In A Sunburned Country

One of the first things I did when I got to Australia was make a bet with C about if I would get sunburned this trip. As always, I was determined for it not to happen, but this time – this time – I was going to take care of myself.

It’s not easy, though, in this country.

In the Western world, it’s become something of a trend to talk about the depletion of the ozone layer. Though sound advice has been given on how to fix this problem, it remains an issue.

While for most of us it’s a subject that’s fluttered with either worry, annoyance (for the non-believers), or as an opportunity for humour on the edges of our minds, for Australia it’s a fact of life. Why? Because that ozone hole that’s tearing itself faster than if Miley Cyrus were swinging at it with a wrecking ball is right above Aussieland.

This has some obvious implications for everyday living. Namely the risk of skin cancer. Solution? Sunscreen.

Sunscreen sunscreen SUNSCREEN.






This can’t be stressed enough.

And I mean you don’t step outside your door without it if you plan on being exposed to the sun for longer than it takes to bring in the mail or put out the trash. Even if it’s not that hot. Even if it’s cloudy.

I met up with a friend in Wollongong, and as we sat under overcast skies eating sorbet, my back took on a shade reminiscent of baked salmon. It hadn’t even occurred to me that I should wear sunscreen that day; not only had it been raining, thus there being no sun, but the ocean breeze made it barely 20°C. I thought I was safe.

ERROR: DO NOT EVER BELIEVE YOU’RE SAFE IN OZ. If the various poison spiders, snakes, jellies, crustaceans, mammals, and trees don’t get you, then the weather certainly will.

That said, I refused to accept that such a small portion of my back burning ever so slightly made me lose my bet, as the redness turned into a tan by the next day. C graciously allowed me this cheat, but for the rest of the trip sang a perma-loop of a lispy Australian public service jingle on how to avoid skin cancer via slip, slop, slap (an alternate title for this post).

My cheat (and perhaps skin cancer-less grace period) only lasted so long though. While hanging out with another friend in Wollongong and strolling along the North Gong boardwalk, the sun cranked its death ray to full. I noticed that familiar singe on my skin after about ten minutes, and, despite the heat, covered my tanktopped body with a cardigan. My nose, however, was getting the whole blast of it. I feared for its safety.

Indeed, by that night, I saw that where my sunglasses hadn’t been, my face was nice and lobster-y. Unsurprising, though unfortunate. I don’t have a picture of what I looked like, but here’s a photoshopped rendition to ease the imagination’s workload.

Me with Interpretive Sunburn

What was surprising (though likely expected by you dear readers who are now more informed than I was at the time) was the rest of my sunburn. Despite having covered up my arms and chest and back within ten minutes of the walk, my skin still looked like the spanked results of a particularly vigorous night of BDSM.

Without aloe vera (my favourite sunburn remedy), there was nothing to do but keep cool and try my best not to let anything touch my skin.

Unhappily, the heat exposure did make me really sick for my third and second-to-last days there (definite bummer), but with some rest, soup, and a viewing of Crazy, Stupid, Love with C’s mom, recovery was achieved.

Better news yet – I actually have a tan. Though this means that I can’t wear my albino Korean makeup anymore; the kids find it fascinating that I’m not wearing my habitual cake of foundation (apparently mascara doesn’t count).

Where have you been dealt the worst sunburn?

4 thoughts on “In A Sunburned Country

  1. My very worst sunburn was when I fell asleep at the farm in Gananoque and no one woke me up because they thought it was funny how red my back was getting. I was so ill I missed work the next day. My boss was skeptical till he saw the red glowed through my shirt for days. That “Don’t Touch Me” was SO true.
    I wish I had packed Aloe Vera for you. I guess before the warm weather is in full swing (or before your next sunny trip) I’d better mail some to you.
    And by the by…well written.


    1. Noooooooo that’s so mean of them X( they clearly don’t know the pain of sunburn. That happened to a friend back in high school when she was in Costa Rica – fell asleep in the sun and woke up simultaneously brown and red, like nutella had a baby with strawberry jam. All except the handprint on her stomach where she’d left her arm to rest…

      And no worries about the aloe! I’m sure I can find some here.


  2. Two things:

    1) Worst sunburn:

    Bermuda, riding one of those scooters the entire length of the islands to the little ship museum on the end of it, thus exposing one arm to max rays the whole time. In fact, I got sun poisoning in that arm and it swelled to half again normal size. Had to see a doctor about it right there in Hamilton. It took a few days to return to normal.

    2) Deadly Australian things

    I’ll just confine my remarks to the snake threat. I find it very “amusing” that they kept identifying more and more snakes whose bites were deadlier than the previous one. So at some point they came to the conclusion that at last they’d discovered the deadliest of them all and named it the “death adder”. (Once again, I may have some of the details wrong.) The only problem was that they soon discovered several more lethal kinds and essentially threw up their hands, gave up, and just started naming them whatever. Thus leaving, I believe, the current champion killer with a terrifying, run-for-your-life name:

    the brown snake.


    1. Haha! I didn’t know that story about the snakes but I’m not even surprised – and I’ve heard much about the infamous brown snake. A friend of mine grew up on a farm inland and once came across a nest with three of them. She doesn’t know how she survived that one….

      Also sun poisoning sounds like the scariest thing – I had no idea you could actually swell up from that! Damn….glad you recovered. I would have been flipping out if that was me.


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