Day 63-67 - New Zealand!
Trip Start Sep 02, 2007
92Trip End Dec 25, 2007
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Hello G'Day, Mate
Goodbye See ya, Mate
Please Please, Mate
Thank You Cheers, Mate
Yes Sure thing, Mate
No No chance, Mate
And when we got there we learned that the few European kiwis that you could find around Auckland (it's an incredibly diverse city, and most of the people we met in stores and things are from Asia, India, and the Middle East) really do say 'mate' after everything.
Kim has no small obsession with the New Zealand rugby team the All Blacks, and it was a sad day for all of us when they lost the championship. But at the safety briefing she had a surprise for us: the All Blacks had boarded the ship and were going to perform for us! Kim had recruited about 30 students (all men of course, women aren't allowed to perform the traditional 'hakas' (songs)) and they were all dressed in black and barefoot and had their faces painted. They did a dance for us, singing and chanting and everything. I was so impressed with all of their guts, doing something that was so out of all of our experience. It was really amazing. I could just imagine Kim ushering them into some secret space to teach it to them. I couldn't believe so many guys had turned out for it - where were these guys when it came to the theatre group? I think they'd all done it for Kim.
But even Kim was sleeping as we came into Auckland harbor and I was on the bow by myself, freezing but tearing up every now and then because I was so excited. This was it - New Zealand! Everyone was excited about being in New Zealand, probably more excited than any other port, but the harbor itself just wasn't exciting enough. It wasn't exciting, per se, for me either, but watching the country I'd been dreaming about for years materialize out of ocean spray and turn into the most dramatic cityscape we'd seen yet was more than a little inspiring. And then, just like that we were there. We were parked right in the city, as close to the city center as you can get without being in the street itself. We walked right off the ship and onto the main drag of the city and there was so much on the first three or four blocks of that road we never would have needed to leave it at all. Liz and I headed straight for the coffee shops and were able to find a free internet connection to tap at the Starbucks. We found phone card and sim card and pay phone and called our parents and even a couple friends, and spent most of the day online. Actually, we spent most of the first four days in port online, so I'll just lump those four into this entry since they're all the same. It was a fast connection and I was able to finally check three weeks of email and get all the paperwork I needed for my next semester and post my blogs and even get pictures uploaded. I can't believe it took me four days to catch up, but I've realized since that it was mostly that I was just not ambitious enough about getting out to do something else, because I will be back to New Zealand soon. I got on the city's ticketing website and we booked tickets to a couple of events - a puppet theatre performance and a talk by Michael Palin, a travel writer and historian who was a part of Monty Python when it was big and making movies. We went to the STA Travel office and booked tickets for the black water rafting and Hobbiton tours that we weren't able to get because they filled up, and booked a rental car (against the rules, but only in the formalities of rules, everyone was doing it and they didn't actually really care).
We ate out way too much, and spent way too much money (not the least of which was on a Lord of the Rings Location Extended Edition book - which was more than worth it) and went to way too many fast food restaurants. One or two were okay, but I'm starting to realize real implications of my tendency to follow the crowd. Ganesh really woke me up to it and now I have to start working on changing it. Liz really loves fast food and isn't afraid of spending money (in fact I'm beginning to wonder if money is really an object for her or what) and I just went with that, eating out sometimes twice a day and at cheap greasy restaurants that really weren't that cheap. I decided no more of that, but gave myself New Zealand to eat whatever disgusting crap I wanted.
We had a media reception for people from all the local papers and also for people from our tour operators and academic stewards to get a tour of the ship and meet some of us; I decided New Zealand would be the appropriate place for me to finally participate in one. It was more than a little awkward, just standing around and not really mingling, but I finally got into a conversation with a man who runs the education programs at the Auckland War Memorial Museum and he told me about the theatre and puppet programs they're doing there to make the information more accessible to kids and families. I got really excited about it and he offered to pick me up and take me down there to see it. We got a welcome by about everyone under the sun, and presented a plaque to the Port Agent for the Maiden Voyage of the Scholar Ship, and the Port Agent in turn presented a plague to the Oceanic II and our captain for the ship's first visit to Auckland. That was especially exciting for me because I've been seeing the plaques all over the ship for three months and thinking how cool it would be to be on a ship on its first ever docking in a port - and then it got to be New Zealand. It was also the Captain's first time in New Zealand and I was so honored to get to be a part of the reception where this happened.
We also had a welcome by a Maori elder, who sang and chanted (and the Kiwis who were present chanted back in Maori) and translated for us. He blessed our 'waka' (Maori for boat) and spoke of future generations and the importance of education and how blessed he felt for his people to get to share their lives with students from all over the world. He ended his speech with "and may peace remain with all those who travel on this 'waka'."