Thursday, August 17, 2006

Leaving Melbourne for HOME!

The morning we left Melbourne for our long flight home were fairly hectic. Tim had booked us transportation to the airport using a service in which you take a shared bus to the airport. The bus picked us up from the hotel which was much cheaper option than paying the $50.00 AUS we had invested for the cab ride to the hotel, so I was all for it. However, the service should have really had a foot note that it was rather cumbersome and really with anything more than carry-on luggage probably not worth it.

The way it actually worked was that all the luggage (and remember we had a lot of it - 4 large suitcases and 2 carry-ons each) and Tim and I loaded into a small van which came to pick us up from the hotel. I started to get nervous because the van was fairly late in picking us up. The van took us to a central bus depot where we loaded a large bus for the airport - all of our luggage hand held and almost impossible to navigate, in tow. We had to get tickets in between, so we missed the first bus and had to wait for the second one. At this point I was very nervous about how late we were getting. Finally, the second bus came, we loaded the luggage and ourselves somehow, and headed to the airport.

The airport was a little tricky to try to figure out where international flights check in, but eventually we found it and checked our luggage and got our tickets. I was starting to relax more now, but still just wanted to get to the gate.

Our flight home took us through Sydney and then back to the US. Our flight from Melbourne to Sydney was fine and went off without a hitch.

Upon connecting in Sydney, however, we approached our gate to another security checkpoint with an enormous line. Due to another terrorist attack which had taken place involving the liquids from a flight out of London, carry-on items were being restricted. We knew this in advance and had passed the checkpoints in Melbourne without problem. However, the airport in Sydney apparently had different rules. They were pitching everything in the carry on bags containing liquid of any form or quantity.

Although I don't recommend arguing with security of any type in a foreign country, I was a little more than agitated when all of my Dayquil and Nyquil got tossed (even though it was inside its original packaging) because it contained liquid. The agent next to the station I was at saw my red eyes and runny nose and did his best to be funny and try to cheer me up, but I was very upset and not extremely cooperative. Tim, who had been cleared 15 minutes ago, was patiently waiting for me.

When I was finally released, we got into the line and actually had to be expedited in order to make our flight. Once inside the plane, we were OK.

By now the novelty of long, international business class flights had more than worn off. We ordered a strong drink to knock us out- a substitute for our confiscated (and apparently Homeland Security-threatening) Nyquil and fell asleep.

We woke up as we taxied into the Los Angeles airport late morning and made it through U.S. Customs without incident. We had been so used to showing 20 forms of ID and documentation that we were all prepared. The customs agent said, "You just have to prove to me that you are a U.S. citizen. I don't care about the rest. Welcome home!".

There is good reason why you should never pass judgement on anyone seen drinking at an airport in the morning. Each person's flights, experience, and time they have been travelling is very different. I generally assume that those people have just flown from an area in which it is night time (as was Tim and I's experience). People who need a drink in the morning because they have some sort of addiction usually don't end up doing their drinking at international airports.

We went to the sports bar where I ordered a beloved veggie burger and Tim ordered a Sam Adam's as big as he is. I found an outlet near our table and charged up my Treo cellphone, which I dearly missed during our extensive time away from home. I called my parents and siblings, and Tim called his family.

After killing about 3 hours at the bar and around the concourse, we boarded our plane for Philadelphia. It was funny to hear people complain about the long flight when we had just been flying for over twice as long. It is all about perspective, I guess.

As we approached Philadelphia, it was dark, but we could see all the lights. We landed and were very happy, although at the same time quite exhausted and could hardly believe it that we were home. We trailed through the exit with the rest of the passengers heading towards the luggage claim.

We came out past the security checkpoint only to see Tim's family waiting there! It was crazy! We were so surprised. Tim said later that he looked over and thought, "That person looks like my mom." And then it WAS his mom!

They had come to meet us and brought our car. They were staying at an area hotel. We spent some time with them and picked up our car. We arranged to meet them the following day whenever we woke up.

As we arrived home, it was strange to see so many familiar sights after so long. We passed by our surprised concierge who was shocked to see us. We headed up the elevator and arrived back at our little home. Yay!!! Everything was clean and welcoming and well cared for by my mother. She of course had left little gifts everywhere and restocked things like our paper cups by the bathroom sink and put a new blanket on our bed. The 5 articles of clothing that were still in our laundry basket when we left had been washed and folded. That is Momo!

We showered and tried to sleep, settling in for what we knew would be weeks before we actually got back into the proper timezone and body cycle patterns again.

What an adventure we have had!

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