon hours watching some classic Australian cinema, Wop Boy. OK, not exactly on par with The Castle, but some funny jokes anyway. After the movie, we realized that we forgot to eat lunch, so we headed out to the bakery down the road. (Insert small intermission where Aaron breaks back into his house after he realizes that he's left his keys inside.) Successfully at the bakery, we decide on meat pies. It's my first meat pie ever and Aaron assures me that they are the best with "mushy peas" and chocolate milk. OK, well, the meat, potato and peas isn't too much of a stretch, but chocolate milk? I was doubtful. Then, mid-swig, I realized the most important part of this equation is that chocolate milk is always good. Bring it on!

Once again looking for some activity after our meal, we headed to the riverfront to take a stroll along the... river. Brisbane is "The River City" of Australia and the Brisbane River winds through town and is the ultimate neighbourhood boundary. We walked through the arbour made of steel and bougainvillea to the Sweets Beach, a series of public swimming pools along the river.

Brisbane is protected from the ocean by a series of islands off the coast, but with protection comes mud. The city is built on a giant mud flat and most of the docks are constructed on dried out swamps. Construction in general is a bit of a challenge.

After a quick walk through the mostly-closed Crafts Village market, we headed to Kangaroo Point, which has a series of sandstone cliffs that have become a rock-climbers haven. We spy at least ten people hanging off the cliffs, and I'll bet that's only because the first 20 have already gone home.

We wind our way back through town and rest up for the night ahead. On the itinerary: Thai food with Aaron's friends and a Halloween/Salsa dancing party, both of which I was very curious about!

Thai dinner was at Rwan Thai, in the outer CBD. (Most of the CBD in Brisbane goes to sleep after the working day is done, so there's not much to do there at night.) We met up with Magda, Richard and Lydia (Aaron's friends from Coffey) and their friends Ann, Alan and ?, and Brendan, Kirsty and Heather (Aaron's friends from GAP). Brendan was at GAI Denver with me and he is here on exchange, so it was good to catch up with him and hear about all his experiences in the Brisbane office. (From his stories, I can tell you that I will not be moving for GAP Brisbane, no matter how nice the weather is!) Dinner was great, and I have to admit that I'm actually liking curry these days. I'm still weary of the yellow stuff though. Eww.

After dinner a few of us went to the West End of Brisbane to find the salsa Halloween party. We got there and it turns out that it is in the function room of this bar/casino and there were very few people actually dancing. This was discouraging since we had hoped to be lost in the crowd so our lack of salsa dancing skills would go unnoticed. We had a couple of drinks and played some pool in the bar outside (literally outside, the bar was a glorified tent- sounds crazy, but it worked) waiting for the crowd to get bigger. By midnight, the crowd hadn't gotten any bigger though, so we called it a night. I was not really heartbroken though since I wanted to get to bed so I could be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the beach tomorrow!

We wake up Sunday morning and after opting for peanut-butter rather than vegemite on my toast, we head south to the Gold Coast and the beach! My first lesson of the day came while Aaron was strapping the surfboard to the car (!) and I tried to help. Since I wasn't quite sure how he was strapping this on, I stepped back and he gently informed me that it was probably best since, "You never touch another man's straps." Apparently, they are a bit territorial about the tying-down of surfboards in this part of the world ("...other people I mean.") Right. OK then, I just sat in the car.

The Gold Coast is a major tourist destination for people looking for sun and surf and it has become flash and tacky (and yet wildly popular), kind of like a destination that is always on spring break. Aaron's local knowledge leads us to the town of Southport and the Spit, a long sand bar that separates the mainland (and the Broadwater River) from the ocean. The spit is home to Sea World, but further on, you will find only locals heading for a day in the sun. The river side of the spit is really calm, since it is protected from the waves, and that beach is riddled with small children. The sea-side of the spit is home to a giant sand pump, which is pretty much the ugliest thing ever for a beach, which is why locals are the only folks here.

The sand pump was built because developers, in their infinite wisdom, built a sea wall south of town in order to protect it. What they didn't realize (or maybe they did it anyway) was that sand for the beaches travels from south to north with the tides. They had just ruined the whole reason all the development was here in the first place. So, they installed this giant sand pump to suck out sand from the north end where the sand now "naturally" is replenished and they pump it back to the south to the beaches cut off by the sea wall.

