27.10.2011 - 27.09.2011 15 °C
The day began a 5am run to drop Jon, along with his 23kg rugby kit full of New Zealand goodies,* at the airport.
- A literal Freudian slip: Yesterday Jon purchased four 250g chocolate bars to bring home. I was carrying the grocery bag, put it down for a moment to do something and managed to step on it and break all the lovely chocolate bars. I readily agreed to a “you break it, you buy it” policy, took ownership of a kilogram of Whittaker’s chocolate, and bought him new ones. Hey, chocolate always comes in handy.
After dropping Jon off, then sipping tea with Louise until a civilized daytime hour arrived, I headed for a walk up Mount Vic. One more little aside: I remember learning as a kid that there was a growing hole in the earth’s ozone layer, and while I found it troubling, it seemed to primarily concern some faraway country that I had no idea if I’d ever visit. Now then. Yesterday, I was in the sun for about eight minutes before putting on sunblock; this earned me a stinging sensation on my cheeks corresponding to a really attractive patchy red pattern on my face. Yes, explained Louise and Crystal, there is a hole in the ozone over New Zealand, so one burns quickly here. Indeed.
So on went the sunblock, and up the hill I went. There was a Trail (capital ‘T’) leading up to the lookout point... and then there were just trails. Beautiful, leafy, well-kept, practically deserted trails. Hard to believe it was ten minutes’ walk from a city rather than some national park. I wound my up via the trails, never knowing exactly where I was on a map but figuring I'd end up where I needed to. Sure enough, made it to the top just fine and had part of an avocado for breakfast while taking in the drop-dead gorgeous view. It was all sublime (but since when do I like avocado?!).
Next I headed for a swim in Freyberg Pool, this beautiful pool/gym complex built right on the coast with two walls of floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the ocean. When I went to leave my phone and money for the front desk for safekeeping, I discovered I had no money. Not a cent. It was all in the pocket of my jeans from the day before. Now I had a big chocolate bar in my bag (always comes in handy!) and could imagine surviving on it, devouring it, in fact. But that idea had stomach ache written all over it. I found myself thinking as I swam:
How does one get a free lunch in Wellington?
Good and hungry after hiking and swimming, I strolled up Cuba Street eying the restaurants, cafes and bakeries, and all the people with money to eat there. A casual-looking kebab joint gave me a tickle of an idea. I wandered in and asked, “Say, what could I do to get a bit of free lunch? Could I help you out behind the counter for half an hour or something?” (I'd've been willing to do an hour, but had decided I should leave room to bargain up.) I walked out with a falafel wrap, complete with hummus tabouli, no manual labor required, which I savored in the afternoon sun of a perfect Wellington spring day.
Wandering back through the city, I chanced upon a sign for a Deaf Center and walked in to see what they were about. A Maori woman named Karen, whose lunch I think I interrupted, was more than happy to tell me about the Center and their services for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people in NZ. I learned that Wellington does not have a special school for the Deaf, but Auckland and Christchurch do. She also explained that they have to work with many different languages and cultures – Maori, Pacific Islander, and so on.
She knew American Sign Language (ASL) and so was able to understand my signing, and when she talked to me she spoke as she signed. Some of her signs were different, but I understood her perfectly because her speech was so good. I assumed she had lost her hearing as an adult and was shocked to learn she had been born Deaf. She explained that growing up in the '60s, she had been forced to communicate orally. Sad, but not uncommon, and the children would actually get in trouble for signing.
I concluded my wanderings with a ramble through the Botanic Gardens, which offered more gorgeous vistas of this infinitely photogenic city, along with a host of no doubt special plants that I am too ignorant to appreciate. If left to fend for myself in the forest, I probably wouldn't make it. At least I know how to forage for food in a city.