Monday, September 29, 2014

Pounding the Pavement

Pukari and I keep inviting people to join us at the ballroom dance class, but haven’t had any more luck.  Lightt & Lulu were able to make it this week.  Lulu said that by the time they got back home last week the pot on the stove had been ruined and there was smoke everywhere. Rith & Louie came Sunday night, but they just watched.  It’s definitely not as fun when you know you’re being watched, at least for me anyway; Pukari is used to it since he used to be in competitions.  I did manage to have some fun though; and had Rith not broken his arm the other night in a bit of a freak volleyball accident, he said he would have joined the class because it looks so fun.  Anyway, when we were done the four of us (Pukari, Louie, Rith, and I) all decided to have some dinner, which was perfect because I was starving before we ever left for dance but since I was in reception hadn't had a chance to eat anything.  Lightt & Lulu headed home, I think the dancing is tiring for Lulu, she's about 6 months pregnant and said the baby is feeling really heavy now.  We ended up going out for pizza and it was a lot of fun.  You don’t always get much of a chance to talk at volleyball because you’re concentrating on the game and you’re not always on the same teams and whatnot.  Rith is Cambodian, but has lived in Australia for the last 18 years or so and is living with some Thai friends here in Cairns at the moment, but his home is in Melbourne.  I never quite understood the whole situation, but that’s ok.  Pukari had to bring up the fact that I can sing, the downside to people coming to church with me, but I guess the upside is that I found out Louis is in the choir at his church.  Probably never would have learned that little tid-bit otherwise.  It was a really fun evening and hopefully everyone enjoyed themselves as much as I did.  Rith and I did most of the talking, but then Pukari isn't much of a talker anyway and I think poor Louis was spending most of his time trying to understand what we were saying.  I think his English is really good, but then sometimes I forget that it’s still not his first language so we need to speak slowly and clearly.  I guess he got good listening practice anyway.

 I stayed up way too late Sunday night for the early start I had Monday (I was up at 5am), but it was a busy day so I didn't have too much time to feel tired.  As soon as my morning shift in reception finished Alicia came and we headed out to try and hand out our resumes to as many businesses as we could find that would take them.  She told me that she’d gone by herself the other day, but felt too nervous.  Since she knew I was on the job hunt as well she decided to ask if I’d want to tag along.  Having done it on my own previously, I could certainly sympathize, so we headed out together.  We spent over 3 hours walking all over town to hotels and businesses asking if they had openings and leaving resumes if they’d allow us.  Hopefully someone will call us for an interview.  We both had sore feet by the time we were done…

It was another late night due to the farewell dinner for Sam & Lisa (they're moving on from Cairns on Wednesday).  We started at 5:30pm, but I still didn’t crawl into bed until 11pm (and I really do mean crawl into bed).
 Dinner was at Kimchi & Richy, but you have to remember that BBQ simply means grilling, so there’s a little grill in the middle of each table.  Alicia did the cooking and when Agatha was able to get away (they’re short staffed so she’s been filling in) she joined us.  It was an incredibly enjoyable night; I haven’t laughed that much in a very long time.  Lisa is an absolute gem, and Sam is actually quite funny and sweet as well.  I’m a bit sad we didn’t get to spend a bit more time together while they were here, but it looks like I’ll be visiting them in January.  Agatha & Alicia’s mom is coming for a visit and they’re going to take her down to Tasmania to visit Sam & Lisa and asked if I wanted to tag along.  Lisa was so excited and immediately started planning an itinerary and pulling up photos on her phone of all the beautiful places she wants to show us.  We haven’t really worked out any of the details yet so I’m not sure if I’ll stay here until we go down or not (geographically it doesn’t quite make sense, but because of the Christmas holidays it might be smarter not to try and travel during December).  Anyway, back to the fun.  Agatha was definitely the life of the party and she was definitely on a roll.  Granted, I think the amount of sojyu they all drank definitely helped her antics.
There were several thumb wars as well and Alicia was the champ.  Despite all the laughter, there were definitely a lot of tears when Lisa gave Agatha & Alicia the gifts she had bought them.  Sam and I just sat there and watched while they all cried and hugged; Sam poured himself some more sojyu and said to me, “Women, they’re a rare breed.”  I just laughed and agreed with him, we’d had that conversation before.  The night didn’t end on that sad note, we ended up in front of the restaurant where Sam and Agatha had an impromptu (and possibly drunk-induced) dance off.  We all finally managed to go our separate ways because Agatha had to go back to work at the restaurant and Alicia was working the morning shift today.  I’m reminded of one of my favorite “old” country songs, “no matter what they say I’ve done, I ain’t never had too much fun.”

