Who needs a delorian when you have a United Airways 747? Not this guy. I left San Francisco around 10pm on Monday, January 9 and 13 and a half hours later landed in Sydney, Australia at 7am on Wednesday, January 11. It was really weird to hear the flight attendant tell everyone to set his or her watches 19 hours forward and even weirder to click completely through January 10. I am sure that I had a view precious hours of January 10th but I spent those sitting on a plane getting swamp ass, listening to a baby who probably thought all of the hateful glares and passive aggressive grunts were out of fondness as opposed to undiluted hate, and being woken up from the only sleep I had on the plane by a flight attendant who told me to put my seat belt on when the seat belt light wasn’t even on. So from this point onward, I am going to say that I had no January 10th and hope that if I say it enough I will be able to block that experience out of my memory.
On a serious note, the flights really weren’t that bad. In fact when all was said and done I would consider them to be extremely successful. All four of my flights were on time and despite being in completely new airports with very small windows of time to get from one plane to another I had no trouble finding my connecting flights. I was able to check the bags I wanted to check, carry-on the bags I wanted to carry-on, and everything I had when I left Cincinnati was with me when I walked out of the “Arrival Terminal” in Melbourne. All my co-passengers were polite, friendly, and unobtrusive. Even the baby I consider a blessing because that problem is easily solved with a “Volume Up” button. There is no “Fatness Down” or “Sleep Straighter” button and I was lucky to not need either of those for any of my flights. Poor cute girl in 21D, she needed both. I can even forgive being woken up from my slumber (YOU POKED THE BEAR!) not because of the “It’s policy” excuse Great Grandma Flight Attendant spat at me but because a mild bit of turbulence would have had the same effect and I was lucky to fall asleep in the first place.
The flights were also relatively uneventful. I was in the very first seat in the very first row for my flight to Chicago so I was able to spend most of that time conversing with the flight attendant and getting all the free refills I wanted (#winning). I like to think it was because of my charming smile and persona so those of you who think it is because I was standing right next to the service center can shut it.
The flight to San Francisco was probably my least enjoyable simply because I had… wait for it… awkward armrest moments (DUH DUH DUHHHHHHHH). Multiple awkward armrest moments. Here’s how it went down. I was on the aisle and the man to my right was wearing a big baggy sweater. I am sure that baggy sweater was comfier than a kangaroo’s pouch but the damn thing brushed my arm the entire 5 hour flight. He was a smaller sized, middle aged guy and very mild mannered but when it came to that armrest he might as well have been Hulk Hogan. He jammed his elbow into the back of that thing and wouldn’t budge until he decided he wanted a drink or crossed his arms to take a nap. That’s when I struck. I threw concern of a funny bone injury out the window and would take my rightful armrest spot as soon as an opportunity presented itself. Of course this inevitably led to him trying to unsuccessfully take it back and then him doing the same thing to me whenever I made the strategic mistake of using my right arm to take a drink or scratch my head. So we sparred in an armrest battle of epic proportions for hours until the plane landed where we stood up, grabbed our bags, nodded downward (not upward) at one another in mutual recognition, and walked off the plane never to see him again. He’s too scared to come back anyways.
My flight to Sydney out of San Francisco was actually probably my best flight. I was on the left side of the plane in an aisle seat the seat between me and the guy in the window seat wasn’t taken. I used that armrest all night. It may seem petty but it was really great to have that middle seat open. As opposed to that pocket on the back of the seat that they expect you to keep everything in we were just able to lay it on the middle seat, put all of our drinks, food, and trash on the middle tray, and most importantly we were completely free of concern over those “Fatness Down” and “Sleep Straigher” buttons. Poor 21D. The movies that they showed weren’t anything special but the time passed surprisingly fast with a good book and my laptop available. I don’t know how long I slept but that didn’t hurt either. By the way, don’t ever consume airplane breakfast. The eggs make McDonald’s look like gourmet omelets. This only exception to this rule will be pancakes. I rolled the dice on that one and they came up big for me.
