Eleven thirty PM: the flight on the Fiji Airways Airbus A330 was finally ready to take off, after boarding an hour prior. Carter was so tired, and the announcement lady did her absolute best to keep him as awake as possible. Also, I’m pretty sure she was flicking the lights on and off every time he was close to being asleep again. I could be wrong, though – I had been awake for 20 hours at that point, so I might have had a bit of delirium clouding my memory.
So we took off. I took some video of us leaving the ground for the very last time, the last bit of America we’ll see for the next 11 months. Filming the occasion seemed like a good idea at the time, but I don’t think you can even see outside the plane window.
All things considered, the 12-hour red-eye flight wasn’t so bad. We didn’t get any sleep, but hopefully the people around us did, as Carter was only loud during a 5-minute mental breakdown at the equivalent of 4am (not clear what time zone we were actually in at that moment). The more annoying part of the trip was my favorite announcement lady interrupting our sleep to tell us that they’re coming to give us “dinner” at really inconvenient times, followed by another flicking-the-lights-on-and-off session. She seemed to really enjoy those, they occurred quite frequently throughout the flight.
When we landed in Fiji for our layover, it was sunrise. We all poured out of the plane like liquid body and luggage and quickly realized where we should have gone for our first country. The Fiji airport seduces you immediately by having all the gates on the
“If the Fiji airport was a semi-outdoor low-tech sweat lodge, Christchurch airport was the exact opposite.”
outside of the building. Seriously, there were tropical birds chirping “Bula” (“hello” in Fijian) to all the new arrivals while the sun peeked over the mountains covered in the greenest green you can possibly imagine. By all means it was paradisiacal. And no sooner did this heaven announce itself to us that we had to turn away from it and walk into a dark, sweaty building full of airport security and duty-free tchotchkes.
We nibbled on a couple egg-n-cheese pot pies from the food court, finishing just in time to board our flight. A flight which has now taken the award for worst. flight. ever. Maybe it was the unfairly strong smell of body odor from surrounding ethnic passengers, or the one and a half foot sitting space that isn’t big enough for my derriere, or the grimy armrests that probably haven’t been cleansed since the plane’s creation, or the bathrooms the size of trucker showers reeking of old man poop, or the sharp metal that seemed to protrude from every angle. I didn’t much like our 2nd plane ride on our way to New Zealand. Thank goodness it was only 4 hours long and not the 12-hr haul we experienced last night.
There were some redeeming qualities, but not because of the airline’s sake. We’ve met a few wonderful people on this flight, perhaps brought together because of the fight for oxygen (seriously, the B.O. was pretty bad). But it’s reassuring that there are great people in this world and that it’s not hard to find them.
We landed, and couldn’t get off the plane soon enough – the smell was beginning to penetrate our clothing. If the Fiji airport was a semi-outdoor low-tech sweat lodge, Christchurch airport was the exact opposite. Immediately out of the gate you enter a large room with no people in it, go through security and customs, pick up your bag, and walk out of there within 10 minutes (or 5 minutes if you didn’t forget to remove the pieces of apple from your child’s food toy thingy). No lines, no TSA employee frisking your goods for some shape that resembles a gun, no removal of shoes even. Just nice and easy.
After a debate whether to take the thrifty option and wait for the bus or fork over 10 extra dollars for a shuttle ride, we rode into town on the shuttle and stopped at our destination for the night, a little house we had rented a room from through AirBNB.com. Little did we know, this was the “bad” part of town. Whoops. Lucky for us all that meant was that we hear a couple ladies of the night working the corners at 2 am.
We got into the house with the hidden key and took a sigh of relief. Then breathed in again. The smell of wet wood and black mold filled our lungs. Emily and I looked at each other, and promptly gave up – we couldn’t do anything about it, so we might as well dig our heels in. At least it didn’t smell like body odor.
Within an hour of entering our residence for the night we met our hosts, a lovely German couple who were housesitting while the true owners were in Australia for a bit. Andy was wonderful enough to let me hitch a ride to the grocery store, and Emily went to sleep with Carter as I did so. I needed to get some fruit and granola bars for our 6-hour bus ride the next day. Andy and I got to talking about what he was doing in New Zealand, and how he liked Christchurch, and which streets in the city consisted of Red Light District. We also drove past Christchurch’s downtown, which was significantly disheveled due to the massive earthquakes the city had in 2010, and then six months later in 2011, from which it never truly recovered.
Grocery shopping in New Zealand is… exactly like grocery shopping in the States. You enter a sort of foyer as you pass through sliding doors and grab your cart or basket. You’re directed towards the produce section, then can browse the aisles of foodstuffs at your leisure until your cart is sufficiently full. You go to the counter and pay for your food, and can even speed up the process by using their convenient “12 items or less” lanes. The only differences were that the checkout counters feed you through the left side of the counter instead of the right, and you can’t buy a 5-gallon bucket of cheese puffs. Which, of course, is tragic.
There’s not a whole lot more to say about the day, except that I was asleep within 5 minutes of reaching home, and only woke up to the sound of colorfully dressed women yelling at each other about sidewalk territory.
And no, I don’t have any pictures of that.