Okay. This is the third time I've tried to post this. So it's now two days late. Go rural New Zealand wifi! I'm trying really hard not to be frustrated. Really. Damn. Hard. I just took a trip in a cave to see glow worms. GLOW WORMS. This is what's important. But I'll tell you about that in a sec. Now, let's travel back in time to the day of my epic annoyance.
Fuck Wellington. Yeah, I said it. And I meant it. I know, I know charming, quaint, whatever, blah blah blah. I left home three weeks ago, and I’ve had essentially no issues thus far—that is, until I arrived in Wellington. The second I pulled up it was a challenge. There was absolutely nowhere to park the car, at least not within shouting distance of the hostel. So I found a pay spot, loaded up all my stuff and walked it over, and then was told to park the car over by the water, about a 15-minute walk from the hostel. Which I did and then walked back. It was beautiful, too, and that made me even more cranky about the fact that I wasn't enjoying every last second of this trip. At least I didn’t have to move it for a whole day, one of the only good things about Sundays.
My room was actually quite nice by hostel standards. But it looked out onto a weird courtyard that had a view into all the other rooms and through the skylight into the lounge below, so I kept the curtains closed the entire time so the hostel couldn’t see back into my room because that’s just weird. The result was like living in a comfortable jail cell.*
I tried to go out to dinner the night I arrived (Saturday), but the entire city had the same idea, so it was really, really crowded in the good places, and strangely empty in the bad ones. When I walked into the first restaurant that I wanted to try, it was packed to the gills. The hostess was nice enough, but said there was no chance for a table for one, so I’d have to see if I could find a table at the bar. I walked up the steps to the bar area and felt like the extra nerdy kid in the terrible scene in any 80s movie where all the popular kids see her walking through the dining hall and the film winds down into slow-mo so you can see every last grimace on their faces as they whisper to each other and plot the character’s downfall by tripping and stuffing her in a garbage can. (I think this mostly happens to boys in the 80s movies I can think of, but I'm an equal opportunity storyteller, a feminist, and a woman. So there.) Defeated, I left to find some place less challenging to eat.
I finally picked a cheap place that looked nice enough, but they only took cash, and I didn’t have enough cash for the meal, so then I ended up at a Chinese restaurant that had enough people in it to seem respectable, but wasn’t so crowded that they wouldn’t serve me. Everyone in it was Chinese, so I took that as a sign the food was good. It wasn’t. Or at least what I ordered wasn’t particularly good. And the service was really slow. Harrumph.
After dinner I ended up coming back to the hostel instead of going out anywhere for a drink. I was tired and lonely and I just didn’t feel like trying to crack the chilly shell of this city anymore. I attempted to write, and I didn’t feel like doing that either, so I fell asleep. Fitfully, but I slept.
In the morning, I awoke with that dull “fighting off a cold” feeling, but I was still convinced that I could start fresh, so I lazed around for a bit to get some extra rest. When I finally got up and out, I walked out to a café that I noticed had a nice crowd in it the night before. The morning was just the same, so I figured I’d found a good spot.
This was one of the rare occasions that there was both a counter to sit and an open seat at the counter, so and I took it, grateful for a perch. There was a guy sitting next to me, and when he ordered I heard an American accent, so after a little while of getting my nerve up, I finally spoke to him.
“Are you traveling?” I said.
“No. You?” he replied. “Well, obviously you must be, or you wouldn’t have asked that.”
I laughed. We fell pretty easily into a conversation, which was nice after such an auspicious and difficult introduction to this city. He moved here as a student, about 20 years ago, and now he’s a theater director. I quit my job to see the great, wide world and yes I’ll be fine when I return or at least I should be.
“Did you go out last night?” he asked.
“Yeah, but it was really packed, and I couldn’t figure out how I fit in, so I got dinner and then went back to the hostel,” I replied.
“New Zealanders are tough. They’re cagey and a little suspicious. It takes a while to crack the code,” he said.
I told him how relieved I was to hear him say that. This whole time I thought it was me who was broken, but he’d gone through the exact same process, having awkward conversations at parties, where everyone just got silent after a while presumably after running out of things to say. Every time he’d meet people he’d need to try extra hard just to generate a friendship. He’s gotten some of the Kiwis he knows to admit that they’re awkward, so we now have proof. It’s not me, it’s you, I thought to myself. It was nice to have a partner in crime in all of this, if only for an hour.
After brunch I wandered the streets in search of nothing. Liberated from my frustration for a moment, I just walked, wandering in and out of shops, buying water, more conditioner and lotion, and a gift or two along the way. I never found my niche, so eventually I turned around and headed out to the beach where I’d parked my car. The clouds cruised by, changing the temperature from warm to hot and back again as I sat on a bench and watched the tail end of summer sun itself on the sand. A man and his son asked me if we were at Oriental Bay, to which I replied that I had no idea. Somehow in the midst of not fitting in at all I’d managed to blend in and seem like a local to these foreigners. Who would have known that when you travel for this long your homelessness seems at home everywhere instead of nowhere.
After spending what felt like hours listening to the water lap at the sand and hearing strangers chat about mindless nothings, I meandered back to the hostel to do laundry and call Tucker. We talked until my minutes ran out. The last words he heard me say were, "Oh shit!" as I saw the text telling me they were charging me $0.39 per minute to talk with him. So much for that bonus credit they gave me.
For dinner, I tried going back to the ultra crowded place I tried originally, figuring that Sunday they'd be slower, and they were so slow that it was a little depressing. The bar that had been packed to the gills was now a ghost town. The whole city had emptied out, in fact. If Saturday night was high tide, Sunday was low. So I bounced off buildings checking menus and wandering aimlessly until I found a noodle shop that would only charge me $12 for the privilege of eating there. As I was deciding, a guy walked in and I let him ahead of me. He ordered, and once again I heard the familiar lilt of an American accent, so I chatted with him while the man cooked our food.
He turned out to be an effects guy, who'd worked in LA and Vancouver before taking the job at "PJ's company" (Peter Jackson) down here at WETA. We talked about the sorry state of Hollywood as it pertains to special effects, and after a bit he jumped in his car, and I returned to the hostel to eat my take out noodles in the dining room. There was a group of five German girls eating potato pancakes next to me. Have I mentioned that the Germans are everywhere and they're really annoying? I'm sorry if that's rude or uncalled for, it's just true. It's like Germany is hemorrhaging blonde 24 year olds. Enough already. Keep them. They're loud and pimply and obnoxious. FaceTiming with your friends loudly in the dining room? What a great idea! NOT. Wait until they grow up at least. The older ones don't shake bottles of soda before opening them and then wonder why the bottle exploded. (True story.) Oh, your potato pancakes are soaked? Ya, vell, too bad yoo ahh so dumb.
Whatever, Wellington. I had a terrible, horrible, no good very bad stay. My mom says some stays are like that. Even in Australia.
(Okay, I’m in New Zealand. I’m invoking my creative license here. And if you don't get that last sentence reference, read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day!)
*I have never been to jail so I'm just guessing.