Ladies and gentlemen, we have survived Week One in Wellington and we are feeling much better about the entire thing than we were the other day, when we were sick and cold and alone and wandering around sadly in the rain and dreaming about snorkeling in Fiji and being forced to speak, apparently, entirely in the third person. Today is sunny and beautiful, if comically windy, and I just got back from a job interview and also it is chocolate fondue night at the good old Maple Lodge this evening so not bad for a Monday that doesn’t include shimmy drills, right?
The Maple Lodge, by the way, is consistenly hysterical. I have several times thought that it’s killing me over there but it is really pretty fun in a college-dorm sort of way. I think I’ve mentioned that almost everyone else there is British or German, and even in the week I’ve been there I’ve noticed myself saying “Oooh, lovely” more often. There was a tense moment the other day when I refused to believe that baked beans are something that goes on top of toast, with several people confirming rather stridently that yes, in fact, they are and someone else running to the cupboard to bring out a can thereof, where! Right there on the label! Was a picture of baked beans on a slice of toast. And the other joke? Apparently, the kind of baked beans, the kind that ostensibly are for putting upon toast, that you get in New Zealand? Not as good as the kind you get in the UK. (Any Kiwis who happen to be reading this, please weigh in with your opinions concerning Watties versus Heinz, okay?) We’ve also had some discussions that involve yelling “AL-YOU-MINI-UM, DAMMIT” across the room and of course the always entertaining pants-trousers-knickers thing. It’s silly and gossipy and private-jokey and the walls are painted all different colors and the radio, for some reason, is always turned to some horrible classic rock station. It’s ridiculous in a kind of great way.
Almost everyone there is staying in Wellington at least a couple of months, and they’re all sort of working various jobs and going out a lot and drinking a lot, moving from place to place on their working holiday visa. I don’t drink with them and I can’t participate in their conversations about drinking (nor their conversations about Neighbours) but I like to listen and talk about where we’re all from and what we did there and how that’s different or the same from what we do here. Sometimes I’ve had the traveling conversation that you have to have (“Where are you from? How long have you been in New Zealand? What kind of work are you looking for? Have you found the two dollar internet place yet? It’s on Ghuznee right off the Cuba Street Mall.”) but occasionally I’ve been able to talk about more interesting things as well.
Even though everyone’s British it’s a pretty diverse place in terms of experience and reason for traveling, as far as I can tell. Some people have been traveling for a long time, like years and others are on their first major trip, just like me. Some people are professional types and others are doing trade work and a lot of people don’t seem to ever want to go home (one kid told me the other day, completely sincerely, “I’m just a wanderer, I don’t really have a home,”) but everyone hangs out together in the lounge and eats their dinners and drinks their wine and so far it just works, even if at home some of us would never even meet some others of us, let alone get to know each other. It seems pretty easy, somehow, and I don’t know how many other contexts I know about which I can say that.
I won’t stay there for very much longer, I don’t think. I like everyone there very much but honestly I feel a little like I’m living in Birmingham or Manchester or whatever, and the whole point of being here is to be here, you know, and not hide out with the backpackers all the time, lovely as they are. I do need to get a job and get flatmates and sort of get on with my life here. But yesterday there was a party and I brought a salad and played Twister and gave a bellydance lesson and talked about religion and music and top five celebrity free-passes (Male: Johnny Depp wearing only the boots, Jake Gyllenhaal, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Eddie Izzard and I don’t remember the last one; female: Kate Winslet, Margaret Cho, Queen Latifah, Missy Elliot, and I don’t remember the last one there either but possibly it was Audrey Tatou). It felt really comfortable and intimate somehow, everyone talking and dancing around, far away from home and slightly out of the real world, but only if you think that the real world is something you can ever be out of. I admit I have had longing thoughts about my santoku knife and wireless internet access this week, not to mention a mattress that is not comprised solely of Slinkys and wadded-up newspapers, but it’s still somehow good to be in the place I am now. I feel a little funny for not…I don’t know, having a more Authentic Experience as the guidebooks say but guess what, I just decided right now as I’m writing this that every experience is authentic: including the crazy Maple Lodge, my mission to have chai tea in a different coffee place every day, my getting lost on the way to the cable car, my way of saying “aluminum” and “oriented,” the realization I have every day when I wake up: I’m here, I’m here, I’m here.