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Visit to Church

Last weekend in Cairns there was a festival and on Sunday afternoon there was a Cairns Gospel Concert.  The Chinese Fellowship at my church was taking part in the festival, but I wasn't able to make it to their performance (I was working in reception).  Lisa, Jason, and a few others went to the festival and Pukari and I stopped by for a few minutes on our way to dance class.  Anyway, on Monday Jason was talking to me about the festival and he said he really enjoyed the gospel music portion of the evening.  In the course of our conversation he said he'd like to go to church with me on Sunday (most, if not all, the hostel regulars know that I go every Sunday morning).  I told him he was more than welcome to tag along, but I had the impression it was just a passing thing for him; he'd been moved by the music and atmosphere but not enough to follow through six days later.  To my surprise, he asked me yesterday morning at breakfast what time he should be ready to go with me today.  Pukari had mentioned at one point that he'd like to go to church with me sometime, so I figured if Jason was going to come Pukari might as well join us.  So, at 8:30 this morning we all went to church.  I didn't really get a chance to talk to Jason about the service afterwards to see what he thought, but hopefully it made him think.  Pukari told me he was glad I'd asked him to go and that he hadn't been to church in a long time.  He had told me weeks ago that he and his mom had gone to a Presbyterian church in town for a year or two several years ago, so I asked if the service was similar to what he was used to at the other church.  He just shook his head no and didn't elaborate.  It's been interesting to see people's reactions to my church attendance.  There's one gentleman here (a very rough guy) who always teases me that he's going to come and sit in the back row and start yelling that I'm crazy or some such nonsense.  Another gentleman has told me that he's an atheist and thinks that all religion should be outlawed (he thinks that will solve the problems in the Middle East or something).  So, we'll see what happens next week if Pukari and Jason feel like tagging along again.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Visa Options

It was an interesting night last night.  There was to be a going away party/dinner for Sam & Lisa at the restaurant at about 7:30pm, so I had to leave volleyball early.  When I got back Alicia told me that it probably wouldn't be until about 8:30pm.  No problem, I'd have time to shower before hand.  By 8:30pm I got a call saying they were cancelling and would try to reschedule tomorrow (which is now today).  Since I had to be up at 5:30am this morning that was fine, I figured I'd check my emails and head to bed.  While sitting on the balcony I got a text from my Mom telling me that she was at the hospital with my Dad and he would soon be having eye surgery.  Sometimes I'm just so thankful for technology!  I called my sister and she told me she'd update me via text throughout the day as things developed.  It was much earlier than my usual bedtime (I don't usual get back from volleyball until about 9:30 or 10pm), but I knew I had to be up early.  Apparently the guests at the restaurant downstairs had missed the memo about my early work shift because around 10:30pm they sang "Happy Birthday" quite loudly, and then didn't stop singing for the next hour or so.  I was serenaded by "Ain't No Mountain High", "I Love You Baby", and even "Fresh Prince of Belair", among others.  They were certainly enjoying themselves...  I couldn't fall sleep (their singing didn't help of course), and then off and on throughout the night I would roll over and check my phone to see if my sister had any updates.  He did well with the surgery and is now waiting on a follow-up appointment to determine future surgeries and what not.  So everything is looking as well as can be expected.  Thankfully, I didn't actually feel too tired today, despite the lack of sleep last night.  I spent a rather quiet morning in reception and on a whim decided I'd check and see what other visa options there are for Australia.  I seem to keep meeting people who have been here longer than 1 or 2 years and can't help but wonder how they're all allowed to stay in the country.  The one guy I met last night has been here for 8 years now.  Even with a 2 year working holiday visa and another 2 year student visa I'm not sure how that could work.  Maybe they all find jobs with companies that will sponsor them to move here, that's all I could come up with, at least being an American that's the only options available to me other than a tourist visa.

 I resisted the urge to take a nap and instead spent my afternoon by the pool reading my book, swimming, and chatting with David (the German guy for whom I typed up the resume a few weeks back).  All my afternoons at the pool seem to be working, because this morning when I got up and looked in the mirror, the girl staring back at me had a tan.  Yes, you read that correctly, a tan.  I almost feel as if I just confirmed a sighting of a UFO.  I'm wearing my sunscreen (I'm often reminded of the high rates of skin cancer in Australia), but I've still managed to get a bit of color - yippee!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Good Reminder

Well, I guess I've made my decision.  I wouldn't exactly say it was a definitive moment, it just sort of hit me this afternoon, that I won't be going.  Simple as that.  I was sitting in reception laughing and chatting with Agatha and Alicia, laughing at how often Agatha has had to change my work schedule, working on some sort of going away party for Sam & Lisa, making plans to go on a little holiday/picnic with them (Agatha & Alicia) in a few weeks: it was great.  I said see ya later, and as I was walking out the door that's when I realized that even though the bus trip doesn't sound as exciting, and I might regret not taking this sailing opportunity, I wouldn't be taking it.  I couldn't bring myself to tell the girls I was leaving and I really don't want to, so I'm not.  Sometimes I forget why I started this blog, especially now that it's mainly used to report my travel adventures, but I started it because I didn't want to live my life on accident.  So, I went back to my first post, my "About" section and realized that this sort of thing is exactly why I started the blog.  I'm staying in Cairns, on purpose, because I like it here and I love the people I've met here.  I'll have to leave eventually; either the heat will force me out or my visa expiration will force me to finish up my travels and head home.  Either way, I'm going to make the most of my time here in Cairns, however long that may be.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014


I called Steve & Annette this morning to see when would be a good time to visit the boat and chat with them more about the trip.  I walked down to the marina and was a bit surprised by the size of the boat, but it was very clean and they are both very nice.  I really like Annette, and I'm sure I'd be fine with Steve for 6 weeks.  He smokes quite a bit though so I wasn't a big fan of that.  The sailing portion sounds awesome, I'd get to visit so many islands and he'd sign off on some sort of declaration at the end so I'd be able to get a position on another boat (apparently without these it's really hard to get your foot in the door, so to speak).  I'm just really not ready to leave Cairns... Plus, I have way too much luggage to fit into that tiny boat.  They only have 1 more female spot left on the boat, so I kind of need to decide soon.  I'm waiting on pricing for the bus trip down the coast so help with my decision, so hopefully they don't take too long in answering my email.

