Last Sunday, I carted myself, my suitcase and a box of books and CDs to the Tokyo Bus Terminal to go to New Zealand. (I waited at the terminal watching the day’s sumo results, to which I can only say, in the excited voice of the older woman sitting next to me at the sumo basho in Nagoya a few days before: “Haku-HO!”) I decided to forego my usual travel mantra (“TRAVEL LIGHT!”) since it was winter in Christchurch--hard to imagine after a week or so of 90+ temperatures in Tokyo-- and I didn’t want to freeze. Unfortunately, JAL has a 20 kg weight limit (that’s 20 kg TOTAL, for both bags together) on international flights, although I think they allow more if you are traveling to the US. I was 13 kg over, and facing a $450 overcharge. I frantically smooshed my books and CDs into my carry-on which was already bursting at the seams. The smiling service desk man gave me a break on 5 kg of overweight, but next informed me that I’d have to pay $60 overcharge for the Sydney to Auckland flight because I was traveling with Quantas, and he couldn’t extend the courtesy 5 kg to another carrier’s flight. I fumed and said something nasty about the future of the airline industry and perhaps something unflattering about his mother. Undaunted, he suggested that if I wanted to claim my bags in Syndey, I could negotiate with the attendant there, and so I agreed. Somewhere along the line, in spite of my complaining, the JAL rep took pity on me and upgraded me to business class, so I arrived in Sydney, singing his praises. Unfortunately, in Sydney I learned that without an Australian visa one isn’t allowed to go to baggage claim and retrieve baggage. This had me grumbling about the JAL rep’s mother again. After some tense negotiations with the transfer desk, we eventually sorted out the problem and I finally arrived, about 24 hours after I left Tokyo and a bit worse for the wear but with all my money, in Christchurch.
Christchurch is quite pleasant. I haven’t yet gotten out of town to see the formidable beauty that everyone says abounds outside of the city limits, but it’s a nice enough place to be. People here are very easy going --friendly with a tendency to toward self deprecation. When you meet a new person in Christchurch they say: “Nice to meet you....I’m sorry.”
I am staying in a good sized apartment above C1, the best coffee spot in Christchurch (or so I am told) and just down the street from the school, CPIT Jazz School. Whenever I arrive in some town that’s not huge and see a large 4 floor building with the words “Jazz School” on the face of it, I think that’s encouraging. I’ve been having a great time with the students and faculty. There’s a fine pianist teaching here, Darren Pickering as well as equally fine musicians, Richie Piccard on bass and Nick Gaffney on drums. Cameron Pearce is a great trumpet player who heads the jazz department and is responsible for bringing me--we met when he came to Queens college to get his masters on the Jazz School’s dime two years ago. They take care of one another here, it seems. Anyway, more when I get around to it...