Australia:  Upside down and precisely opposite.


Eye Guy is seated next to me in our business class seats somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.  We left Portland, Maine nearly twelve hours ago and we have an equal amount of time remaining before we land in Sydney.  The cabin is dark and our fellow passengers hide under complimentary sleep masks.  Eye Guy and I are playing Monopoly on his laptop.  I own Boardwalk and Park Place.

A doctor warned me against this journey just days before my departure. I am in the middle of a diagnostic process to determine what causes my continued abdominal pain and lack of appetite.  Every test is both inconclusive and expensive.  Each test requires another test.

First Doctor:  "Hmmmm...this could be a number of things, but I suspect you may be looking at cancer.  I'll schedule you to see a specialist in two weeks time."

Cancer?  And I have to wait two weeks to find out?

Second Doctor:  "Hmmmm...yes, this could be cancer, but it could be something else.  I'll schedule you for some tests, but the earliest we can see you is a month out."

Cancer?  Another four weeks? 

And so, I flew to Australia. 

Eye Guy lands on hotel-laden Boardwalk.  Deafened by his earphones, he screams "FUCK!" into the silent airline cabin.

If I'm going to have cancer, I want to endure it someplace warm, exotic, and full of men who speak English with an accent.

We land in Sydney almost twenty four hours after leaving Maine, but the turning of the earth and the smell of the passengers makes it nearly two days later.  A Sikh immigration officer says "G'Day, and welcome to Australia."

People emigrating from England long ago went two directions.  The uber-religious traveled west to the United States to find religious freedom, establish the Republican Party, and attach patriotic magnetic ribbons to their cars.  The criminal elements were shipped east to Australia where they worked at hard labor, made public brawling into a national sport called footie, and turned the stuff left over from beer making into a sandwhich spread called vegemite.

Everything is reversed in Australia.  The cars drive on the opposite side of the road; it is summer here and winter in Maine; and, in Australia, David Hasselhoff is a pop idol who sings to capacity audiences and hawks Pepsi from bus station ads.

We check into our hotel and wander downtown.  Eye Guy spots a Starbuck's Coffee and demands we stop.  While Eye Guy forages for coffee, I watch the Easter Bunny giving Christmas greetings to children at a department store across the street.

A fairy princess holding a plastic reindeer lawn ornament is asking Australian children what they want for Christmas.  The temperature is nearly 100 degrees (37 C) and I am checking out her pancake makeup to see if she is sweating.  She isn't.  Maybe she really is a fairy princess.

Tomorrow we rent a car and head west into the Australian Outback.


Road Trip 2005: Days 1-3 
December 17-20, 2005
Portland, Maine to Sydney, New South Wales

Skyline of Sydney, Australia
Sydney Opera Houise
Sweat-free Fairy Princess
Christmas Easter Bunny
David Hasselhoff hawks Pepsi
City Circle train station
ANZAC Memorial
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