Four Years Down Under

In the summer of 1988, I was 23 years old.  I had finished my degree in Architectural Engineering, had a steady girlfriend, a great job, my own place…life was good.  My parents had me over for dinner and announced my dad was being transferred to Australia for 3 years with General Electric.  I was not invited.  It was not a rude uninvited, but a logistical not invited.  After all I was gone from the nest, time for me to move on……

university-of-melbourne-logo-297x300Doing some research I discovered Australia was a much socialized country.  I discovered I could go to college there and pursue a 4 year degree with minimal cost.  I knew that was an argument I could win and I did.

So I dumped my girlfriend, sold my car, got rid of all my belongings except for personal items and prepared to go Down Under.

The process to get residency visas was quite intense.  I was fingerprinted, probed, background check by the FBI and stacks of paper work.  At the end of the process I was given permanent residency in Australia.

In February of 1989, we boarded our first of several flights in Nashville, Tennessee.  Our first stop was the Dallas-Fort Worth airport for a 2 hour layover, then a 4 hour flight to Los Angeles.  Arriving in LA we had a 4 hour layover which was quite boring.  As the time got closer for our departure to Honolulu we made our way to the gate where I got my first close-up view of a Qantas 747.  Immediately my mind went to how does something this size get off the ground?  We finally boarded and inside the plane my mind went to how does something this size get off the ground?  Starting at the side there were 3 seats, an aisle, 6 center seats, an aisle and 3 more seats.  I had been in smaller theaters.  Amazingly the plane got off the ground and I found myself in Hawaii at 2:00AM.

Qantas 747
Qantas 747

Landing in Honolulu was rather nerve-racking as the runway is built out into the ocean.  This large building with wings was dropping altitude on its approach and looking out the window I could see the ocean and Hawaii in the distance.  Well the ocean kept getting closer and closer as we kept descending and kept descending.  I started getting nervous as the water got closer and closer.  Just about the time I started to wonder how cold the water was going to be, a runway appeared below us and we made a very smooth landing.

At the gate we had to deplane for 2 hours via a rolling stair which is a lot of steps getting off a 747.  I recall the humidity and warmth as I exited the plane was quite palatable and there were palm trees everywhere.  Paradise for 2 hours.

The next leg of the journey to Sydney was 9 hours…..Oh boy!  The only redeeming value was that Qantas serves free alcohol.  So I settled with several adult beverages, a movie and a nap.

Now somewhere between Honolulu and Sydney something went way wrong with my inner ears and I still suffer effects to this day.  We, again, deplaned for a 2 hour layover.  In the waiting area I developed severe vertigo and could not stand up.  My dad had to almost carry me back on the plane.  I was feeling reasonable for the hour flight to Melbourne.

After 23 hours of travel we finally arrived in Melbourne Australia.  When I got up to get off the plane I almost fell over and they ended up getting a wheel chair for me.  So there I was being wheeled through immigration and then customs at start of an awesome new journey.

Melbourne, Austalia
Melbourne, Austalia

It was about a 45 minute taxi ride through the city of Melbourne to our new home in Brighton Beach, south of the city.  I was not feeling well and the whole trip was very surreal from the G’day greetings we got at the airport, the steering wheel in the cab on the wrong side and that it was February and about 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

We arrived at the furnished company house about 2 blocks from the beach with only the luggage we had brought on the plane, 3 suitcases each.  The rest of our stuff and furniture was on a boat somewhere and would be 3 months before we saw it.  I spent the first few days lying in bed as I slowly got past the vertigo and dizziness.  I remember my first few outings were to the beach where I was able to confirm that many of the women did in fact not wear tops.  It was awesome!

Thus began my four years Down Under.  As I have time, I will post pictures and tell you about my many adventures.


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