I’m finally in my home for the next few weeks in Grafton, NSW! It was quite a journey to get here, but I’m happy to say that everything worked out and I’m here safely! While traveling, I journaled about my experiences. I knew it would be fun to look back on later, and it’s even already fun to see what I was thinking just yesterday. Since I didn’t have internet access during any of that time but I still want to record everything here, and since I wrote everything down in my journal, I figured I would just transpose that writing here. I don’t plan to always do this, as I think it would be fun to have a more private record of my thoughts and feelings in my journal with a more public record here on this space, but at this time copying from my journal seems like the best way to get everything documented and caught up here.
So, I don’t like flying much! The takeoff made me feel sick exactly like I do in a car. Now that we’re flying steady it’s much better though. I don’t feel like I could read on my kindle (I have a kindle!!!!!) yet though, so I’ve just been dozing on and off. My neck pillow doesn’t fit with my two sweatshirts or my seat so my head is just flopping everywhere and it keeps waking me up. This is probably really attractive to everyone around me. It’s still sunny out, I think it’s around 5 or 6 or 7. With the time change I’m not really sure! I’m on the outside of a row and Frankie is next to me with another woman on her other side in the window seat. I don’t mind being in the aisle very much. The seats on this flight are small and pretty uncomfortable. I’m using Dad’s/Diana’s headphones (they’re awesome) to listen to the playlist Matt made me. I love it! I still can’t believe I’m on a plane to Australia! It’s even cool that I’ll be in Texas in a few hours. Going through security was pretty stressful, but I think I’ll be better at it now that I’ve done it once. At the end of this trip, I’ll have flown 6 times! I’ll be a pro.
2 months/9 ½ weeks is a long time! I think if I didn’t have people to miss at home it’d be so much easier to just let go and have complete fun. Of course, I’m sure I’m going to have an amazing time and I’m sure it will be eye-opening and overall amazing. There’s just a small part of sadness to miss everyone for so long and I feel some excitement for June 8th when I’ll see everyone again!
A really nice man helped Frankie and I put our carry-ons up in the overhead compartment, and mine fit right in! I was happy to see that because I had been worrying about it! The captain just turned on the seatbelt light ahh! This flight has NBC playing on the TVs, which are hanging down every few rows. I’m hoping the next flight (for 19 hours!) has individual TVs (and comfier seats!) like I’ve heard some flights have. The one thing making me nervous now is having to get to Australia and get my bag and go through customs and get to the train station and get on it for 10 hours! Once I get to M (my first host), hopefully all my worries will be gone. I told everyone I’d update my blog so I’m going to try really hard to do that. Lots of people are wanting to hear when I get there safely – it’s nice to feel so loved!
I feel fine writing so I think I might try reading later. I was thinking to wait till the next flight and take some motion sickness medicine but we’ll see.
I haven’t taken a break since finishing student teaching, so I want to jot some notes about it:
-crying on my last day (so not like me!)
-P and O making me a cake
-checking EACH student’s understanding – having everyone respond
-working with Kel
-lunch – S’s container haha
-time!! So much time spent planning and preparing
-P’s comments about my hard work
-loving my students
I seriously loved student teaching. It was tons of work and exhausting, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. ❤
I think we’re almost in Texas!
4/4/13 (I think!)
I love Qantas! This flight is 10,000,000 times better than the last one. I’m watching Julie and Julia right now on my personal TV, and I just finished my complimentary breakfast. I chose the cereal meal and it came with Raisin Bran and OJ and milk and yogurt and fruit and I chose tea over coffee. I didn’t eat the yogurt or finish the fruit because I wasn’t super hungry, but it was all yummy! Oh it also came with a weird bread thing – it had a few apple chunks and some kind of nuts on top. It was crunchy on the outside and soft inside.
