Sunday, December 27, 2009

Day 66: white (hot) Christmas

Woke up happy. Christmas carols were blasting on the speakers in reception (most noticebly the Muppets singing "12 days of Christmas") and I could hear laughter & joyful chatter.

Threw on my green bikini, black skirt & pink tank top (closest I had to red), and joined Nick, his mum, and a Christmas mimosa waiting for me in the lobby. Everyone was in high spirits and "merry Christmas" rang through the hostel. It was extremely hot but the sunshine & blue sky only aided our cheerful moods as we cannonballed into the pool & noshed on Mel's homemade chocolate chip muffins. Dripping pool water all over the floor, I drew a special Christmas message on the chalkboard (pictured).

I opened the present AB & Ron got me - a CD of a blind aboriginal guitar player. Very intresting. Can't wait to give it a listen. Nicks parents gave me some Ferro Rocher chocolates, yum, and Nick, even though I told him not to give me anything, told me he's taking me shopping for a new years dress or a fun piece of jewlery. I got him a bottle of his favorite rum ("you cheeky sod; how'd you know!")

Nicks dad set up the spit & got the lamb ready. Laura, disturbed by the massive dead animal on a pole, told me she went down & talked to it. She said it was a little nervous about being eaten but it was resigned to its fate. She later sat next to me & enjoyed it, so I guess the lamb must've reassured her. :)

The guys took turns sitting in direct sunlight over a fire turning the lamb. The spit was set up next to the hammocks & they wore wide-brim sombreros & drank beer; if I hadn't known better, I'd have thought I was in Mexico!

In & out of the pool all day to stay cool, I even joined in on a few pool volleyball games. Besides not knowing the rules, I wasn't too bad! It was surprisingly fun.

Everyone was sitting around, swimming or lounging in the shade & drinking & socializing. Instead of the usual "boy music" (punk or hip hop or techno) playing at the bar, there was nice chill rasta, beachy music, setting a happy vibe over the patio.

Nicks mum made gravy & big salads - coleslaw, garden, and potato - and when Nick started carving the lamb, everyone got in line for our Christmas dinner. Mmm. The food was delicious but the ants were terrible. Oh well. After eating, everyone was full & semi-comatose. Daan fell asleep in a hammock - bad idea. Nicks dad held him down as the guys drew crude stuff all over his chest & back. Pretty funny.

I got to skype with teeter & chick & Todd, which was awesome. The quality wasn't great but it was so good to see them & hear their voices. It made me really homesick & I did shed a tear or two, but its not ok to cry on Christmas so I let my new friends cheer me up.

Lots of conversations, beers, volleyball games. The sun set. People started fire twirling. Nick, Nicko, Kate & I got back in the pool & played like 12 year olds, jumping in, jumping onto rafts, attacking each other (and innocents at picnic tables) with waterguns, toppling each other with games of chicken & underwater sneak attacks. SO freaking fun.

Eventually, I was the only one left in the pool; it was such a nice night, I just drifted from end to end smiling at the stars & humming along with Kings of Leon & Bloc Party & Jack Johnson on the stereo. In a pool at night on Christmas day. You just can't get much better than that.

Dried off, changed, and wandered down to watch Ian fire twirl & talk to Kate & Laura. Laura is maybe the most interesting person I've ever met; in her 26 years she's lived 30 lives. You'd never guess her past by looking at her & I can't relate to most of what she's been through but I'm so glad I can now call her a friend.

Nikki came giggling down the stairs & I immediately knew to ask: what have you done to Nick? He had fallen asleep on the staff room couch about 30 minutes before, with his computer (on facebook, apparently) in front of him. Nikki & Daan had uploaded an (ahem) adult film so it looked like he'd been up to no good. We all crowded around, giggling like idiots, waiting for him to wake up, which he did with a very surprised "what the..." and then, "you cheeky bastards!". So funny.

All in all, a really unusual but pretty fabulous Christmas. I hope you all had wonderful Christmases too, wherever you are; all my love to all of you! Xoxoxoxo!

Today I'm so happy & grateful for:
~ the Christmas spirit
~ skype
~ a beautiful day

Xo! n.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Day 65: Christmas Eve!

Stayed up late last night playng Kings (card game) with the boys. Woke up to heat & dehydration & the sad realization that its Christmas Eve & I'm about as far as humanly possible from my family.

Sat in sadness for a bit until there was a knock at the door - it was Nick in a Santa hat, telling me he was making bacon & egg sandwiches for everyone! Mmm. Just to further confuse my brain, I ate it outside in the sunshine, in my Santa hat, drinking coffee from a mug with the Easter bunny on it. :)

Nick had to distribute some Christmas cards & chocolate, and Ian, Nicko & I needed to go to the grocery store so we bummed a ride. In exchange, we had to put on the hostels t-shirts, Christmas hats, and sunglasses - we were the holiday brigade. At each stop, we had to run into the office we were giving the card to, sing "we wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you a merry Christmas from Backpackers By the Bay!" then give the gift & run ("go go go!!") back to the van, jump in, and speed off. At one point, Ian actually jumped in the van through the window! I was giggling the entire time.

After our secret mission was done, we zoomed over to the store & I got ingredients for peirogies. As most of you know, peirogies are a traditional
Polish food (I have Polish heritage) and I have eaten them every single Christmas eve of my life. Just because they don't exist in Australia doesn't mean I have to break the tradition. For the first time ever, I'm going to make them from scratch. Well, the filling at least; I am trying wonton wrappers for the dough.

Back to the hostel & I grabbed my ipod & went straight to the kitchen. Mixed the filling, sauted the onions, stuffed & pinched the dough, pan fried them in butter. If I do say so myself, they were just as good as Millie's - Gammie & Bopche would be proud.

Put out a plate of peirogies with bowls of sour cream and buttery onions & it was SWARMED by the hostel. You know you did good when people come back for seconds... and thirds... and fourths... And fifths... :) Ian swears he ate half of them. They were a huge hit & one bite made me feel like, ok, now it really is Christmas.

Cooking them really did make me feel homesick though. Thinking of family & friends far away, it was tough to hold back the tears. But Nick came over & gave me a big bear hug and everyones complements about the peirogies and just general friendship made me feel really loved.

As I was cooking, Laura & the boys were cutting up a Santa suit & making costumes for themselves. Nicko was dirty Santa, Daan was gay Santa, Taco was an elf & Ian was Rudolph. (Laura is pictured in her chrissy creation) Hilarious.

The people here are amazing. Totally nonjudgemental & just so loving & accepting. Everyone is so different & yet interested in learning about everyone else.

Laura & I caught a ride into town with Nick - a few times a day, the van goes to the bus station to pick people up. To Nick's great annoyance, we say in the van making fart noises, animal noises, making up songs. I don't know what came over us, I hadn't even been drinking & we probably scared people away, but it sure as hell was fun.

Got back, jumped in the pool for a bit & then into the shower; as uncomfortable as it may sound, Nicks parents had invited me for dinner & I wanted to look at least halfway decent. A few weeks ago, I'd bought a dress for Christmas, a little white strappy knee-length with a waistband bow - my roommates & I always dress up for holidays (and Sundays & Tuesdays & anydays... ;) ). Since I knew Christmas day would be a BBQ by the pool, I thought this'd be my only chance to wear it, but I was torn bc I thought I'd probably be overdressed. I tried it on for Nikki & she insisted I wear it. Ian, who just happened to be at reception when I rocked up, said, with slack jaw, "you look really lovely." So I wore it.

