Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Cairns Christmas

I survived my first Christmas away from home!  I got a surprise message from Stefan (volleyball friend) Wednesday evening asking what time my church service (for Christmas Eve) was and he ended up being able to join me.  It was definitely orchestrated by God because so many little things happened that night, outside of my usual routine.  For starters I was a bit later than usual in leaving for volleyball, and about a block from my place I realized that since it was Christmas Eve there might not be anyone there.  I decided I'd better put on tennis shoes and if no one was there I could at least go for a run.  Since I was going to be running I almost left my phone behind, and after debating for a few seconds decided to just take it anyway.  When I got to volleyball there weren't many people, there were exactly 12 people playing, so the court was full.  I decided I'd continue my run a bit further up the esplanade and when I got back there would hopefully be some more people.  On my way back my phone buzzed with the message from Stefan.  On a normal night I'd have already been at volleyball for nearly an hour with my phone sitting on the bench, not to be checked until maybe 9pm, and he'd have been unable to get approval from his manager to be late for work.  The courts got a bit busier as the night wore on and everyone was in a good mood, which always makes for a more enjoyable evening.  Rith and I ended up leaving at the same time so we walk most of the way back together.  I had just enough time to shower and get ready for church before I had to leave again.  I wanted to be early so Stefan wouldn't be by himself when he first arrived.  Our paths ended up crossing on our way there. It was nice to have someone to sit with during the service and of course to walk most of the way home with at midnight.  I'm not sure what he thought about the service, he did say though that he didn't know many of the Christmas Carol's we sang.  He's German, so I guess I shouldn't have been so surprised.  I just thought he'd know them in German, but he didn't recognize most of them at all.

Some might consider it a sad Christmas: no family, no Christmas dinner, no tree, no presents.  I worked most of the day too, but in the end it didn't really matter.  It didn't feel like Christmas anyway (possibly due to the lack of the aforementioned things and the balmy weather).  I was lucky enough to get picked up Christmas morning at BHA (it saved me a half hour walk in 90+ degree heat dressed head to toe in black) and three of us drove up to Paradise Palms Country Club to help with their Christmas Lunch.  The place was packed, but our events room thankfully only had 13 tables; three of which were mine.  It was easy work though since it was a buffet, we only had to serve drinks and clear dirty dishes.  I didn't spill or break anything so that was an added bonus as well.  The manager and regular staff were extremely kind and we were done by 3:30pm.  I had to walk the half hour back from the temp agency office, but at least I could shower and change when I arrived home.  I opened my final Christmas cards and they were all so sweet.  My Aunt Sharon's was so lovely it nearly brought tears to my eyes, and my little crickett had a lovely note as well since he'd just spent his first Christmas away from home last year, so he knows what it is like.  It's always nice to know you're loved and that your presence is missed.  After a short nap I headed to volleyball to meet up with my volleyball friends; Jordan, Max, Caterina, & Louis were all there playing already, and Stefan came soon afterwards.  It was actually busier Christmas night than it had been on Christmas Eve.  I got lots of hugs and Christmas wished from everyone. Arthur was wearing a Santa hat (despite the heat) and it had a bell on the end so every time he jumped it jingled, so it did feel a bit more like Christmas when you put all those things together.  Jason has started calling me Abiama, which I learned from Lithia is used with anyone that is older (which I'm not), or has a close relationship with you. Your either calling them mum or aunty, or stating that you have a close relationship - that you are basically like family, like an aunty to the person.  They shorten names and add ama (meaning mum or aunty) on the back of the shortened name as a nick name. Anyway, on my walk home from volleyball I called my little brother and we chatted for a bit - I knew he'd be up early Christmas morning.  Sadly my Mom was sick so I didn't get to talk with her, but I did get to say a quick hello to my Dad and older brother before I had to go.

On Boxing Day I was able to skype with nearly everyone from my Dad's side of the family as they were all celebrating together at night (meaning it was my morning).  When my cousin Aprille answered the skype call on her phone (isn't technology wonderful?), I could heard everyone gabbing away in the background and I loved it.  The video was in and out, in terms of visibility, so sometimes I was waving at family members but wasn't 100% certain who they were because it was too pixel-y.  Thankfully it was clear more than not, so I got to chat and see almost everyone.  Due to so many people in one room it was often hard for them to hear me, but it didn't matter.  My favorite questions (gotta love family) were if I was bringing home a man, does the water in the toilet really swirl in the opposite direction, and why I didn't have an Australian accent yet.  While I'm not ready to leave Cairns, it will be wonderful to see and hug everyone again.  When I stopped into reception to use the internet Jay handed me two more Christmas cards and commented that he hasn't received a single card this year and he lives here!  I got a lovely card and note from my Gram and a card from my Aunt Rosie as well.  I'd gone to reception to work on my travel plans, but didn't get much accomplished because Jay and I ended up chatting for most of the afternoon: Christmas, learning English, reading and newspapers, visas and sponsorships, lots of topics.  With my impending departure that visa/sponsor topic seems to come up a lot (I'd been talking with the girl who runs the travel agency/internet cafe where I skype from about visas and sponsorships as well since she's American too).  Who knows what the next few months will hold, especially once I get home....  

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Day 300+

I just keep reminding myself that this must not be where God wants me.  I had sort of hoped to find a job here in Cairns and then my employers would love me so much they'd want to sponsor a visa and then I'd be able to stay in Cairns for another year, or maybe two.  As you all know that hasn't exactly happened.  While chatting with Edith at church Sunday night (her and her husband Jeff just got back from their month-long holiday, so I hadn't seen her in awhile) I mentioned that I would be leaving soon.  When I told her that the next time I see her would be one of my last Sundays in Cairns she looked a bit bummed and said to me, "I know I don't you that well, but I'm really going to miss seeing you here."  She's such a sweetheart, and one of the only people I've really even connected with at the church here (she's a travel lover as well and has done a working holiday in Canada), and I'm going to miss seeing her as well.  I had breakfast with Anne, Shoko, and Romey on Monday morning at a nice little cafe on the wharf.  They gave me a neat card (photo below) and gave me their email addresses so we could keep in touch outside of facebook as well.
Anne even gave me some home-made Strawberry Jam, which I'm going to have to hurry up and eat.  It's odd because in a way, I almost feel like I have more of a social life here in Cairns than I did back home.  But then I just remind myself that I don't work near as many hours here and I'm not at all involved in the church here.  I'm just trying to be thankful that I'm having such a great time and that I'm able to have a BBQ with volleyball friends nearly every week and get to play volleyball nearly every night.  I think I just need to make more of an effort back home; not let life get so busy with meaningless things.  It's the people in your life that matter and I'm grateful God has placed so many wonderful people in my life here in Cairns, even if only for a short while.

When I told Jay when my last day would be here at Bohemia he just sort of sighed.  I was sitting in reception using the wifi and about 20 minutes later, as I was getting ready to leave, he asked if I really had to go.  I just laughed and told him that since I wasn't able to find a sponsor for a visa that I really did have to leave.  He told me he wished he could sponsor my visa himself, and that if the company was actually sound they would, but as it is they unfortunately cannot.  I just have to trust that this isn't where God wants me or He would have opened the doors.  I miss being away from my family, and I miss my church family back home as well, but I really could see myself living here for a year or two.  God has a plan though, and maybe in a few years I'll be back or I'll find a job that pays me to travel; I just have to trust His plan... I did find it neat to see Him work recently too.  I was talking with my parents Monday morning and mentioned how I thought you have to earn at least $500 from your employer or else you can't claim back all the taxes you've paid when you leave the country, and that I thought I was short of that mark with the staffing agency.  With only a few weeks left before I leave I told them how I was hoping to get at least 2 more shifts so that I'd be over the $500 mark, but didn't think it was likely.  Dad said they'd be praying about it and it occurred to me that I hadn't even actually prayed about it - shame on me!  And yet, a few hours later God answered (without me explicitly asking Him - what a loving Father, always looking out for me) and I'll be working Christmas Day (double pay because it's a holiday) and on New Years Eve.  With those two shifts alone I will be all set, and make more money than a normal shift too.  I had never expected to work on Christmas Day because of them having to pay us double pay (it's over $40/hour) and I'm just a temp.  Apparently it's a common thing in Cairns (possibly all of Australia, I'm not entirely sure) to eat out for Christmas lunch though.  People pay big bucks to do it, over $100 per person, and some sources tell me the food isn't even that great at some places; but when you have to pay all the employees working that day twice their normal rate it would add up quickly.

