Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Under and Back Again - Pt. V

Sunday, July 30, 2006
Ah, Sunday, the beloved day of rest! There is absolutely nothing on the agenda today, so I and the other teachers from Ye Olde Academy decide to make it SHOPPING DAY (elevator music fanfare). Specifically, we're going to take a trip up to the Sunshine Plaza, the largest shopping mall in the Sunshine Coast area. It is located up in Maroochydore. Mr. K is all prepared to take a taxi there (which would end up costing around a hundred bucks). I convince him to let us take the bus instead. After all, there's a bus line going directly to Sunshine Plaza that runs every half hour and just happens to have a stop right in front of our hotel.

The bus isn't very big, and it winds up getting pretty crowded before we arrive at our destination. However, it is both efficient and easy to use (i.e. exact change isn't an issue). It also offers group rates, meaning the hour-long trip to the shopping mall only winds up costing about A$3 each. When we arrive at the mall we have lunch at a buffet-style Asian restaurant and then split up for the day.

Sunshine Plaza isn't the biggest mall in the world, but it is definitely the biggest in the area. It is also very attractively built. It straddles Cornmeal Creek, with most of the restaurants located along the twin creekside promenades with bridges between them. The enclosed mall section also spans the waterway. It has a good selection of shops covering both everyday needs and high-fashion concerns. The fact that it is in a native English culture also makes it extremely dangerous for me...

First I go into a drugstore and buy some Mylanta lozenges (my biggest priority right now). Next I go to a bookstore and wind up blowing more than a hundred bucks. Then I go into the Virgin CD shop and wind up toting to the cashier a stack of disks including Nickelback, Jethro Tull, Depeche Mode, Weather Report, and Muddy Waters. (The three clerks stare at me, and one of them comments that I'm buying the most interestingly varied collection they've ever seen. My reply that I have very broad musical tastes earns the comment that they wish there were more people like me. Considering how much I put into their register, I can see why!) I check out the K-Mart (yes, they have those there) and buy a few souvenir items a la Cadbury.

At least I've managed to unload a couple of those A$100 notes. Unfortunately, the currency exchange counter at Narita Airport (which has a better exchange rate than the one at Brisbane) gave me almost nothing but those, and we were warned by our guide that most people in Australia have never even seen them, let alone used them, and many stores won't even take them (just as with $100 bills in the U.S.). The bookstore and Virgin Records didn't have any problem with them. I have one more hidden in one of my pockets. Maybe one of the department stores will break it...

I go into the Myers department store and spot a couple of girls that are host sisters for our students, but no sign of the students themselves. They must have spotted me first and run for cover. Not wanting to become an issue for them, I change plans, go to Target instead (yep, they have that, too), and buy something I never thought I'd be caught dead in: a pair of cargo-pocket Bermuda shorts. (I really wished I had those at the beach yesterday...which is why I'm getting them now!) In the process I break the last A$100 note I have on my person. Then I pop into Gloria Jean's Gourmet Coffees (the most common "real coffee" chain around here, apparently) for a tall mocha before giving into temptation and going into the scented candle/essential oils shop to add a few items to my collection.

Almost as soon as I leave the candleshop the stores around me start closing their shutters. I look at my watch and discover that it's only 4:00 p.m.. Digging out my store guide in disbelief, I find that the riverside restaurants have their own schedules, but for the mall itself 4:00 is the regular closing time on Sundays. On weekdays the it is open till 5:30 except on Thursdays, when it's open till 9:00.

The problem is that our group planned to meet up again at 6:00 to plan for dinner. Sitting in a quiet, shuttered mall, I'm beginning to think that's a bad idea. Fortunately, the others use some common sense, and they soon appear. We leave the mall and stroll around the neighborhood, but we find that more or less the entire town shares the 4:00 Sunday closing time. Maroochydore is like a ghost town.

I tell them I wouldn't mind hanging out at the English-style pub until dinner time (Irish and Australian beers on tap!), but the others don't share my enthusiasm. Instead, we change our plans and hop on the bus for home. On the way we bump into one of our students and his host brother, who have spent the day playing around in Mooloolaba. The boy is clearly thankful for a chance to speak Japanese after a weekend of English overload, and he proceeds to talk on and on excitedly like a tape in fast-forward mode while his host brother sits and stares forlornly out the window.

