A downward slump on a journey back over

The entertainment selection on this Quantas flight features a music library, a fantastic offer as Britney’s Baby One More Time soundtrack is one of the first options under the Pop header. It’s been years since I’ve heard half the songs off her first album and the lyrics of the song are taking me on a musical ride back to my childhood years. Britney’s transformed tremendously since her 1999 album, following a sharp path of change as her years have folded over. It’s a journey we all take (although not necessarily along the path Britney has chosen to follow), a journey I’ve recently updated for myself; I’m flying home, geared with seven weeks of my summer memories. I’ve left the physical of the world down under behind, but I know the memories I take with me are mine to keep, layers to treasure, moments to tap into as I flip the page forward onto the next section of my college experience.
I spent my last night in Australia in Sydney at the Werman’s, my surrogate Australian family who since day one of my stay, have graciously taken me in as a part their loving, warm, Jewish home. I went out to dinner last night with Laura and two of her friends at a pizza restaurant a few minutes walk from their home. The girls are currently undergoing rigorous examination at their school and Laura and her friends have devoted the past few months to intense studying for their exams. They’re striving to achieve high results to enhance their chances of being accepted to their respective collegiate programs. The Australian education system typically necessitates that students know what they wish to study before even setting foot on the college campus. Not only is it difficult to get into school, but for certain professional paths (such as law) applicants must be in the top 99.5% to get into the program. As a result, students exchange the social chit chat with the textbook study date. Dinner last night was a well-deserved break for the girls. Boy, I don’t even remember going through that much stress preparing for my SAT/ ACT.

The hot water was out in the Werman household this morning, so Sue drove me to her parents’ home to take a shower. I’ve met her parents twice before, both of who are Holocaust survivors who moved to Australia sometime after the war. They’re beautiful individuals, true delights that live up to every possible definition of the typical loving, Jewish grandparents. I appreciated the opportunity to wish the two of them goodbye (in addition to a refreshing showing) before setting forth for my departure from the land down under.

A few hours later, I wished Laura and Sue goodbye. It really hasn’t sunk in that it may be years before I see the family again. I can’t begin to express the immense gratitude I have for having been able to get to know their family. The Werman’s were my sense of comfort in a country initially so foreign. They’ve offered their home as a place to say should I wish to come back, but Australia isn’t an easy place to get to, both in location and in price.

Mark drove me to the airport, a drive that provided me with a final glimpse of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge before our arrival at the Sydney airport. We eventually pulled up at the curb of the airport’s departure lane and Mark assisted me in setting my bags on the pavement. We wished each other goodbye, my final farewell to the Werman family. I’d like to think of it as a goodbye, see you sometime soon.  

I treaded through the sleek glass gliding doors of the airport, not prepared for the downhill wind my following hour would bring about.

I stood in the check in line, fighting the yawns creeping up as a result of my body’ s natural reaction to my previous night’s five hours of sleep. A wonderful woman, middle aged with short, straight blonde hair, black glasses and a hint of blue eyeliner lining the bottom of her eyes, motioned me over. I handed her my passport, passing over the necessary information for her to look up my flight information. The lady was able to find my booking, but the ticket number, in addition to my proof of payment, appeared to be missing.

After a $2,252 charge and subsequent refund once the previous payment records had been tracked down, a call to my furious father who was naturally not pleased with a double charge for my flight home, my Australian phone running out of credit, my melt down highlighted by a breakdown of tears, a call to the Boston Student Universe headquarters and a patient sales assistant who eventually found my ticket number and proof of payment… and an hour later, I finally received printed a ticket for my Quantas flight home to the states. It was the longest hour, one of stress, of rattled nerves. I was so ready to hug the blonde haired woman when she gave me a business express pass to zip me through the customs line.

(On a later note, I had the same issue in LA, although the American Airlines and Quantas representatives were not as helpful. I ended up staying on the phone with Student Universe for two hours, listening to their rant that they couldn’t help me as, according to their records, I had apparently already taken my July 30th flight. Which was kind of silly given that I had obviously just flown out of Sydney to connect to my LA flight on August 7th. So if the lady had given her comment a moments thought, then maybe I could have been saved from two additional hours of anguish as both Student Universe and Quantas attempted to find my American Airlines connection flight ticket number.)

Australian security for domestic flights is wonderful… it’s a form of security the states hasn’t seen since pre- 9/11 days. You literally walk through, shoes on, carrying liquids of all sizes, without once showing your passport/ ID and flight ticket. My flight home was an international flight; Liquids were therefore the sole exception to the usual lax security. I had completely forgotten that my camelback was filled with water, a factor the Indian security guard pinpointed within moments of seizing my bag for a security search. My laptop had been taken out, as per security procedures, and I had asked the Indian security man if I could place it back in its case to keep it safe. He ignored me and I reminded myself that he was a security guard after all, not some sappy grandfather like figure that would take care to be friendly to the young girl traveling on her own. I placed my laptop on the side of my purple duffel bag as I grabbed my water bottle to chug the rest of my water. My laptop fell straight to the floor, issuing a harsh thud as my Macbook hit the hard surface below. The security guard completely didn’t care, merely placing my bag back through the machine… open so half the contents were spilling out as I picked it back up. It really took all of me to keep the tears in.

I had been looking forward to sitting near a window to peer at the view as the plane took off from Sydney. Sitting anywhere close to a view of the window… how ridiculous of an idea for a day themed downhill from hour one of stepping into the airport. I am seated in the very last row of the airplane and the slab of the wall of the bathrooms replace the windows typically located to the left and right exterior walls. No last view of the Sydney Harbour for me. Right, how perfect.

On a positive note, no one is sitting to the right of me. I’ve taken over two chairs, a reminder of my trip to Israel last summer in which my friend and I had taken over two chairs to lean on while we slept. I did the same today, for the four hours of sleep I managed to attain. Four hours of sleep for the planned eight hours my Benadryl was supposed to provide me with. Of course today would be the day my Benadryl would cease to work its medicated magic.

I’ll be landing back in the U.S. soon, back to my home of familiarity, a place in which my accent will once again blend in with the crowd. I’ll be back in the home of fast food chains, of reasonably priced bananas. Come to think of it, it’s been weeks since I’ve had my last banana. Guess that was my drawback of spending seven weeks on the other side of the world, in a country down under, in a land of foreign customs, steep prices, in an environment with a unique set of norms. Tough life, really.

Seven weeks is too short of time to spend abroad. It takes about a month for the surroundings to shape into the familiar, too long of an adaptation period given that only three weeks remained after my four-week mark. I’m grateful for these past seven weeks of my abroad experience, six weeks of a peek into the workforce life, a week stint of a backpacking adventure and a total of seven weeks of a stay in a country so far from home, so distant from the comfort of my everyday life.

14 minutes remain of my journey to LA. I’ll have another five hours until my layover to Miami, sufficient time, I hope, to make my way through customs and clear my luggage through the U.S. security checkpoint. I have yet to begin entries for my week’s travels, but then again, that could be reserved for the five hours of my flight home from LA.

USA, here I come. Ta ta Australia.

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