In other news, my trip to Tasmania is all booked and scheduled, so now I'm just working on my Melbourne trip details.  I haven't managed to get very far with my Cairns to Sydney bus trip plans, but I'll worry about that once I have Melbourne all squared away.  We had another "BBQ" before volleyball last night, although we made French Toast.  It's almost a tradition now to have dinner together before volleyball on Tuesday nights.  Some of them thought it was a bit odd that we'd be eating breakfast food for dinner, but I think I converted them to my American ways.  It was actually the easiest (and cheapest) dinner we've done so far, so that was good (at least for Caterina and I since we always do the planning and preparations).  Not sure what if we'll try to do something next Tuesday or not.  There's only so many simple things you can prepare on a griddle...but then again why mess with a classic BBQ?

I had a lovely skype marathon with my family this morning, Merry Christmas Eve to me.  I've talked to them on the phone many times, but usually don't get to skype and actually see their faces.  I started off with my Mom and Dad, and then texted my sister to see if she was free to skype as well.  As luck would have it, she was at my second home hanging out with 2 of my sister-cousins so I got to skype with three of them and chat with my aunt and uncle a bit as well.  Then to finish off the night (well, it was night for them) the third sister-cousin came home and I got to skype with her as well!  Even though the connection wasn't always that great and their beautiful faces were often pixel-y it was so great to chat with everyone while actually seeing them.

I caught the end of this sermon from Pastor Greg Laurie on my walk to volleyball the other night and really enjoyed it; he made some great correlations between the Gift of Christmas and the Gift of Salvation.  I just downloaded it so I can listen to the whole thing...  I guess that's all for now, I hope you all have a fantastic Christmas and that those predicted snow flurries do indeed happen for you all.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Slacking again...

I'm sitting in reception with the A/C on and listening to Christmas music, trying to get in the "Christmas Spirit" but it just doesn't feel like Christmas.  Not sure if it's because I'm not with my family, or because it's so hot outside, or maybe a bit of both.  I'm actually glad it doesn't feel like Christmas because then I won't feel like I'm missing out on something; I can just pretend it's just another day of the week.  I think I'm going to dinner with Caterina and Roberto at Simona & Simone's house for Christmas Eve.  Shane and Michael (here at my hostel) are planning on cooking some sort of Christmas lunch so I told them I'd chip in and have a little celebration with them as well.
**I do not hold the rights to the koala photo**

It's been a busy week, so once again I've been a bit slack with my blogging.  I'm still opening cards every day and am loving all the notes everyone has sent. Plus, I got a surprise book in the mail and a snowflake too! Of course, I'm still going to volleyball every night - I just love it and that's probably what I'm going to miss the most when I go home.  The people I've met while playing, and the actual playing of volleyball itself.  It's so difficult to describe, but maybe it's just because I never played any team sports in highschool, so it's a new thing for me.  There's such a large group of us that play on a regular basis it would take too long to try to name everyone, but I love that no matter what night I show up people will be there.  You don't always know who it will be, but by now I always know at least half of them.  I don't actually know many of them very well, mostly just know people's names and maybe what country they hail from, but we still have tons of fun.

Anyway, we had another BBQ on Tuesday night (some of you may have seen the photos on Facebook) and it was great.  We all ate way too much food, Caterina, Pukari, and I decided to buy everything and just have everyone throw in a few dollars, but we bought too much meat.  Pukari must love his parties because he brought panettone (Italian Christmas bread) and little party-popper/bon-bon gift things for everyone as well.  A few of us had Christmas hats and we even had a nice red tablecloth thanks to Caterina.  The only thing we were missing was Christmas music!  There were ten of us in total, and after eating we all headed to the volleyball courts.  It was definitely a bit uncomfortable to play after eating so much food, so Caterina and I decided to join the court with a bunch of the young PNG kids (instead of joining the "elite" court - we just weren't up for it).  We had so much bread left over from the BBQ that I decided I'd just turn it into french toast and we'd do breakfast on Friday morning: easier to make than pancakes anyway.  It ended up only being Jordan, Pukari, Stefan, Louis, and I - Emma and Caterina both had to work, Rita and Shinobu never replied to the FB invite and Rith wasn't sure he'd be up in time....some people just aren't morning people.  I'm just glad that despite not actually having my own place I'm still free to host things at my hostel.

 On Tuesday and Thursday I had my last classes at Nova.  I only had one student this week, Fumiko, and she is a gem.  Her English is excellent and she has done a fair bit of traveling herself, but this is the first time she's ever traveled on her own.  She's in her early thirty's and lives in a suburb of Tokyo and works at a bank.  Apparently Australia and Japan are the two extremes in terms of vacation time in First-World countries.  In Australia, even if you are only are a part-time employee you automatically get 4 weeks of vacation a year, that's the minimum.  In Japan you can get 1 week after 5 years, or maybe it was 2 weeks after 10 years.  It was crazy either way.  I went back on Friday afternoon for the graduation ceremony and Shoko got me some Snowball chocolates, because I'm missing the cold & snow back home, and some Japanese snacks (she knows I'm traveling and any other type of gift I'd have to carry around with me) as a thank you/Christmas gift.

After the ceremony we all headed to Rusty's Market to show Fumiko around and buy some fresh fruits.  While there I got a message from Caterina asking if I'd heard the news.  Shoko had heard something in the elevator a few hours earlier about something in regards to some kids in Mooroobool (a suburb of Cairns), but when we googled it we couldn't find anything.  On our walk to the markets Anne had received a text from her mother saying, "Wow, what a nice neighborhood you live in" but she didn't know to what her mom was referring.  I asked Caterina what had happened and apparently 8 kids had been found, stabbed to death, in Manoora (another Cairns suburb).  Anne lives in that suburb and so does Simona & Simone.  I found at at volleyball last night that the kids were one of my volleyball friend's cousins.  Definitely put a damper on the day.  After the hostage situation in Sydney just a few days ago, this has been quite the week in Australia.  While we're a bit more desensitized to these things (it seems these things happen all the time in the U.S.), it's not near as common here in Australia; I chalk that up mostly to the difference in our populations, they just don't have as many people.  I was reading some blog posts from my pastor this morning and this excerpt was especially applicable to me:
This Christmas season, you can rest in the knowledge that God is still in control, still choreographing the events of history to bring Him the greatest glory. Nothing takes him by surprise. No act of terror catches him off guard. He is still as in control as He was when He sovereignly planned the birth of Christ. He knows the difficulties that you are facing even during this festive time of year. This Christmas season ought to fill our hearts with the assurance that God knows what he is doing and that he is worthy of all our trust. He sent his Son in the fullness of time.
I wish you all a fantastic Christmas, celebrating the birth of our Savior, and I hope you get to spend it with those you love.  And this Christmas, don't forget to TELL THEM you love them.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Day 291+

Friday night at volleyball was incredibly humid, you could just feel it.  I was rather tired from being out on the reef all day, and the humidity did not help. Everyone was rather lazy in their playing, no one wanted to expend too much energy because it was just too hot!  It did get a bit more bearable as the night wore on, so the level of play did increase a bit.  The humidity level was near 100% someone told me later on.  I'd seen that the forecast for the weekend was for a high of around 36C.  I didn't really know how hot that was, and had decided it must be around 90-92F because most times it's really the humidity that makes it unbearable.  While that may be true, I never should have looked it up; 36C is actually nearly 97F!!!  I know, I know, you all are suffering with below freezing temperatures so I shouldn't complain, but for someone who is always hot, this is a bit much.  I can't remember that last time I was so thankful for air conditioning!!! shift at the Casino last night was a bit nuts.  There was a bit of a kerfuffle with the seating plan, so we were still shuffling seats and rearranging tables as the guests were arriving.  It was a Christmas party for the local karate club, so there were lots of kids; by the end of the night they were all running around like wild animals.  It was a bit of a challenge to navigate your way through the room and arrive unscathed at the kitchen with your tray full of dirty dishes.  For the most part though I was pleasantly surprised by how well behaved they all were.  The ones at my tables were extremely polite, so for that I was thankful.  I had told my manager for the night, Scott, that I needed to be done at midnight because I had to work this morning, but the manager in charge always seems to disappear after dinner and you're lucky to see them again.  It was midnight and I was trying to debate if I should search for Scott or just go with it.  The trouble being that sometimes the set up for the next event isn't over until 2am or later!  My tables were all cleared and they sent me to help polish silverware; rather tedious as there is so much of it, but at least I got to sit down for a bit.  By the time we were done the rest of the team had the tables already set up for the next function and all we had left to do was put out all the plates, cutlery, and glasses.  We were able to do that rather quickly and at 12:30am Tim (the other events manager - he was my manager last time I worked there) said we were done!  It was a long day to be sure, but I could use some cash to fund the rest of my travels around Australia, so I'm just taking what I can get.  There's a huge Christmas Carol concert at the park tonight, so I might join Pukari and Caterina for that.  My church is having one as well, and I was going to go to that, but I think it will be more fun with friends...

