When we got our international plane tickets for this trip almost a year ago, we didn’t know our in-Australia itinerary so we got tickets to and from Melbourne. Later, we found it impossible to change them, so even though we finished up our trip in Sydney, yesterday we flew to Melbourne and spent the night in the airport Hilton (and when I say “airport” I really mean it: we walked straight from the plane to our room); this morning we will fly BACK to Sydney, then on to LAX with an eight-hour layover there before finally landing in Portland.
So I woke up this morning in an airport Hilton like any other, and spent the time until Kate woke up using the fast wired Internet to shovel out my email inbox, which put my head back home even though my body’s still in the Southern Hemisphere. When Kate woke up and I went into the bathroom (a Hilton bathroom like any other) for my shower, I found that I literally could not remember what continent I was on. This Twilight Zone state of mind will almost certainly continue until we arrive at PDX and, thanks to jet lag, probably for as much as a week thereafter.
Australia as a whole is also kind of a neither-here-nor-there place. Sydney has some keen and distinctive architecture but when you’re standing at the corner of King and George streets you’d be hard-pressed to point out anything that indicates you’re not in London. Although we’re closer to Indonesia than England, the faces here are almost all white and the accents likewise. We’ve heard a lot of accents in Sydney, very few of them Australian; the waitstaff at breakfast yesterday were from England, Hawaii, and Croatia and this morning’s was from India. There are some small amusing differences in language — they really do say “mozzies” for mosquitoes, “sunnies” for sunglasses, and “brekky” for breakfast, and one recent newspaper headline read “L-Plater in Horror Smash” — but all in all we’re not getting the kind of culture shock you’d normally get from traveling so very far from home.
But what Australia does have that Europe doesn’t is its distinctive wildlife, and we’ve been experiencing as much of that as we can. I’m glad to have seen the kangaroo, and the echidna, and the whale, and the giant clam. But I’m very, very tired now and it’ll be good to be home.