Friday, June 28th
Today started off … well, normal.
Alex and I left for Broadbeach at 7:40 a.m. so we could get really good seats for the finals matches. Anne dropped Jackie off around 8:45. Anne, Alice, and Janice stayed at the house to watch the finals matches being streamed live by Bowls Australia and Bowls New Zealand.
The matches were fun to watch, with lots of spectators whooping and hollering for their teams. In keeping with the day before, we cheered for Papua New Guinea, who took silver in the women’s pairs. Quite an amazing feat for their team and my newly adopted country.
The closing ceremony was short and sweet. Lots of hugs good-bye to new friends and promises to stay in touch.
Next, off to dinner at Gringo Loco Cantina in Surfers Paradise. The photo of the six of us is down by the beach with a stiff wind blowing just before we went to dinner.
After dinner, we strolled through a street fair. Quite interesting, to say the least. Next time you run into Alex, ask her to show you how to do the wacky whistle.
Or just watch the video.
Thursday, June 27th
Woke up this morning to -- what else! A rainbow. A great way to start.
Next, it was on to breakfast at the Olive Tree Cafe. I ordered my absolute favorite going-out-for-breakfast meal -- Eggs Benedict. I’ll let you judge if I liked them or not.
Oh, by the way, yes, they do have “pigeons” that hang out at the on-the-sidewalk out-in-the-open eateries and plaza. Your mission for the day, if you decide to accept it, what is that bird?
Then, to Surfers Paradise. Right on the beach.
I know it doesn’t do it justice, but there are 76 stores in the Hyde Paradiso. I had to have Alice put her hands on my shoulders as I leaned back to take this photo.
Next, Anne, Janice, and Alice dropped me off at Broadbeach where I joined Jackie and Alex. The three of us watched the semi final matches of the women’s pairs: Papua New Guinea vs. Malaysia, and New Zealand vs. Australia. Having been soundly beaten by Papua New Guinea, Alex, Jackie, and I decided to root for them to win in their game against Malaysia. OMG! What a match. Tied in the 17th end 19 all -- who had shot changed a couple of times during that last end and ………. Papua New Guinea won! They’re in the finals against Australia (the last team we bowled the day before).
Alex, myself, and Jackie walked across the green to congratulate Katherine and Piwen on their win. We had been chanting Papua, Papua from our seats during the game. So much fun.
Then back to our home away from home. While the video may not be the best, the bats here are really big. Video provided by Alice.
We’re on our way to Outback for dinner. All’s well here in Australia.
P.S. The photo of me in the red hoodie -- I’m saying hi to my nephew Mark Amundsen and Erin, his wife, who are expecting a baby girl in October, their first child.
Wednesday, June 26th
Hope I didn’t confuse y’all too much by saying that Alice (rather than Alex) was my partner in yesterday’s blog. It’s easy to do here with three women whose names start with A.
We (Alex and I) ran up against some very stiff competition. Australia (in first place with 6 wins), Papua New Guinea (in third place with 5 wins), and Thailand. The weather was okay. A little drizzle during the morning game, and dry throughout the two afternoon games.
So for us, it’s all over. The men qualified for World Bowls next year in all disciplines. The women, none.
We went for dinner at a great little place called The Glenelg Public House. More prawns and a Dark & Stormy -- rum, lime juice, and ginger beer. Um-uhm good.
No photos from the day. A little down after all three loses.
Alex, Jackie, and I are planning on watching some of the knock-out rounds at Broadbeach, which is a quick six-minute drive from our place.
Tuesday, June 24th
Rain, rain, go away!
Alex and I bowled our pairs game at Helensvale against China. Tight game, but we won it. Yay! And then, two byes.
We did have dry bowls throughout the game, though. Jackie kept them dry for us. No small feat, either. As coach, she is not allowed to step on the green. And we were playing almost in the middle rink of the green. So, she probably walked twice as far as Alice and I did. And we were sooooooo appreciative.
With no bowling for the rest of the day, the three of us drove to Broadbeach to cheer on the women’s triples team. Scott Roberts, playing singles, and the men’s fours team were there, too.
Did I mention it was raining?
