Thursday, October 27, 2011

3rd May (cont) - 7th May, Wellington and Palmerston North

In Wellington I see what looks like a small child wandering between luggage carousels. I correctly assume it’s my friend Rebekah, and we get into a car with an excessively happy dog in it. We get a cask and go to her house where we chill out listening to music and chatting like I’d never left. Later in the evening Erin and Toby turn up, along with KFC and their own excellent company. The conversation is great and it’s in general a chill, peaceful night.



It eventually gets late and I walk Erin and Tobias to the bus stop, then decide I’m going to go with them. We assume we’ve missed the bus and walk to the city. We walk for an hour in the wrong direction and back again, but it’s worth it. On this walk the bus that we didn't actually miss roars past us. On getting back to Erin’s apartment I proceed to jump on Chris, take a bite out of their growing capsicum, and fall asleep on a mattress under a towel.



4


Crunchy nut for breakfast. Yay! Go shopping with Erin and Chris, get Turkish kebab for lunch, and get ready. Realise my dress has a giant hole in it. Wear it anyway. Go to Laura’s where we have dinner and drinks, and then the three of us spend awhile in the mirror drunkenly making my face as 2 dimensional as possible. Don’t really know why.



To town! Went to Estab which is for first years but it’s been so long since I’ve been clubbing that I don’t care. Go to a few more clubs, make friends, lose friends, find friends, offend Laura’s friends, go to McDonalds, make “French” friends. (*NB – May have not actually been French) go home. A very successful night.



5


Up for a morning coffee with Laura on her terrace overlooking the city, laughing indulgently at the students huffing their way up the stairs underneath us. Say my goodbyes, and meet up with Emma. Have an insane catchup with Emma whereupon we both literally cannot stop talking and heartily disgust the man behind us.



Stomach begins to hurt. Decide to forego a shower and instead scramble around the city picking up my luggage that has somehow been strewn from one end of it to the other. Head to PALMERSTON NORTH.



Literally talk the entire way. Have my first godsend blue Powerade (hangover cure) in months. The shopkeeper asks me where I’m from.



Upon arriving in Palmy, go for a swim and sauna in a fruitless attempt to right six days of wrong. It works slightly enough to go to Drew’s with a few double blacks – the bane of Emma and mine’s existence. Funnily enough, the drink that could send us careening down flights of stairs is now too sweet. Catchup with some of my favourite people and have a Kendo battle with Drew with fire pokers. Looking back this may not have been the most wise of ideas. Enjoyed anyway. Had some wonderful times, and perfected a dance move called “Death” whereupon a group of you are dancing normally in a club, and at some small cue all drop to the floor and lie motionless. It becomes an instant hit and we take it to town with us.



Despite now being 22, I am not allowed into the very first club we try because my ID is so hideously deformed. (Steven Nordstrom bit it – right across the face.) Luckily NZ is small enough that someone in our group knows the bouncer and after an extensive conversation I am ushered in like a smuggled 17 year old. When we finally get in we find the place empty, which is perfect for us. We order WAGs and dance on thin shelves about a metre and a half above the (concrete) floor.



Head to next (empty) bar. Dominate the dance floor. After awhile of this, we look around and find the place is suddenly packed. The “Death” move is showcased. Two girls across the bar scream.



BK is closed so we get McDonald’s, I get tired of walking and become a petulant child. Sleep upside down on a couch which was actually shown to me in the morning as being a fold-out bed complete with built in pillow.



6


Wake. Consume delicious pie and take student bus back to Emma’s. It’s like I never left. Try to sleep while Emma goes to work, but instead invite a random stranger (who I thought was a friend of one of the flatmates) in to hangout and watch TV. When they come home they are confused and I am sleepy.



Go for coffee with SamAllan! Funny, inappropriate, wonderful conversation. Go shopping for necessities and then to the TAB to place his bets. Go grocery shopping and get introduced to MAMMOTH YOGHURT. The advertising slogan reads “This is men’s yoghurt, and you are a man.” I'll take that. Heartily enjoy with tuna. It seems like the only thing my body will accept.



To Tamsin’s! See Lisa there. Big hugs and lie on couch making awful jokes and waiting to drink again. The fabled time finally rolls around and we wrap up and go to support our favourite sports team, (casual men’s hockey, 3rd div) Marist, complete with whiskey, cider and RTDs...Taped to our hands. At some point in the supporting (“Run like an antelope!” “Moist for Marist!” etc) we become loud, obnoxious, and hilarious. Can’t believe my good fortune at being able to relive the memories of watching a Marist game, starting from the humble beginnings of Emma and I wrapped in a blanket as students with a box of beer between us a full 3 years prior.



