Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Kia ora!

That means roughly "hi" in Maori.

I'm in New Zealand! It's kind of hard to believe, but I made it! The flight from LAX to Auckland was actually quite painless. Air New Zealand is an amazing airline -- lots of great movies, tv and music to entertain you (and the free wine doesn't hurt either -- until you realize air travel is already dehydrating). I was incredibly grateful that the baby sitting 2 rows ahead of me was quiet the entire flight.

A note about New Zealand security -- they care deeply about whether you've declared the trail mix in your bag and how clean your boots are, not so much about liquids, what's in your shoes or how much access you've had to your bags. I was delayed for 15 minutes as the "biosafety" department cleaned my hiking boots. This made me late enough that I had to take my checked baggage the 900m to the domestic terminal myself with 40 minutes until my flight took off. I made it in time but I was glowing when I got there.

Ok, you guys aren't hear to read about my adventures on my uneventful flights. The good stuff: Wellington is GORGEOUS. There are trees everywhere so it kind of looks like someone sprinkled houses along the hills surrounding the harbor. The harbor itself is spectacular. Today was an absolutely beautiful day -- a slight breeze but nothing like the wind that gives the city its nickname as the "windy city." (Unlike Chicago, this has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the Southerlies from Antarctica which can knock you sideways. ) There's a walkway that runs along the harbor connecting the national museum, Te Papa, the civic square (which has a museum whose front has been covered in polka dots for a current exhibit), rock climbing gyms and tons of public art.

I arrived in Wellington at 8am and was met by a lovely woman from Fulbright. We took my bags to the hotel I'm staying at and then she gave me a walking tour of the city as we went to the Fulbright office. I got to use their internet and had morning tea with all the people in the office. Must be that famous Kiwi friendliness.

The city center is very small and very walkable. After my computer battery died, I walked the city for a couple of hours waiting until check in time. There are tons of cafes here everywhere and they're all adorable. Also, it turns out strangers really are friendlier here: I was looking at a map and a girl walked right up to me to give me directions.

Of course, the day was not without its minor hiccups: I managed to make my converter emit smoke, which I'm pretty sure means it's dead. Turns out you shouldn't use a converter for your computer, just an adaptor. (Which I got at a nearby store -- yay walkable cities.) I also managed to, in my sleep deprivation, fall prey to an internet scam which necessitated my canceling one of my two credit cards. Oy vey. At least all my bags made it. Everything is better with clean underwear.

Now the task of the day is finding an apartment. I've spent the better part of 4 hours on the functional equivalent of craigslist emailing people about flats. I suspect this will get easier once I have a phone. (Side note: Skype is a brilliant brilliant invention and if any of you would like to talk to me on said brilliant invention, I'd love to hear from you.)

For now it's off to bed. At 9:38pm it is finally dark. At 8pm I would've sworn it was late afternoon. It's summer here and we're pretty far south (41 degrees S), but it was still a shock. I hope all of you are well. I'll post a pic tomorrow.

- I'm in New Zealand!
- It's absolutely gorgeous here: trees, lots of water, friendly people.
- Still there is much to do (apartment hunting, sleep).
- I cannot be trusted with things that plug in or connect to the internet. This does not bode well for my future.
- At least I have clean underwear.

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