Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Wide Eyed in the Real World

I've had a great last couple of days. Incredible fiery Thai food last night, and a ton of exercise. Must have walked ten miles around Christchurch yesterday, rounding up a bus pass, calling card, exchanging cash, etc.

I'm staying at the YMCA, which might sound like a rescue mission, but it's a hidden gem. It's a type of hotel that I've never seen in the states. I rented a tiny room with a balcony overlooking the Arts Centre at the edge of downtown Christchurch (still within easy walking distance of anything I might need). Five of these tiny rooms share a common bathroom-- the rooms have no TVs or fancy things. I think it's because Kiwis are spartan travellers that there are so many backpackers, cheap, simple hotels, and holiday parks. My room is about $35US a night.

Seems like in the states you can either pay huge bucks for a very fancy room, or you can pay less depending on your tolerance for old appointments, and filth. Never would you get a clean, tiny room with no TV. I think the Kiwis have really hit on something here. You get a tiny, immaculately clean room with no frills for a cheap price. No cockroaches, and no TV. I like it.

I was having a tough time sorting through eight months of baggage in the tiny room, though, so I decided to upgrade. I now have a nice room on the top floor with a queen size bed, a private bathroom, a TV and a huge balcony overlooking the gorgeous Botanical Gardens. It's amazing, and it's about $75US a night. In the YMCA.

I had a weird night last night-- woke up at 4AM and couldn't get back to sleep. I started a book called A Man In Full by Tom Wolfe on the flight down. Devoured about 250 pages of it on the plane. Great book-- highly recommended. Since I couldn't sleep, I got up and read a couple more chapters.

Went back to bed, but still couldn't sleep. I just kept at it, trying to get back to slumberland, and finally did-- about 6AM. My little room was right across the street from the Arts Centre, which is being remodelled. About 7AM the backup alarms and concrete saws started up. Somehow I managed a fitful sleep through it all. There was so much weird noise going on that I had the most incredible set of lucid dreams. I knew I was dreaming, and was aware that I was right on the edge of waking for two hours. I had dreams of singing loud Scottish songs, immense paintings, astral travelling, being a ghost, with a moral lesson in ghost behavior-- Yikes, it was psychedelic.
I finally got up about 9AM, well rested if tripped out. I packed up my stuff for the room upgrade, and went downstairs to check out.

They said my new room wasn't ready, so I stepped out to an old Victorian house converted to a cafe that an ice friend had recommended. Pretty hungry (it was 10:30 by this time), I ordered the special. Holy cow. It was a big, thick piece of wheat toast with six huge chunks of thick bacon, a big venison sausage, two poached eggs, two baked tomato halves with herbs, and portobello mushrooms. Holy gut-bomb, Batman. I ate about half of it and waddled back to my room. I may not have to eat again for a month.

New Zealand is such a cool place. There seems to be very little crime, and the people have a charming naivete, as though they've never been to the nasty real world of criminals and rude people. My room key is a regular old metal key, with the room number on the fob. The doors are not even set up to lock, unless you lock them. I just rode the bus from downtown out to the CDC (Clothing Distribution Center, where Raytheon's NZ offices are) to use the free internet service. A guy on the bus notified the driver that someone had left a bag on the bus-- he brought it up to the driver, who tossed it up on his dashboard. No rifling through the bag, no bomb squad. Weird. I could definitely live here.

Today is the day for getting caught up on e-mail, and getting ready to mail some of my excess stuff back to the states so I can travel lighter. I could not believe the amount of stuff I had, leaving the ice. Now that I've gone through it, I can see why it seems so huge. A pair of Carhartts, a pillow, and a big towel just about fill a suitcase. Not to mention my down jacket and fleece vest. I thought I was travelling light, as those are the bare necessities. Don't need 'em in New Zealand, so away they go.

Well, better get back out in the sunshine. We're supposed to get some rainy weather in the next couple of days-- better get out and enjoy the rays while I can.

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