May 31, 2009

Finally. Seeing The Opera House.

I’m sure for those who live here, the Opera House isn’t the most amazing thing. Especially when you see it every day at work or going to work etc. But for someone from the other side of the world…. it’s a completely different thing.
Ever since I was a child I’ve wanted to see the Opera House. Ever since I was a teen I’ve wanted to photograph it. So many shapes, angles, etc. So I was super excited to finally get to see it.

We drove in which wasn’t too bad since it was the weekend. We weren’t sure where we were going to park but we wanted to try and find a spot where we wouldn’t have to pay. After driving around for a bit we found a spot very close to Harbour Bridge and with all his driving finesse…Bruce fit the car into the spot.

We walked across the street so we were harbour side. I was immediately fascinated because we were so close to Harbour Bridge. I went nuts with the camera. I took some pictures and then out of nowhere I felt this…..drop. Then another….another……POUR. I quickly grabbed my umbrella from the little back pack I was carrying and flung it open. Bruce hid under a tree. Tracey’s little adventure with her own umbrella was quickly going pear shaped….so Bruce sprang to the rescue and helped her fix it. Then he retreated back to his tree. I meanwhile…was cracking up. I love how the sky here lets off a couple warning drops and then WHAM! it pours.

It slowed down to a fine sprinkle after a few minutes and we were able to move on. Well almost. Bruce decided fuckitall….get the extra umbrella. So he headed back to the car. Tracey and I walked a little farther around the pathway and then I totally lost track of all around me.

I’d spotted the Sydney Opera House.

I’ve seen so many images of it and so much footage of it and know the ’sails’ like everyone in America does. But most of us never get to see it in person. I was sort of overwhelmed for a minute. It was just so neat to actually see it for real. I think my feet were on the ground still…

I took a few pictures and even got down low for a few neat shots with a bit of wooden pier in the foreground and then we moved on. There was a lot ot see on our way around to the Opera House. Resturants and shops and people. Then we hit what was my favorite part of the harbour…Circular Quay. There was so much going on there. Aboriginal musicians playing music, painters painting, an actor painted up like a statue standing perfectly still, a mime making kids laugh, a guy dressed as spiderman with balloon swords looking for a fight, little restaurants with people dining outside, art galleries, shops, the bustle of passengers going to and from the ferry’s…. I could have just sat down and watched and been perfectly content.

We walked around to the Opera House and then I was in a world of my own. I started taking picture after picture as I explored all the lines, shapes, shadows…. I felt like my brain was going to explode, like I just couldn’t take pictures fast enough to catch all the things my eyes were seeing. It literally was frustrating. Yet wonderful at the same time.

In the end I took over 300 photos. It took forever to sort through them when I returned to the house. Some shots I was very happy over, some I didn’t get the way I wanted and some things I missed completely.

So, of course, I’ll have to go back.

May 30, 2009

My First Aussie Fire Station

Today was a really cool day out. I was a little tired and sore by the end of it though. I did my walk/run and did a ton of walking around. My shins weren’t too happy with it all.

The highlight of the day was visiting the local fire station. At first we weren’t sure anyone was there and we peeked around the outside and saw the trucks were there. So I finally rang the doorbell and sure enough….they answered. Tracey and Bruce seemed a little unsure we’d get in but I’ve been to so many stations in America that I was hoping they were as friendly here. I’ve never been turned down before so I was hoping all would work out.

The fireman opened the door, I looked him right in the eye and I said stated very seriously, "I wanna see your firetrucks."
The fireman laughed and said sure you can see our trucks, come on in!

There were two guys at the station (that we saw anyhow) and they led us right in. There were two trucks in their bay. I’m used to the huge American trucks so it was a little weird at first but you know, in a lot of ways they are the same. Except for the pump panels….
After looking for a few minutes I finally had to suck up my pride and actually ASK where the pump stuff was on the trucks. Turns out that the pump panels are on the back! They have to lift a door to see it. The explanation I got was that they liked them in the back and it was safer. They’d rather have their guys behind the truck in a traffic situation instead of on the side and possibly standing in the road. Not a bad reason at all.
Just like in America, they opened all the doors and drawers and fun stuff on the trucks. We were able to jump right up into the truck and have a seat and explore all the spaces they’d used for tools, hats, gear etc. I was impressed. The trucks are smaller than in America yet they managed to pack that gear in pretty well. Of course, the guy said if they DID have bigger trucks they would have more gear than they had. Everything is like that though…the more room you have….

