Christchurch and Free Helicopters

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March, 2007

Wow, the last week or so has been absolutely ridiculous on every single level, with things happening every day that I never thought when I woke up were going to be planned. So Ted and I went to the rugby game of the Christchurch Crusaders versus the Stormers from South Africa, and the Crusaders recently re-acquired 7 of their players that were playing for the All-Blacks National team so they were real strong and handled the Stormers with ease. It was really weird being in a massive stadium again and I felt like I was at a big football or baseball game, only it was a completely different game being played and the passion circulating through there was a great thing to be a part of. After the game was where things went weird/awesome. I always seem to forget down here that although it is awesome down here it isn’t Hawaii and I keep wearing my slippers out at night, however those aren’t in the dress code of a lot of bars and clubs.  Consequently  I was politely helicopterdismissed from the bar we were in and separated from Ted who was still inside, and I also discovered I had lost my key to the locked car. With nowhere to go really I headed for the casino, but was also denied entry due to the slippers. Not wanting to be beaten I went to the 24 hour store and purchased some masking tape and socks to construct some shoes for the casino, and I almost made it, but they realized it at the last minute, and I was again out on the street. It was at this point I must have looked decidedly miserable that these nice people by the name of Barry and Leanne who run this bar and cafe right on the corner invited me in for a drink, and found the masking tape shoes to be hilarious.

All I can say is that I am REALLY glad that I looked miserable outside theirhelicopter-2 bar that night. They offered me a place to stay for the night since I couldn’t get in the van and took me to their house, which ended up being this MASSIVE mansion with an amazingly comfortable bed. Turns out that this guy]has an enormous contracting business, and also runs bed and breakfasts, has a farm, runs the bar and cafe, operates a few goldfields, and has his own helicopter business. They give me a ride the next morning to find Ted, and then take us to breakfast at their cafe, and then offer to bring us to the Waipara Valley wine tasting festival in the private bus they had chartered.

So we oblige, and end up spending an amazing day with thousands of people at this vineyard listening to bands and eating good food, and Barry was friends with the owner of the vineyard, so we were getting free wine the gold1whole time as well. Then out of left field, Barry offers to take us home in his personal helicopter that he had just called in to pick us up. So we take off out of this field in this helicopter and then cruise it down over the coast all the way back to Christchurch. It was an unbelievable ride. The next day we lounged around their house, and it was amazing to have the comforts again of a couch and a little television, even a sink to wash your dishes in. That afternoon we visited the International Antarctic Center which was REALLY cool and has made me want to work for a summer season in Antarctica (the summer population at the U.S. base at McMurdo Station is over 2000 people), so who knows, maybe I’ll end up down there someday.

Every morning we woke up we swore we were leaving Christchurch that day and trying to not overstay our welcome, but Barry insisted we stay because he wanted to fly us the next day over the Southern Alps and Mount Cook over to the West Coast so he could check out his gold mining over there. So we spent the whole day cruising through these amazing snowcapped mountains and valleys and landed right in the middle of these gold mines and everywhere we went we felt tremendously important. Needless to say it was an unbelievable couple of days. We spent the final night hanging out fosterswith Barry and discussing politics, and it has been so unbelievably interesting the recurring motifs and themes that have been being raised with regard to America and the politics. I am no stranger to being abroad and constatly being forced to be an ambassador of my country, but this latest trip has been a lot different. The general sentiment that is expressed to me by many is that while they used to envy and look up to the United States, many now fear its seemingly isolationist practices, and while domestically we like to believe that we are exporting hope and democracy,  the reality out here outside the United States is that every single person I have talked to from basically every continent and corner of the world expresses that the US is instead simply exporting an enormous sense of fear. Consequently many people have said they are dissapointed with the States, and it is almost as if there is an overwhelming sentinment that every one else is joining an international community shifting ahead and away from the US and just shaking their head refusing to bother with it. It is very dissapointing and strange. I guess it can be summed up in that whenever I used to travel abroad and people found out I was from the US, they would get passionate about political issues, however now they simply shake their heads and feel sorry for me because they feel the US is a lost cause. I’m no politician or economist but I hope this sentiment doenst prevail and last for long.

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