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  • Writer's pictureJoanna

Old Friends & Filling in the Gaps

Updated: Apr 26

One thing about integrating myself back into Western civilization that I felt was difficult to come to terms with was the excessive use of modern technology. Australia has stepped it up a few notches since I was last here... and after spending five months in the predominantly cash society of Southeast Asia, I was having difficulty coming to terms with it.

Once a tomato picker, always a tomato picker.

Everything runs on QR codes and self-checkout stations. You name it... bars, restaurants, parking, transportation, stores... and more. Everything was based on the digital experience. There is hardly any staff connection at all.

None, really.

Unless it's me... much to everyone's dismay, I need a LOT of personal attention and help. I just can't seem to wrap my head around a world revolving around a variety of codes. You can't very well function in life without a phone nowadays. I was feeling quite disorientated... and lost.

I feel sorry for the elderly, the confused... and the people without phones.

I arrived at Brisbane airport without much trouble at all... and was more than delighted to hand over the car after my week of driving around Queensland. Yes, a vehicle is a convenient way to travel, and it was great... but the weight of responsibility that comes along with a rental is enormous. Pair that with the crippling fear of potentially smashing into a jumping kangaroo at dawn or dusk... and it was all just a little too much for me. And it was expensive too. I was relieved to hand it over. I always am when I rent a car. I ended up handing it back a day early. Plans to visit friends had changed since I'd made my original booking... and when I attempted to make the changes with the online chat staff, prices had skyrocketed, making it even more expensive for fewer days. So it just made sense to keep the original booking and return it early.

That's what I did.

Everyone's always trying to ding you.

I can only get dinged so many times before I'm broke!

My financials are taking a big hit here. It's my fault for ending a 6-month vacation in one of the most expensive countries in the world. After budgeting $50 or less per day in Southeast Asia, the leap to paying $28 for a burger was taking its toll on my bank account. Gas prices are astronomical as well... and gone are the days of pulling over to the side of the road and filling up my scooter tank with a whisky bottle of petrol for a minimal amount. I find it bizarre that there isn't 'pay-before-you-pump' here in Australia. I guess Canadians are less trustworthy?? I found all of this out only after waiting in line to pay for 20 minutes only to discover that I had to head back out to the car, fill up the tank... and then come back inside & stand in line again to pay.

I felt so trusted!

And irritated.

My first stop in Brisbane was Kimberly.

Kimberly had worked at the Lake Louise Ski Hill with me around 2009/10/11. I think that was the time, anyway. It was fabulous to see her again and I loved her personalized tour of the city. She was the ultimate tour guide and did her utmost to show me everything interesting, cultural, fun, fascinating, and alcoholic!

Personally, I think she would be wise to invest in a weight loss speed-walking tour of the city and guarantee she would turn a small profit from doing so. Kimberly is as energetic as ever, and fast as, and for a full day, I managed to keep up with her. It was only on day two, I could feel my knee screaming out to me and I was forced to slow down.

I only have so many pills left... so I have to be careful not to abuse it too much.

We did so much in the 48 hours I was there. We took the ferry down the Brisbane River, powered along the promenade, through the central business district, and the Southbank parklands, stopping frequently (of course) for scrumptious sips, sweets and tasty treats along the way. For once, the weather was on my side and both days I was with her were blue skies and sunshine. It was fabulous to reconnect and while I was there, we did all my favourite things.... all-you-can-eat sushi, boutique cocktail bars, patio pubs, local wine... and more!

Let's face it, I'm always happy with sushi and wine. It's the direct route to my heart and happiness.

In saying that, I probably ate and drank a wee bit too much the entire time I was there. Not probably... wrong word. I should have said 'absolutely.' I ABSOLUTELY ate and drank too much, considering I was desperate to try and shed a few pounds before my reunion. In my defence, I did go to the gym and work out with her on the second morning... and I was doing my best to keep up with the fastest walker I've ever encountered!

Brisbane is a gorgeous city and captivated me. On more than one occasion I mentioned that I wished I was younger and could come back to Australia and do another working holiday visa here. Not to take anything away from my fruit-picking days, but this city is spectacular and has the most chill, sunshine vibe. She has a gorgeous home with a stunning landscape of the city and I can understand why she has chosen this place to live.

