Apologizing in this country is futile. In fact, it is seen as a sign of weakness. Instead, Australians say “no worries” when they do you wrong. Somehow this is supposed to prevent the wronged party from worrying about the transgression. Mike has embarked on many a comical tirade on this very issue . And yet, I have continue to employ my Americana apologetic strategies when dealing with Aussies. It’s in my nature. At least, it was. Then I met Harry.
We accidentally booked the wrong dates for our Easter/Anzac road trip. Worse yet, we paid the full balance when making our reservation at the Wharf Apartments in Narooma. I apologized profusely to Harry, the Property Manager, when attempting to cancel the reservation. When I suggested that the cancellation protocol was a bit unclear and requested 50% of our deposit back, in accordance with the policy, Harry got personal.
He used aggressive CAPS and emotionally loaded punctuation!!!! I am surprised he didn’t throw in a emoticon with devil horns just to twist the knife. He hated us and our stupid mistake and let us know that we were incompetent, irresponsible and unworthy of reimbursement!
I am not sure why Harry was so angry. Maybe it was because he “wrote the policy” and felt like I was insulting his knowledge of contractual language. Perhaps he didn’t take kindly to foreigners. Or maybe he went on a bad date with Sally and failed to have what she was having.
Whatever the cause, I was dumbfounded by his rage at our request to be partially reimbursed. All I could think to respond with was, “I don’t like the tone you are taking with me” so I handed off the task of negotiating with Dirty Harry to Mike. And he delivered. The man whipped up a retort that made him sound like he practices contract law on the side just for pleasure. He used legal bonus words like, clause, tariff and restitution. We got our deposit back, but not before being cyber bullied for weeks thereafter by Harry the scorned Apartment Manager. Maybe he and Eileen should go bowling?
Words of the Day
Have a Blue: Have a fight.
Mean As Cat’s piss: MEAN!!!!!!
We had a blue with Harry who was as mean as cat’s piss!
We never actually got to stay at the Wharf Apartments. Or any other fancy apartment for that matter. Instead we stayed at the Tree Motel which included free instant coffees, an ash tray, 80’s VHS rentals and a parking spot near the “lobby”. Read Crouching Tiger, Hidden Baby for further details.
Have you ever had a customer service representative take your cancellation policy questions personally?
The boat was called FantaSea 1. A perfect name for the vessel that was about to make my dream come true. However, the dream was nearly extinguished before it was ever realized. The night before our intended departure on FantaSea 1, Chaylee sent projectile vomit down my shirt destroying my only truly supportive brazier and my dream. The poor girl did not intend to vomit on my dream. In fact, she was clearly displeased herself. No one enjoys the stomach flu. No one. I actually like a good solid head cold. And if you really think about it, I bet you do too. Consider: You can lounge around guilt free, a tumor is not a likely cause of the illness, and you get a fair amount of sympathy with minimal suffering.
Mike went ahead and rescheduled our voyage for the next day in hopes that our girl would turn her hat around and rally. And rally she did. At 8:50am we boarded FantaSea 1. The dream twas revived!
I was glad to hear it would be a two hour trip rather than a three hour tour. I stood up on the deck and stared at the big blue spread out before me. You can see why people thought the world was flat. A thin line of indigo separated the sea from the horizon. It seemed as if the water actually came to an end. Knowing it continued past what I could see provided me with just the existential, spiritual fodder I was seeking. God is real.
Kenna, Chay and Mike joined me on the terrace as the boat began to slow. A bright green shimmering band cut through the water like a stream. As we drew closer, the colors became even more brilliant and the contrasting blues even more surreal. The colossal reef carved a giant barrier through the aptly named coral sea and thus we had a arrived at the Great Barrier Reef: home to Nemo, Marlin, and my dream
So as to not interrupt my stream of consciousness, I skipped the part about Mike deciding at the last minute that he would go scuba diving in addition to snorkeling.
