Like Tom Hanks, But Prettier
Posted on June 17, 2018
I was supposed to leave New Zealand a few days after Queenstown, but as it had always been my dream to go, I felt like I was leaving too soon. I wish I could have properly lived in Auckland or Wellington for a while, maybe even Queenstown or Wanaka, and pretend to be a real Kiwi. I would never succeed in doing that, though, the accent is way too difficult; speaking of which, I can’t believe I thought my Kiwi I had met in London a few years back was the love of my life – with thàt accent? Must have been the vodka. Anyway, I settled for rescheduling my previously hastily booked return flight to about a week later, and looked into seeing a real rugby game in Wellington. I let the Rugby Lads know they weren’t rid of me then after all, and started planning for my trip back up – that’s just a saying, I don’t plan things, really.
I met some absolutely beautiful people along the way, and I couldn’t be more thankful for all the great times we’ve spent together. Back in Wellington, I ticked off seeing a real life New Zealand rugby game – still don’t understand it, but it was great fun –, as well as seeing a guy down a whole bottle of wine in one go without coming up for air – same night, actually. I say ‘a guy’ because I don’t want to admit it’s Rose Tattoo; my Mum still likes to believe she raised me better than that (you did, Mum, promise). You’ll be happy to know he then proceeded to devour an entire load of bread, and, more importantly, that he lived. ‘Legend’, ‘idiot’, it’s all the same, isn’t it.
A few days later, I found myself back on the bus, all alone this time. I left everyone behind in Wellington, as I made my way back up to Auckland in time for my flight back to Sydney. Somewhere in between being sad about leaving, and being happy I wouldn’t have to pretend the sweater I was wearing had been washed more than three times, I started to worry about the whole entering the country situation. Last time I tried to get into Australia, they didn’t wake me up on the plane to give me the little yellow form, which led to me frantically trying to fill it out at the customs desk. “Drugs? I don’t know, I’ve got some painkillers and sleeping pills. Grains? Do biscuits count? Soil? Oh my god, I live on a farm and they’re never going to let me in. Anything to declare? Oh dear lord I took the yoghurt from the plane! I’m trying to smuggle dairy into Australia! I’m going to end up like one of those losers on Border Patrol that has their suitcase spread all over the counter before getting a big fat rejection stamp on their foreheads!” Obviously, that is not how it played out at all, but I do get a bit dramatic. However, this time, my panic seemed a bit more valid: did my second year visa even come through? I did the work, filled out the application, paid another excruciating amount to file it, but had they approved it? Was I even allowed to have left the country? Am I going to get back in? Long story short: yeah, nah.
I called my darling friend in Sydney whose birthday I was supposed to attend the day after, and told her I might not make it because I was soon to find out if airports (like malls, supposedly) have tiny jails. She told me they weren’t going to put me in prison, especially if there are so many real criminals still out and about because of a lack of space in jail. Funny thought, though, I said, what if prison is so crowded – leaving no room for actual murderers and say, arsonists – because it’s full of people like me, trying to get into Australia without a valid visa?! A visa I should have been granted, nonetheless! Is this going to be a diplomatic riot? Am I going to be on Belgian telly? Is the Prime Minister going to call my Mother?! She told me to imagine what happened to Bridget Jones when she got stuck in Thailand, and even though that felt a little bit comforting at first, I was soon to point out the lack of a certain Mr. Darcy in my life. I mean, sure, I could be Bridget – the blonde hair, the bad dates, the trying to talk about how awful it is about Chechnya without even being able to locate it on a map, and of course, the co-dependent relationship with Ben & Jerry – but because of the lack of a Daniel, and especially a Mark, my ending up in jail wouldn’t be so movie montage glamourous. Since you’re reading this post now, it’s not really a spoiler to say that I’ve made it through just fine – or didn’t I, and do they just have WiFi in Tiny Australian Jail?!
I went to the airport about four hours in advance, hoping they would be able to sort something out. I tried checking in at one of the computer desks and was directed to the information desk. This is it, I thought. They might let me on the plane, but not back into the country, and I’d be doomed to roam Sydney airport forever. Like Tom Hanks, but prettier. Turns out they won’t even let you on the plane if you don’t have a valid travel document, so it wouldn’t even be roaming Sydney airport, I’d be stuck in Auckland Airport Limbo – which doesn’t even exist, because obviously I would be allowed to just leave and go back to my hostel, but where’s the fun in that. I wanted to go home, or at least be given the chance to try.
Thankfully, the Air New Zealand lady was an absolute gem. Did I cry and did she take pity on me? Maybe. Did I do a monologue on what it’s like to have to do farm work and then not even being able to use that hard earned second visa? You bet. She disappeared for quite a while, and when she came back, she told me she’d been on the phone with the Canberra Embassy. Linda, if you ever read this, you are a fucking rockstar. There wasn’t much the embassy could do unfortunately, but they did let me board the plane on a tourist visa I could get from the ticket office; this way I could sort out my shit from the comfort of my own home. No terminal wandering for me, after all. All that was left to do was not try and take yoghurt into the country this time, and I’d be just fine.