I tried Vegemite with my toast and tea this morning. Guess I never really knew what it was, but I assumed since it was a national tradition and a cultural icon that it would be, I don’t know, edible. Turns out it’s a bilious thick brown spread made of leftover brewer’s yeast extract. The Australian girl in the youth hostel kitchen snickered when she saw me spread it on my bread nice and thick, because she’s seen a million Dumb Americans do this for the first time. They usually spit it out. I swallowed, because I knew she was watching, and because I told Sarah I would eat anything once, but…
Today in Australia, I ate a wood-fired kangaroo pizza, and the guilt was overwhelming. The kangaroo is a national symbol, for pete’s sake; it appears on the Australian coat of arms and on various currency—which made my lunch the equivalent of eating braised bald eagle in the States. I felt like Ted Nugent. And the pizza kind of sucked: a bland, soggy mess full of chewy ‘roo meat and pumpkin squash. Even Hannah rejected it, tossing scraps onto the floor from her high chair…
In the months leading up to this trip, Sarah planned everything we would bring, down to the last item: toys in Ziploc bags, books, various small stuffed beast, seven weeks of travel-sized formula packets, clothes for a child that would be growing at an alarming rate, et cetera. She was meticulous. But the morning we left for O’Hare, she decided at the last minute that we would not need the stroller.
We need it.
There are a zillion things to see and do in Sydney right now, and instead of doing any of them…
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Further proof that we are, in fact, in Australia: This morning, while taking a shower in the bathroom across the hall, I was mesmerized by the water going down the drain clockwise. Took my brain a moment to register that this was abnormal, and once I did, I got a little dizzy. It felt like the whole world was upside-down.
Apparently, the Clockwise In The Southern Hemisphere Thing is not always the case, as we have been taught to believe. But it was certainly true in the icky fourth-floor bathroom in the Footprints Youth Hostel Sydney. I suspect had something to do with all the backpacker fungus…
I wish I could say it was a conscious choice to stay at a grungy youth hostel like the one we picked in Sydney (“Yeah, man, we’re keeping it real on this trip"), but the truth was we didn’t have the money for anything better. Australia is ridiculously expensive, and this is a long trip, and I’m a journalist, and Sarah’s a teacher. That’s how we ended up at the Footprints Youth Hostel right downtown.
It honestly hadn’t occurred to me that we were too old for youth hostels until we checked in. Techno music blasted in the lobby, and the heavily pierced girl behind the desk took one look at us with our baby and our masses of Stuff, and tried not to smile…
The only thing worse than a baby on a plane is a sick baby on a plane, and that’s what we had. Hannah wailed and flailed and hacked like a septuagenarian on the first flight, basically all the way from Chicago to San Francisco. We thought maybe she had the croup, which involves a cough that sounds like a dog barking. Not a yippy dog, a Weimaraner or something; a big dog. A German shepherd. The thought of a 7,600-mile fight to Australia with a grumpy German shepherd seemed really stupid.
I tried to convince Sarah we should get a room in San Francisco for the night and start fresh in the morning. Was already thinking room service, maybe mozzarella sticks or Caesar salad, but then I got overruled…
The two of us were sitting in Pho Something or Other on Argyle Street when the idea popped into our heads. We’d been invited to Melbourne, Australia for Rhain’s wedding in a few months, and I wanted to go.
“Seems like an awful long way to go for just a wedding,” Sarah said.
“Come on. He’s my oldest friend.”
“Well, if we’re going all the way there, maybe we should turn it into a longer trip.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean you take your paternity leave and we blow it out.” She smiled. “If you could go anywhere in the world…”