New Zealand Part 1: Auckland
These events took place between January 29 and February 7 2017.
The long journey to New Zealand began on January 29, 2017. My sister had a work commitment in Orlando the same day I was flying out of the Orlando airport and we headed up the night before and spent the night in the University of Central Florida Hampton Inn. Having spent so much time in hostels, I rate any accommodation where I have my own room and bathroom as a high class luxury resort. We also had a television and unlimited internet, which typically come standard in a hotel room, but to someone who has slept in a 24 bed dorm on multiple occasions, a television in the room is the equivalent of a private cabana in Fiji with a swim up bar and the Rio Olympic Tongan flag bearer is your own private butler.
We checked into the hotel and headed out to get some food in the wild, happening UCF area of Orlando. We found ourselves at a borderline fast food Asian restaurant that was playing Jeopardy on the TV, so we did what normal humans do and sat on the same side of the table in front of the TV and shouted out the answers. We are unbelievably cool. The next morning we engorged ourselves on the complimentary breakfast while watching some middle aged people get in an argument over the waffle maker because Florida.
Jenn dropped me off at the airport and I attempted to check into my flight. The self-check in did not work and advised me to wait for assistance. I waived down a United employee who told me a United employee would be around to help and to ask one of them. Eventually someone told me I had to wait in the customer service check in line. I waited in the check in line for a few minutes and the people both in front of and behind me seemed to be having similar problems. Finally, an extremely rude airline employee approached me and asked why I was in the line. I replied that I had been unable to check in on the self kiosk.
“Why not?!” The rude woman asked.
“Um, I don’t know?” I replied. How was I supposed to know why I couldn’t check into the flight. She worked there. Shouldn’t she know??
The woman brought me over to the self-check in and the same error message popped up. She looked at a few other screens, told me I could not check into the flight, pointed back to the customer service line, where the kind people in line let me jump back into my spot rather than join the back of the line. Seeing the tears in my eyes they extremely concernedly asked what had happened but I couldn’t speak because I would have started bawling.
If you’re paying attention, you can figured out why the people in line were so empathetic slash interested in my airport plight. This was two days after Trump’s failed “Muslim Ban” and international travel honestly seemed precarious, even for United States citizens, and who knew what reason might cause a denied boarding.
The mean woman eventually called me over to the self-check in kiosk and told me I needed a return ticket. I told her I had a visa and then when I went to reach for it in my bag she snarled, “No, a visa like in your passport!”
I gave her my best bitch face and told her that I was getting my visa and she giggled and said, “Oh, sometimes people think I mean visa like a credit card!” She was literally the worst. United, am I right?!
I then got back into the customer service line and checked into my three flights to Auckland. I flew from Orlando to Chicago to San Francisco where I boarded my 13 hour flight to New Zealand.
After a flight filled with napping, movies, and most surprisingly, ice cream! I arrived in Auckland. I had spent the past 26 hours traveling across an entire continent and the Pacific Ocean and decided to treat myself to a shuttle that would drop me off directly at my hostel. I purchased a ticket and then figured that would be a great time to look up the currency exchange rate. If you think any other time before arriving in New Zealand would have been a great time to look up the currency exchange rate, you are correct!
I arrived at my hostel but was not allowed to check in because it was too early but I could use the lounge. Prior to leaving for New Zealand, I had started doing some online work and when I checked my email I had a message to call someone to discuss a project I had been working on. I made a Skype call and then immediately got to work on a project that the client “thought I would have gotten more done” on during the weekend. I hadn’t mentioned to him that I would be leaving the country.
I worked on the project and then headed into the city center. Auckland…is okay. It’s a city. It’s a cleanish city and walkable but that’s really it. I visited the library and got some french fries. I walked through a park. I then went back to the hostel where I did some work in the lounge while some German guys played Backstreet Boys over the lounge speakers. The next few days were slightly different permutations of that first day: work, wander, eat. The hostel was not friendly at all, which was disappointing because I had been looking forward to talking to people about what to do in New Zealand and making some new friends with whom I could see Auckland.
Eventually I checked out of the hostel and checked into an AirBnB in a different neighborhood and who should walk right by the house but my Irish friend from last December, and last August, and at whose house I carved a RuPumpkin and watched the election and who took care of this cat.
He walked past the house because he had just stepped off a 12 hour flight from Hong Kong and was not even looking at maps on his phone or a real map or where he was going or anything. We spent the next few days in Auckland running errands, including but not limited to opening bank accounts, grocery shopping, car shopping (him), explaining American football while watching the Superbowl (me), and wandering around Auckland, which still did not impress me very much.
After we ran all of our errands and my friend had bought a Subaru Legacy off of two German backpackers, we left for the Northland where we were going to work on a vineyard.