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 The Journal of Alan Howard

(Today is actually the 26th July, but it's only now that I've gotten around to updating this journal.  The following few entries are from emails I sent to a mailing list that all my friends had subscribed to.  I will put those emails in here as journal entries for the applicable dates.)

16th June 2000
Well, it's been pretty bloody hectic this past week.  But for the first time in a while now, I can relax.  It's really strange that it's happening like this, right now, 'cause I'm surrounded by a busy shop full of people checking their emails or browsing the internet.  I'm managing an internet cafe, and there's 9 computers in here.  5 of them are taken right now.  This is so much fun, but it's really funny how I couldn't relax when I wasn't working...  Now that I'm really busy working, I have more time....  go figure.  Obviously it's because the stress and frantic activity of the last week and more is really over now.

Ok, let me tell you about the past few days.  On Tuesday night, I caught a bus from Canberra to Sydney, where I was staying overnight with a friend there - the last friend to catch up with before leaving the country.  At 9:30am Wednesday morning I was taking off in a 737 to Wellington.  The last time I'd been in a large airplane like that was back in '91, and that was my very first airplane flight in my life, from Adelaide to Sydney and back again the following day.  So this was my second - and my first overseas!  It was pretty exciting to take off from Sydney, and we circled it while gaining altitude, and as we were doing that I was looking down on Sydney getting smaller and smaller (I was happy that I was in a window seat too).  It was amazing how quickly it shrunk, and it was even more amazing to see this huge city like that, and the surrounding countryside.  And seeing the changes in colour of the water, seeing the different depths of the ocean floor.  Then we flew out over the ocean away from Australia.

For a while I kept myself occupied looking for cargo and oil carriers, which were small specks on the ocean surface.  But that got boring after a while and so I started reading some magazines.  The brunch they served was shit; it was stale and disgusting crap.  Every now and again I looked up from the magazine to look out the window at the clouds.  My mobile phone was turned off, and I didn't have a watch, so I wasn't really sure about how much time had passed.  At one point I looked out of the window and was marvelling at the weird formation of clouds that I could see covering the entire horizon as far as I could see.  However, the third time I looked up at them I realised that the ocean had changed colour and was actually land - and then I realised that what I had thought was cloud-cover was actually snow-covered mountains for as far as the eye could see!! Now THAT was amazing!  It looked as if the entire country was just covered in large angular mountains and covered in snow!!  I'd never seen anything like it, and that's why from a distance I thought it was clouds!  I put the magazine down and just looked at the mountains passing under us.

After a little while, they started turning into foothills without snow, and there were rivers drifting down through them.  I could see tiny towns or villages and farms down there.  Then the captain announced that we were about to descend to Wellington.  Now, because of the direction of approach, we had flown in over the south island of NZ, and it was obvious that the snow-covered mountains went from the west to the east coasts of NZ, and looked as if they covered the entire island, as far south as the eye could see.  The foothills were coming down to the north coast, which is what we were flying over.  Wellington is on the south tip of the north island, and because I was on the right, I was unable to see Wellington on our left as we were approaching it.  It wasn't until we banked and descended that I was actually able to start seeing some of the north island, particularly Wellington.

It was fun watching the green ocean (between the islands and off the shore of Wellington) getting closer and closer, and I could see schools of fish and a few fishing boats.  Then I saw some cliffs to the east of Wellington, and as we came into the airport I could see all these houses lining the hills.  And one of the first things I realised at this point, looking out over what I could see of the north island of NZ, was that the country was just covered in mountains, and even though there was habitable lands closer to the coasts, there were still so many hills and cliffs!

After landing (2:40pm local time, 12:40pm Canberra time), I spent ages going through customs and baggage.  On my customs/immigration form (that I'd filled out on the airplane) I had declared that I was an Australian citizen here for permanent residency.  It seemed to be well-favoured, because tourists in front of me had to declare what was in their bags and have them x-rayed and searched.  When I was next, I handed over my form and they asked me if I had anything to declare.  I said no.  He looked at my form and took two of my largest bags off the trolley and put them through the x-ray.  He was about to grab my camera case as well, and I just said "that's just a camera case" and he said ok and passed me through - and there wasn't any metal detectors at that point either.  Then I picked up the bags on the other end of the x-ray and kept going.  Obviously us permanent residency entrants are treated with more trust than tourists...  I could have had a bomb in my camera case....  <shrug>   None of the bags were searched nor was I asked to declare the contents of any of them.  I went through in about a quarter of the time as anyone else.