The ballroom class on Sunday night was fun, but Light & Lulu couldn't stay because they realized after they arrived that they'd left something on the stove and had to return home.  There was a distinct lack of females that night, so us girls got shuffled between all the guys.  Some of the guys are pretty good, so it wasn't too bad.  Louis and Rith had both said the night before that they would try to come, but neither of them showed.  Last night at volleyball was lots of fun, and Erin was there for the clinic this week.  She's a sweet young girl I met on my first visit to the volleyball courts, but she only comes to the Monday night clinics.  We spent a lot of time working on our spiking during the clinic and then later on in the evening Pukari and I worked on it as well, so I'm getting a bit more confident at hitting the ball over the net when I get a set from the front row.  I played a few games with a bunch of really good players, so on one hand you have to step up your game, but on the other they don't usually let you get the ball much.  Louis was there as well and he had a decent excuse for missing the dance class.  Plus, I found out he knows Agatha & Alicia - I guess him and Alicia went to language school together or something.  So that's my update.  Still no decision made, but I feel as if I'm a bit closer to a decision....maybe.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A New Adventure?

A few days ago Shoko called to ask me if I would still be in Cairns for Christmas, and if I was still around, would I be willing to teach the day after Christmas.  I've been debating for a few weeks now on whether or not I could handle the weather here during the month of December.  I really would love to stay because it would be more fun to be somewhere I actually have some friends over my birthday, Christmas, and New Years.  If I had an additional job (or more hours at Nova) I would most definitely stay, simply because I'm running out of time to stay in another place long enough to commit to an employer.  Besides, I love being able to go to volleyball every night.  It occurred to me today that had I started my year in Australia here in Cairns, I might never have left.  I've heard stories of people who start their working holiday in Sydney and never leave, and I could definitely have seen myself here during their fall and winter and staying into spring as I'm doing right now.  Anyway, what prompted this post was that shortly after I walked into reception to start my shift today, a lovely lady came by to hang up her poster for a 6 week Sailing Adventure from Cairns to Brisbane on a 50ft. yacht.  It sounds absolutely amazing and way more fun than the hop-on-hop-off bus down the coast that I was planning on doing.  I didn't really want to do the bus thing by myself, just because it didn't sound like that much fun (since I'm by myself), but I didn't know of another cheap way to go about it.  The biggest problem is that they leave on October 10th.  If they were waiting just 3 or 4 more weeks I'd have probably signed up on the spot.  It's not exactly ideal timing, but I'm not sure if I should be passing up such a great opportunity.  I'd get to see a lot more places (out of the way places) than I would on the bus portion and it includes all my meals and accommodation so I feel like it has to be cheaper than the bus version anyway.  It would end in Brisbane before the beginning of December, so I suppose I could travel down to Tasmania and then from Melbourne to Adelaide and be back in Adelaide for Christmas....  Ugh, more decisions!!  Life is full of them, which I guess is a good thing.  Sorry guys, this post is basically me talking to myself, but if any of you have any advice or wisdom you'd like to share in relation to this post, please comment!!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

These are the days

Not a ton to report on here in Cairns.  I spent Friday (yesterday) morning wandering around town with Pukari, so that was a nice change of pace.  We stopped in this awesome little traditional Japanese shop down an unassuming little alley. I'd noticed the sign before, but never bothered to go down the alley and check it out, but Pukari wanted to buy a sake set from them so we stopped by.  It goes without saying that I adored the shop.  They had a lot of second hand yukatas and kimonos, lots of old paintings and silk-screen art pieces, even some pottery as well.  After we parted ways I slip-slop-slapped (well, actually just slop and slap) and spent the rest of the afternoon by the pool reading my new book, "Abu Dhabi Days, Dubai Nights".

"One of the most successful health campaigns in Australia's history was launched in 1981, when a cheerful seagull in board shorts, t-shirt and hat danced his way across our TV screens singing the jingle. 'Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat...' The Slip! Slop! Slap! slogan is the core message of the Cancer Council's SunSmart program and has become part of the Australian language."
 It was a pretty quiet night at volleyball last night, which is a bit unusual for a Friday night.  Played a few games with Jack, Bal, and Kunis (I just love him, he's so sweet), Wilson arrived in time to join a few games as well - I hadn't seen him in a few weeks.  My little brother (who I'm quite certain never actually reads my blog) would have been quite proud of me last night.  They kept setting me the ball and the majority of the time I was able to get it over the net!  I might have even jumped on some of them.  Anyway, as I was getting ready to leave Jack pulled me over and told me that he was trying to organize some of the regulars/locals from volleyball to get together and go to the movies this weekend and wanted me to know if I'd like to go along.  Since I'm working this afternoon/evening he wasn't sure if I'd be able to make it this time around, but he said he'd text me next time they tried again.  It's the thought that counts and it was nice of him to try and include me.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