The forecast is 90% chance of showers for Wednesday, too. On the way home from Broadbeach, Alice dropped me off at the mall (which is a short walk from our home here), where I bought more towels and a chamois for Alice and one for myself. We have three games left to play, and it’s going to be wet, w-e-t.
p.s. Did I mention it’s been raining?
Monday, June 24th
Our pairs and triples teams went to different venues; unfortunately, we had the same results, one win and two losses. The men’s fours team, the same. But Scott Roberts had two wins! Well done, Scott!
Surprise visit by -- wait for it -- Shirley Jacob! Shirley joined Jackie, Alice, and me for lunch after the morning game. She looks great (even without her eye makeup). For those of you who don’t know Shirley, she now lives in Tugun, but she was a member at the San Diego LBC when I first got there in 2006. She still visits San Diego at least once a year, but it was so cool to see her on her home turf.
It didn’t rain during the day, but it got very cold during the afternoon. And windy. We were spared any rain, but it is coming.
Keep those emails and text messages coming.
Sunday, June 23rd -- Official Rest Day
Sunday was an official rest day. So what did we do?
Anne got out the espresso machine and brewed some flat whites for us.
After that, we went to Broadbeach to do a little practicing. Not much. Just some..
Then, around noon, Jackie and I took light rail transportation to the mall and did a little shopping. Manspreading is alive and well here in the down under.
Anne, Janice, Alice, and Alex went to a wild animal park. The photos say it all.
For dinner, Alice and Jackie stayed here at the house. Anne, Janice, Alex, and I went to dinner back in downtown Broadbeach -- hey, Don’t Gnocc It. I tried the gnocchi with a giant prawn on top. OMG!
I’m pretty sure there’s one more night of gnocchi in my future here in Australia.
Saturday, June 22nd -- 8:00 p.m.
Not much to report from today.
Started with breakfast at BamBam’s -- very eclectic place. Highly recommended if you find yourself over here and you’re looking for eggs benedict or French toast with honey butter, amazing bacon and eggs -- um-um good..
Next, back to Club Mermaid, our adopted lawn bowls club. We presented a shirt to the club president that all of us (men and women) signed on the stripes on the left sleeve. The clubhouse was full of bowlers and the president came out of his office to thank us in front of the other bowlers. Very sweet.
After a quick bite for lunch, Jackie, Alex, and myself went to Broadbeach to watch the final round of the men’s 3-bowl pairs and women’s singles matches.
I won’t bore you with all the details of the men’s finals match except to say this: Wow! What a finish! New Zealand down 14 - 5 to Australia after 10 ends -- and then all tied up 18 - 18 going into the 18th and final end. The last four bowls by the skips -- amazing bowling. Just amazing.
As “the boys” had invited us over for dinner at their place, we girls all met back at our place to get ready. We brought dessert; they did everything else. Very nice evening. We’re not sure what got Alice’s funny bone, but she was laughing so hard there were tears coming out of her eyes. I didn’t eat any of the Brussels sprouts, not then, not now, not ever.
The boys got all dressed up in their matching shirts. So cute.
By 8 o’clock, we were back to our place after a very relaxing and enjoyable day.
Friday, June 21st -- 6:30 a.m.
I slept in. Not something I usually do. When I came downstairs, Alice was in her declared spot on the couch, enjoying a morning cup ‘o joe and playing Wordscapes. If you’re an addictive personality, do not -- I repeat -- do not download this game.
I’d write more, but I’m joining Alice on the couch. I’m trying to catch up with her level on Wordscapes.
(Afternoon update - 5:45 p.m.)
Jackie and Alex went to Broadbeach to watch the beginning of the knock-out rounds. Anne, Janice, Alice, and I drove south (I told you I’m beginning to know my directions) to Tweed Heads Bowls Club. OMG! Now that’s a club. Amazing what a casino can do for bringing in folks.
I bought a rain jacket; all of us got club shirts at the store there.
Next, a six-end pairs game on the indoor green. Chloe Stewart, who won gold in singles at last year’s US Open, works at Tweed Heads. She’s the assistant to the bowls coordinator. She assisted us in getting bowls and a rink for the game. All of this happens on the second floor of the clubhouse.
