From Austin to Oz. I'm planning to flee the country for 7 months - working for 4 and traveling for 3.
Departure = 03 Sep 2003 / Re-entry = 03 Apr 2004

Friday, December 19, 2003

This is Brisbane

Within the past two days, I've observed a few things that remind me of
my geographic location on this rather small bluegreen marble.

Yesterday, I went to the Department of Immigration to get a tourist
visa to tack on 3 more months' stay here in Australia. My work visa
expires on 04 Jan 04 (a Sunday) and the Brisbane office of the Dept. of
Immi. will be closed for the holidays from the next two weeks. So,
rather then put it off at the last minute, I went down to get it done
and out of the way. To my surprise, I was surrounded by a waiting room
full of Asians from India to Japan. And, a few Norwegians. Among
others. (If I had walked into the San Antonio office of the US
Immigration & Naturalization Service / INS, the room would have been
full of Mexicans. Just Mexicans. Maybe a Canadian or two.)

I dressed rather smartly for the visit to the office and had a strong
feeling that I overdressed once I arrived. (I felt like the time that
Priscila and I wore our best party clothes to Winston the PugDawg's
first birthday party only to find that everyone else was dressed
Austin-style: shorts, t-shirts, and sandals. Yes, yes, I KNOW that we
were going to a DOG'S birthday party, but I was raised as Latino,
dressing up for everything.) Having heard absolutely ridiculous and
inane stories about friends who had to visit the US INS for whatever
reason, I prepared myself clothing-wise and mentally to defend myself
knightly against the Aussie public service immigration dragons that
feast on foreigners for a tea-time snack.

After only a 45-minute wait, my number D331 was called. Five minutes
and A$195 later, I had a 3-month tourist visa. Just like that. No
drama. No worries. Mouth agape, I say "who-o-oa", Keanu Reeves-style.

Walking back to my bicycle, I licked the window (umm... "window
shopped") at a rock store. As I was ocularly wandering over the
polished stones, a Buddhist monk dressed in a bright saffron robe
walked out of the shop. Probably Thai. Just another person on the

That was yesterday. Today, biking back from my shift for a Christmas
banquet, I rode down Adelaide Street and hear a very distinctive sound
emanating from St. Stephan's Cathedral. It sounded like, neah, it
could be, but maybe it was, possibly, gotta check. I popped into the
church parking lot, looked around, tried to pinpoint the sound in all
directions, couldn't locate it -- then, I looked UP. And, on the
rooftop of the adjacent 8-story building, lo and behold, I found the
source among all the dancing and drinking. BAGPIPES! Some company had
a bagpipe troop playing for their Christmas party! Well, I shouldn't
be surprised with all the Scottish immigration to Brisbane, ay?

Sometimes, non-geographic markers remind you where you are.


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