Perth’s a Bitch, and then you cry

See what I did there? Of course you did (NOT!)… it’s not quite so dramatic, really, but why don’t we just start at the beginning, if I can still get my head straight. Which, after 27 hours on various airplanes, is easier said than done.

I was pleasantly surprised by the entire Abu Dhabi leg of the trip. I had a lovely lady from Pakistan as my only neighbour in the row. We chatted, she shared some snacks with me, it was nice. Although I’m almost 100% certain this was not the extra legroom seat I had requested, it was comfortable and plenty roomy. The food was excellent. Which is a good thing, as the “light lunch” turned out to be the same thing as the vegetarian dinner option, just without cheese. I still enjoyed it the second time around.

Abu Dhabi’s airport is well organized and has lots of things you can do, mostly of course shop and eat. Also, shower (and for free), if you happen to have toiletries and a towel, which I did not and did not feel like purchasing. I might take them up on that on the return trip, though. Meanwhile I can report that the dry shampoo I ordered for tons of money is worth every penny and works like a charm.

Airport security consisted of a line-up of blokes who were really nice and even funny. Then again, I was there pretty early, which is always a good thing. No silly security scanner, no arguing that my deodorant is really NOT a can of Coke…

Boarding for Perth began on time. And then time stopped. Due to high traffic over Musqat, we sat on the runway for an hour. Which, you know, wouldn’t be a big deal if the seat was ok, but sadly, it was not. I had paid $150 for that whole legroom thing, which placed me in an emergency exit seat whose back did not recline and that, of course, had no storage in front (though I sneakily used my own seat to stuff things under). We ended up getting in with a delay of only 40 minutes but my back is shot and my arse sore as hell.

The food was ok. I had the fish biryani, mostly because the vegetarian choice was, oddly, garlicky mac and cheese, and I didn’t want to do that to my host, Ian, who was picking me up in Perth. In the middle of the night, we were served sliced apples as a snack. In the morning, they gave me neither breakfast nor something to drink. Fuck them.

Flying into Perth in daytime is quite something. You come in from Indonesia and get to see the entire WA coastline from about Port Hedland on down to Perth. The country up there is mostly just some bush and red dirt. LOTS of red dirt. A bit further south it begins to be divided up into large parcels which at least from the air still look like nothing more spectacular than red dirt, until even further south you start hitting farmland and getting more trees and bushland. Pretty cool, actually. I tried taking some photos for you guys but my camera ran out of juice before I got to the really good stuff.

They weren’t kidding when they said there’s been lots of construction at the airport, either. The new scan-your-passport-yourselves, you-silly-buggers stations are perhaps quite de rigeur but as I was an automaton, I ended up in the line for the real life border patrol agents, anyway. And you know, the sheep in the other line were no faster! You have to scan in your passport, answer security questions, then the machine spits out some kind of paper that you have to walk down to another machine 15 metres away. There, you insert the paper, have your noggin scanned, get the paper back, then take it and the passenger card, aka “you’re all dodgy people to us customs people”, down to Customs.

I nearly had a heart attack when I got there: the line doubled in on itself several times, then went behind a wall and performed another few doodles! See, we weren’t the only flight who didn’t come in ON time, but they all somehow ended up there AT THE SAME time! What a joke. The nice thing was, I handed the customs lady my questionable-suspect-card and she… sent me straight through! No scanner, no unpacking suitcases, not even a sniffer dog! And so I had time to visit the friendly folks at Vodaphone to get a new chip for my old mobile before my ride arrived.

Clearly, though, Perth is not nearly as excited about having me here as it was last time. When I finally had the internet up and successfully identified five of my Facebook friends (one of whom was ‘identified’ by a photo of Tony Abbott – rrrright) just to log in, I learned that the barbecue I was supposed to go tomorrow has been postponed. So, no welcome gig by the Spudniks, no burger with beetroot.

I am, however, freshly showered and have had a cup of tea. Now to put up the feet for a bit…

Vyv Does Oz: Cold Feet, Warm Hearts

My great-grandparents had on their wall a framed piece of embroidery with the lines “Wo man singt, da lass Dich ruhig nieder, /böse Menschen haben keine Lieder” (roughly: where there is singing, gladly rest your head /where evil dwells, no song is to be had). Taking this as my motto for the upcoming trip, I couldn’t be safer anywhere else. Most of my friends on the other side of the world are musos. Phew!

