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17 March 2000, Cairns, Queensland

It was raining again when we woke up. Thanks to the cloud cover and the soothing sound of the rain, we were able to stay asleep until 7:30, our latest morning so far. After we returned from breakfast, the phone rang. It was our new friend Hilary, who we had met on our tour of Kakadu. She and Alan would not be able to have dinner with us that night, but they would be in Cairns that afternoon if we were available for a late lunch. We were, and made plans to meet in town.

While the rain continued to fall, Chris and I looked through the pictures I had had printed the previous day. We decided which ones to keep, then labeled them. Afterwards, Chris went to the hotel gift shop to see if there was anything interesting there. I spent some time typing up journals from previous days. When I checked e-mail, there was one from Theresa, my youngest sister. She wrote that Daddy’s heart tests had revealed severe blockage in three arteries that supply blood to his heart. He had been scheduled for bypass surgery the next day. I called Mother at home to see how she was doing and to get more details.

Mother was, of course, concerned about the coming surgery, but was in generally good spirits. She and Lynn reported that Daddy was also doing well, feeling too good to be in need of an operation. The surgery was to be performed the next morning at 10:00 (North Carolina time) at Duke Hospital.

Chris and I caught the 1:05 bus from the resort into Cairns, arriving forty minutes later. By then, the rain had nearly stopped. We walked to our meeting place with Hilary and Alan, getting there early. While we waited, we looked around City Place, the pedestrian mall where we were standing. It is a former intersection that has been closed to traffic. There are dozens of small shops, bars, and cafes. Shortly after we returned to the meeting point, Hilary and Alan walked up.

Hilary had ordered a small spaghetti, but the waiter brought a large. When he returned, he saw that she still had a lot left. He said “We have a large wooden spoon in the back. We use it to paddle people who don’t eat all they order.” At that point, Hilary was compelled to point out that she had ordered the small spaghetti, which she could have finished. That didn’t keep the waiter from actually showing us the spoon, nor did it prevent other waiters and waitresses from giving Hilary the same warning.

We talked until 4:45, when I looked at my watch and realized that Chris and I had to get moving to catch the 5:00 bus. The next one wouldn’t leave until 7:00. While we waited for the check, a street performer walked up near our table. His act was pretty simple. He had a face painted on his chest, with mouth painted near his navel. He rippled his abdominal muscles, making the mouth appear to open and close, talking.

We paid the check, then Chris and I walked back to The Pier with a couple of minutes to spare before the bus pulled up.

Back at the hotel, we took some pictures of the tropical plants in the gardens around our room. Since it wasn’t raining, we also got a picture of the pool.

Then we took a little nap, waking up when we heard the band playing in The Verandah again. We roused ourselves, got ready for dinner, then headed up to the Paperbark. We stuck to entrees (what American restaurants call “starters” or “appetizers”), since we weren’t exactly hungry after our late lunch. The restaurant wasn’t very busy, and we sat and talked for quite a while after we had eaten. When we finally asked for the check, we looked around and realized we were the only diners in the place.

We headed back through the lobby and found a good table at The Varandah and listened to the band. I went into the bar and asked if they had a copy of the band’s CD. They did, and I bought it. The bartender told me that the band would sign it if we asked. It was nearly 10:00, and they only play until 10:30. We caught their last few songs, not getting a chance to make any requests. When they had finished, they again went out into the audience. One of the guitarists sat down with us, and I asked him if he would sign the CD. He did, then passed it to the drummer, who passed it to the bass player, who passed it to the other guitarist, who passed it back to us. We were the proud owners of a signed copy of “Cool Bananas” by Horas.

We went back to the room, put the CD in the laptop and gave it a quick listen, then went to bed for our last night in Cairns. We had managed to relax and enjoy ourselves despite the rain.

Next day

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