Communion Of Dreams

Scenes from a trip: You’re going *where?*
November 13, 2011, 1:06 pm
Filed under: Guns, N. Am. Welsh Choir, New Zealand, Society, Travel

After a bracing shower (there was still no hot water at the hotel) Martha and I went downstairs for breakfast.

It was touch crazy. Crowded, hectic, clusters of people swarming around the two buffets – one hot, one cold. But the food was plentiful, and good, and typical of what we found at all our hotels, so I’ll describe it here.

The hot buffet included bacon (this time American style, other times occasionally British), scrambled eggs, fried mushrooms, hot tomato halves, baked beans, and breakfast sausages. These last looked a little like the British counterparts, which are nasty, pasty things – but they turned out to be chicken sausages with a a fair amount of spice and flavor. There was also pancakes, rice, miso soup.

The cold buffet had different cereals, cold cuts of meat and cheese, yogurt, and plenty of sliced/chopped fruit. There was also a selection of different breads (and a toaster) as well as various rolls and pastries. And different juices – including kiwi fruit juice. (What we call kiwis the Kiwis call “kiwi fruit” – which makes sense and saves on confusion.)

We dove into the buzzing clouds, got our food, and escaped to the quiet of a table on the periphery.

* * * * * * *

We heard back from our bank. They had removed the block on our debit cards, said that we should have notified them that we were going to be traveling to New Zealand, which they consider a “fraud haven”. Who knew?

Anyway, we had access to our money.

* * * * * * *

Martha had a rehearsal that morning. ML and I went to the Auckland Domain, where the Auckland War Memorial Museum is located. It was wonderful. But don’t take my word for it: explore their site, and see what I mean. We spent the whole morning there, catching a taxi back to our hotel just as the choir practice ended.

* * * * * * *

I had made arrangements to meet some people involved in the shooting sports in New Zealand, for a series of articles for The first of these was in an outer suburb of Auckland. My contact had told me to catch the 1:30 ferry to Half Moon Bay, where she would meet us.

So I asked Helen (our guide) where we’d go to catch said ferry. At first she just looked at me in shock. “Half Moon Bay? Why would you want to go there? It’s nothing but a suburb. There’s nothing there.”

Of course, after explaining that we were meeting some people there, she was happy to provide full information. The ferry docked just down the hill from our hotel. Martha and I made it in plenty of time, and enjoyed the 40 minute trip up the coast.

* * * * * * *

I won’t go into a lot of detail about what we learned about the shooting sports – that’ll be covered in the articles on, which I will link here once they’re published – but I would like to share some observations from that afternoon and evening.

I mentioned in the first entry about this trip that I had expected New Zealand to be more like the UK than it actually is. Getting together with some locals was a quick way to find out how much the Kiwis are more like folks in the US. Specifically, how they’re more like most Midwesterners I’ve known. It’s always dangerous to make a generalization based on just a limited pool of experience, but this perception held true through our whole trip.

We were met at the dock by Debbie and her husband Andy. They’re in their 40s, solidly middle class. They have a nice suburban home on a cul-de-sac like you’d find just about anywhere in the States, though the yard is perhaps a bit smaller than we’re used to. She teaches their equivalent of High School, he has a factory job and runs a small side-line business doing gunsmithing. Two cars, no kids, a couple of friendly cats.

They showed us around, Andy taking some pride with his shop (clearly a working space, not just for show – and a decent selection of milling tools and other equipment I wouldn’t mind having). He opened his safe, we talked guns, they got things ready to go out to their shooting club. It was, to be honest, exactly the sort of conversation I could have had with about half the people I know here in the US.

We loaded up the car, drove out to the club, some 20 minutes further out of town.

* * * * * * *

I’m not one for ‘formal’ shooting ranges. I prefer the very informal shooting I can do on my own, or with my wife or a friend, on our property south of Columbia. I said this to Debs and Andy. They said they wished they could do the same, but this is one way that shooting sports differs between the US and NZ – any kind of pistol shooting (and most long gun shooting which isn’t hunting) has to be done at a government licensed club.

That said, their club, while meeting all the required safety and environmental regulations, wasn’t like some spotless formal facility I’ve seen in Europe. It was a little ramshackle in a very friendly and inviting way. Non-intimidating.

So were the other people we met there. Most of them were busy getting things set up for hosting a competition the next day. Again, they were just middle-class folks, doing the necessary volunteer work on their time off, so that everyone in the club could enjoy shooting that weekend.

After they introduced us and shown us the place, we went to one of the shooting areas so they could check some tweaks to one of their competition guns. Martha and I got hearing protection from a box available for visitors, Debs and Andy put their own on out of their range bags. A magazine or two of ammo satisfied them that the minor gunsmithing work was good, then they offered to let me shoot one of their guns. It was no big deal.

I felt right at home.

* * * * * * *

We went back to their place, chatted while Andy grilled some steaks and brats as we sat out on their patio. Another friend of theirs, Chris, who was originally from South Africa, joined us. He’d lived in the US for a while, where he had gone through apprenticeship as a gunsmith. He’d moved to NZ a few years back, and was as friendly and out-going as Andy and Debs.

Dinner was good, as was the company and discussion. We didn’t have anything alcoholic to drink, since after dinner they took us over to another shooting club for a .22 rifle meet.

* * * * * * *

This was a little more formal, both in terms of the facility and in how the club operates. The facility is actually government owned (local government), and rented out to several different shooting clubs which use it on different nights of the week. Because of this, they have a specific set of procedures that they go over as club business and safety protocols, but it wasn’t anything more onerous than what you’d find at most formal ranges here in the US.

Again, the others we met there were friendly and welcoming. We weren’t the only ‘newcomers’ there that evening, and I had the feeling that they were very used to having visitors and helping them get involved in shooting. At several junctures different people asked if I wanted to shoot any of the club’s .22s.

After about 90 minutes, we headed back to Debbie & Andy’s place.

* * * * * * *

They got all the guns and gear put away. We sat and had some dessert, chatted a while longer. Andy showed us some funny videos he’d seen online – stuff which I have since seen referenced by others here in the US.

Then, since they had a competition to run the next day, and we had an early departure and then a full day of travel, they drove us back to our hotel. It was about 10:00 when they dropped us off, wishing us well on the rest of our tour. I felt like I had made new friends who I’d never see again.

Jim Downey


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