I found my way off the plane, to the baggage claim, and, glory of glories, my bags actually appeared on the carousel. I honestly think that magic must be involved in getting my bags to appear in Melbourne, Australia after leaving them to the care of the airlines in Yakima, WA.
I had also met a few students from the Arcadia program who had arrived on the same flight. They seemed nice enough, but kind of insecure and trendy as most people of my generation often are. I dislike trendy people.
Once we had our bags we had to stand in another absurdly long line to go through customs.
I was very pleased with the progress of modern technology. As a US citizen I didn’t have to talk to an grumpy customs officer in a metal booth, but only had to scan my passport at a turnstile and look into a camera to verify that I was, indeed, allowed to be in Australia. Amazingly, the turnstile seemed to think I was allowed so it opened and let me go through with my luggage. Next thing I found someone holding an Arcadia University sign and found myself surrounded by 40 American students who all looked very bored and unhappy with the lack of wireless internet.
We made small talk and asked the same four questions: What’s your name, where are you from, where do you go to school, what are you studying? I didn’t meet too many West Coast dwellers which was a little surprising. Most frequently I met people named Carrie (or Carly) who either lived on the East Coast and studied in the Midwest, or lived in the Midwest and studied on the East Coast. I didn’t meet anyone named Frank.
We stood around for almost an hour, by which time I was very anxious to go somewhere
and do something. I didn’t come to Australia just to see the airport after all. We went outside the terminal to the curb where we met a truck that took away all our heavy suitcases. Beforehand, we were instructed to pack a small bag for only 2 days.
Our luggage, they promised, would be returned to us when we went back to the airport to
catch our flight to Sydney. A few minutes after that we all boarded a large charter bus and drove away.
Our first stop was at St. Kilda’s, a suburb of Melbourne by the sea. We had lunch at a restaurant called Phamish where the Arcadia staff bought us all pizza, risotto, the Australian version of french fries (which they call chips), and pasta with some interesting sausage that some speculated was made from kangaroo meat. We also had this interesting mango & orange juice that was about 50% pulp.
After lunch I walked into St. Kilda’s shopping district with a few of the other students. We visited a few shops, but I didn’t buy anything except a pice of cake. I noticed about 3 of these cake shops which had racks of pastries, pies, and breads right along the sidewalk, behind their storefront windows. Brilliant marketing if you ask. Why don’t we have these in America?
After the shopping we walked along the beach to a pier. Along the walk there were some
rocks and along the rocks were some people standing and taking pictures and looking very
interestedly at the rocks. Naturally we went to go see the very interesting rocks, but
found that it was not a rock, but a penguin that had their attention. I have never seen a penguin in the wild, and certainly not one this color. I always thought that penguins were black, but it turns out that Australia penguins are blue. I suppose that the long swim through Antarctic water would turn them blue after awhile.
After lunch we drove for about an hour around the bay, heading for a town called Sorrento. I picked up Xenocide, by Orson Scott Card, which I had started some months ago and forgotten to finish. Along the way we stopped at a wilderness area and saw some kangaroos!
Our bus ride ended at Whitehall Guesthouse in Sorrento where we would be staying the next two nights. My body was telling me it was bedtime even though it was only 4 in the afternoon (arvo is Australian slang for “afternoon“, s’avo means “this afternoon“). I suffered badly through dinner and evening activities, which involved Australian trivia games. Our team did pretty well despite our poor attitudes and jet lag. For future
reference, Australian trivia will be highlighted in blue and red, the colors of the Australia national flag.