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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Days 42-50: Adelaide to London via Sydney, Los Angeles, and Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.A.

Day 42 (over the International Date Line) was the Australia to America leg of our around-the-world journey, and Days 49-50 comprise America to England. We have circumnavigated the globe. In between we spent a week in Phoenix, and this gave me an opportunity not only to readjust to the northern hemisphere in not bad weather, but to consider. Could I live again in the country of my birth?

It felt inexpensive, especially after Australia, but that can be deceptive. There's the whole health care thing that we don't have to worry about in other countries, and I don't really know about the new alternatives. I haven't had any reason to research them. Then there's the gun shop around the corner from where my baby niece lives.

Arizona might not be the best example; it has pretty outdated laws, gay-wise, and not my favorite culture. Standing in line at the post office, I saw a gift display with lots of cutesy signs you can hang in or around your house. About half of these pictured and/or referred to firearms being used to shoot trespassers. To be fair, I didn't actually see any hanging around anyone's home.

Getting to America via the Pacific was a new one for me. The longest flight of our trip, Sydney to Los Angeles, went straight across the ocean, and took about 13 hours. Luckily it wasn't a full flight so we each had extra seats to stretch out in. I realized, as I watched the flight path, how little I knew of the geography of the South Pacific. I'd heard of some of the islands because my grandfathers were here during the Second World War. At one point we passed Christmas Island and the Ella Fitzgerald song of that name came into my head. Hers was the only carol we listened to over Christmas that actually seemed seasonal!

Because it was still Day 42, we arrived in LA "before" we'd even left Adelaide, never mind Sydney. It sure didn't feel like it, though. Happily, we had plenty of time for our connections--not a simple process as we first had to clear exit immigration in Australia, then entry into the United States in LA before starting all over again at another airline for our domestic connection. (We went through security three times on this trip--I am telling you, our last plane was safe from jam, A1 sauce, and my bag of change that a sick Transportation Safety Administration employee thought "looked like a hand grenade.")

There was not a long line to enter the U.S. (for citizens), and the Customs and Border Protection guy was incredibly chilled. "You guys family?" "We're a couple." "That works." Imagine if every American had such a laissez-faire attitude.

Pancakes. Strangers chatting to you and it seems normal. The whole "Hi, how are you?" routine with an employee before you can get anything done. Actually the last of these was very Australian too; I got quite used to it over six weeks, and am really going to miss it back here in the good old United Kingdom.

Somewhere by the time of our return flight to London, we had ceased to be security risks because we were mysteriously waved through "TSA Pre-check." This means not having to remove our shoes (something you don't have to do anywhere but U.S. or U.S.-bound flights in the first place). I'd also put so many miles on my frequent flyer card that I've become "Gold" and got extra leg room seats without asking for them. I never thought it would make any difference what class, as we're all on the same plane, but on a nine-hour flight little comforts make a difference.

I remember being on a street in Melbourne and seeing a rugby pub advertising the Six Nations. The Six Nations is the big rugby competition among England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, France, and Italy that must be starting right about now. It is funny to think of rugby fans half a world away watching Twickenham on TV, while we're here bemoaning the traffic.

So for now, so long, America. I miss sheets and blankets (rather than duvets), and washcloths as well as towels. I miss hearing Patty and Paddy pronounced exactly the same. I miss reports about how many degrees Fahrenheit it is going to be at the Super Bowl. Mostly, I miss family, as again it's family and friends that make a place worth going back to.

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