It’s nearing 6pm on Saturday, August 14. I’m on the other side of the world. The wheels lower and in a few seconds, skip along the runway, and the wings tilt up, dragging us to a stop. It’s dark outside.
Some people are in a hurry to catch a connecting flight to Christchurch, New Zealand. The captain tells us to let those passengers off first. We deplane, and I head toward immigration, where BAM! the first stamp marks my passport. Then I wait for maybe 30 minutes at baggage claim.
Passing through customs isn’t too bad, except one of the personnel asks what’s in my suitcase, and I say chocolates, but I don’t know what kind, and I say that, too. She asks me to open my bag, and I point to the box of chocolates, and I say they’re kind of like bonbons, and then she lets me through.
I know Becky and Karl are waiting for me. Karl and I see each other, and I wave, and Becky walks around a few people to a small clearing, where she and I meet, and I let go of my suitcase, and we hug, and it’s the hug that bridges countries and grants all those favors from friends in the United States.
The moving ramps are called travelators, or something like that. The myth of my doppelgänger is confirmed, and apparently she was connecting to a domestic flight, and Becky almost chased after her. We find the car in covered parking, and after we exit the airport grounds we drive through some tunnels and take motorways and since it’s dark, I don’t really know where we are. Becky points out the Opera house behind us. She asks if I’m hungry, and I say I could eat. I start asking a few questions, because Australia is a foreign country, and there’s a lot to learn.
We stop at a restaurant called Red Rooster. They say it’s a Boston Market-KFC hybrid, but it’s strictly rotisserie chicken. I order a combo meal called the Tropicana, and I take a Solo – or maybe it’s a Lift – to drink. Some sort of lemon soda. The chicken is good. The soda is good. The deep-fried pineapple rings are good. Don’t ask: I don’t know.
We go to a grocery store called Woolworth’s. “Wooly’s.” Becky and Karl do their weekly shopping. This is where I begin my collection of candy bars:
Everywhere I go seems like a museum. Like a cultural museum meets the MOMA in New York City. Sensory overload.
Sensory overlord. He’s the one in charge of what people hear, touch, see, smell, and taste. It’s best to be on his good side.
We get back to their apartment. It’s in the suburbs, but it doesn’t feel like the suburbs. They give me the grand tour, and I’m excited to be staying with them for almost two weeks! My room, and their bedroom, and the living room connect to the balcony, and the view is incredible.
Other people will be visiting Becky in the next few months, and I don’t want to spoil everything for them. I’ll just say it’s a great apartment.
We all change into our pajamas and settle on the couch (that could fit three of me lengthwise) in front of the television. I get my first experience with Australian television.
What an experience it is.
I can’t decide if I’m tired or what time it is. The clock says 11pm or thereabouts when I head to my room and slide under the covers and pick up the book Becky left on the nightstand.
The Thorn Birds.