Anneke Lisa Photography

Air Hostess  Housewife

By K.J. Watts

The waves in Cronulla look good, but I can’t be sure from the cameras. I need to check the surf in person. Close to sneaking out of the house, my husband catches me with a chore. Hook line, he reels me away from the scooter that I ride to the beach. It’s a white Vespa-like motorbike, and my yellow surfboard hovers next to it like a sidecar. My surfboard and I are the best of friends. Her name is Sunny. 

“Saturday is Washing Day,” Hubs says as if I don’t remember. I nod and slink into adulthood, thinking of the sweet old man I met a few weeks ago. 

It was at Wanda, near the lifesaving club, and I was about to speed away on my Like-a-Vespa-Scooter. 

“How was your surf?” the gentleman with hair brighter than the sun had asked. I heard, ‘How was yah suf?’ The intonation and the missing Rs bounce extra-cute against my ears. I’ve lived in Australia for twenty months and don’t speak their way yet. My r’s sound harsh and loud and very American. 

“It was nice. I wish I could stay, but the husband calls.” 

“Doesn’t he know yah the boss?” To the man’s humor, I had scrunched my nose and grinned like a first-grader who earned a gold star from their favorite teacher. 

“I think you need to tell him?” I giggled before wishing the man a nice surf. He waved and sauntered to the sea. 

Saturday is Washing Day since I moved to Sydney from Los Angeles. Growing up, Friday was for laundry and cleaning, but in Los Angeles, my work schedule was strange. The aviation industry, to be exact, and any day included chores. My husband, in contrast, is logical and regimented (even though he works in aviation, too). Hubs is a bit OCD with cleaning and organization and clutter. We own no clutter. I joke that he needed to import Love so that it didn’t seem crazy requesting police background checks, viewing all bank information, and having your significant other undergo medical screenings. With Imports, the government asks for a mind-boggling amount of detail so partners don’t have to.

I passed the hoops and moved across The Pacific Ocean with two suitcases and a surfboard, ready to be his perfect woman. This is a true story, so I will disclose that I am not the perfect woman. Still, I have a lovely husband who I am thankful is not like me. I am the ‘float in the clouds,’ creative, emotive, bubbly type, and he keeps me connected to Planet Earth and reality. The house feels empty when he’s gone on work trips. On Saturdays, when he’s not home buzzing around on a chores-high, I wash and clean without reminders. Sticking to our routine makes me feel close to him, whether he is home or away. 

I pull clean clothes, damp with Eucalyptus scent, from the machine. Reaching for a small wooden clip, I peg the edges of a singlet (which I call a tank top) to the drying rack. When I moved to Sydney, I packed two boxes of Bounce sheets because I found it impossible to buy dryer sheets at the shops. Why Australia has no dryer sheets or tampons with plastic applicators confounds me— although I suppose it makes sense from an energy and environmental perspective. Still, in less than two years, I use the electric dryer only when the sun doesn’t shine and not for every load.

The sunshine will kill you in Australia. In merely 11 minutes, UV radiation bores into human cells and causes sunburns. Australia leads the world in skin cancers, and according to my internet research, more than two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetimes. This statistic confuses me. Is that a 100 percent probability of skin cancer in a group of three, or is 0.5 percent of a person exempt? Who knows? I reason that my United States citizenship does not guarantee immunity from UV radiation. I have fair skin. It burns pink, and I must build a better sun fortress. I consider layers— two long-sleeved shirts, a wide-brimmed hat pulled low over my eyes— and sunscreen with zinc, the kind that turns me ghost white and splotchy. 

Last month, I used the zinc cream when I went to Boat Harbour at the end of the bay near Kurnell. I returned home to Caringbah South windswept, salty, joyful, and multicolored. Handprints crossed my back like drunk ants in a parade. On visa forms, I check the box Caucasian but consider ‘Other: Polka dotted’ more accurate since exposed to the Australian sun. A token of advice: Practice sun screening before arriving in Oz, especially mid-back, where the bikini string ties. No matter how often I reach a hand upwards or my other arm over my head and down— with an elbow triangle to the sky— my back sunscreens like a kindergarten finger-painting project. 

