Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Does the Path End Here?

So now that I'm back and all, I will have various other posts relating to New Zealand. But in the midst of those, I decided that I would write about my time here in the US for a good bit for my Kiwi friends. Of course, I have no problem with US people reading this, as it might give them a new view of how my life is. As this is like a second pilot, I won't write a whole lot, but at least I can write a bit.

Anyway, I might as well go over things from my flight back to the US for this post. I had a total of 3 flights: Auckland-LA, LA-Chicago, Chicago-Pittsburgh. On my way to the airport I had a nice talk with my Jackman parents about various things from the US "Cash for Clunkers" program to ideas for upcoming blog posts (Especially "The New Zealand Post of Lists"). After a nice bit of conversation, we finally got to the airport, where I met up with Cory, the other student from the US. I also had a nice bowl of ramen from the same-named restaurant as I had before the South Island trip, and I had the same ramen: Miso ramen with beef. Very tasty, but also very thirst-causing. Good thing I had my Kathmandu camelback that still had some water in it, which helped a great deal. I eventually went through all the security and got to the gate, and after a lot of thinking about my time in NZ, I got on the plane. The plane ride was great. Everything was nearly exactly the same as my flight to NZ, except about 1/3 the way through the flight, all of the on-demand stuff stopped working. Luckily I stiill had the radio working for a while, which allowed me to listen to a variety of Japanese music in the genre that to me sounded the most like pop. As it wasn't true radio the songs repeated after a while, but I loved listening to it because I like tons of Japanese things. The flight still had those great socks that you put over your own feet after you take your shoes off, making the ride very comfortable, and once again I quite liked the food they served. The flight lasted around 13 hours and 30 minutes, perhaps a bit longer, until I arrived in LA. There I parted from Cory as we went through customs, and I waited for my baggage to arrive. My bags took a while to arrive, but I eventually got them, put them on a cart (they were quite heavy, maybe close to 50 lbs (20 kgs or so) each), and headed for one of the customs officers. I expected to have my bags put through the scanners, but apparently that wasn't necessary, though I had declared all of the things I had brought back that were NZ things (namely some greenstone jewellery, and possum-merino gloves, among other normal shirts and such).

I then got back to the arrivals area of the LAX airport, and headed over to Terminal 1, where I needed to go. It was quite a long walk, but everything worked out well...until I saw the line at the ticketing area. that line was the longest line I have ever seen. There were quite a few zig-zag areas of the line that allow it to have more people...and they were completely full, with the line going out along the wall and out the door of the terminal. Thinking "oh boy, this is gonna take a LONG time", I got in the back. When I got to the truly marked queue, there was a place where it split into a place for people who had e-tickets (which was not very full at all, maybe 15 people in line), and an area for people who needed to buy tickets (full to the brim). I told them I had an e-ticket, but they forced me into the line for the people who needed to buy tickets. I was quite frustrated, especially when I saw people who were also going straight into the other line. I soon found out that the only reason I was in that line was because I had a cart for my luggage. I complained to them a bit, told them I'd give them my cart if I could go in that other line, and carried my heavy baggage to where I thought I'd be able to go. Yet, one of the workers saw that I had no idea not having a cart would save me time, and, knowing that I basically wasted a moderate bit of my time only due to lack of knowledge, jumped me straight through to a ticketing officer to check my baggage. That was more than I had expected, and I was very happy for it too. I then went to security, and with a few small kinks (like the guy having to check my passport for a long time due to the fact that I had bug spray on it from an exploding bottle of said spray in Coromandel), I finally got through to the gate. Unfortunately, I had to kill 3 hours. To add insult to injury, my flight was delayed half an hour, which made me worry about whether I'd get to my connecting flight on time. Not wanting to think about it too much, I went to McDonalds and bought a McGriddles (I had exchanged most of my NZ currency back to US, but I kept every possible denomination at or below a 20$ bill), which was something that they did NOT have in NZ. I knew it was unbelievably unhealthy, but it still tasted great, at least for something from McDonalds. I then read through the 3 hours to my flight.

The plane I was on for that flight had a very strange smell to it, and I was really tired (I hadn't slept on the Auckland-LA flight as I liked the features they had on the plane). That smell, however, made me feel a bit sick, and it was very hard to try to fall asleep. Instead, I was stuck in a state of moderate subconscious, where I could feel myself recuperating a bit, but not a whole lot, but time also went by more quickly. After what seemed like an age of waiting, we landed in Chicago at the Midway airport.

Luckily for me, my next flight was at the gate right next to mine, and I only needed to wait a half-hour. I'm glad I didn't have to go farther, because the Midway airport was confusing. I then got on my flight to Pittsburgh. At that time I was not tired whatsoever (the subconscious state on the LA-Chicago flight helped more than I thought), and I had a good conversation with the guy in the seat next to me. We ended up talking for most of the flight, and we also talked for a while after the flight ended and I was walking to baggage claim. For a joke, I decided to try to get my hair in front of my face as much as possible so my parents wouldn't recognize me. I saw them a bit before they noticed me, and the effect was fun enough. After getting my stuff, we headed home.

That's all I'll write for now. I plan to continue this for a good while, especially because I think my Kiwi friends might find it interesting to hear about school here as I'm in it, instead of me just talking from memory. Thanks for your continued reading!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The New Zealand Post of Lists

So, now that my exchange is over, it's time to point out what I believe were the top bits in various categories.