Announcer: Anyone interested in scuba diving should head downstairs for a quick tutorial.
That was all the convincing he needed. “I think I’ll do it.” He said non-nonchalantly as he headed downstairs. I was speechless. Bewildered. Not entirely happy. Actually downright miffed. (Miffed is really a terrible word. Say it a few times.)
My arguments against Scuba Diving
b) independent scuba diving may interfere with couples snorkeling
d) brief tutorials are not safe tutorials
Once I realized that his scuba (great word) experience would not interfere with my snorkeling ambitions I released him from my emotional prison. The truth was I was a bit jealous that I didn’t have the balls to do it too.
We docked at Reef World, a huge pontoon situated on the Hardy Reef. Does it bother anyone else that the name of one of the most beautiful places on the face of the earth is Hardy? Who decided this? Shouldn’t it be called, Paradise Reef, or Beautiful Land or Enchanted Coral Garden?
Mike headed to the scuba section.
I took the girls on the fancy submarine ride.
We ate lunch.
Mike arrived from his scuba excursion. He looked happy. He was alive. I was proud.
I still had not touched water.
Mike dropped the girls off at the Clownfish Kids Club and I headed to the dressing room to put on my stinger suit. A fluorescent orange leotard designed to protect snorkellers from jellyfish and conceit. It served its purpose. It made me feel safe and humble. I looked like a giant orange road safety cone. It took me a good 15 minutes to pull the little number on. Two nineteen year old girls slipped on powder blue suits with ease, unzipping the front in an effort to reveal the little cleavage they were able to conjure up…Afterall, it is common knowledge that tropical fish love cleavage. Especially the ones that live on “hardy” reef.
“I think I will go for the Angelina Jolie look” said one of the snorkeling vixens.
I unzipped my special suit and responded. “I’m going with the nursing mother motif.”
They laughed…and laughed. Little did they know tropical fish prefer orange!
Mike came around the corner in his dark blue stinger suit. It really made his eyes pop. Good look for him. We were stopped at the equipment bin by a woman with a camera and a cockney accent. I just wanted to get in the water. She had other plans. She told us about a one-night stand she had with a man from Portugal, her parents home in London, her work as a school photographer, her run-ins with Canadians….
Finally, I just put on my snorkel mask, inserted the breathing apparatus and continued listening until she got the point that it was snorkel time.
The minute I hit the water I was filled with awe and wonder…unfortunately, my mask was filled with water too. It took me at least 20 minutes to situate my goggles in such a way that I would not drown every time I attempted to view the reef. Once I achieved correct goggle positioning I achieved Nirvana!
Clownfish, fox faced rabbit fish, angel fish, grouper, giant clams the size of Kenna, every colour of the spectrum surrounded me. Huge schools of silver fish darted back and forth in perfect unison. I was swimming through a Wild Kingdom. At one point, I looked down at the fields of coral and creatures and sang through my snorkel,
“Praise God from whom all blessings flow…Praise Him all Creatures Here Below!”
After an hour of bliss, we beckoned Kenna to join us. She put on her stinger suit and was transformed into a sort of aqua teletubby. She has never looked more adorable and that is saying something. She didn’t last long in the water due to the ill-fitted breathing apparatus, but she did swim to the reef’s edge and squealed with delight as the friendly fish swam by her side.
After Kenna returned to the pontoon with Dad, I swam out once more determined to find Nemo before our departure. I swam around the reef’s rim peeking in each crevice like a underwater game of hide n’ seek. I nearly gave up my search when I saw a tiny orange fish poking his fin out of an anemone.
I found Nemo.
It was time to go home.
Poll: What is your dream?
Fun Fact: The Great Barrier Reef which is located off the coast of Queensland, Australia, is considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world. One down, six to go!
Word of the Day:
togs–noun:- bathers or swimming costume in Queensland and Victoria.
