It was long overdue, but we finally had a BootsnAll Brisbane meeting that was planned more than a day in advance. As a result, we got a good turn out and it was a great night.
Even the heavy rain of the last few days did not deter folks from wandering down (most came after work in the city) to the Down Under Bar at the Palace Backpackers. When Sean and I arrived around 6pm, Ging and Janita were already there. We quickly moved to a table and heard some more stories from Ging’s recent trip to Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Photos were produced and we pored over those as well.
Shortly afterwards we were joined by Bronwyn, who is an old friend of mine from when I was behind the bar in England. She has the uncanny ability to email me out of the blue soon after I’ve returned to Australia. It was she who told me of the mysterious photo of me in a Lebanese kebab shop. She works in the city for the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), but don’t worry, she’s not gonna bust you for dumping toxic waste into the Brisbane River. She’s involved with conserving Queensland’s heritage buildings, which is an important job in these days of rampant renovation of old pubs and venues. She told us it was often an uphill battle getting things done because some of the higher-ups have construction and development interests. Not any direct conflicts of interest, but still the mindset and attitude might not be quite in line with the mission of the agency.
We also found Brisbane was still a small town, with Bron working with someone that Ging knew from way back. Ging is also convinced she knew Bron from somewhere, but we were unable to find that link (especially with the limited amount of beer we’d drunk to that point). It was also time for a table shuffle to mix up boys and girls, which resulted in Ging briefly strutting her stuff on the tabletop.
Next to arrive was Witold. He also works for the government, in the defense department, but is not far away from retirement and more traveling. His most recent trip was to SE ASia and he and Ging spoke of similar experiences on the Diabolical Road. Their choice of footwear was vastly different however. Witold had a solid pair of steel capped walking shoes, while Ging went for the strappy sandals. I know this because both were in my lap, at the same time.
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A little later on I remember noticing a woman standing by one of the old beer barrels used as tables near the bar. She was on the phone, and one minute she was there and the next minute she was gone. No big deal, but it reminded me perhaps I should keep my phone handy since we were expecting a couple more people to show up. It’s not a big bar, but there were enough people there to make it harder to find us. Witold had gone the direct route and asked the bar staff to look around for him.
When I looked at my phone I saw I’d missed a call from Shannan. I quickly SMS’ed her and asked her if she was coming. She SMS’ed me back and said she’d just left because she could not find us and I had not answered my phone when she’d called. Now that she knew we were there, she said she’d be right back and told us to look out for a tall brunette wearing a blue shirt and pink skirt. A few moments later, the same woman who I’d seen at the beer barrel walked it. We flagged her down and introduced Shannan to the group.
We discovered Shannan also worked in the city but at a Japanese school. At least, she was there for one more day as she was giving notice on Friday so she could go back to University to get her Honors in Peace and Conflict Studies. She’s traveled a fair bit already, partly due to her parents being from Canada and Australia. She also studied at McGill University in Montreal as part of her undergrad degree.
Being a school night, Ging and Janita decided to call it a night. We made sure we took some photos and bid them farewell. But the fun did not end there. We were then joined by Aidy and Kaylene and the night rolled on. Aidy discovered that a backpackers bar probably isn’t the best place to order a glass of red wine. The bartendress had to ask her manager if it was OK to give Aidy a taste of the wine they had.
We finished up the night in a place called Cafe Vino, where we tried a bottle of Pinot Noir that wasn’t even close to the quality of Oregon’s Cooper Mountain Winery.
It’s always a bit of a gamble when you throw together people who’ve never met before, and it never ceases to amaze me how well BootsnAll meetings go. Everyone’s got a travel story to share and the night just goes from there.