I don’t know why it is that no matter how long I have to prepare for something I always end up cramming at the last minute to git ‘er done. After Tom pulled two almost-all nighters performing test packs, I revisited my college days and passed up on sleep Saturday night to make the final preparations for boarding our first flight on Sunday morning. I was up to the task because I had been well fed Saturday night by Tom the chef. Even though the Titanic was sinking around us, Tom spent a decent chunk of his time that evening preparing his famous pasta bar. It is my personal favorite of his culinary creations, and McKane requested it as his “last meal in America.”
We arrived at the airport a mere hour and a half before our flight was scheduled to depart, but surprisingly there was no line at Delta’s international desk. Lou and Lorelie parked the two cars that served as our airport shuttles and joined us in the terminal to oversee the check-in process. Despite Tom’s packing, repacking, and packing again, we still had too much stuff and too much weight. We shuffled some items around and passed inspection, checking two bags, while carrying on six and a skateboard.
Happy to finally be on the move…
Toilet stalls in Korea
Our first flight took us to San Francisco, our second to Seoul, Korea on Korean Air, which Kieran and Asher dubbed the Pepsi plane (check out their logo to see why). Tom was sure I had messed myself up on the jetlag front by sleeping for five hours on the first long haul flight, but he forgot about my sleeping superpower. In fact most of us (i.e., everyone but Asher and whoever was caring for her at the moment), slept the majority our second 11 hour flight, which was a redeye from Seoul to Auckland. There is so much I could say about our 36 hours in transit, but I can’t hold up the post pipeline, so I’ll defer for the moment. The only truly remarkable (and frightening) fact about our travel experience was the fact that I unintentionally made it through two airport security checkpoints with a large bottle of liquid hand sanitizer. Remember, we’re on Terror Threat Level Orange. So much for my confidence in the TSA.
We touched down in New Zealand and cleared customs, which can be tough since you have to declare all food items (we declared chewing gum) and any clothing items that might be carrying soil upon penalty of a $200NZ fine. I called our new friend at the New Zealand Tourism Board who told us to come into Auckland to pick up our media passes, which will hopefully help us see and do many things we otherwise would not. We took a cab driven by a quiet Maori woman, and then proceeded on foot to the incredibly helpful tourist office at the Sky Tower where we booked our ultra-deluxe Campervan for the 17 days we will be here. The driver who took us from the Sky Tower to the rental facility gave us a primer in New Zealand/American relations. A burly, red-faced fellow, he was not unfriendly, but he made it clear that we hail from a country of diminishing power and fading reputation. He assured us that members of his generation still view America favorably, but that the younger generation of New Zealanders have little patience for our politics and deem us shallow. This is true, he explained, because 90% of Americans never leave their homeland and don’t really care about the world beyond their own borders. New Zealanders on the other hand typically leave the country for a period of 5-10 years to gain a broader perspective and increase the scope of their experience. The flavor of the month for young Kiwis is currently Europe and sometimes Canada. Some of this time may include a stint at university, which he dismissed as “codswollop.” College is wasted on most students, he argued, since they learn little that is relevant in real life and simply treat it as a four year party.
The sting of our driver’s heavy-handed rhetoric faded as we came into sight of our new home–a 6-berth deluxe campervan. We prepaid for our 17-day rental and left a $2000 deposit in case we cause any damage. (We’re hoping we get it back in the end or we might be home sooner than we expected.) McKane, Kieran, and Asher were delirious with joy and explored every inch of the vehicle. They named it the “Big Rolling Turd” in homage to Robin Williams’ recent theatrical masterpiece, “RV.” We stocked up on groceries at the nearby Pack ‘n’ Save and proceeded to the nearest campground that offered internet access. As it turns out the internet access is limited to the owner running her DSL cable out the window for us, but it’s a small price to pay for the really nice shower facilities and the spectacular view we woke up to.
The kids spent the morning running the beach, collecting shells, and chasing ducks. We’re packing up right now and heading north to the land of sheep and the Maori. This is going to be a good year.