Go back to Tamsin’s, where my stomach is now hurting insistently. Drink more. Catchup with Rich and Brooke! Go on secret mission with Lisa in the hopes that BK will make my stomach better. It doesn’t. One of us spews. The other gets egged. We walk home. Craig and Matt are there but I’m in too much pain to enjoy their company to the fullest extent. All of our stuff is held hostage in Tamsin’s room (for leaving), so Lisa and I share a couch. One couch.



7


Slow start, cups of tea, sushi because my body will not accept another ounce of western food, and goodbyes until next time I see this wonderfully nasty city again. Pick up Kiri with Lisa and have a sweet catchup all the way to TAUPO.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

29th April - 3rd May - CHRISTCHURCH

29th


Customs in Christchurch are hilarious. There is one line, two customs officers. Then one (1) duty free shop, where, someone sitting and talking over the other side of the terminal sees us coming and wanders over to the counter to serve. A guy in line points this out to me in a wonderful, blokey, NZ accent, holding his two bottles of duty free rum. He lets me cut in front for my 2 bottles of whiskey. I am home.



FINALLY – NZ soil! After about 28 hours of travelling I am home. I see Alyssa at the gate and it’s like I have just flown down from the North Island for a visit. Ollie is a giant! My old NZ phone works, but is awful to use. I don’t know how I lasted with it so long, the keypad is literally mush.



Without further ado I walk to the dairy and have an ecstatic conversation in English with my first English speaking stranger in a long time. Go back to Alyssas happy, have my first pie in a year, a cup of tea, then a nap. Strong beginnings.



After this we went to the grocery store, where I was astounded by the amount of food (my grocery store is usually a 7/11.) It was weird to have all the food I’ve been craving so long all around me in such abundance. So weird in fact, that I wasn’t hungry and didn’t buy any. That didn’t stop me buying three bottles of wine.



Paul came home from work and we had curry night with their friends. I love this about NZ, as soon as you get here you become absorbed into people’s lives and plans as if you’d always been expected. Many is the story of a lone foreigner hitch-hiking here ending up going back to their ride’s house for dinner, drinks, a couch, bundled off into a friend of a friend’s car for the next leg, given a discount from someone’s cousin at a tourist attraction…



Opened the wine, watched the royal wedding, made the royal wedding into a drinking game, and then ended with more wine. Lovely to catch up with Lyss in the way that we used to pretty much three times a week in university.



30th


Saturday. Cold, but a beautiful clear day. Nice not to feel any sort of humidity. Went for a walk in the morning with this sweet little family, and took Ollie to the park. I went on the swings for the first time in forever and got motion sickness and had to stop. Just call me Adventurer Extraordinaire.



Got BK (sweet, sweet BK) with Lyss then went to watch a rugby game. After the game I’m asked if I want a beer, I say yes and am given an entire jug. Oh, NZ. Everyone is very friendly to me as if I'm a foreigner, and I have a chat to an English person about Nzers, because he has an outsiders opinion and it’s interesting to find myself repeating the same sentiments after only 9 months away.



Back out for a party, in which my “Japanese milk carton” is brought out for tasting. (It’s shochu.) Everyone enthusiastically tries some and then splutters. Still, we pass it around. Along with my camera, with strict instructions that I want “excited faces”. It comes back with excited faces. And genitalia.



1 (May) Sunday


Have my first roast in a very long time. Was so excited for it I had about a quarter and my stomach wouldn’t accept any more. The food here is so rich compared to Japanese food that I am struggling. We went to see Thor, which was doubly hilarious because I happened to be sitting next to Thor at the time.



Picked up some hot cross buns (drool) and whiskey and went back to Lysses. We all decided to have a nightcap, which I poured. We had one more. We realised we were having trouble judging distances and on checking my ratios realised over half the bottle was gone. Oops.



2 Monday


Brunch with Alyssa and her mum out at a nice housing complex on the outskirts of Christchurch. They were forced to move from their city apartment after the earthquake, but this place is beautiful. It has quiet streets, golf courses, the sea, woodlands, wetlands, everything. I’m inspired to live somewhere like that.



Picked up Ollie from daycare and hung out with him. He showed me his fake sneeze which was about the cutest thing I have ever witnessed. Part way through today the news about Osama came on, and we discussed that for quite awhile. Then we had wine.



