Big Question Marks

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Last week a funny thing happened on the Gold Coast. It's usually pretty breezy here, but one day the wind died down and was replaced by other sounds- a faint buzzing, the occasional "whap!", and we started noticing these large shiny black beetles that were suddenly EVERYWHERE, buzzing around, flying into things, and creating mild havoc here on the coast.

I'm not sure if they arrived here gradually or what. My first encounter with these creatures was on one of my long beach walks south along the shoreline to the neighbouring suburb of Broadbeach. It's always fun to see what the ocean has washed up on the beach in the morning - sometimes it's jellyfish, sometimes seashells, but I got to this one patch that Tuesday morning last week and it was black - and as I grew close I could see it was absolutely covered in squirming beetles, almost the size of your thumb, who mostly were stuck on their backs, trying desperately to flip themselves back over, as beetles do. I snapped a few photos and the beetle patch was over in a couple metres, and I was soon carrying on my business like usual.

Wednesday evening was hellishly hot and sticky, so after a long day of running around, crossing things off the to-do list, I decided to go for swim before Adrian got back from school. I was just finishing my first lap as the sun dipped lower when I felt something pinching the inside of my upper arm. I looked...and screamed! There was one of those beetles, latched onto my arm... I flailed around in the pool, trying to shoo it away, as I noticing a couple other beetles swimming in my direction. Aren't bugs supposed to die when they fall in the pool? It was hard enough to shake off its iron grip, while trying to only scream quietly so the family in the next pool wouldn't come running and find me in my bug-attack distress. Once I was safely out of the water, I noticed more of the beetles flying in and - PLOOP! - diving straight into the pool with glee.

After that, I stayed away from the pool, but we started noticing these things everywhere- in fact, there were parts of the beach that were almost solid black- like, where did these things come from? And they not only swim, but they fly too, and then they just die soon after they hit the ground, so you can't walk around in bare feet (as everyone does here!), or you'll step on a million beetle carcasses.

Our local paper, the Gold Coast Bulletin, called it a FREAK BEETLE PLAGUE. On Saturday, the front page had a picture of a man in a hospital bed with the (very awesome and Toronto Sun-like) headline "BUG-GERED)"... and the story goes that apparently this guy was riding his bike down the road, riding over what he thought was an oil slick, but it was in fact a pile of these beetles (which have been swept to the sides of the streets 3x a day by city council street sweepers). His bike went skidding and he crashed badly, thanks to these stupid beetles.

All we know right now is it's not at all a normal occurrence and that our local environmental people are puzzled that we're suddenly inundated by these freshwater beetles along the coast (but at least it explains the many beach deaths). And that it's such a hilarious/weird/scary problem to have. And that was just last week; this week it's been giant grasshoppers flying into our apartment... who knows what's next?

For more, check out: Beetles take over Surfers Paradise

Monday, March 21, 2011

Our Favourite Gold Coast Bloke (So Far)

It was a partly cloudy but hot afternoon. We were indulging in an ice cream at the local Cold Rock Ice Creamery (delicious ice cream but bad value, we must say). There we were, sitting at a sidewalk table, when you swaggered up to the ice cream counter with your family and ordered first.

You ordered first, and then you passed your wife the task of paying for your sundae.

We couldn't stop staring at your multi-coloured mullet. And your awesome 'stache. And then we noticed that you weren't really wearing socks at all- it was simply the best sock tan we'd ever seen.

Mullet man with the rockin' sock tan, we love that you stepped straight out of the '70s to totally make our day!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Our New Flatmate

We haven't told you too much about our new home yet. It was actually only the second place Adrian checked out on his first apartment-hunting day, but as soon as he saw it, he knew it was the one. And as soon as he emailed me the photos (as I was still in Canada at the time), I shrieked with excitement. It's a huge, furnished two-bedroom with tons of light, a wraparound balcony with a panorama showing the mountains on the west side, and ocean on the east, and lots of other high-rises all around us. We've got luxuries we've never had before, like a washing machine and a dishwasher, and three (yes, three!) swimming pools, two tennis courts, and a whole bunch of BBQs. And did we mention it's just across the road from the beach? OK, OK, we'll stop mentioning that already. :)

We're sharing the place until the end of July with Julie & Liv, from Denmark & Norway- they're also Griifth U students, like Adrian, and are fantastic. It's a bit of change, going from having your own apartment to sharing one with flatmates, but somehow, happily, this transition has been a surprisingly easy one. But then, yesterday we got news of a third, slightly more uninvited flatmate who's lately been making himself at home in our new apartment...

