September 22nd, 2010


Neither here nor there

When we got our international plane tickets for this trip almost a year ago, we didn't know our in-Australia itinerary so we got tickets to and from Melbourne. Later, we found it impossible to change them, so even though we finished up our trip in Sydney, yesterday we flew to Melbourne and spent the night in the airport Hilton (and when I say "airport" I really mean it: we walked straight from the plane to our room); this morning we will fly BACK to Sydney, then on to LAX with an eight-hour layover there before finally landing in Portland.

So I woke up this morning in an airport Hilton like any other, and spent the time until Kate woke up using the fast wired Internet to shovel out my email inbox, which put my head back home even though my body's still in the Southern Hemisphere. When Kate woke up and I went into the bathroom (a Hilton bathroom like any other) for my shower, I found that I literally could not remember what continent I was on. This Twilight Zone state of mind will almost certainly continue until we arrive at PDX and, thanks to jet lag, probably for as much as a week thereafter.

Australia as a whole is also kind of a neither-here-nor-there place. Sydney has some keen and distinctive architecture but when you're standing at the corner of King and George streets you'd be hard-pressed to point out anything that indicates you're not in London. Although we're closer to Indonesia than England, the faces here are almost all white and the accents likewise. We've heard a lot of accents in Sydney, very few of them Australian; the waitstaff at breakfast yesterday were from England, Hawaii, and Croatia and this morning's was from India. There are some small amusing differences in language -- they really do say "mozzies" for mosquitoes, "sunnies" for sunglasses, and "brekky" for breakfast, and one recent newspaper headline read "L-Plater in Horror Smash" -- but all in all we're not getting the kind of culture shock you'd normally get from traveling so very far from home.

But what Australia does have that Europe doesn't is its distinctive wildlife, and we've been experiencing as much of that as we can. I'm glad to have seen the kangaroo, and the echidna, and the whale, and the giant clam. But I'm very, very tired now and it'll be good to be home.


Home at last

For my last Australian breakfast I had Weet-Bix, passionfruit yogurt, eggs with grilled mushrooms, and a flat white. Then we boarded the plane for home.

I slept almost the whole way and was feeling quite chipper as the plane landed at LAX. I thought I saw both of our bags on the carousel as we approached, but Kate's didn't come back around again. We waited until all the bags were gone, but it never appeared. The baggage agent said her computer showed Kate's bag as having been checked in again on the domestic side; also, there was a similar-looking bag left behind, so it was probably a "bag switch." The unclaimed bag belonged to someone named Holt, who had a tight connection to Denver, so it's plausible they might have grabbed the wrong bag and then rechecked it without ever noticing their mistake. But because Kate's bag had a tag routing it to Portland, we could expect it to rejoin us there. What happens to Holt's unclaimed bag? Not sure, but I bet it won't make the tight connection; Holt will curse the airline for the lost bag and never know it was their own damn stupid mistake.

This kerfuffle put us at the back of a long Customs line; also, we had to go through the Agriculture screening because I admitted to having food in my bag (including a bag of dried apricots that I wound up carrying all the way to Australia and back without ever opening it). It's a good thing we didn't have a tight connection ourselves.

In fact, we had an eight-hour layover. The music at LAX is like a parody of Muzak, including "Girl from Ipanema" by the 101 Strings (literally!). I was really noticing the American accents around me, they sound so harsh and uncultured (but, as Kate points out, easy to understand). We're also back in the land of ice in drinks, but at least the electrical outlets can be used without adapters.

I slept most of the way to Portland too. We found both our bags waiting patiently in the baggage claim area, huzzah. There was a huge pile of mail at home, of course, and I had to reboot the router to get online, but otherwise everything here is safe and sound.

According to Wolfram Alpha we traveled almost 21,000 miles in the last 28 days, for an average speed of 31 MPH. No wonder we're tired!