Thursday, November 13, 2008

Half a Globe Away - Day 2

My second day in New Zealand began with breakfast at the Tinakori Lodge where I was staying. The Tinakori is a B&B run by Neville and Linda. Really great place and really really nice people. I have to say, I didn't meet one un-nice person while in New Zealand. They are like Americans in the area of niceness, but with a factor of, say, ten. While at breakfast, a cozy affair, I met a couple of Holland that had just toured the South Island and two American women from California who had just toured the North Island. Each set was headed in the opposite direction and had some really great stories to share about what they had seen. I was told, since I was heading South the next day, not to miss the small town of Havelock, mussel capitol of the world. If I wasn't excited enough already about embarking on the South Island, that really whet my appetite. I love mussels.

Breakfast was over way too soon, and I made my way back to the Turnbull Library. I had one day to collect the rest of the information that I needed. First, I hit the newspaper microfiche and met an incredibly nice librarian named Mary who helped me search for quotations from Mark Twain during his visit to New Zealand in 1895. She was so helpful she actually called a woman who used to work at the Turnbull, Tania Atkinson, and who had written a picture book that deals with that time, Pelorus Jack: The Story of New Zealand's Famous Dolphin. She also, although in no way connected with the Turnbull anymore, was more than willing to help.

After swimming in microfiche for so long, my eyes were beginning to swim, I headed up to the stacks to read more accounts of pioneering days in New Zealand. The present day generation has done an incredible job of documenting and preserving the struggles and triumphs of their great grandparents. I learned and found more than I had hoped for.

From there, it was to the reading room, where I was greeted on a first name basis. It was getting to the point that I think every librarian in the Turnbull had either helped, been called to help me, or was soon to help me. And they were all really amazingly nice and helpful. If you're looking for a country to research, do New Zealand, if for no other reason than that their librarians are incredibly helpful!

At 5:00, though, the library closed, and when I got back to my room, my luggage had arrived!! New clothes. I cannot tell you how happy I was. I immediately changed into my running clothes to take on the botanical gardens. This was complete efficiency/tourism in action. Seeing the sights while exercising.

Now, what I didn't know before I got to Wellington is that it is one of the windiest cities on the planet. Sorry Chicago, but they've really got you beat. And on this particular day, a real gale was blowing. But, in the name of research and seeing the sights, I took off anyway. The Botanical Gardens were so very worth it. They are some of the most amazing sights in Wellington. Just gorgeous, even with gale force winds. Just a heads up, though, they are either all uphill or downhill. Wellington is very very hilly. Now, I'll get back to that word later, but it is a bit of an understatement. In the U.S., New Zealand hills would be referred to as mountains. So, here's a great thing they came up with, a cable car to the top. I, of course, huffed it for my heart, but the cable car is definitely a more relaxed way to make it up. Then you can stroll down at your leisure, without the huffing and puffing.

My run complete, I had a quick change and then it was off to dinner at a couple's house I'd never met. When I say New Zealanders are friendly, really, it's no understatement. For about a year previous to my trip, a retired entymologist turned historian, Oliver Sutherland, had been helping me collect information on the French Pass, where my story takes place, and his family, which has farmed the Pass for over 150 years. It turns out, Oliver and Ulla's son, Bjorn, lives in Wellington. Mind you, I'd never talked to Bjorn until Tuesday, but he and his dad had graciously and kindly already arranged for me to have dinner at Bjorn and his wife, Jackie's, house. Complete strangers cooked an extravagant dinner for me - beef stew, kumara, mashed potatoes, bread, veggies, and then these to-die-for chocolate brownie/something even chocolatier in them dessert. Ohmigod, it was so good. And we talked and drank wine into the wee hours of the morn. That's how friendly Kiwis are!

That night, as I curled up in my warm blankets with the winds howling and beating against the Tinakori Lodge, I was pretty certain that no matter how many calories slid down to Antartica, a few had definitely found a spot on me. I'd had two helpings of everything. But then, it was all in the name of research, right? One must suffer for her work.

I was tired that night, but almost too wound up to sleep. Tomorrow, I would be on my way to the South Island and French Pass, a place I wrote, dreamt and studied about for a year, but never seen. I could hardly wait. Tomorrow was the big day!

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