IT WAS a happy holiday for me and my family. It was on December 18 when we got word that our visa for Australia was approved. All before this we had planned on taking a summer break after kids’ school. It was not to be as all our schedules did not match with each other. The plan was for us to head out to the Northern Americas. Friends and family have already been waiting for us to make the trip. Our love for the mountains and hiking was what made us think of heading up north.

Banff in Calgary.

Summer soon had passed and still we had no schedule to all together take that break. I was fortunate to accompany dad from his busy schedule that included trips to Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. All because the other members of the family had each their own fair share of travels as far as Japan, Korea, Norway and the Holy Land.

As early as October, we were given the option to take a break in Australia where the girlfriend of my son lives and works. She had invited us over to take care of their place if in case everyone heads home to the Philippines for Christmas. That seemed like an invitation we couldn’t refuse. Unfortunately, we didn’t expect our visas to come so late in the year. It was also not our intention to get early tickets even if they were cheaper until we get approved visas.

By the time our visas had arrived and were approved, we found out that we are allowed to stay for three months and travel before July 2020. Again, from this we couldn’t find a time when all our schedules will fit. We thought that we would just forego with the approved visas for another time. But the visas we realized are quite expensive for the five of us. We had to go, but when.

It is the summer season in Australia. Winter in most parts of the world but summer down under. There was the threat of bushfires from around the country. The worst they say it was in history. Something they never realized could happen to the country. They were not prepared. It made our decision to go even worse.

Joy went through her computer to find the best price for travel. She couldn’t find any since it was already so late and already the holidays. The best she could find was Christmas Eve. And so it will be. Christmas on air. Something that made us push through with it was New Year’s Eve in Sydney by the Harbour Bridge. That excited us all. In the plane and with only light jackets it was freezing.

While we were supposed to be enjoying a warm winter holiday, it was not hot at all. The air was crisp and fresh at that time, kids still had jackets on. We thought it was summer down under. I had to buy a jacket, I did in their “ukay ukay”, and for less than a thousand pesos I owned my first Lacoste hoodie jacket, just to keep me warm.

Some days it was hazy some days it was blue, weather did change day to day. We had to check every single day if not suffer the consequence of heat or cold. Worst was at 48 degrees. Funny how almost all establishments close at 5 p.m. but the sun sets after 8 p.m.

News had come out that the fireworks on New Year’s would not push through. It was for good reason. It was only on the day of the eve, when the government allowed for the Sydney Fireworks, but among the 19 sites it will only be three. And it was decided because many tourists had come just to see it. The first New Year Celebrations in the world. Indeed Sydney was packed, the 26th for them is Boxing Day, when gifts are opened. It is also the sale of the year. Business was good but still the threat of bush fires and smoke covered Sydney was still there. How can Juan enjoy the fireworks if it couldn’t even see the fireworks and what if something happened before New Year’s Eve?

We had made room reservations near one of the supposed sights for the fireworks. It just had to be since there will be no public transport to go home if ever. No choice for us but to find a suitable place to stay until the next day. Frustrated though that upon booking, the governments delists where we were to watch the fireworks. Joy and the kids make other plans and will head out towards the main area, Harbour Bridge or “hanger” bridge.

For the next couple of days we scour and surveillance the area and where to be. Unfortunately for this year the government has decided to only push through with the fireworks for a fee. What will be collected will go to the firefighters and their welfare. The only reason also for them to push through with the celebrations, take it or leave it. For good reason many purchased tickets knowing that it is for a cause.

We weren’t prepared for any of that and also didn’t know that it would be that way. We were always told that it was free, not this time. We had to think of another plan. Both I and Joy had different plans. I stayed in our original spot upon learning that it has been approved for fireworks. One at 9pm the other before midnight.

I was told to take an area as early as 6pm. So I did. Joy had left across Harbour Bridge with the kids as none would want to stay with me. The only reason I didn’t want their plan was that it had to be across the bridge and that trains would end service as early as 6 that evening to make way for the celebrations and of course safety for all. I said I will stay and just do it my way from my side of the bridge where I could just walk around. On the other side it was impossible to cross.

Every hour from 6, 7 and 8pm there would be initial fireworks testing and it was already beautiful. The 9 o clock fireworks is always intended to be for the children. A mini celebration of what will be. They made a ruling for this fireworks that children will not be allowed for the midnight celebrations, again for safety. Such is the reason for an early fireworks for them. Glad to be a kid and what I saw was spectacular!

I still had time for a late dinner and some beers in my room all alone plus some sushi that I had stored in the ref earlier. It was New Year’s Eve. After my mini celebration with the kiddie fireworks I headed out from my side in Darling Harbour to Harbour Bridge where I was met with thousand or a million people all waiting for the midnight celebrations, now the adult one.

I tried all possible spots for a perfect picture but seemingly every one knows of it too and it is packed. Glad to be alone, I worked my way slowly to where I want to be. 15 minutes it was till the fireworks. Everyone is happy, some altercations because of being stepped on or a spot being overcome by some other. But when countdown came no one had left their places and then “boom”.

Despite it all every one left their places, everything was clean, people just moved all together. Police just watched as the merriment continued along the streets. I just walked casually back but before grabbing a Subway which surprisingly was open until 3 a.m.

Upon reaching my end of the harbour, everything was already gone and cleaned up. As if nothing happened from an hour ago. It was packed to the brim, still it felt good seeing everything all tidied up. Must have been some of the conditions made to get an approval for the fireworks, maybe.

It drizzled a bit, I was in my Lacoste, it was cold and windy. Glad to have bought it on Boxing Day. Later on we met back in our rented room and continued the celebrations with Subway, Sushi and Beers since New Year was still to be back home. Australia is 3 hours ahead. Again we celebrated with family with FaceTime in Baguio. Some Summer.