|The inside of an abalone shell|
In the morning, the couple made me coffee again. They were leaving on the ferry with their SUV to the mainland of Australia soon. I gave the wife one of my abalone shells - a trophy and prize for her too.
Before they left, I thanked them for their hospitality and kindness. They drove off.
I stayed longer to rest. Then, I gathered up my stuff and hitchhiked on the side of the road. My gear was heavier now because of my abalone catch.
An older, gay, married couple picked me up in five minutes of hitchhiking. One was from Sussex in England and the other was from Germany. They now both lived in Germany. The German was the older of the two, and I assumed he was the one with the money because they lived in Germany instead of England.
They dropped me off at the fork in the road. I hitchhiked there for 40 minutes. Nobody was going to the ferry port, but people were coming from there because it was a Saturday and not a Sunday. Then, a young Chinese couple picked me up.
They had never picked up a hitchhiker. They had never toured on their own either. They weren't in a tourbus, like most Chinese that travel.
We had a conversation. The girl was very pleased I spoke Mandarin. We switched in English and Mandarin but we spoke mainly in English. She was an accountant, and he was an engineer. I was surprised a Chinese couple picked me up, but maybe it's perhaps it's because I'm Asian. In China, people don't hitchhike. I told them I had caught abalone, and they were surprised.
Eventually, I admitted to them I was an attorney. I'm surprised they didn't stop the car and throw me out. No. No. They were actually also amused by the fact that a lawyer didn't have a car on holiday and was hitchhiking. She told me in the far West of China, in the area near Afghanistan, there are travelers like me, who travel on a shoestring.
We arrived 2 minutes before the ferry departed. After the ferry sailed into mainland Tasmania, I thanked them and took an hour bus ride back to Hobart - the capital city of Tasmania. Along the way, the bus picked up these two German girls. They sat behind me.
I was tired and exhausted. I had another dive before I left and didn't catch anything because the currents were too strong again. I was cold. I didn't sleep well. So, I slouched on my bus seat.
To keep awake, I eavesdropped on the German conversation behind me. I could pick up a few things here and there and thought to myself: I really need to learn better German.
I walked back to the hostel carrying my heavy gear. I unpacked it. I froze the abalone once again. I met my roommates for the night. A couple was Dutch. We got along. They started teaching me Dutch, and because I knew some German it wasn't so hard. I actually corrected them at one point that the word they taught me couldn't be a correct translation because I knew the German word for it. They agreed, and we laughed.
I sat outside by myself. Then the German girl, I met on the bus, was there. She sat next to me. It took me awhile to remember where I saw her. But it was obvious, she remembered me. She even mentioned that I looked tired in the bus. (I was.)
I asked her if she'd like a shot of whiskey I had brought with me. She agreed. Then we chatted, until I was ready to sleep.
The next morning, I said good bye to her. I brought my abalone and caught a shuttle into the airport.
My flight was over 25 hours long from Tasmania back to Los Angeles. I laid over in Honolulu. There, Customs inspected my catch. The officers knew what I had and said, "You know, that's worth a lot of money."
"I guess so," I said.
One officer said, "I can smell it." It smelled fresh like the ocean.
The officer in the back said, "Enjoy it. I'm sure it'll taste good."
I boarded my flight to Los Angeles from Honolulu and made it back with the abalone. Outside the airport, my brother and mother met me at night at the airport. It was a long flight, and I wanted to go home.
I handed her the ice chest of abalone. I said, "Take it. Isn't it heavy?"
She said, "Yeah. What is it?"
"Abalone. It's from Australia. It's your Christmas gift."
I looked at my younger brother and said, "I'm the favorite son now."
We went to my favorite pizza place by UCLA. I told them about my travels. My brother ordered so much food and said, "It tastes better when you pay for it." We laughed.
I walked home. I saw my cat, Jeh Pan. I picked him up and hugged him. Mother turned on the heater, making the home feel warm and cozy. After about six weeks, I slept in my own bed.
When I woke up in the morning, "I smelled abalone soup cooking." I was back home.
Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays, everyone!