Turkey Day Down Under!

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Our Thanksgiving table.

I think I’m still full.

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. Seeing as though all my other family holidays involve going to temple, not eating bread and spending an hour before dinner saying prayers, this is a good one. Turkey, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie. No prayers. Curb after dinner (not football, we’re nerdy Jews). Yum.

My first Thanksgiving away from home was in 2002 — my flatmates in London went shopping and made a huge dinner. We invited over a few English friends and ate chicken because the turkey took too long to make. It was a good one — I was full.

My second Thanksgiving away from home was last night. A few girlfriends and I went shopping around 6 p.m., hoping to make an 8 o’clock dinner. Our biggest fear was whether or not we’d be able to kick out whomever was there already making dinner. This is because most hostels have one kitchen situated in the nether regions of a gross basement. It’s usually not pretty. Gilligans, the hostel I’m staying at in Cairns, however, has a gorgeous, modern kitchen on each floor. It’s like Top Chef in there. When we emerged from the elevator on to the third floor, we gawked in amazement at the pristine, empty kitchen in front of us. Counter space, two stoves, and all the cutlery, pots and pans we could imagine. It was as if the Thanksgiving Gods were smiling down on us. Or you know, Squanto…or something.

Again I celebrated with the Brits (some Scots and Welsh thrown in this time), five Americans and a lot of food. It was a good one. I was full.

We managed 8:30, which, I think, is pretty respectable. The girls and I, Emma, Lorna Amy, bought chickens (turkeys take too long! And no ovens in the hostel kitchen!) and made sweet potatoes, fried potatoes, mashed potatoes, cauliflower and cheese sauce and carrots, with ice cream and warm apple pie for dessert. We had 14 people, I think more than my family had at home.

I wish I could say more about the last week, but in all honesty, it was just relaxing. I’d even go so far as to say it was slightly boring. Not boring in the sense of having nothing to do, just boring in the sense that for once I didn’t have a tight schedule, planned activities and a wake-up call at 7:30 a.m. It was nice.

In short, after Magnetic Island, we headed up to Mission Beach. It’s so-named because there used to be a mission there, but in actuality it’s four small beach towns, not one. We stayed at a low-key hostel in Wongaling Beach and I spent my first day plopped in front of the TV watching The Pursuit of Happyness and Shallow Hal. I did spend the next day whitewater rafting on the Tully river, which was fun and exciting and all the things whitewater rafting is supposed to be, but the best part by far was the surroundings. I felt like I was in Jurassic Park. It was serious rainforest on both sides, and absolutely gorgeous. The Australian rainforest, which I did not know, is the oldest rainforest in the world at 250 million years old. Once all of Australia was rainforest, now there’s only .3 percent left. Our raft guide, Dave (a dead ringer for Matthew McConaughey), actually told us parts of the movie were filmed there. Not sure if anyone remembers the scene were the pterodactyl flies over a cliff with a waterfall, but that was one of the scenes. And I was there. I half-expected a T-Rex to come flying out of the bushes. I wish I could have taken pictures, but we were rafting and I didn’t have an underwater camera. If you want to know what it looked like, go watch the movie again!

We spent that night exhausted watching Bridget Jones’ Diary.

At 2 p.m. I hopped on my last Oz bus for the trip up to Cairns. It was only about 2 hours, but we stopped at a commercial croc farm on the way. Not a zoo. These crocs are bred for all that lovely stuff we see in Vogue: handbags, shoes, purses, wallets, etc. Only the bred crocs are used for the skin though; the crocs they catch from the wild are all “pests” (as in, they’ve killed dogs, attacked cows and sheep, and would have been killed anyway), and are used for breeding. They are big. And they are scary.

Another scary animal at the croc farm was the cassowary. This bird is the 3rd largest flightless bird after the ostrich and the emu, and there are only 1500 left in the world. They all live in this little pocket of Australia in the rainforest, and if they die off 25 percent of the rainforest will die — along with tons of species and medicinal plants we have yet to discover. They are the only animal large enough to disperse some seeds, and only they can digest certain plants and fruits. Their feet and poop alone keep 25 percent of the rainforest alive. Nice for the rainforest? Yes. For us? No. One swipe of its claw could disembowel us in two seconds. The one idiot Englishman who tried to hug the bird at the croc farm for a photo got sliced in the thigh and required 38 stitches. I can imagine it wasn’t pretty. I was happy to be behind the fence.

We arrived in Cairns at about 6 p.m. Wednesday and I haven’t done much else besides Thanksgiving. A bit of wandering, a bit of window shopping and a bit of laying around by the pool. Hard life, I know. Tomorrow I head up to Cape Tribulation for more serious rainforest, a croc spotting boat ride and a tropical fruit tour. I’m seriously excited for this tour, because you get to try fruit that’s too fragile to be shipped anywhere else. You basically have to get it off the tree and eat it. I love food, so this should be fun. I get back Monday night, do a full day dive trip to the Great Barrier Reef Tuesday, then head back to Sydney Thursday morning. And that’s it. Seven weeks up from Melbourne. Done!
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Chris, Dave and Louie at the table. Look at all our food!

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Scary croc. 

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Teeny croc! 

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Rafter Dave
Matthew M., no? Dave’s a Kiwi and made fun of us the entire time for not paddling together. “Moppets!” was the common refrain.

3 responses to “Turkey Day Down Under!

  1. Finally checked out your blog. I love it. You’re obviously having a blast down under. Spent last week at a conference with a friend from Melbourne, so I was thinking about you. Looks like you’re having a few visitors in the next couple of months—-Dad, brother, Alison, but no Mom; she said both of you wouldn’t survive on the van together.

    Heard you have to come back for a wedding. Will you go back?

  2. Alan Jay Schwartz

    Hey-Aunt Carol wanted to see your blog after we talked to your Dad and hear about your cooking Thanksgiving down under. Sounds like you had a great time. Not quite like on LI but a holiday to remember-eating thanksgiving dinner with some Brits-weren’t those the guys who eventually got thrown out of here?!

    We had Thanksgiving dinner at Rachael and David’s-1st time we weren’t at my brother’s. We had a great time. Rachael made the turkey with Aunt Carol showing her how to cook the bird in the pan covered with a brown paper bag like Mom did. Dinner was very tasty and of course toooooooo much to eat-everyone ate too much anyway. Grandpa, Julie, Ben and their kids and Rachael’s parents were with us.

    It finally got cold here and the leaves are just now turning colors and falling off of the trees.

    We are of to Margate tomorrow for the weekend-check out the house and relax.

    Julie and family are fine-Ethan never stops talking; Maddie got her hair cut to give it to locks for love and she looks so grown-up. David and family are also fine-Emma is soooooo cute! Amy and Chrie are fine-we saw them in NYC 2 weeks ago when they came east for a wedding. They were in Seattle for Thanksgiving and will come to Philly for 8 days around Xmas time.

    Grandpa is fine and behaving as he usually does.

    Aunt Carol and I are fine-busy with work and everything family.

    Sounds like you are having a wonderful time. You are very smart to do what you are doing now when you can-ENJOY!!

    Talk again sooner then it took me to say hi this time.

    Love Aunt Carol and Uncle Alan

  3. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving (sounds like you did) and we all missed you on Long Island! I got your IM this morning, but you weren’t online anymore😛. Will you be home next May? That’s most likely when the engagement party will be. I hope to see you sooner though!! Miss you!

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