I finally got through into the arrivals lounge where I had a nice reunion with Michelle...  It was great to see her again and to be here permanently - with her.  She then took me on a scenic drive of part of Wellington on our way home.  It was certainly breathtaking...  After dropping my gear off at the house, we headed into the CBD to be introduced to John, who owned the cybercafe I was going to be working at.  After hanging around there for a bit of training for an hour or so, Michelle and I walked around the centre of Wellington.  By this time it was early evening and dark.

The CBD of Wellington reminds me a bit of Sydney, but there's certain American and English architectural overtones.  I guess it adds to a certain NZ uniqueness...  It's all quite beautiful here though.  I'd say it's prettier here than it is in Canberra, and that's saying something, 'cause Canberra's a beautiful place.

After we walked around the city for a while, we got some chinese takeaway and went home.  We turned the tv on and what do you suppose was showing?  "What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted," the sequel to "Once Were Warriors"!   LOL    My very first night in New Zealand has me watching that!!  (For those who don't know, both of the above-mentioned movies are NZ movies.)  Michelle hadn't seen it so we both enjoyed it (the second time for me).

Yesterday I started my first day at work, meeting John here at 8am.  He took me through a few final things, left me there for a couple of hours, and then returned to see how I handled it.  No problems.  He then left for his holiday, which is to Brisbane, and he's coming back late next week.

Michelle had taken a day off yesterday, so she was with me here (at the shop) all day.  It was nice to have her here, and it was fun too.  We had a good time chatting and stuff.  She wants to have her own business, and we've been talking about running our own internet cafe, so yesterday was fun for both of us as we imagined and talked about doing that together full-time.  Unfortunately her idea of starting it in the Wellington airport has already been taken by someone, who opened their cybercafe there on Wednesday, the day I arrived here.  So we had another idea of buying John out, and making this place better.  We'll see how it goes...

After work we went to dinner with her friend Steve, and his new girlfriend Tracey.  That was a lot of fun, 'cause Steve is English and Tracey is a Kiwi - it was a multicultural gathering and the war was on!  I learnt that there's an ongoing battle between the Australians and the Kiwis, and we all know about the shit that we put upon the English...  Tracey went into this battle of wits with the idea that Kiwis were better than Australians, but after a couple hours of verbal sparring, she left sorely beaten.  And the pommies didn't leave unscathed either...  By the end of the dinner, Michelle had sore sides from her laughter, Steve had just quit in defeat, and Tracey vowed to continue this another time.  Hehehe.   Needless to say, I had a great time.  Dinner was at a restaurant similar to Montezumas. It was called South of the Border and has similar food to Monte's.  It's apparently a style of food called "Tex-Mex".

I've been by myself today.  Normally Michelle would be at work, but they had planned a seminar for this weekend, which she didn't really want to go to, so she took today off 'sick'.  She's at home hiding, in case someone from work (who didn't go to the seminar) sees her out and about.

I've been sorting out my hotmail account today, in between serving customers (it's excellent that I can play on a computer as well, while the customers are on other computers.  The only time I have to get up is when a customer wants to pay for their time at the end of their session).  I've got a few more of you onto my NZalan mailing list, and I've even created a new hotmail account.

In order to get away from my orac past, which isn't relevent anymore (no offence, Scot...), my hotmail address is now:  [email protected]

If you've got the other one ([email protected]) marked down somewhere then you may as well delete it.

I apologise for the length of this email, but it's a few days worth of catching up...  It shouldn't be this long in future.

In regards to this mailing list, due to the offensive nature of some of my friends (you know who you are!), I am moderating all emails sent to this list and declining any with offensive language.  I know that some of you out there don't want to read certain stuff, so I'm making sure that everyone remains happy.  You're all welcome to reply to this list and send mail to this list, and talk amongst yourselves.  Many of you don't know others in this list, but you're all my friends, so right from the start you have something in common with each other.

I'll send some more updates soon. Take care, and bye for now!

 

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2001 Alan Howard