Nick came by to pick me up from my room wearing jorts (yes ladies, infamous jorts) and a tee, and I said, oh crap, I'm overdressed. He said no, he'd be showering & changing at the house, and I looked really lovely. (actually I think "stunning" was the word he used, but who's keeping track...). So we went up to the house & his mom was in a tee & shorts & I thought, oh crap, I'm overdressed. But hid my embarrassment & said my hellos & thank yous & accepted a glass of wine (white, so as not to stain the dress), & had actually a very nice conversation with his parents as Nick did, indeed, shower and dress, showing everyone up as he appeared back downstairs in a shirt & tie. Well, I'll be, guess I'm not so overdressed after all.

Very very nice dinner. His two grandmothers were visiting; one of them is hard of hearing & not fully with us, and the other just wants to tell stories & was grateful to me as a captive audience. Apparently, Nicks parents were signaling "save her! Occupy Gram!" but I really didn't mind. Her stories were interesting & she seemed so happy telling them; it must be tough having things to say & no one to say them to.

The food was delicious, his parents cracked me up again. He gets really embarrassed by them but I think they're so full of life & funny - true, they don't have much censor but it makes things interesting.

We watched a Christmas special on TV & they took pictures of Nick & I in front of the Christmas tree (which isn't an evergreen, its a sprawling houseplant with baubles & lights) while his mom acted as makeup lady, dabbing our faces with a napkin bc we were "shiny." I'm laughing in every shot.

After, we retreated down to the hostel party & Nick & I had a major miscommunication. He gets really chuffed about his family & apparently most people that meet them think they're insane (they are, but in a good way), and he expected me to run screaming. But since I actually quite enjoyed myself, we had to talk through that discrepancy. It all ended well & overall, despite being far from home, it was a good Christmas Eve.

Today I'm so happy & grateful for:
~ an adoptive "family"
~ making peirogies
~ silliness

Xo! n.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Days 64, 65, 66: the Christmas season... sort of

December 21-23

How did it get to be the day before Christmas Eve already???  It's dangerous how relaxed I am here; it's like nothing really matters but this very minute, this very moment.  Which, really, is quite a profound truth.

If you wanna get all deep n stuff.  :)

More sunshine, more pool, more parties.  Went out on a trimaran sailboat with Nick, Nicko, Laura & Ian (Irish) - it was the OzSail Christmas party & because they love Nick (everyone in Airlie seems to), they let him invite some friends.  And because it was Laura's birthday the next day, it was her birthday surprise.  And the first time she's been on a boat in the Whitsundays, even though shes been here for two months!  We had so much fun - the boat was beautiful, the people were nice, the sunset was gorgeous.

Went out for Sarah's (German) last night in town - she's worked here for a few months so everyone was sad to see her go.  Danced the robot with Chris some more; we've about got a routine perfected.  Free pitchers of beer & cider.  I didn't stay out super late though.

Took a convertible ride into town the next day for Christmas shopping & a nice brunch for Laura's birthday.  As we whizzed past the amazingly turquoise ocean, white sails a crisp contrast to deep blues & greens, I lifted my arms & danced my fingers in the wind and smiled, smiled, smiled to myself.

Nick & I slow danced in the mall hallway, our group debated taking pictures with Santa, and got free potato peelers (Ian was SO excited about the potato peelers).  Big full Aussie brekkie with an iced coffee and I felt like I would explode.  Wandered around Big W (Aussie version of Walmart) being silly.  Nick bought the hostel a pressie - Australian monopoly, where the game pieces are a koala, quantas jet, thongs (flip-flops), vegemite, etc.

Of course we had to play it when we got back.  Of course the game took 3 hours.

At one point I owned the Great Barrier Reef!  I was in the final 3 players - in fact it was Nick, Nikki & Nicko, haha.  Ben had dressed for the occassion - arriving to the game in the closest he had to a business suit, thinking it'd make him a better player, getting into the mindset - but he was the first person out!  Nick won.

Gave Laura her presents from all of us - she was sooo soo happy & grateful.  Impressed that I'd noticed she'd said her favorite lolly was jelly belly jelly beans.  :)  We all got chinese food and I was so excited because they had Thai cocount chicken soup!!  And oh I was devouring it, burning my throat, so yummy; about halfway through I lifted a spoonful to my mouth, looked down & noticed ...legs.  A FLY was in my soup.  VOMIT.  I know, I know, dad -- protein, haha.  But no, I had to throw the rest away.

Enjoyed our outdoor movies, got mozzie bites, slept in.  Got pictures from Teeter & Chick of their redneck Christmas party & THAT made me homesick.  Y'all looked awesome!  Searched all over for frozen peirogies but nowhere seems to carry them!  Oh NO.  Looked up a recepie that uses potsticker wraps instead of having to make the dough, and I'm going to try to get all the ingredients tomorrow morning.  I will cry, I promise you, if I don't have peirogies on Christmas Eve.  Even though it doesn't feel like Christmas Eve.

I do have pictures for this entry, but my phone's not getting reception right now so I'll have to add them later.  sorry!

Today I am so happy & grateful for:
~ free sailing trips
~ music & laughter at the outdoor bar
~ Daan letting my upload my pictures onto his computer
~ lovely new friends

xo! n.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Days 59, 60, 61, 62, 63: island living

Dec. 16-20

All the days flow into each other in endless sunshine and humid heat. The last week feels like a month.

I've made friends; Nick said this morning that I'm pretty much one of the guys now. Which is a bit weird since he calls me his girl... :)

Everyday I sleep in, jump in the pool, lounge in the sun, read, write. Maybe I shower. Maybe I stink & wear no makeup & don't care one bit. I don't wear shoes. I have grocery store feet and my hair is constantly in a messy bun bc its too hot to wear it down.

I've acquired a nickname: la la - bc I'm from la la land, yes, but mostly bc there are too many nicks & nikkis & its just too confusing. In fact, the other Nikki came up with it.

The boys & I have been helping Nick repair his house because his last tenants trashed it - holes in the wall, mold in the freezer, burn marks on the porch - seriously trashed. He's so grateful to me for helping but I really don't mind; when every day is a holiday, its kind of nice to have something productive to do. Besides, its fun hanging out with the boys - loud music, beer, paint fights, whistling at the girls that pass (well, they whistle, I just laugh at them getting ignored).

Nick knows everyone in this town; we get free drinks everywhere we go. For Dans birthday, we went out in togas - well, the boys did; I was the only girl who was willing to wear one (besides one girl who didn't speak much English & I don't think she understood what was going on), so we agreed girls would just dress up. It was so fun - kareoke, dancing - we were out til 5am.

The other night Nick DJ'd at a club & everyone went out. Kasha (Polish) & I opened up the dance floor, were soon joined by Ashley (Irish), Katie (Australian), and a bunch of randoms. By the end of the night, even the boys were dancing - Chris (Australian) & I were rocking the robot. I danced for hours. Got in trouble for going into the DJ booth & for not wearing shoes. Don't care. It was super fun.

Nicko (UK) & I made a big ham dinner for 7 of us the other night - leg of smoked ham, rosemary potatoes, carrots & snow peas & gravy. So good.

I was invited to the hostel staff Christmas dinner at Nicks parents house - sooo delicious. His mom made prawn salad, a lamb roast with veggies, & mini pavlovas with whipped cream & fresh berries. Everyone got the piss taken out of them, but Taco (Dutch, and yes that's his real name) & Nikki (UK) got it worst. It was funny though & they were good sports. His parents are hilarious - I guess you need a certain sort of personality to run a backpackers.

I've decided to stay for Christmas & probably thru January. If it wasn't for the fact that I don't want to majorly inconvenience teeter & chick, I would probably stay a full year. I wanted to stay in Perth & now I want to stay here even more. I know I could work some service industry job in Airlie Beach & I'm pretty sure I would be able to get theater jobs around the country... Partially I think its do-able, and partially I think it (and my daily life right now) is all just a wild fantasy.

Sigh. Yawn. Stretch. Smile.

These days I'm so happy & grateful for:
~ the luxury of laziness
~ pool
~ sun (& sunscreen)
~ good food
~ fun people

Xo! n.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Day 58: a day straight out of chick lit

Slept. In. Oh how I needed it. Stumbled out of bed just in time to see Nick leaving for a conference on one of the islands. Because I hadn't thought to book anything yesterday, he suggested I take a ferry to Long Island for the day.
Talked to Nikki at the front desk (I just add to the cacophany of "nik" names around here) and she told me where & when to catch the ferry; I packed a bag & walked down.

Weeeell, turns out I walked 20 mins in the sun to the wrong marina. No boats there went to Long Island at noon. Oops. But the next boat leaving went to Daydream Island so I bought a ticket for that.

Texted Nick, what is there to do on Daydream? And got a text back, well there's an activities desk in the hotel we're in...


Shock! Embarrassment! Did I just inadvertently follow him? Am I the accidental stalker?

I don't remember him saying Daydream but then again, why would it stick out, I don't know one island from another. My cheeks flushed red & hot as the boat pulled up to the Island.

He wrote back, was cool about it, thought it was funny, believed me that it was an accident, but also, apparently, told everyone at the conference my blunder. I wanted to hide.

I told him to pretend I wasn't there & he suggested we catch the same ferry back & he'd find me when he was done. Ok. Embarrassment over. Time to get on with my day.

I got as far away from the resort as possible.

Problem is, its a small, resort-based island. So the other side really isn't much. Some mini-golf (not fun alone), a bar (too early & too alone), and a watersports shop - there's an idea. Asked the guy about snorkeling & he told me the best place to go is lovers cove... right near the resort. Of course. Sigh.

Resigned myself to a possibly embarrasing walk & decided to get an ice cream to bolster my spirits. Checked out my map & decided to take the rainforest walk over; it looked like it steered clear of the resort buildings.

Ice cream in hand, walking up the stairs to the rainforest walkway, I thought I heard my phone chirp. Dug it out of my bag & wha?? I had a missed call from Nick. Wonder why he call-- oh and a text, saying, "sorry I can't take a call now. Are you ok? Text me if its important & I'll call you."

Horror! My phone called him on its own! Now I really do look like clingy crazy stalker lady!

Beet red & mumbling out loud to myself (yeah, like that helps me look not crazy), I texted back explaining what had happened & said, I will seriously stop bugging you now. He said he didn't mind, but the knotted embarrasment in my gut still remained.

With a deep breath, I entered the rainforest, determined to make the best of this already excruciating day. Trees? Nice. View? Gorgeous. Hiking felt good. I started to unwind. It wasn't the most interesting rainforest, but I was the only person on the trail & it was calming.

Enjoying the sounds of birds & bugs, I rounded the corner and -- dead end. Dead end INTO the resort. Are you kidding me?? I had two options, either go to the left past the conference rooms down what looks like it might be a path, or to the right, directly into the lobby of the hotel. I dallied at the edge of the forest, nerves burning hot in my gut, thinking, why are you being 16!!? No one is looking out the window! (turns out I was wrong, but we'll get to that later)

I gathered myself & quickly but (hopefully) nonchalantly walked out of the trees & past the conference rooms of the resort, stupidly nervous & self-concious. I followed what actually was a path (phew), down some stairs, & stumbled across a completely deserted beach. The signs told me it was lovers cove, and it was all set up for tourists with comfy wicker lounges, umbrellas, and fire torches to be lit at night, but there wasn't a soul there. I pulled a lounge into the sun & felt like some sneaky castaway, like if I got caught here, I'd get thrown out.

Looking around at the tall cliffs & trees around the cove, I finally felt comfortable that I wouldn't be spotted. Relaxed.

As I cooked, I debated getting into the water; snorklings not that dangerous, but you're supposed to do it with a buddy, definitely not when you're the only human in a very secluded private cove. Besides, I didn't know where to find a snorkel shop. So I just blogged. :)

After about an hour, a few snorkelers showed up, some parents with kids, but it was still pretty calm & quiet. I debated snorkeling again, and almost got up to ask where the rental shop was, but then a wallaby jumped onto the beach! And then two more! They were so adorable, little & grey, and though definitely wild, they weren't shy around humans. I watched them for a while.

Nick texted me the conference was done & asking where I was; everyone wanted to meet me. Oh great, I thought, they want to meet the girl they've been having a laugh about all day. The embarrassment flooded back. I texted back with my location but, worried that in a few minutes there'd be a large group of well-dressed business people charging down the stairs to the beach, pointing & laughing, said, can I meet you somewhere?

Waiting. Trying to pretend that I'm not waiting.

I felt the reverberations of footsteps on the boardwalk, looked over and it was Nick - solo, phew! - looking handsome in a blue shirt with a little Christmas ribbon hanging from the buttonhole. He didn't think I was a crazy stalker, just maybe a bit of a nerd, and he told me that the conference guys described seeing a "hot girl in a straw hat" leave the forest & walk down to the beach earlier. The hot girl part, not so much - I looked like a bum! - but the straw hat part - busted. So I wasn't being stupidly 16, I WAS being watched! Aack!

He said because of my mistake, he'd told everyone about me & they were dying to meet me. I'm sure they were. Dying with laughter. He said his mom & dad were insisting he bring me up for a glass of wine. Wait, what? Mom and dad? Oh balls.

Now before you get ahead of yourselves, his parents own the hostel I'm staying at & live there, so its pretty inevitable that I'd meet them at some point; this wasn't some "relationship-y meet the parents" kind of thing. Still, the idea didn't appeal to me too much. I was dressed like a beach bum tourist & feeling like an idiot.

Nick reassured me that I shouldn't take anything his parents say too seriously; they like to take the piss & they're pretty wine-tipsy besides. Which, actually, wasn't reassuring at all. But, I put on my grungy shorts & tank top over my sweaty bathing suit and put on my best optimistic smile, suddenly reminded of the fact that this is my holiday & if I'm embarrassed to death, it really doesn't matter; I can catch the next bus out. But hopefully it wouldn't come to that.

Walked up to the conference room & felt all eyes on us, but trying to be discreet. Evidence of a fun, expensive lunch - discarded plates, empty wine bottles, a waiter refilling half-full glasses. Tipsy-happy adults turned their bright eyes toward me in mirth, not mocking. Introductions. Compared bruises with his mom, who'd recently fallen off her bike; I have no excuse, I'm just a peach. Talked for a long time to his dad about, well, everything. It was a nice conversation. The consencus was, and I heard this because they'd had a bit to drink & weren't being subtle, "she's lovely Nick; don't eff this up". He exceeded me in embarrassed redness of face.

Later when Nick stepped away for a minute, his dad took me into the other room and introduced me as his possible future daughter in law - oh my God. I think he did it just to see the look on my face. Shock? Most definitely. Embarrased laughter, shaking of head & flooding of face with hot bright blood? Yup. (by the way, Nick was mortified when he found out & has not stopped giving his dad a hard time about it since)

I can tell they're a family that likes to joke on each other and I'm not taking it seriously. It was actually quite fun being around them.

We finally escaped the well-intentioned torture chamber & tried to leave the island but just missed the ferry by about a minute. Wandered the resort & saw the only natural coral reef in a resort in the world & the only lemon shark born in captivity, Bruce. Yes, teeter, I took a picture for you. Saw an anenome fold up into itself for the night, with one little Nemo clownfish holding guard outside.

We still had a bunch of time to kill & our only real option, apart from sitting in the sun for half an hour, was to go back upstairs, where his dad and their family friends told me funny embarrassing stories of him as a kid. It was his turn to feel like a nerd.

Finally caught the ferry back, changed & went out for a nice dinner. We'd planned it yesterday but I felt like it ended up being a bit of an "I'm sorry" for the days trials. Great conversation; he's had an interesting life. Great food, his treat. Very nice evening in all.

