Friday, June 14, 2013

It ain't over til it's over (Australia, June 13-14, 2013)

Felt refueled after the relaxing weekend, only 2.5 days until my first trip to Australia. What could go wrong?

Hellish 2 days. Wednesday up at 4 because I need to get in a 10 mile run before work…. Every patient was late or ran over, fires to put out, a bizillion things to review/ sign in my inbox, emails, phone calls…. forget about lunch….haven’t packed yet... barely make it home with only 30 minutes left to pack. The plan is to travel 19 hours and 17 time zones from Wednesday red eye to Friday morning to Sydney, Saturday morning run a 24 hour race with a goal of my first sub-24 100 miles, then go to a neurology meeting for 5 days, fly to New Zealand for the weekend to run a marathon, then fly home and return to work the next day.

I make it to the airport by 4:40 for my 7 pm flight. Scan my passport. See agent it says. Wait in the Delta customer service line. Where is my visa, the agent asks. Blank look. Visa? I need a visa to go to Australia? Wha? It’s a fucking British commonwealth country, not like Argentina…. And there I just waited in a line at the airport and bought one there. No, he could not give me a boarding pass until I had a visa, but good news, I could get an instant e-visa on line.

So I pull out my laptop and go to the Australian government web site. I click a bunch of buttons and it takes several screens to get to e-Visa. I enter my info and… what? They cannot grant me a visa? They Delta airlines guy just shrugs his shoulders. The lady waiting in line next to me looks over. She is a flight attendant. Of course Australia requires a visa. You’ve got to check every country you go to, duh and too bad for you. I scan my laptop screen to try to figure out why. I think it is because my passport expires next month, and they require a passport that is good for at least 6 months. This makes no sense to me as I will only be there a week.

My heart stops. Then it starts racing. My mouth is suddenly parched. My head starts throbbing. I am a deer in the headlights as my week flashes in front of my eyes. I can’t think straight. I have an hour and a half until I have to board my flight. I can’t renew my passport now. I can’t find another ticket to Australia tomorrow and anyway I would miss my run. I can’t get a refund on my meeting tuition or my hotel room, or my flight to New Zealand. Maybe I should find a flight to New Zealand and skip the meeting. But if I miss my outgoing flight, my entire itinerary is nullified and I have to pay a change fee.

I scramble to find the number for the US embassy in New South Wales Australia. They do not answer questions about visas until after 1:30 pm, and it is only 10 am there. Every business is closed in the US now it’s after 5 pm. I start googling Australia visa. I click a link to a 24-hour 3rd party agency who helps facilitate visas. I pay the $40 fee. Within 5 minutes they tell me, I am granted a visa. It turns out, I had initially requested the wrong visa (they have a separate visa for short term visits called ETAs). Hallelujah! Trouble is, I can’t download the visa number because their website is only compatible with PCs, not macs. I call them. The guy is sorry, he has no registration number to give me, but he assures me my visa was approved and linked to my passport. The Delta airlines guy checks with his manager. They can’t let me on without the registration number. Another oh-well shrug, on to checking in the next lady. I now have less than 30 minutes to board my flight or lose my entire trip. Around and around in circles, on and on, denied denied. 5 minutes left. Give up? finally the Delta airlines guy rechecks with his manager, it finally went through. He checks my bag, I run to the security line, and get to my terminal to find… my flight is delayed. I only have a 1 hour layover at LAX and the flight is 25 minutes delayed. Even if I make the connection, will my bag? 

I think I'm awake (since really I just lost a day), but I'm not. So far Sydney is like a Toronto or Chicago but with and Seattle summer weather. Lots of ethnic diversity, I've never seen so many Chinese people, especially with Australian accents.

I know I should check out the Opera House or the Sydney Harbor Bridge or finding live Koalas and Kangaroos but I'm too damn greasy and tired. 

I spend half the day drinking and the other half scoping my route out to the Blacktown International Sportspartk where I will be looping a 400 m track for 24 hours. Walk to tram, take tram to Central station, 1 hour train ride to Rooty Hill,
oops got on wrong train, oops got off wrong platform, ask a couple of locals who look at me quizzically. I'm WALKING to the Sportspark from here? The one on the highway? It's only 25-30 min from train station to sportspark, but I'm sure it will suck in the dark tomorrow (it's winter in Australia), and it sure will such after running 24 hours.

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