By Kazuya Muto
Our plan for the rest of the stay was simple: During the day we would go to an amusement park, and during the evening we would hunt out a decent restaurant and talk about this and that over good food and wine.
We visited all four amusement parks and went on most of the rides. Particularly memorable was Wet 'n' Wild Water World. Perhaps that should have been "Wet 'n' Wild 'n' Freezing Cold." Unsurprisingly for a theme park that involves everyone getting in the water, it's not that popular in winter, but when we went it was sunny and we somehow deluded ourselves into thinking it would be warm.
A few minutes later, I dived into the water and nearly died of a heart attack because it was so cold. I looked around to see the other three shivering in the water, but strangely the Australians in the pool didn't seem to feel the cold, especially the younger kids. "It's a mystery," said Helen, looking at them. "It's torture," said Wen, his teeth chattering. "Your snoring is torture," I said. "This doesn't compare."
At night, we talked about so many different things: love, politics, life in Australia, Wen's endless snoring ... We talked about each other, we expressed ourselves openly and we laughed a lot. I really feel we drew closer as friends while we were there.
Time flew, and before I knew it, it was time to say good-bye to the Gold Coast. In the bus to the airport, as the view of the Gold Coast gradually receded into the distance, we talked about our experiences there: Remember the white tiger at Dream World? What about the old woman on the bus with the Australian accent? We couldn't understand a thing she was saying. And what about the rollercoaster? One happy memory followed another.
But I noticed Shirley looking a little sad, and I wondered what was wrong. Suddenly she said in a small voice, "Kazu, when are you going back to Japan?" It was a startling question, and I just said, "After I finish next semester." Then I put on a silly voice and said, "You're going to miss me, aren't you?" and she smiled and said, "Yeah, a little bit ..."
I couldn't sleep on the flight back to Sydney. My mind was too restless. I thought about how I had to go back to Japan after my final semester, and how sometimes I felt I didn't want to go back to Japan because I was growing closer and closer to my friends in Australia. Of course, I missed Japan too. I missed my life back there, and my friends. But still ...
When we got back to Sydney, the others suggested we go for dinner in China Town. This was in return for our trip to the Japanese restaurant in the Gold Coast, and it was delicious! More impressive were my friends' efforts to explain each dish to me in English. They were clearly enjoying the challenge, but it was hard. They had to use a dictionary, but they ended up explaining things very well.
After the meal, around midnight, we said good-bye. I thought about how much I'd enjoyed the trip, how satisfying it had been, but it was hard to shake that melancholy feeling I had on the plane. It was a different kind of journey to the ones I've experienced before — not just geographically, but emotionally too.
Shukan ST: Aug. 18, 2006
(C) All rights reserved