…21st September 2011
Hanging out at the Ekhaya suite was great in that I got to meet fellow South Africans, eat good food and get free biltong. It came with another perk too, fancy cocktail parties and dinners. However these were on the 6TH FLOOR… I was pondering this dilemma with one of the guys working there and he was determined to get me in, even if he had to call me the “Under Secretary to the President of the Republic of Empangeni”. Empangeni was the small town I was born in. It was quite a hoot, and it would become my title for the rest of the time I was in Wellington.
As we tried to figure out how to get me on the list, I was chatting with someone and mentioned I had face paint. Next thing I knew I was the official face painter, was on the program and on the list for the cocktail party plus 1. Bloody brilliant!
Emma was my plus 1, and since she was working I went home to get stuff and she directed me through her closet for clothes to bring to her in town.
It felt great to get dolled up and feel all important and spiffy. Actually I was rather out of my comfort zone, but Emma, a budding diplomat was in her element and so I just followed in her footsteps. We met some amazing people, had champagne handed to us before we were even finished the first. Little bite size snacks you see those chefs doing in competitions. The best part was the dance group who did dances from a variety of South African tribes and as soon as the music started everyone was on the dance floor. One diplomat expressed the following sentiment which hit it on the nail
“You can tell this isn’t a European or New Zealand party because it barely took 2 minutes for everyone to cut loose”
All very hoity toity and a whole lot of fun…. I better not get used to this.
It turns out all my old school friends seem to have immigrated to Aus or NZ as it turned out I had a mate in Wellington too. So we were able to meet up for a coffee and chat about old and new times. Its crazy to see where all our lives have led us in the last 16yrs since we graduated high school.
Lissy and I spent her first morning walking around Wellington and going on a free tour of the Parliment building known as the Beehive. It was recently voted the 3rd ugliest building.
Well I am on a roll and apparently am in with the staff of the Ekhaya suite I got invited to a very sort after sit down dinner party. I was able to invite a plus one again and this time I chose my friend Lissy who had just arrived from up north. As I had worn my only dress to the cocktail party and Lissy had nothing fancy, Emma let us rifle through her closet again. I love that girl. We had a grand old time, trying on dresses and jewellery and even picking nail polish. Ahhh to be girly, its actually quite a lot of fun!
If I thought the cocktail party was overwhelming, the dinner party was even more so. You walked in and were met by 2 rows of 5 waiters all with silver trays filled with drinks, you didn’t know who to take one from. Totally out of my element and loved every minute of it. The settings were fantastic, the speeches were amusing, especially when the MC asked us the organizers would like the table to settings to remain at the end of the evening… and the food was pretty good too…especially after 3 glasses of free wine.
After the dinner party, we headed to the local Irish pub round the corner, Molly Malones, to meet up with some friends of Lissy’s. We got there and pushed our way through the crowd. It was literally shoulder to shoulder. Crowded pubs are never a place I choose to be and was hoping we would move on. But Lissy, being the young 20 something she is, has no fear and was all about staying. I figured I had to start conquering my fear of crowds. We circled around, and much to the amusement of the bouncer forced our way back in again. Lissy found me a corner and went to grab us a cider. She returned with a cider and a vodka and orange each, plus two more ciders on the way, all paid for by an Irish fella. I am truly in awe of her skills.
It is never a thrilling experience to be elbow height and when you are armpit height its even more unpleasant. One “gentleman” was kind enough to use me wedge his way through the crowd by putting his elbow on my shoulder and heaving through.
It was a good night all the same and I spent most of it occupying my mind by tidying up the glasses piling up on the ledge next to me, much to the amusement and appreciation of the bar staff. Finally it was time to extricate ourselves and grab the night bus home. The ride was up a very windy road and after a number of drinks it made you feel quite queasy.
For the Saturday game I had promised to do face painting at the Ekhaya suite. I also managed to get tickets for Lissy and I to the game, again for $50 each. I arrived around 11am and didn’t stop painting faces till about 4.30pm when Lissy dragged me away to the game. By then I was on the point of blubbering as I had not even had a chance to eat lunch. But it felt great to be in high demand and even had folks arguing over who was next at one point. All rather amusing. I figure I must have painted close to, if not over, 100 faces in all varieties of the South African flag.
South Africa vs Fiji
We walked to the game with a couple of other “bokke” fans and it was one of hte best experiences ever. We walked waving flags, singing Shosholoza/Nkosi Sikele and numerous other favorites. We were joined by other fans and eventually formed quite an abnoxious group.
At the game I kept passing people whose faces I had painted and there was great comradery amongst all of us. Our seats were super close to the field in the corner in the middle of the Fiji fans. The game itself was a bit of a walk over but was a good game and the Fiji players played well. With 10seonds to go, I turned to some of the Fiji fans and said “great game guys, thanks for playing”, the replied “come on its not over yet there is still time”. Ahhh optimism at its best.
At the end I managed to just grab the train home and Lissy went out to party with mates. Would have loved to join her but was just too exhausted to do anything but sleep.
At Emma’s suggestion we rented a car and spent the whole of a wet cloudy sunday driving in the vineyards outside of Wellington. We had a picnic lunch and 2 wine tastings. At one vineyard we met some South African supporters and ended up chatting with them. Towards the end of the we headed back to Welly and drove along the south coast, just as the weather started clearing.
It was a great day with great girls!
At the end of the day Freya, Jen and I stopped in town and Emma and Lissy returned the car and headed home. We all went to the Ekhaya suite to watch the England game and finally headed home at 9pm.
The last few days in Wellington were spent with me being sick. It hit me really hard one night and just sat in my chest. Then moved to my sinuses and back to my chest. I hate to admit it but I must have been a misery to be around. I am ashamed to admit it that I get “man flu” when I am sick and pretty much curl in a ball and sulk. But after 9mths on the road relatively sick free it had to happen sometime.
I did get a chance to go with some of my wonderful friends from the Ekhaya suite up the cable car. It was not exactly what I expected, more like a vernicular. But the view was stunning the company fantastic. I will miss them when I leave.
On our last night there Emma managed to get us a free ticket to “Friends with benefits” that included free popcorn and a drink. It was good to have a movie night and get some down time. At the end we realised that we had to run for the last train. You never realise how short you are until you have to run for a train with taller folks that just take bigger strides. It didn’t help that I was sick and feeling cruddy. But we made it in time, barely and got home without having to pay an exorbitant amount for a cab.
Wellington has been a great town, and I truly enjoyed my time there. I will miss my great friend, Emma, and her folks and all the wonderful people I met there.
But the ferry calls and so does the South Island. So am back on the road again.