First Day in Australia

by Alissa

We arrived two days later.

Thanks to the international date line, Qantas, and the magic of jet travel, it only took a little over 30 hours to get here. Since my watch battery died, I gave back my borrowed phone, and I was in the fine company of my supremely good-natured kid, I didn’t bother counting up the hours until after the trip. It’s true that 30 is many hours, but two days really isn’t much time compared to the grueling ordeal of transportation (think 8 months in chains/close quarters in the hold of a rat-infested ship).

I’m not counting the hours we dawdled away before our flight in Minneapolis, because those were sweet and easy hours with our exceptionally good friend Emily and her “bag of tricks”: globe ball, stickers, crayons, custom photo puzzles, books, foam rockets, battery-powered pet hamster. Thank you SO incredibly much for everything, Emily, except for that hamster.

Waiting to board our flight at DFW, the “Kangaroo airplane!” Very spiffy boots from Auntie Emily. PJs from our last-minute girl-bonding dash to the Mall of America. I still can’t believe we actually did that.

The much dreaded 16-hour flight between Dallas and Brisbane was really mostly painless. Before the safety demo, they announced that we were flying in the company of the Australian national waterskiing team. After the applause died down, O fell asleep so I fell asleep, and we didn’t wake up and check the flight map until we only had four hours to go. It was just enough time to play with the in-flight entertainment system and for us both become very excited that we were almost to Australia. O recited her list of things she’s been planning to do with her daddy for the past month. I opened the window shade to peer out into the darkness and try to see land. The sun rose a little after landing, and we caught our first glimpse of light and gum trees and inverted driving in the company of a cranky Balkan cab driver between the international and domestic terminals.

The longest part of the journey was probably between 5:00-9:30 AM in the Brisbane airport. We sat. We paced. We changed O’s clothes. We read. We ate stale granola bars and luke-warm almond milk I had to pour into an alternate container the day before in the security screening line in Minneapolis. We destroyed the foam rocket kit and exhausted the remains of Emily’s bag of tricks. We shared dirt and germs with every other child who has snuggled/pet/kissed/smeared the plastic guide-dog donation object for the past 20 years, all before our flight to Newcastle even showed up on the departures board.

Then we dragged our bags through a wing of the airport filled with business-class Australians. Golden, athletic-looking people. Well-rested people with excellent teeth and high-paying jobs. Suits. Shoes. Brief cases and ties. Even if I had bathed and had my hair done and been wearing a freshly ironed shirt and makeup, I would have felt like a slob among them. It was a real relief to find the gate for our flight downstairs among the ordinary people.

And then I had to lock us into a bathroom to reapportion the weight and fragile electronics in our bags for check-in on a smaller aircraft. And then I lost my temper when O kept touching everything. And knocking bags over. And wanting to lick the edge of the sink while I dug through my suitcase for another set of underwear because the elastic of the ones I was wearing had utterly failed and they were sliding somewhere down around my knees in the ill-fitting pants I hadn’t worn since 2003 but somehow managed to wear on the train trip across America and now all the way to Australia.

After shrieking at me to put her down, O promptly fell asleep in the carrier before boarding and didn’t wake up until we were approaching Newcastle. We flew over spiny, smoke-blurred mountains. We saw an enormous golden beach. O announced that we would be going swimming with the dolphins with Daddy.

We landed and walked through the arrivals door and into his arms. Ace drove us home in the new car on the other side of the road. We stopped long enough to put on our bathing suits and pack a picnic, and then we walked to the first of many many beaches to come:

Newcastle Cathedral/park view on our walk to the beach.

Over the hill with baby and gear.

Everyday weeds on the side of the path. I have no idea what these are called, but I will find out. This is true of most things here.

Cliffside with coal seam. This week I read that Newcastle is the largest coal port in the world.

At the kiddie pool–a shallow portion of enclosed beach that fills/drains with the tides.

Happy hands.

First sandcastle site, Newcastle Beach.

First dinner in our new kitchen. First person to guess what is in those sausages gets a piece of Newcastle beach coal in the mail. 

Beach coal. It washes up like seashells here.