Juxtaposition

The memory of my entry into Australia has been weighing on my mind since I arrived and I think I should talk about it.

I flew out of Omaha on the 9th of April. I got to Dallas/Fort Worth and had about three hours before another short flight to LA. I used my layovers for recharging (body/mind/iPhone) and mainly saving up all of my exhaustion for the upcoming lengthy flight to Sydney. (I’d only gotten about three and a half hours of sleep the night before because, well, travel, and also procrastination).

In LA, we had to take a shuttle across the tarmac to the international terminal. At first, I thought it looked a lot like Heathrow (very bland, boring, sterile), and then we got into the new section. It looked a lot like King’s Cross Station in London, or like a really nice mall. It was very open and airy, very bright, but not blinding. There were boutiques and high-end shops. It was very comfortable and I already felt like I was somewhere else. 

I made friends with a woman called Joyce and also a family of four heading home to Melbourne. Joyce told me that the border folks in Sydney were very ‘civilized.’ I’m sure I sounded suspicious asking her if the BA asks a lot of questions. I’m not fleeing, I promise.

The plane was a double-decker Qantas A380. I was second row from the economy cabin door and ended up being the only one in my row of three. I was very relieved at that, and also at the state of the plane – everything was very nice and comfortable. It was a fifteen hour flight, after all. 

As soon as we took off, I put on Wolf of Wall Street – I think I missed out on all the nudity and sexuality because it was edited for the plane; had to stifle a ton of laughter – and then took my Advil PM. I used the three pillows and two of the three blankets in my row (thanks, non-existent passengers), and curled up for sleep. I had to wake up and adjust my position more than a couple times, but in the end, I got about nine hours of sleep. 

To finish off the flight, I watched Philomena, which was absolutely fantastic. At that point, I put up the window shade and was met with the breathtaking view of a bit of coast and a lot of ocean. I’m not even sure that I would have been able to say a reverent ‘oh my God’ to anyone. It was the most beautiful sight I’d ever experienced. 

The descent into Sydney at daybreak: could not recommend enough. I mean. Add that shit to your bucket list, stat. 

Not only was the landscape lush and gorgeous, but the clouds and mist met with the water to create a seamless, translucent, silvery backdrop. And as my words can’t ever do it justice:ImageImage

So the big bird made an effortless landing into Sydney and my nerves flared up. I had a folderful of documents in my bag, I had my answers prepared, I was going to be confident and calm – I had no reason to be turned away and prayed I’d just make it through because, holy hell, would I have caused a fucking scene.

I certainly wasn’t prepared for the humidity that greeted me as I stepped off the plane, but I didn’t let it throw me. I noticed a little machine where I can scan my passport and get some sort of ticket, so I did that. Then I saw that I could take that ticket and go to another machine that would scan my face and let me through. I thought that was too good to be true, but I tried it.

During the scanning process, these two biddies next to me where fussing about something and I probably looked away for a split second. Of course, my machine told me to seek assistance. Fuck. Here it comes.

I went up to the desk and said good morning, yeah, I looked away for a second and the machine told me to come over here. He said, yeah they’re super touchy. He looked at my passport and back at me and I moaned about my hideous photo. He goes, oh, you’re showing teeth. I was like, yeah, I mean, I’m going to be happy to be traveling, so why wouldn’t I smile (haha). He said, yeah, we have to keep a neutral face. I asked, you can’t even scowl? He said, no; and it’s not a bad photo anyway. I said, well, thanks. Then I think he said, have a good trip or day or something, handed me back my passport and I walked through.

Um.

Hold on. This.. something.. is different.. 

Sir, don’t you need to know how long I’ll be here or who I’m staying with or if I have my plane tickets home or how much money I make/have/plan to spend or if I’m married or if I live alone or if I’m employed or why I’m here or what I’ll do while I’m here or what my social security number is or what my five year plan is or who is my high school crush or what’s my mother’s maiden name or for a copy of my birth certificate or the first ten digits of Pi or-

Wait, he did ask me what my flight number was. 12. Okay.

I walked down toward baggage claim and actually almost cried. That was it. It wasn’t painful. It wasn’t even difficult. It wasn’t even nerve-wracking. I didn’t even sweat. I didn’t even wait in line for more than two minutes. The guy was even sexy. The guy was even nice. It even felt like he wanted me here. It even felt like he liked his job a bit. I even felt unlike a criminal. I even felt like a normal person. What the fuck.

I can’t even write anything else about the experience, because, well, there’s nothing else to write. That was it. I’m literally sitting here, looking around the room to see if I can remember anything else, but.. there’s nothing. 

I might as well have been entering America. 

It was everything I needed. 

Then I had a mini bitchfit on twitter about how it should be done, ahem, UKBA. Jesus Christ Almighty. 

Don’t even get me started on that bullshit again. Fuck.

Boy, it’s hard not to.

But, yeah, I think the entire process of disembarking the plane, crossing the border, and getting my bags took… twenty minutes? Maybe a half hour?

In summation, to the UKBA, I say:
 photo tumblr_mvziwoDTpn1rz1wnio4_250_zps4cbef59b.gif

And to the Aussie BA, I say:
 photo tumblr_n22mvgSAQ21ral3q0o3_500_zps5e91bbda.gif

 

 

If You Know What’s Good for You

I find myself anxious about my trip tomorrow. I’m always a bit nervous about any traveling – I usually have difficulty sleeping the night before, etc. 