Took a walk down by the water & then went back up & hung out with everyone at the hostel.

Today I'm so happy & grateful for:
~ my discomfort = a good story
~ sense of humor
~ hanging with wallabys on a private beach
~ a nice dinner

Xo! n.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Day 56 pt 2 & day 57: no worries mate

We said our goodbyes at the harbor & went back to the hostel, where Nick & the guys were eager to hear about the trip. We got hi-fives for spotting sharks! We showered (for the first time in 4 days!!), dressed nicely & walked down to a bar to meet up with some people from the boat.

At first we thought we'd been stood up bc we didn't recognise anyone there, but Aussie Craig walked in as we were eating (late!) and we spotted Scottish Craig at another table - we just hadn't seen each other. No one else from the boat ended up coming but no matter. A couple pitchers of beer later, Nick & Daan & some others from the hostel showed up, and we ran into the helpful Welsch guy from the bus station! Small beach town.

Walked down to another bar where there was live music. Free drinks were poured, T & I were spun around the dance floor wildly, Daan stole my camera & documented the night quite well - basically, caos & tomfoolery ensued. I felt like the typical 18 year old backpacker, not my older, more responsible self. And it was fantastic.

We all made it back to the hostel safely, though not much sleep was had. Almost (it felt like) as soon as I'd dozed off, T woke up with a "F@*#!!!" - she was supposed to catch an early morning bus to the early ferry to the island airport for her plane & she'd forgotten. Whoops. Luckily that flight was just to get her to Cairns & wasn't connected to her flight home, so she sorted out a greyhound instead.

By that point, we were both awake, so I walked her down to the bus station, stopping for brekkie in the park & looking at the hilarious pictures from the night before. We wandered through the markets down at the waterfront & then I sat with her til the bus came. Sad goodbye.

She told me to stay here as long as I can; this place has gotten into us both. Believe me, as much as I miss you all, I'm having a hard time convincing myself to go home.

Trudged back up to the hostel & felt really alone without T. Got in the pool for a little bit & then took my book over to the hammocks, read for a while & then fell asleep. You just can't beat a nap in a hammock.

Woke up, changed, met up with Nick, Nicko (UK), Daan & the boys who were just hanging out by the pool. Some people started playing monopoly, Nick got out his guitar & started playing, and I laid on a bench with my head on his knee & stared up at a palm tree.

Nicks my unofficial "holiday boyfriend". We will sit & talk for hours at a time and everyone makes fun of us, suggesting rude things, but they're just being silly & I don't care. He's a good guy & I enjoy hanging out with him.

The day passed uneventfully. Sat by the pool, relaxed, ate pizza. The nightly movie was some footballer/prison thing so Nick & I sat in a hammock and talked, under palms, swayed by the night breeze. Seriously, this is the life.

Everyone was going out but I NEEDED sleep so I went to bed at 10. Best idea ever.

Today I'm so happy & grateful for:
~ parties worth not sleeping for
~ hammocks
~ no worries

Xo! n.

Day 55 & day 56 pt 1: "I'm on a boat!"

December 12 & 13 I spent living on a sailboat. I had no phone reception & I didn't want any. I didn't pick up my phone or think about blogging once. I'm sorry dear readers, but that's the truth. If you found yourself on a fast, sleek sailboat in the Whitsunday islands off the coast of Australia, you'd feel the same way.

We sailed on The Hammer, an award-winning racing sailboat in its day. It was a friendly & efficient 3 person crew to 22 travelers squeezed on board. I thought it'd be cramped but everyone was cool so it really wasn't. T & I had to share a bed but we actually got lucky bc it ended up right under a hatch so we got a breeze while the rest of the boat was hot.

I can't even describe how beautiful the Whitsundays are. Someday, I'd like to charter a boat & sail all the islands. Water in varying shades of brilliant blue, deep green islands, and maybe one other boat in sight every couple hours. Truly paradise.

I dove with T & a kiwi guy, I think it was luncheon bay; it was beautiful. Visibility wasn't as good as my last dive and I kinda freaked out bc I kept getting really close to the coral & thought I was going to kill it, but I'm getting really good at controlling my bouyancy and once I relaxed it was pretty nice.

Snorkeled a bunch. The first snorkel was actually better than my dive because the visibility was better - the colors underwater are just stunning. The second snorkel wasn't as good; large patches of coral were covered in algae, which, we learned from the marine biologist the other day, indicates its very sick. It made me sad; I felt like I was swimming over a graveyard. But then again, the fish were chowing down on the algae, so maybe its just the circle of life.

On both snorkels, I stayed out as long as I could & when the dingy made its last trip out to collect us (bc the boat can't get too near the coral), T & I opted to swim back. It is just so amazing out there.

We put up the sails - we all had to help, makes me really wish I'd paid attention when I went sailing as a kid - and let the wind power us three times. Feeling the boat tack, almost vertical in the water & sitting with my legs over the rail catching spray made me feel five years old & giddy. God, its such an amazing feeling to have the wind in your hair, the waves at your feet, and just flying, skimming the water that gleams & shines like so many diamonds beneath you. And, of course, with that huge Australian sky, comforting in its neverendingness, domed overhead.

They actually fed us really well on the boat and since we did our dive the first day, that night T & I were able to drink & be social with everyone. After a brilliant sunset, we were transfixed by the night sky & lost track of shooting stars. We had such a fun time, especially with Canadians Amy & Lauren and Scottish Craig - we all had goon bags (Craig was drinking his from a water bottle) and talked about everything from Halloween costumes to books to why for a guy being "cute" is better than "hot". We decided we'd all buy a boat together, call it "The Shimmering" (long story, you don't want to know) and sail the reef for the rest of our lives. We were the last to bed & we didn't stop laughing the whole time. The boat rocked me to sleep & I slept soundly.

On our second day, we went to whitehaven beach, which was full of backpackers from boat tours but still empty by California standards. Incredibly beautiful place.

We hiked to the crowded lookout & then down to the beach where, even though the clear water was calling us, we couldn't get in without our stinger suits. There are two deadly jellyfish in the Whitsundays this time of year & I wasn't willing to risk it. So we all looked a bit dorky in our lycra suits, but it didn't detract one bit from the day.

T & I sunned for a while then donned the suits & headed into the water with Craig. At waist-high, we could still see the bottom and as we were walking we noticed there were stingrays everywhere! They were beautiful but I got so paranoid I was going to step on one! I may or may not have shrieked once or twice.

As we got closer to the sandbar in the middle of the crystal water, I saw something swimming away and realized it was a shark! We looked closer & saw that there were SIX sharks swimming around in a little group! They were little ones, about 2 or 3 feet long, maybe sand or reef sharks(?) and not scary at all. They seemed completely uninterested in us; I tried to get a little closer for a picture but they swam away. So so cool.

We sat on the sandbar in the shallows & marvelled at how beautiful everything was. This place is actually real & we're actually here!

I'd brought my springy Santa hat & everyone at the beach wanted to take pictures in it. It took a trip of international heads: France, Finland, Canada, Germany, Slovenia, UK, etc, etc. I was spreading Christmas cheer.

This place really makes me want to stay in Australia. To work on a boat or work at the beach & take weekend trips to the islands. This is the life.

On our last sail, we put the big multicolored racing sail up & just flew. It was sad to be headed into the harbor & I could've stayed longer but 2 days was, surprisingly, enough time.

Today I'm so grateful & happy for:
~ a beautiful boat in the beautiful lislands
~ deciding to take the boat with T & not split up
~ no seasickness
~ seeing the reef
~ my ability to swim

Xo! n.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Day 54: the longest day

(December 11)

Eleven hours on a Greyhound bus. Dozed on & off but no real sleep. Cracked my eyelids at sunrise & thought, I should take a picture, but I couldn't stay awake. People got on & off, lights went on & off, voices faded in & out. My knees hurt bc my feet didn't touch the floor.

