Well, we made it to Sydney! The flight was excellent and I found the Etihad economy to be a little bit more roomy than the Emirates economy class. It was my birthday during the flight, but I considered sitting down to watch movies and TV shows for 14hrs not too bad a way to spend the day.
With the flight being 14hrs but leaving in the morning, it was hard (impossible) for me to sleep but the girls got 2-3 hrs at the back end of the flight. Niki and I didnt sleep a wink and we landed at Sydney at 7:30am local time. We got our luggage in about 30 seconds after clearing passport control and we were out and hiring the car and on the road very quickly.
I got back into the groove of right hand driving on the left side of the road very quickly but I was really frustrated by all the traffic lights and the slowness on the freeways. Have been here 5 days or so already and am still frustrated by the bad driving habits of Sydney-siders, the way trucks seem to have a god given right to the fast lane and ridiculously slow speeds on the freeways.
And being away for 10mths doesnt sound long, but things have subtley changed... I really noticed things like the trees on the M4 motorway being taller (at the M7 interchange) and the odd new roundabout or traffic light. Also, the odd shop or business in the local area is gone and replaced with something else. Just little things...
Have met most of my cravings already... have had my coffee from the local deli which is the best coffee in the world in my opinion, have also had a chocolate milkshake and last night I had a milk bar hamburger with egg and bacon. Also, had lunch with my parents on Sunday and Niki and I shared a massive seafood platter (at Nicks Seafood at Darling Harbour) and I got my craving for decent seafood out of the way as well.
Also have had some decent Aussie beer - Carlton Draught, VB etc - as I have only really had Corona's and Heinekins in Dubai.
We have been very busy too... have caught up with both our parents (we're staying at Niki's parents place) and have caught up with Niki's brother and sister and their families, have seen many friends already and I managed to pop down and watch my old cricket team play for a couple of hours as well.
The kids are also seeing their friends... Kate has actually gone to her old school today and is spending the day in her old class. Brooke tonight is going to see her dancing friends and has a sleep over arranged with her best friend tonight.
So, all up, its very busy but its been good to catch up with friends and family. Alot of people are asking about Dubai and seem genuinely happy that we're enjoying it... perhaps even a bit surprised that we are! There are alot of stereotypes about the Middle East and we're doing our bit to quash those.
And its only the first week of three!