Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Last Night's Reflections
(posted from LAX airport, while enjoying my first meal in the US in eight and a half months. My choice? Nachos and Cherry Coke. God bless America.):
It's my last day in New Zealand. To be totally correct, it's the penultimate hour before my flight leaves for LA. I'm sitting at the window in the Auckland airport, eating mediocre bacon and egg pie (my other option was Burger King, and I am NOT having my last meal on New Zealand soil be American fast food! So Kiwi fast food it is), and people-watching both inside and outside the terminal. Outside, it's drizzling: the slow, insistent, methodical haze that I've become familiar with throughout the New Zealand winter. It never rains, exactly, but everything has this misty halo surrounding it, a perpetual ring around the moon. I have, at times, missed the snow, but I think I can handle this, too.
When I was walking from the domestic terminal to the international one, I spotted, out front of the baggage claim, the bench where I had sat eight and a half months ago, waiting for the bus into Auckland and terrified out of my mind. Eight months seemed to loom in front of me, vast and unfillable, overwhelmingly foreign in its enormity and emptiness. I had people that I had contacted, sure, and a vague idea of where I was going first, but I was, for the most part, rootless. In the past eight months, however, I have put down those tiny little "soul-roots" that Anne talks about in Anne of the Island, those little anchors that have made this voyage utterly unforgettable. Building faery houses with the kids at Mangarara, curling up in an armchair at Betty's and knitting companionably, going for Sunday drives with Barb and Stuart through the mountain passes. There are little bits of me in each of those places, and I couldn't be happier about it.
One of the things that has surprised me most about this trip are those connections, actually; one of my bad habits in life is experiencing the experience, and taking new self-knowledge and ideas away from it, and then, detaching. I am terrible at keeping in touch with people, I usually visit places once, and I let things finish within that bubble. But this time, there is an idea that my time in New Zealand is by no means over. I have made family here, and, as you might have guessed, I am absolutely, hedonistically, head-over-heels in love with the landscape and the lifestyle. I had thought, prior to visiting, that it would be an excursion, and that would be it. Back to normal life. But now I know better, and I am glad to be proven wrong.
I've been saying goodbye to the country in my own way. I left Tally Ho on Thursday and spent the night in Queenstown, and then flew up to spend my last few days in Wellington. I can unabashedly state that I love love love Wellington in winter; it's mellow and quiet, and a heck of a lot warmer than Central Otago. I spent a lot of time reading, eating out at little restaurants on Cuba Street, and (shamefully) shopping, but also had a lot of time to just wander around.
Since it's the off-season for Wellington, there aren't many tourists around, which makes life wonderfully calm. I went to Te Papa again on Monday morning, and had most of the exhibitions to myself--which meant I finally got to try all the interactive games that I couldn't ever get close to before! I also got to curl up and people-watch in the cafe for a couple hours, lazily nibbling on a brownie (couldn't finish it, mom, too chocolaty) and reading the newspaper. Today, I went up in the cable car to the Botanical Gardens, and got as deliberately lost as possible, forgetting the city noise and traffic in a deep gully of native bush. Everyone at the hostel last night was aghast that I was chilling out rather than cramming as much in my last days as possible, but for me? Not seeing it now is just another excuse to make sure I come back later on.
So we're now approaching my final hour in New Zealand. The airport's getting quiet; mine is one of the last flights to go before it shuts down until morning. I have a good book to start, and a bunch of movies on my laptop to wade through as needed. Or, which is most likely, I think I'll just spend my last hour watching the rain fall and continuing to think how incredibly lucky I am to have had this journey. I can only hope that the journey is just beginning!