We arrive back at the hotel, and we decide to try having dinner at the bistro there. It's only a step up from eating in a cafeteria, but the prices are quite reasonable, the portions are huge, and the food is very satisfying. (Fortunately, the Mylanta seems to have done the trick.) I also appreciate the schooners, and I'm not talking about the seagoing variety. In Australia a "schooner" is a large size beer glass.

First I enjoy a schooner of XXXX Bitter (after a bit of trouble at the counter getting the terminology and the pub-restaurant's system straight, which the barmaid clearly finds a lot more amusing than she's willing to let on). Then a group who appear to be our oh-so-lively upstairs neighbors come and sit at a neighboring table. It's a group of largish men, some accompanied by female companions, who are all wearing jackets with various emblems on them. Maybe they're a racing team of some sort. Maybe they're footballers. Anyway, I head to the bar for a second drink and get there just behind the apparent leader of the team. He says, "Schooner o' Mid," and gets a prompt response, so I follow suit. The man eyes me a bit warily as he walks past, so I just quietly return to my table and enjoy my first-ever Carlton Mid "mid-strength beer". (It has a delightful, chocolatey flavor, by the way.)

It's our last night at the Currimundi Hotel. I have a ton of laundry I need to do, and the laundry room is right next to my room, but the thing has been monopolized all day by somebody with a whole pile of stuff in great big cloth bags that almost fill the whole room. That sports team, perhaps? I don't know. I guess the washing will have to wait till Sydney. Tonight I'll just get some much-needed relaxation and go to bed early for a change.


  • I am shocked: K-Mart, Target AND Gloria Jean's? Just like going to any American mall.

    I wish we had a Target in London!

    I think I know how your Japanese student felt. Although I've studied French for nearly a decade, I have reservations about moving abroad, even to France, for continual language exercise. I get physically tired with it and would be so relieved just to find a group of Anglophones, not have to think about what to say and how to say it.

    By Blogger Olivia, at 10:02 PM  

  • I'm shocked like Oliva... can't believe they have Target and K-Mart! I so wish we had a Target here. I love and miss that store dearly!

    You remind of when we were in London. We'd go down and sit at the bar in the restaraunt and have pint after pint. It was so much fun... and it tasted SO GOOD! yum yum!!

    By Blogger tooners, at 6:10 PM  

  • It is so nice that even on weekend, you still want to meet your collegues..

    As for me, Sunday is rest day, meaning, no work, noone from work too.

    By Blogger Robin, at 3:31 PM  

  • Something is going to happen to KMart Myers and a couple of other shops - amalgamated in some takeover.
    It's so funny to hear someone describe their visit to places in Oz - the kind of mall that we just whizz through.
    I'll write up my day in Melbourne in the morning. I was like a tourist even going there - wandering around art galleries. I was like a gushing country kid.

    By Blogger Peceli and Wendy's Blog, at 6:32 PM  

  • Olivia and Tooners
    I was shocked at all the American chain stores, too. As I said in an earlier post, when driving around Brisbane it would have been very easy to mistake it for my native Portland but for the fact that we were on the wrong side of the road...and the roundabouts. Closer examination also showed Queens English (tyre, colour, centre, etc.), and there were a few different chains (e.g. Burger King is "Hungry Jack" in Australia, but with identical logos and products). On the other hand, Aussie character is quite different from American, and I appreciated that.

    I didn't have much choice. I was still "at work" on Sunday. I suppose I could have gone off by myself or stayed in my hotel room, but my coworkers probably would have panicked. Even the two English teachers in our group had trouble with the Aussie English.

    Another buy-out?
    If I'd come direct from the U.S. I probably wouldn't have been so excited. Living in Japan, though, I don't get to experience that sort of mall very often. There are malls in Japan, sure, but they're mostly Japanese chain stores and don't have so many Western products.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 9:28 PM  

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