Some Frangipani flowers I found on my walk to volleyball

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Birthday Down Under

For my 24th birthday I headed to Panama with my sister to learn how to surf, for my 25th birthday I bought a ticket to Australia for a one-year working-holiday, and for my 26th birthday I went scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef!  Maybe I should head to Switzerland next year and learn how to ski or something...

It was a really nice birthday, and I can't thank everyone enough for making it special.  Louis had bought me a cheesecake and we celebrated at 12:05am and he even got me some small gifts.
Raspberry Cheesecake - we had trouble keeping
the candles lit because it was so windy....
 My phone's vibrations woke me up at 6:30am with a birthday text from someone I don't know.  I still don't know who sent the text, it was an Australian number and was signed "Best Wishes, Nana", but I don't know anyone named Nana.  I eventually rolled out of bed, I had to teach at Nova so I couldn't sleep in anyway.  My awesome cousin included several birthday cards in her package of "25 Days of Christmas Greetings" so I had plenty of cards to open.  My mom sent a box full of cookies and things a few weeks ago, so I was able to enjoy some of the Nutella (yes, it is a minor miracle that I still have some left). After teaching Chiho in the morning I headed to the library to catch up on emails and blogging.   Alicia called me on my way home from the library and said she wanted to take me out to dinner, so we got to catch up over some delicious Korean food.  Agatha was in Sydney and she didn't want to eat dinner alone, so it worked out perfectly. She had to go home earlier than anticipated, but that was fine, I just headed to volleyball!!  When I checked my phone on the way home from volleyball Emma had texted telling me to stop by on my way home.  She not only had a card for me, she had made me tiramisu!!!
 Other than the birthday cards I received, the events (and gifts) of the day were a surprise, and pleasant ones at that. God has definitely blessed me with some really awesome friends here in Australia.

Yesterday (Friday), I did a famil tour with Quicksilver to the Agincourt Reef (a ribbon reef that runs parallel to the Continental Shelf).  This one was a real famil tour, in the sense that we had two of the sales reps with us all day showing us around and explaining things.  The cruise actually departed from Port Douglas so I drove up with Nat, the Quicksilver agent, and it's such a lovely drive up there.  There were 6 of us total, 4 agents and 2 sales reps and we all got along great and had an awesome day.  It was a lot of fun and I got to finally go scuba diving (third time's the charm, right?)!!!  My ears are still popping a bit today, but I managed to make it the whole way down and it was such a relief to finally be able to cross that off my list.  It was really cool, and a nice birthday gift (even though they didn't know it).   On the semi-sub tour we got to see a reef shark, so now I just need to see a sea turtle!  Well, I just got a text asking me to work tonight, so it looks like it will be a busy weekend!!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Storms, Volleyball, & BBQ

Ay, ay, ay... I haven't blogged much recently, I just don't always have the time to sit down and think about what to share.  It's been a bit of an emotional roller-coaster the last few days, but hopefully things will be a bit more even-keeled now.  I survived my first storm in Cairns.  It had been overcast all day on Saturday and threatening to rain.  It was still dark and the clouds did look rather menacing by the time I was heading to volleyball, but since it hadn't rained all day and I had nothing better to do I decided to take my chances.  Besides, maybe playing in the rain would be preferable to playing in the heat & humidity.  Due to the ominous clouds there weren't many people there, but we had just enough for a game of 6-on-6.  The clouds kept getting darker and covering more of the sky and eventually it started to lightning.  We played on, it wasn't even raining and there was no thunder.  Sadly, that didn't last long.  It soon started to sprinkle and I decided that since I had to walk so far to get back, and really would prefer to not get caught in a downpour, that I should leave.  I made it half-way and then the heavens opened up and gave me a shower.  I ended up running down the sidewalk in my bare feet holding my flip flops and phone.  Running didn't keep me any drier, but it did get me home faster.  It was a crazy storm and when I talked to Ruth at church Sunday night she said her brother's house had lost electricity for about 10 hours (which means no A/C!!!); and I saw in the paper that some trees had come down as well.

The next few nights at volleyball were packed, everyone was "fighting" to get on the court.  You don't usually have to wait too long to get in on a game and most everyone abides by the rules and waits their turn, but with so many people and only three courts there was definitely some tension. On Monday night it was so incredibly hot & humid, I can't even remember the last time I was sweating so much.  I had played until the lights went off and was sitting on the steps drinking some water and cooling down a bit before heading home, when Louis said, "Don't you have to work tomorrow?" It had totally slipped my mind...  All the fighting to get on a court and then trying to win so you didn't have to get off the court seemed to take precedent.  Caterina, Pukari, and I decided that we should plan a BBQ on Tuesday night and then go to volleyball afterwards (most of our mutual friends are all from volleyball anyway).  In the end Pukari couldn't make it, but Cat and I were able to save our spot at the BBQ area right next to the volleyball courts, so we got to chat while we waited for everyone else to show up.  Emma and Shinobou came (they came to the Pancake Palooza I hosted), along with Jordan, Max, Rith, Louis, and Neils.  It was actually a lot of fun - the only people I didn't know that well were Max, Shinobou, and Neils; but I've played volleyball with Max and Neils many times before so it wasn't a big deal.  Once we were done eating and had cleaned up we all headed to the courts.  There were lots of people already playing, but since we had enough people to make our own team it wasn't too bad.  We might do another BBQ again next week, or just before Christmas, and hopefully Pukari can make it this time.

My student this week was from a suburb of Tokyo and I ended up getting three days of teaching instead of just two.  Romey was busy with her photography business and asked if I would like to take one of her days.  Since Chiho left early on Tuesday because she was sick, and then cancelled the last lesson today because of a tour she'd booked it worked out perfectly because I ended up getting almost exactly the same number of hours I should have originally had teaching on just Tuesday and Wednesday.  I don't know if that makes sense or not, but I'm just glad I got some hours. Yesterday I took her to the Wildlife Dome and we got to see Goliath up close.
  She got to cuddle a koala and see lots of birds and ducks, so it was a good afternoon.  Today was also the last time I'll see Rei (my student from 2 weeks ago).  She leaves this weekend after being here for a month; she has been doing one-on-one lessons with Anne all week.  I also realized that next week will be my last week at Nova because we don't have any students in-between Christmas and New Years...

Oh, and in other news, I found someone to travel with me!!!  Rith is a Melbourne native and he's heading back home this weekend.  He heard that I was traveling to Melbourne and Tasmania and said he would love to visit Tasmania, but didn't want to do it by himself.  I told him he was more than welcome to tag along, it's always more fun to travel with someone else.  Plus, despite living in Melbourne his whole life he hasn't really done any of the touristy things.  He has a car there and he said he'd be more than happy to do the Great Ocean Road highlights and maybe visit the Mornington Peninsula as well.  He said I can pretty much plan anything I want for Tasmania, he doesn't like to plan.  Kaylee & Ben, and Tom (other friends from volleyball) recently moved down there as well, so maybe we'll meet up with them and play some volleyball!  I was really dreading moving on from Cairns (even though I am definitely up for some different weather), and was incredibly tempted to just stay here until my visa expires.  Talking with Stephanie at volleyball last night she said something about how us regulars are like a little family and the new people have to pay their dues before they can be included.  I guess I've paid my dues by showing up nearly every day for the last five months, getting hit in the face, and putting up with everyone's teasing.  But she's right, if you come consistently and are a nice person, the regulars will include you into their group and help you play better.  While making popcorn the other night Matthew (poor guy was trying to clean the kitchen and I was in the way) asked me if I knew a guy named Jason from volleyball.  Matt just got a job at a mechanics shop and it seems Jason had come in to get some work done on his car and as a courtesy they were taking him home, but he asked them to drop him off near volleyball since that's where he was headed.  Matt knows I'm there nearly every night so he asked if Jason knew me.  It seems that almost every person I know in Cairns is from volleyball, or that's how we first met.  Anyway, Rith wanting to travel is a nice surprise and will hopefully make January not seem so depressing (since even though I'll be leaving everyone behind, I won't be traveling on my own just yet).

