Tuesday, May 17, 2016



            We were up at 4 a.m. to finish packing and check out of our resort hotel on Maui’s beautiful Ka’anapali Bay.  The drive back to Kahului was smooth – little traffic that time of the morning.  I only was lost once trying to find the right road to Maui’s main airport.  We checked the rental car back in at Alamo and caught a shuttle over to the airport.
            The people at the Hawaii Air service desk said that our bags would be checked through for our connecting flight to Australia.  We had $4.50 cups of Starbucks coffee (I may never get used to the high prices of everything in Hawaii!) while waiting for our B-117 to board.  It was a little hop of twenty minutes over to the main island of Oahu, landing at the local and commuter flights terminal of the Honolulu Airport.  This is where all the flights from the different islands in the Hawaiian chain land and depart and it is a busy place.  We took a shuttle bus over to the main terminal and out to the international wing to board our Qantas flight to Sydney.
            Flying first class on Qantas is highly recommended!  There is great food and drink with impeccable service. But the best part of Qantas 1st-class is very comfortable and roomy seats that actually can recline into beds if you want to sleep.  I don’t sleep on planes much, so I read a book, did some puzzles, watched some TV and a movie – all designed to take up time on the 10-hour flight to Australia.
            The flight from Hawaii to Australia also takes you across the International Dateline.  So, we left Honolulu in the late morning of Saturday, January 23, flew southerly across the Pacific Ocean for ten hours and arrived in Sydney in the early evening of Sunday, January 24th.  You loose an entire day on the calendar while on the flight, but don’t worry we will have it returned on the flight back.
            Checking through customs at the Sydney Airport is a breeze as we had our entry visa to the country arranged before we left on the trip.  As we rolled our luggage outside of the main terminal building, we were greeted by a warm summer evening. Remember that we also had crossed the equator on our flight and have plunged deep into the Southern Hemisphere where it is now mid-summer.  Sandy and her children Isobel (Izzy) and Jamie were waiting for us and drove us back to their house in Kingsford, an eastern suburb of Sydney.
            Some of the readers of this column will remember that Sandy Mak was an exchange student from Malaysia who lived with us during the 1990-91 school year.  She became like a daughter to us and we have kept in close contact ever since.  When she married David McManus in Scotland in 2005, we were at the wedding.  Most recently, we visited Sandy and her family in Sydney in 2010.
            Sandy was going to college at the University of South Wales (UNSW) when we first visited her in Australia in 1997.  She was living with her younger sister Wendy at the time.  Wendy was finishing up her high school education then, while Sandy’s twin sister, Cindy was attending medical school not far away in Sydney.  All three sisters still call the Sydney area home as does their mother, Julie.
            When we arrived at the house in Kingsford, David, Wendy and her husband Phil greeted us.  We met for the first time little Rory, Sandy and David’s youngest child, who would turn three in a few days.  We sat outside on the garden patio in the cool evening and caught up with everyone before crashing for a fitful night’s sleep.
            The next day, Sandy drove the kids and us into downtown Sydney, which is a half-hour’s drive from their house.  Sandy is a partner in one of the top law firms in Sydney and had a little office work to catch up with.  She took the kids with her to the law offices while we walked down to Sydney Harbor’s Circular Quay to look around.  We walked over to the Sydney Opera House to see what was happening and stopped at a dockside café for cups of “Tall Blacks” (Aussie coffee is amazingly delicious!) and afriand (a Belgian pastry that was quite good).  Circular Quay (pronounced “Key”) is an amazing place as all of the ferryboats, water taxis, and tour boats are constantly moving in and out of the six separate loading docks.  Circular Quay also serves as a station for the elevated trains and buses that serve the city.  We met Sandy and the children at the Sydney Museum, where we had some lunch and toured the exhibits.  Carolyn helped Sandy, Izzy, Jamie and Rory building things in the Lego Exhibit on the second floor.
            Back at the house, David prepared a supper of fresh prawns (huge Australian shrimp), scallops and calamari that we enjoyed out in the garden patio on the warm evening.  Carolyn gave the children presents from Hawaii and was soon reading to them from a Harry Potter book.  The children even warmed up to the old man from Wisconsin when the boys learned that we were all Minions fans (King Bob!). 
            The next day, January 26th, was Australia Day, which is like America’s 4th of July.  Everybody Down Under takes the holiday to celebrate the origins of Australia as an independent country.  Sandy drove Rory, James and us into Sydney for the festivities that were centered on Circular Quay.  She had booked passage on a tour boat to go out in the harbor and follow the Ferryboat Race. The race is an annual event on the holiday and attracts hundreds of boats to the harbor to follow along.  It was an amazing site!  The four racing ferryboats lined up near the Harbor Bridge, a cannon was fired from the nearby Rocks, and all of the boats in the race were off! 
Well almost all, as one of the ferryboats immediately broke down, so the other three were off.  All of the hundreds of other boats followed along with the racers, out past the Opera House, beyond Madam Macquarie’s Chair and past Fort Dennison Island. After racing towards the Pacific Ocean entrance to the harbor, the ferryboats, now rejoined by the one that had broken down, pivoted in the water and started on the homeward leg of the race back to Circular Quay. 
As the entire flotilla was approaching the busy docks, a noontime 21-gun salute of cannon were fired from up on the hill. As a military band played the Australian National Anthem, a convoy of jets flew overhead in formation, trailing streams of vapor behind.  A group of helicopters appeared and flew under the Harbor Bridge as Aborigines pounded on their dance drums on one side of the harbor.  What a sight to see!  Happy Australia Day!
Later that afternoon back at the house, preparations were under way for a birthday party for Rory, who would turn three on the following day.  David fired up the “Barbie” and grilled chicken, sausages, steaks and lamb chops.  Sandy’s Mom helped prepare food for the guests that included Cindy and her two small boys, Wendy & Phil, cousin Anna and her small boy and three other couples with small children.  There were ten children in all racing around the house and garden during the party.  Everyone brought a favorite salad or dessert that the adults enjoyed with fine Australian wines and craft beers.  It was a wonderful end to Australia Day!

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