Note: the second floor of the clubhouse.
Before I left for Australia, my sister Amy sent me a photo of the clubhouse in (the city will remain unnamed). The subject of her email was “Why Go To Australia” -- and the body of the email read -- “when there are fine international lawn bowling opportunities (and facilities) in (anonymous city)?”
When we left Tweed Heads, the three outdoor greens were full of bowlers. Just amazing.
Next, north to Tugan, Toolona Street to be specific. Right on the Pacific Ocean. We threw off our shoes and dipped our feet in the cool ocean waters. Sooooo nice!
We picked up some meat pies to bring back to the house. And so if you’ll excuse me -- it’s time for dinner!
June 20th -- 8:30 p.m.
Just made it back to the house, having had Mexican food (yes, there are Mexican restaurants here).for dinner with Janice, Alice, and Anne.
Jackie and Alex had dinner at Broadbeach, where, per their text messages to us, they were working on international relations with some of the International Technical Officials aka umpires. (May I suggest that all bowlers should work on their “national relations” with their country’s umpire?)
The women’s fours team won one of their three games, the two losses by very narrow margins; if you’ve looked at the scores, what they don’t show is that up until the second to last end with Canada, the spread was just 1 or 2 shots. Singapore, the same. The sad part is that neither fours nor singles qualify for World Bowls. Look out, though. The triples and pairs teams are out for blood when we start those games on Monday, June 23rd.
The men’s triples and pairs both qualified for World Bowls. Yay!!! Well done, guys!
Looking forward to watching some of the knock-out matches (quarter finals, semifinals, finals) which start tomorrow at Broadbeach, the finals matches on Saturday, and then everybody has a rest day on Sunday.
Rain is predicted for next Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Tomorrow (Friday), we’re off to Tweeds Head. I’ll be looking for some rain gear. There’s supposed to be some good shopping there. Oh, how sad. Shopping spree!
Wednesday, June 19th -- 7:00 p.m.
The day’s bowling is over. Time to relax.
The women won a game today. Yay!!!! We prevailed over the Philippines. Tomorrow we face Canada, Singapore, and Norfolk Islands.
The day started off nice and warm, and then came a cold breeze during the third game in the late afternoon. Brrrrr. Must be approaching winter down here.
I am finally getting my directions (north, south, east, west) figured out. Did you know if you’re looking at the sun in the morning you’re facing east? Who knew! Still haven’t made it over to the beach. Some of the guys hit the surf a couple of days ago. Perhaps on our “rest” day we can do a little sight-seeing.
Looking forward to tomorrow’s matches.
Alex’s take on the day:
Whew! Won one. Feel good.
Excited about tomorrow. Getting to play Jo Edwards & Carmen Anderson.
Tuesday, June 18th -- 6:30 p.m.
Ugh. Tough day for the women. Four losses and two wins. The men did well. Four wins and two losses.
For those of you following the results, but are non-bowlers, just GREAT fans, our combined 10-person team plays 12 matches a day. Women’s fours (three matches) and singles (three matches); the men’s triples (three matches) and the pairs (three matches). With 19 countries represented, there are two sections: one with 10 teams and one with 9 teams (ours). Thus the bye for Team USA. The women’s fours and singles had a bye each on day one. The men’s triples had a bye. There are two more days where we play three matches a day. That will complete our section of play. After sectional play, the top eight finishers start with the quarter finals, then the semis, and then the title matches.
Like any other bowler, I feel if only I had bowled better, we would have won every game.
Some of you may have known Lois Saladin. She was an amazing bowler and a great mentor. She took me under her wing when she was a National Champion and I was a two-month novice. She asked me to bowl with her fours team in the US Open. Wow! I was bowled over by the invite. I learned many things from Lois, but one thing that really sticks in my mind in times like these is that winning is easy, it’s losing that can tear you apart.
So onward and forward.
Again, thanks for the many emails and texts expressing your support. Send a few more. We could all use a few hugs right now.
Monday, June 17th -- 7:45 p.m.
It’s 5 o’clock in the evening, getting ready to leave for the Opening Ceremony.
And we’re off!