More work

This morning as I was making a cup of coffee I got a call from Shoko.  It seems that Romy is quite busy at her studio (she’s a photographer) and can’t teach tomorrow, so Shoko was wondering if I’d be able to fill in for her.  So, despite only having one student this week, God has still seen fit to give me more hours!  I didn’t have to work today, so I spent my afternoon by the pool reading a book called “All The Way Home” by Ann Tatlock.  I vaguely remember my mom making me read it in 8th grade, and also resenting being forced to read the book.  I have no idea why I remember that fact because for a girl who loved to read books it was odd that I didn’t want to read it.  And yet I also remember enjoying the book by the time I was half-way through.  I plopped down by the pool ready to get lost in my book and enjoyably passed the afternoon away.
 As you can see it’s a lovely little spot and is usually quiet during the day.  Sam and Jason did jump in for a few minutes at one point, but they only got me a tiny bit wet and I managed to keep the library book dry, so no harm done.

The training of the new girl in reception went tolerably well yesterday, but Alicia told me today (after the girl’s training with Alicia) that they had decided not to keep her.  So, we’re short staffed and Lisa will be leaving in another week or so as well, so we’ll be short two people.  If the hostel were doing better financially I’d hold out hope that they’d just pay me to help fill in some of the hours, but I don’t foresee that happening.  One of Alicia’s favorite treats that she shared with me one time is called pomanju (at least that's how it sounds).
 It’s a little chestnut filled cake that is very nice, but most definitely “asian” in my mind.  Having tasted what is dessert in Japan, this reminds me of the sweet, and yet somehow not sweet at all, flavor of their desserts.  I bought some the other day on my way back from the school (I pass a few Korean convenience stores), so I shared them with her and gave one to Pukari as well since he loves all things Korean.  Well, I guess that’s all the news here at the moment.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Shall We Dance?

It was good fun, and I'm glad I went.  *In case you missed the previous posts about the ballroom dance lessons, you can find it here.*  I didn't really expect everyone to come, so I wasn't exactly surprised when only Lightt and his wife Lulu joined us.  She's very sweet, and is due in January with their first child.  She never comes to volleyball, so it was nice to meet her.  Pukari knew all the dance instructors, they were old friend's of his.  I told him that we better not get made into the example couple since he knew what he was doing.  Thankfully, we never got put on the spot.  We started off with the waltz and everyone did several steps and then switched partners, so you end up dancing with everyone else in the room (well, all the other guys in the room).  It was definitely much easier (since I'm a girl), when my partner actually knew what he was doing, so basically when dancing with Pukari and one of his old friends who was helping out.  After we'd done the beginning steps of the waltz in a big circle we then moved on to just pairs and added to the degree of difficulty.  Once we'd worked on that for about an hour we then moved on to the Cha-Cha.  Definitely trickier, but also more fun to dance.  I don't think I'd have ever managed to pick it up if it wasn't for Pukari though.  Even when I messed up he didn't lose his place/step, so it made it easier to jump back in or just muddle through until I caught up.  Plus, he was able to repeat the demonstration of the steps after the instruction portion was over and we were to be practicing.  I don't know how Lightt and Lulu managed it - they must be gifted.  Anyway, it was great fun and Lightt & Lulu are planning on joining the class, so I think Pukari wants to join as well.  I asked him afterwards when the last time he'd danced was and he said it had been about 2 years and he was glad I'd made him do it again.  I, of course, quickly reminded him, that he was the one who'd asked me do it, not the other way around.  Anyway, I figure if he wants to go and is willing to put up with teaching me how then I'm fine with going.  It's a bit of variety from going to volleyball every night...

Today was my last day of teaching for about the next 4 weeks.  There are no students scheduled for next week and then there's the regularly scheduled 2 week break after that.  While walking through Cairns Central (the local mall) yesterday I'd noticed two stores with signs up that they were hiring, so after teaching this morning I went by and dropped off my resume.  No clue if I'll get the job, but it would be great to find another part time job to get some more cash.  Well, I'd better wrap this up and grab something to eat before volleyball tonight.  Cheers!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Day 200

Yesterday morning an interesting thing happened.  Well, I found the situation interesting.  I went down to the kitchen for breakfast and a Samoan gentleman who's staying here long term (Fuaao)was cooking his own breakfast when I walked in.  His English isn't very good, but I always smile and say hello when I see him.  Anyway, I went about making my coffee, toast and cereal.  I was finished with breakfast, and was washing my dishes when he showed me a plate with two eggs and some fried tomatoes and he told me it was for me!  Then he added some rice to it and made me some sort of hot chocolate (tasted as if it was sweetened with honey) and put it on the table for me.  He's such a sweet man, and there was no way for me to turn it down even though I'd already had a full breakfast!  He's asked me other days when he's been cooking if I'd like some, but it's always after I've eaten so I say no thank you.  Afterwards he was telling me, well trying to tell me, something about cooking the rice and cooking rabbit and chicken.  I think he might be a chef.  Anyway, I ended up going to the library to read the newspaper before I had to start my reception shift.  I never really sit through the news, sometimes I just pop into the TV room to catch the weather for the day, but that's about it, so I was feeling out of the loop.  Cairns is hosting the G20 Summit, so that starts this coming weekend.

