I missed this entire day.
We took off on Monday, August 21st from San Francisco just after 11pm, which meant we were running from midnight across the Pacific Ocean. Given our speed of travel, I’m actually not sure if we ever experienced the clock turning over from Monday to Tuesday before we hit the International Date Line.
Perhaps the pilot made an announcement when we crossed the line to let us know that it was suddenly not just past midnight but Tuesday evening. If he did, I was asleep at the time. All I know is that we wound up landing in Sydney around 6am on Wednesday, August 23rd, which was 5pm on Tuesday, August 22nd back in Philly.
Our flight was without incident, but our de- and re-planing was not.
We decided to fly through Sydney because it meant we wouldn’t have to go through customs in Auckland and then re-check all of our luggage to fly to Wellington. Our bags would simply make the connection in Sydney while we stayed safely within the confines of the International Terminal, like a fugitives waiting on a foreign embassy to take them in.
What no one mentioned to us is that even though we wouldn’t hit customs in Sydney we would still have to go through a re-security check to stay in the International Terminal. That meant that we not only had to do the whole security theatre dance while bleary-eyed just off a 14-hour flight, but that we had to discard all of our awesome snacks and liquids meant to carry us through the final leg of our journey.
On the plus side: the food in the Sydney International Airport was amazing. I had a falafel and pumpkin wrap for breakfast and it was so amazing that I followed it up with a pumpkin sandwich and now I am having serious misgivings about the short shrift we as Americans give to pumpkins.
I also found myself quite suddenly, obviously, and self-consciously an out-of-water American. I didn’t know how to order food or how to use the credit card machine, I was saying the wrong words (trash “can” instead of “bin”), I had to dig in my bag for a converter for my laptop, and I felt like we were taking up an inordinate amount of space in the waiting area as a family of three.
It’s funny – on one hand, I’m in a great rush to denounce some aspects of my Americanism (one particularly orange aspect, especially), but on the other I’m walking around wearing Texan cowboy boots and a straw hat. That just happens to be my comfortable traveling outfit, but I look like I’m cosplaying a particularly lackadaisical cowboy.
The Sydney to Wellington flight was without incident (and, it’s amazing how non-US airlines spend so much time paying special attention to travelers with young children) but still remarkable due to our landing in Wellington. I had been warned to expect a bumpy ride from the sharp turn and descent into the airport, but we lucked into a beautifully clear Winter day and experienced nary a burble of turbulencey. We also lucked into having a group of traditional Mauri musicians on our flight who emitted some sort of spirited cheer-song as we began our descent (which would have been way more alarming if it hadn’t been accompanied by clapping and smiles from everyone around us).
Then there was Customs. Which, honestly, was not so bad, save for two aspects of getting there.
First: After a solid 22 hours of accumulated travel, EV was totally out of gas. She is usually the most pleasant possible kid, but she was a holy terror in the Wellington airport. Crying, rolling around on the ground, darting away and almost winding up past the one-way security perimeter – herding her was a challenge.
Second: One piece of luggage didn’t make our Sydney connection, and of course it was my Breedlove guitar. Honestly, I was so exhausted at the point E told me about it that after a moment of tension where I was afraid it was still in the US or had been broken I was flooded with relief for not having to wrangle its massive flight case through customs.
The actual going through Customs was easy. We had to explain my allergy medication and have our hiking boots carefully examined, but it was anything but the inane security theatre we’re used to from US airports. Plus, we probably studied up on Customs regulations more than any other aspect of our Immigration, so our luggage was very carefully composed and arranged to make it easy to allow us into the country.
(Our packed boxes are much less so, but that’s a headache I don’t have to deal with for another five weeks).
We finally wound up exiting the airport around 3pm local time on Wednesday, or 11 o’clock at night on Tuesday back in Philly. That involved the one final headache of our rental car, but that’s a story for another time. For the moment, all that matters is we are safe and sound in our flat in Wellington as a trio of newly-minted Kiwis!