The Other Side of the World

Marveling in the surreal impossibilities that had just become possible, we set off towards the “cah pahk” (translated car park or parking lot as we Americans say) with Brendan and I clinging to each other starry eyed and grinning. I couldn’t believe I was actually, finally touching him in person after all the weeks of waiting. Watching his face, listening to his voice, feeling his protective arm around me filled me with awe, and I whispered repeatedly in my heart “Thank you God. Thank you.”

They drive on the other side of the road in Australia which makes car parks treacherous for a sleep deprived American, especially a love-dazed one! I’m sure I was dodging cars left and left. I think Brendan asked if we wanted to go get some breakfast. Food was the last thing on my mind at that point—I just wanted to stare at Brendan and listen to him talk. We decided to get out of the airport and search for food back in the Gold Coast where Brendan lived. Surfer’s Paradise, voted one of the best beaches in the world, was on the way to Brendan’s house so we headed there. The forty minute drive gave me plenty of time to gaze at my Aussie man and take in the sights which are not unlike ours in California. In fact, the similarity of certain areas, with groves of Eucalyptus trees like the ones where I live near Santa Cruz, surprised me.

“Do you have surf clubs in the States?” Brendan asked as we neared the beach.

“Surf clubs? Like a club in high school that kids who surf belong to?” I asked, struggling to figure out what he might be referring to. Already I discovered that language would be an interesting challenge when he told me our luggage was going in the boot. As far as I knew, boots only held feet not suitcases. In addition, Australians condense their words and often add “ie” to the end so board shorts are boardies; sunglasses, sunnies; environmentalists are greenies; and Ashley immediately became Ashie.

“No, I mean clubs along the beach that serve as headquarters for lifeguards who man the beaches,” he explained as we pulled up to Southport Surf Life Saving Club in Main Beach near Surfer’s Paradise.

Of course, we don’t that I know of, so I didn’t know what to expect, but the resort style restaurant on the beach didn’t seem much like a lifeguard hangout. We signed in at the front reception desk with Ashley and I as Brendan’s guests, reminding me of the tennis/golf club my family belonged to for a short time when I was a teenager.

Pictures of surfers and lifeguards along with various awards and memorabilia lined the walls. Windows graced the spacious, nearly empty dining room and framed the wide white sandy beach stretched in both directions for miles. Towers of apartments huddled in mass a couple of miles (or should I say kilometers?) down the beach. I considered any of the numerous California beaches I’m acquainted with, and while they hold some similarities, like the wide expanse of Pismo, Huntington or Coronado Beach, or the lofty buildings of Long Beach, nothing in my experience compares to the fine, bleached sand and aquamarine blue waves of Australia’s Gold Coast.

I don’t remember eating except for a vague recollection of limp strips of bacon. Breakfast completed, I shyly beseeched Brendan to allow us to go down on the beach for a walk.

“Now? Here?” He inquired.

“Yeah! Of course! It’s beautiful and I’d like to see it up close. The sand looks so fine and white. Is it? Is the water warm? Our water at home is almost always cold—no more than about sixty degrees in summer…” I rambled until I saw a momentary look of confusion cross his face.

“Oh, I mean, well, I’m not very good at converting it to Celsius. Do you know how?”

He did and with a little computation eventually arrived at a figure that surprised him.

“Wow! That IS cold. The water here is much warmer.”

“Can we go check it out?” I timidly asked again.

“Ash, are you up for it?” I checked.

“Yeah, sure,” she replied.

Off to the car to grab a hat for Brendan. Since Australia has one of the highest incidences for skin cancer in the world, four times that of Canada, US and the UK, Australians tend to outfit themselves with rash guards (called rashies of course), caps and sunscreen fairly fastidiously. But as Brendan hadn’t anticipated this outing, his cap remained at home. Ashley came to the rescue with her Virginia Tech cap, and so our first pictures together on the beach in Australia featured Brendan sporting an American collegiate baseball cap. How fitting.

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