Friday, March 17, 2017

flying into yesterday

Today is the day that will not end.

I woke up at 3:30 AM in Sydney. Nancy and I then spent 9 hours on a flight to Hong Kong. (Roy is flying tomorrow.) Then it was almost 12 hours to Los Angeles and another three hours to Portland.

Add in the waiting time of about 11 hours, and you end up with a long day. And it is still not over. It is still Friday.

You may suspect I have lost my rudimentary arithmetic skills. And there is plenty of daily proof to substantiate that charge. But not today. I managed to eke 33 hours out of the day.

Of course, you are well ahead of me. Because I flew west over the international dateline, when it was 3:30 AM on Friday in Sydney, it was 9:30 AM Thursday in Portland. Somewhere in the Pacific, I flew into yesterday.

They say that traveling is broadening. But they also say falling in love is wonderful, and we all know the flaws in that logic. Whoever "they" are, they do not always get things right.

I do not subscribe to the Rotarian belief that "all people the world over are just the same" or "we all want the same things." We aren't. And we don't.

If that were true, I would have wasted a lot of money over the years traveling to meet people different from me in places that are quite obviously not the same as the place I left. Otherwise, I would not live in Mexico -- and I would not have traveled from Mexico to Hong Kong, Australia, and New Zealand.

If I had not left my house, I would never have eaten the exotic meals I had on my return flight from Hong Kong. For dinner: pork, lotus root, and octopus soup; braised beef shin and marinated jellyfish; braised pork ribs in abalone sauce, pak choy, and steamed jasmine rice -- and, of course, more caviar. Or for breakfast: minced pork and spinach congee, and pan-fried turnip cake with preserved meat.

I had never tried any of them before today, and they were quite good. None of that is served on taco row. And, if you turned up your nose at any of them without actually trying them, well, then, maybe people the world over really are not the same.

But common sense tells me people are different. And so are places.

For instance, I like Sydney, but I was not overly impressed with the place. Melbourne struck me as a far more liveavble city.

Nancy and Roy were convinced the rain took away from their initial impression of the city. That may have been true. When the sun briefly broke through, the harbors certainly could show their colors.

And, even in the rain at sunset, the Anzac bridge created its own eye of Sauron impression. And, yes, I know I am mixing my national similes.

The Australians have a rather annoying habit of abbreviating nouns by adding an "ee" sound at the end -- very similar to the same Mexican use of "ito" to juvenilize everything. In Australia, breakfast turns into "brekkie," sunglasses into "sunnies," and, of course, the ever popular barbecue into "barbie."

That verbal affectation bubbles up from a very genuine sense of humor. Most Australians seem to enjoy life in a way Americans have forgotten. Where else but Australia could you encounter a sign like this?

The sign was at the entrance to Sydney Wildlife -- one of those tourist-orented zoos tucked in with Madame Tussaud's and the aquarium. I have learned not to expect too much from these attractions. But I had come all the way to Australia, and I had yet to see any major fauna.

Well, I did. And some minor fauna, as well.

I live in an area of Mexico where butterflies are abundant all through the year. But they never cease to fascinate me. Especially, when they are presented in their own butterfly house habitat.

Even the frogs were a bit different. The green tree frog is greener than any other Kermit I have seen.

This frilled-neck lizard looked as if it ciould have been the third cousin to the dilophosaurus. At least, the ones depicted in Jurrasic Park -- if not in reality.

And no visit to a zoo would be complete without snakes. Australia has plenty of them, including this beauty, a diamond python. Unlike most dappled pythons, this one has bright yellow spots to replkicated sunshine diffused through jungle leaves. She is quite beautiful.

Kaitlyn, my neice, is a snake collector. I suspect she would consider this job to be practically perfect in every way. The snake the guide is holding is another diamond python, but not quite as pretty as the other.

But, we all know why tourists flock to exhibits like this. It is not for the lizards, spiders , and snakes. People want to see kangaroos.

And kangaroos there were. I personally found this yellow-footed rock wallaby interesting. Probably because it was small. But the markings gave it a rather distinguished look. Well, maybe other than that raccoon tail.

Even more than kangaroos, though, people come to Australian zoos to see one animal. The koala.

Wildlife Sydney makes quite a bit of its revenue from the Koalas. People pay a sizable sum to enter an enclosure and have their photographs taken with the koalas -- who are far more interested in snacking on the eucalyptus leaves than thjey are about interacting with humans.

But my favorite was not the koalas. Nor the kangaroos. Not even the pythons.

It was the saltwater crocodile. The one on display is the size of van. And, even though the signs try to debunk the man-eater myth ("more humans are killed by hoirses each year"), the crocodile's enclosure is specifically designed to show off his size and his power.

Guests are invited to enter a plexiglass bubble where the crocodile rests. For the lucky ones, and we were lucky, you can go eye-to-eye with a creature that could easily crush a human skull in a fraction of a second. It was an adrenalin rush to do it.

I will try to put together another summary or two of photographs I could not share earlier due to technological or editorial limitations.

But for the next two days, I am going to be enjoying myself in the wilds of Portland, Oregon before returning to Barra de Navidad.

I suspect Portland may even have a few tales to relate. Or I may just keep them to myself. 

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