We stopped in some nowhere town & T and I went in search of coffee & chocolate. The chocolate melted instantly in the 9am sun. Back to the bus.

Finally arrived in Airlie Beach at 11:30am & we were shattered. We stumbled off the bus & looked around, preparing to lug our heavy bags around town to find a hostel, but -lucky! - there were vans from 2 hostels waiting at the bus stop for tired travellers like us. We chose Backpackers By the Bay (highly recommended - its beautiful) & were thankfully whisked away.

Settled in, did a load of laundry - wet mildewy bathers & towels - considered a nap but it was just too gorgeous, new & exciting to sleep the day away.

Instead of a shower, we opted for a jump in the pool - I can't tell you how nice it felt. Slowly, the pool started to gather a crowd & we started making friends. Guys from the UK, yet another Daan from Holland (yes girls, more dutchies!), a polish girl, and heaps of aussies including Nick, whose family owns & he runs the hostel. Everyone was talking, playing pool games, there was music on & the bar was open. It was so fun. We all ordered pizzas & played card games, Nick & I had a good talk about music & LA, dutchie Martin stole my camera (got some funny pictures), and it was one of those perfect lazy afternoons. With everyone swimming, laughing, drinking, it felt like a 4th of july party, except there were no fireworks at sunset & its almost Christmas. Weird.

Later that night, they set up deck chairs around the pool & projected the movie "Pineapple Express" onto a screen, so we all sat around & watched it, laughing. Then more drinks & chatting, and I stayed up way, way too late. But who needs sleep anyway? It was fun.

Today I am so happy & grateful for:
~ stumbling onto a great hostel
~ pool parties in December
~ a beautiful place & really cool people

Xo! n.

Day 53: the Great Barrier Reef, yall!

(December 10)

T & I woke up early to go on a day trip out to the Great Barrier Reef. We were supposed to be downstairs to put our bags in storage at 7:15 & catch the bus to the boat at 7:20. BUT the bus was 10mins early, the front desk of the hostel was 10mins late & the bus driver wouldn't wait. The jerk left without us! We had to leave our bags in the lobby, book it, in the heat & humidity (yes, even that early) by foot, all the way down to the wharf -normally a 20min walk - and got there JUST in time. Sweaty & starving & exhausted, we collapsed into cabin seats & found out from the other passengers that the bus driver was early for everyone, rude to everyone, & had actually had a change of heart & turned around to go back for us but we'd already left. Yikes.
We caught our breath, said our gratitudes for having caught the boat, & immediately things got heaps better. It was SUCH a perfect day.

There weren't many passengers, the crew was friendly & funny, and they fed us breakfast, lunch & wine & cheese. The day was overcast but it didn't matter - we were diving!

I was one of only 3 certified divers on the boat & the only one that made it through the whole dive! One guy got too low on air & the other guy just wussed out & wanted a boat lift back. So the last 15 mins of my dive, it was just me & the instructor & it was great. I also got to dive without a wetsuit, which was so fun.

The visibility was really good & even down 50 feet, the colors were brilliant. We swam over shelves of coral & down into valleys, through fissures, and actually got to touch down & feel the sandy bottom! Every other time I've dived, I've had to wear a wetsuit & gloves, so picking up a handful of reef sand was really amazing.

After that dive, we had lunch & talked to a really cool single mom from Canada who gave herself a holiday as soon as her youngest turned 18. We all signed up for a second dive (they had done the intro dive), but changed our minds when we heard we could go on a guided snorkel with a marine biologist! Yes, we're nerds.

It was a good choice. We learned so much about the reef, saw a sea turtle & a deadly fish, and got to touch a sea cucumber, pineapple sea cucumber, and the inside of a giant (and I do mean GIANT) clam - felt like velvet!! It was a really cool experience & since only 5 people signed up, it lasted longer than the scuba dive!

I got tons of (if I do say so myself) beautiful pictures - just not on my phone. I can't wait to upload & share them with yall!

If you are ever in Cairns, do the Reef Experience; its a great value for the money & so much fun. I'd do it again.

Enjoyed the wine & cheese on the way back, talked & looked at pictures. Got back to the hostel & had 7 hours to kill before we had to catch a greyhound to Airlie Beach. Yikes. Retrieved our luggage & the hostel manager was kind enough to let us take showers even though we didn't have a room for the night. It was so hot that as soon as we were clean, we were sweating again. Ugh. Got caught up in a conversation with a super nice guy from Israel who's been traveling for a year & has a ton of interesting stories. We talked for while, until our hunger got the best of us.

Walked down to get some dinner & stumbled across a $9.50 dinner & a drink deal so a place with live music! (T is pictured with the musician behind her) It was nice & cool, the music was good, the food was decent, and both of us, at the same time breathed out a contented, "what a perfect day."

If only it'd ended there.

Went back to the hostel, sat on the couch and read. For 3 hours. Tried hard to not fall asleep. T didn't succeed.

At 11pm, we gathered up our heavy-as-hades backpacks & bags onto our exhausted bodies, and stepped out into the thick night air to immediately begin sweating again. We kept ourselves from cursing by playing the "it could be worse" game - it could be raining, the bottoms of our feet could be sunburned... Etc. It was possibly the longest walk I've ever made, to that bus station.

Finally got there & couldn't find the dang correct bus bay! Luckily there was a really nice Welsch guy waiting for the same bus & he knew where to go. And wouldn't you know it, as soon as we got there it started pouring. It could be worse...

The bus driver was in a terrible snippy mood but we finally boarded the packed bus & settled in for, well, hopefully a couple hours of sleep...?

Today I'm so grateful & happy for:
~ scuba diving!!
~ seeing the Great Barrier Reef - the only collection of living organisms that can be seen from space.
~ catching the boat, catching the bus
~ the kindness of strangers
~ having a travel buddy in all this madness

Xo! n.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Losing track of the days

I'm so behind! We've been busy & on a boat for two days without reception & I realize I owe you 4 days posts - they're coming. Don't worry, I'm healthy (and tan); I haven't fallen overboard. You'll be hearing from me soon...

Xo! n.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Day 52: one green island & the bluest of blues

T & I got up, went downstairs to sort out our travel, and ended up booked on a 10:30 boat to a rainforest reef island.

Ran through the mall to get cheap tennies for me (can't hike in flip-flops!) and sunnies for her, then speedwalked the streets to the harbor & made it just in time to catch the boat. Whirlwind morning.

In leiu of breakfast, the ship had free coffee & cookies... I ate eight (they were one inch diameter & I am terrible without food, don't judge!), then went out on deck to watch Green Island approach.

The ocean is bordered by misty mountians and is so many blues - "shades that aren't in the crayon box" as T said. Green Island is tiny & completely covered by rainforest. And there's almost no one there!

We disembarked, shopped the dive shop (T is a bad influence! But I didn't buy anthing), claimed our included snorkel gear & rented stinger suits, then headed into that clear water.

By the way, there is nothing less flattering than a stinger suit. Head to toe & mittened fingers of bright blue lycra, hugging every curve & bulge. With our masks on, we looked like hilarious smurf aliens. But so did everyone else. :)

Submurge. The world dissapears. Slowly, the movement of aquatic life comes into focus, colors seem muted but then sharpen, & all you can hear is your own breathing: in, out, in, out.

A flat fish, expert in camoflauge, distinguishes itself from the sand with the wave of a fin. Bright red & purple crabs regard passersby coolly from tunneled holes. A school of big silver fish scurry past & a school of little rainbow fish play recess games in bits of coral. Jellyfish billow by & you're glad you opted for the stinger suit. Green grasses and brown seaweed wave with the current as tiny fish dart through their tendrils. Small plants that look like monochromatic flowers or looped ribbon open & close. A giant silver fish dips its mouth to the sand to eat & turns an unblinking eye your way. Striped fish and green fish and fish with yellow spots; its like a Dr. Suess creation. Two multicolored fish strut & shine for you, swimming right up to your goggles, spitting rocks & darting all around you like an interactive circus - until one nips your ankle & you realize they weren't being friendly...