So, there's a German guy (David) staying at the hostel for the past week or so, and we've chatted a few times here and there.  He came in to reception yesterday while I was working to ask if I'd help him write up a resume in English.  He had one in German, but wasn't sure if his English was good enough to create one on his own.  I of course told him I'd be happy to help, so after my dinner of leftovers from the Nova BBQ, we sat down to give it a shot.  He's so funny, and we managed to get one typed up and only had to use a translator once.  Him and his friend are trying to get some farm work, but haven't had much luck yet.

Today was pretty uneventful, went to church this morning, ran some errands, and then grabbed a bit to eat before starting my shift in reception.  Emma stopped by on her way back from the market, so that helped the day pass by a bit quicker.  Sadly, she doesn't want to come to the ballroom dance class with us tonight, even though she doesn't have to work.  She told me she tried it at university and doesn't like it, so I guess that's a pretty good reason.  Working at Nova tomorrow and then training Katie (new girl in reception) Tuesday morning...

Cairns Character List

I was asked, back when I was in South Australia, to add some sort of "Character List" to my blog so you all didn't have to search through old blog posts to remember all the people that I mention.  So, since I've met so many people thus far in Cairns I decided I'd go ahead and write you one - I'll try to update it as necessary.

  • Agatha (Korean) - former manager of my hostel, we did the farm tour together
  • Alicia (Korean) - trained me in reception work, Agatha's younger sister
  • Tim (Korean) - manager of the hostel and chef at the restaurant next-door
  • Ethan (Korean) - friend of Tim, worked in reception and lived at Bohemia with his fiance; they're back in Korea now
  • Jay (Korean) - helps out in reception and does some book-keeping work for the hostel.  Used to live in Houston and is going back to school to be an accountant.  He and his wife have 2 adorable little boys, Jun & Youll.
  • Lisa & Sam (Aussie) - they worked at the hostel, Lisa in reception and Sam in maintenance.  They're now back home in Tasmania after traveling around Australia in their camper van.
  • Lou (Aussie) - the hostel maintenance/allrounder guy (he doesn't live at Bohemia)
  • Matthew (British/Italian) - did the cleaning at night (working for accommodation)
  • Jason (Aboriginal) - lived at the hostel; has three daughters: Diane, Wilamena, & Rebecca
  • Thanh (German of Vietnamese descent) - worked briefly in reception; Working Holiday Visa
  • Pukari (a Cairns "native", but born in PNG) - friend I met at Volleyball
  • Jack (Aussie) - friend I met at Volleyball
  • Josh & Kunis (PNG) - brothers I met at VB; Josh is a senior and has a great sense of humor, Kunis is about 11 or 12 and has the sweetest smile
  • Scott, Cindy, Alec (Taiwanese) - Scott & Cindy are siblings, and they all usually come to volleyball together; WHV
  • Lightt & Lulu (Taiwanese) - I met Lightt at volleyball (he's friends with Scott & Alec), he and his wife Lulu joined the ballroom dance class with Pukari and I
  • Louis (Korean) - mutual friend with Pukari, met at volleyball; student visa
  • Rith (Cambodian) - friend of Pukari & Louis whom I met at VB.  He's lived in Australia for at least 20 years or so, and his hometown would be Melbourne.  We traveled to Tasmania & Melbourne together in January.
  • Caterina (Italian) - we met at volleyball, she's actually now a permanent resident and grew up not far from where I lived in Italy.
  • Wilson, Leroy, & Des (all from the Torres Straits) - all very good at volleyball, and yet still ask me to play with them.  
  • Stephanie & Tyeisha (Torres Straits) - Stephanie is a fantastic volleyball setter and has the most beautiful little girl, Tyeisha
  • Serina (Nina), Rob, Sweeny, Deba (Torres Straits/Cairns) - a family (cousins, siblings, etc.) who are great at volleyball, and Deba is a former pro-basketball player
  • Sam & Chulisa (Filipino) - father and son volleyball players who are both amazing, I can only imagine how good Chulisa will be once he's older
  • Jordan (Aussie) - crazy guy from volleyball, used to swear like crazy but I started yelling at him for it and after a few months he does much better (at least around me).
  • Stefan & Max (German) - volleyball friends
  • Jun (Japanese) - he's lived in Australia for the past 20 years or so; met at volleyball
  • Rav (Sri Lankan, but raised in NZ and Australia) - met at the library, in his last year of Med School at JCU
  • Shoko (Japanese) - my boss at Nova
  • Anne (Aussie) - teacher at Nova
  • Romy (Aussie) - teacher at Nova
  • Christa (Dutch) - friend from Cairns Girls Hostel
  • Emma (Taiwanese) - friend I met at Cairns Girls Hostel; WHV
  • Lily (Filipino) - a lovely (middle-aged) women I met at church, she's one of the greeters
  • Ruth & Jim (Aussie) - an older couple from church whom I've sat with on occasion and whom drove me home after evening service

 I couldn't decide if I should put them in alphabetical order or just keep them grouped by how I know them...  If there's any other helpful information you'd like me to add, just comment and let me know. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Nova & Friends