No one hands me a gold star when I throw the dirty washing into the machine, clean the kitchen, and check the time. I strategize my Housewife exit to surf. I will be bright and cheery and tiptoe out the open glass doors, go through the patio, and escape via the garage soon. I want to be in the water before the crowds are too thick, the tide drains low, and the wind switches on. Crowds are abundant on weekends. I prefer Tuesdays but finding a park is simple with the scooter. 

See you later. Won’t stay long.” I skip out the door. My extra high, extra sweet tone is like a mother speaking to a six-month-old. It’s the ever-odd goo-goo-gah-gah-please-don’t-be-upset voice. My husband does not surf. I could say he doesn’t ‘get it,’ but I love him more because he spends less time in the ocean than I do. We can’t all bob through life. I pray daily that I’m not letting him down. That I won’t let myself down. Something in me says, “Your bobbing will bob you into the right bobs and weaves (or waves) of opportunity someday.” I hope that Something is a truthful character. 

Something in me says, “Your bobbing will bob you into the right bobs and weaves (or waves) of opportunity someday.” I hope that Something is a truthful character. 

I weaved to Australia in a left-field manner, but outsiders dream of this place. Almost every expat I meet seeks the quintessential Australian existence. Beach daily. Hot Surfer Boyfriend (‘Partner’ as Aussies say), and travel in a van around the country. I find it funny that transplants move to Bondi or Byron Bay, the only beaches that exist to foreigners in a country with 30,000 kilometers of coastline (I looked up the distance, but stats are mixed. Who can trust the internet?). Visitors have a very clear bucket list after surviving the sixteen-hour flight. Hold Koalas at the Zoo. Take photos, post online. See a Kangaroo at a Wild Animal Park or in the wild, and Sydney Opera House. Many arrive on working holiday visas in their twenties. I can’t imagine being on a working holiday visa. A hostel again or to live in a miniature apartment in the CBD (downtown) with three roommates and two bedrooms sounds hellish. I’m sure this is why adults say, “Do it when you’re young. While you still can.” To cakey oldies, adventure and ordeal are synonymous.

I’m not young, or maybe I am, but those damn sunspots on my face communicate otherwise (Thanks, Australia). I’ll be forty in less than two years. I feel twenty-seven. I am not in my twenties, but at the beach, I don’t take a watch. I don’t have a watch— not anymore. I left my watch behind when I left my career in the United States. I switched careers when I moved (or, rather, attempted). One of my husband’s friends, a business genius who retired by age forty, says, “It’s impossible to get fired in Australia.” Apparently, I braved the challenge. In six months, I managed to piss off my manager so entirely that I trained my replacement— who was first presented as my new manager— before the holiday break, only to be fired after it. Happy Christmas, Happy 37th Birthday, and Happy New Year (Christmas, my birthday, and New Year’s Eve are a one, two, three punch). 

Now thirty-eight and a year to reflect on the dramas, the first word in my head remains the same: assholes. Still, I need to thank that silly company because now I write. Without their ridiculousness, I wouldn’t have the gumption to pitter-patter my fingers onto a keyboard day after day while stomping down the monster in my head. The monster (who is also an asshole) whispers nonsense. 

‘Do something real and grow up.’ The monster tells me as it tries to stop me from writing. I keep going— not because I think I am a fantastic writer but because I am terrified to stop. Not writing might mean an office job or a role that sucks my very soul, like the time spent at Company A-Hole. I’ll do what it takes to avoid the 9 am to 5 pm prison system. I don’t need a watch or clock to write, but I must keep going no matter what. Still, an offensively loud bullhorn to scare the monster-asshole out of my head is welcomed.

The ocean keeps time but in a unique way. The waves roll and roll and roll like seconds on a clock. Rocking and comforting. I like Australia. It’s different from how I lived in the United States. I remember a year before I moved, knowing what loving my boyfriend meant for the future: change. My California existence counted down. I cried. Disney movies and adults never mentioned that falling in love included leaving ‘loves’ behind. Friends. Identities. Jobs. Families. Seasons. At least I can tell my daughter (if I ever have children), “Honey, L-O-V-E is not a rom-com chick flick.” 

