Sydney to Stanford

or: 8000 leagues over sea

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img0090.jpg (68109 bytes)img0100.jpg (130560 bytes)[Random pictures on this page] When I woke up I could not tell what weather was outside, other than it was bitter cold - all windows were more than just fogged, they were simply covered with water. It was sunny and so I could finish packing. Everything fit into the two bags and surprisingly there was even space left. I then wasted time reading National Geographic at the beach and shopping for some goodies for the flight. I swallowed two Whoppers (which are much better in Australia than in the US), and headed to return the car. I explained the attendant who was there to receive the car my wheel cap problems and he just laughed at me; as I proceeded to the main booth I was already the topic of the employees, they were making jokes about me stealing the cap from another vehicle and trying to get a refund. Very much to their surprise I had the receipt for $57, and so I didn't even have to scream or shout, simply mentioning that charging me for a spontaneously disintegrating car was grotesque and I was given an appropriate discount. Finally, they were able to transfer the charge onto my AmEx card, which worked ever since the first day, and so I got even my Delta miles - what more can you ask for? (a free car, of course, and cheaper gas.)

NNimg0020.jpg (38542 bytes)img0021.jpg (69055 bytes)I had three hours of time waiting for my flight; I exchanged A$ to US$, and then went to the souvenir shop to look for the forgotten kangaroo sign - of course I had no more A$ then. Worse, they also had a beach towel in the colors of the Australian flag - if there was something I was looking for all the time, this was it - I checked for it in every single tourist shop en route, with no luck, and now they had it at the airport - for mere $45, more than I spent on all souvenirs altogether. A brief reality check brought to my attention that the simple Australian flag, sold right in the next pile, cost $35 while it cost $7 in the city yesterday. It was no longer about being able to afford it but rather whether to feed the sharks. So I was without a beach towel and kangaroo sign, but I am coming back some years down the road for another chance, after all.

NNimg0003.jpg (150874 bytes)NNimg0015.jpg (155287 bytes)With a delay of only 30 minutes we boarded the plane. Prior to this, the Air New Zealand check-in supervisor told me that I can not have my photo gear as carryon, because it is too heavy. While the overhead bin limit for the 747 is 90kg, they have a 5kg per piece limit; beats me how they ever want to use up the 90kg. For my backpack the balance said 18kg - it sure felt like more on my back. I argued that $15,000 in glass - some of which was not even mine - would be a rather bad idea in the cargo bay, and so they made me split it into two bags. There I was, with three items of carryon, and everyone looked at me as if I were from Mars. However, some passengers sitting nearby looked even more puzzled after the friendly voice from the speakers said "Qantas flight XX to Singapore and Jakarta - ahem - unfortunately, this flight will not be leaving for quite a while. We will keep you posted". That was it, end of announcement.

img0062.jpg (135633 bytes)img0023.jpg (79733 bytes)The airplane was quite full today, so at least they are profitable. It was again a 747-400, but the seats are different, less comfortable, but with the same leg room, which is good. We arrived about 1hr delayed at LAX, and so I had to rush through immigration and customs in record time. While I made it quite comfortably to the United terminal, one of my suitcases did not make the trip with me, because United misplaced it again and it came on a later flight the same afternoon. This is the 2nd time that United does this to me, and the 5th time that they screwed up - often bigtime - I think they had their chances.

At home I was expected by a pile of mail, even more email, and a house full of broken computers, including mine. In other words, back to reality :-)

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