Saturday, June 03, 2023

Polaris Pajamas or Paw Paws?

The processing power of my brain has gone numb, and I am lying in a Best Western bed across from Sydney’s Hyde Park, unable to compute what all I’ve seen over the last week. The volcano alone would have been enough, but the land diving had put me over the edge, and I can’t take any more input. At least, not yet.

How did I used to travel like this for months—even a year once—at a time? Everything is overwhelming and exciting, and it’s funny I used to also build in time for writing. Right now, I feel like a social media post is about my max, and I’m woefully behind even on that, because sleeping feels more essential than social media.

The sudden shift from Vanuatu to Australia is aggressive, like flying to New York from Haiti. I filled my water bottle from the hotel room tap and took a few tentative sips, then laughed at myself and gulped it all down.

I didn’t get to do everything I wanted to do in Vanuatu, and the plane being delayed by two days at the onset had thrown my whole itinerary off-kilter from the start. I certainly did not mean to visit Vanuatu twice in a week, and all my careful planning to save money went right out the window when I impulsively caught a flight to Brisbane to connect through New Caledonia to Vanuatu instead of wasting two whole vacation days at the Sydney Airport Holiday Inn. A friend once told me “Sometimes you just have to throw money at a problem,” and that is exactly what I did. I don’t expect to ever go back to Vanuatu or New Caledonia, and I sure wasn’t going to miss what I’d flown across the Pacific to see.

I’m going to rest for a while, and maybe I’ll drink more tap water. If I look out the window and swivel away from Hyde Park, I’ll see the former Sydney YWCA, where I was savaged by bedbugs in 2002. A friend is coming by later and we’ll get dinner. I’d love to tell him all about Vanuatu, but I’m not sure I can form coherent sentences yet.

“How was Vanuatu?”

“Great! Though they’d just had a cyclone after three years of covid lockdown, so prices were high and supplies were limited. My first day there I went to a café. I ordered a katsu chicken wrap with yam chips. After a while, the server came by and said they were out of sweet potato chips. I told him regular chips were fine. He said they were out of those too, and he brought me a menu. I pointed to the fruit listing, and asked if he had fruit. No fruit, he said. What do you have, I asked him. Mmmm was his response. Banana bread? No. A muffin? No. Did I want hash browns?”

Yes. Yes, I wanted hash browns.

Next, I stopped by a nicer place on the waterfront and ordered a smoothie. “We have no fruit.” “No pawpaws? No bananas?” “We have coconut juice or pineapple smoothie.”

Pineapple smoothie chaser after hash browns, the life of a glamorous traveler.

Or maybe I’ll just tell my friend about getting Polaris pajamas instead. As farfetched as this may sound, it’s easier to explain than Vanuatu.

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