It was stunning. The rolling hills of emerald green spackled with gum trees and other botanical formations unknown to the people of America. Livestock, and foreign birds sang in foreign tongues. Golden light poured over the landscape like a warm blanket. And in the distance, the Tasman Sea, lapped wildly against cliffs unseen.
T’was my turn to drive but my heart and mind were laid waste by what I had just witnessed. I pulled back onto the winding road and drove…and drove…and drove, occasionally staring into the eyes of my beloved spouse…the one whose hard work and adventurous spirit led us to this distant land…this….
“Hey honey, look at that truck. What an idiot. He’s in my….lane…..”
“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH” I screamed and swerved frantically into the left lane, the correct lane, without regard for other motorists. I was too stunned by my own failure. How could I do such a thing? I’m no tourist. I am an Australian Resident for crying out loud. I know who Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull are. I drink tea and throw trash in the rubbish bin. I like beetroot on hamburgers and I am no longer confused when people say “Ta” instead of thank you. I have no right to make mistakes of such magnitude.
But hey, my passenger, Captain America, didn’t exactly steer me in the right direction either.
Word of the Day: trucky – A driver of trucks. A blokey type.
Poll: Have you had a run in with a trucky?
Trivia: Kevin Rudd is the Prime Minister of Australia and Malcom Turnbull is the leader of the opposition party. This position was at one time held by Brenden Nelson.
The story above is a small snippet of our Great Ocean Road Adventure which included an RV, much driving, staggering scenery, bird sized moths, wild koalas and kangaroos,bush rats, Jedi navigating, late nights, early mornings, coffee with Baileys, excited kids and much fun. We journeyed from Sydney to Melbourne to Port Fairy and back again. I love my family.
“Living without you, living alone
This empty house seems so cold”
Oh Journey…you haunt me.
My beloved family has departed…leaving me to fend for myself on this massive remote island. I am closer in proximity to the Malaysian Prime Minister than my own relatives now. Best not to think about that too much.
Instead, I shall dwell on all the wonderful times we shared …once we got the nose situation under control, that is. We frolicked on the steps of the Opera House, danced to the didgeridoo at Circular Quay, played in the sparkling sands of Balmoral Beach and hid from a rainstorm under the bridge. We even ate Aussie food at an Irish Pub where Mick, the ball-busting waiter shared his displeasure with our Olympians…
“Tired of hearing your bloody anthem mate!”
Okay, now that’s just awesome.
Mom’s arrival brought even more bliss. We flew kites on the crystal shores of Bondi, caressed kangaroos at Taronga Zoo and attempted to enjoy the clowns and carnival of Luna Park.
Our first attempt was met with alluring lights, celebratory music, and a closed sign. Our second effort was thwarted by a recently revised ticket policy. No longer are visitors to Luna Park allowed to purchase individual tickets, only a pricey “ticket package”. We had to take a stand. It wasn’t easy convincing the little ones that our boycott was justified, so we bribed them with fairy floss (cotton candy) and festive clown encounters.
Lesson: Never trust an establishment that uses a creepy clown to welcome you.
There was also good grown-up fun. Mom and Kirsten and I had one heck of a night out on the town. Mom was a champ. She was willing to enjoy the nightlife even though the excursion would commence at 1am Pacific Standard Time.
We decided to take the train from Chatswood to Darling Harbour where we would locate an eatery worth eating at. On our way there we were fortunate to happen upon an Asian festival where a Celtic band was playing an obscure song called “Orphan Girl” that my mom recorded with my sister and I for her latest album. It was a surreal “Small World” sort of feeling as we Americans sang along with Irishmen at an Asian festival in Australia. All that were missing were some an African goat drums and a couple sombreros.
Once we arrived at Darling Harbour, we scoured the promenade with purpose, in an effort to find the perfect spot to imbibe and nibble on the finer things. We finally found what we thought was an ideal location; a seafood joint with outdoor dining and a water view. It was beautiful, crowded, festive and fricken freezing. The heat lamps were no match for the mighty winter winds that lapped up against our hungry cheeks. (That was my lame attempt at a more poetic writing style). Although we were pleased with our culinary options and our waiter, we did not feel like having frigid fun. So we took our drinks and headed inside.
