7 August 2008
The big day had arrived.
USA here I come!
I write this 2 whole weeks after the event but it is still a vivid memory.
Up early, final pack and weigh of bags to try and get everything to fit. Nearly everything I thought I would need for the next year had to fit in 2 suitcases, 1 backpack and a laptop bag. (see below)
I had been staying at a friends house
in Miramar for the last 6 1/2 weeks so it was time to spring clean the room and
do all the laundry; always leave things in the same or better condition than you
found them when people graciously share their space with you.
A last minute lunch at the nearby Chocolate Frog Cafe with friend Maggie then those last 45 minutes of waiting - nothing else to do, all packed, all dressed, all phone calls made.
Passport - check, Money - check, Tickets - check, ride to Airport - check ... oh heck, theyre here already! It's finally happening, still no nerves, just a strange sense of calm. I found out later this is the body's way of coping with extreme stress; it pumps you full of Endorphins'. No wonder I felt like I had been slightly drunk for the last 2 weeks.
Wellington Airport looked the same as always and as is always the case when I travel no one there to see me off ... or so I thought. By absolute chance, not knowing I was leaving that day, David (ex DFC) & Anne Groufsky were at the Airport. Strange? how these things happen; the only people I hadn't been able to catch up with before a I left were there on a whim. A quick catchup over a coffee and bun and then on the plane to Auckland. Quick walk across to International then what seemed like an interminably long wait before boarding 1/2 hour late and then the 12 hour flight to LA.
I was flying Premium Economy so had priority boarding, better seats with more legroom and was waited on hand and foot by the Air New Zealand staff. 4 course meal, as much wine as I wanted (which I declined after 1 glass of Pinot) and many hours of fitful sleep later LA was in sight. Now I had the first hint of nerves. The maps of LA I had looked at hadn't prepared me for the full size of it - a monster city spread out below me, a Lear Jet flying by below us on a different course. Passenger next to me was a frequent flyer and he commented he had never seen the sky so clear and so much of the city visible. On the ground and the temperature was severe. Backpack on, laptop over one shoulder, 2 23kg suitcases dragged along behind me one in each hand and my jacket, so needed in Wellington, slung over my shoulder. Customs and then Immigration were stressful and many pointed questions asked and suspicious looks given and then I was free to go. I was IN! I was here for a year but for the moment only had a 6 month VISA, the maximum they would give me. Sort that out later, live for the day. The adventure was really beginning. Drag all my gear around the maze that is LA Airport, find Alaskan Air and a bite to eat and then onto the 2 1/2 hour flight to Seattle. Walk round in circles at Seattle Airport trying to find a Taxi, get ripped off on the price into town (I found out later) and finally, 21 odd hours later, pulling up outside the Panama Hotel in downtown Seattle.
Hmmm. They say first impressions stick. Well, the Panama Hotel is an old historic building, well past it's prime but a good price for a short stay in Seattle at this time of year. Now imagine the next two scenes. Remember the scene in "The Sopranos" were all the hoods sit outside a coffee shop in Chicago? Then add every TV show you've ever seen from the US where the cops visit some shady Hotel full of hookers and you get a glimpse of them walking up 2 flights of stairs to the reception. Well you got it. This was MY first impression of the place. Turned out the girl sitting outside (Marina) was actually waiting for me and organised helpers to drag my heavy bags up the stairs. Quick check in, a shower and then an attempt to get some sleep. What a day!
Well, I'm here now. New Zealand a memory and oh so distant. Tomorrow will come whether I want it or not so I might as well get used to enjoying each day as it comes and wring as much from the day as I can.
I'M HERE! Look out America!
photos (c) Russell Turney 2008