Friday, January 25, 2008

A belated account of my arrival in Australia

I have been in Australia for 23 days now. I meant to write a blog post sooner, but internet troubles (Australia has the worst broadband connection of any industrialized country, and although the internet provider won't fess up, we get brown outs if usage is high), travels, and the lethargy of an Australian summer have overtaken me.
My flight out here was full of small snags that managed to keep a 24 hour flight exciting, but none so big that afterwards seemed of any consequence: My window seat was stolen by a Korean exchange student so friendly it was hard to bear any sort of grudge. More worryingly, our flight out of Portland was held up for 45 mins so that several passengers "stuck in bad traffic" could make it to the airport. Those of us who had managed to factor traffic into our airport arrival time spent the flight staring at our watches, willing the plane to go faster so we could make our tight connection. In the SF aiport, all of us flying to Sydney ran through the aiport as a a herd of disgruntled passengers, making the shuttle to the international terminal less than 30 minutes before departure time. We needn't have worried, because our next flight was no where near ready to take off. After another half an hour at the gate, which more resembled a Chinese railway station than an international departure gate, we finally boarded over an hour late. Mutiny almost broke out when the captain informed us that a "light snack" would be served in over an hour. It was 11pm by that time, and none of us had eaten dinner. Luckily, the light snack turned out to be lasagna, bread, canned peaches and salad, so the mutiny was placated. The flight to Sydney was uncomfortable, as right after the plane took off the person in front of me reclined all the way, cutting off my leg room (and if I don't have enough leg room, I can't imagine how anyone over 5'5" could cope). Turns out United has invented a new class, economy with leg room, which unfortunately I wasn't sitting in. Our minds were distracted from such petty discomforts though, when we hit some major turbulence. I've found there's nothing like flying over the south pacific to remind you that you are hurtling through the air at enormous speeds in a tin can, and this time was no different. The plane shook violently from side to side and then started rising and falling, much like an elevator at great speeds. This was during night time, and everyone sat very still, pretending to still be asleep, given away only by the white knuckles on the armrest. After several minutes of tense stillness, the captain announced that everything was "perfectly safe" and the plane "was engineered to withstand much greater turbulence" but that we would be changing course to avoid a tropical storm. After what seemed like an eternity later, we landed, sleep deprived, in the Sydney airport. At his point I kicked myself for booking my ticket to Melbourne instead of Sydney, as now I had to fly Melbourne-Adelaide, instead of directly to Adelaide. Nonetheless, my flight to Melbourne was uneventful, my luggage showed up, and I went through customs relatively easily, although my hackey sack was almost confiscated. In the end, the woman couldn't figure out if it was stuffed with plastic or seeds, so she gave me the benefit of the doubt and let me through. I went to check into my Adelaide flight, only to find out it was cancelled, and I had been put on the next flight several hours later. On the whole not a big deal, except if you've spent the last 30 hours in airports/airplanes. When the man asked my why I hadn't checked my departure before getting to the airport, it was the last straw. "I've been flying for 30 hours. I've just come from San Fransisco via Sydney. I don't even know what day it is, I haven't slept in two days." I gave the man a desperate stare of half-crazed malice and sleep deprivation. "Ooh, that's rough mate" he said, and gave me 12 dollars in gift vouchers to McDonald's, the "maximum he was entitled to give out." Between McDonalds, gossip rags, and my book, I managed to make it until my flight. An hour later, my luggage and I arrived safely in Adelaide.