Planes Trains and AutomobilesOctober 1, 2018 in Australia ⋅ 🌙 16 °C
Hawai'i is amazing. But even the amazing eventually must come to an end. Ah the impermanence of everything. The Buddhists would be proud. All packed up, Chris and I took the hotel shuttle to the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport for a 10.30 flight to Sydney. It's about ten hours in the air, so you know before you start that by the time you get to your destination, you are going to be a bit stiff and sore and probably somewhat dehydrated and generally not feeling your absolute best. The flight was unremarkable, as you want them to be. The food was good. I actually enjoyed the stir fried pork in rice and vegetables and the chardonnay I eased them down with.
I watched a movie. I was too tired for anything cerebral, so I settled for a sci fi I had seen before, the Pacific Rim sequel, Pacific Rim Uprising. It was fun and the guy is hot and the monsters get defeated in the end, which is what you want and all about I could cope with after a month travelling. I listened to the Grieg and Schumann Piano Concertos, both in A Minor and tried to fall asleep whilst doing so. 'Tried' being the oeprative word there. Sleep alas eluded both of us for most of the flight. Finally, I also read. I had downloaded the Ursula LeGuin translation and commentary of the 6th century Chinese classic, The Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. This is a truly amazing work and one that is very challenging to those of us brought up in the West with our Western ideas of success and effort and money and power. I like these small poems, gobbets of profound wisdom that you have to suck like a lolly to start to unravel the layers inside.
Travelling west is easier than travelling east. You follow the sun and even though you may be in the air for ten or more hours, you would still probably be up and doing things at your point of departure had you not left. Yes, it's all very confusing.
We left at 10.30am Saturday, flew ten hours, crossed the date line, and landed at 4.30pm the following day. We had already decided that upon arriving in Sydney after such a long flight, we simply could not face a three hour train journey back to Newcastle in the world's slowest train. So we would stay in Sydney for the night and catch a morning train today back to Newcastle. Which we did. An excellent decision.
We showered and headed back to Ruby's pub, the pub in Surry Hills we dined at the night before we left for the US, and had their 'jerk fries' again which are to die for. A nice bookend. Today, the train trip was slow as expected, but somewhat painful too in that although we chose the quiet carriage, a middle aged man and his friend talked conversationally the entire trip. In a carriage full of silent people, they sounded like they had megaphones. I listened to music, just my Daily Feed (Classical) on Spotify, and read, and eventually when their incessant chattering got to me, I tweeted about them and even wrote a twitter poem to help pass the time.
We are home now. We were met by Chris' parents at the station who welcomed us in loving arms and took us home to barbecued chicken, fresh bread rolls, some beer and some tiny doughnuts. A king's feast, truly. We have unpacked, gotten the washing ready for tomorrow, and done some grocery shopping. We have even gone for a walk along Throsby Creek, our favourite walking track. It was nice to be back.
I am missing my mother. Normally, I would have gone up to see her this afternoon. I would have looked forward to holding her and feeling her lovely embrace. I would have been looking forward to sharing with her the pics and stories of our time away. It is not maudlin, just the truth of one part of me this afternoon. Chris feels it too.
It will take a few weeks to process our trip. We have started already, but there was so much to see and do. We travelled in six states and crossed so many time zones, our body clocks don't know whether they are Arthur or Martha. Some quick observations:
1. America's poverty in the cities is much more on show than it is here. The down and outs are greater in number. They do not have the safety net that Australia has.
2. The politics on TV every night is both a blessing and a curse. They are the most politicised nation on earth. Trump only has to scratch his arse and they talk about it in panels and discussions for hour after after hour after hour. Each show dissecting the scratch from every angle and what it means he's not scratching. I follow politics, but boy, this gets a bit much.
3. American coffee. What can I say? It's shit! Australia is blessed with a wonderful European coffee culture and you really notice its lack when you're in the States. To be fair, there were one or two dedicated cafés, but realistically, you could walk ten blocks and not find an outlet that does espresso. And don't get me started on creamer and non-dairy creamer!
4. American food, oh sorry American friends, is not as good as Australian food. We are so spoiled for choice here. American food is not as adventurous, neither their everyday food or their fancy schmancy food in restaurants. When you're on the road, you like to eat simple nutritious food that sits well and not always some gargantuan serving of whatever it is would you like fries with that? I look forward to my American buddies coming to Australia so I can show them some great places to eat.
5. Trump and the Republicans. We were very discreet in our opinions about their President and his Party. Of course, we felt we had to. But when there were like-minded people around us, we did let them know what the rest of the world thinks about the man they voted in. There is actually a lot of shame and embarrassment about this. I hope this blip in time teaches them that in a system where there is non-compuslory voting, they simply have to get out and vote, for the good of the whole damn world.
6. The endless, relentless pharmaceutical commercials on TV aimed, not at the medical profession, but at us, the consumer. Just wow! Like I said with the politics shows, I am so glad we do not have these types of commerical on tv in Australia.
Highlights: Too many. I loved San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, Salt Lake City, Cedar City, Bryce Canyon, the Grand Canyon, Dallas and Honolulu. I loved the opera on opening night of the San Fran season. I loved the California Zephyr as a great train experience. It was exciting getting into SLC at 3 in the morning before the city woke up. The galleries, the museums, the swims, our hotel rooms, epsecially the Presidential Suite in the Sheraton Dallas. We bought some clothes and some souvenirs. I have a few more owls - as if the house needed more owls. What fun!
Of course, we had our moments too. Fortunately, they were rare. Chris and I have an understanding that if either of us needs some 'me time', it's ours. Generally, we can get along very well even when we spend vast amounts of time in each other's company. The most surreal and maybe difficult time we had was the evacuation at 3am from the 31st floor of the Sheraton in Dallas. It took our calf muscles three full days to settle down after running down 62 flights of stairs in fear with adrenalin pumping through us. Surely, a night to remember. Oh, how we laughed.
Stu's and Chris' America Trip is over. we had a blast.
But of course the human element was the best. For Chris (and me) to be able to meet Micah and his partner Jason in SLC was so wonderful. And for me (and Chris) to meet up with Ben and his partner Tino in Dallas was amazing.
Chris and I have already begun the conversation about whether this trip will change us, whether we will grow, or whether we will just settle back into what was before. Both of us want some change in our lives. Chris has hit his early forties and is keen to move. I turn 60 next year and that brings a whole lot of existential ponderiing to me. I think our America trip will be influential for us both in trying to engage wisely what comes next and how it comes next.
I read yesterday Lao tzu's thoughts on travelling in the Tao in Poem 47 - Looking Far.
You don't have to go out the door
to know what goes on in the world.
You don't have to look out the window
to see the way of heaven.
The farther you go,
The less you know
So the wise soul
doesn't go, but knows;
doesn't look, but sees;
doesn't do, but gets it done.
Ursula Le Guin makes the point that a Roman poet once said that travellers change their sky, but not their souls. I hope Chris and I take from our journeying what we need in this part of our life together.
And thank you for sharing it with us.Read more