Our indoor accommodations were sparse. No jovial neighbors surrounded us, the wait staff was disorganized and disinterested, and the table was cold and barren. We had made a poor decision. We scanned the room and found a more alluring option. A booth, with a decorative bamboo backdrop and a better view…sort of. At least we could see something blue at the bar. Unfortunately, it was also home to a run away AC unit. It was like trying to have a drink in a wind tunnel. Since no one cared to feed us at that point anyway, we paid the bill and departed.
Then, it happened.
We found what we were looking for. We found Nick’s. Nick had it goin on; outdoor seating, effective heating elements, a magnificent menu and a friendly staff that seemed more than happy to take in customers on the rebound.
There was a minor martini incident…but other than that…
(The following clip contains some profanity. My apologies. It was my alter ego Delores…not me.)
The evening ended with the singing of a popular folk song called, “We Are Australians.” The song recently gained popularity in mainstream media due to a moving Olympic inspired commercial. We performed the song in three-part harmony on the streets of Sydney in hopes that somehow our melodious effort would ignite an impromptu Sydney sing-a-long, in the tradition of Fame or High School Musical. It didn’t.
Mike and James also had a night out on the town. They walked the Harbour Bridge and hit some of the famous Sydney Pubs. I hear much of the night was spent trying to feed Big James in a town that doesn’t believe in serving anything edible after 10pm. I believe the adventure ended with beer and pancakes. ???
There was more, much more, but since I am into the whole brevity thing we will fast forward to the airport…
I did what I could to not weep openly as they headed to the concourse that would lead them home. I am not an attractive crier. My nose and lips tend to swell and my skin gets very red and blotchy. Needless to say, I left that day in the aforementioned state.
In the somewhat altered words of Journey,
“Now that [they had] come back and
Turned night in to day
I needed [them] to stay”
Fortunately Mom and Mike were there with Open Arms.
We decided to head out to our favorite pizza joint to lessen the sense of loss and continue the fun. It was a good night. There was a minor incident involving mom, food aversion and a fever of 101, but over all…
Random Trivia: Aussie’s shorten everything…to an irritating degree. It’s not breakfast, it’s brekkie. It’s not lipstick, it’s lippie. It’s not flight attendant or air hostess, it’s hostee. I mean, Come on guys. Are you being a little ridiculous, or should I say, rickee!
Poll: Is Delores too vulgar?
Fun Family Fact: Mom and I discovered some incredible local hangs that we would like to take future guests to, including: Palm Beach, Whale Beach, Serpentine Beach and the Royal Botanical Gardens. What a grand time we had Momma!
Phrase of the Day: Choof Off: To leave or depart.
Why did they have to choof off?
They arrived on the third of August. My beloveds. My blood. My family. In anticipation, Kenna helped prepare freshly squeezed orange juice while Chaylee made up a routine to Men at Work. I set out an array of tropical fruits native to Australia in addition to cream puffs and croissant breakfast sandwiches. Impressive.The anticipation was becoming physically uncomfortable. Mike called just in time.
“I have the package.” He said.
The girls and I squealed with delight and put the Men to Work. “Land Down Under” played at maximum volume as we headed for the front door to greet our kin.
The series of hugs that ensued would have made you cry. It was as if we had been kept apart by the Iron Curtain. We sent Oprah the tape. As a result, she is buying Qantas for us. Good on ya Oprah!
Day one was spectacular. The children frolicked gleefully, the grown ups relished the bliss of international togetherness. The Wenlocks were impressed with their accommodations and my awesome driving. There was a minor incident involving a sand pit, a mini tractor and Rowen’s eye at the park… but, all in all, it was a strong start. There was also a minor vomit incident involving Mike and some chicken. But, overall…
Day two brought much excitement. While Mike recovered from his evening poolside, the family and I headed into town to see Sydney and it’s Darling Harbour. The outing did not disappoint. The panoramic views, peaceful promenades and world famous Aquarium brought hours of oohs and aahhhs.