They answered all sorts of questions for us and talked a little about the VIC fires over summer and the politics behind it all. After hearing it all, I think that the NSW fire brigade has done a very good job with all the stations being integrated; but that the real weakness is not fully integrating the rural fire service. It would run a lot quicker and smoother as one system.
I had a great time and I know Tracey and Bruce learned all sorts. Can’t wait to get to the big fire stations in Sydney!

-M

May 27, 2009

Walking And Reflecting

Unlike in the States, it is already May 27th here. My thoughts have naturally turned towards remembering my grandpa. It amazes me that today marks the tenth anniversary of his death. Already. How did that happen so fast? It seemed like only yesterday that Shelley and I were sitting in her living room, me playing Elvis songs and both of us crying and unsure what to do – and completely unaware of our own exhaustion after being up all night, unable to sleep.

One of our best aspects as a family is our ability to come together during hard times and my family hasn’t had to do it often, but when they need to, they are brilliant with it. Everyone closed in around grandma as if we were one being, maybe one shared heart?
As I went for my walk/run today I was flooded with good memories of my grandpa. Silly little things that also pop up in my head every time I’m in Illinois. Like Shelley, Shanny and I playing that Billy Ray tape over and over again in the car on the way to Springfield. You’d think it would have drove him nuts….but it didn’t. I think he actually kind of liked it! Or at least he was nice about it..and said he did lol.
Or that awesome baseball game we had in the backyard where grandpa was the catcher. Our family vacations….remember grandpa meeting “elvis”? He LOVED that! And the times I’d get up early just to sit and have a cup of coffee with him. How many times did he ask….you want some coffee with that sugar??
Or calling me shorty morty. What is a morty anyhow?? And when he’d look at you all serious…then stick his false teeth out of his mouth! Or just the way that he would never judge you when you’d done something you shouldn’t have, or would cook his bacon that certain way that made it so good, or sit and tell you elvis stories. I remember sitting in the day room and watching the gulf war on cnn with him, or get smart, or beverly hillbillies…….or married with children.
Grandpa raised his family, worked hard and was able to retire, watched his grandkids grow and was always laughing over something.

I miss that laugh….

I miss him.


Love you grandpa,

-shorty

May 25, 2009

Bondi To Bronte

So I think yesterday was my best day in Australia so far. I’ve had a lot of good times, learned a lot, seen a lot…but nothing quite compares with the things I’ve seen, heard and felt during this particular adventure. I have this creeping feeling that out of all the wonderful things in Australia, that it will be the surf that draws me back after I leave here. That combination sound of the surf hitting and the gulls calling is already following me in my head.


We were supposed to be up at 6am to start getting ready for our day. Instead, and a little predictably since we are human after all…we got up around seven thirty instead. Why so early you ask? Well between three showers, breakfast, getting our stuff together, distance to drive from Bradbury to Bondi and typically Sydney traffic…. you need an early start. Time always goes much faster than you’d think it would.


I’m not sure what time we were out the door but it wasn’t too horrible. Maybe nine thirtyish. We stopped for gas and then were off. I’m still trying to get used to that whole per liter thing instead of gallons. I do know that they end up paying more for gas here than even at the highest it was in the states.

