Friday, January 27, 2012

The First Full Day in NZ

Woke up at 4:30 am.  Below is a view of Otago Harbor at 5:00 AM from the B&B.  Molly woke up soon after and was feeling much better. We sorted our stuff out for the next couple of hours then had a nice breakfast with the B&B owner.  

We walked to the Central Business District (CBD) and through the Octagon at 9:00.  The Octagon is the heart of Dunedin's retail.  We opened a bank account with Westpac.  The woman at the branch was very helpful and got us set up online and with an EFTPOS card, which is an ATM card.  Also found out we qualify for special rates on mortgages and other things because teachers are considered government employees by the bank.  Jolly good!

We were met at the bank by Will.  Will is a member of Columba's board and he and his family are from Texas.  After a cup of coffee (which I will devote a blog entry to at some point) Will and his family bent over backwards to help Molly and I.  Will drove me around getting my cell phone sorted (not yet done), my Inland Revenue Department (IRD) number which is a government tax number, my payroll paperwork, a Columba IT meeting at the Speight's Brewery restaurant, my MacBook Pro from Columba, my flat sorted (no small feat in one day), and luggage moved in.  

While we did that, Will's wife Jennifer and daughter Claire took Molly to sort out her school uniform and supplies, gave Molly a Columba tour, and did some baking (Jennifer has a  very successful baking business specializing in cupcakes--the Dunedin Cupcake Company).  They took us to dinner at one of the many Indian restaurants and invited us to stay the night so we can arrange our new digs with a fresh start.  I can't imagine how we would have gotten on without Will, Jennifer, and Claire.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

First Impressions

Love it.

The drive from the Airport into Dunedin reminded me so much of driving in the UK, most likely because of driving on the left and the sign posts.  It had the feel of driving through the English countryside in the 80s.

It is also gray and wet at the moment, which adds to the UK nostalgia.   They refer to the incoming weather by wind patterns (ie. "there's a southerly coming in" pronounced southerlee coming eeen) which will take some getting use to.

I wrote in an earlier email that The friendliness of the Kiwi is a force to be reckoned with.  People here are overwhelmingly nice and helpful.  When Molly and I arrived at the B&B, there was a whole box of food and drink waiting for us along with a nice note welcoming us.   it was prepared by the folks at Columba. 

FYI: We ended up coming in through Wellington rather than Christchurch.  Wellington has the reputation of being one of the top ten worst airports to fly into.  It is a reputation well deserved.  If you come to New Zealand, avoid flying into Wellington unless you have nerves of steel and or a strong desire to wear someone else's lunch.  

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Walking in LA or United You Fail

The adventure has begun.

Claire is an expert at packing for the long haul.  Her skills at maximizing luggage space are exceptional, and she used those skills to divert her attention from the fact that her beloved husband and her first born child were about to depart for the the other side of the earth.

Packing complete, banking done, Skype setting complete, tires aired up, and tears fell like rain.  Some joyful, but tears none the less.

The plan was to fly from Indy to Chicago, Chicago to LA, LA to Auckland, Auckland to Christchurch, and Christchurch to Dunedin within a 28 hour window.  Riiiiiiight.

The delay started with bad weather in the midwest which delayed our departure from Indy by three hours.  That put us in Chicago with 20 minutes to get to rescheduled flight from ORD to LAX.  Much running, much lugging, much swearing.  Of course, we were were late and they would not let us on the flight.  We were rescheduled for the next flight to LAX, in 30 minutes.  That would put us at LAX with 30 minutes to catch the flight to Auckland.  Welcome to LAX: Much running, much lugging, much swearing.  We had to leave one terminal and cross the complex to another, resulting in the need to go through international security again.  Arghhhh!

It is at this point that I must point out something about the staff of United Airlines.  This holds true for IND, ORD, and LAX.  It holds true for each United representative, be they ticket agent, gate attendant, stewardess, or pilot.  Not one of the United representatives we came in contact with--and I mean this quite sincerely--not one would smile or look us in the eye unless I forced the issue by staring at them with a big cheesy grin or by point blank asking them to do so.  Is this important to the story?

With 10 minutes to spare, we arrived at the Air New Zealand desk.  Relieved, I presented our tickets and passports.  "I'm sorry sir, but you won't be able to board this flight."

WHAT???  The gasket blew. And while I ranted and raved and embarrassed poor Molly to death, something happened.  The AirNZ attendant (Ruth) looked at me and listened to me.  She didn't type on her computer, or ignore me, or call for security.  She just said that United informed Air NZ that we had missed an earlier flight so would not make this one.  Our seats had been given away.  But not to worry, that Air NZ would take care of us.

And so they did.  The manager of Air NZ LAX greeted us, apologized for the delay, put Molly and I up at the LAX Westin, gave us generous food vouchers, and recommended several places that we could visit while we waited until the next flight in 24 hours.  Each Air NZ person we came in contact-with one exception--was pleasant, professional, and empathetic.  I was totally disarmed.  So we were going to be a day later than planned.  Here is what happened instead:

The we flew to New Zealand!