I know a lot of these are petty details that many of you won't care a thing about reading, but these are the things I would tell my close friends about. The people I met. The food I ate. Things like that. I hope you enjoy reading about this first leg of my adventure just as much as I enjoyed experiencing it.
9:34 AM CST
This morning, my family brought me to the airport for my big adventure. We said our (slightly tearful) goodbyes, and I watched my family walk away while I was standing in line to go through security. It felt so weird knowing that I am really on my own. Any issues I may have are mine to deal with, and I have to find my way around (huge) airports without my mom, dad, or anyone I know, really. I know I’m going to miss everyone, but I’m so thankful to have such awesome family, friends, and a boyfriend that support this decision. It won’t be easy being apart for so long, but I’m excited for this opportunity abroad!
While I was sitting at the gate waiting for my flight, I struck up a conversation with a six-year-old girl named Macy. She was travelling with her mother to Alaska to visit her family and was so interested to hear about where I was going. She thought it was crazy that I was going away for “months!” She asked about my family and if I had a boyfriend, so I showed her some pictures of my sisters and of Ben. (She thought y’all were gorgeous, Julie and Olivia. And she said Ben was very handsome. Of course, I agree with her completely!) Her mother and I chatted about school and church and things like that, and it was so nice to have someone to talk to for awhile. When I got off the plane, Macy said, “Bye, Diana! Have fun in New Zealand!” (Macy’s mom said that she could talk to a brick wall, but it looks like I’ve got a little bit of my mom’s outgoing personality, too!)
1:17 PM CST
After a short flight from Nashville to Chicago, I was starving! (All I had for breakfast at BNA was a chicken and biscuit from Popeye’s.) Chicago’s airport is really neat and has so many options for food, but because I am a poor college student, I chose a salad from McDonald’s. (I know, right? I could eat that at home in Carthage!) Maybe next time I’m in Chicago I’ll try some authentic Chicago cuisine, like deep-dish pizza or a hotdog.
My flight to LAX is delayed 20 minutes due to “late inbound aircraft arrival.” (Right now, I’m sitting by the gate charging my laptop before I get on the four-hour flight across the US. It still hasn’t hit me that I’m actually doing this! I am flying across the globe all by myself!)
Even with the delay, somehow we still landed in Los Angeles on time.
6:32 PM PST
Los Angeles, CA
On the flight from Chicago to LA, I flew over the Grand Canyon! It was absolutely gorgeous, although it was too cloudy to take a decent picture. I recently mentioned to Ben how I wanted to visit the Grand Canyon, (or any of the West, for that matter) but after seeing it from above, I can’t wait to see it all up close! Also, the mountains just outside of LA were just beautiful! I’ve never seen anything like them in my life, and now I’m even more excited to see all of New Zealand’s natural beauty.
|Somewhere near the Grand Canyon. It was too cloudy |
to get a picture of the actual Grand Canyon.
|The San Gabriel Mountains.|
|The outskirts of LA and |
the surrounding mountains.
LAX is a mess. So far, it’s my least favorite airport. Ever. Excluding the international terminal, which is basically a good-sized airport in and of itself! It has an awesome food court with a Panda Express (which of course is what I got) and a mall full of expensive stores that I will never be able to afford. The best part about this layover was that I was able to talk on the phone with Ben and my parents for a few hours before boarding my first ever international flight!
7:35 AM NZST
I made it through possibly the longest flight of my life! (As it turns out, I don’t sleep too well on planes.) Still, my experience with Air New Zealand was absolutely wonderful. The flight attendants were incredibly friendly and helpful, the plane was roomy, and the food was delicious (or at least as delicious as airplane food can be).
Just before I boarded the flight, I met up with two girls who are also studying abroad in New Zealand for a semester, although they are going to a different university. We hung out together, and maneuvered through security together. I’m so glad I found them because if I hadn’t, I would have left my luggage in Auckland! I was mistakenly told that I didn’t have to claim my luggage until I made it to Palmerston North, but they knew otherwise. Since we had to go through customs (which was really relaxed and took like 5 minutes), I had to have my luggage with me.
Coming into Auckland early this morning was breathtaking! I only wish I could have gotten a good picture of it. After hours of flying in the dark over the Pacific, I started to see a faint glow in the distance. Turns out, it was the lights of Auckland against the black sky and the even darker ocean. It was my first glimpse of New Zealand, and it made me more excited than ever!!
5:07 PM NZST
Palmerston North, NZ
The flight from Auckland to Palmerston North was my favorite flight! It was a short, one-hour flight in a small plane, but flying over islands, the ocean, green hills, and mountains made me so happy. I can’t wait to see all of it in person! The man beside on this flight told me a little bit about Palmerston North. He said that we are in the rainy season, and I believe him, as it’s rained at least three times today! It didn’t rain too hard, though. It was just scattered showers that only lasted a few minutes. He also informed me that Palmerston North and the surrounding region are known for their beef and dairy cattle. The dairy from this area is taken all across New Zealand to be sold.
At the airport in Auckland, I met up with three other students who are studying at the same university as myself. We stuck together from the moment we landed in Palmerston North and couldn’t find the Massey University van to pick us up. (They were running a little late.) Finally, we boarded a van and were driven (on the wrong side of the road) to Massey University, which sits off to itself away from the city. After getting unpacked and checked-in, we decided to do a little exploring. So, we took a bus downtown, ate in a little sandwich shop (an Irish one called O’Brien’s), and did a little supply shopping before heading back to campus.
Right now, I’m back in my room, my lack of sleep and some jet lag starting to kick in. It’s been dark for awhile, so I think I might just turn in early to get ready for another day of exploring tomorrow!
Thank you so much for all your prayers for my safety!