Sun-damaged, sporty, wearing tracky-daks,
passengers can’t be told from cabin crew
apart from their uniforms, their Australian chilliness;
serious adepts of physis, puritanical,
wary of alien cuisines, monolingual –
all of them start relaxing as cabin crew cross-check,
landing gear lowers,
ailerons bristle, engines sough and earth climbs.
Longitude-trekkers, these new internationalists
humbled by nothing, not even their ignorance,
wonder aloud how home has changed in their absence.
It hasn’t, but they have. The world has reduced them to
miniature giants approaching a sparsely rich country,
athlete-revering, distrustful of politics, obedient.
It’s all about making money now, caring for investments as
if they were souls, or as if there was no such thing as a soul,
or like, whatever.
Closer inspection, though, reveals great variety:
Shanghai-Chinese returning to investment properties;
Heibei tycoons, cashed up and itching to
visit the casino;
taffy-haired surfers who get on at Cairns and stink of
wine-garlic night-before-breath; Euro-tanned
backpackers, double-chinned – even the fittest are
experts in security returning from Guangzhou to
Punchbowl; aromatherapists fresh from new franchises;
teachers of English and commerce students back for
one more semester.
Where are the famous, the rich and powerful?
Prize-winning architects returning from Chengdu with the
Astrodome contract? Investment bankers from Stanmore?
Business or first class, economy, it doesn’t matter:
pig-tailed professionals or t-shirted, unkempt and
scolding their children, they all speak the same
Even the hosties are customers somewhere or other.
Difference is not really monetary – it’s an asset. As
wheels kiss the tarmac, dawn strips them bare: so
ugly they’re beautiful.
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