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Truth Hurts

Don't you just hate it when someone tells you something about yourself that you'd really prefer to think is untrue, but, after thoughtful consideration, you realize is actually quite true?  That was my experience last night, when in a conversation with Louis he told me he thinks I can be rather selfish, even though I'm a passive person.  Of course my first instinct was to protest, but I held my tongue and heard him out.  Sure, it sort of stung to hear that, but one of the maxims from work that they drilled into us was, "welcome criticism, and accept praise." Sadly, he didn't elaborate too much on the topic, so I was left on my own to ponder if it was true, and to try to determine what exactly had prompted him to say it.  How had I been selfish, when, was it really true?  If it is true, how can I change?  As an over-analyzer I probably gave some of the questions too much thought and other questions not enough.  For the last nine months it's been just me.  Aside from the normal social conventions and politeness, I only had to think of myself.  And even before moving here, I mostly had to just think about myself - I guess that's what comes from being single, I don't know.  How often do I actually put myself in the other person's shoes and try to think of things from their side before I decide something.  Often times even when I'm thinking of how another person might think or react to something it's ultimately so I can attempt to prepare myself for an appropriate response or reaction.  How sad that even when almost being selfless it still comes around to being about me!!  Unfortunately, googling "how to be less selfish" didn't immediately result in some easy answers.    But as in life, I guess it's a journey; one step at a time.  I guess it was rather appropriate timing, since it's now the Christmas season, the season for giving (and not being selfish).....

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Since I had to cancel my shift Saturday night due to being sick, God graciously sent me a cleaning shift early Monday morning.  I had just woken up and was texting my Mom to say that I could call whenever they were free (Monday mornings are my usual time to call home) when I got a text asking if I could pick up a cleaning shift.  Since I was hired to do Food & Beverage work it was a bit of a surprise, but I'm perfectly capable of cleaning, so after some preliminary questions I said I'd take it.  I didn't have much time to get ready and be on time for the shift though, so sadly I had to cancel our weekly phone call.  The Cairns Convention Centre is the home of the Taipans (basketball team) and we were cleaning up from the game they'd had the night before.  The crazy thing is that the whole place is carpeted.  Yep, not just the "corporate seats" on the bottom tier next to the court, but the whole way to the nosebleed section.  Tons of food crumbs, spilled popcorn, etc.  So, we spent the first 4 hours with these backpack vacuums just sweeping the place from top to bottom.  Technically easy work, but since I'm not very big the vacuum started feeling heavy rather quickly.  In addition, it's easiest to see where you need to sweep if you stand in the bottom row and clean the row above.  The only problem with that is that I'm short and it was definitely a stretch for me to reach up and flip down all the seats to check for stuck food.  Oh, well... After we finished sweeping I was given a bottle of carpet cleaner and a little brush and told to go back through and scrub out all the stains (thankfully there weren't too many big, bad stains).  Once we'd done that we went back through and had to sweep up what we scrubbed out.  Like I said, not difficult work, but very tedious.  I was definitely a bit weary by the end of that 6 hour shift, but it pays the bills. 

Louis had the night off, so after a quick shower he and I headed back to his place and made steaks for dinner (he thinks I don't get enough iron and that's why I got sick the other day - not sure how he came up with that, but he decided I needed to eat more red meat).  Monday nights are usually volleyball nights, but I just didn't have the energy.  After dinner we finished watching "The Holiday" and then watched "Music & Lyrics".  I want to see if I can find White Christmas so we can watch that - he's never seen it and it's just not Christmas until you've watched that movie, at least for me anyway.  Oh, and I finally got to meet his sister, officially.  We'd stopped by to see her at the Night Markets once before, but she was on the phone the whole time so we just sorta waved and left.  Since she works at night she's always been gone by the time we arrive and I'm gone by the time they get home.  She took a few days off so I we were able to be introduced.  She's beautiful and super sweet; and in addition to speaking English, she's also fluent in Japanese!  He's the baby of the family, and she's the next oldest sister, and there are two sisters older than her.  Louis works with her husband at the RSL Club (sort of like the American Legion), but I've never met him either.  You can definitely tell, based on their interactions, that she's the older sister...which of course made me miss my little brother.  

Not sure if I'll get any shifts from the temp agency this weekend, but I have two days of teaching next week, so I'm at least guaranteed some money.  Oh, and I'm now on Day 3 of my 25 Days of Christmas Greetings (my cousin got a bunch of people to write me cards and letters, at least one for every day in December before Christmas) and I'm loving it.  The first day I got a photo, the second day a card and a home-made Christmas scene, and then today I got a cool story written by my little brother, based on movie quotes - it was very entertaining.  I hope you all are having a good week - it's Hump Day!!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

It’s beginning to look a lot like….

Well, the library is decorated for Christmas and they had a lighting ceremony for the big tree down by the lagoon tonight.  They’ve got Christmas music playing in the mall as well, so Cairns sort of has a Christmas feel to it, but with the heat and humidity, I’m just not in the mood.  I did watch my first Christmas movie of the year though – Louis and I both love “The Holiday” and it was the only one he had.  It was technically before Thanksgiving (which is generally a no-no), but since they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in Australia I figured I was ok.  We had turkey for dinner and by the time he’d cooked and we’d eaten, it was a bit late to start the movie, but we didn’t have any other plans for the evening…we’ll finish it another time.  Well, we’ve both seen it before so I guess it’s not that necessary, but I do love the ending.

On Wednesday I was blessed with a lovely birthday package full of some of my guilty pleasures: nutella, peanut butter, oatmeal butterscotch cookies, and oatmeal fudge bars.  Tata, the new girl in reception, saw everything my mom had sent and immediately exclaimed, “They want to make you fat!”  I just laughed and said, “Yeah, I think you’re right.  Would you like a cookie?”  She only took one, but I took them to volleyball with me that night so that helped keep me from eating them all.  On Thursday I took some of the cookies to Nova to share with Shoko & Rei, and then Thursday night I stopped by Emma’s on the way home to share some with her as well.  What good are batches of cookies if you can’t share the love, right!?  Caterina fell in love with the oatmeal fudge bars and when Louis tried them he promptly decided that my Mom needs to open a cafĂ© & bakery.  He claimed they pair perfectly with a “long black” coffee, so you have to sell them as a package deal.  When I told my mom she claimed he’s only trying to get on her good side, and while I can’t rule that out, you also can’t discount the fact that those bars are AMAZING.

I haven’t seen Alicia in over a month, despite us both promising we’d get together for coffee sometime.  Well Friday afternoon she finally had some time off work and when she was done with school we were able to meet up for a bit.  It was lovely to see her and hear how things are going.  She works really long hours and sadly doesn’t even get paid minimum wage, which is technically illegal I’m pretty sure, but it seems to be pretty common if you’re Asian and are employed by other Asians.  Agatha still hasn’t found another job (she has to find a company that will sponsor her visa, so it’s taking her a bit longer), but she worked so hard, for so long, without any real days off that she’s just trying to enjoy the time off.  Their Mom, an Aunt, and two young cousins are coming on Dec. 12th, and from the sounds of it we might not be heading to Tasmania after all.  It’s not entirely ruled out, but also doesn’t seem very likely.  I’ll still visit at some point, but my travel route might be a bit different now.  Oh, and I learned from Alicia (and further explained to me by Louis) that Korean’s don’t count their age the same way Westerners do.  I’m still not entirely sure I understand it all, but you’re 1-year old when you’re born, so, if I were Korean I would actually be turning 27 in a few weeks.  Plus, I think they change their age with the calendar year too, so even though I’m born in December I would have already been telling people I’m 26, so in January 2015 I would say I’m 27.  Hopefully that’s correct, I’d hate to be passing on incorrect information, but from the explanation I received, I believe that’s correct.

That’s about all the new info I’ve got to pass along.  I was to work in reception all day today and then go immediately to the Casino to work until 1am, but I got really sick earlier this morning and had to leave reception early and cancel my shift with the temp agency.  I’m feeling a bit better now, still got a wicked headache though.  Hopefully that will be gone by tomorrow morning.  Either way, I’m thinking I’ve put off a chiropractor’s appointment for too long, so maybe I’ll head to the one near Nova on Monday and see if I can get an appointment.  Not sure why I never did this before, but here are some photos of my hostel, in case you all are interested:

View from the kitchen/dining room
My Room - classy, right?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Just Another Update

I’ve been meaning to write another blog post, but it just hasn’t happened.  I ended up working again on Saturday night (I almost told them I couldn’t work, but made myself do it because I finally had an opportunity to make some money so I figured I needed to take it) and despite being told I would be finished at 10pm, due to the fact that I had to be up for work at 5:30am, that didn’t quite happen.  A bit of a long story, but I was working at the Casino (it's more than a casino, it's a hotel, restaurant, catering venue and casino all rolled into one) and they had 4 functions going on so I was assigned to the Graduation dinner which was going to be buffet style.  Hannah, the manager in charge of our group, was super nice and I told her I needed to leave at 10pm (Signature Staff was supposed to tell them ahead of time, but I had a feeling it probably hadn’t been passed along) and she said that was totally fine.  Since it was a buffet I again wouldn’t have to worry about carrying three plates.  After we’d had our briefing for the evening and everyone had been assigned tables and tasks for the night, the GM came and pulled me to the Engineering Australia Awards dinner because one of the other guys didn’t speak English well enough.  By the time I joined that group I’d missed the briefing, so only got a quick run through and then we were busy doing other things.  I never got a chance to tell Tim, the new manager, that I needed to leave early, but based on the handout he’d given me, the function was to be over at midnight, so I figured two extra hours wouldn’t kill me.  Oh, and did I mention this was NOT a buffet dinner?

