The first time: a journey of excitement and surprise
Going abroad was my dream since I was young; yet getting trouble in an international airport was another dream, a nightmare.
Making a journey alone, in February 2004, to North Queensland Australia to attend the invitation from the Government of Australia for workshop was an exciting trip. A nightmare started when the excitement become an anxiety as my visa was not done on the day of my departure, also when I had to look for the next terminal in the vast Changi international airport, and it continued when nobody in Australia picked me up at the time of my arrival.
Can you imagine if today was your departure day and at one o’clock p.m you should be in Soekarno-Hatta airport to check-in meanwhile at twelve o’clock you were still standing on the line waiting for your visa in the Australian embassy? That situation drove me crazy; my heart was pounding very quickly, my adrenaline rose up and filled into my blood which made me frustrated. It was like playing a game with a bomb in your hand.
Finally, I got my visa at 12.30. Immediately I stopped a taxi and raced to airport. I only had limited time to reach the airport. It took 40 minutes to go there and I was 10 minutes late. I got off the taxi and rushed into the check-in desk. As if I had a heart attack when I saw nobody in line, suddenly I thought that the plane was already departed. A moment later I could breathe normally when the check-in officer said that I still had time to board. Thank God I was not late. At last, I could sit down comfortably inside the plane. After a moment I could look beyond the small window the city of Singapore. “Can I survive there?” I asked myself.
I had to transit in Singapore in order to change my plane which brought me to Australia. Another journey in Changi airport also made me scared. Changi airport is an international airport. It is located in a huge area and has 4 levels with complete facilities to make the passengers feel comfortable. It has free internet access counter, five star hotels, swimming pool, stores etc. It also has two terminals which is separated far away from one to the other, connected by a railway train. I arrived at terminal 1 and would depart in terminal 2. Fortunately, I had 3 hours before the departure. So, I thought I had enough time to do some observation and found terminal 2. I started to look around, watched every signs to identify a word “Terminal 2”. I kept watching my watch to make sure that I would not be late. It took almost one hour to reach terminal 2. Actually I could take the train but I was afraid to use that facility. After that, immediately I looked around for ticket desk to check-in and asked the officer there to check my luggage transition. That was not the end because I had to find from which gate I would board the plane. I still had two hours before my departure. I could take a deep breath and enjoy the airport facilities. Qantas airlines took me straight to Cairns, the city of North Queensland Australia. I could smell that city and imagine a cordial welcome there.
Soon after I arrived in Cairns international airport at North Queensland Australia, I just realized that nobody was there to pick me up. I turned my head around the waiting room and read carefully every signboard and searched for my name on the board, yet I could not find my name anywhere, it was simply mean that nobody was there to pick me up. It was early in the morning, nobody was in the information centre and most of the stores were closed. I was thinking fast and looked for any information there. I suddenly remembered to check the address that was given to me. Unfortunately it was located in another State of Australia. In other words, I brought the wrong address. I found an internet rental there and sent a message. I also made a phone call to somebody in Indonesia. I had to wait for five hours in the airport until somebody picked me up. Later, I found that there was a miscommunication between the officer in Indonesia and the committee in Australia. Never mind, I thought, at least I was safe and while I was waiting in the airport I had a lot of friends who sympathized with me. Thus, this experience makes me think and give me a great lesson. Wherever you go especially abroad, you have to make a checklist of all you need and be well prepared. You have to make sure that your passport and visa are ready, and bring the correct address of your contact person in your destination country.