Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Kiwi Quest 2010: I slept through Feb 9th somehow

Photos: 1) Looking bleary in Sydney after flying 14 hours across the Pacific Ocean. Plane to Auckland is behind me. 2) Auckland from the air. 3) Illicit cola! 4) Weird sign at internet kiosk in Sydney airport.
Hallo from New Zealand! I've reached my ultimate destination at last, roughly 9 years after the first germ of an idea for this visit took root. "Good things come to those who wait" or something equally flattering to fellow procrastinators.

Well, it's been a little crazy since I was last able to update this in North America on Feb 8. After buying some postcards for $6.66 (seriously, but in Korea it's good luck so I'm safe according to the shopkeeper) and gorging myself on a delicious spaghetti dinner, it was off to the airport for another go round through security before heading across the Pacific Ocean to Australia overnight.

Nearly as soon as my 13-hour flight from LAX to Sydney took off, the kind attendants with United were serving dinner even though it was nearly 11pm PST. Shortly after I ate, I thankfully fell into a coma for some unknown length of time. Since I refuse to change my watch until I'm in one location for more than a day, it's still set on EST so I usually have no idea what actual time it is where I am, or how much time has passed while traversing multiple time zones. I woke in the darkness to the offer of a turkey sandwich happily received, and eventually struck up a conversation with my seatmate over hot breakfast in the light of the rising sun. He is originally from Sydney - on his way home for vacation - but now living in Prince George of all places. We only struggled a few times with accents and phrases and got on quite well to help pass the remaining time. As we circled to land in Sydney on Feb 10, I could see some sandstone cliffs making up part of a national park and some of the city although none of the "famous" landmarks were obvious to me.

After a flight of nearly 3 hours, I was finally landing in Auckland! The kind folks at Air New Zealand even fed us triple chocolate ice cream with our lunch choices so it was a nice introduction to the country. Security here is nearly on par with the US in terms of layers and paranoia except here they're up in arms about biohazards (like bringing in honey and other foreign no-no products) instead of terrorists. I actually had to dig out my hiking boots from my bag so that they could be inspected. Seriously. The lady even cleaned some dirt out of the tread of one of them into a biohazard bin about the size of recycling bins for apartment buildings. After that, my bags all got x-rayed. They probably have some strange disease by now after enduring x-rays in 4 different airports so far.

Considering I haven't seen my uncle since our trip to the Grand Canyon in 1993, and I haven't seen my aunt since our one and only encounter while I was living in Toronto in 2004, we all managed to meet up correctly at the airport. A nice scenic ride to their house later and I've got my first idea of what Auckland looks like beyond runways and security guards. Oh! and I got my first stamp in my new passport :) I'm sharing the house with my cousin Martin as well, but his attendance is erratic so we haven't actually met yet. I have met both cats: Greta and Gremlin. All in all, we're getting on quite well so far as a group. I've already even bought my first fun teas at the supermarket where they also sell Illicit Cola (I took a photo) and lime-flavoured milk (gag)....

"Nau mai, Haere mai ki Aotearoa"! (Welcome to New Zealand)

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