Australia, part one: flying, fun, and (accidental) petty crimes

This is my first blog post from Australia! I’m writing from my bottom bunk in a Brisbane hostel. I can see the river sparkling from my window, and hear the loud cries of mysterious birds that sound a bit like goats and a bit like babies. What better time to reflect on my travel experience so far?

In transit

Flying to Sydney from Dallas reminded me of nights in my childhood when my parents let me stay up really late—there is something rebellious and exciting about boarding a plane at 9:30 p.m. for a 15-hour flight with no intention of sleeping. In hindsight, I probably should have slept a little more.

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The view from the window of the plane from Austin to Dallas.

The way there was uneventful, the highlights being a monstrous whole-page game of “dots” and two rounds of the alphabet animal game. This, along with minor laughing, garnered us several dirty looks from a woman across the aisle. I enjoyed the 15 hours spent in limbo, alternating between playing our road trip games, sleeping in strange, contorted positions, and skimming the newspaper and duty-free shopping magazines.

Reading the airport newspaper was unexpectedly refreshing and fun—I sometimes think American newspapers take themselves too seriously. The front-page headline on The Australian detailed an incident where several Australian judges showed heinous disrespect by—wait for it—wearing wigs in the courtroom. The headline and captions used copious amounts of wig puns. You can read more about the big wig decision here.

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Newspaper clippings, featuring Barnaby Joyce smelling a sweet potato.

Headlining the political section was a statistical gem with the best introduction I’ve read in a while, which involved a reference to the time prime minister Tony Abbott ate a raw onion. I love Australian news!

As excited as I was to arrive in Australia, I was almost sad when the plane finally touched down—mediocre breakfasts, packaged pretzels, and sprite in clear cups are never as tasty as they are on an airplane.

Sydney, or, three days of being underdressed and overexcited

Stepping out of the airport in Sydney was like stepping into a walk-in fridge. A really classy, beautiful walk-in fridge full of high-rise buildings, but the point is, it was COLD. With my tennis shoes and sandals, I felt unprepared for the weather, and also for the stylishness of Australia’s largest city.

The streets were a sea of sleek city folk, shod in short black leather boots. I made a game of counting the number of short black boots I could find, but I was not prepared for their sheer numbers and eventually gave up.

Despite the weather, I loved Sydney! The city was so beautiful and clean, like some huge caretaker lovingly brushed it with a feather duster each night. The hostel we stayed in was small and homey. The floors creaked and squeaked with every step, and the carpeted hallways reminded me of my mental picture of Number 12 Grimmauld Place from Harry Potter.

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Is it flirting with me? Or thinking about the best way to eat me?

We didn’t spend much time there though, because we were too busy doing stereotypical tourist things, such as visiting the Sydney Opera House (it kind of looks like bathroom tile up close), taking selfies on the harbor bridge, and admiring plants, friends, and traditional Chinese costumes in the Chinese Garden of Friendship.

 

Also, like the science reporters we are, we spent an excessive amount of time observing and researching the Australian white ibis, a huge city bird with a long, hooked black beak and off-white feathers. Wikipedia describes them as having an odd, unpleasant and distinct smell, which we encountered firsthand. Even with the smell, they were one of my favorite parts of the city.

Brisbane, or, the beginning of my life of crime

Picture this: a 20-year-old girl arrives in a strange city. No one knows her. She knows no one. She could reinvent herself, be whoever she wants to be. Perhaps she could embark on a life of villainy and intrigue.

Or, she could inadvertently steal breakfast from a high school gymnastics team. And then be too embarrassed to admit her mistake, and have to tough it out as the only non-teenage non-gymnast there.

Obviously, I fell victim to the latter situation. At least I had a stomach full of coffee, grapes, bananas, yoghurt, and granola to help me cope with the embarrassment.

Apart from the breakfast incident, however, Brisbane has been wonderful ever since I arrived on Friday morning. Downtown is like a paradise—we ran for miles along a trail beside the Brisbane river, and saw wild turkeys, interesting art, shining skyscrapers, gorgeous flora, and numerous impressive bridges.

Brisbane reminds me of Austin, only with different accents and less breakfast tacos. It’s funny how I still see and hear Texas everywhere I go. Green malachite formations in the Queensland Museum & Sciencentre remind me of Texas cacti. When people talk about “taxis,” all I can hear is “Texas.”

Everything about this trip has been so perfect it seems surreal. I’m trying to savor every minute of my time here, and I am truly ecstatic that I get to spend another month in this beautiful country!

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