Top 5 foods I tried for the first time in NZ:
1. Pavlova (light, fluffy sugar, usually combined with sliced kiwifruit or other fruit)
2. Weet-Bix (small bricks of grain and wheat + milk and a sprinkling of sugar = aweesome breakfast)
3. Goody Goody Gum Drops flavor ice cream (green bubble-gum flavored ice cream with gumdrops throughout, extremely tasty)
4. Steak and Cheese Pie (one of the unhealthiest things in existence, but very good savory flavors)
5. Hokey Pokey (sort of candy-ish substance that's hard and crunchy, the flavor is very hard to describe. Put in many things, from ice cream to cookies)

Top 5 Kiwi Statements/words:
1. *insert adjective here* as (most commonly Sweet As, basically saying whatever the adjective is very strong of that. Sweet as is also used as saying everything's ok)
2. Kia Ora (standard Maori greeting said by a whole ton of people in NZ, from schoolchildren to news anchors)
3. She'll be right (classic Kiwi, not worried, everything'll be fine)
4. Fair Enough (I know that's not really a kiwi statement, but I heard Kiwis say it a whole lot more than anyone I know in the US)
5. Keen (once again, I've found it used much more commonly in NZ, statement meaning "in the mood to)

Top 5 foods that are present in the US, but different in taste:
1. Peanut Butter (in NZ there's much more of a pure peanut flavor, not sweet at all, unlike the US)
2. Chocolate (Due to there being Cadbury and Whittaker's chocolate, it's much creamier in the case of Cadbury, and much more flavorful in the case of Whittaker's)
3. Honey (not as sweet, but it really works well with chai tea. Not only that, but there's more varieties of it here, the most well-known being Manuka)
4. Milk (I'm not sure how to describe how the flavor is different, but it's quite noticable when you compare them. And I'm comparing 2 of the same type here [like skim vs. skim, etc]. Perhaps that's why milk isn't used as a beverage nearly as often?)
5. Sausages (NZ barbecued sausages are freakin' awesome! Though, it's much less common to see a spicy sausage, unlike the US)

Top 5 Sports I tried for the first time in NZ:
1. Cricket (confusing to learn, scary to bowl, painful to field, yet really fun, and batting is quite interesting, especially since I always forget not to drop the bat after I hit, hehehe...)
2. Orienteering (who knew running up and down endless hills with a map just to punch a card could be so fun?)
3. Rugby (much more fluid and more strategic than Am. Football, you need a lot of endurance to play for a long time, both cardiovascular and pain)
4. Paintball (only did it once, on my very first day in NZ, but I had a whole lot of fun, especially seeing how hilarious it was to pop out from cover and shoot at someone who was trying to come towards you [while they're far enough away, of course]. Also, good practice to try to learn a little ballistics)
5. Athletics (Can't say I liked it a whole lot, but I didn't play a whole lot of sports in NZ. Even though I fail miserably at the high jump, it's quite fun anyway, and my favorite non-"hurl-object-as-far-as-you-can" event)

Top 5 Places that I went to in NZ:
1. Queenstown (the unbelievably touristy area in NZ, it has tons of different activities like luging, bike riding, bungy jumping, skydiving, etc... AND it still has some nice Japanese food, hehehe...)
2. Milford Sound (I don't usually call land beautiful, but this is one of the few places where I would use that word)
3. Lake Taupo and the nearby mountains (Tennis, Tongariro Crossing, Skiing, Swimming, Great meat pies. 'Nuff said.)
4. Christchurch (A nice bustling city with a grand cathedral in the middle of it, as well as being near the ocean)
5. Hamilton (Had to put the place I lived on this, and it's not too big, so you don't need to worry about taking a long time to get to places. Right on the Waikato River too, so great place to kayak, and the Hamilton Gardens are a good place to go too. Much more I can say, but I don't need to)

Top 5 Kiwi Activities:
1. Bungy Jumping (expensive, but the greatest rush you'll ever have in my opinion)
2. Going to the Beach (whether the sand is black or white, I like trying to ride waves on either side of the island country)
3. Tramping (I'm not the biggest fan of it, and I've never done a multi-day one, but I do like the Tongariro Crossing and other mountain walks)
4. Lazing About (Almost ALWAYS time for some of this, and it's nice sometimes to spend a day doing nothing but reading and such)
5. Pickup Cricket/Rugby/Soccer (Common especially for teens wherever you are, nice thing to do at random times)

Top 5 things NOT to expect to find much of in NZ:
1. Amusement Parks (There's only one, which is Rainbow's End near Auckland. It also has only one roller coaster, and it isn't that impressive)
2. Busy Schedules (Kiwis are commonly laid-back, even if there is a packed schedule, people don't often worry about it)
3. Root Beer, Grape Jelly, Reese's Candy of any kind (Some are rare, some don't exist at all)
4. Flat Plains (There are some, but there are quite a few rolling hills, and a ton of mountains around. And if they're flat, they're commonly covered with trees)
5. Hobbits, Elves, Dwarves, Wizards (The Lord of the Rings was just a movie based on a book. Filmed in New Zealand, yes, but still a movie.)

There are many more lists I can make, and I will make more. But as I have a terrible memory and I can't always come up with good lists on the spot, I'll make more as more come to me, but let you read these as they are now.