Australia Trip, Day 5: Find Your Own Chair to Sit In

It’s August 16, 2010. It doesn’t feel like a Monday, probably because it still feels like a Sunday night to me where I’m from, the rightside-up part of the world.

We’re going to the City today. Wee!

It’s a gorgeous day. We eat lots of good food. We walk around the city in a leisurely, touristy way. We pass through the Botanic Gardens and along the Harbour. The Opera House is incredible, and a school group is sitting on the steps. I sit with the kiddies while Becky takes a picture.

The water is such a magnificent blue.

Becky and I meet Karl and Analiese at a Lindt café for lunch, and it’s lovely.

Becky and I wander through some fun shops and mosey on over to the ANZAC Memorial where we encounter Utahns. I want to scatter them, this flock of Utahns, and I want to yell at them to get out of my vacation. Not appropriate for honoring war servicemen. I hold back, and the Utahns eventually go away. No harm done, just a little surprising for me is all.

We end the walking tour sitting on the lawn in front of a cathedral with symmetrical spires and buttresses and roseate stained glass. I don’t know if that’s the right word, but I’m using it anyway. We talk about serious things. I cry a little while Becky listens. It’s like old times.

When we get back to the apartment, we head out to pick up dinner from a nonfancy (the best kind, if you ask me) fish and chips place. I get to hold the bundle of butcher paper, our tasty swaddle. Becky teaches me to poke a hole in the package so the steam doesn’t make the chips soggy. That’s a great trick.

Click on the picture of the fish and chips to see the flickr set from today.

Australia Trip, Day 4: Sleep and Church on Opposite Sides of the Venn Diagram

(It’s been over two months: Documenting the rest of this trip will be a major test of my memory.)

I wake up in a strange bed, in a strange place. I walk out of the bedroom and check a clock: 3:30am. It’s Sunday, August 15, 2010.

I wake up the computer then go to the kitchen where I started opening and closing cupboard doors. The fridge holds new contents from last night’s grocery shopping.

For some reason I remember where the chips are, which is a different cupboard than the biscuits.

Biscuits are cookies.

I blog for a little bit, then it’s back to the kitchen to my new favorite activity of opening and closing every single panel with hinges.

In and out of sleep until 10:00 am or so, when I decide it’s time for pancakes, because they’re delicious.

Becky and Karl are about to head off to a meeting. But we chat for a little bit while pancakes jump into my mouth.

I read for a little bit before  getting ready for church.

Becky and Karl return from their meetings.

It begins to rain, and Karl tries to use that as an excuse to not to go church.

For lunch, we make sandwiches from the chicken from Red Rooster. We watch the rain turn to hail. Honestly, I’m curious about church here, though I’ve spent most of the summer not really caring about church in general.

The weather has cleared.

Church. Is the same. Except for the accents. And the organist who looks like Ronald Reagan.

We get back to the apartment and change, then we head over to Karl’s parents’ house. They’re rich.

We have a lovely dinner of pork roast, potatoes, green beans, and carrots, and homemade cracklings. And lemon fizzy drink.

The family tells stories around the table. I ask a question every now and then.

After everyone helps with clearing the table, we sit on couches and talk.

Karl’s mum makes fun of his very white legs.

And then, Analiese pulls out of the oven an amazing chocolate pudding for dessert.

She cuts a piece way too big and dollops some cream on top of it. I eat the whole thing, then all of a sudden, being alive is uncomfortable. Maybe it’s sort of like a mild version of hell, where you have too much of a good thing, and the overindulgence is its own punishment.

When we return to the apartment, we rush to get into our pajamas. Then we decide it’s a good idea for Tim Tam Slams, because hedonism and hell both begin with h.


Now watch a famous Australian do it:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

tim tam slam, posted with vodpod

Natalie’s using tea. Other people use coffee, but we use Milo, which is like hot chocolate. After a couple of rounds, we leave the biscuits on the coffee table and settle in to the mammoth leather couch to watch some “Banzai!” then I more or less pass out for a little while before Karl and Becky go to bed.

So maybe overeating and jetlag can be like roofies for Mormons.

Governments Abroad

Well, now the results are really in. The return of the bogan chin.

And it leaves me thinking about the stability of democracy versus other election-based governments. All it took was two independents shifting their weight toward one party. And the ruling power could shift at any time during the three-year term.

