The bus was bumpy. I woke up a lot during the ride, once because I almost rolled off the seat (I was lying down). Still so worth it being only ~$20. I actually got in to the airport early, because I woke up at one stop and it turned out to be only 10 minutes from the air port. 1 free shuttle and an interesting conversation with an old lady who’d studied abroad later and I was in the terminal searching for Max in vain. I looped around the arrival platform, where people were crowded together in an honestly frightening mob staring out at you as you searched for a familiar face. There were none, so I looped to all the sign-holding people in a semi-circle around the wall after the door. They were all intimidating in their suits, and I couldn’t read any of their too-small signs with my too-bad eyes, so I was squinting (which probably looked aggressive) up and down the line for probably a minute before one of them stepped out to approach me and ask who I was searching for. Now, I may be blind but I knew that none of them were holding my sign, none of them were Max, my program guy, and I didn’t want help because I just didn’t. Which I kindly had to explain for a minute before getting away to wait for Max in a less busy place. After calling the rents for about 20 minutes I texted Max because I was tired of spinning in circles and lo and behold, he wasn’t in the terminal but sitting in the car. Turns out I got in early and he wasn’t expecting anyone for another 20 minutes, so no wonder I couldn’t find him. I knew I couldn’t be that bad!
Together we loaded up my luggage, then I went back with Max to wait for the other students to arrive. After doing this for 9 years he’s impressively good at picking out whose on program, to the point where he correctly called every person he saw. Misjudged? He corrected it and decided they weren’t for us before approaching. These are life skills I want one day, because airport pickups seem hellish and if someone smooth can get you, stranger or not, I’m sure it’s a nice bit of calm in the mess that is traveling. I’m getting off-topic, so back to the airport. We waited maybe another 90 minutes before everyone was collected and we were off. It was an ~4 hour drive to our home base for the week, Whakatane, and it was simultaneously quiet, non-stop chatter and some jammin’ tunes. We stopped at in info center somewhere that was Hobbit-themed, and I got a sweet pic with Smeagol.
It was a relief to make it to the town and get out of the van to stretch, although a bit nerve-wracking since it meant we were actually doing something now. Turns out we couldn’t stay in our building for the week today, since we have to be called into the building and greeted with a ceremony that wasn’t going to happen this fine Sunday afternoon. Which meant that we were across the street in their guest accommodations, 3 to a room. Great kick in to bonding with new amigos, wanted or not. Luckily the room as a whole had enough beds for everyone, a shower and places to charge up our stuff which was the main concern I had. And I liked my room amigos (Sandy and Julia), so all was good. We convened in the semi-courtyard to discuss some field things, living things and just general get-to-know-you talk. It seems like a fun group, no problems with anyone thus far and a general buzz of excitement for the next 5 weeks. Here’s the scene, it was grassy with this fun tent thing and a nice open.
The night ended with us learning some of Te Aroha, a Maori song that we’ll be singing tomorrow at the calling in ceremony. We actually started learning it in the car ride over, so by the time we all grouped together I didn’t even need the lyrics. Granted, it has 4 lines but I felt pleased with myself after very little sleep and a new situation. Night was good, food was good and I’m excited to get started tomorrow. Cheers!