3 Tuesday


Brunch at the mall, (love how many brunches Christchurch inspires in a person) then back to the airport. Say my goodbyes, and then jump on the plane to WELLINGTON. On the airplane the safety procedure is done by an 80s aerobics instructor with song and dance. Oh, NZ.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Trip home - Flights and Singapore

Okay so this post and probably the next 3 or so after this are going to be about my trip back to NZ. Not strictly about Japan and my life here, but in the interests of contrast and for the benefit of people who find it as strange!



April 27


Took my suitcase to the station before work. Worked all day, then there was a HUGE thunderstorm so I got taken to the station early by a teacher. Everyone found out I was visiting home and gave me a sort of farewell from the office where they were calling things out from their desks to me and told me to say nice things about Japan and please come back. It made me sad because it made me think of how incredibly hard it’s going to be when I leave the place for good. The teacher who drove me down even sat and waited for my train with me, and told the station attendant where I was going, and the two of them crowded around talking excitedly for me.



Began the first leg of my journey, 1 hour north to Miyazaki. Then 2 hours south to Kagoshima. Then 2 hours north to Fukuoka. This seems… Contrary to convenience.



Granted, the shinkansen (bullet train) got me to Fukuoka in a fraction of the time it takes a bus. (It goes at about 300km per hour.) It was a little sickening because I was determined to look at the scenery whipping by, but it was definitely exciting and something off the Japan to-do list.



Fukuoka, midnight. Phase one complete. I booked in, had a fantastic hotel shower, and a fantastic hotel sleep. If I had to spend every night of my life in a uniform hotel room with no personal touches, I’d be perfectly content.



28


“Continental breakfast” which of course in Japan means 6am rice and soup. Onto the subway, and into the airport. Cannot believe my travel plans are all falling into place. I generally just assume it’ll be a clustersomething of grand proportions. Randomly saw Asha at the airport, a good 5 hours away from home. Japanese Foreigner World is Small.



Checked in, and was helped in english(!) by an attendant. The culture shock begins already. Bought heaps of omiyage and then spent the entire security line trying to stuff it unceremoniously into my backpack so it’d all look like one piece of luggage. As I was doing this a giant mascot of a dog sidled up to the line and stood there looking at everyone. I could not stop laughing. Oh, Japan.



First flight! 6 hours. A nervous fat man sits next to me and I want to speak reassuringly in Japanese but we bumble away to each other in the language we think the other wants to hear. I’ll never be one of those people that gets offended for being spoken to in English, because I remember when I first got here it was absolutely necessary for the most simple tasks.



Singapore. It’s hot! In a tropical, holiday type way though, not a humid you-still-have-to-go-to-work-and-sweat-in-your-chair one. There are waxy tropical flowers of which I have only ever seen the fake version, and a bus that takes you between terminals. Don’t laugh, these are still exciting to a New Zealander.



The first thing I did in Singapore was go to a Mr Donut and try to speak in Japanese to the Singaporean American behind the counter, who answered me in unimpressed natural English. This is to be a trend whenever I see an Asian looking person for the remainder of my trip. And, probably, my life. I had a giant coffee, and thought about getting BK (which was shining over the terminal like a glowing beacon of hope) but decided instead on a traditional Singaporean meal of pork and custard baos. (Steamed buns.)



Went for a massage, in which a GIANT soft spoken man draped himself over me and told me to leave on my “brassiere.”



Generally milled around for the next 5 hours looking at shops with tiger balm and shell jewellery. Bear in mind it’s like midnight.



Got to the bar, had myself a Singapore sling, which was an ultra sweet concoction PACKED with alcohol. It was akin to a long island iced tea, except thicker and sweeter. Muzzily strode the full kilometre to the next terminal, and was asked by a cleaner in the toilet if I was German because I was so delirious at not having to use a squat toilet that I was having trouble with the soap dispenser. Also because I spoke to her in slow “I’m teaching you English” English. I’ve gone from assuming everyone understands, to assuming noone does. I’m not sure which is more offensive.



Next flight. Grinning at the security men because I have an entire Singapore sling in my system. Nearly pass out with joy over the “bed pack” we are given in the plane, which includes new socks. Considering I’ve been wearing mine since yesterday morning, these are a godsend. I put my old ones in a sealed Ziploc baggie, a biohazard for my mum. I have a leisurely dinner and wine, stretch out across 3 seats (yes, they were empty. Life is good.) and doze on and off for half the flight.



We are given breakfast like 6 hours after dinner, which screws with me a bit, but they are right, the sun is rising. I struggle to watch an interesting documentary on sword making but my eyes and ears hurt so I watch the beautiful ranges of the South Island instead. Starting to get ludicrously excited.