At least for a few days I’ll be staying at a fabulously beautiful place in Bassendean, nearly exactly opposite to my pad in Swanbourne. If you’d like to take a peek at Cook House yourself, feel free.

In order to provide you, my three-and-a-half readers, with the most bang for no buck, I have unearthed my old Flickr account where I will post trip pics as I go along.

My schedule is beginning to be occupied with gigs and barbecues and theatre visits and coffee meets, all of which is certainly giving me the warm and fuzzy. And yet, the first bell that rang in my head when I woke up this morning sounded an awful lot like “Idontwannago, I dontwannago!” Considering there are still five days left until departure, this does not bode well. Not that the sudden case of cold feet is entirely unexpected; I suffer from a minor version every time I’m going anywhere, and if it’s just to a local event. Even if I’m really, really looking forward to it. Not sure why it gets that way, but there isn’t much I can do besides talk myself down and carry on with life.

Vyv does Oz, Take 3

Getting to Australia the first time took roughly 17 years from start to finish. The interval between Sydney and Perth was only seven years long. And now, it’s shrunk down to three. I take this as a sign that I’m either going to croak soon or get back even sooner next time. But who knows, my crystal ball has been rather murky since we moved here.

In any case, the time for travel is very nearly upon us again. In fact, yesterday was my last day at work. Another notch in the retail belt. I can’t say the customers have grown on me very much, although we did have a handful of lovely regulars. Everyone else: mainly shitheads. But that is material for a different kind of post. Let’s talk about some more pleasant matters.

Australia, land of sun, sea, sand and snakes who frolic on the beach. To my still fresh surprise, I am actually visiting friends there. And doing a fair amount of state hopping, which is only possible because my stays are also getting longer. Where I walked off the pounds during ten days in Sydney in 2006, I spent fourteen glorious days toodling around Perth three years ago. But this time, dear friends, I won the holiday jackpot with five whole weeks of sightseeing, music and flat whites. I’m returning to Perth, previously much snubbed by me during penpal days, voluntarily and happily, then casually jetting to Melbourne to see what they’ve got to offer, and up to Brisbane to find out how my former classmate ended up there when nothing in her bio could have predicted it.

Honestly, I am excited. But also regularly waffling about the grade of excitement. While I enjoyed Perth quite a bit last time, it was also occasionally quite challenging. This time could be far better or far worse. What will people’s expectations be of me? What are mine of them? And what will I eat for dinner once I move out of my AirBnB place in Bassendean, where my hostess will cook for me?

The journey begins on March 30.

Arrivals

The irony does not escape me: one of the reasons I chose Perth instead of any other destination in this upside-down country was the short flight-time. It takes about 16 hours in the air to get here, less than I had to put up with going to Sydney. However, due to endless boring layovers, I still ended up spending 24 hours en route before I could finally claim that, yes, I was here.

Overall, the flight wasn’t bad. There was very little turbulence, the service was decent (I flew Lufthansa/Qatar Air), and the entertainment option plentiful, although I never use them. However, I wish Qatar would stop droning on endlessly about their “five-star service”. Sure, if you travel up front in the hallowed business class, perhaps. I assure you, though, that despite your lovely and friendly hostesses, your economy class is exactly that. Predictable food choices, ridiculous lack of leg room for anyone over 5’4, and seats that are only comfortable if the person in front of you elects not to spend ten hours sleeping in your lap. Also, I question the reasons behind keeping the plane basically in the dark for ten hours, when clearly, it was broad daylight outside. Arriving in Perth at 6 in the afternoon, I don’t want to be well rested. I want to be able to go to bed at a reasonable hour!

The layover in Doha was tedious and boring. There’s very little to do at the airport, the wait was stupendous, and re-boarding procedures not exactly well thought-out but that’s behind us now. It did make me laugh that when security scanned my bag (which they did not want me to remove anything from), they thought my tiny deodorant was a can of coke! Yes, that’s me, desperate smuggler of liquids…

Arriving in Perth, what struck me was that 1) the airport is basically located in the middle of a lot of brush. Outback airport! And 2), it really is very small. Although the lines for “other passports” was predictably long, border control didn’t take very long. Where the Aussies get discriminatory is at customs. After a look at the yellow customs cards, they sorted out their fellow countrymen with a hearty “welcome home” and shuffled all the foreigners into the “we think you’re probably trying to sneak shit into our country” line. My bags were ignored by the little black lab working the suspects, and I was released into the terminal.

