"Wish you were Here"

Trip Start Oct 17, 2007
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Flag of New Zealand  ,
Wednesday, October 17, 2007

We're finally, actually, here.

After thinking about such a move for years, after actively working toward a move to New Zealand for some 16 months, after all the planning and packing and goodbye-ing, all the little details, we're actually here.

The day (and by 'day' I mean that ambiguous period of time spent in airports and on airplanes, where day and night don't really exist like they do elsewhere, between starting the journey and ending at the destination) didn't feel momentous when I woke up.  I knew that we were getting on the plane, and that difficult goodbyes had to be said, but it didn't really sink in that 'hey, we're moving today'.

I suppose it first felt like we crossed a boundary while waiting for the airport shuttle to take us to SFO.  Sheila's father, who graciously lent us a car for our period in California, took said car back and dropped us off at the shuttle bus stop.  He left a few minutes before the bus arrived, and that's when I felt something.  We stood in a windblown parking lot surrounded by traffic and fast food joints and other examples of low-grade American suburban commerce, with no home, no car, nothing save for our suitcases piled around our feet.  The austere vastness said to me, 'you don't live here anymore'.

Then came the blur of tedious, seemingly-endless travel.  Dragging bags around airports, going through security lines over and over again, sitting on the long flight forcing myself to nap a bit more or watch one more movie before looking at my watch again so I don't see that we've only been onboard three hours and there are ten more before we land.

And thusly went things until our layover in Auckland.  When picking up our bags to clear customs, only four of five showed up.  As the crowd dwindled it became increasingly clear that, nope, it's not there and, yep, we're going to miss our connecting flight after waiting for it.  Oh well, these things happen.  Off to baggage services, file the report, then to the transfer desk to reschedule our last leg.  We were only delayed by an hour and a half, leaving at 10:30 rather than 9:00 am, so no big deal.

As I say, no big travesty, but maybe it was demoralizing enough in my tired state, or maybe it wasn't even the cause at all.  In any case, I stuffed myself into one more too-small airline seat for the last short leg, and I had my first big 'what have we gotten ourselves into here?' moment.  Not that I hadn't had doubts before, but that's when it hit me.  And it wasn't really rational...lost bag aside, everything was going well, and everybody we'd dealt with was as friendly as I remembered, and it felt like I hoped New Zealand would feel.  Maybe it was the pilot getting on the PA and talking about the weather in Wellington: "not really a flash day there I'm afraid; overcast, rain showers, 10 degrees (50 Fahrenheit), winds gusting to 40 knots".  For about 15 minutes, I wondered how hard it would be to reverse everything and just get a ticket back to California.

But then we got closer and it turns out that "if you don't like the weather in <insert place here>, wait 5 minutes" saying that's applied to, well, everywhere, really does ring true in Wellington, at least today.  Suddenly it was clear skies and 18 degrees, and our approach was gorgeous, enough to take my mind off of anything else.  Wellington is really dramatic from the air; it surrounds this beautiful harbor on the skinny southern tip of the North Island, which beaches and islands and lush mountains everywhere, the city crammed into the nooks and crannies.  It got me back in the swing of things, and all went smoothly from there.  The four remaining bags showed up in due course.  A cheap collective door-to-door shuttle was quickly found that would take all of our prodigious luggage.  Our ride took us through a few of Wellington's many fun neighborhoods, and I was happy to find that the city seem uniformly human-scaled and...comfortable.  Which was the impression I had of the Wellington I knew from before, but there was a lot of Wellington that I did not see then.  We're staying in Aro Valley, and we found that we've arranged accommodation in a very pleasant house just down the block from the fruit market and the video store and a number of great looking cafés and not so much farther from, well, everything else.  It's really better than I hoped.

So, in the end, New Zealand is starting great.  No doubt the sheen will wear off in various ways, but right now it has that...civilized feel I remembered and loved.  One of my primary blogging goals will be to put that in more descriptive words, or show by example.  Right now, that's as best as I can put it.
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