It is Tuesday morning around 03:39am when I’m starting this post. I’m sitting in my super nice hotel room at the Crowne Plaza in Christchurch, NZ. I hope that where ever you are reading this from finds you all happy and in good health.
The journey so far…
I spent two lovely weeks on St. Simons between Cayman and starting my travels. Those two weeks went by incredibly fast. I decided that I was not going to stress myself out trying to go and see too many people, and that if people wanted to see me, they could come track me down. So that’s what I did. It meant that I didn’t see a lot of people but the time relaxing was totally worth it.
The exciting thing that happened this trip, was that the majority of my Winfly fire guys had their ARFF burn in Jacksonville, FL. This meant that I got to start my trip with them on Saturday. Two of the guys were ones that I had worked with in previous seasons. One Captain and one Lieutenant.
I got down to the Jacksonville airport super early because I hate long lingering goodbyes. I dropped off my bags and got checked in with no issues (which was a good thing because last time I had to pay for my bags although the company was supposed to cover the fee).
I wandered around the airport for a little bit, just seeing if any of my boys were there. I knew I was early and didn’t really expect to see anyone, but it didn’t hurt to look. After my 30 LB carryon bag (it’s got a lot of camera equipment in it) started to get really heavy, I decided to have a seat and a drink to wait for them to arrive. Time started ticking away, and I was actually starting to worry that they were going to be late. So I messaged the Captain just saying where I was and I hoped that they got through security quickly.
Well. An hour later they showed up. Because they knew what I didn’t. Our flight was delayed. I forgot to change my number for the flight notifications. Silly Tori.
Anyhow, we all met up and there were hugs, high-fives, handshakes and fist-bumps. And a lot of laughter.
The flight kept getting delayed and in spite of going and checking the status frequently, we ALMOST didn’t hear them announce the last call for boarding the plane. Seriously, Jacksonville? Where were you announcing the boarding calls to?
So we all dashed to the gate and made our flight. Next stop – Houston.
We arrived in Houston and a few of us started branching out, making our way to the bathrooms, or in search of food. By the way, part of my excitement was because I knew I would have someone to watch my bag so I didn’t have to haul my 30 lb bag around with me everywhere.
And there were more people I knew! Which meant more hugs! It was amazing to see people I haven’t seen in at least four years. Catching up with them was fantastic. I also got to meet a few other Firehouse guys, which was great. Then we all boarded our flight to Auckland. The 14 hour, 50 minute flight that we all just love so very, very much.
I got on the plane and slept the first 8 hours. I was asleep before take off. I woke up freezing cold and found my blanket and retrieved my neck pillow thing that Jonathan (one of the other dispatchers) and snagged for me when it fell down at some point. We had just flown past Hawaii, well pretty far south of Hawaii, when I checked the map.
I managed to doze off an on for the remainder of the flight. Overall, not too bad at all.
When we arrived in Auckland, we all got our bags and transferred them over to the domestic departure bag drop and then started making our way to the domestic terminal, which is just down the road from the international terminal.
We walked outside to be greeted by temps in the mid 50’s. It was GLORIOUS! I was super gross from traveling and sweaty from hauling my bags around, so this weather was delicious and I just wanted to run around and play. Instead, I did the responsible thing and went to get checked in and find the next gate. Which meant I also needed to find food. And coffee.
New Zealand flat whites are something I have missed. There is something about coffee tasting better in the southern hemisphere. I’m convinced of it.
Boarding the plane, I found more people I knew. Which meant more hugs! Seriously, I haven’t hugged this many people in YEARS! It was fantastic. Next stop, Christchurch. And oh, when flying into Christchurch, I could feel the tears welling up because I had forgotten how beautiful this country is. Flying over the snow capped mountains… Seeing the ocean through the other window in the plane… I have missed this country.
Thankfully, all of my bags arrived with no issues. Once we all collected them, we met up with the fine USAP folks who gave us our envelopes confirming our hotels and providing our shuttle passes so we can get back and forth to the CDC – Clothing Distribution Centre – for those of you who are not familiar with the program acronyms. And then we all loaded up in various shuttles and headed to our hotels. Now,, this was close to noon, and as I’m sure most of you have stayed in hotels, you are familiar with the fact that check in time isn’t normally until around 3 or 4. This trip, I was booked at the Crowne Plaza hotel, downtown. I had never stayed here before, so I wasn’t really familiar with the area or the hotel itself. All I knew was that at that point, I wanted food and a shower. Not necessarily in that order.
While en route, I met one of the Stewies who is coming down for her first season. We chatted for a bit and were the only two in our shuttle to get out at our hotel. We walked into the lobby and found a fair number of other folks who had been on the shuttles ahead of us and found out that the rooms weren’t all ready for our arrival. We hung out in the lobby area for a while and chatted with some of the others with the program. After about an hour and a half, my room still wasn’t ready, so I left my bags with the good reception people and Jonathan and I headed out in search of food. The shower would have to wait. But I didn’t feel bad about being all gross from traveling, because he hadn’t showered either.
As we were wandering down the street in search of vittles, we saw a large portion of our fire group walking into Rockpool. I had never been there before so I figured that I’d give their food a shot. The 8 of us ordered various things from Shepard’s Pie to Fish and Chips to Lamb.
I went with lamb. A lamb shank with gravy and mashed potatoes. And broccoli. And it was good… Oh so very good. However, I did eye the lamb roast that one of my compadres ordered. If we end up getting delayed, we may have to stop back by so I can have that dish.
Sad note – The Brewer’s Arms – my favorite place to eat here, is closed. I had been wistfully dreaming about going there for WEEKS leading up to my departure. Gah. Devastating.
After we had finished eating, Chief Pahl met up with us at Rockpool. None of the new guys had met him yet and when they first saw him as he was walking up the road, one of our FNGs blurted out “Holy shit! He is tall!”. It made me laugh because I think I had the exact same reaction the first time I met Chief in Denver 7 years ago.
Catching up with him was excellent and we found out the other two dispatchers due at Mainbody are all PQ’d and good to go. Hopefully it will be an excellent dispatch crew. It will be a change from my previous seasons as Lori and I will be the only two females in dispatch.
A little while later, we decided to part ways and make our way back to the hotel. My room was finally ready and I was past ready for a shower.
I have a nice big room with a king size bed that I will thoroughly appreciate sprawling out across for as long as we are here, because I know in a few days I will be stuck with a little single bed. For the next several months. But that’s ok. And it felt great to shower, although, I was admittedly confused at first on how the set up would be with more than one person in the room. You see, the shower is completely enclosed in glass. You can see all the way through the bathroom from the bed. I was too tired to be concerned with that though because I had my room all to myself. *Note* this morning, I found the nifty switch that lowers a shade outside of the shower to block off the view from the bathroom to the rest of the room.
So, this is what all has happened over the past few days. It is now almost 04:30 on Tuesday and we have our day of orientation at CDC starting in a few hours. My alarm is set for 0630 so I may attempt to get a little more sleep. Again. I tried when I originally woke up, but that didn’t happen. I guess that is what I deserve after I went to bed at 5pm last night.