The map which can be found online was spot on: I had no problems finding the ATMs (though getting money was a tad confusing. They don’t say it, but just stick in, then remove your card. Otherwise, nothing happens. At. All. And be prepared to read a novel’s worth of screen info, then tiredly shake your head and randomly select an option) and the Vodafone shop. I got money and a mobile, ready to go, in less than 15 minutes, which is highly impressive. Wandering into the balmy night, I went for the easy option and took a taxi, which actually cost me less than the $70 I had expected, and I was home by 7:30.

Based on my experience here, I definitely do not rue having booked private accommodations with airbnb! I have a lovely room, my own bathroom, run of the kitchen, and an incredibly easy walk to the train into town. Not to mention that I am less than 10 minutes from the beach!

What have I actually done in the past two days? Well, you’ll have to be patient for that bit… though I suspect most of you know from Facebook already, anyway. But if you don’t, there’ll be more to come later…

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Cold Feet

Expectations are somewhat of a double-edged sword, the little cousins of Hope and Despair. Sounds a bit dramatic? Believe me, from where I’m sitting right now, it feels even worse. Of course, this anti-climactic crash in excitement is neither uncommon nor unexpected. I get it regularly, whether I’m supposed to spend a weekend at my mum’s, go to a concert, or even just attend a reading near my house. Invariably, I’ll be looking forward to going until the event is nearly upon me, at which point all I want to do is crawl into a hole and die (or hibernate, if you prefer less drastic measures).

My upcoming trip to Perth is no exception and indeed is worse than usual. Then again, the build-up has been much more intense and enganging, as well. In three short days, I’ll drag my behind through four airports to reach my destination. I might meet with some undoubtedly lovely people while there, stay at a cosy place near the beach, see the sights, soak up some sun, and generally live the fabulous life. Still all I can think right now is how cool it would be to just stay here, sleep in and go on with the daily routine. What if it rains? What if I hate it? What if it hates me? What if it turns out to be a colossal waste of time? WA, after all, never greatly featured on my map, like, ever. Plus, there’s that tiny superstitious voice in the back of my mind whispering that there once was a time in my younger days when I believed I’d be safe in air travel as long as I hadn’t realised my dream to go to Australia. This trip is my second. What if I’m tempting fate?

Ridiculous? Don’t be so unkind! High-strung, overwrought and entirely exaggerated? You bet your bootie! Fortunately, as we learn from studying economics, every system has its ups and downs, and this too shall pass. By this time next week, you’ll all be bored with my constant outbreaks of rapture. Meanwhile, thanks for listening.

Vyv Does Oz: Come Together

First, a hearty g’day to my most recent visitor via Telstra, location merely identified as ‘Australia’ (a tiny island off the New Zealand coast, as we know). Second, apologies to all those visitors who for some odd reason keep coming to read about my rye bread adventures. The first try turned out rather disappointing, and I honestly haven’t had the balls to try again – not that I’m not normally ball-less, for obvious reasons.

As I gleefully noted yesterday, there are 41 days left in my calendar until I can quit retail hell. I have been assured that I’ve earned enough dough to finance my excursion to the Bushland, so it is with great relief that I will make my escape one day before my birthday. And since I know how difficult a time you have all had, my dear readers, I will now finally unveil some of the facts about this trip.

I am going to Perth, Western Australia, dubbed “City of Light” back when residents lit up the place as John Glenn passed by far above. That was back in 1962, obviously a momentous year for many reasons. Why am I going to Perth? Well, for one, it looks like this:

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(I do not own this picture. It belongs to someone who previously posted, then apparently deleted it from Flickr. This is a cached copy from Google. I hope to replace it with my own shot when I get back)

For another, it was a flea brain idea with no real reason behind it other than a somewhat goofy joke about winning the lotto and buying a derelict house in the lovely ‘burb of Peppermint Grove, whose postal code happens to be nearly the same as my old telephone prefix from Frankfurt. I had a penpal in WA once, but it wasn’t serious, and going to a desert state never occurred to me, but here we are. Made for each other, perhaps.

I’ll be leaving German shores on April 17, which will hopefully get me to Perth on the 18th, even though my flight plan has been changed about fifteen times since I booked my ticket. That’s ridiculous. I’ll enjoy two weeks in the ever-changing city with the worst customer service outside of the United States, if you can believe recent articles in the WA Today, then return to homesoil on May 2. Why? For one, I wanted to be in Perth for ANZAC Day. Blame it on Sydney. I was THERE for ANZAC Day, and yet totally missed all of it, so I’m going to satisfy my curiosity about how the Australians spend their version of Veterans’ Day. Whilst planning this trip, I accidentally discovered an oddity besides that, which I like to call the Mystery of April 18.

