November 2008

Australian Toilets

A surprising large number of people have asked me whether the toilets really do flush in the opposite direction in the Southern Hemisphere, due to the Coriolis Effect. Well, the toilets I've seen in Australia don't swirl at all; there is a short but powerful swoosh of water that lasts only a second or two, with no rotation.

According to The Straight Dope, Snopes.com, and other authorities, the whole swirling-the-opposite-way thing is a myth. Any rotation of water in a toilet, bathtub, sink, etc. is due to previous motion of the water, or direction of a water jet, or shape of the bowl, or other mundane reasons.

But it is true that if you let go of something, it falls up into the air, because we're upside down. I never would have guessed that was true.

Expatriate

I've never been much of a traveler or a tourist. I don't get the thrill that others do from sightseeing or being away from home. But having said that, I've gotta say I'm a little disappointed with how not-foreign Adelaide, Australia is. I was hoping for a little adventure here on the opposite side of the world, but it's a lot like home. It's as adventurous as visiting Vancouver.

Of course, I'm not on vacation, and all I've seen of Australia so far is the office where I'm working, and some stuff within walking distance of the hotel. I'm hoping that next weekend I'll have a chance to see something outside the city.

I was flying over the Pacific on US Election Day, so I didn't get to vote or to watch what was going on. I caught a little coverage on CNN during my layover in Auckland. After arriving in Adelaide, it was straight to the office, but a couple of hours later, US networks started projecting the winner, and the Australians were all talking about it. All the Australians I've talked to are elated about the US election result. They don't understand the policy differences between the candidates or between the Democrat and Republican parties, but they are happy to see that America elected a black man to its highest office, and they are relieved that Bush's party will no longer be in power. I don't know what the media coverage is like back home, but over here it is overwhelmingly positive toward Obama, and there is hope that America will start being benevolent again.

My wife's been a trouper, complaining less than I expected about her new husband leaving her for three weeks on short notice. We're keeping in touch via Skype, instant messenger, text messages, and the occasional insanely-expensive phone call. Unfortunately, the timezone difference makes it difficult to keep in touch, as I'm sleeping during her day and vice versa. The only good time for a conversation during the week is when she's getting up at 5:30 AM her time and I've gotten back to the hotel at 9:00 PM my time.

Australia is a nice place, and the Australians are great people. But there's no place like home, and I look forward to getting back there.

Flying to Australia

Flying to Australia from the US is not a pleasant experience. It takes a long time. For me, it was a five-hour flight from Atlanta to San Francisco, then a fourteen-hour flight from San Francisco to Auckland, New Zealand, then another five-hour flight from Auckland to Adelaide, South Australia. Including the layovers, the trip took over thirty hours. It will be the same on the way back, but of course, I'll be a lot happier when I reach my destination then.

It's expensive, too. My business-class round-trip ticket was $15,000.

Lucky for me, I flew Air New Zealand. This is very nice, because their Business Premier-class travel is about as good as you can get without buying your own personal aircraft. I was expecting a typical business-class seat, which gives you a few extra inches of legroom, but Air New Zealand gives each business-class passenger a very comfortable recliner, an ottoman, and in-flight entertainment system. With the push of a button, the seat folds down forward and joins the ottoman to form a bed, so it's actually possible to get some restful sleep.

My colleagues who flew United were very jealous.