Of Beginnings (Starting anew in Melbourne)
I squint when the lights come on and the captain’s voice booming over the loudspeaker, announcing that we’re about to touchdown at Melbourne Tullamarine International Airport. Already? My heart beats a little faster. The AirAsia flight was long, uneventful and uncomfortable, even for a pint-sized girl like me, but boredom had given way to fatigue and I’d slept the entire journey.
The harsh and crisp Antipodean light floods my vision as the lady sitting next to the window, pulls up the shutter. It’s been a while since I’ve stared into such blinding brightness, as Malaysia, despite its tropical weather and constant sun, has a lukewarm, and debris infused sunlight instead.
The plane touches down and slowly grinds to a halt. I get my belongings and stumble into the terminal corridor, my face pale and skin badly dehydrated. When I finally get to Immigration Control counter,a middle-aged Chinese looking Immigration Officer (I swear he was born in Malaysia) takes my passport and flicks through it. I mutter a ‘G’day’ but expect no response. His lined face, expressionless initially, starts to frown. The frowning drags on. Travellers at the other counters have had their passports stamped and waved away while I’m still standing and waiting for the process to be over. I begin to feel the weight of my daypack as the straps dig into my skin.
“Is there something wrong?” I squeak. A million thoughts rush through my brain, panic swelling in my chest.
Mr. Immigration Officer looks up from my passport and shrug. “No worries. Just stand aside and an Officer will attend to you.”
You request for me not to worry but you can’t stamp my passport? Nuh uh, Officer! I will not stand aside! I’ve stood and have given up 12 hours (not counting weeks of sleepless nights) of my life to secure this freaking visa. It was through my very blood, sweat and bucketsful of tears that I eventually find myself in front of the counter so even dear Sir, even if you were to detain me, cuff my wrists or point a gun to my head, I’m not going anywhere, thank you very much.
However, while I play mental pseudo-bravado and churn up thoughts of rebellion, in reality, I shuffle aside and fume away. Five light years later (five long minutes), a gruff looking ginger haired Officer approach me, take my passport and squint at it.
“You’re on a Working Holiday visa, yes?”
“Last I checked Sir, the answer is affirmative.”
“Stop being a smart ass or else I won’t let you in.
What’s your nationality?”
“Country of residence?”
“Malaysia. Duh!” Not always, I add mentally. But still. When I’m not traipsing the high seas and across the continents, looting from cargo ships and little kids, I’m generally your average Malaysian Chinese girl next door; where else would I reside?
“Right.” He seem to circle something on my arrival card. I tiptoe to see what was being circled and to my relief (my chargin at my own stupidity and carelessness), all these hoo haa resulted from the fact that I’ve left the country of residence question blank. They must have thought that I must be travelling with a forged passport or am not who I claim to be.
After a few more random questions, he seem satisfied with the outcome of the interrogation. He stamps my passport and send me on my way.
Over the loudspeakers, announcements loop to inform, to warn and to remind, but I only hear freedom.
The next thing I know, my teeth starts to chatter from the frigidness of a typical Melbourne morning while stepping up the steps of the Skybus, on my way to city and my new home.
Oh, the little Malaysian girl is back on the road.