We only have 1 hour left until we reach Brisbane (where I think we’re refueling), so that means we’ve been on this plane for 14 hours! Let me catch you up since I last wrote:
I felt pretty sick after the last flight, but Frankie and I grabbed our carry-ons and got off the plane without issue. We got a skylink train thing (which I wasn’t too excited about because I already felt sick!), but we decided to get it to get to our gate faster and without worrying about not knowing where to go. Good thing my mom told us we were going to Terminal D because our tickets didn’t say a gate or anything. So we just took the skylink to D (which was terrible on my stomach, but I’m glad we took it) and on the skylink it said Qantas was in gates 1-22 so we got off there and followed signs for Qantas. We made sure we were in the right place and sat down for a minute. We were pretty hungry so I sat with our stuff while Frankie went to check out where we could eat. Some places were closing because it was around 8 at night. When she got back we decided on an Irish pub type place because we were in the mood for something light, like soup and salad. I didn’t feel too hungry since I still felt sick, but I thought something light might help me feel better. We sat down with all of our stuff at a booth and looked at the menu. Frankie got a mozzarella sandwich and I got roast beef and cheddar. It came with a delicious small salad on the side. I couldn’t decide between what I got and a grilled cheese with bacon and some other stuff that also came with soup, but I went with the cold sandwich because I was still hot from the flight, which made the waitress laugh. We spent about an hour sitting and eating and relaxing. I started feeling better when I ate so I took a Dramamine to prepare for the next flight. On the way back, we stopped at a candy shop (Frankie had seen it earlier and of course I liked the idea of getting candy!) and then made our way back to our gate. It was only 9:10 or so, and we didn’t think boarding was till 9:55, so we were surprised to see people standing around and some people even boarding. I asked a woman near the front who was boarding, and she answered (in an Australian accent!) that business class was. Well, we were glad to have gotten back right then! We had wanted to sit and get situated before leaving, but we just had to wait and do everything on the plane. They began boarding by rows then, and we went in that first group because we were row 68. As we boarded, everyone was saying “Welcome aboard!” and “Enjoy your flight!” in Australian accents. It made me really excited and reminded me what we were actually doing! When we got back to our row, a man was sitting in it, but he realized he should be in row 67 and quickly moved while apologizing (in an accent!). We put our bags up and settled into our seats. We were really excited for the personal TVs and the comfier seats and the pillows and blankets that were provided! There are 3 seats in our portion of the row, and no one in our 3rd seat, so that was nice to be able to spread out a little while sleeping. Frankie and I were both texting as the rest of the passengers were boarding since this would be the last time we could really text freely. The flight attendant was bringing more goodies (eye-mask, headphones, toothbrush, and mini toothpaste!) and she was jokingly making fun of us for texting each time she came around. I told her it would be the last time we could text for a while and she just laughed. Frankie and I were both pretty tired, so we figured we would just sleep for now and watch a movie later. They had tons of free movies to watch including Lincoln, Perks of Being a Wallflower, Avatar, Life of Pi, and so many more. As we heard the safety instructions and took off, I felt a little sick but not too bad. I watched our flight path for a while and it was fun to see. We had 15 hours till reaching Brisbane, and then a few more to Sydney. After using the super small bathroom, I settled in and fell asleep listening to the playlist Matt made me with the 30-minute sleep timer on my iPod. Over the next many hours, I woke up tons of times to switch positions. I wore the eye-mask and it was really good. One of the times I woke up, I peeked out of my eye-mask and saw all the lights on and people eating dinner! I also saw two bags of snacks next to my feet on the chair beside me, but I didn’t think much about any of it and just went back to sleep. When I finally woke up for good, it was about 1am Brisbane time and 11am home time. When I went to sleep it was about midnight at home so I think I slept for around 11 hours! When I got up, I freshened up in the bathroom and then came back to watch a movie. I chose Julie and Julia and that’s pretty much up to now! Looking back, it’s funny that we slept right through dinner and that the attendants just laid small bags of snacks for us to eat later. The bags had water, chips, a fig bar, and some kind of chocolate snack thing. The captain just announced that we’re almost in Brisbane and that we have to get all our stuff and go through security again (ugh! So not fun the first time, and luckily we didn’t have to do it again in Texas). Brisbane is nearer to Grafton so I should have probably just taken a flight here! Oh well, I’ll think of the train as something I wanted to do (and if I hadn’t already been traveling for so long at this point, I think I would definitely love a long train ride as a way to see the country!). Time to pack my stuff!
4/4/13 – Flight to Sydney after switch in Brisbane – about 4am
Highlights from Brisbane
-met a nice couple who had been on holiday in Texas for a month – we talked with them while waiting to deboard (I’m going to start saying holiday instead of vacation – it sounds so much cooler)
-had to go through security again – although it was much slower than in the US. It was also 3am so that could have had something to do with it
-got picked for a random explosives test – I was brought into a room and wanded and patted down – and I passed so I went back out and Frankie was waiting for me. She said she almost followed me in lol but then decided to wait. It took about 45 seconds maybe.
