You’ve Won My Heart Australia

I have less than 24 hours left in Australia.

There is so much to write & tell, but in these last few moments, I will just cherish our companionship until we have to say goodbye.

Three years ago, you welcomed me for the first time. I spent a week in Sydney, some time in Brisbane and miraculously not drown in Cairns. Eighteen days I spent with you and you took me into your arms showing me your greatness. On the eve of my first departure, I sat along Darling Harbour with MOzzie as we ate our last Australian burger with beets. I looked upon the Sydney skyline and wondered when I would return next. Never had I had a place won me over so quickly. My birthday was the next day and I wished to stay longer. You tried but I returned home only aching for my return.

Three years later, I returned to you. I came to relive memories, friends and whatever you would throw at me this time. Once again, you greeted me with open arms and held me close. You let me reminisce of my first trip, then flattened me with your magnificence of Melbourne. This second city scooped me up and made me feel at home. Home in a foreign country and city, rare feat in my eyes and you have successfully done it.

Perhaps it’s the friends that I’ve made here or the way you present yourself to the world. Melbourne, you fit me and allowed me to be my own person here. Now, I’m sad that I must say goodbye to a city that is not yet mine but is already in my heart. Goodbye to an amazing country that has welcomed me twice and made me fall in love all over again.

I told myself that this visit will be the last time I’ll be here for quite awhile. I was wrong. Eight days is not enough to live in you but more than enough to fall in love again.  Australia, I will be back soon. Very soon.

Until then, let’s enjoy our last hours together until we meet again.

Christmas Turkey

When I planned this adventure, I knew that I would not be home for Thanksgiving. It’s not the first time I spent a holiday away, but never have I spent one of the big two apart from my family. I knew my parents wouldn’t be so happy, but I had an opportunity that I couldn’t easily give up.

Though far away from home, I was lucky enough to spend this holiday with a friend. KT being an ex-pat now was excited to host Thanksgiving and have another American present. She even promised turkey!

Now those who know me well, my family does not do turkey but substitute it for Cornish hens (long story). So I was absolutely ecstatic cuz I haven’t had turkey on Thanksgiving for almost 15 years. Unfortunately, KT and I had our hopes too high because it was quite the chore trying to find turkey in Oz.

By the time I have arrived in Sydney, KT had already raided her local grocery stores and couldn’t find a gobbling bird for the big feast.  Would we be bird less?  Did KT had to go back to Brisbane and shoot a wild turkey herself?  What would happen if we had to resort to just sides?

With the looming day of belt loosening nears, we made a quick stop to Aldi.  Lo behold, we found a bird, and I user that word loosely.  Marketed under Christmas turkey, we were presented with this:

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A boneless, skinless blob of white fowl meat. We questioned the integrity of this so called turkey, but KT, being frustrated trying to find this…umm, bird, bought it.

I can’t say that the bird was real or not. Nor can I confirm all the side dishes are as authentic as it could be, but there is one thing I can say: I’m thankful for a lot this year. Friends near and far, the joy of traveling, always great company and even Aussies & Kiwis speaking with a hilariously bad American accent.

Though Thanksgiving want at home, the best was brought before me this year. And it is you folks that I’m thankful the most this year.

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Manly Butter

I’ll spare you my rejoicing when I returned to Oz this morning. But if you want to know, read this tweet.

I love the Australian accent. Absolutely love it but unfortunately that is the only English accent that I have a language barrier. There are just some words that the pronunciation that confuses me. First it was the word “beer” when I was in college. Then came the translation of “large pizza” into an “orange pizza” (best Australia story to date). Today, I have a new word to add to the short list: butter.

“Do you want me to butter your bread?”

(Mean Girls anyone?)

Seriously, that was what the lady asked me today when I was getting lunch. (Literal TWSS ftw.) I looked at her puzzled. I had no idea what she said. She repeated it again based on my blank stare. The food court was loud, so perhaps I didn’t hear her. Nope, I heard her but couldn’t understand her for the life of me.

“Butter! Butter!” She kept on yelling.

“I’m sorry what?”

“Do you want me to butter your bread?”

Dumbfounded, she went to the back counter mumbling, “Don’t you know what butter is?” And return with a huge tub of butter.

