So last Thursday was Thanksgiving. These heathens over here apparently don't have a made up story alleging their early religious nutjobs got along fine with the natives like we do, so they don't celebrate Thanksgiving. And they complain there's too many bush turkeys running around messing up their gardens but for some reason refuse to eat them.
Thinking about Thanksgiving, and how determined I was to celebrate it, I realized, you know, Thanksgiving really is a pretty important holiday. I mean, after Christmas, it's probably the most important holiday to most Americans -- people fly across the country to be with family, hardly anyone truly bah-humbugs it and doesn't do a thing for it.
And its not about that silly myth and pilgrims and Indians, and you know what, I don't mean to alarm you, but I don't see it as generally about "giving thanks" either (When my dear grandmother was still about, we did use to go around the table and say things we were thankful for though). but really I think it's about family. And devouring huge amounts of food. And I think part of it is just tradition for tradition's sake (Why turkey? Because that's what you goddamn eat on thanksgiving!)
So I was determined to have thanksgiving. And not just an extra helping microwavable food. But not only that, I needed to be with other people for whom it actually meant something.
Fast forward to Thanksgiving Thursday ... and well I failed on all those accounts, I had a steak and prawns with my Indian roommate (who didn't eat and looked bored) at the local tavern/restaurant.
But... going back again:
Heretofore I had had no interest in joining any group of Americans in the area -- why would I do that? But now I had to find some Americans. This led me to the "Americans in Queensland" facebook group, which was apparently putting together a huge thanksgiving bash in Brisbane on that Saturday. I just needed to get there!
It was looking like it might be unfeasible ... but then I remembered Greyhound and found a 2340-0605 overnight bus! My roommate was happy to volunteer to drop me off in Bundaberg and pick me up when I got back, so everything was sorted!
Thanksgiving day itself, as I mentioned, I went out with my roommate. In the thanksgiving spirit I resolved to invite him out and buy him dinner, even if I'd been a bit annoyed with him lately for a various things (he's very nice personally, but there's... various things). As mentioned, he thwarted my plan by declining to order anything (I think he only likes indian food, which he spends hours making every evening), but I was a bit surprised and grateful that he at least came out.
Had my steak and prawns to the accompanyment of a kookaburra chortling away in a nearby tree (was out on the patio). Got my turkey quotient in by having a glass of Wild Turkey with my meal ;)
Friday aafternoon I had plenty of time to kill before my 11:40pm flight, but as Sam got home shortly after 5 and immediately cracked open a beer it occurred to me that at the rate he drinks every night, I should probably get into town early before he gets himself wasted.
Fortunately, he had plans in "the city" as well so we ended up heading in pretty early, like 7ish.
Now there's about three bars downtown that I've found. I know there's at least one more around a corner on the outskirts and I'm sure there's one or two I haven't found yet. And of course there's no coffee shops or anywhere else to hang out. Unfortunately, one of the bars had a live band that seemed to attract all the long-grey-haired old biker dudes, the other oen turned into a dance club early in the night, and the other, I don't know, thought it was a dance club even though no one was in there -- blasting dance music and with multicoloured lights flashing and swirling ... not a chill place to hang out.
But I had a book with me and sat on a park bench to read. Now, Bundaberg is... well... an agricultural town. Out in the farmland ..... so basically its got a lot of sort of red-neck people (called "bogans" here). And it turns out they all think it's very odd for someone to be reading on a Friday night -- I had a lot of drunk people come ask me what I was doing and why.
And one drunk girl informed me I gave her hope for humanity.
Finally it was time to catch the bus and one very uncomfortable night's sleep later...
...I was in BRISVEGAS!!!
I checked into the YHA Hostel, which turned out to be infinitely nicer than the "Base Central" hostel I had stayed in when I first got into town. Unfortunately they couldn't give me a room until 14:00 (8 hours later!) but I could put my stuff down in luggage storage there and hang out in the lounge.
The Thanksgiving was a potluck, and it had been unfeasible for me to bring any food (plus I have zero cooking skills), but I went to the grocery store and stocked up on as much non-martinellis sparkling apple juice as I could carry (as they event, being held at a church, would be a no alcohol event, and anyway martinellis sparkling apple juice has always been a staple of my family's thanksgivings).
My fellow Americans had already proven very friendly, a few had offered me places to stay (but I chose the hostel so I could, you know, carouse the town without disturbing a family), and one of them gave me a ride to the suburb of Wondai where the event was taking place.
Thanksgiving was fun. There were, I don't know, 80 of us? Mostly families. People had managed to get their hands on yams and/or sweet potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pretty much everything. Including, of course, turkeys. And an amazing turkey shaped chocolate cake!
(That's right, that "turkey" pictured above the above is actually a chocolate cake!!)
I wish I had pictures but at the time my camera batteries were both dead. ):
Back at the hostel I met two of my three roommates (the third was there but had his headphones on and never said anytihng). One was a young Belgian fellow who is an airline pilot for the Luxembourg national carrier, here for two weeks of vacation. He excitedly told me about the little sailboat he and his friends had fixed up and sail up and down the nearby lakes in Belgium. He also enjoys flying gliders in his free time (much like nibot).
The other fellow (Mick) looked to be in his 40s, and turns out to live just the next town over from me! (In Bagera). Apparently he's been drinking heavily every day since his wife died (which I think was years ago now?), and travels because he gets too lonely at home now.
Had a pleasant evening sitting on the rooftop patio with Mick and an Irish guy and a British guy drinking and talking.
Sunday I went down to Southbank</z> to stroll about, and perhaps gets some delicious food. Ended up getting not one of the delicious sounding burgers described in that link but took a chance on some Mexican food and paid $27 for a C- burrito and B- margarita.
Southbank also has the above-pictured fake beach. Man, I hadn't thought of it when I was trying desperately to come up with ways to stay in Brisbane, but I should have applied as a lifeguard there, I bet they all get like $30 an hour (vs the $7.25 I was getting for it back in ancient times), and what other applicants can say they've made 98 rescues (100% true fact. Was bitter I didn't make 100). Though on the down side, I didn't think lifeguard uniforms could get worse than the skimpy red shorts I had to wear in high school, but their lifeguards look like they work in mcdonalds!!
One other thing I have to mention is that christmas decorations are going up now. In the states there's always a bit of eyerolling about how stores literally start rolling christmas stuff out by the end of the day thanksgiving (if they were open), just as thanksgiving preparation begin at 3pm Oct 31st or so -- well Australians don't take any notice of thanksgiving but strangely the rolling out of x-mas decorations still seems to have coincided closely with Thanksgiving.
There was a big sign in southbank which declared "Sugarplums and Possum Chums: a Southbank Christmas." I find this very amusing. And I believe that is a giant Australian possum pulling Santa's sleigh in the picture!! (see also: I've always had an extreme fondness for our American (O)possums.)
All too soon it was time to depart dear Brisbane. For the return I caught a train. Traveling from 1655 to 2130, it would be faster than the bus, more comfortable AND cheaper!
Arriving in Bundaberg I called my roommate... who informed me he was far too drunk. Coming from him this is impressive, since I see him regularly go drive somewhere while in a condition I'd call trashed. I'm also very grateful he didn't think he was sober enough to drive when he wasn't. And thirdly I suppose this solidly falls into the category of I really should have seen this coming.
And so I had to take a taxi for the 20km from Bundaberg to Moorepark. Yeah that's $53 I could have used better ... (for example had two more C- burritos?) ::Sigh:: Next time I'm definitely just driving to Bundaberg -- even if I have to pay for parking it won't be $53 for a weekend ... I don't think.
( All the pictures )