-Frankie exchanged the American cash she brought and it worked out fine. I checked to see if I should just use an ATM to get money and the lady said yes. I tried both my cards and it said they weren’t recognized! So I went back to the lady and she asked if they were Visa because Visa has been having issues. She said the issues should be resolved by the time we get to Sydney. I was still worried about having no money so I tried to call my mom to ask her to call the banks to make sure my cards were ready to work here, but my call wouldn’t go through twice! I really think I did it right (1 + 10 digits) so I don’t know what the problem could be! Now I’m worried about being able to call M if I’d need to. Anyway, I texted my mom and she said she’d check on it. That was right before this flight, so I don’t know if that’s resolved or what yet. This flight only has 27 minutes left – and wait let’s talk about how there’s an hour time difference between Brisbane and Sydney? I thought time zones went vertically, and I know that Sydney is a little more to the west, but I didn’t know a zone change occurred between them. When I get off in Sydney I have to go through customs and then get my checked bag and then get to the train station and get on the train! Once I successfully do that (hopefully), the last worry I’ll have is meeting up with M at the station! Hopefully we find each other right away and that goes perfectly. I’m not stressing too much, but it would be nice if everything did go perfectly.
I still don’t think it has fully hit me that we’re in Australia! It did a little when we were deplaning in Brisbane and I saw a palm tree, but now that we’re in the air again I’m again at the point where it hasn’t hit me.
4/4/13 – around 11:30 am – On the train from Sydney to Grafton
So I’m feeling quite a bit more stranded seeing as my phone won’t make any outgoing calls! Not even to the free Verizon help number. I’m on the train to Grafton now and I really like my seat! It’s a window seat in the back near my luggage. I really wish I had a water bottle right now.
The train is leaving Sydney Central now! I can’t believe I’m in Australia! I keep going through such a range of emotions – right now I’m definitely excited!
Okay, so going back to getting off the plane in Sydney, we deplaned and followed signs for baggage and customs. We picked up our luggage (and the luggage tag ripped off of mine like I had thought it would!) before heading to customs, which was very simple. We just gave our incoming traveler card (we had filled it out on the plane, and it had asked what we were bringing into the country – we had to check yes or no for everything and all our answers were no) and we showed our passports and got right through. Oh and I told the guy I had a granola bar when he asked if we had any food and he said it was okay. So we went toward the exit and as we walked I saw signs for a train that took me from the airport to Central Station. We met N (Frankie’s host – who is so, so nice) and talked about how to get me where I had to go. I told her my cards weren’t working in the ATMs so she got some money out for me to borrow from her – again, so nice! N and Frankie walked with me to where I could buy my train ticket from the airport to Sydney Central Station – we just followed signs to get there, and then we separated.
Now, I was on my own! As I almost fell down the escalator with my huge bags (Dad, you were right, I may have packed too much), I couldn’t help but smile at how much everything seems to be an adventure for me. I’m sure other people feel frazzled in the same way that I often do, but they really don’t seem like it on the outside! Okay, so I wasn’t quite smiling yet, but I would be soon. I struggled to put my ticket in the little contraption while juggling all my luggage, and a nice worker came to help me get it, and myself, through the tiny gate. When I got through, I followed signs to another escalator and gracefully harrumphed myself and my bag onto it – if you’ve never tried to bring a large wobbly item with a smaller wobbly item balancing on top down an escalator, let me tell you, it’s hard! Your huge suitcase takes up a whole step and you have to get it on just right or the step behind it catapults the bag and you down a few steps until you hopefully catch your balance – red faced and sweaty you now stand uneventfully as the escalator reaches the bottom and your heart rate returns to normal.
I got off and rolled my bag to stand next to a bench. I didn’t want to lose all my CountryLink confirmation papers, but I wanted to be slightly prepared so I pulled out the map that I my mom printed out for me (what would I do without that woman?). I saw that CountryLink info was near Platform 1, which is what the ticket man had told me also, so I stood and waited for the underground train. Two young women were standing a ways off from me and they asked me if this was the right place to be to catch a train to Central. I’m glad I looked like I knew what I was doing enough to be asked a question, and my reply was that I was heading to Central, so I hoped this was the right place. Their faces looked like they were hoping for a little more confidence, so I added that I had followed signs for Central down this way, so I figured they wouldn’t lead me astray. The pair seemed more satisfied with this answer, and I must have seemed sure enough because they followed me into the train car.
There were stairs going up and down for seats, but with my huge bags I had to just stand with a pole with some others with big bags. I had seen on the large display maps throughout the airport that Central was right after domestic, so the 2nd stop. When we got to the 2nd stop, it said Morgan or something like that, so I did some kind of nervous shuffle, like I was about to get off, hit 3 people with my backpack, and asked into the crowd, “Do you know if this is Sydney Central Station?” I made eye contact with an older gentleman and his wife at the end of my plea, and he reassured me that Central was in 2 more stops. I’m normally the type of person to grab a map and double check, so I definitely regretted not doing that in this case. I thanked the man and he said I could follow him and his wife since they were getting off there. As the train continued on, I now smiled, thinking about the fact that I was alone in a foreign country on an underground train! I still couldn’t believe I was actually here and doing something like this. At the next stop, another younger man standing next to me told me that my stop was the next one while pointing on his map. I thanked him, too, and repaid him by thwaping him with my bag while shuffling my belongings out of that small space at the correct stop. I quickly apologized as he smiled and said, “No worries.” (I’ve already heard that a lot.) The man and his wife that said I could follow them caught up to me as I was following signs to get to where I needed to go, and they asked where I was going. I told them Grafton via the CountryLink service and they again said they’d show me the way. I had been eyeing the stairs down from the platform I was on right as I saw a sign for the lift when the couple had come up behind me to tell me there was a lift at the end of the platform. We chatted as we waited for the lift and they pointed me in the right direction at the bottom. I thanked them again as they wished me well.
