Flying to Gold Coast felt like flying home to LA, in the arms of family whose company I’ve always enjoyed when visiting California. We spend the first few hours lazing away in the airport, eating the best blueberry muffins and planning the rest of our week in the city while we wait for uncle Cesar and auntie Cora to land from Sydney. By dusk we are settled in our villa by Broadbeach.
At first my heart felt heavy about being with adults who couldn’t physically handle adventure and getting lost, but during our first few days in Gold Coast we follow a routine I learn to later on love. Waking up early in the morning, we prepare for a long day of journeying to places in and outside the city. We found ourselves exploring Springbook, Natural Arch and Crystal Castle on the some days and then Brisbane City on another, dropping by other random spots and corners in between. At the end of the day, we pass by the market to get fresh fruits and ingredients and walk home with heavy plastic bags under the mad, glazing sun. We all rest and do our own business for a bit until it’s time to prepare dinner. This was my favorite time of the day then — all of us by the kitchen being a happy, giggly bunch, just sharing stories and laughing about old memories while we cook. We spend all of our after-dinners playing a card game called Casino my grandparents on my mum’s side made up. My tita Lynn and I partner up and lose only once among all the many games and we still rejoice now whenever we find time to talk over facetime.
I write these notes in between little adventures:
We spend almost an entire day in Byron Bay. I don’t know why this place feels like home. Not like home in Manila, more of a future home. We walk around the neighborhood while we window shop and eat lots and lots of french fries and yogurt. I get tired of it eventually and sit by the beach. The winds are cold and I’m sure the water’s even more but I watch surfers battle it all out all for the love of the sea. I want to try to surf so bad. I’d probably suck at it but I’m sure it will be entirely freeing. Blue Fest would be held here in a couple months — nothing but the sea, great artists and homey Byron everyday for five days. If it were only easy to fly to another country.
We stop by Buck’s farm and meet his little blue-eyed girl and granddaughter Sophie. I ask her if I can take a photograph of her and she awkwardly smiles as I do. I realize then she isn’t as beautiful in photographs as she strikingly is in person. So while we spend a couple hours walking around the farm, just picking fruits and munching on them, I memorize as much of her features as I can. She is a real sweetheart. I know someday too she’ll make her parents and grandpop very proud. We hug each other tight before we drive off.
We meet Steve and his two friends on a public bus on our way back to the coast from the Carrara Markets. They were so warm, like real friends I’ve known for so long. We talked and laughed the entire trip back until all of a sudden it was our stop. There was barely even time to share hugs so we quickly stood, said our goodbyes and take cares and hopped off the bus. From outside I see their silhouettes, three boys intently looking out the window. I smile a big, big grin and wave goodbye. They wave back so excitedly, I feel terrible for not even getting their e-mails. Now I’ll never know how their little night out on Surfer’s Paradise will turn out, or where they would be in a matter of months. That’s when I realized the world is so small yet so unfathomably and annoyingly big at the same time. How we will always find friends in strangers, but we can’t keep them all.
The market isn’t as great as I thought it would be so I sneaked away soonest I can. Here I am with Bon Iver by the beach and the sun casts shadows all over. I feel utterly happy. More than all else, grateful. I know sometimes I am discontented, always wanting to see more, do more — but right now all seems fine and perfect. I haven’t cried in so long but I do now with tears of genuine joy. Life is great. What good did I do to deserve all this?
On our last free day, we all separate ways. My casino-obsessed aunt and uncle spend the entire day at Jupiters while some others decide to go to a shopping mall and the rest watch a show. My mum and I spend the day at the beach. The sun is hot on our skin but the water is so cold and so fresh, it really didn’t matter. It was perfect. The tides were low and there weren’t much people. I ride the farthest waves and drown in the cold for hours. I remember one moment distinctly — I come up and I see a perfect picture — all is blue except a little girl’s floating freckled face right smack on the center, her ginger hair glowing like fire. Time stops for a while as we look onto each other, her deep blue eyes staring right back at me. I silently take a mental picture and I close my eyes now and still remember. My mum and I walk back to our hotel after noon tanner than ever but in deep love with the coast’s water — fresh and wonderful. We share in the delight to scratch off our bucket list swimming in the Pacific Ocean.
It’s so early in the morning when we leave Gold Coast. I hug my aunts and uncles tight and promise them I will miss them. It’s sad living so far away from each other but we try as we usually do not to cry, and we don’t for the first time. We part ways as we fly to Sydney and they to New Zealand.