Goodbye Australia

It was 5am in Melbourne, Victoria. My last month in this country was spent in lockdown. Melbourne will become the most locked down city in the world in the next couple months. Two visas had come and gone since I first landed in January 2020. But now it was time for me to leave Australia. My carry on luggage was packed. My souvenir gift to myself, new R.M. Williams boots, are in the box with me. The next 48 hours would be mostly full of flights and tears.

I said goodbye to Marizelle that cold morning in Melbourne and took the tram to the sky bus. From there I flew to Sydney. Before this I had called the Victorian government, New South Wales government, and the Australian government, to confirm I was allowed to leave one state in lock down, fly to another state in lockdown, and then leave the entire locked down country. Everyone said since I wasn’t a citizen I didn’t really need to follow the rules. Cool, it didn’t seem to be that way throughout the past two years but whatever. I landed in Sydney with my permit pass that no one checked and grabbed the bus to Bondi.

My flight to America was leaving at 11am the next day. I had the next 20 hours to hug my friends and take in the neighborhood that had been my home throughout the entire pandemic. I dropped by bags off at my friend Sloane’s apartment, grabbed a sandwich at the Shop, and headed for the beach. Sloane lived on Curlewis street. The street I stayed in for two weeks right when I arrived in Australia back in 2018. My Brazilian host introduced me to friends, food, and the Bondi experience.

Back in the present, I found Fernanda on the south hill and we lounged in the sun. Although Sydney had been in lockdown for the past 2 months Bondi still felt like Bondi. People drinking coffees and strolling on the promenade. I hugged Fernanda goodbye on Hall st, the street I had my first apartment on. For 6 months I lived with 3 Italians right in the central hub of Bondi Beach. Now in 2021, I rounded the corner and spent the rest of the afternoon with Lais. We caught up for hours and then it was time for me to say another goodbye and head to see my old roommates.

Martin came and got me on his moped and we drove under the moonlight to the place I lived for 10 months when the world stood still. Stefano, Josefina, Martin, and their new roommate welcomed me beautifully but it was really Zeus, Stefano’s dog, I missed most. We played Settlers of Catan which was our go to for most of lockdown. Around 2am it was time for me to head for the night. Martin drove me back and I said another goodbye.

I barely slept because I wanted to watch the sun rise one last time over Bondi Beach. As to be expected for me I woke up early and walked down there only for the cloud cover to hid the sun. Fitting as it felt more appropriate for the sun to be hiding. The grey sky connected to the grey blue waters. I watched the light brighten the grey to white and I knew it was time to leave officially.

Bondi Beach

From the apartment to the cab to the airport I barely remember the path but somehow I was standing there in front of the flight attendant checking in for my flight. She asks for my name and my passport. I hand it over unable to speak. She asks me if I am leaving and heading home. I croak and say yes. Oh wow she says, “how long have you been here?”. Now I am really struggling, “almost 2 years” I literally cry to her now really unable to stop. She doesn’t know what to do now truly awkward because I am actually sobbing in front of her. She decided to do her job and stop talking confirming I am not only the last to check in but I am one of 11 people flying today.

I take the boarding passes and head through security. The airport is quiet and barely a couple people pass me. Through security and into the terminal I pass closed stores. Quiet and alone I take myself to the end of the terminal to board. Only my feet making a sound against the quiet closed doors around me. I wait at the gate staring out the window.

A TSA agent comes up to me and asks if someone has given me a sticker to confirm my passport yet. I show her because I don’t understand and she says she has to ask me a couple questions. I nod clearly unable to speak. She speaks super friendly and looks open to having a conversation but my answers are short.

She says “how long have you been in Australia?”

“2 years.”

She says “wow! where did you live while you where here?”


She says “beautiful! well, know that Bondi will always be here waiting for you.”

Quiet tears turn into steady tears.

She tells me I can board. I take my bags and passport and walk on the plane. The normally jam packed flight from Sydney to Los Angeles was empty. From 300 plus people to 11. Australians are not legally allowed to leave the country without a governmental exception. Hence the small numbers. Not only was my row empty, my aisle was empty, and my section was empty. I put down my bags and sobbed. The next 13 hours were spent between crying, blowing my nose, eating, staring out the window, and repeating.

I landed in Los Angeles 6am and walk to customs. Mask on, face shield over my eyes, I take the escalator down and see the sign “Welcome to the United States”. It’s been 20 months since I’ve been back, an entire pandemic has occurred, I was unsure what to expect.

Initial reactions remind me how diverse America is. Many languages float through my ears and I see things written in different languages on the walls. I grab my bags and walk from terminal 7 to my next terminal cursing the humidity of Los Angeles. My parents call me and try to kindly ask me how my flight was. I am still not taking the departure from Australia well so I say I am safe and here but don’t want to talk. More people than I have seen in literally years surround me. I haven’t been in a crowd since March 2020 and here I am within minutes overtaken.

I am waiting at my next gate with no social distancing. People physically touching me to get in line to board this plane. From my private international flight of 11 people to the general chaos of America really brought it all home. I was in a different world. Two more flights later and I arrive in Charleston Sc where I will spend the week with my family. I wait for my bag barely processing I am here. 3 flights and 24 hours later I am hugged by my siblings who I have not seen since for 21 months. I dry my face and smile for the first time, finally happy to be home.


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