We arrived at the beach and met up with Sandy and Karen and her two dogs. Soon later we were joined by Tim and Hua and their dog. Yep, dogs. Did I mention that? Since this beach has been deemed unacceptable by tourist standards, this is about the only place for 100k that people could have their dogs on the beach and off the leash. It was packed with dogs, tennis balls and Frisbees flying in all directions, and if there was a dog heaven, I'm pretty sure it's something like this.

Aaron deemed the surf too choppy for surfing, and I have to say I was OK with that. Not only was I not in the mood for humiliation with an audience, (once again, nobody else was doing it and I'd be the only novice providing a show) there were jelly fish being swept up on the beach. Call me silly, but swimming with jellies is not my cup of tea, "Aww, their sting doesn't hurt too bad." Right. Oh yeah, and the fact that there just might be sharks on this beach, "...but they won't come get ya unless you've got bait or something," was not exactly reassuring. Lesson number two for the day: only go swimming out in the surf when the tide is coming in since the visibility is better. When the tide goes out, it takes lots of sand and stuff with it, and you are more likely to get a nice debilitating shark bite just because they'd rather take a bite of something yucky and spit it out than let it swim by. AND, apparently, people aren't really killed due to becoming the shark's dinner all that often. Nope, it's that tester-bite that sharks take that make you bleed to death before you can get help. Reassuring.

After enjoying the sun and exhausting the dogs, we decided it was time for lunch. Aaron, Tim, Hua and I headed to Peter's Fish and Chips, a fresh fish shop that fries up the catch of the day by the net-load and sells it off seven days a week for seven bucks. The shop is half diner window and half fresh fish shop and you can choose from the filleted fish on ice from that day's catch or from the cheap stuff. I chose the cheap stuff since I wouldn't know the difference anyway. We carried our bags out to the picnic tables out front and dug in. It was the best fish and chips ever.
Note: This restaurant is right next door to the hotel Pallazo Versace, of Donatella fame. We were eating on a picnic table in full view of someone who paid up to $1200 a night to stay at Donatella's designer pad. I thought that was awesome.

Since the day was wearing on, we started the hour drive back to Brizzy. On the road, we saw a very nice beamer with a proper chauffeur (cap and everything) and I convinced Aaron to catch back up to it so I could see who it was. On our first pass, I made eye contact and everything and I couldn't figure out who it was. Not surprising, since I am in another country and I don't even know their super-important people, let alone their slightly important higher income bracket B-listers. On our second pass, I decided he looked familiar, and I decided that it was probably Matthew Perry. Since this is my story, I'm sticking to that.

After our afternoon siesta, we head back to the Valley for some jazz. But first, we get some authentic New York style pizza on Brunswick Street. Right next door is a gelato place that we decide we must have some while we meander our way to the concert. We settle on three flavors at once and find our way to the Zoo.

The Zoo is one of the most popular one-room music venues in Brisbane. Tonight we were watching Sunday night jazz, and all we knew was that there was supposed to be a big band involved. Turns out that it was the last public performance for three of the jazz groups from the Conservatory of Music from the University of Queensland. All three groups were great, and they had some outstanding "guest" vocalists.

Aaron and I were joined by yet some more GAP Brisbane folks (very social bunch out here!) and we had a good time trying to chat between sets. Since everybody had to work Monday, we called it a night after the concert, but it definitely would have been fun to hang out with this crowd some more.

Vocab of the Day

  • Servo Sunnies: sunglasses you buy from the gas station (service station = servo)

    Aaron was tempted to buy some servo sunnies when he forgot to bring his sunglasses on Saturday.

  • Budgie Smugglers: speedoes. Budgies are a small parrot-like bird native to Queensland. The smuggling part, well, you get the idea.

    Luckily when we went to the beach, we didn't see any budgie smugglers.

  • Tim Tam Slam: special way to eat cookies with your coffee. Tim Tams are a brand of Australian cookie, basically a chocolate sandwich with chocolate inside covered in chocolate. The slam is when you bite off the two ends of the cookie, suck your coffee through the cookie like a straw, and then pop it into your mouth before it disintegrates in your hands.

    Karen taught me the correct method for the Tim Tam slam while we chatted at the beach.

  • Ordinary: ordinary. OK, so this one is the same, but it is used as a (negative) judgement statement.

    When I told Aaron that the GAI Denver Christmas part will be in January this year, he said, "That’s rather ordinary isn't it?"

1 comment:

grahamanda said...

Wow what a novel. I read all of it too! I keep counting the days for you to be in the states. I hope your vacation is good and you are enjoying yourself.