Beginning at the End

I’m making use of the free half-hour of WiFi at Christchurch International Airport to post, well, not quite a real entry, but more of a place-holder, a sign of life, and a promise (or a threat) of things to come… and another chance for you, my patient readers, to win free stuff!!

In an hour or so, I’ll be boarding a flight to Auckland. After a six-hour layover there, I’ll fly to Los Angeles, which I like to call LAX, not because I’m one of the cool kids, but because I like the idea of the TSA dolts there being LAX security. After another six hours or so of staring vacantly into space*, I get on a flight to O’Hare and then a ridiculous 15-minute flight to Milwaukee. I say “ridiculous” because I told my employer, the one arranging and footing the bill for the ticket, that it’s actually cheaper for them and faster for me to take the airport bus from O’Hare to Milwaukee but there’s something in the regs about having to fly someone to the airport closest to their home address. There’s always something in the regs, isn’t there?

[*Staring into space because my Kindle broke! I am quite verklempt about it, as it happened yesterday, out of the blue, when I tried to charge it so I would be able to spend all those layover hours reading. Amazon is going to hear about this, you can be sure… Also, I can’t find my MP3 player. It is so tiny that I fear I may have swallowed it, but more likely it fell out of my bag at some point and now my Sigur Ros/Rammstein/Fun Boy Three/Britney Spears playlist (don’t judge) is being enjoyed by some unwashed hostel monkey.]

Anyway, flight to Auckland, layover, flight to LAX, layover, flight to O’Hare, short layover and then a flight to Milwaukee, arriving about 36 hours from now.

It’s going to be a long haul.

I haven’t updated the blog in nearly a month for two reasons: first, online access in Tasmania was abysmal. WiFi was virtually non-existent and, when I did find it, it was outrageously expensive and/or limited, with sites like Facebook and You Tube blocked. No YouTube? No silly animal videos? What’s the point?

The second reason is that, once I got back to Melbourne, where the libraries, most cafes and even the trams (the trams!) have free WiFi, I was so far behind that I didn’t know where to start. Part of it is my fault. I took approximately 93,000 photos and videos of Tasmanian Devils and every one is so gosh darn cute that I want to post them all. People at the Devil sanctuaries I visited started looking at me like I was the creepy old guy parked in a van beside a playground.

So I promise I will get at least a few of the photos and videos up once I’m back in the States, as well as several posts about my time in Australia which, distilled into a single sentence, amounted to rain, fog, rain, leeches, rain, high prices, fog, rain, staying at a couple Lord of the Flies hostels, camping in the rain, hiking in the rain, wrestling a wet, leech-covered tent in the rain, Oh My God! aren’t they adorable Tasmanian Devils, wallabies, Devils, kangaroos, Devils, wombats, rain (that was not adorable) and a bout of projectile diarrhea that rivaled the worst case of giardia I ever had.

Fortunately for you, the upcoming posts will focus on the Devils and other wildlife, with some atmospheric shots of fog and gloomy shots of rain and only one more mention of my ailment, the latter just because I don’t think I’d be able to convey fully the character-building nature of wrestling a wet, leech-covered tent in the rain whilst my digestive system was hosting its own wrestling match.

I don’t regret going to Australia. Seeing and even getting to pet Devils, holding a wombat (I held a wombat!) and having kangaroos eat out of my hand was worth it. And even the leeches were kind of cute (really… alas, an opinion not shared by anyone I held a leech up to and declared “isn’t it cute?”).  Melbourne was also a treat for my taste buds (and a vacuum on my wallet). But I do not feel the need to return to Oz. I’ve seen enough, thank you.

Coming back to New Zealand on Wednesday was a relief. I spent two days getting my physical and lab tests done to be cleared to return to the Ice in February (clearance pending. The damn dentist “saw a shadow on an x-ray.”). A few of the appointments were near downtown, where I looked for the dominating profile of the Grand Chancellor Hotel but failed to find it.

Turns out Christchurch’s post-quake rebuilding team was busy while I was away.

