Live from New Zealand!

Some of you have probably gotten this email already, if so… I apologize!

I just wanted to inform everyone that I’ve arrived in New Zealand! After 2 years of planning this trip, it’s finally happened. I’m currently in staying in Wellington. Tomorrow is the first official day of field camp, and we’ll head to the South Island. The flight over here was “only” 13 hours long, but actually went by fairly fast now that I think about it. Unfortunately, I was only able to sleep for 4 hours.

We landed in Auckland at 4:45am local time (7:45 Pacific) and then I took a short flight to Wellington and landed here at 8am local time. Since then, I’ve pretty much just been walking around the city and exploring downtown and the wharf. There are a bunch of kayaks out on the bay and I was thinking of renting one.

The weather here is PERFECT. Not many clouds in the sky, about 74 degrees F with a light breeze. Apparently, Wellington is a sister-city of San Francisco. It makes sense when you look at the geographical context of both cities: excellent natural harbors, built among (and on) lush green hills. Even the people (though most are on holiday this week) are quite friendly and laid back. Oh yes, even the transients have the same charismatic one-liners that their San Francisco counter parts have. “MAN! You’re a lucky punk! Want to trade?” yelled one person to a guy in a car with his attractive girlfriend. One person I talked to mention another uncanny similarity with SF: Very few people in this city are native to Wellington.

And for my Bay Area friends… here is another AMAZING similarity that I randomly found today. Apparently, there is no relation to the SF/Berkeley restaurants.

I’m also noticing an abundance of Subways (food) places here. Within a 10 minute walk of my hostel, there are 3 of them. Every time I see one now (especially since I’m in a foreign country), I can’t help but laugh at Mitch Hedberg’s joke about how when he offends people overseas, he feels as if the Subway is an American Embassy of sorts. I’ll have to keep that in mind. There is also an abundance of internet cafes within the same radius. I counted 6 on my way up the street.

For those wondering about the time difference… we’re 3 hours behind, but one day ahead. So as I write this, it’s 1:22pm on the 27th here. Back home in California, it’s 4:22pm on the 26th. The other thing that’s going to be crazy to get used to is the fact that they all drive on the wrong side of the road. I really need to remember which way to look. Doesn’t seem like it’d be too bad to get used to, but old habits die hard I suppose.

For Dan: While they drive on the opposite side of the road and the driver’s seat is different from ours, the setup with the clutch is exactly the same. Clutch on the left side. However, the stick shift is on the left side as well. That’d be weird to get used to. (In my unscientific sample earlier this morning, I noticed the majority of cars parked around downtown were stick shift).

It’s weird… I really can’t believe I’m basically on the opposite side of the world. It’s quite crazy. Of course, all I have to do is look at the side of the road people are driving on and I know I’m not dreaming. 😉 The weather itself is so great though. It feels like an awesome San Francisco / Berkeley early summer day. Exactly like it! That alone makes it feel like I never really left California. When we landed in Auckland last night though, I know I had the biggest, cheesiest grin on my face that I actually made it here. Awesome. 🙂

Tomorrow morning, we take a ferry to the South Island, where we’ll spend the next 3 weeks before returning to Wellington. From there, we’ll spend another 3 weeks on the North Island… and then it will be time to go home.

Ready for Takeoff

My flight leaves at about 7:00PM on Sunday. I’m almost completely packed and ready to go. All my flights and accomodations are booked as well. Nothing to do now but wait. All the roommates are now gone as well, so I’m all by myself at the house for the rest of the weekend (a very rare occurence)!

Since my sister has an inconvienent work schedule this week, she wasn’t able to fly home to visit the family either. Tomorrow, she is going to spend Christmas with a friend’s family who lives near by. They invited me over for dinner tomorrow night as well. That is very nice of them, and is especially thoughtful since I was feeling rather lonely due to the circumstances. It’s going to be my first Christmas / New Years / Birthday away from home! It’s all a part of growing up of course, but there’s something sentimental (and scary) about it being the first time, especially coupled with the fact that this is the first time I’m travelling overseas too.

I’m quite excited and wonder how on Earth I’ll be able to sleep both tomorrow night and on the plane as well. It’s roughly a 16 hour flight there. The longest flight I’ve ever had before are the short one hour hops back and forth between San Francisco and Southern California. Meghan, a veteran of these long trips, bought me an interesting game called Sudoku to help kill time on the flight. I’ve played with it a bit already and it’s quite fun. I’m also bringing along “Life of Pi”, which quite a few people have recommended to me as an excellent book. There’s also the whole (trying to) sleep aspect as well as watching movies. Especially since we know how often I see actual movies anyway. It’ll be like everything is new to me!

Another nice issue is that I found someone to sublet my room for January, courtesy of my friend Julie. A friend of hers is moving back to San Francisco after a short stint in Texas and is looking for a place to stay for a few weeks while she gets settled. It’ll be nice not having to pay for a room that I’m not actually using. Of course it’s almost like moving out, so I’ve been packing up a lot of clothes and other random stuff laying around my room and storing it in boxes. Furniture is thanfully staying though, so she’ll utilize that.

While packing up my room, I was able to fill up two full trash bags of clothes that I dropped off to the Goodwill this week as well. That freed up quite a bit of space. There were also a lot of things I was able to get rid of. For some reason I was apparently collecting rotten old shoes. I tossed out about 5 pairs of completely destroyed shoes that were hiding in the back of my closet.

Among them, were a pair of hiking boots that have been with me through thick and thin. It was almost hard to throw them away, and I wanted to keep them for nothing more than sentimental value (that must be the word of the day). They’ve been with me from the bottom of the Grand Canyon to the top of the Sierras and literally everything in between, plus some (Death Valley, Basin and Range, Salton Sea, Owens Valley, Nevada, Montana, as well as the infamous Caribou Scramble – 2 miles, 2500+ft of elevation gain, 100 switchbacks). I really think that I’ve easily put a brutal 500 miles on the things. They’ve lasted me well over the years… especially for a $40 pair of boots.

Ah well. So long Hi-Tec’s! It’s a shame you won’t be sharing in yet another adventure with me.

Old Hi-TeC Hiking Boots

In other news… I went to a currency exchange shop downtown earlier this week and pulled out some New Zealand Dollars, so I’m prepared once I get there. I have to say, we in the United States have some of the most boring money in the world. The cash from NZ is quite colorful and interesting to look at. Perhaps that makes you want to spend it less (riiiggghhhht).

New Zealand Dollars