Later that evening, there was a minor incident involving Rowen, some vomit and the occasional dry heave. But, overall…
Day three took a bit of a nose dive. An incident developed involving Kirsten, allergies and a nasal infection. Story also experienced some flu like symptoms throughout the night. But all in all…
By day four Kirsten’s right nostril had doubled in size and was a shade just shy of crimson. I told her she was still pretty. She cried. Then I told her that her nose looked a lot like Bill Clinton’s and reminded her that he still gets a lot of A$ despite his bulbous nose. That seemed to help. At least until I was able to get her to the doctor. Though the Medical Center I frequent has a fairly undesirable reputation, it’s convenient and cost effective so we decided to disregard Mike’s “clown medicine” jokes in order to save some cash. The Doctor glanced at my sister’s nose, agreed that it was infected, reminded us of the proximity of the nose to the brain, then mistakenly wrote up a prescription for children’s Erythromycin . Dr Feelgood said if it got worse there was nothing more he could do for us and we would need to head for the ER. Send in the clowns!
Poor Kirsten left feeling worse than when she arrived and far more anxious. But hey, at least she had her bubble gum flavor antibiotic.
Day five brought a whole new set of issues. The nose now appeared broken. Although Kirsten desperately wanted to avoid the subject of the nose, it became a focal point; an impossible feature to avoid eye contact with. Through glassy eyes, Kirsten confessed that she thought she might lose her nose. Mike consoled her by pointing out the fame and notoriety of Voldemort. She was in no mood for dark humor.
My efforts to bring peace were thwarted by my own terror at what was transpiring. I could not seem to keep myself from the maniacal manifests of WebMD. That bastard cyber doctor convinced me that Kirsten had nose cancer accompanied by MRSA with a touch of encephalitis. Tough to tell someone it’s all going to be okay when you have just received their death sentence.
Unfortunately, the nose situation was not the only medical malady of the day. Young James was next in line to be attacked by the House of Pain as his gastro intestinal system fell victim to the bug that seemed to be taking out each family member in kind. But outside of the physical suffering and agony, things seemed to be going well.
I would have been far more discouraged by the escalating crisis were it not for my bearded Hungarian Bride, Big James, who helped me keep the boat afloat by executing diaper changes, doing dishes and bathing children.
On the sixth day the swelling had become more localized with a painful hint of purple. Frightening facial numbness had emerged as well. Not the improvement we were hoping for. It was time to take drastic action. We could head to the ER or return to the circus. I decided to take my soon to be noseless sister back to the Medical Center to Dr. Townsend. The notoriously long line to see him suggested to me that he was the Obi Wan our Princess Leah needed. Maybe he would nose what to do.
Day seven brought healing and hope. The new medicine prescribed by Dr. Townsend was fast and effective. Kirsten’s nose was not going to fall off. We nearly set out to celebrate but then came a minor incident involving Big James and some vomit, but overall…
Phrase of the day: “You’re crook but not crook as rook wood” Dr. Townsend
Translation: You’re sick, but your not going to die.
Which is worse?
A: A runaway nasal infection
B: Chunder Down Under
C: Accidentally showing your buttock to a park full of people.
Trivia: Taste is 75% smell. I hate the word smell. So does Kirsten.
We’ve come a long way, Mike and I. Six months ago, we were navigating the Sydney suburbs with little more than a stroller and an atlas. Three months ago, we purchased a vehicle and drove sparingly; gripping the wheel at 10 and 2 like petrified high school students on the first day of Drivers Ed. Today, we both are capable of eating a burger, talking on the phone, grabbing an unruly child by the ankle and steering simultaneously. How is that for progress?
