Room 617, Heritage Hotel, Auckland, New Zealand
Tony, the trooper, is busy doing homework. For a little taste of home, I've got Keali`i Reichel's E O Mai on the CD player, the songs bringing back memories of the night Jen went into labor.
We just got back in from dinner at a great place on the marina overlooking the future America's Cup Village. It was called "The Loaded Hog," the kind of name you could only find in New Zealand, and the primary reason we decided to venture inside in the first place.
The theme was primarily "farm equipment," with pitchforks and sicles and wheelbarrows mounted on every wall. But of course with the Cup Fever gripping Auckland, there were a couple of large model yachts nailed up for good measure. A line of bicycles were hanging from the ceiling, but we couldn't figure out how they fit in.
The music was loud, which was oddly refreshing, even though it was primarily limited to early 80s dance hits and tracks from the latest Madonna album.
The menu was heavy with finger foods, as the true pride of the "Loaded Hog" were its varied Hog microbrew beers. There were a few dinner specialties, though, including the omnipresent hunks of beef, lamb, and here, even ostrich.
I went with half a shank of lamb. Decadently tender. It didn't look like much at first, but by the end of the evening I was stuffed to the point of waddling. I really do love meat, but for an instant I was wondering if it's actually possible for me to get tired of it.
One hangup I just can't get over is how everyone comments on our "American accent." It's hard to explain how it feels, to be completely oblivious to how strange you sound to other people, because of course you just sound like you always did.
To me, everyone here has the accent. But to them, I stand out like a sore thumb. Just another damn Yank.
And that's another thing. I absolutely love the slang. It's not skim milk, it's trim milk. There are no elevators, just lifts. Appetizers are entreés, which are just starters for the main course. You have to be careful when walking down the footpath (sidewalk), lest you be run down by a lorry (truck).
And it's all said with that wonderful down-under drawl. It's like everyone is The Crocodile Hunter without the khaki. Cheers! Right-o!
The scariest thing is, Tony and I have both noticed that when we're not careful, we slip into it ourselves. Especially when we're on the phone it's just hard to answer a chipper "Cheerio!" with "Bye." Of course, we're still obviously Yanks, so I wonder if the New Zealanders think we're just making fun of them.
The whole city is being turned upside down with the upcoming APEC meeting. Almost literally.
In the next few days, Auckland will host President Clinton, Chinese President Jiang Zemin, Korean President Kim Dae-jung, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir, and perhaps most contentiously Indonesian President Jusuf Habibie. Suffice it to say, the security measures are incredibly strict.
Already, every manhole, electrical box and other outdoor fixture has been thoroughly checked. It seems any time you look out a window, there's a pack of uniformed troops crawling along a nearby rooftop.
In this hotel, dogs have come around to sniff every corner (including our office), inspectors have checked every light fixture and picture frame, and any serviceway, air duct and access panel has been sealed with nifty little stickers. I've so far resisted the mischievous urge to nab one as a souvenir, which is good. I don't think I want to spark an international incident just yet.
Not surprisingly, while the coverage on the global level has focused on the issues to be discussed (East Timor, anyone?), the local paper The New Zealand Herald has been focusing a lot on the logistical problems APEC has wrought.
Most of the city will be shut down, and few businesses will even be able to stay open. Absolute gridlock is expected, and residents are being urged just to get out of town for the week. The local pop stations constantly air calls from young folks complaining about the whole thing, and of course there's a strong anti-APEC sentiment driving planned protests and even a concurrent conference at the local university.
It's all very exciting. I'm now told we're not going to be able to do much more than to stand around in the hallways outside the places where things actually happen, but as long as I get my cool APEC staff credentials, I'll be happy.
Otherwise, there's not much to report. The actual proceedings begin tomorrow, and like the build up to the Los Angeles meeting, the day was spent just making sure everything's ready. Unpacking the last of the office, making sure the computers are working (they are, but barely), and checking out all the venues for seatings, signs and sound.