Archive for January, 2009

Getting to Auckland

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

Well I’m here in New Zealand after 24hours of transit.  11 hours in a plane from LA to Fiji and then another 3 to New Zealand.  The 11 hour flight started at 10 pm and was full of exciting turbulence.  I sat in the VERY VERY back of the plane.  So far back that my seat would not recline more than an inch before hitting the emergency exit.  But all was fine because I wasn’t sitting next to a 350 pound monster (there were a few on the flight).  Instead I luckily sat next to a 28 year old Canadian teacher who was about to go live in Australia for the next year and then probably teach in Japan on his way back.  I realized that the majority of the people I was going to meet on this trip would have somewhat nomadic stories.  Now I would be in the norm instead of the exception to the rule.

When I got to the Fiji airport it was raining and about 82 degrees out.  Five in the morning their time, the sun was still sleeping.  I had only slept about 1 hour on the flight so I was on the lookout for a quiet corner of the airport to recharge.  Walking down the tarmac one Fiji teenager working at the airport gave me a stare and said “haoli boy”.  Sleep deprived and loose lipped, I chuckled and said “your not Hawaiian”.  Before I could see the look on his face, I had already passed.  Speaking of Hawaii, when we got into the actual airport there was a band of Ucayali and guitar playing singers greeting the inbound visitors.  Much like one would expect in Hawaii, but much MUCH more talented.  The 4 men harmonized with unusual octaves and unique rhythms to solidify the statement “sure we are tropical, but we aren’t Hawaii and we aren’t going to live in their shadows by just mimicking them.”

Most every other Fijian in the airport was very nice with the exception of the gal who tried to charge me $18 for a chicken sandwich.  I asked the cashier next to her if this was right and she looked at the gal and scolded her and took off $10.  It’s as if I could read the cashier’s mind: “Don’t you know, this is our countries reputation on the line?  If you rip this guy off, we will be known as the France of the pacific, rude and ungrateful.”

I had 5 hours in this place and I wanted to make the most of them, so I set my travel alarm clock for 1 hour before the plane took off and slept on the floor in a quit corner.  I woke up to the sound of the band again playing goodbye to a set of outbound passengers.  I have to admit, if you have to get woken up in the middle of a much overdue sleep in an airport, that’s probably the best way.

My flight to Auckland from Fiji was only 3 hours and much less turbulence.  I sat next to a bunch of med students from the University of Kansas that were doing a rotation in New Zealand for the next month.  I was asking a few people on the plane what the best way to get from the airport to my hostel.  Their answers varied widely but when I got to the airport I realized that New Zealand was easy.  This land screams “New”.  Like someone decided to make a country a few years ago and the planning committee said “let’s take all the good things we have observed from other countries and use them here.”  Let’s make it as easy and versatile for the people and the tourists to see our great country.  Let’s make everything obvious and unambiguous so it attracts people to come back and tell all their friends to come back.  What an idea?!  The bus I rode was $7 and didn’t drop me at my door but gave me a chance to walk through the city for a little while and see the sights.  I could have taken a taxi for $14 that would have dropped me at my location directly.  The gal at the airport looked at me with wide eyes and said “but the taxi, THATS $14!” almost making the decision for me, “that’s a rip off! don’t do it!”. I chuckled and said “the bus it is”.  On the bus ride over I couldn’t help but think of how much it would have been in America.  Probably $70-$100 considering the distance.  Then again, the same distance in Thailand will cost me about $8.

I got to my hostel and checked into my private room.  It was time to sleep, not in a dorm, not cheaply, not in an airport.  Sleep, In my own bed, in my own room.  The first real sleep after a 24 hour transit can’t be half assed.  Even if you have to pay more, you will most certainly pay for the next week with your body clock if not done right.

It’s about 77 degrees here and the humidity is 87%.  It’s breezy and partly cloudy.  Before I can righlty assess the city I’ve got to get out there for a few days.  I’ll get back to you.

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