Bleary-eyed and dazed I threw my backpack on the conveyor belt, my final hurdle before being let loose in Oz. After all, my passport had been stamped, I passed the sniffer dog test. This was easy.
I was ready for the big scanning machine, well mostly. I was ready to sleep. I’d left home on Tuesday, it was now Friday and it was pitch black – who knew it got dark so early here.
Confident, I handed in my passport and little arrivals card. My bags went through. They came out the other side. They sat there. I waited.
Needless to say I was growing slightly anxious watching the small group gathering. For once I wasn’t particularly happy about people talking about me.
My bags just sat idly. “I could just take them, but they might notice me,” I thought. I felt like saying “hello! I’m over here”.
I figured I better not. I’d just spent 23 hours on a plane, 13 of those squished in between two not so friendly strangers. I’d experienced morning turn into night which turned into evening – all very confusing.
I didn’t want to see another plane for a long time. I waited, lips sealed.
Eventually, and I mean eventually, a man towered over me: “These your bags?” (“No, I’ve just been standing here for fun all this time…”)
Gulp! My heart skipped a beat. Questions raced through my head (I had nothing illegal, I surely wasn’t illegal, unless… those damn travel sweets!). Just go with the flow I thought.
Interrogation time. He left no stone unturned. It was like one of those airport shows on telly, people brought in for questioning in an office. Only there was no office, just a table for everyone to see and this wasn’t television, it was me. I looked around for the You’ve Been Framed production crew – no joy.
I became a big deal. People stared, staff came over for a peek. My USB was sent anyway for inspection, it came back “clean”. Was I dreaming?
The questions didn’t stop. Who, where, when, why, why this, why that, why, why?
My brain was fried. “Just let it end,” I wished. The fear of having to fly home was becoming more like a reality and ever so slightly sickening.
Then came the travel sweets (surely not?). He paused. lifted them with his white gloves.
I waited. Nothing.
After what felt like a lifetime and a billion questions later he changed from taking things out to putting them back in. I rubbed my weary eyes. A good sign?
I stood, my mouth dry, my head pounding, exhausted, confused, unsure. Silence.
Welcome to Australia
“Thank you, you can go now. Enjoy your time in Australia.”
I hesitated. What?. No explanation. Who was I to argue. I picked up my bags and shuffled out to wait for my bus (I was getting good at that). I passed my new “best friends” feeling they knew a little more about me than I was comfy with.
I waited. I was on the other side of the world, I was tired (slight understatement), it was dark and warm and my bags had just been searched – why? I didn’t know but I did know it was time for bed.
After a few detours we arrived at the hostel, the entrance just around the corner. Relieved, I headed around. But slowly my happiness turned to fear as I stood before a closed lifeless hostel.
I stared at a locked door. Uh-oh, I have no idea where I am, the bus a distant memory. It’s late, it’s dark thoughts raced through my head. My backpack began to hurt, my eyelids drawing closed. What now? Mum?
I raised my hand to knock. It opened. Phew. “Ciara? It’s awful late…” My story unravelled, was this how all my Oz adventures would begin?