The international date line logically makes sense, but when you’re crossing it in the middle of the night, it seems only like some sort of cruel joke made to confuse and worry you. Making phone calls back home takes a great deal more math than it should, and for the first day or two you start to discuss your plans and have to stop and recalculate everything to make sure you’re still on track, like trying to sink a ship with a drunken and slightly crazy helmsman.
Chasing but never catching the sun, I spent some 18 hours of travelling without seeing daylight. The SFO international terminal was shockingly empty, which made both getting through security and getting drunk at the bar quick work. I passed the time empathizing with an Englishman over the fact that neither of us understood the appeal of baseball and scheming on the best ways to scam upgrades from the airlines. I had waffled on trying to weasle my way into business class, but finally decided to take my chances with my last seating assignment, which had optimistically put me in an empty row. After boarding I spent a tense 20 minutes watching the people file down the rows to their seats, mentally preparing to bargain with a potential new neighbor for row dominance. But it was all for nothing, as I lucked out and had three seats to myself for the duration. I would fly in relative comfort after all.
8 hours after some restless and somewhat cramped sleep, I woke up and realized that not only was there still no sign of daylight, but we were still only just over halfway there. This on top of the fact that I now was completely unsure what day it was, I decided that Rod Serling must have flown a lot before coming up with the Twilight Zone.
Landing in Sydney was actually quite comforting after my trip to Tokyo. From the moment I stepped off the plane I could read all the signs and ask people questions without desperately pantomiming what I hoped looked like a bus driver and not that I wanted to awkwardly do the twist. On the shuttle to the hotel, my first impression was actually similar to LA; the weather was brilliantly sunny, if a bit crisp for a late summer day. The bus wound through low urban sprawl intermingled with the occasional palm trees and other subtropical plants, the streets milled with fashionably-dressed people, and nobody seemed to want to walk more than they had to. I actually had a brief moment of disappointment at how NON-foreign it felt. I mean, I hadn’t even been accosted by a kangaroo or had koalas drop from the trees and methodically try to eat my brain.
I had narrowly avoided missing out on getting a room overlooking the harbor, and once I checked into my hotel and dramatically threw open the curtains, I was glad I’d made the change. The view was about as good as it gets in this city, looking straight out at the Opera House and the Sydney Bridge. But, the work day was just starting, so I took a last look, grabbed a quick shower, and got lost for about thirty minutes on the streets of Sydney looking for the office. After a full day of figuring out just what I was doing and catching up on what I’d not done back home, I grabbed some beers with some of the folks from the office, made my way back the hotel, and promptly passed out at a measly 7 PM, knowing tomorrow I’d be getting up far too early for a weekend.