I arrived in Cairns, a small city on the northern east coast of Australia, after three days in transit from Cambodia, to Singapore, to Manila, to Darwin and then, finally Cairns. I was thrilled to leave the airport behind, albeit bleary and probably unfit to operate any motor vehicles.
Even though I am still technically travelling, after being in Australia for so long and it being rather close, culture-wise, to Canada, I felt immediately that particular sadness that comes with the end of travels. I was happy to see western style toilets, mind you, but it took me a few days to adjust to waiting for traffic lights, rather than playing pedestrian roulette with the tuk-tuks, scooters and spewing trucks. I miss Vietnamese coffee, Laos’ mok pa (steamed fish in banana leaf) and cheap foot massages, among a myriad of other things.
I spent two months in South East Asia, the first with my mother (the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Bali) and the second with my coworker-turned-boyfriend from Redgum (the Philippines, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia). I have many, many stories to share over the coming days and weeks. But first, a snapshot of where I am now.
Cairns is a city full of delightful weirdos – there is always someone performing on the streets. So far, I have see fire shows, guitar and drum circles, and this lady who rants about Jesus and the devil every day from a pulpit in the square. It is not, unfortunately, a city teeming with jobs and my fellow backpackers and I are all shambling about in that mixture of boredom and stress that comes with unemployment.
On my first weekend here, there was an ukulele festival on the esplanade that hugs the coastline. Hundreds of people milled about, cradling ukuleles, perusing the everything-ukulele-related stalls and listening to ukulele music playing from the main stage. Who knew this many people played the ukulele?
And, what’s more, they were attempting to break a world record that day, for the most people playing the same song on the ukulele at the same time. So, at 4:30, everyone arranged themselves in quadrants, me included – I borrowed a ukulele, learned the three necessary chords, and was incredibly grateful no one could hear me ‘play’ – and over one thousand people played Waltzing Matilda (Australia’s unofficial anthem).
The world record was not broken that day – the record stands at somewhere over two thousand – but no one seemed to even notice, much less care.