Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Going back home…

After a month spent at the Uni, it was time for me to go home! I arrived early enough at the Sydney International Airport to check in my bags and roam around. At 12:30pm,I found this big kangaroo doll in one of the souvenir shops, so I decided to buy it, and some pasalubong for the family. Since I needed to be at the gate by 12:50, I thought I had 20 minutes to luxuriously check out the shops. I totally forgot that there was still the security checks for handluggage, and the usual stretch of floor space going to the gate!

True enough, this inexperienced traveler left the shops at 12:45, still relaxed that I had enough time. Especially since the announcement said that my flight was now boarding. Calmly, I queued for the immigration… then there was customs/quarantine counter… and then there was the x-ray machine! By the time I got out of the long line, the announcement board indicated that my flight was on its final call!

Then I started to get worried. But it became worse… The directions to the gates indicated that I was supposed to go to a gate midway to the other end of the building, which was an eight-minute walk away! I broke my gait and started to run… barely hearing the calls for passengers who were delaying their flights.

When I finally reached the gate, I was breathless from running (with the fear of being left behind). I was relieved to see that the passengers riding in economy were still queued. Apparently the business class and first class passengers were seated first. Whew! That was a relief!

I was more relieved to find out that the passengers being called over the speakers were for a different airline.

The flight to Manila was uneventful… I had to go over more data during the flight. When my computer’s battery finally died (thankfully less than an hour after the flight took off), I welcomed it as a chance to relax and enjoy the eight-hour ride.

Looking back at that experience on May 30, I felt like I ran a race in the airport. It was fun and exciting - NOW. And I have a good laugh every time I share the story to friends and relatives. But during that time, I was really scared and worried.

I’ve learned my lesson: no more shopping in airport Duty Free shops until I’ve cleared security and customs! Better yet, no shopping at airport… PERIOD.

The question is, will I remember it?

Finally seeing the university I’m enrolled in

My first reaction was… Whoa! this is huge! 

The University of Sydney is actually smaller than UPLB (the campus in which I studied in since pre-school). I was excited to see how the Sydney Uni campus looked. But I wasn’t prepared for the towering castles and grand buildings that made the school a tourist spot.

On my first few days there, I didn’t tour the campus. So on my first weekend, I started to check out the different buildings and gardens. My favourite building was the Main Quadrangle, which I think hosts the museums and the carillon of the university. It’s Gothic in architecture with so many gargoyles of lions and kangaroos. Then, inside the main quad, I found a huge garden… I felt like I was on set of a Harry Potter movie! Outside the main quad, there’s this big garden that led to Paramatta Road (which merges with the City Road leading to the Sydney central business district). Seeing students wearing graduation robes or high school uniforms further made me think that I was walking on Hogwarts.

Then, there’s the Wentworth Building, which can be reached by a footbridge over City Road. Since it’s supposed to be the Student Union Building, I was expecting the usual food stalls and the work areas that can be found in UPLB’s SU building. But I was wrong. This building hosted a coffee shop, banks, travel agencies, a clinic…

The cafeterias on campus are in a building called the Manning Bar… inside, it looked like an airport lounge with all the glass and stainless steel rails. Not a cozy place to eat (well, I was expecting the sotanghon to be hot… but it was cold! like a salad!) but a very near one to the chemistry building.

A most interesting spot in campus is the Grafitti Tunnel. Students who had things to express were free to spray the tunnel red. But sadly, the vandalism wasn’t limited to the tunnel. Many messages were written or sprayed on stairs, on walls, wherever there’s space.

The Sydney Uni Camperdown Campus dwarfs in comparison to the UPLB campus. But I like it just as much as I like UPLB.

Saturday, June 3, 2006

… Arriving in Sydney (2006)

The sky was clear and the air was crisp when the plane landed at the Kingsfordsmith International Terminal. This reminded me of my arrival at the Orlando International Airport sans the cold temperature. After a brief queue at the Customs gate, I started looking for the student KCPC had sent to fetch me from the airport. True enough, Dom had a placard with my name on it (because we didn’t know each other). After organising my stuff, we took a cab and went straight to the University of Sydney.

It was a tough day because I was adjusting to the temperature (to which I was complaining about two hours after I’d arrived and the time difference, and the food choices. At the end of the day, Dom helped me lug my stuff to Marion and Patrice's house (Newtown NSW).

Another adventure was beginning to unfold… this is an adventure!

Going to Sydney (2006)…

It was almost surreal… I had everything planned out. Tuesday was the teleconference with my supervisors. I’d plan the week out depending on what happens at that meeting. But roughly, the week looked like my last week harvesting in the farm, then starting the analysis of the samples… in other words, routine stuff.

That was until that fateful teleconference. While discussing further tests, the topic of going to Sydney, New South Wales was tackled. I was ready to hear that I was going there sometime late this year. But I was wrong… the final decision was that I was supposed to be there the following week! In the university, it’s a requirement of enrolment that I got a student visa. In essence, I could fly off and be there anytime I was required. I felt the earth close in on me because I was in shock. This turned into panic because there was so much needed to be done before I left: samples for analysis, the OJT turnover to a new supervisor, last minute experiments, sample preparations, getting airline tickets… the list went on and on in my head like flashing headlines. And I had only barely a week to prepare!

But as luck would have it, I couldn’t get onto a flight to Sydney until the first week of May. At first, I was elated because there was enough time to prepare stuff, and I could still go to Ilocos with my cousins. I finished all lab work just in time. But as the day drew nearer for my flight, I was getting sadder and sadder because I knew I was going to give up the Ilocos trip… the road trip from Vigan took 12 hours, and there’s a big chance that I’d arrive at home roughly 12 hours before my flight. There’s not enough time to take a rest or even prepare anything else. So, I gave the trip up the day before my cousins and sister left. But I was relieved because by deciding to stay behind, I gained a few days to prepare things and go to the different churches in Manila during the Holy Week.

Finally, the day came for me to depart from Manila. I still went to the lab in the morning to do some last minute packing and to say good bye to officemates. Then I was off the the airport.

At the airport, I hung around the Sampaguita Lounge (which is a bit off from the Transit Lounge) where there was an internet Wi-Fi access and a buffet of food (for a fee). I did some more work; time flew so fast, that I barely started working and it’s time to go to the boarding gate.

I felt really sad about leaving the Philippines, even if it’s just for a few weeks. Primarily because I was going to miss all the family activities planned out for May, and secondarily because the airplane ride was no longer a novelty. I was so excited the first two times I took international flights. But this time, it was no longer new to me. I missed the exciting feeling of riding in a plane. Plus, I was going to miss the house, the car, the cats… aside from my sister and all my relatives.

But once in the plane, all feelings of sadness went away to be replaced by the adrenaline rush of seeing a new place and examining the nooks and crannies of a new city. It was a prospect too hard to not be excited about, so I forgot all about my sadness.

The flight was almost eight hours long. And I just slept for two hours during the whole trip.