On the way in we listened to my Dennis Leary: No Cure For Cancer cd that we’d started to listen to before and then forgot about. We had time to hear the entire thing and it ended not long before we got to Bondi. I forget how funny that cd can be…….and absolutely politically incorrect as well! All I keep hearing is him pretending to be a cow with voice box lol. My favorite line in the entire cd is how he hates when people say ‘ my life didn’t turn out how I wanted it to’ and he’s like….’well join the fuckin club! Life sucks, get a helmet’.
We saw some bicyclists on the highway…and I hope they all made it ok. They were nuts to be on that thing. With traffic going like 80kph around turns…it’s like a trauma waiting to happen. I admit is was pretty darned random to see a group of them just there in traffic!
It took a while to get where we needed to go. Note to self: look around on google maps and find a faster route in and out from the coast! A more direct route would be nice. I also need to remember to nose around on both the bus and train routes just to see. I’ve heard it would take forever by train from here. Are there any express trains to the city? You’d think there would be. Must investigate. I did like Tracey’s idea though….get up really early and have Bruce drop us off more than half way on his way to work, then we bus the rest of the way, then vice versa in the evenings. Entire days at Bondi…… I like the idea.
Finding a parking space for free proved to be a huge issue. We didn’t want to pay in the easiest spot, right at Bondi in the park. So around and around we went. Took us like twenty minutes to find a spot. In retrospect…next time we’ll park near Tamarama instead…there were tons of free spaces that way. All the parking stress boiled up and before I knew it….Tracey and Bruce were bickering. Once out of the car I had to walk ahead of them……because I was starting to get the giggles. I think it’s just because it reminded me of when I was married…and the funny things you argue about. It’s so perfectly normal….so perfectly….a married thing.
The short walk from the car to the beach, I decided to call my dad’s cell in the states. I knew he was spending the weekend if not longer at my grandma’s because the ten year anniversary of my grandfather’s death is in a few days. Man, I can’t believe it’s been ten years….where did that time go?? I’m really happy dad is there, as are other relatives. Grandma has been a hell of a trooper the last ten years and I’m really proud that she’s done well and is happy and keeping busy. I do wish I could be there and I feel a little guilty about it but at the same time I am grateful I got Easter with them all this year I talked to dad for a minute and then got to spend the rest of my call talking to Grandma! It was great
Then we arrived at Bondi. We didn’t hang around on the sand long because we had a long trek ahead of us…undoubtedly made longer by my random stopping for a good shot here and there. The walk took us a long time, but that was okay. There was just SO much to explore. I kept wanting to jump off the path and roam but controlled myself for the most part. Each beach was unique in sights and sounds. I was really impressed watching the waves rolling into Bronte and was surprised at the smaller size of Tamarama.
I took something like 385 pictures using two cards and a second set of four batteries. And it feels like I hardly got anything. There is just so much to cover, the way I shoot, the things I see, right down to that macro shot of a rock, that my brain felt like imploding. It left me frustrated. This is why I must go back…many, many times.
I also want to at some point chat with the lifeguards as well. I have many questions for them in regards to their emergency med/first aid training. Based on what I’ve seen on youtube and the dvd’s my friends sent me, I’m impressed with their medical knowledge. Especially as I start studying ahead for my EMT basic while I’m here, I may have to pester them, just a little here and there. I wonder if they take a full course? If they can immobilize and do full CPR with elec paddles and all they must take a course, even if it is abbreviated. Figures…I liked watching Bondi Rescue more for the medical stuff than the water stuff, hot guys, funny pranks (ok the pranks were really funny though) etc. For me Bondi Rescue is right up there with things like Trauma: Life in the ER on TLC, etc. I love that kind of stuff!
We did get a pic or two of the lifeguards doing what they do but I didn’t want to be a hassle. You always see people running up and bugging them for pictures and yeah that’s fun and exciting especially when you are like….holy shit there’s Harries! Or woah I think that was Box that just drove past…. I get that. But, to me it’s like tapping on a fireman’s shoulder during a fire and going…can I get a pic with you? They ARE working people…. On a slow day, during the winter months, I’ll pester them, but not with folks in the water and currents going strong. I wouldn’t want to be the person stuck in the water going..hello….stop with the pictures and HELP ME….
There is definately a big list of things I want to do and photograph at Bondi/Tamarama/Bronte. And jeez the list just keeps getting longer. I can see what Tracey was saying about exploring there when she was a kid….. I felt like wandering off with my camera so many times. Go check out this rock, that crab, this shell, that little pool of water, etc etc. Or just sit on a rock and listen. Think about things that dont matter or that do. Just look at the water, the waves, write in my journal, study my EMT book, take a nap, what ever my little heart desires……
I wanna go back!
The oddest part about the whole thing was trying to sleep last night. I was absolutely exhausted. I could have fallen asleep in the computer chair while offloading pictures I was so tired. I figured I’d be asleep the minute I hit the pillow. NOT. Didn’t happen. I was up on and off ALL night. It’s like I couldn’t turn my brain off after the day I’d had, I just could NOT get to sleep. My ears were like a seashell that wouldn’t let go of the sound of the waves…. In spots I slept and dreamt of that friggin water. It was weird. I think the best sleep I got all night…was finally out of exhaustion, from 6-9am this morning. I better sleep good tonight…I need it!
Anyhow, sorry for this forever rambling, long, boring post!
-M

