Merry Christmas everyone, we hope you had a wonderful Christmas Day!
Wow, it's Christmas Day! This is a very strange experience... everyone is wearing Father Christmas hats and singing Band Aid and Mariah Carey, the only problem is that it is 30 degrees and we are wearing shorts and t-shirts.... this isn't the kind of Christmas Day we are used to. We got up quite early this morning and it was really weird wandering around the hostel saying Merry Christmas to everyone; it felt like I was saying it but not really meaning it because I didn't truly believe that it actually was Christmas Day at all. Some people were going for an early Christmas morning dip in the pool, some people were sunbathing (no one should sunbath on Christmas Day, it's just not right!) but most people were sitting around the garden looking quite confused and hung-over
. Tom had arranged to Skype his family at midnight (UK time) on Christmas Eve, so we went and logged on to one of the computers so we could speak to them. It was really nice getting to see everyone, including Tom's brother and sister who we haven't seen on Skype yet, but it was really strange seeing everyone dressed in jumpers and fleeces while we were sweating in the humidity!
Rather than offering a traditional Christmas dinner like some of the other hostels we have been to, the hostel we are staying in was hosting a big champagne breakfast at 10am, so all the staff were running around like headless chickens trying to get all the food sorted. After a nice cool shower to help clear my head, Tom and I joined everyone else at the tables in the garden and donned our Father Christmas hats (which we had nicked from the pub the night before) and got ready to tuck into our breakfast. The owner of the hostel had come along with his family and friends to join us and it was a really family-affair... he gave a great speech about how he and his wife had built the hostel from scratch and how much it meant to them, it was a really nice morning. He also told us that the night before on Christmas Eve, while we had all been sitting in the garden drinking wine, a category 1 cyclone had hit Cairns! We were all really shocked because we had been sitting outside through the whole thing and thought it was just a really bad storm
. But hey ho, we all survived and now we can say we braved a tropical cyclone with nothing but a glass of cheap red wine for protection! For breakfast we had tons of fresh tropical fruit, there were also big platters of cheese, meat, veggies and dips, plus a basket full of croissants. And to everyone's delight there was enough Bucks Fizz to sink a ship and 4 or 5 buckets full to the brim with ice and cold beers. Whilst the breakfast wasn't a patch on having Christmas dinner with my family (I miss your trifle Mum!) it was a really nice way to spend Christmas morning; it felt good to be surrounded with other people and had a comforting homely feel to it.
After our breakfast I was feeling a bit worse for wear, I think the wine had finally come to take its revenge on me, so I went back to bed for an hours sleep. When I woke up I was really pleased to see that the rain clouds had lifted and the sky was brightening up. Tom and I had planned to have a picnic down on the esplanade (like a promenade) in the afternoon, where there is a huge swimming lagoon, and we had also invited the girl who was sharing our dorm room; a girl called Michelle from Devon who is over here working on a cattle station. Seeing that the weather was improving we quickly packed our rucksacks with food and headed down to the esplanade. Even though the sun was still hidden behind the clouds it was absolutely baking hot during the half hour walk and we were all dripping with sweat by the time we arrived
. We weren't sure how busy the esplanade would be; we don't really know what Aussies do on Christmas Day in Cairns because the beach is too dangerous to go on (Crocodiles and Jelly Fish) so we figured that people might just stay at home. Well, we were wrong! The esplanade was packed with people who had all had the same idea as us... there were picnic hampers and BBQs as far as the eye could see! It took us a while, but we finally found an empty picnic table near the swimming lagoon and we settled down to some lunch... cheese, crackers, Doritos, salami and fruit, plus Michelle had had a bottle of Port sent to her by her parents back home! We had also bought some mince pies, but they tasted awful so I let Tom and Michelle polish them off. After gorging ourselves on cheese and crackers Tom decided to go for a swim in the lagoon while Michelle heading off for a walk into town. We didn't really get up to much during the evening; all the bars and pubs had to shut early so we just stayed at the hostel for the night and relaxed. Later in the night I got chance to call home and speak to some of my family which was both brilliant and strange... I still can't get used to the fact that everyone I care about is back home having a normal Christmas while we are missing all of it. I was half way through talking with one of my sisters when my phone card ran out of credit and, because the top-up line was closed, I couldn't call back to speak to my other two sisters so I was quite upset about that.
All in all I still don't feel like we have had a proper Christmas Day; Christmas in Oz reminds me more of a bank holiday or a May Day back home
. It was really nice to spend the day with the people at the hostel, we've made some lovely friends during the few days we have been in Cairns so far, but we both really missed our families today and our normal Christmas back home. In a strange way though I am glad that we have had the experience of spending, not only Christmas Day, but the whole lead up to Christmas away from our families and our home country, because it means that we will treasure Christmas-time back home even more now and always feel lucky to have our families around us at Christmas. From my first Christmas away from home I have learnt that Christmas doesn't really mean anything unless you've got the people that you love around you.