We’ve been in Korea for the last couple of weeks for the World Scholar’s Cup Finals, and the day after the awards, we were informed (accidentally) that we were on the agenda for a teachers of selected schools of Australia conference on Thursday. (Basically, the Australian coach was like “So, we’ll see you Thursday at the conference!” And we’re like, “What conference?!”)
We spent the next day or so discussing who should represent the World Scholar’s Cup at the conference (we determined we need to have a presence there to get Australia excited about the competition next year…among other reasons), and somehow in the middle of it, it came up that I was the best person to go. Brent and Diana were really pushing for it. Brent had to get back home to teach his classes (pfftt – classes, schmasses), and Ross and Monica were going to stay in Korea for a few more days.
We didn’t really buy me the ticket till the night before. Daniel had reserved a ticket for himself, but that night, he was feeling really crappy (like, getting sick crappy), so we decided I would go. And hey, I’ve never been to Australia!
The next day, I flew from Seoul to Tokyo. When I got to Narita Airport, I went to check in for my Australia flight on Japan Airlines. When I presented my passport, the agent asked, “Do you have a visa?”
“…… what visa?!” I responded.
Turns out, you need something called an Electronic Travel Authority to enter Australia. Fortunately, you can apply for it online, and in 90% of the cases, it’s issued automatically. Unfortunately, I fell into the 10% whose application had to be submitted to the Australian Immigration Powers That Be for further review. Was I, unbeknownst to me, wanted for a crime in Australia?
In any case, the website asked me to check back in 12 hours. 12 hours?! My flight leaves in 5! With my blood pressure and cortisone levels rising at a rapid rate, I approach the JAL agent and let her know my situation. She seemed perplexed, as most passengers get their visas right away. I showed her the message on my computer, and told her I would just go ahead and check every few minutes or so to see if it had gone through.
Dejected, I sat back down, convinced I would never make it. A few minutes later, the JAL agent came up to me asked for my passport and request number (the one the Australian website sends so you can check your visa status). Then she disappears for a couple of minutes, and comes back to tell me her system shows that I’ve been issued a visa. I refresh the website, and it indeed says I had been cleared. YAY!
The flight to Australia was quite uneventful. It left at around 8:30pm, so we got dinner shortly after leaving. The plane was empty – I think everyone got their own row. I had 4 seats all to myself, and the armrests came up. Who needs business class?
I picked up the rental car, and drove to the hotel.
Driving was interesting. I think the day would have been a lot less stressful if I didn’t have to drive. The driver’s seat is on the right side of the car, and people drive on the left side of the road. It was really hard getting used to.
After getting to the hotel and taking a shower, I called the conference location, which turns out to be a manor in the middle of nowhere (seriously, the directions were like, “Turn left at the clock tower.” When I asked if there was a street name, the answer was no. When I asked for an address, they couldn’t give me one.)
*sigh* Time to hop in my car and brave the strange topsy-turvy streets (Monique, if you’re reading this, don’t laugh – you’ll see what I mean when you’re in Milan). The manor was FAR – two and a half hours, and every one of those required lots of brainpower to not drift too far to the left, or over-correct and head into oncoming traffic – both of which happened a couple of times going there and coming back. Matters were not helped by the fact that it was pouring rain.
When I got to the conference, I met the coordinators, who were just so nice and lovely – they thanked me for coming, fed me, and let me talk to their administrators for half an hour. And gave me a bottle of wine as a thank-you for coming, which is proving interesting to transport home.
It got dark on my way home, but thankfully not before I got back on a main highway. I probably would have killed a cow or something. But I got back relatively safe and sound, but starving (I was talking too much during lunch to really each much). I found a nice Chinese restaurant close to the hotel (it was raining again), and had some beef noodle soup – perfect Chinese comfort food – and some fried yin2 si1 juan3.
Next day, I had a very frustrating encounter with the JAL agent in Australia (she was Australian, and according to Monique, you sort of have to be really rude back in Australia to get anything done, which is opposite of America, where you just butter them up and be really nice – but I guess in Australia if you do that, they see you as a pushover….but then again, I’m finding that things are really…opposite…in Australia) who wouldn’t let me take my one carry-on and my one personal item onto the plane. So poor Daniel got an earful of me ranting to him on IM (ok, maybe it was an “eyeful”, but the innuendo just isn’t the same).
On the plane, I saw the Spiderwick Chronicles, which I really enjoyed, watched the Notebook again, and read “Dear John” (also by Nicholas Sparks – he’s one of the most formulaic writers I’ve ever read).
Ok I should run to catch my flight. Hope I get on!