Thursday, March 1, 2012


Not everything goes according to plan [at least not right away].  As I'll prove, this isn't always a bad thing; perhaps it depends on how you use the unexpected time that turns a minor inconvenience into a major success.

WARNING:  This is a long one.

-| Too Bad |-

"Your flight gets into Sydney at 9:30 Sunday night, and doesn't leave until 11 the following morning?" Philip asked.  "That's plenty of time to store your bags and go see the city.  Of course you need to see the Opera House.  But that's not going to last you thirteen hours.  I think you should go to a bar.  By yourself.  It's the perfect excuse to meet people.  You know, the whole It's my last night in Australia kind of thing.  Imagine the people who'll want you!"

I imagined running around Sydney, down random streets and around the harbour, in and out of bars and clubs at 3 in the morning.

"Yeah, but you've gotta be careful."  Dean warned.  He had been living at Philip's for the last two weeks, directing a new show for the touring group.  "That's really not that much time, not in my opinion.  You're going to have to pick up your bags first and then find a place to store them for the night.  Then you're going to have to a take a train or taxi into the city.  Do whatever you want there for a while - I'd really suggest sticking to one thing.  The roads can be pretty packed during early morning, the trains will be busy, and of course there are shady places all over.  Then you're going to have to collect your bags, check in, and go through security all before 8ish.  If I were you, I'd be on a train back to the airport by seven.  Maybe you can just watch the sunrise at the Opera House.  That'd be romantic."

My heart sank at the thought of rushing an already short experience in Sydney, and spending a romantic moment with my shadow.  I shrugged, and settled on running to the Opera House at night, and then going to one bar before taking the train back to the airport.

-| Lisa/Lisy |-

"Yeah, I think Sydney needs to work on their airports, especially on the night life.  I mean, look at all these people who can't even sleep on a chair."

I looked around the silent airport terminal, and how many people were curled into their sweaters and luggage.  Lisa/Lisy [I think she introduced herself as Lisa, but in a letter she showed to me later, the writer addressed it to a Lisy...] sat next to me, and we were the only people in the terminal awake and talking.

"It's too bad you're leaving in the morning.  If that baggage storage place were open only a half hour alter, you would actually get to see a bit Sydney before you left."

I sighed.  "Please don't remind me."

"Even if a hostel were accepting late-night, last-minute check-ins that would be great.  Such a shame."

-| Wee Hours |-

My watch read 4:03 am.  I had lost all feeling from my waist down, my neck was sore from lack of pillow, and my eyes were burning from recently removing dry contacts.  I still clung onto every word Lisa/Lisy said.

Having grown up in Melbourne her entire life, she decided to just get out of the house and travel, no plans on how or by what means she would make it possible.  Her first stop was Italy, back to where part of her family had originated.  Then onto France, Germany, Spain.  A friend in Spain said they should travel together to Brazil, and she did.  A visit to Argentina became a 6 month teaching career.  The teaching career had led to a romantic interest [not a student], and the romantic interest had led to a heartbreak.

"Now?  Now I'm just going home to work.  At least, until I have enough to travel again.  I don't think it's something you really get over, you know?  Once you start doing it...  It's hard to stop."

I knew.  My year was 7/12 over [had it been that long already?], and I could tell that going back home would be hard.  Fortunately, deep and meaningful life conversations like these would make the transition easier.

-| Sweetie, Denied |-

"I just don't understand why I can't buy a cheaper, refundable ticket to Ecuador or Chile."  I leaned over the counter, exhausted and frustrated, trying not to yell at the woman.

"I'm sorry sweetie.  We don't make the rules.  We just enforce them.  But because you have a US passport, you need to have proof of further travel before going to Argentina.  And by further travel, it has to be outside of South America.  If you want, you can go buy a fully refundable ticket to LA, and return it as soon as you land in Argentina.  But we can't give you your ticket.  If they realized we let you go without proof of further travel, not only would you be deported as soon as you landed, we would be fined $10,000.  And we would have to fine you."

I knew she meant well, and that she [probably] said some true things.  Deep down, however, I knew that a) South America could care less if I had proof of further travel, and that b) a ticket to another South American country would be fine.  Logically, people backpacked/traveled for months or years around the Southern continent without proof of coming back to the US.

"I...  I just tried buying a ticket at the other counter.  A fully refundable ticket to the US is more than three grand."

"And how are you expecting to support yourself in Argentina without sufficient funds, sweetie?"

"I meant that I haven't transferred the funds to my debit card.  I can afford it, but it's going to take a couple of days before the funds transfer."

"Mmm hmm.  Well, we can do one of two things.  Either we can send you back to the US-"

Internal monologue: GOOD GOD NO.  I WOULD BRING SO MUCH SHAME TO MY SCHOOL AND THE FELLOWSHIP and probably family and friends as well.

"-or we can change your flight to Wednesday.  Unfortunately, there are aren't any flights for tomorrow, but that might buy you some time to transfer funds into your account."

"I...  I guess that's really my only option.  I'll take the flight change."

"Sweetie, do you think two days is enough time to transfer funds and buy a ticket?"

We'd have to wait and see, wouldn't we?

