Justin checking in after my first week in New Zealand. I've come over to have an actual adventure and in the event you wanted to live vicariously, I thought I'd share my initial impressions and thoughts on the Land of the Long White Cloud.
My journey started at San Francisco International Airport, where I arrived much too early and spent two hours killing time at the airport. Thank you, LOTR Return of the King Extended Edition. (+100xp) From there we crammed into our Air New Zealand flight which was surprisingly good. Plus, there was an empty seat next to me so I had some wiggle room. Airplanes themselves are sort of magical in my opinion. It's like you hop into a tube and it teleports you to another world. It's just that, in this case, the spell took 13 hours. I finished up my movie and arrived with sufficient sleep.
The airport was a trip. You step off the plane and walk for a bit until you hit a welcome doorway that looks like something out of the Rain Forest Cafe or the Tiki Room at Disneyland. It glows and makes some Maori chanting noises, too. My camera was dead at the time but luckily for you someone else took a picture of it for posterity:
Welcome to New Zealand, everybody.
After that, you walk through the Duty Free Store, which I can only describe as what it would look like if Target and Best Buy were fornicating on top of Macy's. I tried to explain this to the kiwis, but they only knew a few of those references... I guess you had to be there.
This is just a small section of it, but seriously what the hell is going on here? It was as eerily sterile as it looks.
After that the most culture shocking thing so far have been the crosswalks on the main streets of Auckland. Everyone waits patiently at the corners until this animated green walking man broadcasts a Pac-Man noise which signifies that everyone can now cross willy-nilly in whatever direction they deem fit. Including diagonally. I laugh every time I see it, especially because the first time I was worried for everyone's safety thinking that they'd surely be run down by the cars. (Which drive on the wrong side of the road, by the way. I am still not used to it. Silly foreigners.)
The next thing I didn't expect is that I've met more Germans than any other nationality. Not to make a broad generalization (that's a lie, I mean to) but Germans apparently love it here. I'm not the only one who notices this either. Everyone I talk to about it is like, "Yeah, they're bloody everywhere."
After a day or so of settling in, I made good on my promise to myself and booked my trip to Hobbiton. (+300xp) You guys know how it looks in the movie? It actually looks like that. You're basically walking around on the set. The trip from Auckland to Matamata is about two and a half hours by car, so we had some time to kill. I slept most of it (damn you, jet lag,) but the rest of it I spent brushing up on my Japanese with a tourist I met from Japan. I can't tell you how many times she said "Sugoi!"when she realized I could actually speak to her at least passably. (+50xp) We had a good time wandering around the Shire together.
This is one of many Hobbit-holes. They, like Germans, are bloody everywhere.
Should you ever find your way here, definitely try the ginger beer at the Green Dragon. You get a free drink at the end of the tour anyhow. Best ginger beer I've ever had. (+50xp. Yes, I'm giving myself xp for drinking something. You don't get to make the rules here, I do.)
That's it for now. Stay tuned for level 2 in the coming weeks. I'll be talking about the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, traveling from Auckland to Napier, and my experience so far at Napier Prison. (No, I didn't get arrested. I live here.)
They have funny names for things here. Bell peppers are called "capsicums." Maybe the scientific name, I don't know, much less care. Granola is called "Muesli." And along the same lines as the Duty Free store, I went shopping at PAK'nSAVE, which looks like a grocery store performed a hostile takeover of CostCo. I'll just let you imagine that one. It's more fun.
Justin Rhodes is currently living in New Zealand while gathering inspiration for a fantasy novel. It's nice here.
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