Holding a tray full of drinks for 20min. during cocktail hour did not help my sore arms from the previous night, and I ended up spilling 2 glasses of champagne at one point – thankfully only one of them broke, and since it was on carpet the whole entire room wasn’t alerted to my plight.  The guests near me at the time were very nice, so that helped.  Then not 10 minutes later, while putting dirty glasses in the dish racks in the kitchen another glass fell off my tray and shattered.  Everyone in the kitchen heard that one!  There were four people assigned to do the food run, 2 people to carry 3 plates and 2 people to carry 2 plates: lucky me, I got to be one of the 3-plate servers.  The first run was fine, no dramas.  But then it came time to do the main meal and the plates were significantly larger and they were hot!  The first ones weren’t as hot, because they sat out a bit longer and had time to cool, but by the middle of the run they were burning my hands.  Your hands start sweating and it hurts like crazy and you’re trying desperately, and I do mean desperately, not to drop one while walking as fast as humanly possible so that you can hurry and put it down.  Somehow I did manage to successfully deliver all the dinner plates.  I was never so happy to see a tiny little dessert plate in my life!

Anyway, the rest of the night went well and we started to clean up.  I then found out we had to set up for another function!  Tim wasn’t really around, he’d shown us how to rearrange the room and then disappeared, plus I felt a bit funny mentioning it now.  Most of us were really tired and just wanted to go home, so we just worked as fast as we could.  Hannah wandered in around 12:30am and saw me and exclaimed, “What are you still doing here!?”  I told her it was ok, we were almost done anyway, but she said, “No, let’s go” and told me she’d sign off on my time sheet.  Who knows what time everyone else finished, it would easily have been 2am.  Morning, of course, came super early.

Louis and I had planned on going to the beach Sunday afternoon, and despite both of us being quite tired we decided to keep the original plan and headed to Palm Cove after my shift in reception was finished.  It was a gorgeous day, and I’m always so shocked by how lovely the water is here – it’s the most stunning shades of blue and green (which sadly doesn't quite turn out in pictures).
 We had a picnic lunch on the sand and then decided to go for a swim.  The water was incredibly warm, I think someone said it was 24C (which is about 75F), my Dad would have loved it.  Thankfully jellyfish season isn’t in full swing and the beach had a stinger-net section, so we didn’t have to worry about that too much.  Monday was a rather lazy day, followed by an evening of volleyball.  As you might recall, Monday’s are the free VB clinic.  Erin and her friend Grace were there again (they only ever come to the clinic), as were Pukari and Caterina.  I’ve gone to the clinic several times and we usually “learn” the same techniques every time, but this week we actually learned some new things and finally got to work on serving again.  My overhand serve is coming along quite nicely now.  Anyway, since I didn’t have to work Tuesday morning I stayed until the lights went out, which I haven’t done in quite awhile.  It was a fun night because I ended up playing with such a variety of people, pretty much all of my volleyball friends were there at some point and I was able to play a game or two with them.  Louis usually has Monday’s off so we usually see each other at volleyball, but he never showed up and I rarely take my phone, so when I got back to my hostel around 10:30pm I wasn’t surprised to see he’d texted me, but was surprised to learn that he’d had to work and he’d come by to see me after finishing work.  I texted to tell him I’d just got back from volleyball and he said he was over in the restaurant.  I guess a bunch of his friends had made plans last week to go out for dinner but since he’d had to work and couldn’t go he’d never heard where they were having dinner.  He’d run into them while waiting around for me so it was nice to get to meet some of his Korean friends.  Several of them are masseuses and most of his guy friends are former futsal teammates.   They all mainly chatted in Korean, which doesn’t bother me after living in Japan; a few of them did talk with me in English though and they all seem very nice.  I guess they were surprised to find him there and even more surprised that he was dating someone who isn’t Korean.  Well, I think that just about brings you all up to date – I hope you all have a very blessed Thanksgiving with lots of cranberry sauce and pecan pie.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Recap of the week

What a busy week!  I worked in reception Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, taught at Nova on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, then last night (Friday) I also had my first shift with Signature Staff!  The students this week were great, not that I’ve had a bad one yet.  We had three students, Rei (23), Yuika (27), and Tazuko (71).  Rei and Yuika had their lessons together and Tazuko had lessons by herself because her English level was higher than the other two girls; I taught Rei & Yui twice and had Taz once.  Yet again, despite the age difference the three of them got along famously.  I think it's in large part due to their culture of respect for your elders coupled with the fact that any women over the age of 60 willing to travel alone, to a foreign country to study English, has got some spunk.  And who doesn't love spunk? The girls called her Mom all the time and made sure to look after her when they did tours together.  Taz told me that she probably would have been too nervous to do some of the tours on her own, but the girls took such good care of her that she was having a great time and making so many memories.  When they did the night tour of Paronella Park, she told me they were careful to make sure she didn't trip on anything in the dark.  Taz has a great sense of humor and is very chatty; we rarely did the lessons the usual way because most of the subject matter was too basic for her; we often just went off on rabbit-trails and talked about whatever subject came up.  I figured as long as she was speaking English it was good practice for her.  She learned to speak English from American & Canadian teachers so she liked my pronunciation of words since that’s the way she learned.   Yuika and Tazuko left today to go back home to Japan, but Rei is staying for another 3 weeks, so I’ll be teaching her again next Thursday.  Her final two weeks are special one-on-one lessons and only Anne has been trained for that, so, unfortunately, I’ll have another month off.
 After lessons yesterday we all headed to Rusty’s Market and sampled some of the fruits and veggies.  It’s coming into mango season, so we definitely took advantage of those samples.

Last night was also my first night as Food & Beverage Staff with the temp agency that hired me.  Despite the crazy heat and humidity, our uniform is black pants and a long-sleeve black shirt.  Luckily for me, and to my great delight, Louis texted me to say he’d drop me off at the Cruise Liner Terminal (where the event was being held) so that I wouldn’t have to walk there in the heat.  We were serving at the Tropical Tourism North Queensland Awards Banquet, so there were about 300 guests there and everyone was quite dressed up – someone said it was about $165/person to attend.  I was lucky to meet up with a nice woman named Tash when I first arrived and we quickly bonded as we were both completely inexperienced and this was our first shift with Signature Staff.  Fortunately, we got put on the same side of the room and were both put on beverage service since neither of us had experience carrying 3 plates at a time without a tray.  They had shown us how when we were hired, but I’d never actually done it.  When they were splitting us up between food and beverage service they asked if any of us weren’t comfortable with the 3-plate carry and I quickly raised my hand.  They’d already stressed how big of an event this was for them (they were actually up for an award so wanted to be extra impressive) and I just didn’t want the pressure.  I found out later from another guy on our side of the room, who had done this many times, that beverage service is a lot less work, so it seems I made a good choice.  By the time they cut us it was 11pm and my feet were killing me.  I thought I’d bought a decent pair of shoes, but knowing how much I hate wearing shoes (and how infrequently I actually wear shoes), I probably wouldn’t have been happy no matter what shoes I wore.  But all in all, the night went pretty well; I didn’t drop or spill anything and I only mixed up drink orders a couple times (that I know of anyway).

This morning I got a lesson from Tusa (the Samoan gentleman at my hostel who randomly gives me meals) on precision cutting.  He's taking a course on hospitality management, or something like that, and I had helped him with his homework one morning last week.  The assignment was to write up a plan for giving a coworker additional training in something.  So he wrote out the things he need to do and used me as the employee he was going to train.  By the end of the assignment I realized he thought he actually had to do the training (not just write an assignment proving to the teacher that you knew how to prepare and plan a training), so I explained (or so I thought) that he didn't have to actually do the training, just write up a plan for giving the training.  Then on Thursday he asked me if I was free Saturday morning, he was going to buy the vegetables and show me how to do the "precision cutting."  At this point I decided to just go with it.  He's so sweet and it was actually interesting to learn how to do it - looked pretty impressive as well.

Other than volleyball evenings and dinner with Louis, that's about the jist of my week.  Another muggy day here in Cairns, so I think I'm gonna go jump in the pool....