I don’t know about the other governments, you guys. I don’t intend this to sound negative; I just don’t know.

Australia Trip, Day 3: Touchdown

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.

Oh, great.

Really. Or Maybe it’s an old episode.

I just saw an episode of celebrity Jeopardy! where Anderson Cooper said that he’s never been to Australia. I don’t see how this doesn’t make me better than him.

That is all.

A LOT is going on right now. I just don’t feel like going public with all of it. That makes it sound scandalous, but it isn’t. It’s just stressful. But to settle your worries, be assured

I’m not leaving the church. At least not yet. I know I mentioned a crisis of faith a while back, and I still have a lot of questions, but the structure school provides somehow helps me piece some things together.
I’m not gay. At least not yet. Ha. I know this is nothing to joke about, and it’s really not even an issue, but in addition to questions about the church, I have an ongoing internal conversation about Prop 8 and its inherent beastiness. I think about my gay friends often and their lot in life. But really, I like dudes.
I’m sleeping about 5 hours a day. This is the most sleep I’ll get in any 24-hour period. When I was on vacation, I did a little better. But now, please don’t ask me to try for more. It’s not going to happen. At least not yet.
I’m still a Democrat.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my freshman and sophomore years of college. I’ve been remembering my floormates and roommates and how much they brought out the best in me at that time in my life. Of course that’s what friends do, and in spanning the past decade or so, I’ve been fortunate to keep a lot of those friends and make a few more along the way. They’ve been able to give me what I need, fill in a few gaps, cheer me up, bring me to my senses. I’m grateful.

Australia Trip, Day 2: The Delay Anchored Friday for Me

I wake up sometime around 4am on August 13. My cell phone says a text message awaits. The screen glows, and the words register in my brain, and not too long after my reply, Becky calls me from a stake youth dance she and Karl are chaperoning. We discuss a possible change in plans. We decide to mentally prepare for extra visitors, in case they show up in the next few days.

If the plane had departed as originally scheduled Thursday night, it would have arrived early Saturday morning. Friday would have disappeared, and maybe I would have been more confused, jetlagged, cranky, premenstrual. Who knows.

I go back to sleep for two more hours. Then I wake up, shower, dress, and catch the shuttle to the airport. Not sure which gate to report to, I check through security and follow the vaguish signs to where I think I’m supposed to be. I see my airline’s counter, but no gate assignment. But the neighboring attendants guess for me, and I doubtfully nod. Then one of the airport employees confirms it. I look for the friend I made yesterday, but it looks like she hasn’t shown up yet. I’ll know I’m in the right place if I see her.

She lives in Sydney. She  attended a friend’s wedding Dallas, where she went to “uni.”  She’s lived in Sydney for five years, something she never originally intended. She was cool; I wish I’d gotten her name.

Burger King is the closest food place, so I order one of those croissanwiches with ham, egg, and cheese. I try to eat slowly, but hunger commands, and obedience is mandatory.

Two hours before the plane is scheduled to depart, I sit in the waiting area. I’m texting several people, reading a book, and listening to music to pass the time.

I can’t sleep.

A few guys catch my eye, guys I hope are single and traveling alone. Guys I hope have a seat near mine.

One hour.

The cabin crew starts to congregate near the desk. Uncannily, they are all unbelievably attractive. All I can do is shake my head and smirk. And text friends about it. They seem happy for me, like it’s a really nice unbirthday gift. That’s fun.

I plug my phone into a charging station and sit down to flip through a few more pages of Cold Sassy Tree. It’s getting close to boarding time, and since I didn’t sleep well, I’m anxious to get settled on the plane.

My friend from yesterday appears. I feel a lot better.

The time for boarding has passed. The time for departure has passed. We’re still grounded. Violent thoughts sneak into my mind, and all of a sudden I’m texting friends about my desire to punch babies.

Finally, somebody gives the okay to board, and it doesn’t take very long at all for us to get on and find our seats. I’m in 21C:

So I sit down and let the person by sitting in 21A. She seems quiet and friendly enough. She’s wearing a pink shirt and has a tattoo of the state of Texas on her inner left forearm. She wears rainbow ink on her left wrist. No one sits between us. Cool.

