Getting Things Done

After a marathon session yesterday, I got through processing all my photos. However, the Internet connection here has been down for most of two days. I get 5-10 minutes of a slow connection here and there, but that’s it. So today, I’m sitting on about 200 photos which I have to upload to Flickr. I’m feeling sort of ripped off that I had to pay for wireless here (and it costs more than using one of their computers. I don’t understand that one) and I haven’t been able to really use it the last three days.

Now I can now start, you know, going out and actually seeing Melbourne and posting some of the articles I’ve been sitting on for the last month.

I did get an automated reply from the Consulate. The automated reply took four days and told me it would take 5 business days to reply to my email. Clearly, there is no sort of incentive pay in the state department. For all I know, the date for an appointment is even further out. Factor in the email response time, and it take two weeks just to get an appointment to start the process of renewing a passport.

I took time in Melbourne to get this done. I really hope I don’t have to sit in a city for two weeks to wait for my passport somewhere else now.

Now I can look into replacing my bags. My current bag set up is horrible and something needs to be done.

I also need to start thinking of actually exploring Australia. Getting a car, mapping a real route, and having a plan.

Passport Blues

Still no reply from the US Consulate in Melbourne after four days. The consulate is structured such that you cannot actually talk to any Americans if you go to the consulate. The lobby is a security area and they wont let you in unless you have an appointment already. The only way I can get an appointment is to lie on the form or get a reply from my email. I looked into lying on the form and the earliest I can get an appointment is on Feb. 28……10 days from now.

The site says I should mail my application in, but I’m worried that if they can’t reply to an email, if I put my passport into an envelope I’ll never see it again and I’ll be in deeper shit than I am right now. Also, I wont have a return address. If they can’t even schedule a 10 min appointment for 10 days, I’m not sure how they can process a passport in the time I’ll be in Melbourne.

My other option is to try the consulate in Sydney or the Embassy in Canaberra (both of which I’m visiting), or try another country entirely. I know from talking to staff in the Solomon Islands that the Papua New Guinea Embassy does do passports and my guess is that they aren’t that busy. If not that, I could try Singapore.

The key is to get it renewed before April 20. Many countries wont let you in if your passport has less than six months left. Mine expires in October, so that is my hard deadline.

How many people who travel require passport renewals? How often do Americans in Australia require it? They are good for 10 years. Something this simple and done so infrequently shouldn’t be this difficult. When I went to the embassy in Manila, I was able to just go in, take a number, and see someone at a window. It was just like going to the DMV. While going to the DMV isn’t a pleasant experience, it beats the hell out of having to schedule an appointment to go to the DMV.

First Impressions of Melbourne

I’m plowing through my photos. If you take a look at my Flickr stream, you can seem I finished Sabah and Jakarta yesterday. I’m hoping to get everything else done today. I think everyone at this hostel thinks I’m weird because I sat in front of my computer most of yesterday.

The process of getting my passport renewed is much more complicated than it needs to be. I went to the US Consulate which is close to where I’m staying. They said I had to schedule an appointment to get my passport renewed. However, I couldn’t just schedule an appointment, I had to go online to schedule an appointment. The consulate website doesn’t let you schedule an appointment for a normal passport renewal, just for the oddball cases. So I sent an email which I haven’t gotten a reply to yet. (I have sent email to embassies and consulates in Fiji and the Solomon Islands as well. Never got a reply from them either).

So in addition to making it hard to even schedule an appointment, they wont give you the forms to fill out either. You have to print those off of pdf forms from the website. Getting the pdf isn’t a big deal, but finding a printer is a pain in the ass.

I know, just know, that if I can get an appointment and fill out the form correctly, something else will happen to screw this up. That is how much faith I have in bureaucracy.

The area around my hostel is very nice. I’m a block from the botanical garden, which is probably the nicest urban park I’ve ever seen. South of me is another park with six cricket ovals and just north of the Botanical Garden is Rod Laver Stadium where they host the Australian Open.

Melbourne seems expensive. This is probably a combination of three things: 1) I’m used to cheap prices the last two months, 2) Melbourne is a big city, and 3) The dollar has taken a big dump against the Australian dollar. Like in Canada, prices didn’t change to reflect the shift. Here, they might never shift because there isn’t the proximity or reliance on the US like there is in Canada.

I would really like to go see an Australian rules football match and/or a cricket match before I leave. I have no clue what the rules are to either sport, but it would be fun (so long as the cricket match isn’t one of those week long games).

Vacation From Vacation

I’ve started my Melbourne vacation from vacation. It has been a pretty productive first day. I got a new site up and running. It is called Where On Google Earth?. It is pretty simple. I put up an image from Google Earth and you guess where it is from.

Starting tomorrow, I’ll be going through my backlog of article I’ve intended to write as well as going through some of the photos which are sitting on my hard drive.

So far, I’m enjoying Australia, but it does seem expensive. The price of a 600ml bottle of Diet Coke (about 20oz) is A$3.50 (about US$3.25). That almost rivals the cost of Tahiti. It is about 3x the cost I’ve seen everywhere else. Other things don’t seem as expensive, but it is still on the high end of prices I’ve seen so far.

The internet here is reasonably fast. Something which I am taking full advantage of.

Tomorrow, in addition to photos, I’ll be going to the US Consulate in Melbourne to get my passport renewed. That should take about 2 weeks to process from what I’ve heard.

My Interesting Morning

So, I wake up this morning before dawn to check my email before my flight. I do what I do, grab my bags and get a cab. The cab driver doesn’t really speak English and points towards the government palace, makes a shooting action with his fingers and says “very bad, very bad”.

I get to the airport and there are a bunch of Australian troops there with their guns drawn. I didn’t really put the two together and just sort of sat and waited for the plane to load. There were no maintainace workers, no weather problems and no one seemed late. Nonetheless, the flight was 90 minutes late in taking off.

When we land in Darwin, we are met by some Australian police and they tell us that the President of East Timor was assassinated this morning.

I get to a computer a few minutes ago and find out he wasn’t killed. Him and the Prime Minister were both attacked. Someone mentioned something about a rebel leader who was out in the bush being killed last night, but I have heard no confirmation of that in the news.

I took some video yesterday of a protest or a march or something I saw on the streets of Dili. I have no idea if the two are linked.

Anyway, I’m safely in Darwin, Australia. Going to get something to eat and try to kill 10 hours until I go back to the airport. I’ll be sleeping in an airplane tonight.

New Zealand Help

It appears that I’ll be staying here till next Wednesday, then leaving for New Zealand for two weeks.

While I planned on visiting New Zealand, I didn’t plan on visiting this soon. As it turns out, this will probably work out for the best as I won’t need to make a return trip to New Zealand.

The problem is, I haven’t done much if any research on New Zealand. I have a week to figure out what I should see during my stay. I have two weeks but I could always stretch it out a bit.

I’m assuming I’ll have to rent a car, else getting around will be near impossible.

Here is what I need from you: What should I see in New Zealand? (the Lord of the Rings tour has already been suggested, thank you)

I know there are fjords and penguins on the South Island, but I don’t know where.

Any advice would be helpful. I am usually without the Internet and I don’t have an NZ guidebook.

*Oh, I have yet to take more than 2 photos on Rarotonga. Rainy and overcast.