Well the day finally arrived… May 15, 2017. The day we were looking forward to with great anticipation – as I suspect the students were as well! We had the house and pet sitter taken care of, last confirming emails sent for the events coming up later this week and next, packed, checked the packing list, checked the packed bag against the packing list, shuffled some items, went back and rechecked the list… and on and on!
We met all of the group except for 2 students at Cheel Arena… Elizabeth Szumski – she lived closer to Montreal than to Potsdam so her parents brought her to the airport, and Collin Kobuszeski – Collin fell on the Thursday before the trip and significantly injured his arm, which was bad enough to require surgery. Collin was heartbroken that he couldn’t join us – and Colling, if you are reading this, if you decide to go next year we will wrap you in bubble wrap the weeks before the trip!
Now back to the morning for some back story… Elizabeth’s mother called my home around 10 a.m. asking if I could confirm the reservation codes as she was unable to get to the Air Canada website to check Lizzie in. I confirmed them and as it turns out, we discovered that our flight had been changed and was leaving at 5 p.m. rather than the original 6:40 p.m. One might think that this was great! Except for the fact that it appeared our timeframe of the bus arriving the would be tight. Long story short, we were able to arrive on time for the fight, Lizzie met us there, and we all had nearly an hour to spare… Shuffling a flight around if you miss it can be daunting to reschedule. Doing it for a group is the stuff they make Pepto for!
We finally departed Montreal and after a short little 6 hour flight we found ourselves on the west coast of Canada in Vancouver. Our original 2 hour layover was now 4.
Finally it was nearly time to board. We were scheduled to depart at 11:55 p.m. (local time). We have one student, Sierra Rhoades, who was hoping for a delay of the flight to Brisbane – her birthday was just after midnight and didn’t want it to be during the day we lose when we cross the international date barrier… As luck would have it, we were delayed to just after midnight – so Sierra did in fact have a birthday this year. I’m not sure if there is legal precedent for this or not, but I think her parents may have been able to get out of buying birthday gifts had we been in the air!
14 hours doesn’t seem like a long time – even on a couch binge watching reruns of “Friends” or “Law and Order”, or even “Mystery Theater 3000”… but on a plane – even with a host of movies and TV shows to watch or games to play, it seems like an eternity! Especially when you are anxious to get to your destination! After a 2 a.m. (time on the plane) dinner, a 10 a.m. sandwich, and a breakfast that seemed like it was being served at a very odd time, we finally arrived in Australia – the land down under. Immigration, Customs, bio-security checks (they have food dogs to ensure no one brings in restricted foods to protect the eco system), lines at luggage… finally all done… Oh wait, that was just to get our luggage and to re-check with Virgin Australia for our flight to Cairns!
In Brisbane, after all of the immigration and border security lines were cleared we were ready for some non-airline food! Many of the students ordered coffees – and coffee here is an entirely different experience than at home. Each cup is hand packed, brewed and crafted. These are true baristas – they make the task of making a cup of coffee seem like a true work of art… which upon tasting it, you learn it is! Some students had muffins and something small to eat. I personally went for my perennial Aussie favorite – a traditional Australian beef meat pie. You will hear more about this beloved, tasty and flaky snack when we get to Melbourne – there is a chain of shops there that specialize in meat pies called, appropriately, “Pie Face”. Some of the students who travel on the other trip to South East Asia with my colleague, Dr. Bill MacKinnon, rave about some of the foods there. But let’s face it, there is something wonderful, almost comforting about Pie Face meat pies!
Time to close out this chapter of the traveler’s blues… Stay tuned…