Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Long and Winding Road

Upon arrival in L.A. Chelsea and I found a comfortable place to settle right next to our gate and did the "you hold our place while I get food and then we'll switch" thing that we did in Chicago. The stopover in L.A. was about the same as in Chicago, we had about 3 hours to kill. We didn't have to clear security or anything at L.A. seeing we were transferring onto an international flight so that was good.

I found a burger king and bought lunch there which was somewhat ruined by my beverage choice of the worst iced tea in existence. When Chelsea got back from getting food, we found a seat outside our gate ( a flight had just left from there for London so it had pretty much cleared out) and I once again relied on crosswords to pass the time.

Around halfway into our wait we were met by another fellow New Zealander, to our knowledge L.A. was supposed to be our rally point before all flying back together through Brisbane to Auckland. Laura had spent  her time on exchange in Texas, not far out of Houston. We got talking about our different experiences and it wasn't too long before we were called to board. We were confused as to whether the other two girls from NZ would be flying home with us as they still hadn't made an appearance when the first boarding calls were made. 

On the way over to the U.S. Laura had always had the misfortune of being seated miles away from the rest of us, while Chelsea and I had a knack for sticking together. Laura's seat was in one of the areas that was called to board first so she got on the plane a good fifteen minutes before us. When the general boarding call was made for "all remaining passengers" we got into the cue and after a couple of minutes were met by none other than Lily and Baylee, the two remaining New Zealanders. Apparently their flight from New York had left late and so they only just made it to L.A. in time.We managed to sneak in a quick chat before boarding our flight to Brisbane, Australia.

On the flight to Brisbane Chelsea and I were seated either side of a woman from Virginia. She was interesting to talk to as she was part of an EF tour group that was going to be traveling around Australia and New Zealand for a couple of weeks. We were able to inform her of a few kiwi/australianisms (like lemonade meaning sprite in this part of the world) and recommend her a few sights to see around Rotorua which was one of the spots they were going to be visiting in New Zealand. We didn't get her name but she was a high school Spanish teacher and apparently this group toured a different part of the world every other year which was intriguing. 

I spent most of the flight listening to music through the in flight entertainment system and writing to keep myself busy. It was a 14 hour flight but the time passed quite quickly between sleeping and idly staring out the window at the wonderful night sky. Without ever getting to the point of being uncomfortable, we touched down in Brisbane, cleared security and found ourselves once again waiting around for a flight with bugger all to keep us busy.

Landing in Brisbane was an interesting experience. There were other New Zealanders on our flight so there was definitely a feeling of "we're so close and yet so far" with the familiar accents surrounding us. We all took a little bit of time to freshen up in Brisbane, I made use of the showers in the bathrooms and brushed my teeth which was an amazing feeling after over 24 hours of being in transit! We gathered outside our gate and had no trouble finding seats. Again my crossword book came out although at this point I was far too tired to get through any of them.Our flight to Auckland arrived after what seemed like an eternity and we boarded what would be the second to last flight of our trip for most of us and the last flight for a lucky two.

Only one significant thing happened on the 4 hour flight from Brisbane to Auckland. I had my first legal alcoholic drink, a beer of some kind, though I can't remember what. I'm thinking it was probably Steinlager which is a relatively good New Zealand beer. It was an interesting feeling being able to order alcohol for the first time, one which was somewhat liberating. Coming back from such a maturing experience as being an exchange student for a year, it definitely seemed like a warm welcome into adulthood "you've been around the world on your own, you're drinking a beer at the tail end of an epic journey, you're an adult now." 

I had intended to cover the whole trip from L.A. back to Wellington in this post but it's starting to get a little too long for my liking so I'm going to end it here. The point I've been trying to outline in these posts is that travelling home was a long and grueling experience in itself. I felt intense loneliness,  I cried on multiple occasions and I found companionship in people who knew exactly how I felt before finally being pushed back into the place I once called home. Next post will be about the journey from Auckland to Wellington, which really does deserve it's own entire post.

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