The birthday tour I planned to make and the one that I did make

I had planned a multi-city birthday tour in 2011. I made a booking for round-trip flights from February 24-27, 2011 to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. Later, I changed my mind about going home on the 27th and booked a flight from Kota Kinabalu to Singapore. Another booking was made from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The only leg I hadn’t booked was the flight home from KL to Manila and the accommodations. Am I glad I waited!

On December 2010, my sister’s family’s permanent residency application to Australia was granted. My brother-in-law left in January 2011 and my sister and her three kids were set to follow in April. I don’t know why I was the person requested to accompany them at that time, but it was because of this that I blew off my planned birthday tour and went to Western Australia instead.

I did get to stay in two hotels in Singapore (one of the cities I had planned to visit) for a few hours during layover. The hotel we stayed in coming from Manila is Goldkist Beach Resort, about 9.6 kilometers from Changi International Airport, chosen for its proximity to the aforementioned airport and its relatively less expensive rates. The rooms were spacious enough. Grey didn’t think highly of it, though, and said that there was a foul smell in the bathrooms. (I must say I didn’t smell it.)

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The kids did enjoy the nearby coastline. At this point, I have to give a little warning to others who may be similarly situated. If you’re not terribly used to walking and a skinny Chinese tells you a place is a short walking distance away, take a cab. We made a mistake of thinking that a skinny person’s 5-minute walk is the same distance as our 5-minute walk and got ourselves needlessly tired looking for the closest McDonald’s. Eventually, I told my sister and her kids to sit on a park bench while I make the rest of the journey.

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In Australia, some hours later, the first place we went to was — drum roll!  — McDonald’s.

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I had my first Aussie accent encounter the following day. We ate at KFC and I was feeding my then-3-year-old niece Mika. From a table across, a man seemed to be watching us. (The kids were noisy and messy so I chalked it up to that.) Our group and the man stood up to leave at the same time and he and I almost rubbed elbows by the door. He looked at me and said something I didn’t understand. I smiled and walked away. He walked towards the opposite direction.

About ten minutes later, I conked myself. I realized belatedly that the man had asked, “Is she your daughter?” and I, stupidly, just smiled. I must have looked like a freaking idiot! But it was too late to catch up to him and yell, “I do understand English!”

The trip from Perth to Eaton, where we stayed, was a long journey that would have been taxing had I not been super excited to be in a new place.

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The neighborhood (or neighbourhood, if you wish) at Hamilton Road was something I wasn’t used to. It was quiet and, save for the occasional dog barking at the house beside ours, I didn’t feel that a living thing existed anywhere but in the house we inhabited. My sister’s kids were noisy, of course, which made up for the lack of sounds coming from the other houses. It was way different from our noisy neighborhood back home, which was a refreshing change and good for a short holiday. But I would still eventually want to go home.

Some of them were friendly enough, though. One time, we were preparing to go to Perth and a man from the house across the road happened to be on his front yard. He smiled and waved at us and I waved back (because I was the one looking). Aussies from the supermarket, zoo, and practically anywhere would be the first to say hi. (No one actually said “G’day” to my dismay.) In fact, the one person I expected to be nice to me who wasn’t was another Filipino. We were in K-mart and she was busily berating her daughter in Tagalog and when I caught her eye, I smiled. She scowled back. Nice one, compatriot! You deserve that unruly kid of yours.

When we visited my brother-in-law’s cousin, I complained to her and her husband that I had yet to see a kangaroo. The husband went to the fridge, got a pack of meat and said, “Now, you’ve seen a kangaroo.” If that was Aussie humor (humour?), I needed a longer stay in that country to acclimatize.

It was mere days before I left for home that we were able to meet with a live kangaroo.

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I would have wanted to stay longer in that place if only for the fact that it was much colder and less humid than in my country, but all good things had to end.

Here was a booking I made but didn’t go to: Jakarta, Indonesia for June 5-9, 2011. We’ll see each other another time, Indonesia. I promise.

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