The last time I attempted international travel, I ended up spending nine hours in UKBA custody and then a night in the detention center.

Ergo: apprehension. 

 

Fuck. To me, the anxiety isn’t even the worst part – it’s the fact that I’m feeling anxiety at all. That adventure struck fear into my heart. And I hate that. I absolutely bloody hate that. I’ve flown somewhere every single year of my life. I’ve flown to Germany and to Mexico and to London (twice before all of that) and now… I have the opportunity to visit a country that I’ve wanted to visit as long as I can remember – even longer than wanting to visit the UK, I reckon. And here I am, about to finally do it… and I’m terrified. 

As if fucking with the UKBA after eight hours on a plane wasn’t annoying enough, I’ll be traveling for over 24 hours total this time. I don’t think my nerves would be able to handle denial. 

I mean, there’s no actual reason I should be turned away: I have never traveled there before and have therefore never had the opportunity to ‘violate any visitor’s agreement,’ I got approved for this electronic thing that gets attached to my passport and it approved me for a three month stay if I so desired, I have a bunch of documents with me (bank statements, my lease, my car title, the hotel reservation in Sydney, my itinerary, Jen’s address, etc) so that I should be prepared for anything… 

And yet…

I’ll be so. far. away. from home. if something were to happen. So far. 

I know the fear is pointless. I do. I have a feeling I’ll get over there and they’ll be like, ‘g’day, lit-le Sheila – have a good trip!’ and that’ll be it. And all this worrying and preparation will have been for naught. But after being, apparently, “ill-prepared” once, I’m sure as hell not doing that again.

Oh yeah, the worst part. It is. It’s the worst part. That I feel like this at all. That I was made to feel like this. That I should be so nervous about doing something I’ve done since the womb. Just like my car accident has made me overly cautious and paranoid about people noticing that I’ve signaled a turn or slowed down to a stop, that fucking trip has made me trepidatious about stepping foot outside of the US. 

I wish I could drive there. I’d rather drive there and have control of my transportation and surroundings and way out. That’s why I drove to Nashville. Stupid, I know, it’s within the continental US. I just- I needed control. I needed control of the situation, of my situation, and of my arrival and departure.

 

This will be good for me. This trip. In more than one way. Mostly, it will be the first step in getting over this idiotic, frustrating fear. I’ll be so proud of myself for going. Even when it would be so much easier to stay home. 

But it wouldn’t; not really. 

I’d hate myself for missing out on seeing my friends again and, for the love of God, I’m going to get a photo with Benedict fucking Cumberbatch. I’m going to see the Sydney Opera House. I’m going to box kangaroos. 

I have to refer back to Jen’s infinite wisdom – saying this trip will cheer me up in more ways than I know. Even when I didn’t know I needed cheering up. I need something. And this trip is that something.

Well.

My anxiety wasn’t all for naught.

Got to the Department of Homeland Security about 10 minutes before my appointment, checked in, and was told to go to a waiting area.

After about a half hour of waiting, I started talking to the woman next to me, turned out she was from Canada getting her US citizenship. She said I was supposed to have a print out of my appointment time, but if I didn’t, I could write my name on a slip and put it in the same box. Go figure. Did that.

After some more waiting, the man came out of the office and called the other woman up. She said, “her appointment is before mine” (very Canadian of her); but the man had already pulled up her information.

Shortly thereafter, he came out and asked me if I was sure I had an appointment.

My heart sank.

Why yes, I signed up on Tuesday to come down here and turn in my supporting documents and do biometrics, etc. He had me wait some more while he went and asked where I need to be.

When he came back, he asked me if I had my appointment print out. No I did not. He said I had to have this print out so that they can pull up my biometric information.

“If you can go print it out and come back…”
“If you can find a library near here and print it there…”
“You don’t even have to come back today…”

No thanks.

I felt a bit defeated, trudging out to my car having accomplished absolutely nothing but wasting my time. I noticed, as we were close to the airport, that there were several hotels in the area. I took my chances with a Holiday Inn Express.

The lady at the front desk was on the phone and distracted, so I slipped into their “Business Center” (containing one ancient PC and a printer), and proceeded to print out the document that I need.

Feeling a bit better, I trekked back to DHS, this time having proactively removed all of my jewelry and metal items from my person in prepration for security, and got sat in the waiting room of the biometrics department.

Luckily, that wait was only about five minutes and then I got to watch nerdily as the woman electronically took my finger prints. Another woman signed off on my passport and told me to mail everything to the address on the sheet.

 

In essence, out of all of the paperwork and passport photos and supporting documents I brought, the only thing they needed was my passport.

All I had to do was print that damn form.

 

HOWEVER, my supporting documents (paystubs, letter of leave, potential flight itineraries for there and back, proof of funds, executed application, and the damn form) are sat in an overnight FedEx envelope – so by tomorrow or at least Monday, they will be in the hands of someone in New York who matters.

Big sigh.

I was much more frustrated at the start of this post, but I can see that I’ve done all I need to do at this point, and I feel better.

It’s Friday. I’m getting a drink after work at my favorite bar/lounge where there is a drink named after me (containing lilac gin) and I get to sleep in tomorrow.

And my visitor’s visa approval process is underway.

%d bloggers like this: