Monday, August 6, 2012

Heading to Australia

Waiting to board our first flight in Seattle

Day One
Our flights from Seattle to Cairns have been spectacularly normal.  No delays, clear skies, civilized co-travelers and standard Qantas civility.  If I was tweeting I would use my 240 characters to say "it all went well."

But the devil is in the details.

More particularly, the Little Devil aka Wren who has been driving Frost and I crazy unless he has the iPad or iPhone and Candy.  At all other times he is invasively bored.  Booooooooored as in:

Putting a water bottle on top of the iPad when Frost is using it.
Kicking the seat in front.
whining loudly "IS IT HALF AN HOUR YET?"
Doing loud mental arithmetic on a loop for 15 minutes "It is 3 hours plus 14 hours it is 17 hours and how many hours it is 3 hours plus the Boss Flight for 14 hours it is 17 hours.. [Me: and the flight from Brisbane to Cairns:] I have DONE THAT… how many hours is it?  20.  BUT I HAVE DONE THAT.. it is 3 hours plus 14 hours…"

Wren did sleep well last night - from about midnight till 7am PST - snuggled with two pillows and a neck pillow (each boy bought one in LAX - I actually bought one for myself first and they both fought over it so I bought another and had none).  Frost slept well too - about the same hours.  The difference was that Wren does not find watching a screen particularly entertaining.  He likes to play with a game - interacting.  He had the iPad for about 3 hours interspersed with epic adventures to the plane bathroom and meals.

The Meals
Frost and I were vegetarians and sadly, there is no kid vegetarian, he did not find the food to his liking.  It was mainly sautéed vegetables in tomato sauce - the same thing for breakfast and dinner but breakfast came with beans and spinach in tomato sauce while dinner was zucchini beans and rice.  Wren liked his but couldn't really eat at midnight and only wanted chips and chocolate for breakfast.

I ate meals about every 4 hours around the clock and enjoyed everything,

Wren now has to pee urgently.

A peaceful moment.  A RARE moment.

On long haul flights you have to strike a balance between hydration and urination or ins and outs as they say in hospital.  Supermodels and celebrities asked for their international travel tips invariable go on about the need to drink a lot.  Let me tell you people, they are not traveling in economy class.  They are not seeing economy class bathrooms.

When you are in economy class you are sharing a tiny bathroom with about 50 people.  At the outset of the flight the bathroom is fine.  Its like eating a meal from a tupperware.  Its not luxury but it works fine.  Five hours in its like eating lunch from a tupperware you found in a downtown dumpster.  There are strange damp spots all over, the bowl is smeared like the maw of a well-used Porta-Potty, the sink won't drain so someone else's phlegm and toothpaste froth rises up towards you as you wash your hands (which you feel compelled to do rather vigorously).  The mysterious hole that is supposed to take the used hand-drying serviettes is constipated with the silver flap jammed open so you have to push hard to make it take one more and you keep telling yourself that the wet floor is from people splashing while hand washing at the sink.

And your kids go in barefoot.

The thing is, I don't understand why I have to pee so much if I am really so dehydrated by the cabin pressure and low humidity?  If my body has been leached of liquid, surely my drinking is just topping up?  Why do I have to pee more?  Its just nonsensical.  On the decent into Brisbane I told the kids to hold it, we can go to a real bathroom on the ground.

"Great" Said Frost.

Interview with Frost about airplane toilets:  They are small.  The toilets are too loud.  The cold water won't stay on.  Etcetera.  I don't rank them too highly.

Interview with Wren about airplane toilet. "They are okay."

The Qantas Club
When we arrived in Brisbane, we had an hour to wait in the Domestic Terminal so we went to the Qantas Club where Mum had given us a guest pass.  The haughty lady at the front counter wanted to say "No" we couldn't come in and then said "I guess, even though it is expired" and then realized it was NOT.  She said we could.

For those who don't know, The Qantas Club is an airline club frequented by very frequent flyers, rich people and business people.  It is somewhat hushed, has free newspapers and buffet, internet, posh bathrooms and lots of leather lounge chairs set up for extended waiting in comfort.

Its not a child friendly place, culturally, although the amenities - a toaster that spits out delicious raisin toast, an automated pancake machine, fresh fruit yogurts, biscuits and unlimited juices - keep the kids happy.

Wren is fascinated by the Olympics.  Since he learned about the medals and the winners and the pathos of the losers something has gripped him.  Qantas is one of the Australian Team's Olympic Partners so the lounge was set up with a fake running track around the white 'marble' bar.  

he proceeded to start running laps around the painted track where people were staring at the hi-def live feed from the Velodrome.

I managed to corral him and Frost in a booth and go and retrieve food from the buffet but Wren kept chasing me, perhaps wondering whether I was going to run out on them and leave them in this foreign place to live in vegemite, greek yogurt and biscuits.

Frost started reading the Weekend Australian Olympic Supplement and informed us (loudly) that "CHINA IS WINNING THE OLYMPICS.  THEY ARE BEATING AMERICA"

(Why do my children have to talk so loudly?  Is the ability to whisper some kind of frontal brain development not acquired till later teens?)

I tried to explain that the Olympics were about individual excellence as much as national pride but he was sure its all about the medal tally and spent some time theorizing about how the medal count (of gold, silver, bronze) was used to rank nations.

Wren was jealous of Frost's focus and tried to kick the newspaper out of his hands but kicked the crockery instead and made a great discordant clatter followed by a melodramatic guilty look and "Uh oh!"

We have now been called to the final flight from Brisbane to Cairns.

"I wish there was sugar cane!" said Wren, looking out the window at the ocean below.
"That was in Hawaii" said Frost.

A woman in a seat ahead turned round.  "I live in Cairns" she said. "There are fields of sugar cane.  There is a sugar mill."

"YAY!!! WE CAN GET SUGAR CANE!" shouted Wren to Frost, me and the whole plane.

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