May 2009 Archives
Upon take off, there was a seat in between the Taiwanese woman and I. I sat reading for a while, but once we were in the air... she seemed somewhat obsessed with coming up with ways to get my attention. She was holding a large SLR film camera... She'd look in the viewfinder, look past me and out the window, and then grunt and nod to herself. After a while, she seemed to let up on the attention seeking and I continued to read. The stewardess came by to offer tea or coffee. I asked for coffee. With milk, please. Then, my row mate seemed to be too distracted by her camera to notice the stewardess. I got her attention and she struggled in English to order tea.
Once the window of communication was open, it was time for us to talk. The stewardess left us with our hot drinks and the woman unbuckled her seat belt and switched to the seat next to me.
"Are you a student?" "What are you reading?" "I have a son and a daughter." My daughter lives in Texas." "Look out the window... mountains!" "I study. I study. (pointing at her camera.)" ETC.
All was in truly broken english. It was pretty difficult to figure out exactly what she was getting at. I figured she just wanted to talk... which is partly true. But it was when she found out that I had anything to do with cameras that the lessons began. She made me look through the view finder, pointing out the light meter on the righthand side. Then, she'd look and say, "I see... I see..." then lean over and draw a + sign on my thigh. "No good..." she drew it again "No good..."
She then would point the camera at something darker... she made me look... then she took a turn. "I see... I see..." Then, drawing out a - sign on my thigh. "No good... No good..." I tried to agree with her. Tried to tell her, "Yes, that's correct. You want the indicator to be in between those two signs. Right."
This process continued for what seemed a century and I wondered... Would this woman cease to repeat this even if I could confirm what she was asking in her native tongue? By this time the stewardess had returned. I got a sandwich and she asked for an apple. As the stewardess walked away, the woman turned to me after making sure the coast was clear and handed me the apple. I tried to motion... "Oh, I'm fine. I have this sandwich." She pushed the apple onto my tray and pointed to her teeth as if to say, "They'd break out of my mouth if I ate that thing."
After some more motioning and broken conversation, it was time to land. At this point she began to lean completely over me to look out the window. I asked her if she wanted me to take some pictures of the mountains from the window, but then thought again and said, "Just switch seats." She lit up and switched immediately. As she got comfortable, she laid down the film camera and produced a digital camera from her bag. She snapped and snapped... only pausing to look over her shoulder and motion, "Thankyou. Thankyou."
I went for a 250 km bike ride from Christchurch to Greymouth. The main problem was that I decided to do it just as winter was setting in on the South Island. It rained and rained and rained. I had to hitch hike the second leg of the first day because I didn't have proper rain gear and was freezing. To be honest, I probably wouldn't have made it up the side of the mountain just based on my general dislike of riding up hills (let alone mountains). So, it was lucky for me that a British family on vacation agreed to put my bike in the back of their RV. The windows were foggy and every time we got out of the RV to take a picture I quickly remembered that my shoes were soaked and I had an outdoor time average of about 15 seconds. We made it to Arthur's pass (halfway across the island and where I planned to stay for the night) and I jumped out and thanked them for the ride.
The next morning I woke up and it was still raining/sleeting and I decided that if I didn't ride it... I would regret it later on. Especially, while staring out a foggy window of a bus again. So, I bought some more rain stuff and wrapped my feet in plastic bags. I looked like a deflated lifeboat raft, but I was warm. The 100 km ride from Arthur's pass was almost all down hill (terrifyingly so at some points... a spoke broke on my front tire while I was going down a 16% decline). I changed my first flat in the rain. Never went down again. I was pretty proud of that. That night, I stayed in Blackball at the Blackball Hilton... or actually now it's called "formally" The Blackball Hilton because the "Legit" Hilton threatened to sue, I suppose. Seems like they generally save the "formerly" for the rare occasion that a threatening business suit dude strolls in. I was the only guest (unless there were some others sneaking around). I had a huge dinner, 5 pints of beer, an enormous breakfast in the morning, and slept there. The bill only came to 63 dollars. Obviously, worth trying out.
The next day I took the Tranzalpine train from Greymouth all the way back through the mountains to Christchurch. It was one of the more stunning things I have seen. Specifically, because it was the first sunny day I had the entire week. I was able to see the summits of all the giants that had been lingering in the fog the day before. I got back to Christchurch. Watched rugby and drank beer with my friend's dad. Flew back the next day.