Before I moved to Australia, I saw one path when I walked Broadway Street in Redondo Beach. I knew where and who I was as a flight attendant on private jets. The road unfurled straight and as wide as four Australian streets in one. Big trees lined each side of the street. I looked at the red door to my building, a cute 1940s Spanish-looking bungalow. The word ‘Seascape’ scrawled above the arch on the front. The apartment represented dreams I worked for, adventures I loved, and the person I was: I didn’t want to leave California. I didn’t NOT want to move to Sydney. Was love a miracle— ‘worth it’— as some said? Or, was caring deeply the start of one’s demise? The divorce attorney on YouTube claims that, ‘To love anything is insane because it means you are going to lose it.’

The ocean keeps me from losing myself. I live on the East Coast and no longer the West, but the sea cradles me when I am uncertain. California and Cronulla waves are different and the same. I find the surf challenging in Australia. Some days, the sea is wild. On other days, the waves barely break. The ocean changes, but the people I find shuffling across the sand or gliding across the green waves are consistent. I see familiar faces. I know some names but not others. We smile, share a hello, and I thank God that I landed in a country with warm water, friendly people, and an endearing way with English words. 

The word ‘good’ has varied meanings depending on one’s surfing ability. At least, that’s what I’ve gathered by listening to the locals. When the surf class says the waves are smashing, I find them rolly and gentle. When Cronulla locals, like Garth the Garlic Farmer— who isn’t really a garlic farmer but has lived something like fifty lifetimes in less than fifty years— says the waves are good, they are on the edge of wild. Consequential, scary, overhead type suitable. I must make my own judgments on whether or not I can manage. I can’t look to everyone for permission to jump in the water or that I will be okay. Domain ownership may be the most extraordinary journey of one’s existence. Observing and choosing how and who to be without external definitions seems masterfulan art form I want to embody.

Domain ownership may be the most extraordinary journey of one’s existence. Observing and choosing how and who to be without external definitions seems masterful. Maybe, that is mastery.

It’s comforting that Saturdays are defined. I enjoy being a wife. Because of Hubs, Australia is more than a passing holiday. I see the wave roll. A long left, and I catch it. At its end, I splash into a belly flop. I fall often, but that doesn’t matter much. The gentleman I call The Witness— known by others as Woodsy, Australian Rob Machado, or Pete— says that the bad days make me a better surfer. Reaching for my board, I replace the word ‘surfer’ with ‘human’ and hope that my crashes are the start of soaring success. The ocean changes my insides like therapy, the gym, yoga, a cold plunge, and Happy Hour, all in one. Surfing is quite an economical endeavor, really. I wave to the surfers in the water before beginning the jaunt home. 

I scoot up the drive. Salty. Windswept. Calm. Placing the board in the garage, I rinse my wetsuit. What doesn’t wash away is the soft contentment inside. It glows like the sun on a warm day. When I step into the backyard, sunrays hug my face, and my husband welcomes me home with a kiss. His lanky body bends over to pick up a palm frond that fell in the last Southerly weather pattern. He tosses the branch into the green bin, which we set out on the street on Wednesdays. Australia is not exciting in the way of private jets— when I traveled to odd and opulent corners of the globe and made stupid money doing it. Australia is not mundane, either. Some may see it as dull. It’s too easy to get bored with where we are and who exist as in those places. 

Combining two existences into one is curious. I pull the singlet from the wooden pegs. The tank top stands crisp— clean. Saturday is Washing Day, which is Friday in my citizen timezone. It leads me to wonder if blending adventure and routine is possible and embedded in the very framework of creation. I hypothesize that the ideal balance between mundane and magical lands a person in a gorgeous place. But, the place is not a physical location. Yet, it’s available to everyone anywhere— of any color, education, culture, or wallet status. The land is named Contentment, and I think it carries an aroma that is clean and fresh, like Saturday’s washing, and wild and free, like the Cronulla Sea. 

Image Credit: Anneke Lisa Photography

About the Author

Hello, I’m K. J. Watts, but my friends call me Kara. I fell into the sky and have worked as International cabin crew, on private jets as a corporate flight attendant, and earned an FAA Private Pilot Certificate. Over a decade ago, I started this blog, which developed into a love for writing and a debut memoir based on Flight Attendant Life. A California native, I now live in Sydney, Australia, where I enjoy spending time with my husband, writing, and surfing.

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