Monday, July 16, 2007

Hello Sydney

Well, the southern African contingent of journalists has arrived in Sydney (if you crane your neck and look out the back of the bus en route to Dunmore Lang College in the wilder stretches of student suburbia, just after surfacing from the under harbour tunnel, the famous Opera House is visible for 10 seconds).
And we have only managed to lose one reporter, Alvin Chinga from the Zambia Daily Mail, who reportedly made it as far as Johannesburg.....end of that story, for now. Getting reporters together to focus on a science conference has a good deal in common with herding fish. Most of us didn't even pack the residential address somewhere handy, as if we were tourists waiting for a tour guide to hustle us off to visit the sights, so the customs and immigration forms at the airport are a little short on detail. On the bright side, we've now watched lots and lots and lots of recent movies on the 14 hour flight from Jozi, so we may be slow, but our cultural literacy references are upgraded.
And Sydney is cold, as cold as Johannesburg at night and colder during the day. Which is rough on those South Africans who arrived bearing the traditional winter greeting of (sniff, sniff) the flu. (Wrong virus, really, for a conference on AIDS).
But there's a heater in the rooms and nobody was fined at the stringent Aussie quarantine queues, which are really amazing value for money in terms of entertainment. Where else can you see a woman obediently turn around and place one leg at a time on the table for muddy shoe inspection duty? And when she failed the inspection, meekly relinquish the shoes, which were carted off for ritual cleansing. Really, it would provide a fabulous opportunity for some sciene theatre on evolution, or continental drift, or biodiversity. And a captive audience.

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