The plane takes off, and I explore what’s on offer for in-flight entertainment. Not a bad selection of movies, television, music, and games. However, I end up sleeping until the first meal. When the cart stops at our row, the other girl and I choose the same main dish. It’s not bad, but as you can tell, not all that memorable. The list of beverages runs through my head, and I know I have to stay hydrated, so it’s juice for me. That’s in addition to the bottles of water they handed us earlier.

Sleep visits sporadically yet intensely, and in between naps, I read, write, watch Fantastic Mr. Fox and Date Night; I listen to a lot of music, work on crossword puzzles, and kick another passenger’s butt at Battleship. I get up to refill my bottle and grab sandwiches and cookies from the food kiosk, and I flirt with very well-behaved babies. No punching whatsoever.

Then, right under my nose, Saturday happens.

Australia Trip, Day 1: Sometimes Glitches Are Paradise, Too

The plane flies from SLC to LAX and arrives around 1pm on August 12. I get to the international terminal around 2pm. So far, so good. The kiosks reject my attempts to check in: they keep telling me to see my V Australia attendant, but the counters haven’t opened yet. So maybe that’s part of the problem. And maybe it’s eight hours before the flight leaves. Yeah, that might be part of it, too.

I sit in a waiting area, and before too long, one of my attendants comes and asks me if I’m flying to Sydney. I’ve been watching her and another person set up the queue corrals. My head stops mid-nod as she tells me the flight for tonight has been cancelled due to mechanical issues and is rescheduled for tomorrow morning. She tells me I can still check in, and they can put me up in a hotel for the night and give me a food voucher.

Checking in doesn’t take very long, and the girl in line ahead of me takes a change of clothes from her suitcase and stuffs them into her backpack. I do the same, and we don’t have to lug around our … luggage. The hotel shuttle drops us off at the airport Holiday Inn about 10 minutes away. The helpful hotel staff assign me a room and hand me a $25 voucher for dinner at their restaurant. Cool.

The room is pretty nice. Big TV, nice desk, coffee maker, king-size bed.

I make some coffee because I like the smell. I talk a little with friends and Mom.

The people I wanted to hang out with for the evening are unavailable in different ways. I know people, and I know people who know people here. They have parties to go to or are out of town or just won’t pick up the phone. The one day – the first day – I’m in Los Angeles as an adult, I get to spend on my own.

Dinner is salmon with salad and garlic mashed potatoes.

Then I ask the concierge how to get to the beach. He tells me to hop on the trolley bus, hands me a brochure, and says it costs $5 round trip, which is so much cheaper than taking a taxi.

He wasn’t lying.

The sky is overcast at Manhattan Beach and the sun starts to set. It’s fitting I find myself here. The air is chilly as I walk by the upscale shops toward the pier. People are still swimming. I stroll to the end of the pier and back as slowly as I can. I don’t want to go back to the hotel, so I take off my socks and shoes and roll up my jeans to the knees.

Soft, fine sand massage my feet as I approach the ocean. It still holds the day’s warmth. The water reflects the now-lit pier, and I’m taking pictures of everything, making sure to keep the camera strap around my neck.

The Pacific washes over my feet. The sea’s temperature doesn’t agree with the air’s, and it surprises and delights me. All of a sudden, I’m in love with Southern California’s beaches.

This isn’t a bad way to spend a delayed flight at all.

Continue reading

Sometimes I Like to Mock Things

The lighting here isn’t bad.

I’m back in the good ol’ US of A. I’ve been in Provo just over 24 hours. Jetlag is possessing my body, but in between naps I’m managing to be productive. Actually, it’s a fight between jetlag and stress. Hundreds of pictures to sort through. So many stories to tell. Too many memories to count.

Back to Life, Back to Reality

I fly back to the United States tonight. I have had an amazing time, and it’s been wonderful spending it in this phenomenal and beautiful country with Becky and Karl. It’s making it hard for me to go back. But not going back would make me very unbecoming a United States citizen. Still, my tourist visa will let me stay for three months. And I could probably change my flight for later. But I wouldn’t be able to find work while trying to transfer to the University of Sydney.

So, that’s only one con against a stack of pros.

Am I being very clearheaded? Hee.

I still have a full day ahead.

The next time I blog, I’ll be back in America.