8:30 p.m. -- there were 19 countries represented at the Opening Ceremony, Burnei not being able to make it at the last minute. The Philippines got a big kick out of popping the balloons that festooned the tables. Whether by accident or not, I’m not really sure. But once the first one went, there were a lot more of them.
Just a couple of remarks by a representative of Bowls Australia and World Bowls, all the countries announced, and that was it.
We ate dinner in the same area of downtown Broadbeach on our way back to our home away from home. No gelato, though. Time to hit the sack and dream about winning gold.
(Early morning update: it’s 5 o’clock, Tuesday, June 18th. The birds are beginning to chirp, my coffee is in front of me, the house is so quiet, and I’m sitting here in front of this little Acer mini-laptop and I’m smiling. It’s finally here -- the first day of the matches. Eager to bowl, determined to win, ready for whatever happens. It’s all good.)
And now for Alex's take on the day:
Helensvale and Broadbeach Bowls Clubs -- went to both today. Helensvale this morning, Broadbeach in the afternoon.
Rained at both venues -- and still the bowling was just amazing. We did stop during the major part of the rain. I never saw any standing or puddled water on the greens. The greens drain so quickly and it didn’t slow them down all that much, either.
Janice, Alex, Anne, and I went to downtown Broadbeach for dinner. Tonight, it was Italian at a place called Don’t Gnocc It. I had a dish called Burnt Butter Gnocchi. Soooooo good. And then gelato for dessert (a scoop of coffee crunch and mint for me). I was too busy gobbling mine down to notice what Alice, Anne, and Janice’s selections were.
The photos are from the area where we ate dinner. Most pleasant.
Tomorrow morning, we bowl a practice match against the Fiji women’s team (we’re playing fours and singles); the guys are doing the same with the Fiji men’s team.
And then in the late afternoon, it’s time for the Opening Ceremony.
And now for Alex's take on the day:
On being uncomfortable. I have this crazy drive of always wanting to be more. Not to have more necessarily, but always pushing to see how far I can go—how far I can push myself to be better at what I do. There are some things I am naturally good at. They are not necessarily easy, but I know I can accomplish them with a bit of effort. Then there is sport. I didn’t play sport when I was young, and I doubt I have natural talent. I have to work hard at it. And at times it’s extremely uncomfortable. Not physically, but the mental anguish I go through. It’s not that I believe I can’t do it. I am willing to work harder and longer. And I have this endless determination and refusal to give up. Then today, driving in the rain, on the other side of the road (Australia), unfamiliar with the route to the club, to home, having to have some directions repeated twice, feeling uncomfortable and anxious– primarily because I didn’t want to damage the car or my passengers, I had an insight. I really got it. Driving on the other side of the road is new to me. It is not something I do naturally because it is new. New and not being immediately competent at something is uncomfortable for me. Not being fully competent and being seen as lacking competence is highly uncomfortable for me. Then it clicked. Performance in sport is visible. Errors are visible. The more I want to grow in sport, it is going to be uncomfortable. This afternoon in practice I relaxed into being comfortable with being uncomfortable. I had fun.
Saturday, June 15th -- 6 o’clock p.m.
Today we went to a new venue, Musgrave Hill. Three beautiful greens, and of course slot machines (pokies), keno, and a restaurant and a bar and a … well, you get the idea.
We practiced from 9:00 to noon, ate lunch, which was provided by the venue, and then back out to the greens for more practice, leaving for home around 4 o’clock.
Off for Thai food for dinner.
Back home, 8:00 p.m.
OMG! If you haven’t ever eaten Thai food, you have no idea what you’re missing out. It’s delicious.
Alice and I had not had Thai food before. But Anne, Janice, and Alex knew just what to order, and it just knocks your taste buds right off your tongue, it’s so good. The food was shared by all of us, but when we go back (which can’t be soon enough), they’re on their own. I’m ordering and I’m eating it all! It’s all mine!
Nothing else for today except to say thank you for your continued support. Keep the emails and texts coming.
