Monday, July 14, 2008

Australia - On to Sydney

Qantas had cancelled our noon flight and placed us on a 9:25 AM flight from the international terminal. I figured that it had something to do with the 100,000 or so people flying into Sydney. What it meant is that we had to be at the airport much earlier and the bust would pick us up at 6:00 AM. That means getting up at 5 AM, and so on. I’d packed the night before so I was pretty much ready.

Down in the lobby I tried to use some of the internet time that I had purchased earlier in the week while the others trickled down, mingling with the other Lasallians staying at the Discovery Hotel. The bus arrived, we crammed onto the sidewalk to pass suitcases to the luggage compartment and found seats on the bus. Somewhere in that mix of things, we noticed that three of our guys were missing – the ones in one of the rooms as a group. Br. Peter, as I was told later, ran up to the room and banged on the door. A sleepy occupant opened it and his saw that they were all still sleeping. He shouted out: “Get up now! Pack in five minutes! Be downstairs in six! Move!” Needless to say, they went from 0 to 60 in about ten seconds, and seven or so minutes later were in the bus, half-awake and grumpy, but present.

At the airport, it took a bit of time to figure out exactly where to go. This was a domestic flight but we would have to go through the international terminal (customs, etc.). Okay, fine. Just one of those things on this trip. So we did that and sailed through customs (a special sticker on our ticket allowed for that) and then waited at the gate area. At one point, it was time for our morning prayer, so Paul (who was in charge of it today) had everyone sit in a circle on the floor and led the prayer, at a volume that we (and those in the gate area) could clearly hear. A group of the Vietnamese Youth at the same gate sat down to join us. It was a unique experience for me and an indication of the strong faith life of these young people, perfectly comfortable to pray in an international airport terminal, with people glancing at them over the tops of their newspapers. A couple of the guys felt compelled to take out the American flag and sing a couple of patriotic songs to boot. Generally, the group was as energetic as ever. Only Eric from our group wasn’t feeling well and trying to find a quiet place to lie down.

The plane we eventually entered was a 747. Apparently, with so many travelers, Qantas was using its 747 planes to move people domestically as well, but only the international terminal could handle the jetways. In Sydney, once we collected our luggage and had cleared customs, we waited inside of the international terminal under I walked around and found the Vietnamese group waiting in the bus area. We moved over there and joined them. An hour or so later, the bus arrived and we made our way to La Salle College in Bankstown where we were met by Br. John Pill and Br. Jerry Barrett who showed us around the place, including the classrooms where the students would stay (the room would include a small group of Lasallian Youth from Hong Kong) and the one where the Brothers would stay as a group. Most students would sleep in the gym, where the showers for the kids would be located. I had spoken with John earlier in the week about the possibility of snagging a room in the Brothers house, and fortuitous circumstances (he is the principal there and Owen Mason was going to unexpectedly gone for the week) allowed me to have one of the rooms. He is now my new best friend. All of the Brothers were welcome to come to the Brothers house for showers, food, relaxation, and anything else. I’m just glad to have a quiet room, even though I’ll forego the experience of sleeping on an air mattress in a sleeping bag with 14 of my Brothers from around the world. I’ll get over it.

Our group had an organizational meeting in the playing yard, after which the guys wanted me to take a picture of the way they had organized their “spaces” into cozy nooks, or “nests” as I called them. We had asked about places to eat, and the Bankstown Hotel had been recommended to us – a 15 minute walk into town from the school. Once most things had been settled, we made our way there and had a great meal. The place was set up so that you would order your food and drink at the bar, and pay for it there. You would pick up your drink at the bar and the food would be brought to you. There were a couple of large sharks in a tank at one end of the room and the monitors advertised feedings on Tuesdays and Fridays at 6 PM (probably slow times for the bar). As it was, we were pretty hunger ourselves and had a fine meal under the watchful eyes of the two sharks in the tank.

Then it was back to the school, where by now there were at least 150 other students settled in, and went to bed after some conversation, etc. in the living room with some of the other Brothers who were here. The Brothers don’t have heating in their house, so I shared the same temperature (very cold) that all the others in the place experienced. Does that count?

Pictures at