Australia 2014: Part 1

<Ferny Grove, Australia | 04:57>

It took me about an hour to get through the international customs line. I was approached twice by a drug-sniffing dog and had to fight the urge to pet the thing. I had to nothing to declare, but several people asked in that hour. Truth: I wasn’t bringing any firearms, drugs, fruits or vegetables into Australia. Each time I answered these questions, I thought about the Hostess fruit pies in my checked luggage. I don’t think the fruit in those little pies count as actual fruit because of all the sugar that they’ve added- I’m going by nutritional value here.  

When I finally rounded the corner,  Arron was sitting in the lobby, and he immediately snapped my picture. Pretty sure I looked like I’d just been on a plane for 14 hours. It was so good to see him and give him a hug. As we approached his car in the parking garage, I automatically crossed over to the left side. He stopped to ask me if I was planning on driving. I told him no and then realized what I had done. We both got a chuckle. Yes, I know that they drive on the left side of the street here, but in my defense- I had just flown a very long flight with minimal sleep and at this point, I was mostly operating in zombie-mode.

It’s so good to see my friend!

We drove to his house in Ferny Grove, which isn’t very far from downtown Brisbane. On the way, we stopped by the side of the road so that I could get a picture of the city. I’ve decided that Ferny Grove reminds me of a cross between rural Maryland and San Diego. It was a perfect day!

We got to the house and I met Brendan. Brendan has been my friend for a few years now, but he didn’t really know this because we actually hadn’t met yet… or talked… or interacted in any way, shape or form. Arron brought him to the states a few years ago, and I saw a few pictures that our friend Monica posted on Facebook. It’s true that I assume everybody is my friend until they prove to me that they don’t want to be. This makes for some amusing stories, for sure.

Arron and Brendan both had to go to work for awhile, and knew that I wanted to rest. They gave me directions to the local lightrail station and Arron and I planned to meet for lunch downtown. I tried to get a nap, but just couldn’t nod off. This was my first day in Australia and I really wanted to look around. I had envisioned riding a kangaroo, wrestling a wild dingo and making out with a koala and none of these things were going to happen if I was at the house taking a nap.

I hit the internet for few minutes, then I headed to the lightrail. On the train, I sat near the only other person in the car. I told her I was heading into the city, and asked her if I was on the right train. She told me I was, and asked me where I was from. We talked and talked and talked. She told me her name is Mariea (not ‘Maria’, but pronounced the same). She has lived in the Brisbane area for more than 40 years and one of her granddaughters has recently been hired as a flight attendant for Emirates. She was incredibly sweet!  

For lunch, Arron took me to a little Italian restaurant and taught me an important lesson-  even fast food is quite different than fast food in the states, in that it’s not really fast at all. We stood in line for almost a half an hour, just waiting for our turn to order.  When it was finally our turn, the meal was prepared right in front of us like a less-flashy Benihana style. The cook prepared the entire meal from scratch, other than having to kill the chicken or make the pasta by hand. It still took us about fifteen more minutes to get our plates. Fresh-made pesto is one of my new favorites!  

After lunch, we walked off our meals by going to three different museums. The first was a Douglas MacArthur museum. The timeline was post WWI, through WWII and in MacArthur’s office they still had his original desk and some of his original furniture.  

Next was the museum of Brisbane, which was (or maybe is) the city hall. This is a beautiful building that had a clock tower and was, from 1930 to 1964, the tallest building in Brisbane. We rode up in a very old elevator, that happens to be the only manually operated cage lift that is still working in all of Australia! The tour of the clock tower was free, and provided some remarkable views of the city! I learned that the tower was build in the 1920s, and the bells are still operated by the same electric motors that were installed when it was first erected.

We crossed the Brisbane river and headed over to the place of Brendan’s work. It is my understanding that Brendan is one of the guys who’s in charge of a huge drama festival for children that will be happening this summer. So far, I don’t quite understand what it is, but Brendan does and that’s what’s important. I had to snap a picture of the banner that was hanging on the performing arts center since Brendan is now “my people” and I’m always hoping for the best for my people.

We decided to go to one more museum while we were waiting for Brendan to be finished with work. This museum had three exhibits. The first was a bunch of animals that were all standing in white sand that surrounded some water. It was pretty cool. The second exhibit was a huge tree on its side. We figure they would have had to take out one of the nearby windows in order to get this massive tree into the room. It was huge and it’s branches touched both opposing walls.  

The third exhibit was my favorite. It was basically a bunch of wolves (or maybe they were coyotes?) that were jumping, flying and smashing into a clear wall. Art to me is either really, really stupid, or really, really cool. I’ll admit that I don’t understand a lot of art, but this was cool! The time it most likely took the artist to pose and suspend all these wolves in the air must have been months, at least.

Arron and I headed back over to the performing arts center and took a seat in an outdoor bistro and had a good chat. The best way I can describe this conversation is that we talked a lot about being happy. That’s really what I want in this life is to be truly happy. I’ve never had a tough time making the best of whatever my situation or circumstance has been, but I am a happy and positive person, for the most part. It was a good heart-to-heart. Arron has become a great friend! 

When Brendan finally finished up, we headed back to the house and ordered some Thai food for dinner. It was only about 19:00 and I felt that I really needed to get some sleep.