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Friday, December 14, 2007

"Oh, you're from New Zealand! I'm a huge Lord of the Rings fan."


I'm back from the States and from semi-retirement from this blog. In the words of Inigo Montoya:

"Let me 'splain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up."

So, in no particular order (unless 'random' is an order)...

I get home to New Zealand and resume the much-missed habit of my 'Wednesday cafe crawl' through Wellington. Whilst on the way to one of my favourite haunts (Cafe Astoria), I know I'll be passing by my favourite place to buy clothes: Swanndri. I almost walk past it as it's down a side street, but it doesn't take me long to recognize the tell-tale triangular intersection near the store. So I double back and head down the side street, the familiar planter with the Swanndri logo painted on its side now in full view.

Yet as I get to the short set of stone steps leading up into the building, I see nothing but frilly summer dresses and women's shoes in the store window. I do a double take (which would've been a spit take, had I been drinking anything at the time) and look up for the Swanndri sign, and sure enough - it's gone. In its place is a sign for some frou-frou dress shop. Or shoes. Girly stuff. Definitely not Swanndri!

Swanndri is gone???

Say it ain't so, Joe.

Thankfully, the company is still around, and thriving from the looks of it although I'm a little uneasy that they've been bought out by a New Zealand company that seems like it might start outsourcing work overseas. But as long as Swanndri stays in business, I'll always have mail-order.

But gone, too, is the pretty girl who worked there. It was admittedly as much a guilty pleasure to go and chat her up from time to time as it was to spend money recklessly on yet another jumper or jacket.

Meanwhile, back in the States, in the roughly 12 days I had to actually see people, I managed to fit in spending some quality time with my parents for Thanksgiving. I also caught up with some good friends in Newport News where I lived the 9 years prior to moving to New Zealand, and I also fit in 3 days in Vegas where I stayed at Paris - in a suite with a Jacuzzi, no less.

It seems as if almost everybody I know back home has moved into newer, bigger houses. Well, at least 100% of the people I stayed with on my trip were in new houses, those people being my parents as well as my friends Kathy and Robert. So, combined with the very nice suite in Vegas, at least my short time back in the States was spent in quality digs.

My friends Mary and Ted in Williamsburg have also moved but their house needs a bit of work. The trade-off is they're in a great neighbourhood and I have seen the improvements they did on their last house, so I know they're capable of great things. They have all of my respect, for there is no way I could ever succeed where they have and will surely. So I can't wait to visit them again someday and see what they've done with the place!

While home in Lynchburg, I managed to visit the National D-Day Memorial for the first time, and it's located in nearby Bedford, Virginia. It is there because that little township lost more people per capita on D-Day than any other town in the United States. In this regard, Bedford, Virginia, parallels New Zealand in a way, although for a different war: New Zealand suffered more casualties and fatalities per capita as a country in World War I than any other contributing force.

There is a commanding arch that dominates the centre of the D-Day memorial, and flags of all of the nations that contributed to that historic assault on that day fly around its perimeter, including New Zealand's flag. It was a good day for visiting, as far as sunshine went, but it was terribly cold and windy. I managed to take some photographs and will get them online at some point soon.

It's an excellent monument and I encourage anyone interested to go. Even though there is not much nightlife to speak of in the region (although there's a great restaurant in a restored train station, called - wait for it - "Old Liberty Station"), you would be remiss in not exploring the Peaks of Otter as well as the associated parkway all the way up to Skyline Drive if you can make it. You won't regret it.

This trip home was bittersweet, as while it was great to see everyone again and catch up, I had to take my leave of them once again. It was also nice to just be in the States in general. There really were no moments of absolute 'reverse' culture shock, which is what you might experience upon returning to civilization for the first time after a significant chunk of time away in a foreign land. Perhaps this would have been more the case if, instead of living in another first world country these past 18 months, I had been roughing it in the jungles of the Amazon Basin, or trying to eke out an existence somewhere inside the Arctic Circle, or even Arkansas.

Anyways, about the only thing that took me aback was the size of the Coke I had ordered with dinner at one restaurant. Holy big thirst, Batman! It was like ... a bucket with a hose attached to it. Sheeza. Even though we've waged war on 'Big Fat' now in the States, we still have some embarrassingly large portion sizes over there. At least the percentage of people categorised as 'obese' has levelled off this year for the first time in five years, and that is good news.

Finally, just as a general observation that fits here more than anywhere else, I like how the administrations in the United States and New Zealand are warming to each other over the past few years. There is the new student visa program sponsored by the U.S. for Kiwis wanting to study in the States for a year, up from six months as it was before.

Condy and Winnie have been chummy for the past few years.

And, perhaps most significantly, Jemaine and Bret are succeeding as diplomats for New Zealand in ways their government otherwise could never have hoped! As one of the posters featured on Flight of the Conchords states, "New Zealand... Rocks!!!"

Anyways, the trip home and back again wasn't nearly as taxing as I thought it'd be. I haven't had any problems sleeping or getting back to work like I thought I might, although I did have a very hard time getting up before noon while I was back home! I blame the jetlag. Or my pineal gland, or something.

It's good to be home in New Zealand again, and my trip to the States has helped refresh my perspective on my journey down here. With the advent of summer here now Down Under, I'm ready to renew my commitments to touring the waterfront and cafes of Wellington on my days off as well as to doing more stuff with my friends. Gone for now are the short, cold days of winter, bad habits (*cough* World of Warcraft *cough*), and just hanging around the flat.

That means I'll also be giving this slack blog a kick in the backside in the process. Whether I write anything interesting or not is a whole other matter, and I'm not making any promises there.

This post was composed while under the influence of a heavy dose of caffeine on an AlphaSmart 3000 on various table tops in cafes throughout Wellington, including but not limited to: the Jimmy, Cafe Astoria, Starbucks, and Deluxe Cafe.


Blogger Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Welcome back, Brooksie! Hey! You were in the States and didn't drop by see me?

9:14 PM  
Blogger Brooksie said...

Yeah I'm sorry Nick, I truly missed out in not paying you a visit! I had a great trip but did not allow enough time to enjoy being back in the States and getting around to see everyone I wanted to. Thanks for the welcome back and have a great holiday there, Nick!

7:50 PM  

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