I took lots of pictures & video (my new underwater camera is awesome!!) and we snorkled for about 2.5 hours. Warmed up on the beach & then explored the rainforest. Its a small island & the walking trail isn't very long, but it takes you to some secluded beaches that I almost wish we'd seen before we returned our scuba gear.

We sat & enjoyed the view for a while. Watched a lazy turtle gliding in the shallows. It was quiet but for bird calls, insects buzzing and waves. Paradise.

Just before we had to go back, we tried to get lunch but the restaurant was closed. We settled for a piece of banana bread & a daquiri, saw 3 more turtles as we boarded the boat, then watched the island retreat into the horizon as if the whole day had been a dream.

Walked back to the hostel, picked up sushi, had a whole travel debacle (don't need details but I just want to put it out there: someday, I'd like someone to just take care of booking all my travel for me. And pay for it), got the next weeks plans sorted, showered, ate our sushi on the floor, packed for tomorrow, listened to music from the party hostel next door (and some inappropriate sounds from the room next door), ate mangoes T found fallen from a tree - delish! - and fell into bed exhausted from a full day.

Today I'm so happy & grateful for:
~ my first view of the Great Barrier Reef!
~ having a travel buddy
~ beautiful places

Xo! n.

Day 51: goodbye Perth, hello Queensland

My alarm went off way too early this morning & I realized I'd been having crazy, sit-up-in-bed-&-think-its-real dreams, so I really didn't sleep well. At least I'll be on a plane all day so maybe I can snooze.

AB drove me to the airport. Neither of us can believe I'm already leaving; despite my time in Perth being full-on & packed with stuff, it feels like I only just got here. I'm so SO glad I came; I can't thank you enough, Ron & Amanda, for everything. I really love you guys & I'm really going to miss you. I can't wait to stand up there as a bridesmaid & cheers to you getting hitched! :)

Apparently, here, you can go all the way to the gate at the airport even if you're not a ticketed passenger. So AB came in with me & we sat & had a coffee together & talked for about an hour. It was really nice. When we hugged goodbye, aint gonna lie, I teared up. But she's coming to LA in January, so I'll see her in a month! No need to be sad.

Two mostly empty flights traversing the country. I had a row to myself both times, and I got two full meals as well. I nodded off for a little bit, but not for long. Wrote a lot in my journal to pin down all the stuff that's been rattling around in my brain. Stared out the window at the red earth, white clouds, blue sky. As we flew through the red center, I felt a strong affinity for it. It gets to you, this land - the richness of its colors, the starkness of its landscape & how much it changes as you cross the country. I don't feel like I have enough time here.

Landing in Cairns & Oh. My. God. This place is BEAUTIFUL. Its what I pictured Fiji would look like (which I realize makes sense given geography), all rolling green hills & distant shrouded mountains bordering patchwork farmland, golden rays of sun breaking through cotton clouds to illuminate points of spectacularly blue ocean. And I expected it to just be an beachfront city!

Driving to the hostel, the suburbs remind me of Charleston - palm trees & tin roofs, hurricane shutters on houses built up on stilts. Oh be still my heart.

I'm meeting my friend T here (she arrived yesterday); I haven't seen her in years so I'm not sure what to expect...

The moment I walked into the hostel, T was entering the lobby - we saw each other at the same moment, huge smiles, huge hug. We fell into step immediately.

After dropping my bags in the room & a quick catch-up, we headed out so I could get a feel for the city & some dinner. Wandered down to the water - mud flats (again, like Charleston!) - passing by big hotels, little shops, crazy multi-trunk trees, and lazy music from buskers on the corners.

We stopped into some travel centers for brochures on the rainforest, reef & islands, and then sat down for dinner with the glossy pages spread out before us in all their infinite possibility. Overwhelming. It took us a couple hours, but we finally came up with 3 tentative plans of action, including a definite top choice. We also decided we need professional help to book all of it so that's the first step, first thing in the morning.

I think we're going to have a great time together.

Came back to the hostel - its really nice, clean and adorable - talked some more & then went to bed under the cool of the (thank God) AC & the untuned-ukelele sounding ceiling fan.

Today I'm so happy & grateful for:
~ friendship
~ safe flights
~ a nice double room
~ reconnecting
~ a new adventure

Xo! n.

Day 50: comfort & joy

My last day in Perth; my last day with AB & The Scot. Sniffle.

I was thinking of going to Rottnest Island, maybe even doing a dive there, but this morning that felt too ambitious & what I really wanted to do was just hang out with AB.

I woke up to an email from chick suggesting we skype so AB & I video chatted with her! Got to say hi to my friend (her boyfriend - read his blog, Discard The Lard, its funny!), Todd, & somewhat fuzzily waved to his visiting family. The connection was terrible so conversation was limited; we mostly laughed at the robotic moves & freeze-frame faces our computer cameras generated. Todds roommate also entertained is by doing top-hat dances & playing one-note songs behind chick. So silly.

After that, we sat around for a while, watching bad TV as I caught up on blogging & she looked at wedding mags. It was one of those completely inconsequential but completely perfect moments where you're just comfortable, relaxed & happy with another person.

In the afternoon, we headed out to Leederville for some window shopping, stopping at the post office on the way to ship off some Christmas packages.

We sat in the window of a cafe, drinking coffees, talking about our last few years - who we've become - and our next few years - where we're going. I'm really at a crossroads in my life, completely directionless, and I've been hoping this trip will engage the magnet of my internal compass. I'm proud of AB and envious of the life shes built for herself; though we're both artists, our paths are almost polar opposite but our basic intent is the same. And so she gets me. We talked possibilities & I started to feel the thrill of new ideas.

Window shopped some lovely stores; I was tempted but I didn't buy anything. I enjoy looking at what's in fashion in different countries & it did give me some creative ideas for home decorating... someday...

Went back to the house where The Scot was sleepy with a hangover & AB & I goofed off til Lauren came over. We all walked across the street to the beachfront restaurant The Blue Duck for their $20 mussels night. I'd never had mussels til I got to Perth but I like 'em. Yummers.

We sat outside & laughed & laughed & laughed, long after the food was gone & we were almost the last people there.

Then home to print out my flight details, wash clothes (clumsy me, I splattered Thai mussel sauce all over myself), pack, and say some "we'll see each other soon" goodbyes. I went to bed way too late.

Today I'm so happy & grateful for:
~ AB & The Scot's hospitality & love - I'm so lucky to have friends like you
~ insight
~ beach sunsets

Xo! n.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Day 49: bridesmaid duties

The Scot went to a huge Proclaimers (yes "I would walk 500 miles" - they're Scottish) concert so AB & I had a wonderful girly day to ourselves!  I love The Scot, and I love their friends, but AB is one of my best friends & it's really nice to just have some time alone with her.

First we went to Caversham Wildlife Park, which has been on The Scot's to do spreadsheet since he read my wanderlist & saw I want to hold a koala.  Well, they wouldn't let me hold it, but i did get to pet it & it was freaking adorable & just as soft as you'd imagine.  I want to take one home!  Koalas are so funny - they just pass out in whatever position they were sitting, faces all scrunched up against the bark, bodies slumped like a boneless teddy bear.  Hilarious.

my & my koala friend

It's a beautiful wildlife park & there are even walk-through areas that are open fields where you can pet all the animals.  I petted a wallaby, kangaroos (though I've done that before!) and walked right next to a peacock.  We saw emus up close - their crazy shocked-looking faces so funny - Quokkers, which are fat big guinea pig looking things that live on Rottnest Island (the island off the coast of Perth), dingoes (looked like the cutest doggies; I totally felt like I could just go up & cuddle them, apart from the electric fence separating us!), a super pudgy wombat butt, furry chickens cuddling with goats, and lots of sleepy animals curled up in hollow logs so I could only see their little bums or tails or paws flinching in dreams.

