In between Beijing and Melbourne, we spent a few days in Hong Kong to recharge. Hong Kong has become a bit of a Happy Place for both of us (it sure was for Cameron; being one of the first places he went to when he started traveling), and it’s our goal destination. We simply love it there. Since we’ve been to Hong Kong before and there are past entries about it, we’ll spare you the details.
Going to Australia was a big deal for us in our travel history: new continent, Southern Hemisphere…quite a few firsts. The other first that happened after the trip was over was my first misdelivered bag. We’ll get to that, I promise.
Since part of our time in Australia would involve business (job fair), we decided to stay put in Melbourne and not attempt anything else (like trying to go to Tasmania, or New Zealand, or Sydney, or something like that). In the end, we don’t regret it – there is so much of Melbourne we didn’t even get to see, we’re already trying to think how we’re going to plot our way back.
First off: Melbourne is delightful. We were a bit hesitant about going right in the middle of the summer, but we were blessed with amazing weather. We got there on New Year’s Eve and it was truly the only day of unbearable heat we had. Every other day was truly wonderful, so we went walking almost everywhere. Needless to say, simply being able to be outside and breathe the air was a huge plus to our time there.
To begin with, we went the Airbnb route (because Airbnb FTW) and stayed in a neighborhood called Richmond. If you’re familiar with Seattle, it’s a bit like Ballard, minus the blatant parking and prohibitively expensive condos. Instead, Richmond is filled with Victorian-ish houses with gardens, local designer shops, a variety of restaurants with outdoor seatings, bookstores (!) and the like. Very, very enjoyable! This is also where we spent New Year’s Eve – nothing crazy, yet one of the best ones I’ve had. We went to The Corner, which apparently is super iconic Melbourne (live music and rooftop bar), people watched, listened to some good music, had some brews (not impressed – sorry Australia, but America wins the craft beer war), watched the fireworks to ring the New Year, and walked home. For dinner? Souvlakis (because apparently Greeks are a thing in Australia and there are tons of Greek food places – we know so little about everywhere!!!!) from a late-night joint. Couple of movies at home, and dozing off by 12:30.
Next up we moved to the hotel where the job fair was taking place. It’s truly a beautiful hotel, super fancy and old British. It was also not very large, which was nice when it came to going to job interviews and being on time. We didn’t use a lot of the amenities, but it is right on the riverwalk, which led to a lot of walking and of course, lots to do around.
Melbourne is really quaint, it doesn’t quite feel like a big city and it’s very navigable. Public transport seems to be rather efficient – it’s easy to move around in trains, trams and the like. It also has a healthy amount of old and new – and speaking of healthy, it’s relatively easy to keep it healthy here, which is nice. Do not be fooled, though – Australia is expensive, so if you go, either plan ahead, depending on how thin your shoestring is, or prepare to take a hit on your bank account.
Our other favorite neighborhood: St. Kilda. Because water. While the weather was nice enough, it wasn’t nice enough to swim in the ocean. It was, however, windy enough to see people kiteboarding, which is always a nice flashback to the North Coast of the Dominican Republic. It’s an incredibly eclectic neighborhood with lots to see and do, including its own amusement park Coney Island style. We’re still trying to figure out if the ocean we were by was the South Indian Ocean or the Pacific, it seems like southeast Australia is a part where the two meet.
The other highlight of our visit to Australia was the Melbourne Zoo – mainly because we got to see several of the animals that we normally think about when we think about Australia: koalas (sadly napping), kangaroos, emus, wombats, etc. We also saw a platypus which Cameron was very excited about, and after I saw it, I was too – it’s an awesome mix of a duck and an otter (really). So this means they are very powerful swimmers!
Our job quest was successful in the end (not to the degree we expected, because in an ideal condition I would have gotten an actual teaching position vs. an internship) and we will spend the next two years in Jeju, Korea. It will definitely be interesting to live in an island again (albeit an island with 4 very defined seasons), be able to do more things outside, be by the water, have access to reliable fish and seafood at affordable prices, and learn some Korean (unlike Mandarin, Korean is much less intimidating – no tones and an actual alphabet with only 40 letters, versus the thousands of characters in Mandarin). Changes will include being in an all-girls school and being part of the minority population in faculty (most of the staff at our new school will be Canadian, Australian and New Zealanders. Will I find another Latino or Latina in Jeju? That remains to be seen. I’ll keep you posted. We are hoping we can go sometime in the spring to get a feel of things. If we do, you’ll get a sneak peek of what will be our new neck of the woods.
The one blemish on my travel record this trip brought was my bag being misdelivered/delivered late. Upon arriving in Shanghai, we were handed a piece of paper saying my bag was left behind in Australia and would “probably” be there next morning. “We will deliver it to your address”. Question 1: How is it possible to deliver one bag (Cameron’s) and not the other (mine)? We checked them in at the same. exact. time. But fine, we decided to trust the Pudong Airport people that my bag would get delivered.
Call #1: What time is my bag coming? Response: your bag is “maybe here” (????) This was around 9am. I was hoping I would get an approximate delivery time. No such luck.
Call #2: Where is my bag? Did it make it? Response: Can we confirm your address? Done. “Your bag “may be” in Terminal 1 (so there’s doubt. Hmmm.) “Maybe it will be delivered during dinnertime (most ambiguous timeframe ever, people have dinner at a variety of times after 4pm pretty much. But okay). “It depends on weather conditions”. What weather conditions? It’s not raining, or snowing, and there’s no low visibility problems. We live 20 minutes away from the airport. 23 tops, with traffic. This was around noon-1pm.
(Around 6pm I receive a call from someone speaking Chinese – of course – asking me God knows what. I assume it’s the luggage people trying to confirm my address, so I call the airport back)
Call #3: At what I thought was a reasonable time for “dinnertime” – I call and ask if anyone from luggage delivery is trying to call me to verify anything. “Can we confirm your address?” (Again). No response on where is my bag, just a vague “Let me call you back”. I’m starting to fear I will have to replace about half of my clothes.
Literally about 3 minutes later, my bag shows up.
Here is what I interpret happened:
My bag indeed made it in the morning. They were going to take their sweet time in delivering it. Whoever was at the end of the line at the airport was tired of me calling and decided to nag the delivery people so my bag would actually get delivered when promised.
This is the first time I have a bag incident in 25 years of travel. A little disappointed in Australia’s bag management there. I can’t be bothered to be disappointed about China’s mismanagement and poor customer service. TIC (This is China). At least there was a happy ending and we didn’t have to go back to the airport to pick it up.
Here are some pictures (mostly from my phone). Enjoy!
(Like 3 months after I actually typed this. Man I’m terrible).