“Ooh, butter!” I said.

“Yeah, butter.” She replied.

“Sorry what?”  Seriously, still couldn’t understand what the heck she was saying. Perhaps, if she was younger I would have said yes right away. (High five anyone? Anyone? No?)

After lunch, I headed to Manly Beach with @hatestweeting. Neither of us have been there, so it was a nice adventure to head to the unknown. Even though it was rainy, I refused a chance to put my feet into the Pacific Ocean. Why? Because I could. 

However, I thought raise the bar and lick the water too. Yes folks, I said lick. I wanted to lick the ocean. The salty Pacific Ocean. Why? Cause it would be manly.  (Okay, even I’m groaning at that one.)

So hear you go folks, me licking the Pacific Ocean at Manly Beach courtesy of @hatestweeting.

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P.S. I soaked my jeans shortly after that picture was taken. The Pacific isn’t as peaceful as it is portrayed. That punk.

Rising Blood Pressure

There is no lying about this, I’m an Asian driver.

Okay, finished laughing? No? Fine, but I’m continuing on this blog post.

I may be Asian, but I can drive, parallel park, don’t have a suited up car and am competent on the road.  I’m from Chicago. I can drive and drive confidently.

However, the 48 hours driving around in Texas has driven me nuts. (Pun unintended.)  Seriously, all these over passes and under passes with exit and in ramps, what gives?  Okay, so the hotel I stayed at was I off the highway, I get it. But my trip to Target to buy a razor (silly me forgetting about shaving) brought me upon four of these passes for no reason. What ever happened to simple intersections with traffic lights?  Now I know why @teacherintx hates driving so much. Oi!

All I wanted to do was get to Target. Next thing I know, I missed it cuz I went over instead of under. Turned around and took a ramp and went over again.  Apparently the gods are mad at me during no shave November. But hey, I eventually got to Target without too much damage to my heart. Two years doesn’t mean anything.

Next time, I’m bringing my own traffic lights.

The Little Things

“It’s the little things in life that matters,” he said, “Whether you are going to Australia or St. Louis, as long as you enjoy the little things and you’ll be happy.”

I can’t remember his name for the life of me. I remember his wife’s name; it was Ruth. But him, I’m drawing a blank. He is from a tiny town east of Lincoln, Nebraska.  Retired for almost twenty years, in his late 60, has a pacemaker, Marine Corps Vietnam vet, cousins of the bride’s dad and absolutely drunk. Still, I can’t remember his name.

After the simple and ever so beautiful wedding of my dear friend Jo, I boarded the shuttle bus to the reception. Sitting across the aisle from me, I struck a conversation with them. I was alone. I should probably try to be social. I found out that they were related to the bride. As for them, I used my joke of the night on them, “Contrary to popular belief, I’m not related to the bride.” See, the bride is half Filipino and there were a lot of Asians present; especially little old Asian women, they were out in full force. They laughed and found out I was a friend from college.

That afternoon, we bonded over many conversations of traveling. He was excited I was going to Australia. He was there over 40 years ago serving in the Marine Corps. He has yet to return, but his love for Oz is still strong. We talked about Europe and food among many other things before we got separated. He darted to the bar while I listened to my stomach.

We didn’t find each other again until towards the end of the reception. He was drunk and I was feeling melancholy. The whole day I’ve been introspective, but particularly during the reception, I couldn’t help but ponder. As I grabbed a seat next to him, I turned and looked at my original seat which was next to the wedding party. I then motioned my eyes a little further over to the next row where to empty seats stood. Those belonged to Kacy. Four years ago was the last time I saw her; single & having fun, now married and with child.  I sighed and turned to him.

“Having a good time?”

He nodded.

“I’ve never seen Jo this happy,” I added.

It was true. I’ve known her since the first week of freshman year of college. I still can’t believe it’s been 9 years since we first met and here I am at her wedding. I’m the only Illini present. Four, to my knowledge, were invited and only I was able to attend.  I told Jo when we last tasked on the phone many months ago, “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” I’m glad I didn’t because during the first dance, I saw that smile from her. The classic Jo smile that her friends know very well.  But tonight, the smile was the biggest I’ve seen and it glittered the room with her joy. I could not be happier for her, her husband and their new life.

