December 24 & 25—To New Zealand!

According to calculations by https://www.timeanddate.com/time/travel.htm, we spent about 42 hours of transit from when we left our house at 4:45 a.m. on the 24th until we arrived at our apartment in New Zealand at 4:30 on the 26th! Starting out on this journey, I could not see how I would survive, but it turned out to be not as bad as I thought.

Aleta (who now has her license!) drove us to the airport on Saturday morning. Our departure was tinged with sadness that she could not join us. Our flight was delayed because of a malfunction, and Chris started exploring other possible options for ways to get to Houston, just in case. (During his last trip to Brunswick, Georgia, weather in Detroit caused such a long delay in departing Ithaca that the flight was cancelled!) Luckily, we departed Ithaca by 6:30 a.m., arrived in Detroit about 8:05 a.m., and made our connecting flight to Houston that left at 8:45. We arrived in Houston at 11:00 a.m. and hurried to the NZ ticket gate to check our bags so that Chris could start to try to track down a FedEx package of equipment that was stalled in customs. However, when we arrived at the check-in area, we learned that the Air New Zealand people would not arrive until 4:00 p.m.!

We ate a late breakfast at Starbucks (the only food concession is this small, bare terminal), and then tried to figure out what to do for 5 hours. There were a few seats in the terminal, but most were taken, and there was no internet, then Chris remembered that there was a Marriott hotel as one of the stops on the tram from our arrival terminal to our departure terminal. So, we got back on the tram and headed to the Marriott. It turned out to be a great decision. The hotel was right at the airport, so as soon as we got of the tram, we entered the elevator and rode it up one flight to the lobby, where there was a restaurant/bar, and plenty of soft, comfortable sofas and chairs. And free internet! We ate lunch, I knitted, and Chris tried to figure out the status of the FedEx package, but since it was Christmas morning in New Zealand when he called, there was no one around to answer his questions. He took a brief nap/rest, and then we both freshened up in the spacious and clean Marriott restrooms.

At 4:00 p.m. we got in line to check our bags, and once that was done we went through TSA. In line, we saw several women in black burkas. I also noticed the uniforms of cabin attendants from the various airlines. The United Arab Emirates Air uniform was particularly interesting. It was very classic and stylish, an overall beige color with deep red trim, shoes, and skirt pleat inserts. But the most interesting part was the red hat with a white scarf attached at one side that the wearer draped around her neck. I was thinking that this was just an interesting fashionable style, but Chris wondered if perhaps it was so that the attendants could cover their faces in the plane, and when they returned home. However, I may be right.

I drew a sketch at the time, but I also just searched online and found many photos here.

We walked around the terminal, and then waited at the gate to board. On board, we were greeted by the captain and first mate in Santa hats, and attendants in uniforms that were also pretty (and listed as on the the top uniforms of 2015—along with the United Arab Emerates—according to this site. )

The seats were incredibly tight on this site. They were narrow, and close to the ones in front. Chris chose one for himself that was one row after the emergency exit, where the aisles changed angles. There were only two seats at the emergency exit row, but three seats in each row after that. His seat was the aisle seat after the emergency row, so he was able to stretch his legs into the open space in front of him. I was in the middle seat, but luckily there was no one assigned to the window seat. There was a family of 5 kids seated next to us in the middle row, but they were quiet and well behaved. We ate dinner, had some New Zealand wine, watched a few episodes of Big Bang Theory, knitted (Diane), and then went to sleep for the night. I got about 6 hours of somewhat uncomfortable sleep, Chris was able to relax a bit more for longer.

We totally missed Christmas. We were both asleep during the short time when we crossed various date lines to place us in the 25th!

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