Friday, March 17, 2006

Where the kiwi has flown - #4 USA '98

Eight years ago, in February 1998, I was working in the corporate world. I was part way through my part time Masters degree, and I was working with the lovely Violet. I had just celebrated my 27th birthday with a 70s themed party. I was flatting with The Editter in Hot ‘n’ Spicy Kiwi’s house (Hot ‘n’ Spicy and hubby were living in Bangkok). And I had enough money, and enough leave, to take off to the USA for a month.

It wasn’t my first time in the States, but it was my first time on holiday there without my family. Oh, except for that holiday in New York in ’92. OK, so it wasn’t even my first time on holiday in the US without my family.

When kiwis leave their homeland, they tend to make the most of it. Unless you’re going to Australia, it costs so much and takes so long to get anywhere, that you may as well stay for a while. If you’re going to Australia, you may as well stay for a while too, because the pay is better, the beaches are sunnier and you can always go on the dole. But that’s beside the point.

My plan was to join Rosie Cheeks and some other friends at Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Then I thought, what the heck, if I’m going all the way to New Orleans I may as well visit Rosie afterwards in DC. Then I thought, what the heck, if I’m going all the way to New Orleans and DC, I may as well visit a friend in San Francisco. And then I thought, what the heck, if I’m going all the way to New Orleans, DC and San Francisco, then I may as well go and visit my aunt and uncle in Anchorage. Then my travel agent said what the heck, if you’re going to all those places it’s actually cheaper to buy a return ticket to London which allows you four stops in the US.

First stop was San Francisco. You remember, of course, that ’98 was an El Niño year. It rained the whole week I was in SF. I experienced umbrella rage (a motorist threatening another motorist with his umbrella). I spent a lot of time indoors – I remember watching an eyeball dissection at the Exploratorium. But I also walked across the Golden Gate Bridge and rode the cable car and did other such touristy things. I adored SF. When I was offered my postdoc position in Berkeley a couple of years ago, I had no idea it was just across the bay from SF. It was rather exciting to discover this geographical serendipity (serendipitious geography?).

Next I flew up to Anchorage, with a stopover in Seattle. It also rained in Seattle, but I believe that is to be expected. Alaska was cold, it being February and all. And it being Alaska and all. I went cross country skiing with my aunt and saw a mother and baby moose and fell on my arse. The next day I attempted snowboarding, but my sore tailbone prevented me from making much progress. It’s a bit difficult to learn to snowboard when you’re paranoid about falling over. There was some kind of festival on while I was there – Rendezvous or something? – involving dog mushing and other Alaska-themed happenings. That week with my aunt and uncle was very special (they have both since died, sadly).

After a week I was plenty cold, so I flew to the relative warmth of New Orleans. There were 8 of us (including 4 kiwi friends who had flown over from London) staying in a guest house not far from the parade route. It was a little far from Bourbon St but we made the trek multiple times nonetheless. The week is a bit hazy, but I remember beads. Lots of beads. Some beads I got just for being from New Zealand (it’s that adorable accent, gets them every time). I also remember hurricanes (the alcoholic variety, not the Katrina variety), a Texan wearing a Waikato rugby jersey, a yard glass, getting crushed in the crowd, some old biddy snatching some beads off me that I had caught fair and square when they were thrown from a float, Jerry Springer on a float (I had no idea who he was at the time, if only I could have kept my innocence), and being cleared (along with everyone else) off Bourbon St by cops on horseback at the stroke of midnight on Mardi Gras itself (as Lent begins at midnight, apparently). We also did a swamp tour (complete with alligators and marshmallows - the latter for feeding to the former) and other touristy things. I would like to go back to New Orleans sometime when it’s not Mardi Gras. Although somehow that plan isn’t so appealing anymore…

My final week was in Washington D.C. I particularly enjoyed Georgetown and the plethora of squirrels. And the fact that there is a suburb called Foggy Bottom.

Then I flew to London for a weekend. I have no idea what I did in London that weekend.

And then I flew home and back to my corporate job which paid for all my gallivanting around the US.

The end.



Where the kiwi has flown # 3 Lake Titicaca

Where the kiwi has flown # 2 A vignette of Cali

Where the kiwi has flown #1 Tsunami diving