The Not-So Long and Winding Road
through lunch. I think we all were feeling a little tired and stretched, at least I know that I was since sleeping wasn’t coming so easily in the shadow of my departure. We settled on a cute and low-key ale house not far from the hotel. It was the epitome of a greasy spoon, but great comfort food none the less. Besides, who doesn’t love a great beer when they’re feeling kinda stressed? Not me. It was a nice way to unwind. The next day we headed into the city after a leisurely breakfast to visit the American Museum of Natural History. Naturally, I had to reenact as much of the movie Night at the Museum as I could. And I did. We spent a solid 5 hours there walking through exhibits and seeing some really cool stuff. I highly recommend a trip there, especially for the butterflies! Once we were all tired out, and the nice museum voice was telling us to get out… we again searched for a dinner spot, this time a little more ceremonious. We landed in a cute Italian restaurant with great food, really great wine, and room for dessert. We stayed and chatted away my nervous for a quite a while until it was time to head back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep. Or not. Excitement and nerves still was getting the better of me so again sleeping proved elusive. So it was off to the airport. I was feeling pretty out of it and I thought my stomach was going to collapse in on itself. After a coffee in the airport it wasn’t long until I was some familiar faces. Immediately the two people I know best going to NZ with me appeared in the crowed. EAP gave me a giant hug and I felt the majority of my inhibitions melt away, same with TJ. I can’t explain it, if it was just not feeling like I was going to be alone or just their familiarity made me feel better but it did. The three of us and our parents got our bags all checked and e talked, worried a little, and joked about our trip ahead. We avoided a TSA crisis (details require a Skype date!) and got through security together.
The group of 18 Loyola students gathered slowly but surely at the gate and the adrenaline was flowing. The 6 hour flight from JFK to San Fran was pretty easy going. I had the middle (awkward) but the three of us managed just fine. Napped a little, read a lot. And before I knew it I was in California! The 4 hour layover seemed intolerable at first but once we all got our bearings and created a little base-camp at our gate the time passed by no problem. We ate lunch and charged all of our electronics. Lots of sharing and no drama! Woohoo! So far, so good. The 12 hour flight did seem pretty daunting but I kept rationalizing that it was only twice as long as the first leg and that I was totally tired enough to sleep for quite the power nap (I can sleep on a plane like a champ) so armed with my Kindle and a pillow I confidently boarded the massive, double-decker plane. *Note to self: upgrade to first class on the way home!* Once I got to my seat, between a stranger (awkward) and another Loyola student I scoped out the entertainment options. I knew I wanted to sleep and that watching a new movie was not condusive for that so a chose an old and bad, standby; Speed. After dinner was served and a Dramamine was taken Keanu worked his magic and I was out like a light. I didn’t wake up until woken for breakfast with 2 hours to land! It was the fastest flight ever! Of course it didn’t hurt that we had a great tale-wind and we cut an hour off of our arrival time but still. I was happy. Decided to try and stay up and watch another flick, this time I chose Moneyball. DON’T TELL ME HOW IT ENDS. I missed the last 5-10 minutes. But I digress…. Because our flight was so early Customs was a breeze but our bus could come pick us up early so we waited about an hour and an half for our ride, just enough time to watch the sun rise over the city.
We met our our guide/life-line for the semester, Hester. What a character. It didn’t take long for us to start calling her Auntie Hester (mainly because she hates it). She played the tough-guy act well but I can tell she is a softie at heart. After we got settled and cleaned up a bit we headed out into the surrounding area for lunch. I discovered a great little “Kebab” (I use quotes because I would call what they serve Gyros…) shop with the world’s nicest guys from Turkey ready and waiting to chat with a feed some very hungry and slightly disoriented Americans. It was a very successful first meal. I have to admit that I’ve been suffering quite a bad BAD case of sticker-shock here. I can’t believe that a soda is $4 and a bottle of sunscreen in $30. It will take time but I’m sure we will all get the gist of how to shop here soon—mainly because we can’t afford not to! After lunch we met up with Hester and she took us for a nice long walk around the University campus and surrounding city. I can tell already that I am falling in love with this place. She did a great job of pointing out the best and the worst of everything we would need , all while keeping us awake so as not to succumb to the jetlag. I managed to stay up until about 10pm and passed out for one of the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had. It was early rising the next morning to start our first adventure to the Bay of Islands to the north of Auckland. But that is for a later post!
Fun Fact: Because of its location on the fault line of its tectonic plates, Auckland experiences upwards of 3 earthquakes a day but they are so slight that no one notices them.