Posted by: thezedword | September 5, 2009

Goodbye Pork Pie

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Today wasn’t supposed to be our last day in Wellington. No, that was supposed to be yesterday. The cable company disconnected our service in the morning. The power company came out to read the meter one last time. We handed our keys over to the new tenants. What furniture they didn’t buy from us we loaded into a truck last weekend and delivered it to the people who had won in it auctions on the Kiwi version of eBay, TradeMe, or to our South African friends, Neil and Jeanne, who are mostly devoid of their own furniture. Anything we won’t need over the next six weeks we packed into suitcases and loaded on a boat heading the same direction as us.

Our friend Kent picked us up yesterday afternoon and we spent the afternoon at his house, avoiding the Wellington rain and entertaining his “three-and-three-and-a-half-quarters”-year-old neighbor, which mostly consisted of playing games like Whoever The Trivial Pursuit Dial Lands On Gets One Monopoly Dollar and Aurora Can’t Talk Until The Boggle Hour Glass Runs Out. Later that night, after dinner with Kent and his girlfriend Garrity at a Kiwi restaurant, Dean and Grisham came over to play a game of Trivial Pursuit. Appropriate, considering the four of us forged a friendship over weekly film-themed quiz nights at Wellington’s Paramount Theatre. I managed a come-from-behind victory, despite only have four pie pieces to Kent, Dean and Grisham’s six, when my final question was “Which fictional film character’s mother said ‘Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get’?” Prior to this, the trivia from the orange category had been next-to-impossible, mostly focusing on Kiwi and Aussie candies and sweets. I’m a bit suspicious that Dean made up the final question to put an end to the four-hour game.

Side note: If you think you are good at Boggle, you need to take on the Canadian legend Garrity Hill. You are not better than Garrity. No, you are not. I promise.

We said our goodbyes to Dean and Grisham, I distributed a few manhugs, and we tucked in for the night, ready to wake up early and get on a bus for Taupo. From there, we’d visit Rotorua, then Auckland, where we’d reunite with our Kiwi Experience friend Fabio, and spend a day or two in the Far North. The two weeks after that will take us to Australia, where we’ll start out in Cairns and follow the Great Barrier Reef south as we drive to Sydney. Then it’s Fiji for a week, Los Angeles for another, and then Las Vegas for five days, where we’ll spend Colombus Day Weekend with Stacy’s entire family. We arrive back in Miami October 13, thirteen months and two days after we left. We’ve been asked a few times if we’ll return to live in New Zealand and, while I love Wellington and would like to, we just don’t know. We don’t know where we’ll live in the U.S. when we get back (though we have an eye towards LA), or where we’ll go to grad school, for if we’ll even get into grad school. It’s a bit scary and exciting at the same time to think that we both don’t know what the next step will be, or even in which direction it will be.

But Wellington wasn’t ready to get rid of us just yet. Three weeks ago, I called the Kiwi Experience to book the next leg of our trip. (We never completed the trip on our nation-wide pass we purchased back in November to tour the South Island). At the time, we were scheduled to leave September 2 at 8:00 AM. The Kiwi bus parks over night in front of the Base Hostel, which you pass driving from Kent’s to the YHA Hostel, where it was picking us up. This morning, the bus wasn’t there. Don’t panic, I told myself. It’s dropping people off at the ferry terminal, or picking people up at other hostels. Kent dropped us off at 7:40 (he got a manhug too) and we checked at the front desk of the YHA to be to sure we hadn’t missed the bus. They said we hadn’t. Eight rolled around and no one else lined up to get on the bus. At 8:10 I got out my laptop and checked to make sure I hadn’t booked a bus for tomorrow and that a bus was in fact leaving Wellington. The timetable I downloaded off the Kiwi Experience Web site said one was. At 8:15 I called the Kiwi Experience. There was no bus coming.

A week ago, they changed their timetables, cancelling the busses on just about every day we had planned to travel through the North Island. They say they tried to call us, e-mail us, notify the hostels that we weren’t staying in, and managed to fail in every attempt. We booked into YHA for the night, the hostel we stayed in a year ago when we first arrived in Wellington, and rescheduled our trip north over breakfast.

You can’t beat Wellington on a sunny day, or that’s what they say around here, at least. I’ve come to think it’s true. There are worse days to be stranded in Wellington. Last week it was in the high 40s (F) with gale force winds. Today, though, it was one of those days that’s hard to beat. We decided it was a blessing in disguise. We had a day to see the city one last time, to spend it the way we did when we got here: exploring Wellington, with nothing but the clothes locked away in the YHA to our name, and nothing to do.

We walked around the harbour, visited the crepe man, got some gelato from Stacy’s favorite place, took a nap on the grass in a park near our old flat, and we hiked up Mount Victoria to its breathtaking lookout. We had been to it before with my parents and brother. That was on a rainy day and we went up the mountain in a car, and only spent as much time up there as it took to watch a storm blow in from the south. This time the weather permitted us to stay up there as long as we wanted and we could see all of Wellington. We spotted Oriental Bay (we ran and rode bikes along it a few times a week); St. Mary’s Church (we walked behind it every time we went home); Willis Street (Stacy managed a store on it); Kilbirnie Pool (where we taught swimming, right across from Jeanne and Neil’s house); Aro Valley (Mable and Philip live there); Newtown (home of Dean, Grisham, Kent and, towards the end of his stay in NZ, Greg, the last member of our quiz team); and two of the many Weta buildings (where I worked for a short time).

Walking up there today, Stacy and I were on foot, with a vague sense of which direction we had to go. After a few wrong turns that mostly sent us up steps, then back downhill, only to walk uphill again at the next road, we found a path through the greenbelt that led to the lookout. Even if we didn’t know where we were going, we found our way.

And we will again.

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