"Oh yeah, and look out for a bird flying into the apartment," Julie said as she and Liv were heading off for school. "A WHAT??" I replied.

Apparently this black-and-white bird - a magpie-lark, to be exact - scared Julie half to death the day before when she returned home to find it flapping around our living room. Since we generally leave our balcony doors open to let in the sea breeze (as there are no screen doors) and we're about level with some of the trees on the fifth floor, I guess our place is also fair game for the birds. And here I was marvelling at the fact that we never encounter any bugs!

I was sure the apartment bird had to have been a one-time event. So yesterday I open the door after my morning walk on the beach, and am relieved to not witness any flapping, or chirping, for that matter. I'm just sitting down on the couch with a glass of water when I see it - bird crap on the top of one of our faux-leather armchairs. Aha! Well, maybe it was from the day before...

So later on, I'm catching up on some emails in the living room and have all but forgotten about the bird. But I glance up from the computer screen and something catches my eye to the right of me - and I see that just behind the couch, a little black-and-white bird is strutting calmly around the carpet.

It took a surprising amount of yelling, clapping, and shooing (with a mop, even!), but I finally got the thing out of our apartment. The neighbours must have been wondering what all the fuss was about. But I must have scared it, as it didn't come back for the rest of the day. But then today, sometime during the five minutes between the time Adrian and I made our coffees and left the kitchen, and Julie & Liv returned from their morning run, we heard yelling in the living room: our sassy little houseguest had returned... and not for the last time.

So I guess no apartment is absolutely perfect. Some of them come with mice, some with cockroaches, and then there was that pesky flies-in-the-drains problem at our last place in Toronto. And how about our cabin in the woods with all the Huntsman spiders and moths? But a bird in the apartment is a totally new issue. Perhaps we'll have to make ourselves a scarecrow for this one.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Living in Holidayville

It's been a whole week now since the plane dropped me off at one of the country's best beaches (and that's two weeks on the coast now for Adrian, after a week in Brisbane) and I have to say, the Gold Coast so far is pretty awesome.

Where? Well, the Gold Coast is in fact a decent-sized city (or at least a collection of smaller suburbs strung along the coast) located about an hour south of Brisbane, at the very southernmost end of Queensland, Australia. We're a good few hours' drive north of Sydney and we're nowhere near the tropical Far North, where we once lived (in Port Douglas). But the climate is subtropical and beautiful year-round, and is one of Australia's most popular holiday destinations. Where we live, in Surfers Paradise, is at the epicentre of the Gold Coast's hotels, clubs, souvenir shops, and Vegas-esque glitter.

It's actually a little unreal, living in a place that's perpetually on holidays. I mean, there are definitely others like us, who go to work or school, and still live a few steps from the beach, but there aren't many gloomy faces around, as most of the town's population is on vacation.

Living in a tourist destination also has its drawbacks, of course, like really overpriced restaurants, tacky bars, and getting harassed daily by sales agents on the street to go on a "Nightclub Tour". But my plan is to soak up the holiday spirit and chill out for at least my first week or two in Oz, so it works fine for me.

Most days on the Gold Coast - at least from what I've seen - start out sunny and warm. The weather seems to change throughout the day between sunny and cloudy, and sometimes we get a bit of rain (though usually if you get caught in it, it feels quite nice!). The temperature seems to stay between 25 and 28 degrees, and the ocean temperature is pretty nice too. Which means, as a holidaymaker, you've got a big decision ahead of you: ocean or pool?

Since the sun really starts revving up by around 10am or so, in my opinion, it's best to get your beach time in in the morning (OK, I can see why I'm way paler than everyone else here), and save the errands and business stuff for the afternoon. But just don't forget that banks close at 4pm and everything else seems to shut shortly after that. It's Queensland after all! For that reason, I am happy to be in a tourist town, since tourists love to continue shopping until after dark, and luckily we've got a multi-storey outdoor mall at the centre of Surfers.

And somewhere in between the swimming, shopping, and suntanning, one must make time for a little surfing! It's next on our to-do list, although we remember the waves being a little intimidating on the Gold Coast. We've also managed to squeeze a few delicious barbeques in (there are a number of barbequing areas in the nicely landscaped grounds to our building) and to have some excellent people-watching sessions (more about that to come).