I leaned my shoulder over to him while keeping my eyes on the newly weds as they danced together in harmony, “You would know this better than I, but how come the older you get, the more meaningful weddings become?” Because it’s true, the weddings I’ve been invited to now somehow struck a chord in me. It’s not like the ones earlier in my twenties weren’t meaningful, the few that I am invited to now have become quite heartwarming.

“It’s the little things,” he said. “As you get older, you notice and value the little things more.”

He’s right. Seeing Jo’s smile was enough for me.

To my dear friend Jo and your husband Bruce, congratulations!

The Adventure Begins

It mirrors the events of two an a half years ago when I bounced out of work towards the EL as I headed off to then my great adventure. Instead of a sunny and warm June afternoon, it was a warm November day when I left work to embark on my solo adventure, 2.0 style. The sun shining like before, only lower but with the same warm rays on my face. As for me, I’m the same as before only two years older and a few more creaks in my joints.

Like the first great adventure, I’m excited and nervous. The great unknown before me and each step new to me. Probably the best part is that I’m going to experience it with friends again, only this time it will be friends of the Internet instead of friends in the days that passed. There will also be days where I will live and be completely alone, growing a experiencing a new country without knowing a single soul. So scary and yet so exciting. But first, I get to celebrate a wedding in a state that scares me from its size. Seriously, I didn’t know Walmart could get any bigger. My whole life complied into 25 days in one blooming epic trip.  Friends and places of old, friends and places of new, and most important of all, the great unknown that each day brings.

With all that is before me, I can’t deny the truth. The truth that I am scared. Not terrified, just scared. I still don’t know why I’m embarking on this adventure, but I know that it is something I should do at this point of my life. Just like three Junes ago, this journey is for personal growth with a little adventure mixed in.

I’ve never traveled more than 2 driving hours for a wedding before. Now, I’m flying across state lines for a wedding of a dear college friend. I’ve known Jo since the first week if freshman year. Together, we were part of a close knit group that formed and stayed together all four years at Illinois. I am blessed and honor to be invited to celebrate a joyous day for such a dear old friend. Though I am sadden that I’m going to be the only one that can attend of our freshman group, I know the others would have made it if they could. Like my friend Sam said when we learned of the date, “No matter what, one of us will attend and represent the group.” And so here I am, present as promised, celebrating on behalf of Sam and the others who couldn’t attend.  While joyously sharing and celebrating Jo’s wedding, I know it will confirm what already has started: the second wave has begun.

Australia is the least of my worries. I’ll be hanging it with friends from the Internet. It’s not like I haven’t traveled to meet Internet friends before, but this is slightly different. I have never traveled abroad to hang out my Internet peeps.

I’ve hung out with KT before, so there isn’t anything new. If anything, it’s my liver that I’m worried about because bloggers are known to cause hangovers. It would be fun just to hang out in Sydney and see it again. As for Terri, I’m stoked to meet her. We’ve known each other for awhile now, quite long if you account YouTube time. She asking with Kevin & Steve square off as my great YouTube friends. And let’s not forget about Becky, Louna and Andrew. Gosh, Melbourne is going to be a blast with so much nerding going on. My nerves are rocking, but it’s just like when I went to #nycmeetup. I know I’m freaking out for no reason, but we could blame it on the excitement.

Now New Zealand is going to be wild card. I don’t know what to expect there or how to prepare myself. It is uncharted territory for me. You could argue that it is like how Belgium was 29 months ago. However, I see it as something more this time. Deep down in my heart, I know that this leg of the journey will present to me something that I do not know what yet. Going off the LOTRs, “I will take the ring, but I do not know the way.” New Zealand will change me and I pray that I can have the strength to grow.

Looking at this adventure, it is more than just a getaway. As my beloved classmate and priest friend told me before I left, this is my retreat. He’s right. Dallas will greet me with the future that awaits. Australia will hug me with the joy of friends. New Zealand will present me to the man I need and want to become. I pray and hope that when I return, I will adhere to all that I will come to experience, learn and grow from this adventure.