You see, back in 1989, when I had first made an attempt to get across the pond, I had actually applied for and been granted, a travel visa. I found it a few months ago in a long-since-expired passport. The issue date was April 18. Haha, I thought, and kept on rummaging through my drawer in search of some documentation I needed to get my job. Then I came across the passport I used in 2006. My entry visa was stamped April 18. When I originally planned the Perth visit, I chose the departure date based on the fact that my BFF wanted to accompany me, and I wanted to leave shortly after her boyfriend’s birthday; hence, the 17 April date. That now, again, I shall set foot onto red soil -albeit buried under concrete- on 18 April is downright spooky.

I’m flying with Qatar Air. Why? Because when I flew to Sydney, I did not, and this happened: I arrived at the airport at six o’clock. In the bloody morning. Which got me to the hotel, exhausted, sick and in desperate need of a bed, by seven. The staff were very apologetic, but they were fully booked (because of ANZAC Day), and my room would not be ready until that afternoon. I crashed, literally, in an armchair in the lobby, surrounded by various members of various marching bands, as well as piles of instrument cases. Luckily, a room was found by eleven o’clock, and I promptly spent my first day in Australia in bed. Hoping to do better this time, I expect to arrive late in the afternoon, so that I can settle in and go to bed at a more reasonable hour.

I’m not booking a hotel. Why not? Because it’s been discouraged from everything I’ve read, and because I’ve found airbnb. People privately rent rooms and even apartments and houses, and the pickings are far from slim. I also appreciate the user/visitor feedback people can give, and the vast range of accommodations. If my first choice should fall through, I’m looking at staying in Freo. I’d rather be close to the ocean and have to go into town to do stuff, than the other way round. If you’ve grown up landlocked, like I have, you understand why.

Thanks to the fantastic webbing of Facebook, I find myself in the odd situation of knowing Perthites now: original Perthites, ex-Perthites now congregating in Melbourne, ex-ex-Perthites who have happily settled into their hometown, and folks who moved there for various reasons from other places. Who knows if any of that means anything, but it may at least lend some inspiration for an evening or two out.

And so things stand as of today. As snow falls outside my windows, whereas in WA temperatures are routinely in the 30s these days, the whole notion of going to a place where palm trees grow, cars drive on the wrong side of the road, and people make funny faces at my English until I pretend to remember how to “talk properly” (leading my friend Nigel to exclaim that I sound ‘like a Canadian who’s lived in Europe for some time’) seems like the fog-brained dream it was a year ago. Yet, I can feel that little excited spark building somewhere deep inside my restless soul…

Vyv Does Oz: the Devil is in the Details

Or at least, that’s what they say. Whoever “they” may be. Fortunately for me, “they” are wrong. The devil has left the details to me, and they’ve been taken care of. First, I’ll be in the City of Lights for two weeks, and knowing me, anything might happen, especially if it involves running into traffic whilst still half asleep or stumbling over my own feet. To cover any potential bumps and bruises, I’ve taken out overseas insurance. It was both easy and cheap and took about five minutes via my automobile club (“why, it’s the nice young man from the automobile club!!” -chuckle-)

Because my trip is nearly six months away, I’ve sprung for travel insurance this time round, too. I’m fervently hoping I won’t need to use it, but better safe than stuck with a huge bill, right?

I remember that getting into Australia is not as easy as landing at the airport, showing your passport and getting sent on your way. Especially, do not mention the word “work” if you’re a tourist (won’t happen. I’m on holiday, yo!). Nor should you attempt to smuggle in tiny bits of chocolate. So what, if you got the bloody choccy from some Qantas guy, and he probably got it from his Aussie caterer in Sydney. Yeah, there’s a story behind that, but since I wasn’t actually trying to smuggle choccy in, I’ll stop here. I’m also not flying Qantas this time, but Quatar. What I thought was supereasy was getting the e-visa. Takes no time at all, just do it online. It’s good for a year, so should I win the lotto between now and next August, I can still do Brissie in September before it expires.

If you think there’s something vital missing, you’re right. I haven’t made any arrangements for accommodations yet, although I have a few non-hotel options. I really, REALLY want this one place… near Cottesloe… like I’m gonna cry about beachside quarters… 😉 Update to follow, once there’s something to follow up on.