But I guess the best thing so far about living in the Gold Coast is the attitude- lots of smiles, and friendly people in shops, in the elevator, and on the beach. It's just refreshing, after living in much-more-reserved Toronto, to be in a place like this, where people have no qualms about striking up a chat with a total stranger. But of course, when you're pumped so full of the sunshine vitamin all the time, who wouldn't be all smiles and chattiness?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

And Around We Go!

As I was wandering up the beach today in the early morning sunshine, snapping photos of little purplish jellyfish washing up in the surf and following seagull tracks in the freshly groomed sand, four words popped into my head and blinked at me like a neon sign: This is your life.

It wasn't even 8:30 yet, and I was already at the beach. After an early-morning payphone call home to Canada, it was hard to resist taking the beach route back to my apartment. And while normally my first and biggest concern at this hour is getting some breakfast into my belly, pronto, when there's a stunning beach literally at your doorstep, the eggs and toast tend to drop in the priority list.

Yes it's true, folks: we're now official residents of Gold Coast, Australia (well, Surfers' Paradise, to be exact)! It's not a place Adrian and I ever would have pictured ourselves living, but, well, it's happening. For those of you who know us well, you probably know that Australia still holds a special place in our hearts. After spending two eventful years in Oz, it really began to feel like home. And after a good jaunt around Southeast Asia in 2009, we did give returning to Toronto a fair go. But after nearly a year and a half, it became apparent that our old city just wasn't working for us. So despite the fact there were many things we loved about being back in Toronto - like our great little apartment tucked in between Little Italy and Little Portugal, beautiful Trinity-Bellwoods Park down the block, Chinatown just a short walk away, family in nearby towns and lots of great friends in the city - we couldn't help but dig around for ideas for our next adventure. If you had asked us a year ago where we were planning to be in March 2011, we would have told you "Somewhere in the UK", as we were well on our way to getting the paperwork together to take a working holiday in jolly old England at that time. In fact, Adrian got his visa and COULD fly into London right now and be legal to work - that is, if there were jobs. A little detail that scared us off that plan...

So last summer, we began pondering some other options. That was when one of our friends, who knows Australia well, and our desire to return too, asked us: "well, how about going to university there?" Since we'd already used up our two years of Aussie working holiday visas, we'd kind of assumed a return to Oz was out of the question. But we were intrigued. We soon learned Adrian's diploma program at Seneca College had a joint agreement with several universities to upgrade his Digital Media Arts diploma into a degree - at places including York University in Toronto, Athabasca (Alberta), some place in Buffalo, and Griffith University in Australia. What luck! And getting a bachelor's might not be a bad idea careerwise... but after some more research and digging around, it began to look like a crazy plan (financially at least), so we tucked that idea away for the time being...

But crazy as the idea seemed, the more we thought about it, the more we wanted to make it happen. Griffith was located in the Gold Coast after all, a great place to surf, with fantastic year-round weather, and close to Brisbane, a city we've been hearing lots of good things about. So we thought, why not? And we began the application process: apply to school, apply for scholarships, apply for visas... and finally, at the very end of January, when we had already given our landlord move-out notice and had sold most of our furniture (yet still waiting for the Aussie gov't to say we were allowed back!), the news came: we got our visas! We jumped up and down a lot, and started making those last preparations. Though our plans had been in the works for quite a while, with just over two weeks left until Adrian's final enrollment deadline at Griffith, it sure was cutting it close!

But in the end, we made it. We both spent some good family/friend time before heading off, and even managed to score some decent deals on flights (note: if you're looking for a last-minute flight to Oz, definitely try Expedia, or check Air New Zealand or Virgin's websites!). Adrian landed in Australia on February 18, and I landed yesterday morning. For me, it's still pretty unreal- for one, we're living in holiday land! The Gold Coast is very flashy and touristy, full of high-rises, and makes me think a lot of Hawaii 5-0. And secondly, we're living in a gorgeous apartment that's a half block from the ocean. Our balcony wraps around our entire living room, giving us views of the mountains inland, and the sparkling blue ocean on the other side. We've got until August 2012 to live in Oz, and this morning I promised myself I would not begin to take that for granted! And so our newest adventure begins...
xoxo, D.