Living "Down Under" - The Beginning
by, 10th June 2012 at 11:03 (1810 Views)
So, around a month ago I decided to move to Australia. The journey down there was long and I met a lot of obstacles on the way, but I did get into the country even though it wasn't easy compared to Europe, where you can just travel around as you like, if you're from Europe that is.
The day of departure was filled with excitement, but when I had to check in, the guy at the counter said he couldn't let me board with a broken passport. (It was slightly / hardly broken.) So I quickly went to the police station at the airport in Denmark, where they thought it was ridiculous as the barcode was intact. One of the officers had checked passports for the last 10 years, and some of the passports he had seen, was ranging from the standard issue, to mere papers with stamps on. None the less an emergency passport (quite thin, only 6-7 pages, but signed by the police officer) was created. This type of passport is valid in all countries, and can be used for a year.
After this type of passport had been issued with of course a fresh photo of your one and only MaXe , it was straight back to the counter or more specifically first one of their airplane ticket offices as the police officer had recommended, who has of great help plus he reminded me of my former karaté trainer with over 30 years experience. Anyway, all the offices were closed so I decided to contact a manager instead, where a longer discussion about why this passport was valid and legal, and why my visa permits me to enter Australia. After a bit of a hassle, the manager called the Embassy in Australia, and after 5 minutes they had updated my visa details and said everything was good. (The Australian Embassy did not say that I could not enter the country on this passport, when we called them.)
So I was allowed to check my baggage in, while wondering how hard the next "level" would be in this video game of madness. After hurrying through security (well actually waiting through the long lines, at least it's great TSA and body scanners doesn't exist in Denmark), it was straight to the gate as it was almost boarding time. I was there 2˝ hours before flight departure, so you can imagine how long time was spent on arguing with the manager and talking with the police. Upon arriving at the gate, I was met with obstacles again as the same guy who originally rejected me sat at the desk, who was ready to deny me access (AGAIN!), which I found kind of rude but I kept my head cool and went straight to the manager who I had spoken with barely 15 minutes ago.
In yet another discussion with the manager and several other people, I had to prove my case where the supervisor and the top manager in another country was contacted, as the airplane company could get fines in case I wasn't let into the country. After a dazzling 15 minutes or so, I was finally let into the gate. Finally! First step of the journey is complete. When I got on the airplane, there was to my surprise, sheets, and soon hot towels, headphones, and other nice things including a friendly crew. The food was great, and no one was setting next to me, so I tried to relax while wondering what kind of travels I would encounter at the next stop. On the airplane I watched Tron Legacy and had a good time. 6-7 hours later at night, it was around 35C and I had arrived to..
It was quite hot, especially because I had clothes on to match the current Danish and Australian weather, but after a short period of time, I was inside the actual airport where it was a lot less hot due to air condition. After walking through security, I went to the bathrooms and then McDonald's to get something to eat, as I had to be in the airport for around 3 hours or so. The food was rather cheap, almost 50% less than Australia it seems when I look at my debit card statements.
The time went fast as I began to read through "Masters of Deception" (hard book), and then it was time to go through the gate. When I had to show my passport, the person said I wouldn't get into Australia. I told him that I had talked with the Danish police and the Australian Embassy and they both said everything was good and that I would get into the country, so of course I would. The person kept saying I wouldn't get into Australia, but I said I would and after a while, I was finally let through the gate. The person did ask if I had money for a return ticket home, which I of course had.
I was through the gate, and another checkpoint and level was passed. My bag had to be checked for liquids due to security, which I thought was fine with me as I didn't have anything that breached security protocols.
After waiting for a while, we were let on board and the long flight journey would begin. When I got on board, it was almost the same thing we were given, except we also received a toothbrush, extra socks which I immediately used (lol), and a sleeping mask which I used for the first time in my life. (It wasn't very comfortable but it was better than nothing to block out the light.)
Shortly after the airplane departured from the ground, we had "breakfast" in the middle of the night, where I had some scrambled eggs, water, tea and a small desert. (And this was on coach / economy class.) After breakfast we were told to close all the windows as the sun would soon rise and this would make jetlag even worse if we didn't. So all window lids were pulled down and lights were turned off. I decided to try to go to sleep which definitely wasn't easy, but as no one was sitting next to me I decided to after a while, to use that seat for my legs as I sat next to a window.
When I had slept I woke up and thought of it, as sleeping while driving in a car, it was almost the same feeling if you didn't think about it in detail which made it more cosy. I decided to watch some of the second Sherlock Holmes movie, but I got annoyed while watching it to my surprise (I enjoyed watching it the first time and a couple of times after, but it wasn't the same on the airplane where my mind was full of the troubles I had gone through to get on the plane and what to expect when I would arrive in Australia), so halfway through I stopped the movie and put on some of my favorite music instead.
It was a long flight and we were still over the ocean when I had woken up, so time went slow for a while but it wasn't so bad. When we got to Perth, I thought we would probably soon be there, well.. 5 hours later, I arrived to the final destination. From time to time I had looked out through the window to see some of Australia, prepared myself mentally for any questions they might ask me, and filled out the little yellow piece of paper where you must declare what kind of goods you bring into the country, if you've been in the wild for the last 30 days or so, and more.
I had quite a few of these items which only made it seem a lot harder to get into Australia, but at least I had checked all customs rules and visa conditions thoroughly. Now it was time for the "boss level" I thought, but I've come so far, from the other side of the world, so I have to do my best now.
Finally I was at the destination, I was excited but also thinking about the questions they would ask me again, what I should inform them about, and of course what to do in case they would reject me. When I got to the first check, I was met by a friendly person who was new, which I could use to my advantage as empathy was definitely working here. I was immediately let through and had to talk with a customs officer, who seemed to be one of the veterans.
