Archive for Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Vicarious pleasure in following brother’s trip

February 13, 2008

On a day when the wind whipped and the snow danced in Kansas, my brother and his wife boarded a plane for the warm climes of Australia. Stuck behind in three-foot-high snowdrifts, the best I can do is trek along with them through their itinerary.

My brother-in-law in Idaho and I are mapping their trip; he Googles and I read "The Insider's Guide to Australia" by Robert Wilson. It is in my nature to read and digest; it is in my brother-in-law's nature to research and didact. Our comparative notes should be interesting.

I traveled to Australia in the late 80s to present a paper, breaking up the journey with a two-day layover in Hawaii. It was there that we were able to see the U.S.S. Arizona and for the first time honor Eddie Olson, a hometown boy who served and remains on the ship. I grew up spending sunny days reading on the bench that marks his empty grave; was astounded to realize when I visited the bridge above his ship that I had suddenly and without notice bypassed him in the intervening years. He was still a boy; I had grown into an adult.

Hawaii was, for me, a place of sand, palm trees and pineapples that made my mouth sore when we ate them. I was glad to leave there and fly onto Australia. We flew into Sydney; my brother landed in Melbourne. Our view was of the Harbor and the Opera House; his the flat skyline of a city situated on the Yarra River, bordered on the east by the Dandenong Range and Phillips Bay.

Over the years, Melbourne and Sydney have vied for first place in prominence; in the late 80s Sydney gained the population crown as well as the financial and business hub of Australia. Because of widespread immigration, Melbourne has become a cosmopolitan City, with a wide variety of European and Asia flavors, including restaurants. My bet is that my brother will try more than just a few of them.

My memory of Australians is that they are a hearty, friendly people. Because our seasons are reversed, while we suffer chilblains, my brother will face the bright, hot sun. The Wallaroo hats I found for them arrived, in the snow, on my porch, the day after they left.

I worry that he will get sunburned; I should worry that he will overeat.

Until he comes home, I will chart his journey. Today Melbourne and Phillips Island; in a few days, Sydney and the Opera House, with a short stop in Cairns where it is said that fisherman meet to try their hand at catching the Marlin that migrate south along the ocean side of the Great Barrier Reef. My brother the fisherman? never. World traveler? just beginning.

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