The title here is a bit of a reference to Elizabeth Bishop’s “Arrival at Santos.” Bishop is usually appropriate to my state of mind
in travel, but even more so for this trip:
...Oh, tourist, is this how this country is going to answer you and your immodest demands for a different world, and a better life, and complete comprehension of both at last, and immediately...
Sydney is lovely from the air, and as punishing as I always fear the 13+ hours in the air will be, this trip was easy. We had a long layover in San Francisco (which is incalculably nicer a transfer than LAX) and a great flight across. The plane was only about half full, and the Qantas cabin crew could not have been nicer. (It never seems to hurt that the stereotypes about cabin stewards hold fairly true — as a gay couple asleep on one another’s shoulders, we always seem to get extra-friendly treatment.)
Qantas never disappoints — after dinner we were served hot chocolate and marshmallows, after which we both passed out. (In my case the Ambien might have helped as well.) We both slept something close to eight hours and woke refreshed to a nice breakfast and friendly chats with our new friends on the crew. The plane had a new state-of-the art video on demand system but with such a nice rest, three iPods between us (don’t ask!) and a bag full of magazines David only managed to get through one of the dozens of options.
The most touching kindness, though, was found in the customs hall on arrival. Countless times arriving back in the States — including after our wedding in Vancouver — we have had to, in one way or another, split apart or bureaucratically disavow each other. “Single,” not married. Made to queue in one line for citizens, one line for foreigners, with no exceptions for a unit that the US refuses to recognize as family. Seeing the signs in Sydney, we decided to press our luck in the line for “Australia and New Zealand Passport Holders and Families.” After a short wait, we walked up to a podium manned by a quintessentially Aussie-looking twentysomething bloke. He asked no questions of us and, not batting an eye, said “Welcome to Australia.”
And welcome we feel. Apparently this is how this country is going to answer us, our demands for a different world, and a better life, which I refuse to call immodest.
We’re here in Sydney awaiting our flight on to Adelaide, very much looking forward to three weeks away from work with David’s folks. We’ll try to post along the way, but if I post too much people at work might wonder about our “no internet in the outback” party line. In the mean time, we hope all of you in the northern hemisphere enjoy the last of summer 2007.