Our bags are packed. We are (almost) ready to go. We fly home tomorrow. We will arrive on Thanksgiving afternoon. We ordered our Thanksgiving dinner while we were still in Melbourne, from a popular and hip restaurant in Salt Lake. Eli has graciously offered to pick it up so we will have a feast ready when we roll into town. (Thank you, Easy E! ❤️)
Five weeks plus one day ago, My husband, Dave, and I set out for our epic (work trip) adventure. We flew to England then Amsterdam (where Dave’s wallet remains), and then to Melbourne, Australia via Chicago and Los Angeles. On our Chicago to Los Angeles flight, I glanced at the lady sitting behind Dave. She was pilates-fit. Her forehead looked pressed like a starched shirt and plumped like all the best fillers LA can serve up. As I glanced, she glared, which forced me to abruptly move my head.
“Wait? That looks like Christopher Loyd, the guy from the “Back to the Future” movies.”
I turned my head back and quickly googled Christopher Lloyd and his wife, which I believe is his fifth wife. The woman sitting behind Dave looked exactly like her photo pictured in my search. It was Christopher Lloyd. Dave did his best to take a photo surreptitiously. As we exited the flight, Chris (that is what his wife called him) said, “Chris, will you grab my hat?” He did. We were inches from one another. I made eye contact. I smiled; he smiled back. Truth be told, if it had not been Christopher Lloyd, I would have started talking to him, but it just seems weird to make chitchat with a celebrity.
It has been a long, strange, happy, exhausting adventure. The time flew by and often I threatened to fly home:
“Dave, I think you should stay. I already looked at flights and it will only cost 65$ US to change my ticket. You will be fine!”
Dave was never thrilled that I wanted to go home. I wasn’t necessarily homesick. I was tired of traveling. I know. I am the one who is supposed to love, love, love travel, planes, lounges, foreign grocery stores, and exploring new destinations. I do. In fact, this trip has been largely wonderful.
One of the sources of my malaise was that, as soon as we landed in Melbourne, well actually like two days later, I was bitten by a completely insane flying Australian insect. Dave and I were walking to a new park. I was bitten between the Melbourne Women’s Hospital and Royal Park. I felt the sting immediately. I also noticed the accompanying and prompt blood blister that appeared on my arm. The blister was followed by swelling, big red bumps and strange red spots. I truly wanted to itch my arm right off my body.
Then I was assured,
“Beth, it’s inflammation. You know you are allergic to everything!”
It is true. I am allergic to a lot of things. I was not dead yet, so I assumed I would be ok.
That was until like three nights later. It was 1:03AM. I shot right out of bed grabbing my throat. I could not breathe.
“Dave, I cannot breathe!”
I tried to point to the location of my inhaler and any other medication I thought might help. Dave tried to help. We were a disoriented mess: two people in REM sleep, startled awake to a medical emergency. I could not catch my breath. I could see it in Dave’s face. He was scared. I was scared. In seconds I went from coughing uncontrollably to wheezing. I sounded like a crackly-chested seal. I asked Dave to put my Apple Watch on so he could check my oxygen levels. They were good, which gave me peace of mind.
I also knew what it was. I have asthma. I was having an asthma attack. Asthma has never woken me out of a sound sleep. I used my inhaler. Usually after two inhaler puffs I start to feel better. I was not feeling better. I could not catch my breath.
I asked Dave (repeatedly),
“Why am I having an asthma attack? We are in a hotel!”
Tears flooded my eyes. Then they covered my face. I looked at Dave and asked him to look at me. Then I said,
“I need you to hear this. I am really scared. I also want you to know that I have been in regular contact with Eli and have been struggling to get a hold of Kyle. A few hours ago Kyle messaged me. I am so glad. See, if I die tonight, I am glad for him that we connected.”
I am not trying to be dramatic to be dramatic. The dramatic moment and the fear Dave and I felt, stands all on its own.
Seriously, I have never felt the sustained loss of breath like I did right then. I tried to calm myself by sucking on a cough drop. I took some other drugs and noticed the prednisone my allergy doctor urged me to keep on deck:
“Beth, you travel all over the world. I would hate to see you suffer.” I settled on the couch and asked Dave to cue up Netflix. I followed with, “I will not sleep. I will be sitting upright watching a show.”
True to my word, I sat upright all night long. Every time my head dropped, I started coughing and then I would choke as I tried to catch my breath. It completely sucked. A few episodes in, I noticed that Dave slept with the door open in our “upgraded from a room to a suite” room.
“He will hear me. I will not die alone.” I was relieved. He tells me, “Beth, I did not sleep. Instead, I listened.”
The next morning we were exhausted. I was also feeling better. We decided to go to a pharmacy for more meds. On our way out of the hotel, I asked the lovely front desk person where the nearest hospital was in case I needed to make a visit. That is when they talked to me about allergy season:
“Well mate, it’s really bad this year. And we had a thunderstorm last night.” What did not compute to my northern hemisphere-brain is that it is spring here in Australia (and the rest of the Southern Hemisphere.)
“You have asthma? You need to be really careful this week. There have been warnings all over the news.” The front desk person stated.
“WHAT?” I said.
“Yes. They call it Thunderstorm Asthma. It is really bad.”
