Friday, 20 June 2014

Leaving New Zealand

Einstein the hedgehog who stops me from doing
homework and loves getting himself into
dangerous situations
Our plane was set to leave at near midnight, after 5 months of preparation. It had been an unforgiving winter, and it was hard to imagine that within the next day we would be in the tropics during the thick of summer. The final days before departure had been marked by us sheltering a beloved hedgehog which had been quilling because of the cold.

On the day of departure, he went missing, as he often did, and it turned out he was under the rocking chair I was sitting on. Lifting it up, there were blood stains, and the hedgehog was cold. We managed to sent him to the hedgehog hospital, but they didn't know if they would be able to save him. The safety of Einstein was not something we had to think of before the beginning of the holiday, and I tried to take it from my mind. By the time I was overseas, I e-mailed Mum, who told me the hedgehog was okay. That was a relief...

Passport photo rejected for
the dot on my nose!
After coming back to Auckland from Wellington, I was tasked with preparing for the trip to Asia. Auntie Suzanne, being a veteran traveler, planned a lot of it out for us - first, there were destinations - Pandas; Hiroshima; the Great Wall; Korean Border, etc. Then we immediately got to ordering passports, which was exciting on its own. New Zealand passports are arguably some of the best in the world, both in terms of aesthetics and usefulness. Next we went straight to the booking - Singapore airlines would be our main carrier plane, with China Southern and China United providing flights to and within the Mainland.

During this time I also decided to take up study of Chinese, Korean and Japanese languages. Nobody in their right mind would seriously take up learning 3 languages in 5 months, but I was working part time and had plenty of spare time on my hands. I applied at Te Kura, the correspondence school, where I began two courses in Japanese and Chinese - Korean wasn't available, so I had to rent a course through the Library. By the end I could confidently ask for directions and simple requests/queries in all 3 languages. I also spent much time studying about the cities we were going to visit, taking special interest in the mysterious, laberinthine Beijing and the bizarre melting-pot of Singapore.

One of the most important things that we seemingly left so late was the Chinese Visa, which was much more than the simple stamp on our passport we thought it would be. Having filled out the forms for both mine and Antony's Visa's, I took it down to Greenlane to get them checked by the Chinese consulate. Mine came through fine, but Antony, whom had once done DUI, was required to provide a criminal record. And so, we went to the courthouse, who told us we had to log an application with the ministry of justice - the only problem was, it would take 22 days, and the plane left in less time than that. However, it was possible to get a CR processed quicker than that, under certain emergencies. It took many phone calls - but in the end, they managed to get it sent out to us within a few days. He received his criminal record and his Visa was processed successfully. Everyone was saying they weren't afraid that he wouldn't get the visa in time, but they should have been. The Ministry of Justice is a government department, not a customer service oriented business. They could have easily told us tough luck, we had to wait 22 days, but out of the goodness of the workers, they saw the urgency of the situation and sent out the CR as soon as possible.

We had our passports; visas and bookings, but another issue was work. I had been working at a supermarket for 1 and 1/2 years. I had only used up one week of leave, and so, I was owed another 3. The trip was set to take 3 weeks, but my first week booked went before the leaving date, and so, I needed an extra week off. I asked my manager if I could get shift exchanges (someone to do my shift, which I will recompense at a later date), but I was told company policy states a worker cannot be away for more than 3 weeks at a time. I'm not even sure this was a real policy, but I just told them I would resign and reapply when I returned. So I handed in my resignation form and my uniform, was given about $2000 leaving pay (which included my unclaimed holiday pay) and got ready for my trip.

I felt somewhat strange now - I was 20 years old, I was unemployed, but I had more money in my bank than ever, and I was going to leave Aotearoa for the first time in my life. Even though I told them I would reapply at the supermarket when I returned, something told me I had seen my last days at Pak 'n Save. I wasn't concerned about future employment - all I was thinking about was the trip. I would worry about jobs afterwards - once I got back, but inside I thought that if I got back and returned straight to scanning food and packing trolleys, it wouldn't feel right. But, I wasn't concerning myself with that - because I had a plane to catch.