There were also a ton of really cool birds: flat-faced owls, jewel-toned parrots, bright blue kookkaburras ruffling feathers & posing, a parrot that AB & I reckoned was totally doing a michael jackson impression (hilarious!), beautiful red-tailed cockatoos, wild-eyed long-legged birds, egrets, swans, and the craziest bird i have ever seen - a cassowary, which looks like a dino-bird with black long feathers over it's body, a blue & red neck & head with skin like a turkey, and a huge bone mohawk - so weird!

We had a fanastic time wandering around the park laughing at all the crazy animals, but after an hour, we were drenched in sweat; thank God AB carries a little toiletry case & had deoderant so we could re-apply!

After the park, we drove into the Swan Valley wine region for a very posh lunch at Stewarts at Brook Leigh, which is a winery & an equestrian center.  It was beautiful & we took our sweet, relaxed time.

our posh lunch: watermelon & feta salad, scallops, salt & pepper prawns.  mmmm...

We'd brought all of AB's wedding magazines & her planning notes, and we spread it all out on the table, laughing at ugly dresses, pointing out what we liked & exchanging ideas.  I've never been a girl who thinks much about her wedding, but it's so fun to be all girly & help my friends plan.  AB & The Scot's wedding is going to be beautiful & classic & a crazy party; I'm so glad I was able to be a small part of the planning.

We spent so much time sipping our wine & perusing magazines that after our appetizers, our waitress just assumed we weren't eating a meal & we almost missed out on the kitchen!  After we finally ate & wrapped things up, we quickly ran into the city to grab some last-minute final presents I need to send home and then were going to go into Leederville for dinner but we were both too sweaty & tired so we headed home first.

Threw on our bathers & walked down to the beach; the wind was crazy & so were the waves - I was actually scared to get in the water!  We were standing at the edge & I said to AB "if we get in, I'll get in" and she just laughed at me - I meant, if you go, I'll go but I'm not going by myself!  Finally, there was a calm minute & AB said GO and we went!  The water felt so great and the waves were huge but they only got me by surprise a couple times.  :)  My first time in the Indian Ocean!

not me :)  from

After we got out of the water, we tried to walk down to the main strip of Cottesloe beach but the wind - called "the doctor," I don't know why - was whipping sand like needles into our legs & funnelling right into my ears.  It was terrible so we had to go back, but no matter - the day was beautiful & that big Australian sky meeting the ocean just made me feel so happy.

Went back to the house, showered & changed with every intention of still going out, but we got side tracked online looking at wedding photographer & videographer websites, wedding dresses & bridesmaid dresses.  Giggling like silly girls.  When The Scot called to say he was on his way home, we realized it was already almost 9 & no restaurants would be open so we ordered Thai delivery - good choice! - and changed into our pjs.  The Scot got home, we skyped with his sister, they played (and he danced to) the tentative wedding setlist, and it was just a nice, fun night.

Today I am so happy & grateful for:
~ swimming in the ocean in December!
~ super fun girly giggly day with AB
~ posh long lunches & dinner in pjs

xo! n.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Day 48: Santa with a suntan

Christmas tree decorating party day!  Woot woot!!

Got up to the lovely little family feeling of an egg & coffee brekkie with AB & The Scot, looking out past the Christmas tree over the ocean.  Sat on the couch and read for a nice chunk of time - reading by Christmas lights snuggled up in a couch always makes me feel comfy & holiday-y, probably because I always got Calvin & Hobbes books as a kid every Christmas, and I used to read them next to the fireplace.  Well, it's way too hot for a fire, and I was reading a murder mystery, but the joy of it is the same.

AB & I went out to the shops for some last-minute provisions & I wore my bathers (bikini), sundress, and the springy santa hat - yeah, I got some looks.  Mostly smiles.  Ah Christmas spirit.  :)  I thought about making mulled wine, like I usually do, but decided no one wants to drink hot wine on a hot day & instead made a to-die-for peach sangria.  The perfect fruity drink for a summer Christmas party.

After some concocting, cooking, and jujjing of the house, the Christmas music was on, the windows were open, and friends started to arrive.

Little kids are always so entertaining at a party. Toddlers are like chubby little drunk men, stumbling around and laughing.  You can't help but watch them.  The oldest wanted to help decorate the tree but noticed the youngest was pulling the decorations off so he put them where the youngest couldn't reach them; we found about 18 candy canes hidden in the branches, deep, next to the tree trunk.  Later, the oldest was watching Finding Nemo & his little face was so concentrated, his little brow so furrowed one moment, then eyes open wide in surprise and delight, like a bad actor, yet so very honest -- only kids can be that unguarded & unselfconcious.

Plenty of fun was being had in the over 3-ft tall section of the party as well.  The Scot was on the porch grilling, beer & champers & laughter were flowing, and the tree was slowly getting bedecked & bedazzled.  I finally met Ingvald (I'm sorry, I know I spelled that wrong!), one of my lovely readers, made even more lovely by the baby bump she proudly wears.  She, fellow preggo Uta, and mum of the 2 little ones present, Sherie, talked baby, funny stories were exchanged, and I was happy to sit & listen & laugh along. Christmas crackers were cracked open (the dinkiest plastic prizes ever! that's what you get from the reject shop) and Christmas crowns were donned.

Uta in my awesome santa hat & Sherie in her crown

Tegan came by in her sparkly shorts & always-adorable head scarf (I gotta get me one), the kids went to bed, and the sun set behind the Christmas tree. The guys broke into the port & competed in a table football (soccer) game & the girls sat on the porch drinking champers (or fruit juice) & eating mince pies.  Sexual stereotypes really do come from somewhere.  It was a balmy evening and I, still in my bathers & sundress, was perfectly comfortable in the night breeze.

As people trickled home, AB & I joined The (sloshed) Scot, Gary (also Scottish & also sloshed ;) ), and Ingvald (not sloshed, preggo) for a glass of port & a fun conversation until it was time to head to bed.  As tired as I was - and I had a headache from the heat & not enough water - I still stayed up til 3am to finish my book.  Just like when I was a kid, complete with getting spooked by "creepy" house noises & snuggling deeper under the covers.

Today I am so happy & grateful for:
~ books that you don't want to put down
~ twinkling Christmas lights next to a sunset over the ocean
~ being able to wear a bathing suit to a Christmas party

xo! n.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Day 47: stressbuckets!

Woke up, had a coffee and called my momma on skype.  I'm used to talking to my mom about twice a week & we've talked twice in the past two months, so it was a much-needed chat.  for reals.

But after that, I spent the entire rest of the day trying to figure out my last week in Australia.  I stressed, sweated, cursed.  You don't even want to hear about it.

I finally decided that, with how ginormous Australia is, even just the Queensland area, I need more days.  So I changed my flight back to LA to December 21 and moved it from Cairns to Brisbane.  This way, I should be able to still meet up with my friend T (who is flying into Cairns Monday!) and spend some time with her as well as still seeing the rainforest & having more than 2 days in the Whitsundays sailing & diving.

Sorry to anyone who is terribly surprised by this news.  I'll still be back for Christmas!

AB & The Scot got home just as I was trying to make myself unwind & stop feeling anxious.  They made a super delicious (I swear, they are really spoiling me) dinner of steak & cheesy potatoes as I skype chatted with my friend G in Texas - he was getting ready for the sun to rise as I watched it set. 

skype chat and ...blogger! G was distracting me from my posting duties

So his silliness made me feel better, food in my belly made me feel better, and then it was time to put the Christmas tree up, which made me feel hell better!