May 8, 2009

Major Shopping

Just like everywhere I’d imagine….there’s the day of major grocery shopping. Today that was our day. After waking up I got this craving in my head….that I reaaaaaaaaaaaally wanted french toast and bacon for breakfast. I wanted to save it for Sunday damnit….but it sounded sooooooooooooo good. So I said, fuck it, lets have french toast lol.
Bruce and I ran to the store really quick just to get some american style bacon and maple syrup. I was amazed that it was so hard to FIND either one though. I think we searched the isles twice before Bruce spotted the maple syrup on the bottom shelf of an isle that was far away from the pancake mixes and things. In America you have that stuff next to each other. Then we couldn’t find a package of anything but the bacon they use here, which isn’t the long strips but the shorter fatter part because it’s a bit leaner, and called short cuts. Finally we ended up at the deli counter and I described it and the best we could do is they had some with the big and small part still connected. So I got six pieces, I figured two for each of us.
When I got back I separated the bigger pieces off and we’ll use them in the BLT’s I make on Sunday. I cooked it American style so it was nice and crispy The french toast turned out really yummy. It was cute because they sat and were like…..what do we do lol. I was the same way a few times already so it was nice to see it the other way around!! They weren’t so sure at first about the maple syrup on the french toast but once they tried it they loved it. I was cracking up and saying you can’t completely take the Aussie away, because half way through their french toast they were putting their bacon on it and making a sanga out of it.
We went to the square to shop and ended up eating their as well. It’s not so great to do that often though as it’s pricey as it is anywhere I imagine. We had nice wraps again at a different place in the mall and I had something like a Sweet Chili Chicken wrap. Was very good! Then we went to Jamaica Blue for coffee and I got an mocha icer with a shot of espresso in it to buck it up a little. Been to a couple coffee shops but haven’t ran into anything like a frap yet….but I won’t give up my hunt!
We ran into a little discovery science shop which was SO cool. They had all sorts like telescopes, glow in the dark wall stars, globe puzzles, boomerangs (sp?), etc. I LOVE science stores
Then we went to the grocery store (Woolworth’s if I remember right, they call it Wooleys for short). It didn’t take long for my American side to flip out in there. I couldn’t find any polish sausage (i settled for some pork italian that looked yummy) for the beer brats I wanted to make on the grill Saturday. Then I couldn’t find a ready made pie crust. Then finally we found one but no graham cracker one……then I learned noone knows of Graham Crackers in Australia and i was like……..NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO lol. I totally let everyone in one isle know I wasn’t Aussie when Tracey was like…I’m gonna get us a thing of TimTams. And I was like….what’s a timtam? And like four random people turned around and looked at me LOL!! One lady was like…..what’s a tamtam?! Oh you’ll love it! Another lady helped me while trying to see if there were any graham crackers but she’d never heard of them so i wasn’t holding my breath. She was really nice and just walked up when i probably looked frustrated and was like….you need any help love? I’m finding that people are pretty nice and polite here!
I did find Heinz ketchup and American mustard which was awesome. Whip cream was a problem. I couldn’t find any except in a jar and it wasn’t whipped but Tracey said she’ll get me through whipping it up for the banana cream pie I’m making And I did find the corned beef in a can to make the corned beef hash as well.
I’ll write more later,
M

May 7, 2009

A Fun Day

The day ended up being a lot of fun! We had a gigantic omelet for breakfast that I suggested we use American cheese in….it was really yummy. I used my expertise to help fold the huge omelet over after the veggies and cheese were put in…. it was pretty comical. Took two spatulas to fold it.

After breakfast we all realized how nice it was outside and decided to grab a few beers and go out there. I let myself sit without sunscreen for a little under twenty minutes and then I put jeans on and sunscreen on my face, arms, neck, hands and feet. I didn’t want a repeat of Florida. I figure I’ll do that every time we sit outside to help get my body used to the sun…..slowly. After a few beers, a lot of convo, picture albums and stories, we decided since we couldn’t drive anymore, to walk down and get more beer. Plus I was craving salsa & chips.

I had to take a picture because we saw this huge flock of birds……well…..flocking. Round and round in circle. I took video too…maybe I’ll email it to Katie…haha. I also got a picture of a Cockatoo and another one, looked like a kind of parakeet that was super bright colored.
We went in first and got the chips and salsa. Afterward we went to the video place and rented World Trade Center and Final Destination…both of which they’ve never seen!
Then we went to the drive through booze place (yep you just read that right) and got our beer. The didn’t have Miller so I got Corona, which was $21 for a fucking six pack of bottles…..no joking!
Then we walked home. We turned Bruce into our workhorse and made him haul the two bags with all our crap in it up the steep hill. I was thinking if the hill had been any larger we would have had to push him up it.
We had some beer, ate our chips and salsa, which they LOVED, and watched World Trade Center which they really liked.
Afterward we ate dinner (rissoles again which I LOVE) and watched a British show called Shameless, which I thought was funny when I understood it. The accents were pretty heavy and some of the terms/jokes I didn’t get but it was absolutely crazy and very funny.
They were amazed to know there are hardly any shows in the USA that aren’t American. I am amazed here how much they have, from US and UK etc. It’s really a neat variety.
Sometime later on I flaked out in the easy chair and I think Bruce fell asleep on the couch…poor Tracey.
I barely remember but at least I do remember… getting up and going to bed. Only problem was I crashed on the bed with my jeans and shit still on! OH well!

