Category: Auckland

The last of the tales from Down Under

Vee’s amazing hospitality did not end when we left her at the beginning of our time in New Zealand.  We actually ending up being able to bookend our New Zealand time with her.  While we were together in Auckland the first time, she had asked us what our lodging plans were for when we returned to Auckland to leave the country.  We told her that we were planning on staying in a hotel near the airport – that seemed the most sensible option, since we had a really early flight the next morning.  She encouraged us to cancel our hotel reservation and stay with her again.  We were happy to oblige.

So, when we arrived back in Auckland, she once again picked us up from the rental car place and took us to her house.  We had the house to ourselves for a few hours while she went to work, but after she came back we went out together and got some dinner.  I’m not really sure what made her do this, but instead of suggesting a “normal” restaurant she recommended an Asian street food market in the middle of a covered parking deck.  Whatever her rationale was behind that suggestion, I’m really glad for it.

The market was packed with typical Asian food from all over southeast Asia – and also, of course lots of southeast Asians, as well.  I’m not quite sure what it was, but something about the combination of an Asian street market in the middle of a very western parking deck made me feel both at home and as if I were back in Korea at the same time.  It was definitely an odd combination, but lots of fun.

We had a very early flight the next day, so we didn’t stay out too late.  Michael and I were once again bowled over by Vee’s hospitality – her last gesture was to take us to the airport at 4:30 in the morning.  That almost wasn’t early enough – the check-in line was absolutely crawling, and we almost certainly would have missed our flight if one of the agents hadn’t let us skip ahead of the rest of the line to check in.  But we made it, none the worse for wear except for a little less sleep than we would have liked, and just like that, we were on our way back to the States.

The Great Barrier Reef of Australia is one of the most breathtaking things I’ve ever seen in my entire life.  Similarly, the people and countryside of New Zealand are incredible.  I really did have a wonderful time.  But, I couldn’t help but think on more than one occasion as we drove ourselves around in our little rental car, that this was too….too easy.  Boring, even.  As Michael put it, I guess there just wasn’t enough adventure for me – no having to figure out bus schedules or navigating in a foreign language or guessing on which street food is the safest because I don’t know what any of it is.  Don’t get me wrong, it was a wonderful vacation.  But I’m glad I didn’t stay longer than I did.  One thing’s for sure, though….if I want to create a hospitable home for strangers and friends alike to come into and feel welcome (which I do), Vee has definitely given me a great role model to emulate! 🙂  I was so grateful for the impression she gave me of her country, an impression that will stay with me far longer than the bounds of my vacation dates.  That’s the kind of impression I want to leave with everyone who comes into my home.  I’ve got a long way to go!

A host who offers a haven, not a house

Although the Great Barrier Reef was incredible, after 4 days in Australia I was ready to move on to the next adventure.  We had a nice lazy late morning flight out, which went fairly uneventfully.  Except apparently I look like a major security risk to airline security officers in multiple nations.  At 7 of the 8 flights that we had over the course of our trip, I was asked to step aside by the security agents for a “random” bomb screening.  Random, my foot.  It became a running joke between Michael and I, to see if I would make it through security without getting screened.  But I never did.  Countries of the world, watch out – a diminutive little American girl is coming!

But thankfully, I always was allowed to leave those bomb screenings, so other than having a fun new inside joke to laugh about together, we arrived in Auckland without incident.  We continued our experiment with AirBnB in New Zealand, and I must say, I am glad we did.  Our host in Auckland, Vee, was absolutely the most amazing host we could ever have asked for.  She offered to pick us up from the airport (mind you, we landed around midnight), which was definitely a lovely start to this leg of the trip.  The next day was even better.  She was supposed to volunteer somewhere, but decided to cancel and spend the day with us instead.  She took us to a strawberry farm that made homemade ice cream and fruit pies from their fresh grown strawberries.  I particularly enjoyed that, because it took me on a nostalgic trip down memory lane – my family used to go pick strawberries and buy homemade ice cream from a mennonite farm when I was a kid.

After that, we went to the Winter Gardens in Auckland Park.  I enjoyed it, but Michael loved it – he’s such a sucker for flowers.  To be fair, there were definitely some lovely flowers represented there, especially considering how close it was to winter  (I found it very disorienting having to reverse the seasons in my brain, being on the opposite side of the world and all…).  I wish I had known more of the names of the flowers that we saw, but that’s ok.  Getting to spend some time with Vee, and reveling in the glorious colors all around us was wonderful, regardless.

On Vee’s recommendation, we had fish and chips for lunch.  New Zealand doesn’t have a lot of culturally significant food, so I guess the next best thing would be to try culturally significant foods from their colonizer, England.  I must say….I’ve never had English fish and chips, but the ones from New Zealand were absolutely delicious.  Apparently the seagulls on the boardwalk where we ate thought so, too.  We were completely surrounded by dozens, if not hundreds of birds.  At first it was kind of cute and novel.  But then they started getting closer and closer, and I started to become worried that we were about to reenact a scene from Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”  Eventually I left our boardwalk perch to finish my meal in peace and let Michael and Vee deal with the horde of human-food-obsessed seagulls.

As I’m sitting here writing, I’m thinking about how different our time in Auckland could have been.  We had no plans that first day there, and Vee could easily have stuck with her original plans and left us to ourselves that day…if she had, we would probably have just hung around the house.  I’m so grateful that she chose to spend her time with us instead.  Memories were made, friendships were strengthened, and I was inspired to be the same type of host when I have people in my home – the kind who offers not just a house to stay in, but a haven of peace and happiness.