Their Christmas stockings - almost as big as AB!

The Scot got out the tree & started setting it up and then (with a bit of couple-y bickering :) ) they both strung the lights & with the sunset behind it (cue angel singing) it was beeeaaautiful!!!  We put on some Christmas music and suddenly it felt like the holiday season, despite the hot summer weather.

Today I am so happy & grateful for:
~ the internet (travel resources & lovely connections galore!)
~ ocean breezes & fans
~ the Christmas spirit always jollies me up!

xo! n.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Day 46: Freo

First day off in Perth!  Woo hoo!  I still woke up pretty early but I slept well so it's a-ok.

Took the train over to Fremantle; The Scot had to work and AB and Lauren went Christmas shopping in the city so I had the afternoon to myself & I had every intention of doing my shopping AND getting back to super tourist mode.  However, I got so wrapped up in Christmas pressie shopping that I didn't end up doing any touristy stuff at all!  I actually even sort of stressed myself out trying to get all my presents sorted.  Hours later when AB called to say they were coming over to meet me, I suddenly realized that I never did the prison tour, which I had been really looking forward to for weeks!  sheesh.

Ho Ho Ho! My bag of presents - look closely, yours just might be in there...

But Fremantle was pretty cool; the markets were up, which was great, and they were totally uncrowded bc it was the first Thursday of the Christmas season, so that was even better.  There were stalls full of random stuff to distract & delight, and I just wandered around gawking at everything.  It's a pretty, bohemian town by the water - but I, of course, didn't see much of it because I was one-track-mind on the hunt for presents.  It's all good though; I managed to get most of my shopping done.

 Freo Market - the food side

It was a bit of a strange day because I think I was still in work mode, feeling like I had to go-go-go & get things done. I also got a really random pick-up; some guy walked up to me on the street & asked me if I was single.  He was dressed really weird & looked waaaaay too young for me, so I lied.  He said, well, no harm in asking and walked away.  Flattering, yes, harmless, yes, but stuff like that always makes me feel really self-concious.

AB called in the afternoon & she & Lauren came over to meet up with me.  We had plans to meet The Scot at Little Creatures Brewery, which they've been raving about to me for years, but after we'd finished shopping/wandering, it was still too early so we went to mad monk for a beer & some potato wedges.  Of course, as soon as our food arrived, The Scot texted to say he was at the brewery early!  waaa waaaah.

When we got there, he was sitting outside - views of the harbor, beautiful! - with a friend who was moving to America the next day.  I'd say Little Creatures is a good send-off.  :)  The Scot was very sad & droopy about his buddy leaving, but as more friends showed up, the sun was setting on the water & you just couldn't help but smile.

Lauren & AB, goofballs

We ordered tons of food - pizzas, nachos, mussels, fries, chorizio - and tons of ciders & beers.  Great conversation, lots of laughter.  I've only been here three weeks but I'm really going to miss my new friends!  It's ok, Lauren will be in LA this spring - Teeter & Chick, we'll have a couch-crasher & you're gonna love her.  :)

Lauren drove us home & almost made us vomit by playing Hanson's Christmas album!  Whaaa??  I got back to a treat from AB & The Scot - Christmas hats!  They're santa hats with tall boingy springs on them - I have got to wear mine on the boat in the Whitsundays...

Today I am so happy & grateful for:
~ getting my Christmas shopping done
~ Little Creatures
~ fun silly dress-up stuff

xo! n.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Day 45: the final Awesome day

(**PS pre-script: there are THREE new posts below this one!  don't forget to check them out bc at least one of them is funnnnny.  xo!)

Yesterday was meant to be my last day of work. Yesterday was meant to be the last day I'd have to wear these jeans, caked with dirt, sawdust, sugar, sweat. Yesterday I was meant to put some odor eaters in these tennies & give them a rest. And yesterday I was meant to retire my Awesome shirts as souvenirs.

But J asked me to work just one. more. day. ...Sigh.

It wasn't too bad, five hours of a little heavy lifting, a lot of running around returning borrowed things & a ton of cleaning. But I just couldn't fully wake up. Even after a flat white coffee. Even after a lunch of dim sum (I'm so glad I'm not a picky eater bc J & Kat like to order for the table & some of that food looks WEIRD). My body was just too tired. I had been hoping Tuesday would be the last day & my muscles had been banking on it. But alas. I had to coerce them into cooperation with the promise of a week off.

Around 2, I stumbled into the office to drop off the final load & AB suggested I nap on the beach. No. Too much effort. It was all I could do to keep myself awake & focused on my book during the bus ride home.

Showered, journal'd, washed a load of laundry, napped. Glorious. I dreamt I was watching a play & when my alarm went off I woke up embarrassed that my phone was ringing during the show. :)

Feeling rejuvenated, I shopped AB's closet - that girl has got some cute clothes - and hopped the bus back into town for dinner at "that little Mexican place" (yes that's actually what it's called!) that has been on The Scot's to do spreadsheet since day 1.

AB & my enchilada

We met Jeff there & had some deeeelicious food - cheese dip, breaded jalapenos, and I had a cactus enchilada!  mmmmm...  All the restaurants here are BYO & I'm so jealous - do you know how much money chick, teeter & I would save if we could bring our own two buck chuck to nights out!??  :)  Anyway, it was such a nice night, great conversation, great food.  

On the way back we passed by some Christmas lights!  I still don't feel like it's Christmastime yet, but this was still nice to see.  :)  Felt a little like home.

Got home, posted blogs, watched TV with The Scot & went to bed, with the blissful knowledge that I don't have to work tomorrow...  ahhh... sleep...

today I am so happy & grateful for:
~ I'm done with the working part of my holiday!
~ naps
~ cactus is delicious

xo! n.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Day 44: r-e-s-p-e-c-t

Finished destroying llamaland; Rose & the guys gave a beating to the furniture that was going to the dumpster (over 800 kilos!) and Jason carried around his "beating stick" - a table leg with a bolt sticking out of it - for the rest of the day. Boys.

After cleaning up the Blue Room, I was sent to Forest Place to relieve Isaac, who'd been there all night. I sat in a shipping container & kept an eye on airplane chairs for two hours. Caught up on my blogging. :)

Oh, and I got an email on my phone from... Me. huh? Apparently Dan (which I've been spelling wrong, its Daan) got online to check his email & my gmail account was still open! Whoops! So he wrote me a very cheeky email about never trusting the Dutch & him thinking I'm allright despite being American. Once I decided there was nothing uber embarasing he could've read in my inbox, it cracked me up. Cheeky bastard.

Jason, Matty & Sean loading Rose's Llama on top of the airplane chairs & various other junk

We loaded those heavy dang airplane chairs up in the ute & drove out to a dodgy storage area where we loaded them into a different shipping container to be hooked to a train early the next morning. On the way there & back, I sat between two stinky boys: Matt, who was snoring, and Jason. Jenna was navigator & she kept telling Sean to take a "sneaky left" which I think is funny & I'm totally taking home.

Its Kat's birthday so when we were done we went back to the hangout, William st, for a birthday drink, and ended up talking politics for a bit. I learned that when you cross aboriginal country lines, you're supposed to wait to be welcomed or else its extremely disrespectful & very bad luck. I was ignorant! I wonder if that's why this trip's been so challenging...?

Later we went out to Kat's favorite restaurant, Uncle Billy's, for a Chinese shmorgasboard. It was fun & delicious. Jason drove me home again; I owe him - he's totally been my taxi service this week. :) Talked with AB & The Scot a bit & then went to bed.

Not the most exciting day, but it was just fine.

Today I am so happy & grateful for:
~ not having to take a cab
~ being almost completely done with the festival
~ earning the respect of the people I work with

Xo! n.
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