I got up at 5:00 New Zealand time, checked mail, showered, packed, and almost missed my shuttle for being late. The driver blamed the hotel because they wouldn’t call me and drove the van with its trailer like a little Schumacher to the airport. I checked in and even checked the poster this time, as fragile, so I only carried on two bags on to what turned out to be a half-empty 767. Then, I paid my departure fee.
The check-in lady insisted that one paid a departure fee everywhere, that the departure fee in Australia was over 70 dollars, only it was hidden in the airfare. Maybe so. I still don’t understand why I need to pay 25 dollars to leave the country.
In duty-free, I finally found a map of New Zealand and bought it. I’d read a cartoon on Waitangi Day that bemoaned that New Zealand takes its name from the Dutch and its flag from the Aussies who ripped it off from the British, so I offer here in gratitude for a pleasant stay a bold new name for this beleaguered country to express its identity: Ovinia.
As usual, departure card in New Zealand, then the useless Australian entry card where the fields are white rectangles on a pale yellow background and near illegible in a plane. Apparently it doesn’t matter if one writes off center – they let me in anyway. Their main concern was my food (chocolates) and soil (dust from Rangitoto) that they then completely ignored when the Asian guy in front of me had to have his baggage searched for noodles and rice.
Beat picked me up and drove me to Cremorne, where I met his wife Muoi for the first time. Their daughter Elena soon woke up and made a silent appearance, shy and sleep-weary. We went to Balmoral beach, where I took a quick dip in the water and a lot of pictures of Elena. I wasn’t staying out long after Saturday’s sunburn. Elena was sad to leave. She likes the water and the seashells and kept playing with the ones she’d collected, now suddenly transformed into a garrulous but cryptic one-and-a-half-year-old. (That looks odd with five hyphens.) We had excellent Asian ravioli and noodles courtesy of Muoi’s culinary arts and I was stuffed when Allie Beckett drove up to pick me up for the evening service at Beecroft Presbyterian.
Allie and her husband John studied at Regent College with Cornelia, as did James McFarlane, assistant pastor at Beecroft, and his wife Amanda. John was on a trip to Kenya, and Amanda home with her son Thomas, so I did not get to meet them, but it was fun to continue what’s now fast becoming a tradition of meeting Cornelia’s friends from Regent. We were a bit late to the service, because (a) intermittent showers of driving raid slowed us down, (b) Allie was unfamiliar with Cremorne and I even more so and (c) in Sydney, the shortest distance between two points may still be a straight line, but there’s no way you can legally take it.
That evening, James spoke on the blessedness of those who mourn and those who are meek. Before, after, and in between the two, we sang. After the service, there was a spread of munchies, but I was still well full from the ravioli, so I stuck to drinks. One of the announcements struck a chord: people were being asked to sign up as hosts or guests for “Someone’s coming to Dinner,” an effort to get people from the three different services to intermingle and build community.
The drive back saw even more torrential rain, and back at Beat’s I gave a short private demo of our AFM.
Monday morning, Beat dropped me off at the North Sydney train station on my way to work. I took the Northern line all the way out to Hornsby and there figured out that the North Shore line might well have been faster. From then until now, the weather has alternated between patches of sun and downpours. Of course, at this basement internet café I can see neither.