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Published: August 21st 2018
We spend our last morning here on the beach soaking up the sun and taking the occasional dip, knowing that by this time tomorrow we'll be back to cold reality. We make the long journey home via Fiji.
Not long after we land in Melbourne the crew announces that there's a sick passenger on board, and that an officer from the quarantine service will need to board the plane to assess her. We are all asked to remain seated. We are also told to make sure that none of our bags are blocking the aisles, presumably so that the quarantine officer can make a hasty retreat without tripping over if they think that the passenger might have Ebola. We begin to wonder what will happen if the quarantine officer decides that the sick passenger is a risk to the nation's health. Spending a few weeks locked up on the plane while the authorities wait to see if her symptoms develop doesn't sound all that appealing. The quarantine officer looks like she is barely out of her teens, and not particularly doctorly. All she's armed with is a clipboard and a pen; there's no sign of a thermometer or a stethoscope anywhere. I wonder how you go about diagnosing Ebola with a clipboard and a pen. We watch as she strides past us, secretly hoping that the sick passenger is right up the far end of the plane. She's not, she's three rows behind us, and well within sneezing distance. Eventually we're allowed to leave, but I can feel a few nervous night coming on, and I'm already starting to feel like I might be coming down with a rare tropical disease. I wonder if you can get a mild case of Ebola.
My next concern is whether or not I'll be allowed back into the country. Issy confiscated my razor about ten days ago, so I now look like a homeless hobo, and don't bear a lot of resemblance to the dapper businessman depicted in my passport photo.
I hear other passengers complaining about how rude the staff at the airport are. Every time I come through Melbourne Airport I become more and more convinced that they're competing for the World's Most Intimidating and Unfriendly Airport Award. Issy got yelled at by an immigration official for not being able to read a sign when she came back from one of her Bali art trips, but the only reason she couldn't read the sign was because the official had made her take her glasses off. The contrast with the airport in Samoa is stark. We arrived there at 5am, when all the staff would have had a perfect excuse for feeling decidedly grumpy. No chance of that however; they were all broad smiles, and there was even a very happy looking group of gentlemen in the arrivals hall playing ukuleles and serenading us with a welcome song. I think I'm feeling homesick for Samoa already.
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