This is how the Grand Chancellor looked on October 30, the day I flew from CHC to Melbourne:

Grand Chancellor Hotel (the tallest building, the one with the alarming lean), late October 2011

And this is how it looked December 3:

The Grand Chancellor as it stands, somewhat, these days. It's the partly-dismantled building between the Westpac and Holiday Inn.

Yes, after months of trying to figure out the best way to demolish it and settling on a floor-by-floor plan, they’ve really gone to town on the building in a mere month. The entire demolition will take more than a year, but I think it’s a great start to getting Christchurch back on its feet.

Yesterday, Saturday, my final full day in the Southern Hemisphere, I walked the half mile or so from my short-stay apartment in New Brighton to the beach, where I did something I haven’t done in years–lay out in the sun in my swimsuit.

New Brighton Beach

And I’ve got the splotchy full-body sunburn to prove it. Man, I forgot how annoying it is to burn the tops of your feet.

Now, after the gruesome journey in the immediate future, I’m looking forward to being back in the States mostly to visit friends and family and, truth be told, the stuff in my storage unit. And to give this blog the updates it really needs.

So I’ll leave you now with this… The first person to identify what the image below is will win a prize. Only answers posted as comments on this blog will be considered (so don’t email or Facebook your answer to me). Please be as specific as possible. Once I comment on the winning entry (it may be a while, given my airplane odyssey), you can email or Facebook your address to me if I don’t already have it. Previous winners of contests on my site are also eligible to participate, but this contest is void for people I don’t like.

Clue: taken in the last two months, so it could be anything in New Zealand, Australia, or Antarctica. Just helping you narrow it down.

[Note: I ran out of free WiFi time before I could post this yesterday–the photos took several minutes apiece to upload–so I’m putting it up now, while I’m nestled in the comfy home of Dread Pirate Iron Bluebird and her Cabin Boy in Milwaukee, where a light snow is dusting the yard, Wisconsin Nature’s way of saying “welcome home.” The flights I took after typing the post above were cramped but uneventful, the only two real issues of the day being general exhaustion (Aside from a half-hour nap immediately after drinking a venti latte from Starbucks, I didn’t sleep at all) and a small meltdown at LAX after Continental staff told me I had to check in with United and United staff told me I had to check in with Continental*, but it was all resolved, to my satisfaction, in a matter of minutes with a minimum of shouting.

*Sidenote: what is the point of codesharing and putting one airline’s code on your ticket if only the other airline is capable of checking you in and, if this is the case, should not a sign perhaps be placed at the entrance to a 40-minute line at the first airline noting that passengers bound for O’Hare need to be checking in elsewhere? Also, might it not be appropriate to train employees that, when a weary passenger, who’s already been up more than 24 hours and has lugged more than 100 pounds of suitcase the half-mile from Tom Brady International Terminal to the Continental desk in Terminal 6 and then another quarter-mile to your check-in line at Terminal 7, appears at your counter and tells you the airline actually listed on her ticket told her she has to check in with you, the correct response on your part is not, in fact, “Well, I’m tellin’ you dat you gotta go back to’em!” I’m just saying.]

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11 thoughts on “Beginning at the End

  1. It’s got horizontal and vertical lines running all over the screen and the Alexandre Dumas image won’t go away. I tried holding the power switch on when waking it as mentioned in the troubleshooting guide but that had no effect. Another Kindler on the Ice had the same thing happen to hers out of the blue and Amazon told her it’s a not uncommon problem. I’m going to email them now and see what to do… Thanks for trying to help, tho!!

  2. I told you Australia wasn’t all that. Although I did like the wombats and the fairy penguins. Oh, and the platypuses. (platypi sounds better!) Leeches — yikes. But better than funnel spiders or the other creepy crawly possibilities….

  3. Very funny. Wrong, but funny. Here’s another hint… I actually am not sure what it is. I know where I took it and what, generally, it is, but I’m not sure how the pattern got there and I was hoping one of my many brainiac friends would know.

  4. this is going to sound crazy, but I see a polar bear – in the bottom left – maybe at some zoo since there are none in Antarctica. Unless you found a yeti monster down there…

  5. Polar Bear!? Stop eating the magic brownies! Nope, not a polar bear. If it was a polar bear, it would have to be a very, very small one…

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