A warning in advance - this is going to be LONG and with loads of photos. I took 726 photos while away, and even after deleting the blurry ones, there are still well over 600 left. I'll do my best to narrow it down as much as possible, but even with splitting up the account, I have a feeling it's going to be really, really long - because the trip was really, really excellent, and I want to remember as much of it as possible!
Part 1: Christchurch
April 16th-18th: New Zealand and Denmark are pretty much as far apart as two countries can bee on this earth, so it takes absolutely forever to get there! On the way out I flew via Frankfurt which meant first a 1hr flight there, then a 12hr flight to Singapore and finally a 9hr flight to Christchurch. The flight was utterly uneventful for which I'm very, very grateful. After the horror of the 9hr delay last time I flew to NZ, I was relieved to find everything going smoothly.
Saying goodbye to Lars was every bit as difficult as I had feared, so the wait in Copenhagen airport - where we were still in the same country, but couldn't be together - was horrible! But fortunately the 'atmosphere' changed completely when I boarded the plane to Singapore. Suddenly I could go from being sad that I'd left Lars behind, to being excited about what I was flying towards. And PTL my homesickness never became as strong again. Sure, I missed Lars, but I knew that it was temporary, so it never got to the point where it overshadowed my enjoyment of the trip. So definitely worth it.
Singapore airport is without a doubt the best airport I've ever been to! Nice and open concourse, free foot massage chairs, a non-stop cinema, cheap sushi, free wifi... it was a real culture shock to go directly from Frankfurt airport (which is boring as!) to this one... but in a good way :) In Frankfurt airport I'd been sitting eating McDs while feeling really sorry for myself that I was leaving Lars behind. In Singapore, I sat down to eat a delicious dinner of sushi for the same price, while feeling really excited about soon being in New Zealand again! I am very grateful for this transition in mood and atmosphere.
The best part of the trip was when I arrived to New Zealand and had to go through customs. That's always rather elaborate when arriving to NZ because they're so careful about what people bring in of food, plant stuff etc. I'd brought some Easter candy, so of course I had to go through the "something to declare" line. When it was my turn, I went up and greeted the man at the counter.
"So where do you live?" he asked.
"No, I mean when you're not in Denmark. Where do you live here?"
"Oh, I don't live here! I've just come to visit."
"But you used to live here, didn't you?"
"Uhm.... yes?" (at this point, I was somewhat confused) "I lived in Palmy for two years when I was younger."
"I knew it! With that Kiwi accent, I knew you had to be a local!"
and with that, he sent me through :) Gave me a much needed laugh, and I was happy to discover my accent is still strong enough to fool even native Kiwis ;)
Ruth (my hostmother from 1996-1997) picked me up at the airport and dropped me off at their place for a nap while she went off to work (I had arrived at 9am). She returned shortly after lunch, and took me on a drive around Christchurch to show me some of the damage done by the February earthquake. Most of the worst affected part of town was still closed off though - e.g. the main square with the cathedral - because it's still unsafe to be there, so I only saw very limited damage, but even that was enough to show how devastating the quake was.
Hannah (my oldest host-sister) dropped by with her two kids, and it was terrific to see her again! She was the sibling closet to me in age, and we became very close the year I stayed with them. Unfortunately she had to go off to work, so we only got to see each other very briefly, but at least it was better than nothing. After dinner, Ruth drove me up to Amberley (just North of Chch) to see Annie (my second-youngest host-sister) who worked up there, which I really appreciated as I would have missed her otherwise. As it was, I knew I wouldn't get to see my last two host-siblings which was a huge shame, but since I was only there for a day - and a day during term at that - I guess I can only blame myself for that.
... No, wait, I can actually blame the earthquake for that as well!! Annie was supposed to have graduated from uni that week, so the whole family would have been in town for that, but with the quake, the graduation was postponed, so they weren't! Stupid earthquake!
We didn't actually get back from Amberley until well past 10pm, so I was asleep on my feet by that stage. It was worth it though :) I'm so glad I got to see Annie! Besides, I still reckon that jetlag isn't as bad when going to NZ as when going to e.g. the States (because the long flight there will ensure that your day is messed up no matter what), but it's still bad enough.