I am writing this blog entry from the comfortable confines of an Air New Zealand plane, which means for the first time since October 2005 I am off the island of Samoa and heading to the land of the Long White Cloud – New Zealand. It's weird to think that I have been in this tropical paradise for over a year and now I'm on vacation away from it! Well let me tell you how my last day in Samoa for 2006 went down…
…Josh arrived at my house early on Christmas morning, so that nothing would go wrong when it came time for us to travel to the airport. So in the morning I made the round of calls to as many of my friends in the state that I could afford – it was such a great joy to hear all their voices on Christmas Day. Definitely got the day off on the right foot. At about noon, Junior came and picked Josh and I up to take us back up to Mt. Fiamoe – so this Christmas I got to spend Christmas Day with a family. When we arrived at the house they were in the middle of opening their gifts. Then the most amazing thing happened – I actually got Christmas gifts! I was not expecting anything at all – so it was a grand surprise. Josh even got a few gifts so we definitely were in the Christmas spirit on Christmas day. We hung out with the family for a good portion of the day and I showed Josh around the place a bit. A funny thing happened while we were up the mountain – as we were sitting outside fog started coming up the mountain. At first it was just along the ridge but slowly it just covered everything and you couldn't see anything. It was actually pretty cool but it was cold – I had never felt that kind of cold and wind in Samoa before. It felt like it was in the 50s and then it started to rain – that's when Josh suggested that we were actually inside a cloud! We were so high up that the clouds were running into us. So Josh and I went inside for a bit just to get out of the cold and wind. Once we came back out we truly felt like we were a part of the family because they tasked us with putting up a tent for the kids to sleep in later on at night. It took a while to figure out how to put it together but with a little help from the kids we were able to put it up (now if it stayed up – we don't know). We headed back down at about 6:30pm and there was a notable change in temperature and humidity. Once Josh and I were back home, I took a nap for about an hour and then began final preparation for the trip.
We left from my house at about 12:15am, Father Kevin (my principal) was kind enough to give us a ride to the airport – this would be my first trip to the airport since I arrived in country. There was no traffic along the road but when we got to the airport there were tons of people there. Before he left Kevin gave me an envelope with some travelling money (in New Zealand Dollar and Tala) so the Christmas gifts just kept coming. As we were going through the check-in process we ran into Kirsten and her mom who were both going to New Zealand on the same flight as us. I know them both from church so it was good to have someone I could ask questions to about how the airport worked – it's not as self explanatory as a US airport. But we didn't have any problems and we are now safely on the plane to NZ.
The in-flight movie is the Illusionist (which has Jessica Biel in it, she was also in the Fantastic Four which played during my flight from LA to Samoa). I'm about the only one awake now, everyone else is passed out but out my window I can see the red haze of the sun coming up (so it's like 5am as I'm writing this) – my first day ever across the international time line has begun!
P.S. – the flight to NZ wasn't full at all so it allowed us to have a lot of room and not be packed in line sardines. I think that was a nice Christmas gift from Air New Zealand.