Sunday, November 16, 2014

God & Ramen

My church here in Cairns sings this song quite a bit and we sang it again last night - I love the words, when you stop to think about them they're very powerful, and hard to sing at the same time.
"Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the water wherever you would call me.  Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior... I will call upon your Name, keep my eyes above the waves.  My Soul will rest in your embrace.  I am Yours, and You are mine.  "

While talking with my parents this morning my Dad and I talked about my need to be intentional with my faith.  I have no problem answering questions when people ask me about church, like Emma did last night; but I never take it that extra step and ask them what they believe or what they know about God or Jesus.  I'm far to complacent to just answer questions, and never ask any of my own or go deeper and tell them (without them asking) why I go to church and why my faith is important to me.  As my time in Cairns winds down that's definitely something I need to work on with the people I've met.

Friday night I got to do another famil request and was able to bring Louis along for the ride.
 We did the Cairns Harbour Cruise and despite it being too cloudy to get a good sunset it was really fun; I always love being on the water.  We searched for crocodiles in the mangroves along Trinity Inlet, but didn't see any (I'm not sure if it's that common or not and I didn't think to ask).  I had a totally lazy day on Saturday and then yesterday after my morning shift in reception a group of us went to one of the movies that was part of the Japanese Film Festival.  Rav had told me about the festival (who doesn't love free movies - even when they are in Japanese) and since he wasn't able to go since he's back in Brisbane now I recruited a few friends of my own.  I knew that Pukari loves Japan so he'd probably go, I wasn't too sure about anyone else though. Louis ended up having to work and couldn't come at the last minute, Caterina was going to come until she realized it wasn't going to be in English. In the end Rith joined us, as did Mei (Caterina's friend who came to our first dinner together), and Emma came as well and brought one of her Japanese friends from her hostel.
 Everyone (except Pukari) was late and since it wasn't a regular movie it started on time (the nerve!) and I missed the beginning.  I really enjoyed it though; it was a documentary about the life of Kazuo Yamagishi and his famous Tokyo ramen shop, Taishoken.  This blog post explains it pretty well:
"The God of Ramen traces the life of Kazuo Yamagishi and his struggles. Yamagishi was the inventor of tsukemen aka dipping ramen, where the noodles and broth are served separately and you dip cold noodles into hot broth. It’s a style of ramen that has become increasingly popular in Japan. Thus, Yamagishi is considered the God of Ramen. It’s a raw and unpolished piece of film, cheaply shot....the story is so much more compelling and heartfelt. You gain much respect for Yamagishi’s work ethic and his treatment of apprentices, but you also see the hardship, sacrifices and loneliness which I guess is part and parcel of being a chef sometimes, but you rarely see that side displayed in such human terms."
When the film was over we all decided we should have met up for Ramen before hand (the good ramen shop was already closed by the time we got out).  Anyway, most of them headed off to volleyball and I told them I'd stop by after church.  It was a good service and I enjoyed the topic (God as our Father) and afterwards I headed to the VB courts (they're only a block away).  I managed to get in two games before I headed off to the night markets to finally do my opal necklace recon work.  We were waiting to get on the courts when Emma asked me what a church service was like.  I'm still not quite sure how I could have used that opening to talk more about my faith, but I'm praying I can think of something if the opportunity presents itself again.  Well, I guess that's all for now.  I get a whopping three days of teaching this week, so that's a blessing.  Guess that will keep me busy too!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Under the Sea

Another beautiful day out on the Great Barrier Reef yesterday!  All the companies take their customers to different part of the reef, and I’d say this part of the reef was much better than my last trip.  This company (Reef Magic Cruises) has a “pontoon” (named Marine World) anchored out there, so the boat docks alongside Marine World and gives everyone more space to move around while we’re out all day.  So instead of scuba diving and snorkeling off the side of the boat everyone goes out from Marine World.  Another cool thing about this trip was that there is a glass bottom boat and a semi-sub and you can take trips on them throughout the day.  I attempted an introductory dive again and the dive instructor Jim was fantastic, such a nice guy.  There were only about 10 of us doing the dive and I was in the first group of 4, so as soon as we docked at Marine World I put on my stinger suit (it’s jelly fish season here in Cairns right now and since the suit covers you from head to toe it also protected me from sunburn which I appreciated) and headed to the dive platform.  Jim asked me while we were getting all our scuba gear on what had happened last time I’d tried diving.  I told him about my ears and he said we’d give it a shot.  I made it a lot deeper this time, but I was a bit gun-shy I guess about saying my ears had equalized.  As you make your way down (holding on to a rope) you equalize your ears as you go.  He kept giving me the “ok” sign to see how I was doing.  I wasn’t really feeling my ears pop like they usually do on an airplane, so I kept giving him the “sorta ok” sign.  In hindsight, since they weren’t killing me like they had been the time before I should have just kept saying “ok” as I worked my way down and once I got to a point where they actually hurt and I couldn’t get them to stop then tell him it wasn’t working.  Since I still hadn’t given him the “ok” and there was apparently quite a ways left to go he took me back up, telling me it wouldn’t be fair to everyone else to get further down and then have to bring me back up (you only get so much time in the water and I was slowing them down), which I totally understood.  He told me I might have thin eustachian tubes and that I should try the helmet diving instead and see how that goes.  I don’t know if that’s standard procedure or if that was just because I was there on a famil request (you wear a wristband so all the crew basically knows) and they wanted to make a good impression.   Kelly, the girl up top who helps you in and out of your scuba gear, told me she had trouble as well at first and it took her a week in the pool just trying and trying to finally be able to do it – so on the bright side, there might still be hope.  Anyway, I got out of the water and heard the announcement that the semi-sub was leaving soon so I decided I might as well hop on that before heading out to snorkel.  It was pretty cool, I was of course the only person on the boat that wasn’t dry.  Quite a few people come out on the reef and never actually get in the water, so the boat trips are a great way to still see the reef.  When we got back it was nearly time for lunch and the lunch they provided was amazing.   I couldn’t believe the variety of foods they had: vegetarian lasagna, pasta salad, potato salad, Caesar salad, two kinds of curry, a variety of fruits, a meat tray, bread and rolls, plus sushi and shrimp!!

I tried the “helmet diving” right after lunch.  I couldn’t believe how heavy the helmets were, thankfully they were a bit lighter once fully submerged, but I’ve got bony shoulders and they’re a bit sore to the touch today from where the helmet was sitting.  Since I didn’t have to worry about getting my ears to pop and trying not to hold my breath (that’s a huge no-no in scuba diving) with the helmet on I was able to get them to pop and had a good time.
 With the helmet diving you basically walk (maybe 15 feet) along this submerged walkway about 3 or 4 feet underwater, and stand there while Jim feeds the fish.  I even got to pet the huge Maori Wrasse that hangs out at Marine World as well.  The helmet dive is a great option for those with ear problems (you’re not as deep as when scuba diving), glasses, or those that just don’t want to get their hair wet.  After all that I got to do lots of snorkeling and since I’d figured out my camera settings, I got much better photos this time around.  I just love being in the water and snorkeling is so incredibly relaxing.  You can’t hear anything and there weren’t actually that many other snorkelers so you weren’t running into people all the time either, it was great.
 God is truly a master artist, because the colors and patterns on the fish I saw were astounding, the most beautiful shades and that’s only their looks; not to mention the complexity of the coral and how they reproduce and the fact that fish breathe underwater, I mean, let’s be honest – that’s pretty cool….

On the cruise back to the port I ended up sitting inside and chatted with this lovely, older Aussie couple, Allan and Pat.  They were so incredibly sweet and I just loved how they joked and teased one another.  For some reason he reminded me a bit of a since-departed friend of mine, Mr. Baker.  I had wanted to go up top and watch the scenery once the boat was under way, but I decided to just run up and take a few photos and then come back and chat with them.  They were on their own and had told me earlier, when I’d asked if I could sit at the booth with them for the head count, that no one had sat there all day so I was free to sit down.  All in all it was an extremely enjoyable trip, made all the sweeter by the fact that it only cost me $25.  And that my friends is the perk of selling tours.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Surprising Sandwich

Monday morning was slow in reception so I was able to call home and talk with my parents and Grandma.  Sadly, I didn’t get to talk to my Grandma too long since the French couple from last weekend came back to book 3 more tours with me.  I don’t get a commission from the tours I sell, but when we sell tours I’m more likely to be granted a Familiarization Tour (“Famil” for short) later on, so I’m hoping to get a free Harbour Cruise out of the deal.  Anyway, by the time I called my parents back they’d already taken my Grandma home.  Despite the brevity of our phone call, I was able to collect this conversational gem.  I’d asked Grandma if she’d won anything at Bingo recently.  *The first time she’d ever played at her nursing home was the last time I saw her before I left and she’d won the jackpot at the end, which equates to about 25 cents.*  She replied that she had played, and she’d won 10 cents.  I congratulated her and asked if she had already spent it or if she was saving it for a rainy day.  Without pausing to think she replied, “I’m saving it for when my granddaughter comes back from Australia and I’ll buy her a lollipop.”  She’s always got an answer.