Yesterday (Friday) was the last day of classes for the current group of students and since I didn't have to work in reception I told them I'd come to the graduation "ceremony" and BBQ with them.  I'd had a crummy night (I had to change rooms in the hostel and didn't get much sleep in the new location), but my afternoon with them was so much fun.  They're such a great group and I definitely enjoyed hanging out with them, even when they chatter away in Japanese and I have no idea what they're saying.  Hideko and Yukiho caused most of our mirth.  There is probably about 50 years difference in their ages, but they have become good friends and are always making us laugh with their banter and Yukiho's crazy antics. She and Hideko would be bantering back and forth in Japanese and then Yukiho would bust out laughing and then proclaim in English, "Generation Gap."
Hideko decided to bring some additional food to the BBQ (corn, eggplant, zucchini, and Mango wine) so we had more than enough to go around and couldn't even finish it all.
 She's very good at chopping vegetables, you can tell she knows her way around a kitchen knife; she told me that it's because she's a housewife.  Yukiho found out that my hair is naturally curly and was of course amazed and then had tons of fun laughing at how crazy my hair can be when it's windy.  She told me at one point that it looked like it had exploded.  Her laughter is contagious, so even when I didn't know what her and the others were talking about I could still laugh with them.  Despite the language barrier smiles and laughter can always translate, and I love that.  At one point Yukiho was talking (in Japanese) and kept looking at me as if she thought I understood and then Shoko said to me, "She thinks that since you lived in Japan you know more Japanese than you let on, so she thought you might be able to understand."  Sadly, I had to tell them that it had been too long and I had forgotten most of what I learned.  After the BBQ was over Yukiho, Hideko, and Ayano were heading to Rusty's market to buy some flowers for their host families and since I walk past it on my way back home I walked with them.  On the way there Hideko gave me a necklace/headband thing (she said I could wear it any way I wanted) with a flower she'd hand-sewn.
 Before we parted ways for the final time I told them all that if they ever visited America they needed to look me up and I would show them around.

I was pleasantly surprised when I checked my emails to find some correspondences from friends (Ruthann) and family (Aunt Gayle) far and wide, and I got a surprise card from my dearest cousin Heather too!  God always knows when to send a well timed pick-me-up.  Volleyball last night was a lot of fun as well.  A bunch of us (Scott, Cindy & her boyfriend, Louie, Light and his wife, Pukari, and I) made plans to go to a beginners ballroom dance class on Sunday night, so that will be interesting.  Pukari did ballroom dance for about 16 years (competitions and all) so he asked if I wanted to learn.  I figured if the guy has to lead and he knows what he's doing, how bad could it be?  We were supposed to go last week, but it didn't work out.  Hopefully it will be even more fun now that we've got a whole group to go with us.  Louie ended up walking most of the way home with me which was a welcome change to my usual solitary walks.  You don't always get a chance to talk while playing, so it was good to have a chance to chat.  He's here on a student visa and is/was studying Agriculture and Horticulture.  His sister is a permanent resident (she'd been at the courts earlier to watch for a bit), but we had to part ways before I could find out too much more. He's Korean, so I've added him to my growing list of Korean friends.  It's still not as long as my Japanese list, but there's still time :)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Springtime in Cairns

Thus far in my time Down Under I’ve picked up a few bits of Aussie slang, and some interesting tid-bits about their culture.  Two that I hear most often are singlet (a tank-top) and jumper (a jacket, sweatshirt, or coat).  Another interesting one that I picked up from volleyball is that Weet-Bix is their equivalent to Wheaties.  When someone’s serve doesn’t go over the net or they miss a really easy set they say that the person must not have had their Weet-Bix for breakfast or they need to eat more Weet-Bix.

I still go to volleyball pretty much every night and there’s usually not a whole lot to say about the games since you all don’t know any of the people I play with regularly and those that I meet who are newcomers.  I wish I could turn the following tale into something really interesting, but as you can imagine it’s all such a blur now that I’m not sure it’s possible.  Some night I’m going to have to take my camera down to the courts and take a photo so you all can “picture” where I play every night.  Anyway, earlier this week I arrived at VB and sat under the pavilion to survey the courts and see if any of the teams were short a player, see if I knew anyone so I could join in, that sort of thing.  I hadn’t been there long when a new team formed and although I only knew the name of one of the guys, I knew the faces and style of play of most of the other players.  When they asked to join, I said with some hesitation, “I probably shouldn’t, you all are too intense.”  But, if you don’t join a team the first chance you get, you sometimes end up sitting and waiting for quite awhile, so I joined them.  There was one guy on my team and one guy on the other team that both spike and serve the ball really, really hard.  I managed to get through one game, and it should be noted that I was quite tired and I’m certain that had something to do with the following events.  Regardless, one minute I’m playing and the next minute, almost in slow-motion I realize that the ball is being spiked right at my head.  I think I had been trying to move out of the way, because I realized that the crazy, intense guy is being set the ball, but apparently, I didn’t move in the right direction.  SPALDING!  It hit me directly in the right side of my face and knocked me to the ground.  It’s one of those things that you always imagine would hurt like crazy, but thankfully it didn’t hurt as bad as I would have anticipated.  I was just glad I didn’t end up with a black eye or something.  Definitely didn’t make for the most enjoyable evening of volleyball I’ve ever had, but at least now I know I can "take the heat" I guess.

