NEW ZEALAND!!!

First photo...just landed!

First photo…just landed!

We have arrived in New Zealand after a series of delays while we were waiting for our passports and visas to arrive. We had to mail our passports to Immigration New Zealand in London to get our visa stamps. We had to delay by a week. Then our passports were supposed to be mailed back to us and we had to delay again another 4 days because our passports where apparently in limbo. We could use mail tracking from both the Royal Mail Special Delivery site as well as the United Postal Service. The Royal Mail site said that the package was passed over to the overseas division and the USPS tracking said that the country of origin was still preparing to mail. That was the message for 4-5 days, without any change. Royal Mail said that this meant that US customs had them in NY, but hadn’t released them yet. When we called customs, they used the USPS tracking and said that the “country of origin was preparing to ship. A week and a half doesn’t sound like a lot of time to delay a trip of this magnitude, but it was a daily waiting game and we were worried that our passports could have been lost since both sides of the Atlantic were pointing at the other. Apparently US customs can hold items for up to a week and they don’t have to admit they have the mail in question. It wouldn’t have been a big deal if we knew what was going on, but it was a nerve-wracking wait!

The trip began at 5 PM at O’Hare in Chicago, we had 45 minutes in San Francisco to catch our flight to Auckland. We left San Francisco at 11 PM CST, 12-13 hours later, we arrived in Auckland at 5 AM their time. We were in the night the entire trip from San Francisco. It was quite strange to fly across the entire Pacific Ocean and not even see it! The flight on Air New Zealand was long, but the service was impressive – two nice meals, very good service and food.

We have been in Auckland for a week now, and it has been very eventful! We have rented an apartment, gotten cell phones (“mobiles”), and opened a bank account. I had a tour of my new place of work, Manaaki House and met a slew of people there. Our days have been filled with various necessities (obtaining IRD #s, kind of like a social security number, it seems), exploring, wandering around, having great meals, doing pre-employment issues taken care of (they test for immunity for childhood diseases by checking blood titers, they don’t take for granted immunization records.

I find it hard to capture in words how amazing and transformative each and every day has been here. This morning I went for a very hilly jog from our hotel into the Auckland Domain, a large park in town. Yesterday I saw a wild parrot. We went on a whale and dolphin cruise the day after we got here that was truly amazing!!! We saw orcas and about 1000 dolphins. I will start a “New Zealand” section of this blog and I’ll post some photos from that day. Even though it is winter (40-60 degrees F), it has been sunny every day, clear, low humidity, pleasant (assuming the right clothing). While we have heard many New Zealanders comment on the “cold” weather, shop doors are open, side walk cafes are everywhere and people are using them. In fact, I am sitting outside right now. It is chilly, my hands are cold, but I am wearing several layers of clothes. Many places don’t have central heat or air, but some cafes have outdoor heaters.

Our apartment is beautiful and overlooks the harbour and an island. It has floor to ceiling windows in the living room, but doesn’t have any central heat, so we’ll be buying some space heaters. Our belongings are not slated to arrive until September, so we’ll be living a zen-like, spartan life for a while. The sun has come out from behind a building here at the corner of Quay and Queens street in downtown Auckland. The docks are right here. I just saw a “Maersk” container go by, same name we see in the States. There are stacks of containers by the dock.

People don’t seem as rushed here. We have noticed a big difference in shop clerks here, compared to the States, people actually talk with you and don’t seem to rush or push a purchase. All in all it has been a pleasant and positive experience for week 1!

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