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Hi Folks

The title of this email is the zone we've entered. This is probably familiar to anyone with military experience, and refers to exactly what it says-- they hurry up and get you to the airport to wait, or to new zealand, and we wait. We are scheduled to fly to McMurdo tomorrow (wednesday, here in the southern lands) and the rumors are flying (still) and we are hearing we might be in McMurdo still at Halloween. Of course we would all love to spend that time in Christchurch (CC), not MacTown, but we aren't in charge!

I had a mad 9 days of packing my apt up--I got most everything done but had to leave a load in the apt for my dad to take to the storage unit. My dad has been incredibly helpful--I wouldn't have been able to get everything done without his help! It was a real relief to get on the plane to Denver--no more to-do lists, no more errands!

I flew to Denver on Friday midday and Saturday at 6AM we boarded busses to take us to an all day orientation. Boring but necessary. We all went straight to the airport (maybe 70 people, all but one going to pole, mostly summer people), where we boarded a variety of flights to LA. In LA, we waited. And waited. Our flight to Auckland was 2 hours late. Left a bit after midnite. Luckily I'm an easy sleeper-- I was able to get a full 8 hours on the plane. I think I was the only one so lucky. The flight was about 12 hours, and the food was terrible. Apparently Northwest has better food than United.

We were quite late getting to Auckland--many people had already missed their connecting flight (to CC). I was scheduled on a flight that was to leave about 40 minutes after we touched down, so it was a mad dash through customs for me! They didn't want to search my bags (yay!) so I was through pretty quick, and hurried over to the domestic terminal for the connecting flight. I was hurrying down the jetway when they noticed my second, heavier backpack. They said I would have to check it. It contained my years supply of asthma inhalers which (a) can't go in the un-pressurized hold (b) aren't leaving my posession. For a minute. Then there was hemming and hawing about how I couldn't bring that many inhalers on, and they had to call several people and get the total weight of the medicine. In the end they decided it was fine (yay again!) and I boarded. They served the most delightful little sandwiches on the flight.

New Zealand is a beautiful country. Its breathtaking from the air, and just lovely on the ground. I'm staying in a nice B&B just a block or two from the main square. The YMCA is a couple blocks away and is also nice and half the price for a private room, but it somehow seems too much hassle to move. If our flight tomorrow gets delayed I'll probably get a bed at the Y.

When they called to tell me my deployment date, a bit of panic set in--they weren't kidding about this!! It was nice to get to Denver and see many of my fire school buddies and meet many of the summer crowd. The people continue to be a very interesting crowd!!

We arrived in CC on Monday morning. I wandered around the botanical gardens and the city center. Today, Tuesday, we bussed out to the Clothing Distributuion Center (CDC) at 9am to try on all our gear. And try on I did. For over 2 hours, i pulled and tugged and zipped and jumpedand squatted. Not a single piece of my clothing was the right size! (Well, the tube socks' were ok, although they are too big.) I eventually got all the pieces exchanged, altho they didn't have one of the styles of boots in my size. I wish I had brought my Sorrel boots. I don't even know which box they are in in my storage unit so I'll just have to make do! They give us an astonishing amount of clothing,but I'm sure I'll need most of it. I love winter clothing. I loved trying it on and anticipating long hours of trudging around in it in the coming year! It was pretty hot in the room, tho! I was in my own midweight long johns, one layer of their expedition weight long johns, and a full set of polar fleece (pants and jacket) and wool socks for the whole 2 hours, and was trying on various pants, overalls, and jackets over them. I think I got 8 pairs of mittens and gloves. 10 if you count the liner polypropylene ones! (And I brought 5 or 10 pairs of my own poly and silk liners.)

I'm 30 pounds under my weight limit (the carry on bags don't count) so i'm going to go book shopping this afternoon!!! The exchange rate is awesome right now!!

I better go enjoy CC, not spend my day at a computer terminal!!

/andrea

copyright 2000 andrea grant

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