-M

May 6, 2009

Shoppings

For a change I actually slept in some this morning. Got up after 730am! Unfortunately, I was up in the middle of the night again. It’s starting to get sort of irritating. I may take a benadryl tonight to help zonk me out. Also I won’t elect to have a cup of milk and tea as my issue may just be having to get up for the bathroom at 230am.
I want a good long through and through sleep with no interruptions damnit!
My slow preoccupied butt got us behind today, so we didn’t get out of the house as soon as we’d hoped for. Was fun chatting with Tracey while we both did our makeup though.
We had Vegemite and toast with scrambled egg on it and you know what? It was REALLY good. For some reason that combo was just really yummy and I scarfed it right down.
I got to take the bus today! It was really odd yet so familiar. I can tell you I really do think that EVERY bus system in the world…….is not so efficient. And all the buses sound the same.
We were all over the shopping center today. I exchanged my US currency for AU. They wouldn’t take my 17 bucks in quarters though. I dunno I’m gonna do with them yet. I also got a prepay cell phone. I was happy about that. The guy that arranged it all at the phone place was great. Probably close to my age. We ended up chatting about comparisons between here and the US, was entertaining for both of us! We also went to the store and I finally found hazelnut coffee creamer…..WOOOOOOOOOOOT! And I found American cheese so I could introduce Tracey & Bruce to grilled cheese sandwiches. I already made Tracey a BLT and she went nuts, just loved it. I had a total freak-out-spaz-attack in the feminine isle. Only ONE brand of tampons came with applicators………..WTF. I need to see if maybe Kim would send me a few boxes of my Playtex Sport because I am SO NOT using non applicator tampons. They have NO idea what they are missing with that…….. yikes!
I also got to try a Chicko Roll. And I got like 27 stamps for postcards, not so cheap either. I still have not been able to find packs of postcards but at the post office the guy took our number and said when they get some in, in a few days, they come in packets before they separate them. They’ll give me a bit of a discount if I buy a whole pack so…that sounds good to me.
It smells super good in here right now…as Tracey is making fish and chips…..YUM!
Gonna go let my nose lead me into the kitchen now….
-M

May 5, 2009

May 5th, 2009

So I was up super early again today…..even after going to bed fairly late. I was going to go with Tracey to Tai Chi today but I’d pulled a muscle walking up the HUGE hill by her house yesterday and it tightened up like a monster overnight. In the end I wasn’t the only one with issues as Tracey came back early because her back was acting up. What a sorry group we were, both injured in some way. I’m glad she stopped the Tai Chi right away though as it may minimize her downtime.
It was a slower day but I did plan out what I wanted to make for Tracey and Bruce on Sunday. It’s like this:

Misty’s All American Day Of Feasting
(not responsible for gas, dozing or heart attacks associated with food or over stuffing)

Breakfast:
Cinnamon French Toast
Corned Beef Hash
Toast w/ Jam

Lunch:
BLT’s

Supper:
Pork Chops in Mushroom Soup
Homemade mashed potatoes
Peas & onions

Dessert:
Banana Cream Pie

Should be pretty good!!!

We had rissoles for dinner tonight and I see why they are so popular!! They are made with ground beef, curry powder, paprika, black pepper, beef stock, garlic, grated hake cheese, bread crumbs, an egg & onions. They are shaped into patties and cooked just like burgers, just you eat them without a bun and all that. Also had mashed potatoes and peas, and some wonderful veggies. It was a super good supper!
After we were thrilled to discover that their universal dvd player is NOT quite so universal. CSI Vegas Season 1 would NOT play at all, on any dvd player in the house. In the end Tracey watched the first episode, the first she’s ever seen of the show, on a computer screen – since computers don’t give a shit what region it is. Not quite the way I wanted to introduce her to the show but what can you do. She loved it, which is what counts. I’m so gonna have her addicted
-M

May 4, 2009

First Full Day

Today was really cool. After getting so-so sleep (I was up by like 5am…and I woke up half way through the night….my body can’t work out the 15 hours ahead thing…) I got up and slowly started moving. It was really fun getting onto facebook and running into all my fam and friends back in Wisconsin and Illinois, etc.
We ended up going out today and going to shops. I was fascinated by simple things, like how the crosswalks beep according to whether you can walk or not so the blind know when to cross, or the street signs not being up but down, on the curb, or not having crosswalks at every intersection like in the states and seeing soda and Redbull in glass bottles. And don’t get me going on the stuff I saw in the store. It was super interesting. I mailed out cards for mother’s day too, although they will be late as all hell. Takes like two weeks so they will definitely be late. Tracey and I had wraps while in the mall and they were really good. We ended chatting it up with the lady behind the counter as she made them. Interesting how things are named differently like capsicum vs. green pepper and prawns vs. shrimp etc.
-M

May 3, 2009

Auckland Int.

