December 10, 2016
The key to a good travel day is to find the energy to embrace your newest location even when every fiber in your being simply wants to unpack, eat a bag of chips and go to bed early.
This can be tricky even when the transition is a smooth one, like from Austin to Chicago or Orlando. But sometimes the transition is not smooth. In fact, sometimes they are so un-smooth as to break your spirit. The 17 hours of travel in Myanmar 3 weeks ago was such a day.
It is the days with 6-10 hours of travel that truly test us.
This morning, we woke at 5:30 AM and were ready to leave at 6. [Note: I had a phone call from 3:45-5:45 that necessitated that I rise even earlier, so I was extra tired.] We left Bali and arrived in Perth.
During our 9.5 hours of travel, we would spend 3.5 hours in the air, 4 in airports, 1 hour in cars and 1 trying to get into our AirBNB apartment. There were a few high-quality twists and turns in our day.
My personal favorite was Susie spending half an hour as an illegal immigrant in Australia. I bet you have suspected a criminal streak in our favorite heroine. I know I have. Well today, her inner rebel came out as she eschewed the proper passport control process and entered Perth as a non-person.
OK, perhaps this warrants an explanation.
The Australians actually have an impressively streamlined entry system. If you spend a few minutes on line before you arrive, you can buy a visa that is tied to your passport. When you arrive, you bypass the lines and go to a kiosk. You place your passport (remember, it is tied to your visa) and get a card with a magnetic strip. You then walk 15 feet to a second station where you put the card into a machine and have your picture taken. It is like the US Global Entry program, except with only 5% of the hassle.
Wiley, Liam, Terrill and I went through and marveled at the efficiency of the system. Terrill mentioned that “Susie or Virginia are in the long line – Virginia cannot use the system because she is not yet 16. We went ahead to get the bags off the carousel (our standard procedure) without them. They did not arrive for at least 10 minutes.
Once we got our bags, we went to customs. We all presented our cards, but the security guards seemed truly concerned about them. It took a while to realize what had happened. Susie went through the first half of the automated process before she understood that Virginia could not do it. Being the devoted mother that she is, she joined V in the long line. They went through together. Susie showed the guard her card with the magnetic strip and he waved her through.
She has managed to do half of the procedure twice, but never got photographed or properly identified. Her paperwork confirmed this fact. The nice woman from Aussi Immigration took Susie back to the passport control person who had made the mistake and helped him understand what he SHOULD have done. Susie finished the procedure and came back to us.
The other bonus delay happened when we attempted to get into our AirBNB apartment. [Note if you travel with a large group, Air BNB is the way to go. You have plenty of room, Internet and the ability to cook your own meals. They are also inevitably less expensive than a hotel of comparable location and amenities.]
But, occasionally, we struggle with getting into our places. In Singapore, we stood in the wrong location for 40 minutes because our host had given us slightly incorrect instructions (telling us to walk 150 meters when it was actually almost 300).
Here, our host left his key and remote control with the convenience store across the street. Only after we arrived did he share an important additional piece of information: he is not technically allowed to rent using AirBNB, so he would appreciate if we acted like we knew him as friends. Most importantly, please do not say we are here as an AirBNB.
We went to the convenience store, got the key and remote control and drove our rental car to the gate.
It did not open.
We ended up sending Susie up into the apartment (the remote worked for the elevator) so that she could use the internet to ask our host for a second remote control.
Meanwhile, those of us parked in the street started to formulate alternative plans. Terrill chose to go into the apartment building and ask about the gate to the parking area.
When asked what she was doing, she said the exact wrong thing, “We are here for an AIRBNB place.’ Frankly, I am quite pleased that this gaffe did not create any problem, but it is fun to give her a hard time. Happily, the person Terrill talked to was not the brightest bulb on the tree.
We like our apartment. Here is our view.
So we moved in and then had a suprising serendipity. Just 6 blocks from our apartment was a free symphony concert that was a huge hit for all of us. They only played music with very broad appeal – John William’s Star Wars, Bizet’s Carmen, the 1812 Overture and Wagner’s Flight of the Valkyries.
The kids had a blast.
One of the keys was the fact that the conductor and the orchestra did not take themselves seriously. Of course, they are in Western Australia and not New York, Paris or Vienna – not exactly a hotbed of progressive classical music. But their clear excitement to create this experience for the people of Perth was palpable.
The concert was offered in a field next to its main river/harbor.
Their concluding pieces – the 1812 Overture and Flight of the Valkyries – both enjoyed the accompaniment of fireworks.
I knew we hit a home run as I walked away with the boys.
“That was tight!” Liam commented (his highest compliment).
“That was awesome. I am happy,” added Wiley.
We will be here for 5 nights. Before I close, I will comment on one last aspect of Perth. It is hot here, but it has almost no humidity. After melting in Indonesia and Singapore, I suddenly feel like I have come home to Midland – hot, dry days, wonderfully cool nights.
I think we will like Perth.
PS During the concert, the jumbo-tron featured the oboist on multiple occasions. In high school, I played the oboe.
There are debates regarding the high school activities that are the least cool. Oboist does not always win this discussion, but it is ALWAYS on the list. My sons find the idea of their father playing the oboe deliciously amusing. They do not seem to care that I was pretty good.