I told him about the obstacles and the journey, what the Danish police had said, and that the embassy said everything was good. I was told to wait while they would check all my details and background, so I sat there and waited for a long 10-15 minutes, wondering what was taking so long. Naturally I was a bit nervous about the entire situation as it wasn't normal and I knew that. But when the customs officer came out from the office, he said everything was good and I could go to pick up my bags. YES! First checkpoint at the boss level was complete.
After picking up my bag, I went to another customs check where your baggage is checked. I was met by another officer, who was skilled at social engineering. I was asked several questions about if I had packed the bag myself, if there was any sharp contents, and such before the bag was opened. Everything was taken out and checked, in particular objects made of tree, shoes, including those I was wearing. The objects of tree were x-rayed to see if they contained drugs lol I told the officer that it was perfectly understandable as smugglers would in some cases hide drugs in statues or shoes, as I had recently seen a TV documentary about people doing this, while ensuring him I wasn't this type of person.
The officer was however, very interested in knowing why I brought a hair trimmer with me, and what the purpose was. As the purpose is to cut my hair if I feel like it, I said that as I didn't really know what else he meant it could be used for. It made me smile.
While all my baggage was checked, I was asked personal questions such as if I consider myself a dangerous person to society, if I take drugs, drink a lot of alchohol, etc. which I of course denied while smiling and thinking the situation was hilarious yet serious. These questions were rephrased into new questions on occasion, where I responded with the same answers and expressions yet confusion as to why he was attempting to social engineer me. Of course he couldn't possibly know, except that he did take a longer look at one of my books, The Penetration Tester's Open Source Toolkit vol. 2
Anyway, all my stuff was checked, the officer seemed satisfied with my responses after being suspicious to begin with, and my shoes had been washed as I had recently been in the Fell in North Sweden and also the forests in Denmark. The Fell in North Sweden was primarily because I lived there and because I occasionally visited some of the places outside the small city there, while Denmark was because it was faster to take a shortcuts through the forest, from certain parts of cities if you know them well that is. (You can still take buses and trains to almost every part, but I didn't feel like waiting 30-45 minutes when I could be home in that time, plus see some animals such as a wild deer and a turkey looking animal. I was lucky as it's not often you see both the same day. Even though it is possibly to spot deer animals if you know where to look for them.)
But the search was over, and the officer said I could move on. I asked if there was any further checks and he said no. I was extremely happy I was finally in Australia, and that they I was let into the country.
After exiting the airport I went to the hotel, and thought of how the entire trip had been.
The First Month
So, besides living in a nice hotel room for a month which I didn't pay for naturally, what have I experienced? Not that much as I've been busy with work most of the time, but "Vivid" was nice to experience, plus quite a few Danish parties and meetings. Recently I did meet a few Danish people from a large company, that also works with security too, except they primarily and only do PCI stuff, etc., while I do pentest stuff. It was probably the most disrespectful (Danish) people I have ever met in Sydney, but I can live with that as their security solutions sucks anyway. A few people isn't going to ruin my overall very good image of Sydney, including all the beggars on the street which are occasionally funny.
The people here are generally very polite, nice, helpful and well, you feel welcome most of the time even though I am always treated like a tourist, even when I say that i work here
It isn't so hard living far away from home, as I just see it as another place on Earth, which could be another country in Europe a few hours away. What's really exciting is all the places to see here, but also that I feel a lot more welcome compared to e.g., Ireland which was just crazy, well at least from what I experienced.
What I really like is all of the places I can go to eat, and get something different, every day, plus the food quality is very high. Not always spiced the way I expect it to be when it e.g., says Italian I expect it to be spiced properly as it would be, but it's never old food which I've tried a couple of times in Ireland. The food is even better than Sweden, even though some places in Denmark can still beat the food, but there was one kebab shop I enjoyed in particular, where I've probably had the best kebab ever. (Good meat, extremely good falafel, and spices and bread are 110% perfect.)
The street performers (unlike Denmark and Ireland) are very unique, as there's e.g. "magicians", beat boxers, musicians, and more. There's stores selling literally everything, including cheap swords if you go to Chinatown. So that's definitely a plus as I like seeing originality.
After a few weeks I went to the cinema to see MIB III in 3D, was great even though a cockroach decided to join in on the fun in the cinema which I put in my feedback form to the cinema. (That doesn't mean it always happen, but I thought it's after all Australia and I did for some strange reason, see quite a lot of cockroaches that night, mostly outside. Just the small ones though, so it wasn't that bad, plus I've never seen them anywhere else and never at places where they serve food.)
Even though I haven't experienced that much of Australia, not even Sydney yet, I have had a great time so far, and I guess that's why I'm not travelling much outside the inner center yet, as I will feel more comfortable living here. I did meet up with Muzimoro not long ago, an old friend and member of InterN0T, from way before it was created.) It's cool there's some intern0t'ers here too, even though those I've known for a very long time aren't really active any more. I know there's a few active intern0t'ers here too though.
So how is Australia, is it good, bad, medium, small, haxx? I'd say, pretty good, it's definitely a nice place to stay, live and work at, if you live in an area where you feel comfortable and safe. It's better than many of the other places I've visited, and definitely a lot more exciting even for a guy like me, who spends most of the time in front of the screen, but that's where it's nice to be able to go to a variety of food places nearby, and even hardware shops too.
This country is definitely a good place I'd like to stay for a long time in, highly recommendable.
With all this talking about my trip down under and living here, there are of course more exciting news such as new research coming up this year, along other things.