So my trip that started at 5:30 PM on May 1st, was continuing at 05:30 AM on May 3rd, thanks to passing the International Date Line after Hawai’i. Weird hey? It was confusing as… but you just sort of go with it. They tell you the local time when you land and you just stick with that until you hear another.

On the NZ flight we were all handed these Ministry Of Public Health forms to fill out in case someone on the flight ends up with the H1N1 flu virus. But they forgot to actually collect them from us when the plane landed....

I was a little impatient waiting to get off the plane because I wanted to make sure I had enough time to get to my other flight, but I ended up with a little bit of time to spare. I chatted it up for a few minutes with a really nice security guy after I asked to make sure I was in the right area. Then after going through security (didn’t have to take my shoes off….yay!) I got on a little shuttle that runs you out to the plane as it wasn’t docked like they are most times. It was my first time getting on a big plane where I had to use the stairs like that. I was very amused by the fact that I boarded that bus through doors opposite where they would be in the US. Everyone was like - it’s cold. And I was like……it’s not cold!! It was over 50 F... The one guy checking tickets was like….you sound American….and saying that, you must be from Midwest or New England? I was impressed.

I took my seat and was happy to see that I was in the little three seat row all by myself. Window seat again as well. I was by an emergency exit so one of the attendants ran through a few things with me quick, seemed easy as. Most don’t want the responsibility but the way I look at it is, hey if something bad happens….I get to be the first one out baby!!

I got to have a fuller breakky which was great. I ended up having this thing that was sort of like an omelet but not…and the name of it escapes me now…. and it had a type of sausage and a cup of oranges and pineapple that seemed just….more real to me. The oranges were a milder taste and not crazy tangy like the ones I’m used to and the pineapple was way firmer and not all squishy soft from being in a can for ages. To go with that I ended up having wine. It was funny because the lady in the row ahead of me was like….OMG someone is drinking this early in the morning?? And I told her it was early afternoon where I was from! And no joking she was like…oh well in that case, I’d probably do the same!
The flight went well. I had a little time to write in my physical journal and listen to a bit of my ipod and just relax and watch the clouds. The view when we took off was AMAZING. New Zealand is truly gorgeous from the air!! We hit a shitload of turbulence coming in to Sydney which was very amusing. Best turbulence of any flight I had on my trip. Hell best every really. To me it’s like a roller coaster and I love it. At one point it was like……shake shake shake shake…..DROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOP…
I’d hoped to see the coast of Australia from the air but I barely got a glimpse because it was so cloudy. By the time we came out below the cloud deck we were pretty much about to land. Oh well.
I was a little confused when I got off the plane as to exactly where to go first but I figured it out quick enough. Going through customs wasn’t so bad. We’d filled out a card on the flight as to anything we needed to declare on arrival. I said a few things because I wasn’t sure if they qualified or not….my lavender essential oil and my cherry cheesecake Jelly Belly beans. At customs they scanned my passport and also verified my visa (the new little chip in my USA passport worked like a charm and it only took like 30 seconds to verify my visa. Afterward I went to the baggage claim and waited for my bag to show up. While I was waiting a guy came up and asked to see my card and I thought….oh shit here we go. But it turned out that he figured that I didn’t really need to go through that long ass line to have my baggage checked manually since I was honest with what I wrote down and that long ass line was multiplying by the second.
He told me when I got my bag to go to exit D and I wouldn’t be checked. Yay!!! Finally I saw the giant K that I had on my suitcase come around and I got my bag and was off. They looked at my customs ticket I filled out once last time as I walked though exit D and that was that.
As I came down the ramp….alas…..there was Tracey! Huge ass grin and camera in hand. She got a wonderfully chipper picture of me looking about ready to dose off still holding my bags...
After double checking to make sure there was nothing else I needed to do as far as my visa was concerned (had a total blonde moment when they asked if they’d stamped the visa stamp on my passport and I hadn’t thought they had and the guy looked at my book and showed me where they’d stamped it…), we were outta there. I wanted out of the airport and was happy I wouldn’t see another for a while. I’d seen enough for a while thank you very much.
After having a laugh at how expensive their parking was since that seems to be SO universal… we headed to Bondi. I got to sit in front and was immediately thrown into coordination disaray at the fact that I was sitting in the passenger seat, where the drivers seat should be. And holy shit the cars are driving the wrong way….. Watching a really busy lighted intersection was enough to make my brain fry…… zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzt………snap……. wtf....don't crash!!!
I’d be alright with it for a while and then I’d see someone turn from a side street into the opposite lanes the wrong way (compared to US) and my brain would react and I’d be like…….OH SHIT. Then two seconds later I’d be like………Oh Yeah. Any Aussie reading this will only think I’m crazy until they go to the US or any other country where they drive like US does and then they will COMPLETELY know what I’m talking about. It’s really unreal.
Bondi was great. We went into a lot of shops to look around, including a wonderful photography gallery that had some of the richest and most saturated set of photographs I’d ever seen in print, yet they were just frigging gorgeous. We went down to Bondi Beach as well and I took some really good pictures and I tossed my shoes off and Tracey & I walked in the sand barefoot. We even walked into the ocean for a bit. There were quite a few surfers out even though the weather was a bit “cool”.
Afterward we had fish & chips which was really good. I believe the fish was Hake, which I’d never heard of before but the guy said was comparable to Cod. We also had a few beers including Boag’s and Hahn and I asked the bartender to make me a bloody mary which turned out to be GREAT. Had vodka, tomato, Worcester, lemon, lime, Tabasco, salt etc in it.
Then we cruised around Sydney a bit and things like the monorail and Chinatown, etc.
The ride home was certainly entertaining for me, getting to see the tolls and speeds and the way the exits and signs are set up.
After getting my stuff in and chatting like mad, we had dinner witch was a pasta and garlic bread. Was so so good!
Then it was off to bed after a long long trip.
-M

