There really isn’t anything to be done for time. It does what it wants and it moves on without any consideration for your plans. It ticks by at the same rate whether you think your life is going too fast or too slow. It doesn’t care if your ready or not, it just keeps ticking.
Like I said, Vonnegut had the right idea. Travel plans wind up being anything but what we planned. We have to change our own pace, our own rhythm, to accommodate time’s natural progression in our silly attempts at organization. “Dance lessons from God” indeed.
Being behind schedule leaving JFK and then LAX also meant that we arrived at Sydney late. It was around 8:45 am that I got of the plane. Given that my connection to Melbourne was scheduled to depart at 9:35 and most of the other people on the plane had similar connections, Qantas automatically booked us all for later flights – mine being at 11:00am. This was good because I had to go through customs/immigration and then get my stuff and I was concerned about having to handle all of those things at once. The Older Couple in the row in front of me was in the same situation, so we headed off the plane together.
Immigration basically just means lines. The Older Couple had smart tickets, so they were able to bypass the line entirely. I had to queue, but it only lasted for about 40 minutes. By time I actually got up to the counter I didn’t have any problems…probably because I’m an American and my paperwork was very straightforward. From The Queue of Destiny I had to head through the airport and get to the baggage claim. Since I was transferring from an international flight to a domestic one, the airline did not transfer my baggage for me. The Purple Suitcases came out pretty quickly and were instantly recognizable, so I yoinked them off the carousel (this was very technical, prowess-filled yoinking, by the way – which has left me with very large bruises) and get them onto one of those weird luggage carts. I had one with a funky wheel and it didn’t like to turn, but it was the only one available at the time that I didn’t have to pay for.
From there I thought that I had to queue again in the quarantine zone. Australia is really particular about making sure that no foreign contaminants enter the country, whether it be food, animal/plant materials or dirt. My aversion to the outdoors proved handy at this juncture, since I didn’t have any dirt to declare to the authorities. I got to forgo the biohazard scans entirely and head to the domestic transfer desk. I was actually a little sad about this because the quarantine zone had a biohazard sniffing dog who was working hard and being extremely adorable.
The Qantas domestic transfer desk was kind of around the corner from the arrivals area, so I had to part The Sea of Jubilant Greeters with all my stuff and get to the desk. There was practically no one there, so I was able to check in and they automatically gave my my borning bass for the later flight I had been promised. At this point I was able to get rid of my bags (yay!) and head through security again. This was nice because unlike in JFK, the security folk in Sydney were really pleasant and I didn’t have to take off my shoes.
After security, I thought I would have to find a shuttle to get to the domestic terminal on the other side of the airport. I was relieved to find that the Qantas & airport websites had been not entirely accurate in their presentation of the domestic transfer terminal, because I didn’t have to wait very long at all and I didn’t actually have to pay for it. I found a seat with easily, across from The Beatboxing Four-Year-Old. Normally I would have found him annoying, but I was so relieved that I was heading in the right direction that I didn’t really care. I had a nice chat with a middle-aged lady about my moving to Melbourne and she was very nice, even if she did insist that ANU was a better school than UniMelb.
I eventually found the gate in the Sydney domestic terminal 3. I don’t know why the internet hates the Sydney airport so much. I read all these really terrible things about it but I actually found it to be very nice and clean, though maybe this was because it was a Thursday morning (apparently). I ran into The Older Couple a few times and they were confused because they didn’t have a gate number on their boarding passes, but I did. After running back and forth to the departure board, we finally realized that we had been booked on separate flights to Melbourne leaving at the same time. With their flight departing from gate 7 and mine from gate 1, we went our separate ways.
I basically just had to hang out for a while. The wifi in Sydney wasn’t working on my phone or computer, so at that point I decided just to text my roommate in Melbourne to let her know about my delay. I’m sure I’ll regret this when Verizon charges me for texting well outside the US, but it needed to be done. The flight was on a small plane and we boarded pretty quickly.
I got to sit up front in the extra leg room row just behind business class, which was nice. I did, however, end up sitting right next to this Australian guy who I thought looked line Ben Linus (Michael Emerson) from the show LOST. I found this particularly disturbing given that my brother’s farewell gift to me was an extremely thoughtful but equally ominous Dharma Initiative luggage tag and a NJ Pick 6 lotto ticket with “the numbers” on it.
As creepy as this was, the guy was not Ben Linus, and I made it to Melbourne in little more than an hour without crashing into a mysterious time-traveling tropical island. In Melbourne I once again had to retrieve my luggage, which was a bit more challenging because I was even more tired and there were a few other people with purple luggage, though theirs was not as spectacular as mine. I kept thinking that I saw my luggage come out onto the belt, but it kept not coming to me at the end of the carousel, which was confusing. I may have been hallucinating from sleepiness at this point, but I eventually got my stuff. I decided to forgo the luggage cart this time and just dragged my stuff outside to the taxi rank, where a bored looking airport employee directed me to a numbered slab of sidewalk where a taxi van eventually showed up.
Now I could have called the StarBus to pick me and it would have cost less, but I hadn’t seen any payphones and I was just really ready to get “home”. The taxi guy was “nice” enough to put all my crap into the cab for me, which I naturally was charged for, but I was in the city shortly thereafter. I got to my apartment building, where my roommate was already waiting for me. She had to work that day but was awesome enough to come by to to let me in. We hung out for a bit before she had to head back to work and I started unpacking. I stayed wake as long as I could, but eventually had to give in around 8pm and go to sleep.
Overall, it was an extremely long and taxing journey to the other side of the earth. As much as I would possibly have liked to go home sometime in the next two years before my program ends (already not a consideration), I don’t know that I would be willing to handle that particular journey any more frequently than is absolutely necessary. I can’t believe people do it for fun, though overall I have to give major kudos to all the Australians for being awesome and extremely accommodating. Americans are neither as pleasant nor as helpful.
As I write this two-part travelogue, I have already had a nice weekend of doing stuff, some of which I will write about. This week I have odds and ends of orientation-y activities going on, which I will try to keep you updated about!
So begins my Australian adventures.