I have been in New Zealand 12 hours and already run into people on the street. This does not bode well, as I have yet to start driving. Bad News Bears. Evidently not only driving happens on the opposite side of the road, but walking lanes follow suit. This makes sense logically, but while running on 5 hours of airplane sleep in the past 36 hours (toss, turn, fall asleep, have a body part go numb, wake up in pain, roll over, repeat with new body part.) this did not click
January 2, 2013 was a good day. It is the day I finished packing and left Toronto on the next part of my adventure. It is also the day I started packing, and had a dentist appointment, and went out for lunch with a good friend. (Some things are always more exciting when there is an impending deadline.) Pearson was relatively uneventful that night. I didn’t have an assigned seat so I had to wait at the gate and see if there was room on the plane. Also, the flight was delayed two hours, but it all worked out in the end. Although the family crew waiting in Edmonton was a little tired, we all made it through the gate in the end. And Edmonton was simply wonderful. Spending time with family, hearing stories about the Old Country from Gido over breakfast, and the pinnacle of all family events – Ukrainian Christmas. There was so much food. And it was all so amazing. And homemade! Mmmm. Kalach, cabbage rolls, perogies, mushrooms and cream, vereniki, salmon, wheat, beets and poppy seed cake for dessert.
Edmonton International provded to be slightly more eventful than my stay at Pearson. I arrived with plenty of time as per usual (thanks Mom.) and checked in my ginormous backpack. The plane was already late, and my 2:00pm flight had been pushed to 4:00pm. Cool. I can roll with that, I’ll just grab a coffee, hunker down at the Starbucks and try to figure out how to work the technology I purchased for this trip. (Technology and I don’t always see eye to eye… In fact, I regularly give my technology time outs so it can sit in the corner and think about what it did. But that’s a whole other issue for another time.) Around 2:45 I poked my head up to take a wander and it noticed my flight was now written in orange on the board. That meant it had been cancelled. Double check. Yes. Cancelled. First thought – ‘Hmm. Well this is awkward.’ After wandering a little more, I flagged down an Air Canada rep and questioned him about it. His advice was to pick up my bag and re-check in, although there probably were not any flights that would be able to get me to Vancouver in time for my connection flight.
I did not like his advice.
Unfortunately Air Canada customer service on the phone gave me the same answer. The perk was that they were able to tell me I had already been booked on the next flight out, leaving at 4:50. It would be tight, but still gave me enough time for the connection. Following orders, I went to baggage claims to find my bag and then dutifully waited in line to check in. I even saw the attendant that checked me in a few hours earlier and had a good chuckle about repeating the process again, four hours later.
Next came security. Not really an issue. I wasn’t even wearing my jeans, so there was no belt to set off the metal detector. Bam! #thinkingahead. Breezed through on the first time , thus had no reason to think differently for this trip through the gate. Then came the variable. The random testing swab on my palms, feet and belt. This didn’t happen the first time. Oh well, no worries. As I was re-assembling myself past the x-ray machine, I noticed the two guards huddling around the swab testing machine, filling out paperwork. First thought: ‘Hmmm. This could be interesting’. After a few moments a different lady walked over with a clipboard and informs me that the swab picked up something on me. She also assured me there was nothing to worry about a series of simple questions usually solves all unknowns.
“Do you use explosives on a regular basis, for work or personal use?”
“No. I wish I did. I’ll have to have a chat with my boss about that.’
“Are you taking any medication?”
“I tested positive for nitro eh?”
Given, if I had to choose something to have on me, nitroglycerin would be my first choice. I’ve always wanted to play with explosions.
Lesson Learned – Always wash clothes prior to boarding. Also, avoid handling fireworks you’ve been hiding in your parent’s basement. Especially if you are wearing the clothes you will wear boarding a plane. (Sorry Mom… I’ll dispose of them this summer. Promise.)
Finally the ordeal finished up and I went to the gate, as I did not have a seat for this flight either. (I’m sensing a trend here. And I can think of other trends I would much rather see instead of this one.) The new flight was also delayed, making the possibility of making the connection in Vancouver pretty dicey. As the plane was prepping to land in Vancouver, an announcement came over the PA ’11 passengers are required to make connections to New Zealand and England. These are very tight connections, so please let them deplane first.’
