When I landed in Dunedin three weeks ago, I posted a recollection of my travels on Wonderful World of the Wanderer. Since all magnificently lucky travel stories deserve to be told twice, here it is:
Something interesting about being halfway around the world is that the time difference puts us a day ahead of people in the states. Technically I think this means that I’m licensed to call home and let them know if the future is looking bright. The price of being able to travel into the future, however, is a grueling series of plane flights and layovers.
To start my journey, my parents and I took off for San Francisco, where we spent some time taking in the sights. We were able to climb the Coit Tower, walk along the Pier, see Lombard and Steiner Street, visit the Golden Gate, and stuff our faces with Boudin sourdough and Ghirardelli chocolate. It was incredibly nice to spend time with my parents in one of my favorite cities in the world.
But after some wonderful adventures in San Francisco, it was time for my parents to drop me off at the airport. Thirteen hours later I arrived in Auckland; I was exhausted, overwhelmed by the airport, and feeling completely alone. After hauling my bags off of the belt, I attempted to prepare myself to go through customs and catch my plane to Dunedin.
One of my greatest talents in life is my capability to get lost anywhere. Passing as a tourist in my own hometown? Easy. Looking like a freshman on my college campus? No problem. So, naturally, I got lost as soon as I grabbed my bags. I tried to wander around for a bit, hoping I would stumble upon a line on the floor that I could follow to my exact destination. I ambled towards an exit that claimed to be able to lead me to the domestic terminals, finding instead that it led me to a curb outside of the airport. I decided that I couldn’t lug my bags around any further, and that I needed some help. “Excuse me?” I asked a woman walking past. “Do you know how to get to the domestic terminals?”
“Well, I normally walk to it by taking this path right here,” she motioned to a green line that was painted on the ground. “It takes you right to it. But today I’m riding the bus, so you can follow me.” As I struggled to follow her, my bags incapable of any synchronized movement, my newfound guide began to explain how I could have grabbed a cart for my bags, or that I could have left my bags at a bag drop inside. “No worries now, you can just do it at the domestic terminal.”
The bus to the terminal arrived shortly afterwards, and my guide helped me load my suitcases aboard, and then promptly proceeded to help an older gentlemen with his suitcase, making sure both he and his bag didn’t tumble over. I couldn’t help but think of a mother duck collecting ducklings as she went. Upon arriving in the terminal, she helped the older man off the bus and brought him his suitcase, all the while making sure I was still behind her. She made sure we found someone with a wheelchair for the man, and then she rolled his bag to where he needed it before turning back to me. “This way, this way.”
She took me to the premium desk, although I was certainly not a premium passenger, and made sure my baggage could be dropped off. “Maybe I should ask them where I should go,” I said out loud, feeling guilty that this woman had to drag me around the airport. “No, no, follow me, we’ll go to security next,” she called, leading me onwards and letting me know which security rules applied in New Zealand.
As soon as we were through security, I once again mused that I should ask someone for my gate (which was unmarked on my ticket), not wanting this kind woman who also had a flight to catch to have to take me the whole way there. But once again, she shushed me, saying, “No, no, follow me.” At this point I had no idea how this woman would get me to my gate if we didn’t even know the number, but I was too tired to care that I once again had no idea where I was headed.
“Let’s see if I can’t get you in the Koru Lounge. It’s a much nicer place to wait than at your gate. Can I take her as my guest?” She asked a woman at the entrance of a swanky looking airport sitting area. Once she was given the OK, she ushered me in and lead me to a comfy seating area, and began pointing out where to get food, coffee, and Internet. “You can use the bathrooms or take a shower over there. Do you see the man in the checkered shirt who just sat down? That’s Ma’a Nonu. He’s a famous rugby player on the New Zealand All Blacks. You’ll start seeing him on TV a lot.”
As I gazed around the lounge in amazement, I began to wonder what I had done to earn this woman’s pity and to end up in this airport wonderland. Perhaps it was the baffled look that had permanently taken over my face, or the fact that I was struggling to find the words to thank her and was having trouble stringing sentences together. Before leaving to catch her flight, she handed me her business card and made me promise to tuck into the food for a good breakfast so I didn’t waste my pennies. Then she offered me a place to stay if I ever made it to New Zealand’s capital and said “Let’s see if you make it to Wellington” before disappearing out the lounge door towards her gate.
I think it’s safe to say that I was the luckiest and most grateful person at the Auckland airport that day. Somehow her display of kindness made me feel less alone, and made New Zealand feel less far from home. Safely in Dunedin now, I’d like to send a message back home: The future is looking bright.