We aren’t in Kansas anymore

Hi all,

Now that I am finally about to get over my jet lag, I thought I’d share a few bits of my thoughts….

After 23 hours of transit, 3 layovers, 4 buses and crazy conversations along the way, I finally arrived in Melbourne. Straight up, it was an odd couple of days in the parallel world of global traveling. It all started with a late night flight from Paris to London, scarcely populated with businessmen glued to their iPads – probably making the latest trade on the stock exchange. The cream of the crop really… (Note: Raph is a Finance student, but rather the black sheep in the crowd). That said, I had an entire row to myself, and to the pleasure of my legs and back.

Once in London, I was reminded of the sheer vastness of Heathrow Airport as I strolled through multiple moving sidewalks and – to my biggest surprise – hopped on the futurist metro system internal to the airport. Eventually, my airport marathon led me to board on the British Airways flight to Singapore. About that, I must say that I had never experienced so great of a service on a commercial flight ever before. Big up to British Airways for making me feel like a VIP back in Economy class. So at this point I was settling down, browsing through the rich “High Life Entertainment” selection when I met my two neighbors for just the next 12 hours – stakes were high you see. So here comes a mom and her son. I see this lady walking down the aisle and mingling with the stewardess in friendly manner. Obviously the kid was getting a lot of attention from the cabin crew, until he received an unknown Chinese candy – I was crazy jealous of course! I later learned that the lady was married to a senior captain usually assigned to the flight course between London and Singapore. While she was from Singapore, the couple rotates around London, Singapore, New York and Vancouver. I also discovered that the kid is nothing less than a genius: at age 12, he masters 5 languages and achieves the highest grades while being on the go 50% of his school year. As decided by his mom, I would be his French tutor for the next 12 hours – way to start our holiday! Yet the lesson soon lost the kid’s attention when the touch screen resumed for all passengers. The rest of the flight, I spent casually reading about Australia, watching some more “Man vs Wild episodes, eating and mainly sleeping.

In Singapore, I had a little more time to wander around – which actually led me to experience some curious encounters. Fresh off the plane, I had 30 minutes to kill and I set out to find the bathroom. But on the way, I came across a sign indicating the “prayer room”. I had to go see this – bladder could wait. In the room reigned pure silence and a lonely Muslim had set up his praying mat and was silently bowing repeatedly. I had been transported for a while. I find the concept interesting, but I asked myself: are all religions welcome to practice their rituals side by side? I still haven’t found the answer to this one. Anyway, back to important matters, I headed towards the bathroom. To anyone traveling to or through Singapore, I highly recommend holding it just to experience their toilets. As you enter, you discover Turkish toilets, meaning you have to stand to do your business, and ultra-sophisticated antibacterial flush that inadvertently squirts out with precision on the region you were standing on. As if this wasn’t enough, a janitor jumps in once you step out to perfect the cleaning. Automatic sinks, soap dispensers and hand-dryers are naturally the norm. On the way out, a touch screen asks you to rate the quality of the service and your overall experience in this fully sterilized environment. I had to give it the mark of excellence. Just imagine for a moment the marketing company in charge of the analytics here: “ok guys, we just got the results for our survey back from the toilet 2A….”

The flight to Melbourne was operated by Qantas and accordingly, turned out to be a good introduction to Australian manners. Some Keith Urban blasting through my headphones, we rose diligently to our cruising altitude. The sun set and I decided it was time for a nap. I woke up 2 hours later, my body all soar from the weird position I had adopted – to the stupefaction of my Russian neighbor. He was a network security expert back in Russia and he had found a job in Melbourne. I would naturally ask him about the Olympics and pressures around the event. He did not show a lot of interest for the issue – all he cared about seemed to be the delicious weather in Australia. Speaking of, we had just started flying over Australia and for some reason, I was mentally prepared to land soon. But Australia is big… It took us an extra 5 hours of contemplating mere desert to reach Melbourne.

In approaching Melbourne, our captain invited us to contemplate the gorgeous view from our windows. We could see balloons floating over the bay, in skies of an incredibly rich palette of red, orange and pink colors; quite picturesque. Shortly after landing, I was busy speaking with immigration services. The lady turned out to be more interested In giving me advice on what to do in Cairns than examining my visa. Next thing I know, I am driving down the highway headed towards downtown Melbourne and its beautiful skyscrapers. Bikes were all over the place, as well as small cafés, shorts and t-shirts were the norm. The weather was delicious; I was already charmed.

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