Last night was one of the enjoyable nights that make me keep returning.  Pukari was there when I arrived and Clement came a few minutes later.  Scott and Cindy (Taiwanese brother and sister who I've played with many times, they’re great fun) were already playing with some friends of theirs so we were able to jump in with them right away.  There’s always lots of banter and laughter with their group so I like to play with them.  We were playing on the court closest to the water and I had the perfect vantage point to watch the full moon rise.  It started peeking out over top of the “mountain” and was incredibly large and bright.  The reflection off the water was absolutely picture-perfect and I was so bummed I didn’t have my camera to try and capture the moment.  It was beautiful Tuesday night as well, but I was playing on a different court as it rose, so I didn’t get the same effect.

There was some drama at the hostel yesterday while I was at work and one of the girls in reception got fired and I had to change rooms today.  It’s a smaller room, but I still don’t have to share it (there was a possibility her and I were going to have to share), so I’m certainly not going to complain.  Teaching yesterday was still a bit difficult, intonation is very hard to teach!  There aren't exactly rules for it and of course there's always exceptions.  The students did pretty well with it despite my inability to explain it very well.  Anyway, we went to the Botanic Gardens for their field trip and had lots of fun.  The gardens have a wide variety of plants and flowers and is beautiful to wander through.
 It’s also near the Tanks Art Centre so we stopped in there for a quick look.  There are about 5 or 6 old water tanks that the city council changed into art exhibits or performance centers a few years back (hence the name), and the one tank had a free art exhibit we visited before we had to catch our bus back into town.  I really enjoyed some of the pieces, and would have liked to have stayed a bit longer, but here are some of my favorites:
The top photo is looking into the entrance of Tank 4

The photo on the right is supposed to be the "Australian" Buddha:
Beer, Meat Pie, Thongs, Singlet, and Lifeguard Cap
 The students have their graduation ceremony and BBQ on Friday, and since I don’t have to work I’m going to go back so I can say goodbye to them all.  They’re very sweet girls and I wish they were staying so we could hang out more.  Oh well, that’s part of traveling – meeting people and saying goodbye before you’re ready.  In other news, I got my first paycheck and it was almost exactly the cost of changing my plane ticket, so that was good.  Plus, Shoko said that they didn’t pay me over-time or whatever for the Saturday that I taught so they’ll add that to my next pay.  I’m still looking for another job to help supplement the 1-day a week I get at Nova, but I’m still not having much luck.  

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Cockroach Chronicles Continue

For those who haven't been following, this is not my first encounter with a cockroach, in fact it's not even my second or third!  To be honest, I'm still not even certain they are cockroaches, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it.  As you can guess from the photo below, this most recent encounter ended well (for me, at least).
 I was sitting on the bottom bed, using the end table as a desk to write my thoughts about the day in my journal when I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye.  The window was open, but as I glanced up I realized it was a blasted bug trying to sneak its way across the windowsill.  It made it to safely behind the curtain, but a few quick shakes had my ears picking up the sound of it hitting the floor.  It tried to hide under the end table, but I'd already grabbed my trusty flip-flop and was ready to finish him off.  I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get a good hit in with his current position under the table, so I moved it in hopes he would crawl to a more beneficial area of the room.  He refused to comply, and instead scurried under the bed and to the furthest corner.  There was no way for me to reach him, but I wasn't going to give up that easily.  I still had plenty of ammunition and reached for another flip-flop.  As I whipped it under the bed he (thankfully) scampered towards the other end of the bed.  He didn't make it to the open area at the end of the bed, so I grabbed another flip-flop and sent it across the floor.  This time he was alarmed enough to scurry out into the open and up onto the wall where I was able to get a good swing and end his life with a single whack of my footwear.  No need for applause, I'm becoming quite adept at this sort of thing and am contemplating adding it to my resume.

As I mentioned in my last post there had been free movies on the Esplanade last week as part of this year's Cairns Festival. On Saturday night Emma finally had a free evening so we decided we'd head over and watch the Taiko drum performance (Japanese drums) and then watch the final movie of the week, "The Lego Movie".  The drum performance was pretty cool, I really enjoyed it.  Unfortunately we were a bit late for the start of the performance and were only able to get a spot in the back, but here's a brief video of one of their pieces:

After the drum performance we decided to check out the "Chalk the Walk" chalk art competition that was happening.  There were so many fantastic drawings and so many talented artists.  It was truly a shame that they were done in chalk and would soon be gone.

As for the movie, I hadn't really expected to enjoy it that much, but it was surprisingly cute.  Other than having "Everything is Awesome" stuck in my head the rest of the night, I found it had plenty of amusing parts.  The creators were definitely very inventive and I loved the Taco Tuesday and Kragle parts of the film.  

