Coming Back from New Zealand

Holiday over, it was time for the long trip back to Singapore. I was in a dilemma in which flight to take. The flight which arrived earlier in Singapore would require me to wake up super early and endure a 5-hour transit. The other flight which allowed me to sleep more with shorter transit time would arrive in Singapore close to midnight, providing there's no delay. In the end I thought arriving around 3 hours earlier in Singapore was better. I think it was cheaper too. Chose Super Shuttle to get me to the airport because I wasn't keen on figuring out where the bus stop is at the crack of dawn. Pick up time was 05:10 am and that meant I gotta wake up at 04:00 am. I quickly showered and packed up my things and I managed to get down at around 5 am. The receptionist was closed which made me slightly annoyed because when I checked in I already told the receptionist I had to check out early that day. I pressed the bell, but it didn't seem to work and the child in me ended up pressing it over and over and I guess that sound made the receptionist who was inside the office aware of me. It startled me when he appeared from the dark and he said sorry. Check out was easy peasy since I had paid in advanced. Went to the front door and before long the shuttle arrived. Stupid me didn't realized that there's another person inside and I got a bit of a shocked when I heard a cough as we were waiting to pick up another person. There was an old man sitting at the back. The other person wasn't there or was already picked up by another shuttle, so in the end it was just me and the old man. He was dropped first at the domestic terminal and then I was dropped next. The driver was being your usual nice Kiwi, saying have a good day in a singsong kinda way that people in New Zealand often does.

I have to say that the people in New Zealand are very nice and that was kinda overwhelming at first, especially for the socially awkward me. You go to buy something or ask for information and the people at the counter will be like, "Hello, how are you today?" and this kinda thing doesn't happen in Singapore and at first it's weird and perhaps making me rather anxious because I was thinking, oh I have to make conversation with these people. Then they would also never fail to let you know to have a good day after they finish helping you. So it's all very polite and nice and while it's making me nervous at first especially because I felt I wasn't being that friendly, towards the end with that shuttle driver I remember thinking that I would miss all that. In huge contrast coming back to Singapore, where the people in the counter don't even bother to give you a Hi or Hello, I felt like it's all a bit cold. This makes me think that people coming from this kind of culture must have felt the people here in Singapore is darn cold. Perhaps enough to amplify loneliness if that person is alone. Then I wonder about Indonesia and Jakarta. I suppose the people in the service industry in Indonesia might be in general nicer than in Singapore? I have written before about my experience watching a movie in Jakarta, where the person at the counter made sure I got all my tickets correct and explained everything to me like where the cinema was and asked if there's anything else I needed. Also every person working in Starbucks in Jakarta that I have walked in seemed to be so friendly, not that they are not in Singapore, but I guess in Singapore it's all about being effective and efficient and getting things done fast that I'm pretty sure small talk is not something that's inside the training manual when these people were trained to do the work. This also makes me wonder if it's just a cultural thing in New Zealand that it's just the way people are, like this is what they learn in Kindergarten and such about being nice to people and it's not something that is demanded in their work. Another thing that I noticed was that sometime I had difficulty understanding their English. Sometime the accent made my brain stop for a moment to process what's just being said. There were also occasions where I wasn't being understood and for the first time ever since I don't know when or ever, I felt kinda inadequate with my English :( There weren't many moments like this, but they happened and so that's kinda ironic in a way, being in a country where English is the main language and yet having problem with it.

Anyway, going back to the story, I arrived in Auckland airport early enough. Did some last minute shopping. Still had enough time to go to the viewing platform which wasn't that awesome. On the way there I saw some people sleeping in their sleeping bags. They must be backpackers. Another reminder for me that I will not be able to rough it out like that, though one shouldn't underestimate oneself, perhaps if I really really really have to, I'll do just fine. Saw the orange ray from the sunrise lighting up the sky and I remember thinking that's the last of Auckland and New Zealand that I would see.

New Zealand Immigration didn't stamp my passport out. I wondered if that's just what they don't do. The not knowing kinda bothered me, but I didn't go back and ask. I guess because my visa is only for single entry anyway and the passport is expiring soon, so I just thought it didn't matter. The first flight was to Sydney and it was with Qantas. The in flight entertainment was great, full season of many TV series which again made me rather irritated because on the longer Qantas flight, they don't have full seasons of these TV series, usually they only have 3 episodes. I find this super annoying. If ever we have the time to marathon watch something, wouldn't it be on the longer flight? I don't know what's on the mind of the people who made these decisions. I got a window seat and approaching Australia, I saw this big shore which I thought was very interesting.

Arriving in Sydney Airport the second time around, I was more relaxed because I kinda already knew my way around and I had 5 hours to spend. I found out that my next flight was from the other wing. Spending the 5-hour transit, I had lunch, read a lot of chapters from Everything Is Illuminated, shopped a bit, wondered if I should get the kangaroo jerky, but in the end I didn't, and had hot chocolate to spend my last few Australian dollars. By the way, Qantas is helping UNICEF by collecting donation, so I gave them all my remaining New Zealand and Australian dollars. Not much, but I guess it's better than just keeping them unused.

For the flight to Singapore, I got an aisle seat. The plane was bigger than when I first flew in from Singapore that there were 3 seats at the side block. There's just another lady in my block sitting by the window, so the middle seat was empty and that's great. The pilot was cute because he was telling us like in 5 minutes we'll be passing Uluru and he told us what view we could expect. I wonder if all Qantas pilots flying in this direction do this. Since I wasn't in the window seat, I was thinking of going to the big window by the exit door, but other people was already thinking the same and there were some people crowding there. It was one of the weirdest flying experience I had with everyone sitting at the side block standing up looking at their windows. I didn't see much, I remember seeing the landscape around Uluru to be like sands in wavy formation, I think those are sands not river. I did see a glimpse of Uluru as the lady in my row nicely pointed to me, but not enough to take any picture. She also didn't manage to take any picture.

Arriving in Singapore, it's life as usual. The hot weather was not something I miss. I went to this trip feeling not excited, but I have to say that like any other trips I have taken, it has been great. One of the news in New Zealand that captured my attention was about this New Zealand tourist who's around my age who got shot and killed in Argentina when he was trying to stop getting robbed. Though he wasn't alone when the incident happened (there were 2 other tourists from other countries with him), I think he was alone on his trip. It was sad because to die when you are travelling and doing something awesome and since I was doing the same thing, it all feels very tragic and it makes me feel thankful that God does look after me all the time in all my trips. I don't know if it will get easier, that I will not get nervous anymore whenever I travel alone again, but I think I have to remind myself that the fear shouldn't be the reason that stops me from doing something that I know I will treasure. There were great views to be seen and they have been breathtaking and make me feel grateful for the opportunity, but other than that, the fact that I managed to make a connection, however short, with other people will also always be another side of travelling that I treasure. The fact that I could do this makes me feel good about myself :) Again, I thank God for the blessing, it has been awesome. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld His love from me! - Psalm 66:20.

:) eKa @ 9:40:00 PM •

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