-| Silver Lining |-

I spent the next two hours running around the airport, attempting to find a location where my laptop could connect to the internet.  Reaching a ripe old age of almost 5 years, my laptop regularly had problems connecting with the world.


The request to transfer enough funds for purchasing a ticket sent, I sat for a moment and realized: Where am I going to sleep for the next two days?  What am I going to eat?  Will I shower?  The gravity of the situation rearing its ugly head, I came to the conclusion that I would have to spend the extra money for a room in a hostel.  Hopefully, one would take me on such short notice.  I flipped through the airport guides for nearby hostels.  The cheapest and closest one was only around the corner from the first train stop leaving the airport; that would have to do.

It didn't hit me until I had dropped my bags at the foot of the hostel bed: I had two days in Sydney.

After the whole baggage storage plan had fallen through, and my ticket to Argentina had been denied, I was somehow granted more time to venture out into the tourist capital of Australia.  Perfect.

-| No Baggage |-

For the first time this year, I left my backpack in my room, and set out into the city armed with only a map and my camera.  What else did I need?

I actually should have asked myself that question before I left the room.  An hour and a half and a bowl of kung fu ramen [homemade and hand-pulled of course] later, I desperately patted my pockets in search of my wallet.  I had left it in my backpack, all the way back in my room.  Sheepishly, I begged for forgiveness from the ramen woman, left my camera as collateral, and ran to the hostel and back.

So much for not worrying.

-| Tourist |-

I did the tourist thing.  Which is hard to do when you're on your own.  Which also results in angular, one-handed photos of yourself in front of tourist attractions.  Which results in a lot of deleting, but also a lot of keeping because of entertainment and quality value.

-| Nice Tourist Shot 1 |-

-| Nice Tourist Shot 2 |-

-| The view outside of the hostel. |-

-| Real Ramen Noms |-

-| Pseudo Albino Monk? |-

-| Blossoms! |-

-| Mom:  "Joshua, can you find me a pair of Ugg boots?  They are my dream boot." |-

-| Ibiseeing You! |-

-| Take pictures of signs that describe you. |-

-| Accurate |-

-| Real Monks? |-

-| Where's his labyrinth? |-

-| Sayid played soccer on this field! |-

-| Look how close I can get! |-

-| "Hark!  Chester!  Wallace!  Do you hear what I hear?" |-

-| Supposedly rubbing the golden snout of this boar brings good luck. |-

-| A member of Slipknot was at the Dymocks.  Many excited people in black got in line and yelled. |-

-| Angel Place |-

-| What's that doing here? |-

-| Aussie shirt on the Aussie bridge |-

-| Aussie shirt on the Aussie bridge overlooking the Aussie Opera House! Triple Threat. |-

-| T-Minus 10 Hours |-

There was a pain in my chest, a twist in my stomach, and a cramp in my head as I checked the transfer update: TRANSFER PENDING.  The night before I was supposed to go to Buenos Aires, and the transfer still hadn't gone through.  Sure, I received an email from the flight company saying that I had requested to buy a ticket to France, but I never received a confirmation email saying that the booking was completed.

And without that booking confirmation, I wouldn't be allowed on the plane!  Again!  And they would either have to delay my flight - again! - or even worse, send me back home to the US!

A sudden slap of common sense hit me across the face; maybe all I needed was that email showing that I requested a ticket to France after Argentina.  Maybe they didn't need the confirmation email.  After all, if [two days ago] they were suggesting I buy the ticket, and that was enough evidence to get onto the plane...  Surely that wasn't enough time to receive the confirmation.

The plot began forming in my mind; I could just show a printed email of an attempt to buy a ticket out of Argentina.  Whether or not it was denied later by the booking agency because of insufficient funds, it didn't matter.  I could be on the plane to, if not already in, Argentina by that time.  And if the ticket was denied before I got on the plane?  I would easily attempt to buy another ticket.

Seeing the loophole was one thing, but realizing I could have jumped through it earlier [two days earlier, more specifically] was another.  Regardless, I had had my time in Sydney.  I left after dinner to go into the city; I towards a bar.  Alone.  Why not?  It was my last night in the country, and I had plenty of reasons to celebrate [I had the time, I had a plan, I had a full night's rest, I still had yet to be a night-time tourist, etc.].

-| Karaoke |-

I found my way to a decently classy bar.  To my luck, it was a pre-Mardi Gras celebration.  And what better way to celebrate than with a karaoke competition?  And who better host to host it than a drag queen named Penny Tration?

-| T-Minus 4 Hours |-

Exhausted, I headed back to the hostel at almost 3 in the morning.  I would have to pack my bags in the dark [hopefully without waking up the other 7 men in the room], take a shower, take a nap, clean up the bed, check my flight,and check out out of the hostel before 7:30 in the morning, when the shuttle would take me to the airport.

-| Attempt # 2 |-

"Enjoy your flight to Buenos Aires, Mr. Magno."

-| Case in Point |-

Don't not worry when things don't always go as planned.  Take the time you need to breathe, work out the next couple of moves that'll get you by in the short-term, then relax.  There's only so much you can do to help the situation, but so much more to do instead of panicking about it.


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