Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Why Must You Hate Me So?

Being back in New Zealand for two weeks was pretty good. I got to see the family, see the All Blacks win, hang out with friends, etc.

Coming back to the U.S., on the other hand, was an ordeal.

First my flight from Christchurch to Auckland was delayed, so when I finally arrived in Auckland I had to run to the international terminal, fill out the departure forms and dash through security in order to make my flight ... of course that flight was soon delayed for almost three hours. Once that flight left Auckland it pretty much meant I was going to miss my connections in L.A. and sure enough we touched down as my connection flight to Dallas was leaving.

If you read previous posts about U.S. Customs you'll be familiar with my feelings on that subject. In all the times I've cleared customs (about six or seven times) in the U.S. this was the worst. The custom's officer literally yelled at me. I didn't say anything because, you know, you can't. It took a while before they finally cleared me. This is how a bureaucracy works: just be a dick because you can. The contrast in friendliness between N.Z. and the U.S. is obvious. Honestly, I don't know how to feel about this country anymore.

Anyway, although we arrived at 1:30pm PST, Qantas didn't book me on a new connection until 11:40pm that evening. They did book me a hotel room at the Westin (check out the view I had) and that is where I spent the day waiting to catch my flight on Delta to Atlanta and then on to Birmingham the next day. There was a sex shop down the road that couldn't have looked more seedy had they tried and although I didn't frequent the establishment, it was not going to go out of business for want of clientele that's for sure.

My flight from L.A. to Atlanta was delayed and we had to change air crafts and were told at 12:55am, as we waited to board, that if the plane didn't leave by 1:15am the flight could not depart. The flight attendant literally said, "everyone just get on the plane. We're not going to do normal boarding procedures so we can leave."

Now let me give you a physical definition of the word chaos: 400 passengers all trying to get on a plane as the flight attendants step aside. Utter madness. I pushed my way to my seat in a crazed sleep-deprived fashion.

So, now that this flight was late I barely made my connection to Birmingham, but I made it. My bags, on the other hand, did not, so when Lydia Jones picked my up from the airport in the morning I asked if we could wait for the next Delta plane from Atlanta to arrive which she kindly said was okay.

This was probably the worst flying experience I have ever had.

Let me also tell you how I didn't get to sleep, and haven't slept in nearly five days. On the flight from AKL to LAX the kids behind me played video games all night. I couldn't sleep at the Westin. I couldn't sleep on the flight from LAX to ATL because the girls in front of me talked all night, and now I'm so jetlagged I can't sleep at all.

Today, I went in to UA and found that my new office has nothing in it, and I'm supposed to start teaching tomorrow.

On the bright side, my former flatmate Bevan Docherty won bronze in the Triathlon, and while I know he wanted to put a gold medal next to his silver that he won in Athens, bronze is still pretty great.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Nu Zild

After a rather long day (involving four flights) on July 30, which missed July 31 entirely, I found myself back in a rather rain-saturated New Zealand on August 1. I arrived at 4:30am which, as the crow flies, is too early even for customs to open so we had to wait for that. The nice thing about arriving in Auckland is the not so subtle push to buy Duty Free alcohol. One literally has to walk through the DFS store and its delicious selections of cut price booze before clearing customs. Also, the limit of alcohol one can by via duty free when entering NZ is one of the highest in the developed world. Thus, gin and vodka was purchased.

The thing I really like about customs in NZ is how friendly everyone is. They also play soothing NZ bird calls. When traveling through U.S. customs you are made to feel like you have offended everyone by merely flying to the country, but even at 5am all the customs people in NZ were friendly and polite. Yes, I'm talking to you, America. Be more nice.

Anyway, I had to wait four hours before my connection to Christchurch, so I bought some coffee and read the NZ Herald. After two losses in a row everyone was wailing and gnashing their teeth over the All Blacks, but as you shall read this was all for naught. It was nice to drink some decent espresso coffee again, although the blind man with his guide dog in the men's bathroom at Auckland Domestic isn't something I want to see again.

When I got home Christchurch was, predictably, like the rest of NZ during this time of the year, cold and wet. My mum took me home to the farm, which U.S. readers will see more of next week, and I tried to sleep but couldn't. I ended up coming to Lyttelton in the early evening and consumed some nice Indian food with Hollie, Tom, Vernon, Gavin, and Monica (who is now 7 months or so pregnant). That was fun.

On Saturday, Tom, Hollie and I went to Canterbury Museum to see the "Fred and Myrtle Flutey Paua Shell House" exhibit and then the DaVinci machine exhibit, which involves an over-zealous model maker's attempt to build scale models of DaVinci's designs. I think I can speak for everyone when I say the 8-canon tank was rather bad ass. We also stopped by for some beer and nachos at the Dux de Lux, something I sorely miss when living in Tuscaloosa. We also had coffee in Lyttelton and I like the way coffee makers here include floral designs in the froth.

Later that night, we ate fish 'n chips and watched the All Blacks (NZ's rugby team) hand the Wallabies (Australia's rugby team) their ass. The final score was 39-10, and following last week's loss to the same team, this result was a welcome form of revenge. Australia's coach, Robbie Deans, is a NZer and there's been talk NZ hung on to the wrong coach following last year's world cup debacle, but I'm happy he lost. I could never root against the All Blacks, even if they bit heads off kittens in their spare time.