Justine arrived in Australia on the 12th of November – several weeks after I got here. We spent a decent enough weekend with her Aunt & Uncle over the weekend. On Sunday the 14th, we went to Bondi Beach, had a bite of lunch and looked at the Sculpture by the Sea exhibit. The weather was wonderful, if a bit hot for Justine, but the location of the art was beautiful. Felicity wanted to go swimming, so we (by we I mean Tom, her husband) drove all over the greater Sydney area looking for a beach with an available parking spot. After one or two hours, and three or four beaches, we found a nice location near the airport – Botany Bay – to swim. It was pleasant enough – not too many people, and parking aplenty.
We then made our way back to Kellyville, where things got weird. Tom and Felicity got into an argument, or Tom was yelling about something to Felicity, while I was making dinner. It may have been about us, or it may not, but it made Justine very uncomfortable. I grew up where music blaring and people fighting while you’re stuck in the suburbs was a way of life. It was the 80’s all over again for me, and I was just hoping they still loved me. Regardless, Justine was pretty upset and wanted to leave. We went for a short walk, and came across a weird Chinese couple, where the man was wearing his pajamas as they walked along (apparently a very popular thing to do in some parts of China.) It was near dusk, so I assumed he was getting ready for bed. We asked them if they knew of a reasonably priced hotel nearby. They gave us the rough approximation of a business chain hotel, it seemed reasonably close (for Kellyville, so within 5 miles or so), so we decided to head back and move into a hotel for the night.
By this time, it was dark. We had no car, but I had a decent idea how to get around. We packed up a few items, and apologized to Felicity for having caused strife and headed into the night. Felicity seemed a bit relieved that we were going. She made a small token to get us to stay, but you could tell her heart wasn’t into it, whihc made leaving the suburbs of Kellyville on a Sunday night with no place to go seem like a good idea. We walked about a mile to a gas station/convenience store, found a taxi company to call (thanks iPhone.) After much too long of a wait, one eventually showed up. The guy was able to take us to the hotel our chinese helper recommended after a bit of trouble. It was one of those business hotels in an industrial park, hidden away in back of a looped road. When we arrived, the woman made us wait while the system was updating, but she did get us a room – eventually. It was expensive, and far away from any bus line, but it was our home for the next few days.
We decided to do three things –
- reclaim our stuff (don’t forget, we shipped all of our remaining goods to Oz in an effort to make this our home.)
- get rid of as much stuff as possible
- ship the rest back home
We walked back to Kellyville, got our stuff consolidated near the front door and called our soon to be favorite Aussie taxi company. We requested a station wagon, and luckily we were able to get everything, with the last bits in both of our laps. So at this point, literally, everything we owned was in a Quest hotel in a business park in Australia. We found a shipping place and bought a few boxes, came back and sorted through our crap stuff. We got rid of even more of what we used to have (when we checked out left behind one laser printer, and most of a closet packed full of clothes and shoes), leaving our worldly possession to be three medium boxes of clothes and computer stuff, one 27″ iMac, and one NAS (all to be shipped back), and two suitcases full of clothes, and one backpack of camera gear. Eventually the Pack and Send place arrived to pick up our stuff, ostensibly to ship it via air freight back to the states. I think we presented some unique challenges to them, because it seemed like they were confused about how to go about it. I do understand there were some problems because the last failed terrorist plot (shipping toner cartridges that might, maybe could blow up), but it really seemed like they were just overwhelmed. Honestly, I was a bit overwhelmed too, but they had our stuff, seemed trustworthy, and I had other things to worry about. Justine was a bit stressed (she likes her structure), we didn’t have a hotel past Monday night, and not much of a plan.
I tried calling around to various hotels closer to the city (specifically, near Strathfield, as recommended by someone from the hotel.) Every hotel I called didn’t have room for us – I probably called 7 or 8, and they were all full for the days we needed them. I was starting to get a little worried, but Justine pulled out the phone book, and got us a room on the first call, for four nights. Once she made the reservation, I realized it was at a hotel. Hotels are generally situated over bars, and I’m still not sure of their historical purpose.