She treated me like gold for every second I was there and I will be eternally appreciative. I hope I get to return the hospitality to all of those who have been so hospitable while I've been travelling.

After two days, Kimberley dropped me off on her way to work... AT. THE. HILTON.

You read that right.


Yes... I had a reservation to stay at the Brisbane Hilton.

Very posh.

Very swank.

To think that I went from the cockroaches and crack mattresses of Jakarta to the high class of the Hilton was a little incomprehensible... even for me.

So... obviously, anyone who has been following my blog, knows that my typical style of accommodation is usually no higher than 2 or 3 stars... and even that is debatable at times.

This was a TREAT... and I was perfectly ready to lap it right up.

Before I ventured to Australia, I touched base with an old Bundaberg friend, Heidi. Heidi had been one of my grubby, tomato-picking friends... and we'd kept in touch, on and off, over the years.

As luck would have it, she was in Brisbane doing a hospitality course at the Hilton and managed to book us both in at a reduced rate.


Double wow.

For as long as I live, I will never forget walking into the Ritz of the Hilton, sporting my shabby flip-flops, my backpack slung over my shoulders and my dirty runners dangling from the side of it. I can only imagine the thoughts going through their head as they saw me approach the desk.

"WHAT is this?"

It's me! At the HILTON!

The staff were very professional, regardless of how evidently pauperized I appeared. Once up in the room, I threw my scruffy backpacker clothes in the corner and relished in the luxury of the hotel robe, sat in the recliner and admired the view of the city from the comfort of my 8th-floor executive suite.

This was the life.

I was quite determined not to leave the room until check-out the following day. How often does a dishevelled backpacker get the opportunity of such indulgence?

It's very rare.

I felt so elite.

Heidi appeared soon after I arrived and we spent the next few hours catching up on everything and everyone from the old days in Bundy. It can be tough cramming 30 years into one or two conversations, but I seem to be perfecting the art. After all, I am getting a lot of experience lately.

It was so wonderful to see Heidi again and I think I almost might have her convinced to come visit me in Canada. She was always such a calming and kind soul... and she has not changed one single bit.

It’s been a real challenge trying to see everyone, and as puzzling as it's been at times, I think I've been nailing it! I even got to see Butchie. Butchie was one of the ski hill lifties back when I first arrived in Lake Louise. I was originally going to journey down to see him and his friend, Ross, but there were complications and the timing didn’t quite work out for everyone... so he came to meet Heidi and me at a local pub near our hotel for a few pints.

The next person I was meeting in Brisbane, was Glen.

Glen was picking me up for our AFS reunion. I hadn't seen Glen since the summer of 1995, when I was last in Brisbane, but Glen was one of our Ecuador exchange program crew. He was driving through from work in the interior and had agreed to pick me up on the way to the reunion.

I've already written about the reunion. Out of sync, yes... but what do ya do? You can read about it all here.

It was so incredible to see him again. I have to admit that I was quite nervous... I sometimes wonder if I've changed, or if people will think I've changed... or if friends and I will or won't have the same connection.

With Glen and I, it was like not a moment had passed. For the first evening, I nervously inundated myself with copious amounts of wine, and as a result, I inundated him with a boatload of silly stories from the past thirty years. What an impression, eh? Thirty years later and still a buffoon...

I think he was ok with it though. Every time I think I've changed, I really haven't. I'm still the same old kid I was when I was 18 years old. Slightly more wrinkled... but basically still the same.

Glen took me around the Redcliff coastal area on his motorcycle that afternoon, which was fun... and scary. Even though I worked in a biker bar for seven years, I have only been on a motorcycle a couple of times and must admit that I'm not really comfortable on them. I'm particularly freaked out of corners and I always think that I'll lean too far... or not far enough... and the contraption will just topple over.

Dress for the slide, not the ride.


I was dressed for neither. I was wearing my Messi shirt and a pair of shorts. Had I fallen, life would have been very bad for me. I managed to topple over on a skidoo... and on an ATV... so the next topple would quite obviously be on a motorcycle.



We didn't topple.

I lived to tell.

Oh... and we went to Bee Gee lane! A whole road dedicated to the Bee Gee's!

Who'da thunk!

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