LAX

After getting off the United flight, I was nervous at first. I didn’t want to fuck it up. LAX is shaped like the Daytona Itl. Speedway if you look at a map of it. And I had to get from terminal 7 to terminal 2. One thing I did know is I needed a bus. Right away I saw signs showing me how to get to the Shuttle Express and I made my way outside. I didn’t have to worry about my checked bag until I got to Sydney so it was nice. Once outside I followed the signs to the waiting area for the Shuttle and it was there within four minutes. Then we drove around and I got out at terminal 2. After going in there I headed for security and had to go through again. This time it took about 30 minutes. Afterward I found my gate with ease and within minutes they began boarding. There was a shitload of people as it was a 747-400 Air New Zealand flight. It didn’t take too long to get on though. I was in row 53 (there were a LOT of rows lol) and I was super thrilled to find out that I was window seat, there was no one next to me and the isle seat was occupied by a girl from Britain who was my age! How cool! I swear every person that walked by while people were still boarding we were looking at them like…….don’t sit here……don’t sit here……. and no one did. Yay!
We ended up using the seat as storage for our crap. It was nice.
Air New Zealand is fantastic. I would use them again in a heartbeat. Free meals, free movies and tv shows, free BOOZE too! How can you go wrong??? And the staff was awesome. On our way out to the runway I spazzed for a sec…we passed a Quantas A380!! It was bigger in person than I could have imagined….was a gorgeous looking aircraft. For those who have no clue what is it….it’s the first full double decker passenger plane……two decks from the front to the tail. It’s just massive.
I paid attention when we took off, since I’d never been in a 747 before and it felt different. Just had a smoothness about it that was less in the md80, a320 and a319. I loved it. I ended up having chicken kiev over pasta with veggies and orange cheesecake. And a soda…and two glasses of champers. While eating I watched that Paul Blart Mall Cop and almost choked on my dinner. That part where the old guy in the motorized wheelchair is trying to get away and he is in front of it getting pushed……lmao! After, the British girl and I chatted it up and after a couple hours I took a Benadryl to zonk out. I put the movie Seven Pounds on and eventually fell asleep.
Only to be awoken like two hours later to turbulence. And after a while my ass hurting..... Seats aren’t exactly large enough to curl up in are they? Oh well.
Around 330am New Zealand time, they turned the lights back up and started serving breakky. I had the light fruit platter with yogurt which was really good. Then dozed a bit until we landed at 0530 NZ time.
-M

