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25 December, 2002

Christmas in New Zealand

We were met at the airport in Christchurch, NZ by people working for Raytheon Polar Services Company. They are contracted to handle much of the logistics of travel to Antarctica. They instructed us as to where we would be staying and when we were to report to the Clothing Distribution Center to be fitted for our Extreme Cold Weather Gear (ECW). I also felt very lucky to be greeted by my friend Dorine as I headed into the baggage claim area. Dorine is in the military and her responsibilities include the logistics component of all flights to and from the Ice.

Dorine gave me a ride to the Devon Bed and Breakfast where the team would spend the next two nights. It is a historic building that has been newly renovated. The accommodations were wonderful. The Devon B and B is owned and run by Sandy who gave us a brief history of the old building. It was built for a doctor in the early 1900s. The house contained extensive woodwork with a beautiful rich grain from the rimu tree. This tree is now protected and is no longer able to be harvested in New Zealand.

After getting settled in our rooms, taking a much needed shower and feeling refreshed, we all set off to walk about the city and find a place for lunch. We were not overly optimistic as it was Christmas Day and most places would be closed. We did manage to find some restaurants that were open, but they were serving large Christmas dinners and none of us had the desire to have such a big meal. So we strolled into the large square and ordered up some fish and chips from a small street cart set up near the cathedral.

Later we wandered back to our rooms. My friend Dorine was hosting a party for thirty plus people, like ourselves, who were away from home on the holiday. Tom and I decided to head over, while the rest of our group stayed behind to rest and sleep. We had a nice time sitting out on the patio chatting with people from all over the U.S. and N.Z. One New Zealand man, Simon, showed us the traditional Haka tribal dance performed as part of the Maori tradition. When someone does the haka, they are issuing a challenge to someone; therefore, it is often done by rugby teams before the start of a game. It was really quite impressive and certainly catches your attention with the broad stance, facial expressions, and the chant like words spoken in Maori. When I return to New Zealand, I hope to learn more about the Maori culture.

My friend Dorine and Tux at her Christmas Party. It felt strange to be sitting in the sun on Christmas.

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