And now for Alex's thought on the day:
Doesn't matter who I talk to, everyone I've chatted with knows what lawn bowls is -- teenagers (who poke a bit of fun at, but clearly know) or the couple sitting at the next table in the restaurant. The gents on the plane were excited that I was coming to Australia to bowls. I asked "so do you lawn bowl?". "No" they said, "we just go to eat and drink." Yep, some really good food at the club. We had a great lunch yesterday. Including yummy desserts.
A peak experience for me is seeing old bowling friends from other countries again, that I have either bowled against in the past or met. Bowls is an awesome community.
AND...last of all, don't underestimate the power of water for keeping the muscles loose and brain clear.
Friday, June 13th -- about 4:00 p.m.
Today was the last day of semi-serious practice -- meaning that tomorrow we begin three days of practice at the assigned greens where we will be playing our matches once the Asia Pacific Championships get under way.
But today, we were back at Club Mermaid. I had grilled Barramundi for lunch -- um-mmm good.
Then back out to the green for more practice, the ride home to our place, and some relaxation.
Of note: The men’s team has a 20-something year-old coach from Scotland (and we, the girls, get to tag along on the great coaching he has to offer).
The men’s coach’s name is Ryan Burnett, born in 1993, started bowling at age 15, and won the 2015 World’s Under 25 Singles. Gotta love gold, eh? For the rest of his long list of accomplishments in this game of bowls -- do what everyone else does. Google his name. It’s quite an impressive list. We’re so fortunate to work with him.
And here’s Alex’s take on the day:
What makes a perfect practice day of bowls?
Support and camaraderie among the Team.
Sometimes belly laughing with - and occasionally having a bit of fun poked at you.
Knowing your team has your best interests at heart even when they say "don't worry about disappointing anyone - you already have. That's life So get over it and keep pushing".
Teammates sharing information to help you be a better player.
Having grilled barramundi for the third day in a row.
Best of all, driving to the venue with no gasps of fear from your passengers and getting into a parking spot on the first try.
Exciting day. After practice at Club Mermaid, the team drove over to Broadbeach Bowls Club to watch some of the finals of the Australian Open. Playing the women’s Gold Medal match were Natasha Scott and Tiffany Brodie. Natasha won. But get this. She also won $10,000! And a
medal, too? They really know how to put on a tournament down here in the down under.
The match was televised, too.
Which, by the way, reminds me. Down here in the down under, the light switches go down for on and up for off … perhaps the electrician installed all of them incorrectly, but I digress.
The clubhouse was amazing -- full of spectators viewing the games on the televisions inside and the grandstands were full of spectators lining the rink of play. How neat is that?
Oh. And the toilet bowl is square. What! But it is comfortable. TMI?
Scott Roberts, Aaron Zangl, and Phil Luth arrived around 11 o’clock. They’re settled into their lodging, which is not too far from us. So all 10 of us on Team USA are here. Yay!
Anne and Alice are sitting out by the pool. Janice is upstairs. Jackie and Alexis are sitting at the dining table, both doing something on their laptops (an iPad for Jackie; a Samsung tablet for Alex). I’m sitting at the breakfast bar, writing this piece.
Guess where we’re going for dinner. Outback, of course. But we’re NOT driving. Thank goodness it’s within walking distance. BTW. Parallel parking is out of the question. We’re not even going there.
G’night, mates. OMG. I’m starting to speak Australian.
Here’s Alexis’s (Alex, as she prefers to be called) take on the day.
We practiced. We ate.
We played a practice game. I asked Jackie "did Mel and I win?". "No" she said. I briefly wondered if she should have the privilege of riding back to the house with Mel & me --especially with my somewhat improved driving skills.
Well, maybe Jackie would consider herself lucky:
Alexis’s skill Video – How to Back Out into Traffic
Wednesday, June 11th -- about ready to go to bed.
The day went quite well. Breakfast, all the normal morning routines that we all go through to get out of the house and on with our day.
Mermaid Beach LBC -- if only we had greens like theirs. But more than that, if we could provide the restaurant, the (hey, it’s true) alcohol, the slot machines -- my, oh, my. Just about everybody would take up lawn bowling.
The practice went well. Joining us for practice, Loren Dion, Bill Brault, and Neil Furman. Great to have eight of the ten of us together for some bowls and laughs.