I spent the most time in the Sydney airport out of any of them. It was nice to be able to change into some new clothes and not have to go straight back onto another plane but there were no plugs to charge my dying laptop and I was beginning to be overcome by the feeling of just wanting to be in Melbourne. It is a terribly demoralizing thing to get off a 14 and a half our flight only to realize you still have another two hour flight before you get to where you want to go. Once I boarded I was rewarded yet again by an empty seat between me (the aisle) and the window. I was also rewarded by there being a very cute, talkative girl sitting in the window seat. The flight went quickly (as any flight would compared to a transpacific flight) and I took my final opportunity to consume a substantial amount of caffeine while I talked to my window seat friend about what I should do while I was in Melbourne amongst other things. This short flight was probably my most eventful because during our first attempt at landing there were apparently strong gusts of wind that resulted in us circling around the airport for another 10 minutes or so. Once we were on the ground we stopped short of the terminal so that our landing gear could get looked at (we apparently popped a tire or something). We finally pulled up and it was quite a relief to know that I was done with planes for at least 72 hours.
When I got off the plane in Melbourne I went through a surprisingly quick and harmless immigration and customs process. The entire experience was only expedited by the fact that both of my checked bags were not only there but were actually two of the first 20 or so bags that came onto the carrousel. This was definitely a pleasant surprise as I had begun to prepare myself for a substantial wait waiting for my bags. I got through the entire process in less than half an hour. I walked out into the “Arrival Terminal” and took a moment to take in the fact that I was halfway around the world all by myself with no phone or internet and no one to contact even if I did. I walked out into the Melbourne morning to wait for my shuttle that was supposed to be there at 12:30pm to take me to campus. At 12:45 I walked back inside to see if there was a specific spot that I should be waiting or if anyone could call the company to see if the bus was even coming. They told me to just go back outside and wait which I did because I literally had no other options. So I sat my sweet ass down on a bench and for the next 40 minutes had a conversation with a racist Australian who told me Melbourne was a miserable place to live because of all the Asians and Indians that live there. He worked in the mining industry and provided an immense amount of entertainment while I waited for my shuttle. When the shuttle did come I said my farewells and was off toward the city.
With me on the ride was another student who is studying at Derbin and we talked about our travel experiences during the 40 minute ride. His experience is mainly why I am thankful for all my luggage coming through on time because none of his did. The driver dropped him off first and then took me to the front office of Swinburne because I didn’t have anywhere else to go (in other words, I was homeless). When I walked in I took a number, threw all my suitcases into a corner, and waited until I was called on by a woman who I would soon become quite close with. Having no where else to go, I began inquiring to her about where I could stay and she was able to help me get in touch with UniLodge which is basically a dorm at Swinburne. My contact at Swinburne abroad, Esther, got wind of my arrival and came over to see me which was extremely helpful because she walked me around the campus to where I was supposed to go. I went to UniLodge to start the process of getting a room and between talks with a very helpful ‘mate’ called Fergis I walked to the main road, opened a bank account, talked to Esther about Melbourne and what resources I had near me, and also tried unsuccessfully to get internet on my computer. After 8 hours talking to various people, walking all around campus and the main street, and signing all sorts of documents I was taken up to my room. It is very simple but will be more than sufficient for the next 6 months. I was slightly turned off by the fact that there are three other people living in the apartmentesque dorm and none of them were there or anything for me to introduce myself to. But I got over that soon enough and after one of the longest showers of my life I walked to McDonald’s to eat and take advantage of the rumored free internet that was there. After 20 minutes of trying to get my email to load I gave up and returned to my room. By then it was 7:30pm and I was beginning to crash. I managed to brush my teeth and unfold my sleeping bag before passing out from exhaustion and a full stomach.
I woke up the next day after 15 hours of sleep and decided that it was time to go be productive again. I went back and talked to the sweet old lady from yesterday and Esther before walking back to the main street (called Glenferry), taking some cash out, getting a phone, and then posting up in the corner of a Starbucks to finally have some reliable (but not free) internet with which I could contact my loved ones in the states and give you, my readers, an update I am sure you were dying to receive.
I apologize for the length but I decided to cram in my first day and a half in Melbourne into the post about my travel experience. It is easier for me to do that. I hope to have some more reliable internet soon but it is not on the top of my list at the moment simply because I will be gone to New Zealand here in four days. I will keep updating on a daily pattern (or close to it) until then and will try to get onto Skype, Facebook, and email on a regular basis to keep in touch for these first two days.
I love and miss you all very much. Please do not worry about me as I am safe and happy where I am, both physically and mentally. While I understand your worry, I hate to think that I am the cause of that. So smile and go do something spontaneous for me. Pour a beer out, go eat a Chipotle burrito, or cuss too loudly in the SAC if you miss me and know that if I wasn’t halfway around the world I would be right next to you sharing the moment with you.
More coming soon and I may treat you all to some pictures, too! 😛