Monday night was Rav’s birthday dinner and it was pretty good fun.  I knew a few of his friends that were there, so that made it feel less awkward; I’d met Murray, Steve, Ray, and Mick before and they’d all come to volleyball since I’d first met them.  There were about 12 of us total, I think, and we had dinner at a Turkish restaurant, so that was pretty neat.  Spent most of the dinner chatting with his friend Murray because he was sitting beside me and Rav was busy chatting with an old friend who just happened to be up from Brisbane for a few days visiting.  Murray is an interesting chap, he’s also a med student, graduating this week, but he used to create films and documentaries and had entered them in film festivals and such.  After dinner about half of us headed to the Salt House, but thankfully we didn’t stay too long – I’d been up early to work in reception and hadn’t slept well the night before so I was “knackered” as the British say.

After another early morning in reception yesterday morning I managed to catch a brief nap in the afternoon – it’s so stinkin’ hot here now and I should have turned on the AC, might have got a better nap that way.  I headed to the library and was reading the paper when Louis showed up.  He’d told me he’d made sandwiches for dinner and we just needed to run to the grocery store because he needed to buy some peanuts and milk.  After our quick trip to Woolworths we stopped by Bohemia so I could change for volleyball and then headed to the courts.  There are picnic tables and BBQ areas all along the esplanade, so we grabbed an open table near the courts and he pulled out the sandwiches.  As I pulled mine out of the container he started telling me what was in the sandwich.  I nearly fell off the bench, I couldn’t stop laughing.  In fact I’m still chuckling as I write this – no joke, there were cucumbers, egg, lettuce, sausage, peanut butter, and jelly.  And maybe cheese, I can’t quite remember.  He said something to the effect of, “you love PB and Jelly”.  He knows I eat peanut butter on my pancakes and that I have PB & Jelly toast for breakfast most mornings, so he must think I eat PB&J on everything.  Thankfully he hadn’t overdone it on the PB&J, but it was definitely the most unique sandwich I’ve ever eaten.  Volleyball was good fun; Steve, Ray, and Mick came, along with all the usual people.  I won’t bore you by listing out all the names, but Pukari and Caterina were there as well so the four of us were able to chat and play at the same time.  I managed to stay injury free for the night, so that’s always a bonus.  Well, I’m off to the GBR again tomorrow – a famil request, so I’m only paying the levy fees, which is awesome, because the trip would otherwise be costing me almost $300!  Hope you all are enjoying your fall weather, because, although I enjoy the constant sunshine, the humidity on these 92 degree days sometimes gets to me….

Friday, November 7, 2014

Revelations from Rav

On our way back Thursday evening (we’d gone to a hiking trail and ended up sitting by a little waterfall chatting), Rav mentioned that he’d gone to “Bernie’s Jazz Piano Cafe” the day before and that it was a great little spot and he wondered if I’d want to go with him the next evening.  I’d walked past the place several times and it looked like such a cool place, with a live jazz band playing every night, so I said, “Sure, why not!?”  We weren’t meeting up until 8pm the next evening, so since I wouldn’t be going to volleyball it seemed like the perfect opportunity to go to the night market and check out the opal necklace options (a friend asked me to buy one for her sister and I just haven’t gotten around to checking yet).  I headed to the library around 3:30pm to read the newspaper and finish my book.  Louis showed up around 4:30 and after chatting for a bit he decided we should go back to his house for dinner.  I’d had no idea he didn’t have to work (he usually works at 5pm), so off we went, pushing back my opal sourcing plans once again.  *My apologies for how long this is taking Amy.*  Anyway, we had a nice dinner on his back porch again – I love talking with him because I always learn random facts about Korea from him.  Plus, because he’s not a native English speaker he always comes up with the funniest phrases.  Sadly, I can’t think of a good example at the moment that would prove my point…  By 7:30pm Louis had dropped me back at the hostel and I quickly changed and headed off with Rav (surprisingly, I have quite the social life here).

I loved the jazz cafe and definitely enjoyed the live music; it was a bit loud for such a tiny venue, but they musicians were great.  Rav doesn’t drink so we had some cranberry juice and enjoyed the music.   Two of his friends, Ray & Murray randomly showed up at one point which I found hilarious.  Murray claimed Rav had told him to come, in person of course, because Rav had text messages showing that he had not invited him – his friends are funny.  Murray asked me what the Constitutional Amendment for the day was, as if we have a rotation of amendments and corresponding days.  We chatted about volleyball for a bit and then the band came back from their break and they decided to leave – I think they were heading to crash their other friend Mick’s dinner with his girlfriend….  Anyway, by around 10:30pm he decided we should go for a walk down the esplanade, and despite being tired I figured a short walk couldn’t hurt.  It did not end up being a short walk though – we walked the whole way to the other end of the esplanade and about halfway back he decided we should sit at some picnic tables and chat.  He’s very chatty, in case you haven’t picked up on that yet.  I can’t say that I was totally shocked by his revelation, thankfully I’m old enough to realize that guys don’t usually go to so much effort to hang out with a girl if they aren’t interested in them; but at the same time I never felt like we were going on dates – which I guess is because we weren’t.  I always paid for my own dinner or movie tickets or whatever and we just enjoyed our conversations with each other.  In his words, “I take relationships very seriously, and I don’t want to start something I can’t finish,” which, for a 22 year-old I thought was pretty wise.  He didn’t want to regret not telling me how he felt even though he knows I don’t live here and won’t be around much longer.  He told me I wasn’t a heartbreaker; he’d remember me mentioning that fact in an earlier conversation.  Thankfully he didn’t ask me if I felt the same way about him, because he might have changed his mind after hearing my answer.  Thankfully, his revelation didn’t make things awkward, because his birthday is on Monday and he really wants me to go along to the celebration.  Thankfully I have met his friends a few times and they’re all really nice, so hopefully it will be fun, whatever it is we do.  He finishes school next Friday and heads back down to Brisbane on Saturday to spend the holidays with his family.  Hmm…my life in Australia is so strange…  In other news, jellyfish season is starting here in FNQ so hopefully my free (or at least discounted) reef trip comes through before the season is in full swing.   The coral spawning should also be happening within the next week or so and I’ve heard it spectacular to see – only happens once a year in Nov. or Dec. around the full moon.  There are other conditions that have to be just right, but the experts seem to think it will be sometimes next week.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Australian Pancake Palooza

Back when we had dinner at Louis' house, during our Korean pancake making experience I found out that Emma loves pancakes and Pukari is terrible at cooking pancakes.  So, I volunteered to make pancakes for them some morning when Emma and I were both off work.  It ended up taking a few weeks before our schedules aligned, but Wednesday night when I got back from volleyball I had a text from Emma saying she didn't have to work the next morning and would we be able to do our pancake breakfast.  I quickly texted Louis and Pukari to see what time would work best for them (the both work night/early AM shifts) and it was decided that 10am would work.  Thankfully I'd purchased pancake mix the day before, anticipating that some day soon we'd finally be able to get together.  So yesterday morning after a quick trip to buy milk and syrup, I headed back to the hostel and started mixing up pancakes.  I should have taken a photo of the kitchen with my varied assortment of items - hostels aren't known for their cooking utensils.  I didn't have a whisk and there were no mixing bowls.  I had purchased measuring cups several weeks ago because there weren't any and I found that to be rather inconvenient.  Anyway, with three skillets on the stove and the insert to an old rice cooker for my mixing bowl I was able to whip up a batch of buttermilk pancakes (well, several batches really).  Louis came early and helped me get everything ready, Emma brought coffee and honey plus 2 of her friends from her hostel, and Pukari supplied the beverages.  By 10am we were ready to dig in to our feast!  It was a fun morning and everyone really enjoyed the pancakes and I was happy to be able to host everyone.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Day 250

I did my first tour booking yesterday.  I've done the leg-work before, but never had anyone actually decide to book.  Of course, the couple came in 10 min. before my shift was to finish and since Ethan doesn't speak English that well he couldn't really take over for me.  Thankfully they did book so I didn't feel as if I stayed longer than necessary for no reason.  Louis had the day off, so once I was finished we went out for some lunch and then to a coffee shop by the pier and sat talking until it was time for me to go to church and him to go to choir practice.  I had planned on going to volleyball afterwards, but I was so tired from not sleeping very well the last few nights and getting up early that I decided to skip it.  We had a guest speaker, Graham Sercombe, at church and I really enjoyed his sermon.  He brought out some really interesting points about the passage in Luke 5 when Jesus tells Peter to cast his nets on the other side of the boat.  When you've grown up hearing the stories it's sometimes too easy to forget to put yourself in the story - how would you be feeling and what would you be thinking in such a situation?  They're real stories and the characters have the same natural, human responses we might have in a similar situation.  After being out all night fishing and catching absolutely nothing Jesus tells them to go back out.  There's no engine on the boat, they have to do everything manually and I'm sure even empty nets are heavy - they had to be tired!  There they were, professional fisherman, being given advice by a professional carpenter about how to fish!!  At that point it became a battle of logic vs. faith; going back out was completely illogical and yet they did and were blessed with the catch of a lifetime.  As if that wasn't amazing enough, Jesus then calls them to be fishers of men and they leave everything - their boats, nets, and the catch of a lifetime to follow Him.  It would be like winning the lottery and just throwing the ticket on the ground for someone else to claim...  Anyway, the speaker went over so by the time I joined Ruth and a few other people for the weekly dinner after church and had chatted for a bit it was 8:15pm.  Too late to go to volleyball anyway, so it worked out in the end.  Well, I hope you enjoyed my sermon notes from the message last night.  If you'd like to hear the sermon you can listen or download it here.