Come Tuesday morning, we got up early, and decided to see the nearby Koala park. We took a bus, then a cab to the Koala park. In retrospect it wasn’t a good idea. It was a pretty sad place. It had seen better days, but we got to see (but not hold) a Koala and saw various ‘roo type creatures, It didn’t take us too long to be in and out, and feel a little dirty for having been there. We walked to the local shopping mall, where we grabbed a cab back to our hotel. We then called yet another cab to take all of our crap to our new hotel in Strathfield. It was some wacky Armenian guy that wanted to read while driving, answer phone calls, and race one of his taxi buddies we passed. He seemed more caricature than man. Eventually we got to our new hotel, which was right across from a rail line. It was a bit of a shock. First, when I say hotel, you might think hotel, as in a America. Nope. Just rooms over a bar. We spent a few minutes just trying to check down the front desk. There was no front desk. Just a bartender that took our money, gave us the key and pointed us to our room. Once we had the key, we walked to the door that opens to the rooms. It was somewhat like the Price Is Right. Door number one was for the afternoon drinkers, door number two was for gambling, and door number three was our little home away from home. Once we opened the door, it was yet another shock. We were on the third floor, no lift, and it looked vaguely like the hotel in The Shining. It might have been nice in it’s day, but that was a long time ago. I noticed when we checked in, there were about 8 rooms that were not to be rented because people lived there. After lugging our heavy luggage up all three flights of stairs, we opened the door. To say the room was sparse was an understatement. There was an air conditioner without a cover (unless the layer of dust counts), no TV, two saggy beds, a single bare light build overhead and the smell of mothballs in the air. Once the door was closed, Justine sat on the bed and cried.
After she felt better, we took the train back into the city and walked around Hyde park for a short while, then took the train back to our hotel. After we got back we decided to go out for dinner, but didn’t want to be where we were. A block away from the hotel we stopped a woman who looked to be on her way home from work. She mentioned an area about ½ a mile away called Burwood, and gave us excellent directions to get there. It ended up being a great suggestion. The walk there took you through some nice neighborhoods, and through a lovely park. The street itself had a shopping mall (that seemed to close at 5 PM), and maybe a dozen blocks of places to eat, shop and browse. We walked the length, and ended up back close to where we started. It was the business restaurant on the strip called the Red Chilli Sichuan, and seemed, to quote Hemingway, a clean, well lit place. The food was a bit spicy, but man was it good. We shared a Barrimundi, and it was delicious.
On Wednesday, I once again started wondering what we were going to do with ourselves. There wasn’t much desire to stay in our hotel. We hadn’t been stabbed by a hobo yet, but it looked like it could happen any day now. I called a few other places and found a place for us to stay. It was for four nights, and was near King’s Cross, which is a big backpacker destination (Tom told me this is the area you needed to go for strip clubs and sex, as a way of warning, so I figured it would be good to be close by.) I went into this just looking for a place to spend some time, and it ended up being a great, if expensive, choice. More on that later.
Justine was still stressed about our lack of plans, which is understandable. I’d decided at this point moving wasn’t going to work, so we just needed to turn this into a holiday. In the Burwood Mall, we found a travel agent and spent the better part of Thursday deciding where to go. Now, understand how we went about this. Flying by the seat of our pants, we moved to Australia, only to find I can’t get work, and shortly after Justine arrives, we find ourselves homeless. We’re selling our house, and we have a closing date in early December. We needed some structure, and probably adult supervision. This agent was a godsend. There were brochures everywhere, and we wanted to book everything in one day. In retrospect, there are a few things we would have done differently, but not too many, so I consider that a win. We looked at the infinite options and decided on Sydney – Melbourne – Great Ocean Road – Perth – Wave Rock – Uluru – Sydney Auckland – Hawaii – Seattle. I’ve never traveled that way before, but after the uncertainly we had, this seemed the best option.