Sunday, February 11, 2007

Last Night in the States

Twelve hours from now I will be sitting on a plane beginning the first leg of my trans-Pacific journey, heading by myself to live in a city I've never visited within a country where I don't know a soul. In light of this irrational behaviour I suppose it would be more odd for me not to get nervous, so I'm spending my last few hours trying to forget about that nervousness while I think of what I still need to pack. Luckily there's not too much left.

Anyway, my final comment for you all before I disappear for a little while is to tell you the story of how I got my plane ticket, and why it is arguably the most adventurous plane ticket ever purchased for an American study abroad student in New Zealand. Around the beginning of January when my dad started looking into purchasing my ticket, he realized that it was prohibitively expensive to buy a ticket to the bottom of the world on such short notice. The solution? Eighty-thousand frequent flier miles.

Of course, I was not the only one who wanted to fly to New Zealand using such an ingenious method, so the US Airways representative was having a hard time finding a possible route for me. After twenty minutes of muzak and us becoming steadily convinced we'd been forgotten, she finally came back on the line.

"There's a way to do it? Great!" my dad exclamed, as I listened on to his side of things. "Uh-huh... how do you spell that exactly?"

After a stream of letters from the representative, my dad cupped his hand over the phone. "Yvette, can you look up where Nandi is? You're flying through there." I gave my dad a slightly perplexed look, because this was certainly something out of the ordinary. I'm pretty good at geography and my dad is somewhat of a globetrotter (in case the 80,000 frequent flier miles didn't tip you off), so anyplace we haven't heard of between the two of us is probably off the beaten path.

Typing "Nandi" into Wikipedia revealed a redirect page telling me that Nadi could refer to several places. A district of Western Kenya? Probably not. A range of hills in India? Nope. A daughter of the Langeni tribe? A daughter of the what now?

As the last entry, Wikipedia kindly mentioned that Nandi can actually mean "Nadi," a city in Fijian citi whose name is pronounced "Nandi" in Fijian language. Aha! "It's in Fiji," I finally told my dad, and he nodded.

"Right," he said to the representative, "that sounds perfect."

I looked at my dad the way you stare at a person who's not quite with it. "Dad, they just had a military coup!" I exclaimed. A Fijian general had ousted the legitimately elected president in early December, and from what I heard he'd done a great job supressing freedom of speech rights and the right to free assembly.

"Oh. Well, you'll be fine at the airport," my dad said. I wasn't sure if I should laugh or roll my eyes, so I settled on both in rapid sucession.

My dad hung up the phone and had one more word of advice on the subject: "Don't tell your mother." I figured she'd hear about the coup d'etat eventually, unlike overflowing the dishwasher it's not something you can hide from your mother very long, but I agreed. She didn't find out until about a week ago when I let it slip by accident, and by then it was too late to do much about it.

So anyway, my final itinerary is Pittsburgh-Philadelphia-Los Angeles-Nadi, Fiji-Auckland, which will be about 30 hours of airport and airplane awesomeness. I will arrive there around 2pm Wednesday afternoon in Auckland time, which is going to be around 8pm on the East Coast of the United States, where I will be sleep deprived enough to greet the palm trees as a hallucination. On the bright side though I will visit my 19th and 20th new countries during these 30 hours, including my first country with a travel advisory issued for it by the United States State Department, so I'm sure it'll be an affair to remember. Keeping my head down and mouth shut in the Fijian airport will probably be a good idea though.

Ok, that's it for now everyone, it's late and I have to pack away the laptop. Catch you on the flip side...


Alison said...

Don't get kidnapped or something in Fiji, is all I'm saying.

I lied. I'm also saying that it's way cooler to get into Auckland at 5:10 in the morning when everything is dead quiet save for the early-morning runners/bikers. And the sunrise is beautiful. And... I really should have gone with you. :) If I had 80,000 frequent flier miles to spare I would totally come for a visit.

Ross said...

I'd suggest taking pictures along the way to "document" your trip, but it might be best to avoid that, especially in Fiji.

A "before" and an "after" self-portrait might be fun though. See what the toll is of 30 hours of travel.

Anonymous said...

Hey Andy: All us FWISer's are dieing to get your first Kiwi report!

I, personnally can't wait to hear about the chocolate trout. ;)