I am still getting used to the facts that A) there is a bar on campus, B) I can consume and purchase alcohol at said bar and everywhere else in this country, and C) this university plans, hosts, and sponsors events with alcohol on and off campus. It may sound silly, but it still blows my mind.
But, tonight it was time to wrap my mind around all of the above because it was the first big event of O-Week! It was a pub crawl that began with pre-drinks on the edge of the rugby field around 6pm. First, I checked in with my student and state of Oregon IDs and then got a bracelet which was my ticket to drinks for the evening. Predrinks were Goon, which here in AU, is the cheapest alcohol that one can find. Therefore, it is often the choice predrink of all college students down under. Tonight was my first time trying it. It looked like a white wine, but I feel like calling it a wine is giving it too much credit. It comes in a plastic sack that comes in a box. Its ingredients are questionable, and its flavor is off putting. But when drinks out at the bars are as expensive as they are here (so I am told, because I don’t honestly have any background knowledge to compare prices to), predrinking on Goon is a must do.
At least I had these lovely ladies to make the bitter flavor a little sweeter and this gorgeous view of the most intense sunset that I have ever seen to say cheers to.
The last of my Goon was downed in a hurry, both because it did not taste good enough to spend time sipping and enjoying and because it was time to load onto the bus.
The first stop of our pub crawl wasn’t a pub, but rather a super cool bowling alley called King Pin. As my friend Milan and I set up the score board, our other friends Isa and Tes bought a bucket of beer and we had a blast laughing with and cheering for one another as we bowled gutter balls, spares, and strikes of all kinds.
Believe it or not, this was the first full beer that I have ever drank. Sure, I have had sips of plenty here and there, but even in Mexico I didn’t ever order a beer. And the reason is because I haven’t ever tasted one that I particularly liked. But, this one wasn’t so bad. It was a bit bitter, but tasted much better than the Goon.
We just had enough time to finish our bucket of beer and game of bowling (Milan won, by a lot) before we were ushered onto the bus for our next stop.
After ten minutes or so in a bus that was growing exponentially louder with the amount of alcohol that was being consumed, we arrived at Bundaberg, a local tavern. Since we are a group of at least 150 students, we really took over any venue that we went to. As soon as we entered, a huge mob around the bar took shape. As I stood among everyone, I still had the bitter taste of the beer on my tongue. I glanced around to see if there was any sort of drink menu, but of course there wasn’t because usually everyone knows at least a few drinks to order. So, I drew on my knowledge of drinks that I like, and let me tell you, it is quite limited. All that came to mind was Tinto de Verano, which is hands down the best alcoholic drink I have ever had, but unfortunately since I had it in Mexico, I knew that wouldn’t be available here. So, the next drink that came to mind was a Shirley Temple; my favorite, obviously nonalcoholic, drink of my childhood. As I tried to imagine the degree to which the bartender would be surprised that any student tonight would be ordering a virgin drink, my friend Tes ordered a Cider in front of me and let me try a sip, telling me that they are her favorite drink to order here in AU.
I was pleasantly surprised with how sweet and good it tasted. With that, I changed my mind and ordered myself a cider as well, but in the smallest size they had; since I was being mindful that I hadn’t drank this much ever before and was unsure of how alcohol would affect me.
Lucky for us, tonight at Bundaberg was karaoke night, which made for a fun time. Isa and Milan both sang some common pop song, but like all of the other songs, I wasn’t too familiar with it. I was thankful for the karaoke screen that had all the words listed so that I could still sing along with everyone, as well. It was funny seeing our one staff advisor from JCU not staring at us blank-faced like the chaparones at high school dances always did. Instead, he was taking photos of everyone drinking and dancing and singing for JCU social media and having a great time right along side us. It was another reminder of just how different social life is here at Uni compared to in the states. It was a fun time, but once we loaded onto the bus again, I was feeling pretty tired and would have been content to head back to Uni. And it wasn’t even 9pm yet!
Out next stop was an even smaller tavern called the Shamrock Hotel. I didn’t order any drinks here, but swiftly got pulled into a conversation with some locals while looking for an empty table to sit at with my friend Annabell. Being a foreigner, when a conversation topic is needed, asking locals about what places they highly recommend someone to visit along the East Coast of AU is always a good choice. It gets other people talking, and honestly, it is interesting to hear what different people recommend. Usually its the same few places, but once in a while they recommend more of a local spot with less tourist traffic.
So, our last stop for tonight’s Pub Crawl was the Mad Cow, which is the local Uni student hangout, mostly because we get half-priced drinks there with out student IDs. Since so many of us showed up at once, there was quite a line out front. Each person was re-carded before entering which took some time. When it was my turn, I handed over my ID to be scanned under some special lights, smiled for a photo that was apparently compared to my ID photo and triangulated somehow to my passport (???? this is an explanation that another international student who claimed to be familiar with ID scanners told me) before I was able to enter the club.
By the time my friends and I made it in, we only had about 15 minutes to check the place out and enjoy a few songs before we had the option to catch the bus back to Uni. I felt like my cowboy boots fit in the best here at Mad Cow, but there still wasn’t anything close to a country song on the play list. I wonder if there are any western bars around Townsville.
Since I was done drinking long before ago and so ready to get into bed, I didn’t mind at all being short on time. Once we made it back to campus, I quickly climbed into bed and called Simon to assure him that I had a fun time and had returned safely. Then, I told him “good morning” as he told me “good night” and was fast asleep before midnight.
When I originally bought my tickets to O-Week events, I didn’t purchase one for this event because I didn’t think it was particularly something that I would enjoy. But, I am glad that I was able to buy one of the last tickets in the end. I ended up having a great time. It was a very safe way to see four different hang-outs in town and I am so glad to know I like cider and can add this to the still very short list of drinks that I know I like.