Lunch was good, served right there at the bowls club. Another 12 ends of fours, and then we were off to Helensvale LBC, for the semi-final rounds of the Australian Open. (Team USA is over here to play in the Asia-Pacific Championships. The Austrailian Open is … well, like our
US Open. They’re in the final rounds of that tournament.)
W\e watched Ryan Bester play the semifinal match in pairs, and right next to his game, there she was, Karen Murphy, skipping her women’s fours team. Along with at least 300 people surrounding the greens, watching these games. Awesome!
Alexis Vanden Bos is doing the driving of one of our cars, Anne Nunes the other. I am designated co-pilot for Alexis. We have decided that our car should have a warning on the back of it: DANGER! The neat thing about it is that I have never laughed so hard. If you’ve never tried it (driving on the left side of the road) … well, may the Force be with you. You’ll need it.
Here’s Alexis’s take on the whole thing:
Driving in Australia on the other side of the road: So Mel is my co-pilot. Jackie sits in the back with her head down. Guess she believes she's had a long life, so has accepted her fate. Mel vacillates "between you’re doing great" and -- "MOVE OVER! You’re going to hit the curb!" "Did you see that car?" I move over, using the windshield wipers instead of the turn signal. Mel’s going: "Turn Left. Turn Left." Me: "It's not legal." Mel: "Just do it!” Then being thanked for following skip’s instructions. I suggest notice in window: American driver. Mel suggests instead to read: “DANGER DANGER WILL ROBINSON." Alice refuses to drive with us.
One more day of general practice, and then the team starts three days of structured practice at the upcoming venues for our events: Broadbeach, Helensvale, Musgrave. All within 30 minutes of the house. I figure my life is only in danger for 100 of the hours I’m here: one hour a day total to the venues and 10 days of bowling … yeah, I think I’m good.
Jackie Tucker gave all of us USA-themed cover-ups, an engraved key chain, and a lapel pin.
Scott Roberts, Aaron Zangl, and Phil Luth arrive tomorrow, Thursday, June 12th.
4:00 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time, Sunday, June 9
I was going to start this blog on the plane on Sunday, June 9th ... but I must go back 24 hours to my drive home to San Diego from the SWWD Pairs Playdowns, which were in Long Beach. Just 30 minutes from home -- kaboom! I got rear-ended on the 5 Freeway. Rats! But as Mark (hubby) said, "Hey, couldn't have happened at a better time. Your car will be at the body shop while you're gone. You won't even have to deal with it."
So here I am, on Sunday afternoon, boarding the 2:50 p.m. Pacific Surfliner train in downtown San Diego. I'm meeting up with Bill Brault and Anne Nunes in Placentia, CA. From there, we're driving to LAX for our 11:30 p.m. plane to Brisbane, Australia. Traveling on the same plane are Alice Birkinshaw and Janice Bell.
I'll catch up with all of you once we're in Brisbane. In the meantime, buckle up and don't text and drive.
12 hours later - Sunday, June 9th
As I said, I was going to pick up with all of you once we’re in Brisbane. Alas, a short update about LAX and ETDs – as it says, it’s only an estimated time of departure. Thirty minutes from boarding (what is it about 30 minutes!) – Quantas informs us that they’re looking for a part for the number 2 engine, could be a couple of hours or maybe not, would any of the passengers like to change their tickets to another airline or another flight? They, Quantas, won’t unload their baggage, but they can pick it up later in Brisbane.
Hmm. What to do. We waited it out, boarding around 12:30 a.m. or so on Monday, June 10th.
Three hours to landing in Brisbane. Catch up with y’all later.
8:00 a.m., Tuesday, June 11th
I refuse to explain where Monday went. Just trust me, we lost it somewhere in the middle of the Pacific at the International Date Line.
But … we made it! And then came the driving on the wrong(?) side of the highway to our place in Broadbeach Waters. Thank goodness I was not doing the driving.
The place is very nice -- five bedrooms and a pool. Grocery shopping -- done. Unpacking -- done.
Tomorrow, off to Mermaid Beach to roll my first bowl ever on Australia’s pristine greens.
Thanks to all of you for your support. The emails and text messages have been wonderful.