Happy Monday!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Where's the line?

Something I've struggled with since coming to Australia, and my blog suddenly having readers, is knowing how much to put out there.  Where's the line between being open and honest and having some privacy?  On one hand everything I blog is on the internet for anyone and everyone to read, but at the same time 98% of my blog posts in the last 8 months have been for friends and family back home.  The tricky part being that I don't actually know who reads my posts; it could be my 10th grade math teacher, my chiropractor, or friends of my parents.  I guess I'm just always trying to balance letting you all get a glimpse of my life in Australia, letting you know what I'm up to, but at the same time realizing that for many of the readers, they would never know this stuff about my life if it was all happening back home.  Maybe sometimes I'm just more aware that blogging can make my life a bit of an open book, and I don't even know who is reading it...

After spending an annoying amount of money yesterday afternoon buying clothes and shoes that fit the dress code for the staff agency I headed to the library.  I was able to see Louis for a bit before he headed off to work; he works about 2 blocks from the library so we often meet up there.  Anyway, I'm still trying to help Michael get his phone working, but it's difficult because he can be so ornery and he's started drinking again so he doesn't even remember our conversation from when we first started the process.  I don't really have much experience with Australian mobile phone networks and processes so it's a bit confusing.  I have to call the company today and try to get it all straightened out - he wants to keep his old phone number, but the transfer won't go through for some reason.  Anyway, due to the phone company drama I arrived at volleyball a bit later than usual.  When I arrived two of Rav's friends (Ray & Steve) were there playing so I played a couple games against their team.  They had gone one other night before I'd met them in hopes of meeting me (I guess Rav had told them I play volleyball all the time), but I hadn't been there.  I, of course, heard all this second-hand from Rav after their failed mission.  It was a really fun night at volleyball - everyone was super easy-going and just playing for fun.  I have a semi-funny, but mildly embarrassing story about burning hot tofu, but I think I'm going to keep that one under wraps.  I hope you all had a fantastic Reformation Day (or Halloween, depending on which event you celebrate).  As always, feel free to comment or shoot me an email.

A Lazy Halloween

It's been a few days, but I just haven't felt like blogging, and to be honest don't really feel like it at the moment either.  Caterina, Pukari, Emma, Rith, and I all went to the movies Wednesday night to watch "The Judge", so that was a lot of fun.  It was definitely better than "Gone Girl" so that was a plus.  I got an email yesterday morning from one of the staffing agencies I'd visited when I first arrived in Cairns telling me I had an interview this morning.  I had no idea what the job for which was being interviewed was, but it turned out to be for temp work in the Food & Beverage category.  So despite my lack of experience in that realm I was accepted and filled out all the paperwork to be an employee.  No idea how much work I'll be getting or how often, but hopefully it will be good and it should fit in with my teaching job at Nova and my working at Bohemia.  I just have a feeling it will cut into my volleyball time and I really don't want that - but I guess you can't have it all and I have had three months of volleyball already.

The cut on my foot is looking a bit better - all the scrubbing I have to do after it gets sandy and dirty at volleyball and then my laps in the swimming pool in the morning seem to be helping (or at the very least, not making it worse)...  It still looks gross, but I think it might finally be starting to heal.  I had a photo to show you all but it's just so gross looking I couldn't post it.  It looks a bit like a brain or something...very Halloween worthy.  I have discovered though that if I put a bandaid on the cut and then wear a sock it helps keep the bandage on and if the bandage does come loose the sock keeps the dust and dirt out.

I got to talk with my Dad and Cricket on the phone today; Crickett even sent me a photo of my puppy, who is no longer a puppy and whom I have never actually met - but isn't she cute!?

And just for the record, Halloween is pretty much a non-existent holiday in Australia.  They don't do trick-or-treat and only a few random places have any sort of decorations.  They also don't have Thanksgiving either (found that out this morning while reading the paid holidays at the staff agency).  Well, that's all I've got at the moment...maybe I'll feel up to writing something interesting tomorrow, but don't hold your breath :)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Cairns Weekend

Yesterday afternoon I was sitting in the kitchen/dining room talking with Matthew while eating a late lunch.  We were comparing notes on our foot injuries (his from soccer, mine from volleyball)
This picture actually makes it look pretty good!
I wonder if I can incorporate it into a Halloween costume since it's so gruesome looking?
 and our experiences teaching English, basically just small talk.  Anyway, Tusa was in the kitchen cooking and out of the blue he brings me a bowl of this vegetable stir-fry he had made and asked me to try it.  It consisted mainly of vegetables I don’t generally like, such as celery and mushrooms, but I found it to be surprisingly tasty!  I hadn’t totally finished it when he brings a pan over of another dish consisting (from what I could tell) of tofu, pasta, and soy sauce.  It was also very good.  He didn’t offer Matthew any though, but I shared a bit of the first dish with him so he could taste it.  I’m just curious what it is about me that entices people to randomly feed me.

Oh, and it was confirmed to me yesterday morning while working that the hostel is for sale.  Yeah, that information came as quite a shock.  On Friday two smartly dressed men came in and asked for the keys to some rooms so they could show some people around.  I couldn’t be entirely sure what exactly had been advertised, but had a feeling they were realtors.  Yesterday another guy came in asking to look around and see some rooms and he mentioned that the place was for sale.  I’m doing my best not to be nervous about the business being sold, but I really don’t want my tentative plans to stay until January to be upset.  It’s not much of a plan, but it’s all I’ve got so maybe that’s why I feel so protective of it.

I got the below email from Lesley today - I love having the option of living in the UK at some point, even if it means looking after 2 boys...
Great to hear from you we miss you so much I so wish that Adelaide had more to offer but so glad your having a fabulous time. Boys are great and if you're free we would love you back as a paid aupair.  Sort out your plans and maybe next year we could have you in the UK and the boys in school there.

I finished my biography of John Wayne and found it very fascinating.  I now have a desire to watch a bunch of the films (he’s been in a ridiculous amount of movies though) mentioned in the book, but sadly the library here only had “Big Jake” when I was in earlier last week.  Since I chanced finding the TV room empty yesterday afternoon, and had no plans, I decided I’d sit down and watch it before heading to volleyball.  I really enjoyed it, but John Wayne always makes me miss my Grandpa.  By the time it was over it was time to go to the courts.  For a Saturday night it was very empty when I arrived.  There was one game going on but the teams were full, and only Kaylee and Ben (a British couple who’ve been around for awhile) were there waiting.  Since we had no prospects of a game, and none of us were leaving, Kaylee and I ended up chatting about travel in Australia and the work we did back home.  Eventually Des showed up and then Bal and a few of his friends came so we were able to get a team going.  Towards the end of the night (well, my night since I had to work early this morning) I joined a new team with Peter and Junior.  I wasn’t 100% sure his name was Junior though, so I said to him, “Your name’s Junior, right?”
He gave me an odd smile and said, “Yeah, how did you know?”
“Oh, we played together awhile ago.”
“Ah!  Sorry, I don’t remember your name though.”
“No worries, I’m Abbie.”
“Oh, the famous Abbie!”

I have no idea what he meant by that, but hopefully it’s a good thing.  My name does get yelled a lot during games, especially when playing with or against Wally, Rocky, or Casey…so hopefully it’s for that, not my skills or something embarrassing.  Anyway, I got to chat with Josh for a bit and saw Stephanie & Tyeisha briefly as well before I had to head back.  It was so nice to be back at volleyball after 5 days off.  I’m hoping to stop by after church tonight and maybe get a few games in before I have to call it quits because of my early shift in reception Monday morning….