Two days after I arrived in the city, Alba flew in from Australia and met me at the hostel. As luck would have it, she was in the same room as me. After settling in, we walked to Parnell to visit Dorothy, who was Alba’s host mom when Alba studied English in Auckland two years ago. The walk to Dorothy’s took about 30 minutes and it was a hilly half hour at that. But, it was also like going on my own private tour of the city as Alba showed me her old stomping ground.
At the top of one hilly section, we turned around and received a great view of the city and the waterfront. Then, we walked through a garden area, down a steep embankment and arrived at Dorothy’s home. Her home had an amazing wall of windows looking out on the street and was surrounded by lush greenery. There were trees, shrubs and flowering potted plants along the walkway leading to her door.
Dorothy was very welcoming and friendly. She was actually older than I expected and was more like a host grandma than mom. Despite her age though, she was extremely energetic and spry. She hosted students from the English language school often and was actually planning to drop off Julia at Britomart, the bus and train station. Julia was returning to Russia after having studied for several weeks at the language school.
After chatting for a bit with Dorothy and Julia, Alba and I took a walk around the neighborhood. She showed me the public baths, a swimming pool-like structure that’s open during the summer. We hiked up another hill and proceeded through an old cemetery. Oddly enough, it wasn’t creepy at all even though the sun was starting to set. With the rays of light glancing off the headstones and setting off the reds and oranges in the trees and the quietness surrounding us, I felt very peaceful and completely at ease. I guess that’s the idea behind the “rest in peace” bit at funerals.
We returned to Dorothy’s house and caught a ride down to the bus station with Julia. Then we strolled up Queen Street and window shopped at many souvenir stores as we headed back to the hostel. No matter what time of day, Queen Street was bustling with people.
After spending more than two months in Australia where I seldom saw any Asian people (from the Asian continent or otherwise), I still couldn’t come to grips with the fact that Auckland was teeming with Asians. As we walked along, I saw and heard Chinese, Korean and Japanese being spoken. There were people from China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Korea, Japan and many other countries. In addition to the Asians, there were many Polynesians as well, and I felt like I was back home in Hawaii for the first time in months. Even though the city was foreign to me, the feeling I got was one of coming home.