9 September: First Day of World Cup Rugby in New Zealand
I decided to ride the bus downtown to be a part of the big celebration planned at the Viaduct and Queen’s Wharf. I got to the bus stop at 2 and already the bus system was overwhelmed by demand. Finally at 2:50 I wiggled onto a bus and the driver turned on the Out of Service sign and we were off to the CBD with no more stops. We passed lots of frustrated people further up the line. Poor MAXX–they got a D- today.
The party was planned to begin at 4 and 5. Already there was a line to get into the “Cloud” fan zone over 1 km long and crowds everywhere. Young people dressed up in all kinds of fun outfits were out in force. There was a group of young women dressed in the Twister game. Lots of young men painted their bodies for the All Blacks or for Tonga. Most people were dressed in all black to support New Zealand. It was very exciting. It was also overwhelming–especially as I was by myself. I wound my way towards the Viaduct where the waka flotilla was going to dock and the Maori warrior procession would start. It was getting more and more crowded as I walked.
I will never be in Times Square for New Years’ Eve. And I did not have the fortitude to stay long at the wharf. I did a big loop and returned to the temporary bus stop and caught a ride back to St. Heliers. I walked to Moreton’s and asked them to turn the television to the Maori news so I could see the waka, etc. on tv. Hardly anyone was in the pub/restaurant yet. I watched and then it turned into commentary on the upcoming game–without sound (and in Maori, so it would not have mattered). I gave up and went back home.
As I walked home I felt so intensely lonely. It is the kind of lonely that feels like a physical ache. I know this feeling. It is not new. It does not matter if you are in a B&B in London, or in your own home in Carmichael, or on the other side of the world in Auckland. You can feel it. Crowds can make it worse. I just sat with the lonely for a while. I am actually surprised I have not experienced it before now. I have no bosom friends yet. And until my computer arrives I cannot reach out to my friends in the U.S. for a real chat.
I know it does not kill you, this ache. It is a nudge or a kick to keep working to make a change, make connections. I also felt clammy and cold, so I turned on the radio and climbed under the covers. After awhile, the ache subsided and I remembered that I needed to go to the ATM to get this weeks’ rent. So I decided to go by the bank, and then swing by Moreton’s to see if more people were there for the opening match between New Zealand and Tonga.
Moreton’s was hopping now. There were no tables, so I ordered my diet coke and decided to stand at the end of the bar with a couple of gentlemen with Irish Rugby shirts. They live in England now, but they are from Dublin and they travel together to watch Ireland play in matches whenever they can. (Earlier in the day I had met 4 lads from Derry, Nor Ireland at the library and I was remembered that for Rugby Ireland fields one team with players from both Northern Ireland and the Republic.)
Terry and Dennis were keen rugby fans and helpful as I needed some refreshers on the game. A table opened up and we moved to it along with a few other Kiwis looking for a place to set their drinks. We watched in awe as the opening ceremony unfolded. It was really inspiring and beautiful. I loved how it paid tribute to the amazing feats of the early Polynesian explorers. Pathetic Columbus doesn not hold a candle to these intrepid explorers. Even my ancestor Leif Erikson would bow to their abilities. The rugby great Jonah Lomu’s appearance was a little bit corny, but otherwise it was superb and just 15 minutes long, so even the die hard rugby fan could deal.
Then the fireworks began and the place emptied out as everyone ran across the road to the watch them from the beach. After the fireworks in Washington, DC on July 4th, everything is a disappointment, so I continued watching the tv where the producers did an amazing job of coordinating a whole series of artists around Auckland doing amazing music, dance, and other performances timed with the fireworks show.
Finally it was time for the game to start, after dueling hakas and anthems. The game itself was not particularly riveting rugby. Tonga did not give up and they worked extremely hard in the second half to score a try. The All Blacks made lots of mistakes and also made some beautiful plays. Hopefully they got their nerves worked out.
The game wound down (or up, as the clock goes up until 80 minutes of play). Then we all headed out into the neighborhood to walk home. Terry and Dennis were staying at a friends’ house just up the hill from me. They offered me tickets to see Italy vs USA in Nelson on September 27. They were part of their package and they cannot use them. I said I would have to look at airfares and let them know. We exchanged mobile numbers.
This morning I looked at airfares and YES I can go! I still have to discover who will use the other ticket and work out some travel logistics. Once again, though, I have learned the lesson of staying open to possible connection.