Seasick on the Reef

Jessy and I (after getting off the boat)

When I was a child, one of my favorite books was Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  It was a delightfully relatable story about a little boy who went to sleep with gum in his mouth and woke up with gum in his hair. The rest of Alexander’s day continues in a series of unfortunate events of which he remains the victim. Throughout his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, Alexander repeatedly tells his mother that he wants to move to Australia, where, supposedly, nothing bad ever happens.

By the end of his day, Alexander’s mother tells him the unwanted truth: that some days are like that, even in Australia.

Last week, I discovered that Alexander’s mother wasn’t lying.

After three gorgeously touristy days in Sydney with my friend Jessy (who had flown all the way from Indiana to spend two weeks with me), the two of us were itching to get on the train and head north to Queensland, where we hoped to bask in sunshine, swim with Nemo on the Great Barrier Reef, and sweat in a rainforest.

The only trick was we had to catch the train first. Now for someone who has spent the past five years catching trains in a big city, I figured I had this one covered. And like any gracious friend, Jessy trusted me.

Our train was set to leave from Sydney’s Central terminal at 7:15 a.m. We did our homework and planned to catch the 6:37 local train from Epping (where I’d been staying for the past 10 days), arriving at Central at 7:05—not a lot, but just enough time to catch our coach. To our luck, we arrived at the station several minutes early, and found ourselves on the 6:33 train instead. Perfect!

 Not quite.

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Front Row on 2010

My view of Sydney Harbor before the fireworks

I’ll never forget 8 a.m. on December 31, 1999 (precisely 16 hours before the ball dropped in Times Square). It was the moment the civilized world greeted the new millennium. I remember watching on the TV as the Sydney Harbor lit up with fireworks and a single word appeared on the Harbor Bridge—eternity. The story behind that word is quite fascinating (you can read about it here).

At that moment, I determined that someday I wanted to be there—to ring in some new year at Sydney Harbor, to watch the most spectacular fireworks in the whole world, and to beat everyone else in the world (with the obvious exception of New Zealand and a bunch of islands I’ve forgotten) to a new year. Two days ago, my wish came true. Only I didn’t get to ring in a new year—I got to ring in a new decade.

[Side note: I think 2010 must be an exceptionally practical year. Think about it—“twenty ten” rolls off the tongue far more readily than “two thousand and nine.” And it’s two syllables shorter too.]

The best part was that I had a front seat view from a balcony at Balmain (not a mile from the famous Harbor Bridge). And it came with free glasses of wine, scrumptious desserts, and an unending supply of conversations with 50- to 60-year-olds whom I had never met before that day. All in all, a good combination.

Still, after 10 hours of that I was ready for the show to start.

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