I really thought they were joking. I was like, “Thunderstorm Asthma. That sounds like something from Mad Max.”
“Beth, (because we were on a first name basis), you have to take it seriously. Please be careful. PEOPLE DIE!”
Hours later the hotel sent me a news article and that we were indeed visiting during the height of the apocalyptic phenomenon known as Thunderstorm Asthma, which involves high levels of grass pollen. And grass is the thing I am most allergic to. Oof! Yes. You read that correctly. In 2016, 3,400 Melbourne locals were hospitalized and ten people died. I decided to do all the things I do to calm down my inflammation response, which included asking our hotel for a non-feather blanket and foam pillows. After receiving approximately ten additional feather pillows and after speaking with the night time housekeeping dude, (who also assured me that “you know Covid is a hoax,)” well, after he spoke to his staff and I asked him if we could avoid the Covid conversations,
“I really like you. You have been good to us. Let’s just agree to disagree on all the Covid conspiracies.”
He reluctantly, yet sweetly complied and two foam pillows were delivered to our room.
I survived. We truly had a lovely time. We were in Melbourne for two weeks. While there we explored the Southern Coast. We also explored Melbourne. Every night we set a goal of walking another direction, to another park, museum or landmark. We loved the National Gallery, walking back and forth over all the bridges that cross the Yarra River, walking through the Docklands neighborhood at night, and peering down seeing beautiful graffiti line the ally way. Our favorite city grocery store (Woolworths) is located on the 2nd floor of the Southern Cross train station. And then the day we bailed on the rental car, we had the amazing adventure of learning that flying fox is just a cute word for toddler-sized fruit bats. We learned this because on the edge of Melbourne is Yarra Bend Park where 50,000 fruit bats gather and sleep in the trees. In the evening all the bats fly a few miles and hang in the trees at Melbourne’s Botanic gardens. We walked under for what seemed like miles underneath and near those bat filled trees. One fruit bat pooped inches from my head. It is the stuff of nightmares.
We connected with dear friends. One hosted us at their beautiful farm, which included wrangling and penning sheep, kissing a lama, petting horses and wrestling a gigantic piece of black netting over six large fruit trees to keep the birds out. Our other gave us a tour of their stylishly cool and very grown up office space.
Today we are in Sydney. We have been here for eight days. Sydney has been good to me and my reactive self. We enjoyed our favorite Messina gelato/sorbetto, our favorite Sunday ferry rides. This time we took the ferry to Watsons Bay where we visited Morton National Park and walked to Pointer Gap Lookout. We visited the Chau Chak Wing Museum at The University of Sydney, walked new neighborhoods and familiar one. We also discovered that are in town during the blooming of the vivid purple flowered Jacaranda trees, and found a groove that made Sydney feel right. In fact, just last night near Bondi Beach we enjoyed dinner hosted by Dave’s delightful French colleague and her delightful French partner, who both love to surf and stated,
“Beth, the way you say that, you get the timing. Are you sure you are not French?”
That was one of the best compliments I have ever received: two French lovers who relocated to Sydney told me, the American, that I remind them of their homeland. Dave chimed in,
“She is. Beth has family from France.”
Then they said they would protect me from Melbourne and its allergens next time we are here: “We will watch Beth.” I quickly interjected,
“Dave, I will connect with a Hemsworth brother until you return.” We all laughed. It did feel like home.
Thank you, Sydney! Dave and I have been staying in the lovely Darlinghurst neighborhood, which is east of Sydney’s Central Business District (CBD/downtown), if I have my coordinates correct. Each morning, wherever we are, I wake up with Dave and walk him to work. This is the first trip that I have done every single day, except on thunderstorm-asthma day. Today, I walked Dave down Darlinghurst Road, took a left on Williams, and walked down the big hill past the giant Coca Cola sign. Then as we did our usual diagonal walk through Hyde Park to Pitt Street, I was filled with melancholy.
“Dave, I knew this would happen and I am not sure you will believe me. I recognize I threatened to go home, especially during the allergy stuff, but come on, that is totally understandable, right? Today, I feel a little sad. I am not sure I am ready to go. I really like the rhythm. I have enjoyed my time here.”
True to our boys’ assessment,
“Mom, you love-hate everything!”
This trip has been no different. I love connecting with old friends. I hate thunderstorm asthma. I love where we are staying. I hate that it was not clean when we arrived. I am sad to leave. I am really excited to get back home. Five weeks is long. Flying from London to Melbourne is really long. Five weeks also flew by.
This evening Dave & I had dinner in our Darlinghurst neighborhood at an amazing place with an awesome name, #eatfuh. Yes, that is what it is called. We returned to our rental making plans for tomorrow’s flight. After stress eating 3 gluten free Hob Knobs I picked up in London, I felt a disturbance in the force. It took me another five minutes to realize my jacket was missing. Dave and I walked back to #eatfuh. As we stepped inside, our sweet waiter was holding something in his arms. It was my jacket. Thank you Sydney.
We arrived at the airport this morning. As fate, or Hollywood, would have it, I spotted another actor: Richard E. Grant.
I was like,
“Hey Dave, it’s that actor guy. I really like him. He looks better in person.”
And now we are waiting for our flight. ❤️ Until next time Australia.