I had to follow stairs up this time, and I walked with confidence to the escalator because up escalators are much easier than down ones. When I got to the top, there were people and signs everywhere. I kept looking for CountryLink signs but I didn’t see any. I knew I was still trying to get to Platform 1, so I followed signs for that. Those signs brought me around a corner and up to more gate things that needed a ticket like what I had put my airport train ticket in. I asked a worker standing by one of them how to get to anything to do with CountryLink, and he told me to go look at a timetable to find the platform I needed. This wasn’t the information I needed, but I looked anyway and was at least glad to see that it said CountryLink to Grafton at 11:35, which was familiar – and it said Platform 3. I continued to look around for signs, seeing none, I remembered my map. I had crumpled it in my hand after remembering about the fact that having a map out alerts others to the fact that you’re a tourist. Since I was traveling alone, I had quietly crumpled it in my hand while on the train from the airport to here. Now, I zigzagged my way between the throngs of people to an empty space a little away from the crowds.
I set my bags down and took a breath as I uncrumpled the map. I saw that all the CountryLink information booths really were right next to Platform 1, which really was through those gates. I got all my CountryLink paperwork out at this time (feeling like I was on the Amazing Race) in case I needed to show the gate people my papers. I went to the big gate for people with bigger bags that had a person sitting in a booth next to it and I told him I needed to get to CountryLink offices. He waved me through and told me to make a left. I did and I saw platforms 1, 2, and 3. I also saw a little booth with the CountryLink name and logo and my shoulders sunk when I realized there was no one inside. I began walking toward it anyway, because what else was I going to do, when I saw some motion to my right. The motion happened to be the electronic doors leading to the CountryLink office. Regripping my 75,000 pounds of luggage, I walked inside. As I waited in line, I grabbed every map and info packet, although they’re all still sitting next to me on the seat as I write this. I was able to get my 3-month Backpacker pass and my ticket for today’s train. I asked about luggage and was told to head next door to the baggage office. Once there, I mentioned that I thought you had to check your bags. The woman told me that you didn’t have to, that it was up to me. Since I had said that I thought my bag was a bit heavier than 20 kg (their maximum limit for checking luggage), she suggested I weigh it anyway. It ended up being 21.5 kg and she said that would have been fine to check. I decided to just keep it with me though as that would make it easier when I went to get off. I found a bench on Platform 3 and gladly sat down to get all my things together. I tried calling my mom because she had called me earlier, but a voice still said the call couldn’t be connected. I texted her (50 cents!) and she called me and we talked for about 10 minutes. She called Verizon and then called me back and gave me a help number to call and I couldn’t call that either. Long story short, Sarah learned to put a plus sign in front of the 1.
And that again brings us to now. I got lunch a little while ago by walking up 2 cars to the buffet car. I got a water and a sandwich and it cost a little over AUD$7.00. I wanted to try using my card to pay, so I tried pushing checking and then entering my pin and it didn’t work. I told the buffet car worker about the ATM issues but he told me to try again and push credit and then my pin. This time it worked! So yay! He said he thinks you always have to push credit if you’re using a card internationally, so we’ll see. It’s 1:25pm now (time really flies when you write!) here outside Sydney. Grafton is a little under Brisbane so I wonder if there’s a time change while on this train. I hope not because that would mean this journey is another hour longer! [UPDATE: I looked it up and the time difference is because Brisbane doesn’t do daylight savings time like Sydney does, so Sydney is one hour different in the summer months (from the first Sunday in October to the first Sunday in April – which is in two days!)]
Train travel is really interesting – it’s so old fashioned. Plus everything out my window looks like Jurassic Park. I haven’t seen any animals yet, but the trees are pretty interesting in their own right. Bill Bryson wrote In A Sunburned Country about an Australian train journey (or at least that’s what the part I’m reading now is about) so it’d be fun to keep reading that right now. I think I’d get sick though so I might just listen to music for a little.
P.S. I love my Express watch!
P.S.S. I’m in Australia!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!