May 1, 2009

Travel Days - O'hare

Mike and I wanted to have some time to sit down and eat when we got to O’hare, but thanks to me getting my laundry done late and the wonderful WI/IL traffic situation on I-94, we didn’t have time. We were speeding right along….(urm, not really speeding…shhhhh) and at one point we thought we were gonna get a ticket because we saw a sheriff too late like always happens. He got in the car and pulled out behind us and started to catch up……and then saw the fireman logos in the back window and didn’t pursue us (at least that is our theory). Lucky! We went less speedy the rest of the way….
We got to O’hare some time after 2:15pm (central US time) and by the time we got in there it was at least another twenty minutes. As you would expect…..it was busy. It is O’hare…
We figured out pretty quickly where I needed to go and then we got into a long line. It was then I realized that United was charging $15 for your first checked bag (there is a lot I could say about that…) but my travel agent had taken care of it. After a little confusion over who I was supposed to get checked in by, I finally got to a counter. Even at O’hare, when I still had to go through LAX, they wanted to see my passport and ask me about my Australian Visa. I was surprised. I figured from L.A. on was when they would start asking. Maybe there are folks who still don’t realize you need a passport to go anywhere out of the US these days…who knows.
I crossed my fingers when we put my suitcase up to be weight but it came in at a light 37.4 pounds (50 and over they charge like $125 or more). I had stuffed even the smallest pockets on that suitcase full so I was impressed.
That was as far as Mike could go and since my plane didn’t leave until 5pm we hung out for a bit before I went through security. We bought pre-made sandwiches (tuna salad) and soda for him/milk for me. The sandwiches sucked….he didn’t even finish a half. I gave it my best effort and ate a little more than half. It was a shame, they were like what $6 or $7 a piece? It’s that old lesson you were taught of eat everything on your plate…. I hate wasting food. But it really was pretty yucky.
Around 4pm or so we said our goodbyes and I got to the secure area. Security, the lines were long but moving right along. Only took maybe 15 mins to get up to the front. They checked my ticket/passport/ID again before putting my stuff through. I wore shoes you just slip in to, so it was quick to get them off for the screening. I was a little worried that my parachute clip necklace would set off the alarm so I told the lady it was on me but she wasn’t worried about it and it didn’t set anything off. I have this like mortal fear of setting of a loud alarm like that. Have the whole fucking line staring at you !
After gathering my bag, all the crap from my pockets and my shoes I got out of the way and found a spot to reorganize myself. Then I headed down the terminal. It was longer than a damned football field. And of course…my terminal was at the very end. Why wouldn’t it be……..yeah.
After a few minutes I got bored, so I called grandma L. I hadn’t gotten a chance to talk to her and I wanted to let her know I was getting set to fly out. We talked for a little bit. Then I talked to Shanny quick which was great until later I realized I forgot to tell her Happy Birthday…jeez! Talk about feeling like a guilty ass! She was getting ready to see a movie so I’m assuming she had a great time!
Finally they started to board my flight. It was a bit of a circus and I didn’t know why at first. Turns out another flight got canceled and left a ton of folks in limbo who were supposed to go to L.A. and there were quite a few open seats on our flight so they were all spazzing and fighting for them. I got on the plane, threw my bag up in the overhead and took my seat. It was a window seat which I was happy about, although it sucks to have to get everyone to move so you can hit the loo. Ironically the guy who sat next to me was from that canceled flight and was super thrilled to be on ours. He turned out to be a pretty good aerial tour guide when we were coming in to L.A.
We took off right on time. Some are nervous about the takeoff but I love it. That huge sudden rush of speed that pushes you back a bit in your seat and then………whoooooooooooosh….you are in the air... It was a nice smooth ride up and for a while it was a great view.
They had a neat little xm radio thing you could listen to and one of the channels was air control. You know me……….I listened to it all the way to L.A. It wasn’t just our flight, but also others in the area. It was really interesting to me and it made it easy to figure out about where we were as well. Around Kansas City the clear skies disappeared……..thanks Paul and Jess!!! It’s your damned weather so it’s your fault! From then until L.A. it was crappy. Yet really fun in a roller-coaster sort of way…. All the planes were trying to figure out where the best air was. And it apparently wasn’t anywhere. Some planes tried lower, like 28000ft, some like us went up to about 38500ft and still no luck. Turbulence was all we felt. I almost laughed out loud a few times.

We came into LAX on time. Once we got below the cloud deck I was pointing out something to the guy next to me and he became the coolest tour guide ever. He named off some of the massive 10 lane expressways, different things like Disney, etc. Was really really neat. All I can say is that area is nothing but communities……..right to the water. Goes on forever. I was amazed!