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Big Screen Film Festival

As part of the Cairns Festival going on this week they have a huge screen on the lawn of the lagoon and they've been showing free movies each night.  Sadly, I didn't fully realize this until last night.  On Monday night they showed "Strictly Ballroom", an Australian film I watched on Netflix before I moved Down Under.  I really enjoyed the film and would have loved to have seen it again...  Anyway, last night was the first night of the Big Screen Film Festival in Cairns.  I only knew about the movies last night and tonight from an advertisement I'd seen in the paper.  Had I been down to the lagoon at all this week I'd have seen the signs for the other screenings.  The Big Screen Festival portion was playing old silent films from the National Film & Sound Archives and there was a live band providing some of the accompaniment.  They did have a few, short documentary type films explaining about the Corrick family (you can read more about this fascinating family here) and their inclusion of films into their musical performances.  They showed several of the films from their collection, which "offer a rare insight into the way Australians first experienced cinema. The collection includes silent novelty, comedy, chase and travel films, only a few of which were made by the Corricks themselves."  There were also some films explaining the production of silent films in the early 1900's.  They also had some old commercials, and if you think ads are long now you should see how long some of them were back in the 1920's!!  I also never realized that they had "color" films so early in the 1900's - they hand painted each frame using glow-in-the-dark pigments (mostly made from things that will kill you, like uranium).  My knowledge of silent films consists of watching "Singing in the Rain" and Charlie Chaplin's "City of Lights" so that might explain my surprise.

Call me crazy, but the other cool part of the night was the promotional seating they were handing out.  It's this awesome invention called The Bum Box.  They're corrugated cardboard seats that fold flat for carrying and opens to a triangular prism back rest.  They're actually quite comfortable and I found them to be ingenious.
*this photo is from the BumBox website*

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Day 180

Sorry for the lack of posts, but I haven’t had all that much to share lately and to be honest, just haven’t been in the mood to try and make my day-to-day life sound interesting.  Let’s just call it writer’s block and leave it at that.  Today was my 180th day away from home and also my little brother’s birthday.  Stopping to think about the age of younger siblings makes me feel a bit old sometimes.  So yesterday, (Tuesday) I was able to finally meet up with my friend Christa before she left town again.  She was the friend that I did the Skyrail tour with about a month ago (she’s from the Netherlands).  She had moved to Mt. Surprise (west and a bit south of Cairns) and was back for just a few days; but, because of my work schedule changing we hadn’t been able to meet up.  She texted to ask if I wanted to visit the Cairns Regional Gallery with her before I went to work and I, of course, said yes.  I had walked past the gallery, but had never ventured inside so it was a perfect opportunity.  We had a coffee beforehand and were able to catch up on all the happenings since we’d last seen each other.  Sometimes it’s strange how well you get along with someone, and the ease of conversation, even though you haven’t known each other very long.  Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised by the art they had on display, I enjoyed nearly every piece!  The bottom floor was an exhibit of lithographs of the flora & fauna of Australia; they were incredibly detailed and Christa and I were only disappointed that they didn’t have an explanation of the lithograph process.  Neither of us was entirely certain of how the many pieces were created, but at least it gave us something to discuss.  My favorite was the exhibit of the works of a Torres Strait Islander “Segar Passi: Bakei – 1960’s to the Present”.  Here’s a quick blurb from the brochure:
Passi, who lives and works on Mer (Murray Island), has been painting and drawing the flora and fauna of his beautiful island home, and subjects that tell of island life and the cultural traditions of the Meriam people, for over sixty years.  Passi’s art possesses a unique character that defies categorization.  His paintings have always revealed his deep engagement with the traditions of his people, and his recent works have been attracting enthusiastic critical recognition as important works of contemporary art.
Unfortunately, you’re not supposed to take photos of his work, but below are some photos I found online.  The colors he uses in his paintings are incredibly vibrant and I think that’s what first attracted me to them.  I’m going to have to go back to the gift shop and buy the postcards of my favorite works since I couldn’t take any photos of them in the gallery.
Source - Source
Source - Source
*Respectfully advising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples that the site links may include images, or intellectual property, that may be of a sensitive nature.

      Today (Wednesday), was my first official day teaching English at Nova.  On one hand it was more difficult than I had anticipated, but on the other hand, it wasn’t all the hard.  I feel as if I would have been better prepared had I been trained to teach the adult program.  While the programs aren’t completely different (they do share a similar pattern), the adult program is much more advanced.  I started off teaching useful phrases for buying items in a convenience store (easy enough), but then the second part of the day was the stress in words.  Do you stress the first syllable or the second?  If there are more than 2 syllables do you stress only the middle syllable or the ones on both ends?  It’s just something that as a native speaker you never think about.  Plus, I had forgotten how difficult it is to explain a hard concept in super simple words.  For instance, in their journal entries one girl had written that she had gotten home “for oneself”.  I corrected it to by writing “by myself”.  Explaining the difference between “oneself” and “myself” wasn’t too difficult, but explaining when (and why) she should use for/by was much harder.  I’m honestly not sure if she understands, but I did my best.  The lessons went pretty well and Shoko and I took them to the Wildlife Dome for their activity.  The guy who had coerced me into doing the PowerJump last time remembered me and jokingly asked if I wanted to do it again, since these students had never seen me do it.  I politely declined.  I work again next Wednesday and we’ll be visiting the Botanic Gardens, so that will be neat, I haven’t done that before.  Sadly, I’m only getting 3, maybe 4, days of work this month.  With that being said, I’ve started applying for jobs again in the hopes that I can find something part time, possibly in the evenings (although I hate to miss out on volleyball).  All that to say, keep praying for more Nova students.  More students equals more work days for me!!