But progress brings with it challenges of it’s own. An increase in confidence has led to more driving excursions, and it doesn’t take many of these to discover that Sydney is cruel.
Would you like to take a right, Heather? Shut up. You will turn right when I say you can and that won’t be for another 10 kilometers!!!!
Oh, did you make a mistake? Would you like to turn around? NO! Now turn off your blinker before I force you onto the freeway.
Oh…you didn’t want to get on the toll infested freeway? Too Bad. Pay up Beeyotch!!!! And when you figure out how to turn around and head back the other way you will pay again…..mmoooohahahahaha moooooohahahaha!
Oh you need to turn left? You want to be in the left hand lane? Oh you do?Okay…..PARKED CAR!!!
Mike finds the random parked cars that pepper the left lane particularly irritating. Legendary tirades have ensued after near misses with said cars.
And then there is the issue of navigation. I am convinced that google maps is against me and my family. Not sure what we did to anger Mr. Google and his map making minions, but they seem to want us to be permanently lost. It has gotten so ridiculous that Mike and I have decided to always find our selected destination a day ahead of time.
“Hey honey, let’s go to the drive-in”.
“Okay, we’ll drive there tonight and go tomorrow”.
Today, I took the girls to Bi-Centennial Park in West Pymble. There are about four Bi-Centennial Parks in Sydney. Just like there are 18 Macquarie Streets, 12 Warratah Roads and 32 Victoria Avenues. Fortunately, I did my homework and found the park I was looking for on (dun dun dun) google maps.
Google thinks it funny to say things like, “Exit toward Ryde”. No street name. No Exit number. Just a suggestion. If I knew where Ryde was, I would go toward it. It reminds me of how my mom gives directions
“What? I have not a compass! Left or right woman…left or right!”
The rest of the directions were less vague but completely wrong. I relied soley on my Gregory Guide (cousin of Thomas) to get me there. And you know how conveient ancient map navigation is while driving. Greg and I worked together and got us there though. Good on ya Greg.
TAKE THAT GOOGLE MAN!
Kenna Quote: Context-When I could not find the play area at the park we spent a half an hour trying to find. “Mom, it’s okay. Strawberry Shortcake says that hill is more than just a hill it’s a possibility. You add skill and love and that’s how a garden grows.”
She has been throwing out a lot of gems lately. Yesterday she said she loved me because I make her feel like she has glitter and bows in her heart. She also told me I was pretty like the “Queen of Israel”. (stunned silence) That’s awesome.
Chaylee quote of the day: Momma. Momma. Mommy. Mom. Momma. Momma. Mommy. wasssisiss ticka was he he dada ha.
Shout out to my man: Mike was named Foreign Driver of the Year when he took on a two lane round about at night during rush hour without breaking a sweat. Cool as ice, that man. Cool as ice!
Word of the Day: Fair suck of the sav! : exclamation of wonder, awe, disbelief.
Fair suck of the sav, I am where the streets have no name!
Trivia: It is World Youth Day here in Sydney. The Pope is here presiding over the largest Mass in Australian History this morning at Darling Harbour. I had no idea the Pope was such a Rock Star. The youth were beside themselves. It was a lovely spectacle.
In 33 days my beloved family unit and I will be relocating to a land of no worries; a land with plenty of mates. A land where Sheila isn’t just a name, it’s a gender. A land of unmatched beauty, riddled with hideous, venomous creatures who want to kill me. A land of obnoxious heat, raging reptiles and snugly marsupials. A land where trunks are boots and babes are bus. A land of strangers.
That’s right, the Pasleys are headed to Australia. We will be there for 2 1/2 -3 years so there is plenty of time for you to save up and come one down. Life will be lonesome without my beloved friends and family nearby, Heather without Kirsten is like Mary-Kate without Ashley but worse. And T-Town without Heather Pasley is like New Jersey without Bon Jovi. What will become of this city?
Thank you Mikey for the big Adventure.
You’re my best mate. Can’t wait.