The plane lands and I stand up. Everyone else sits. And watches. The chosen 11 are then rushed up the walkway and into the brilliant lighting of the terminal, complete with a marching band, streamers and a hobbit. We were royalty! Ok, that may be a bit of a stretch. In reality there were a fleet of electric golf carts parked in a semi-circle, complete with flashing yellow caution lights and middle aged women drivers.
Man, those women could drive those carts like nobody’s business! We burned through the airport, honking at people who would not move and were even saluted by another crew member as they exclaimed ‘the Edmonton Flight!’. As we boarded the plane mumours were heard growing ‘the Edmonton Flight’, ‘are you the Edmonton Flight?’. I stood tall and proudly responded that yes, I was a member of the Edmonton Flight, flight 251 from Vancouver. (And after we all boarded, the flight promptly took off. All 290 other people on the plane were already boarded.)
I ended up sitting adjacent to two other members of the Edmonton Flight, a lovely couple from Chrishchurch, Brent and his wife. We talked for a while, discussing our respective countries and him recommending which New Zealand wine I should have with dinner. Great flight. (With the exception of the sleep… As mentioned above.) After the flight I met Reg and his wife, a retired couple from Kamloops who migrate to New Zealand the last few years. They gave me a few more tips and said to look them up when I was in the area. New Zealand is full of great people!
I wasn’t in a rush to leave the airport so I doddled around for a while, ate some food, grabbed some information, even took a shower (in an actual shower room! not the Starbucks bathroom). Finally there wasn’t a whole lot left for me at the airport so I jumped on the shuttle and wandered until I found my hostel. I dropped by just to see what they would say, and sure enough, I was a little early for check in. Five hours early. Haha. I’d been up for I don’t know how long, and it was still only 9:30 in the morning.
I set out on a quest to keep myself caffinated and find some food. It was elevensies and hobbits are accepted in New Zealand. (Elevensies is the meal between second breakfast and lunch. It’s how hobbits eat. And myself.) Finally it came to the point when I had not eaten enough and ended up in a McDonald’s for their free WiFi. I was hungry, a little dehyrdated (complements of leaving my water bottle and swedish berries on the plane. Well, the swedish berries have no effect on my hydration levels. They are just delicious.), getting grumpy, tired and overall really not wanting to talk to anyone. I was very excited to sit on my own and eat my lunch in silence, and tinker with my iPad with the wifi. (Unless the attractive girl with the long board who was in line behind me sat near, then I would try and talk to her.) Well, Pamela did decided to come sit right beside me. Unfortunately Pamela was not the attractive girl with the long board, she was an old lady, who was not a fan of Auckland that day.
She sits and I focus ahead and on my food. Something catchrs my eye and I galnce over. Er contact. Blast.
‘Hi, how’s things?’
‘Good. You…?’ Focus again on food and wall ahead of me. Intently.
‘I’ve had better days. One of those days where everything seemd to be going wrong.’ Said as her purse tips over and spills sugar packs and napkins all over.
She has a seemingly volatile relationship with Auckland, and they were definitely on a ‘time out’. This was made evident by a short rant done while she used a napkin to get ketchup from her hair. (I’m not really sure how it got there… she didn’t have fries. Just a coffee. Which she received for free. Because she is old. I can say that, because those are her words verbatim – ‘do you want me to get you a coffee? I can get one for free because I’m old.’)
This is not how I saw lunch going.
In fact, I ended up chatting with another man after lunch and learning about a bridge to nowhere on a river on the west coast.
But in the end of my time with Pamela, we had a great chat. Well mostly listening for me. The conversation covered everything from places to visit, to how to free luggage storage, to Maori politics. Out of this, a few things she mentioned in passing really struck me.
‘This life is good.’
‘Life is all about people.’
She did not appear to me as an affluent woman, a woman from culture or high social standings. She seemed very plain and yet had something about life figured out. Something fundamental that most are still working through.
And in the end, she got me a free coffee and some ice cream.