The brewpub could easily have been in Boulder, Seattle, or Squamish. The food, beer and atmosphere were the same. High wooden rafters and exposed duct work presided over a broad, table cluttered floor. Around us the conversation ebbed and flowed in volume and quantity. Nothing stood out, no languages or voices, it all melded together into that white noise that permeates a bar. Outside Metropolis was projected onto a giant screen; the 1927 silent German flick was shown with Spanish subtitles. The crowds came and went, slowly like the fries, burgers, beer and wine. Time came and went. We caught a ride to the bus stop and sat, conversing while we waited. In the glow of the street lamp she told me of the earthquakes and how it destroyed the city center and about the damage and the rebuilding. We talked about friends, NOLS and life. Later we caught the #84 bus and when we did not have exact fare, the driver gives us change. “How neat is that?” Amy marveled as the bus snaked around town. “You know where we are getting off right?” I ask. “Yeah, we’re good” she replies and we move westward through the city night.
“Y’all know that Mark has invited us over to his house for a party this afternoon” the announcement is made in the kitchen of the staff house while being written on the whiteboard.
“What’s the occasion?” someone asks.
“He got a new couch.”
Later, Ben, Sharon, Daryl, Amy, Ari and I pile into a couple cars and drive over. No one really truly knows which house it is, so we park and walk down the road until Mark pokes his head out the door and we walk over. I am introduced to his wife Laura and their children. Soon we are munching on hors d’oeuvres, spilling wine, and playing with Noah and Audrey. Audrey climbs up onto the couch and hands me a Richard Scarry’s The Best Little Word Book Ever and memories come flooding back. We sit and read about Lowly Worm and how he only wears one sneaker. She points out colors, pigs, strawberries and all the important stuff.
Sunday was a nice afternoon of walking along the ocean.
“You know what I learned in the bathroom?” Amy asks.
“These bean bags are made in New Zealand.”
“I was admiring them. They are pretty cool” I respond. Later as I stand at the toilet I look over and see the sign and wonder if I could shove one into my bag before I head home.
Lounged in the bean bags we enjoy the sunshine and the calm of the day. We snack on quiche. frittatas and coffee with some nachos scarfed from a abandoned plate. We sit and discuss things, watching the world go by. We walk the paved trail along the rocky beach, the waves pounding the black racks. Above us the hills are scarred by the landslides of the the recent earthquakes. We stroll downtown and into an art gallery. This section of Christchurch, Sumner, feels uniquely like walking along the pacific coast in California. A small “main street” with shops, galleries and cafes invite us to stroll and gaze.
The road into Sumner, rough and in ill repair from the earthquakes, is lined with shipping containers. Maersk and Sea Land advertise freely to passing motorists. Some entrepreneurial and creative types have covered the shipping containers with art, making for colorful retaining walls separating the cliffs and road. Later, we drive downtown, meander through right and left turns, poking through the half demolished skeletons of old churches. We probe and prod through the city, slowly making our way back to the branch.
I think of Lander Wyoming as my home. I own no house, I rent no room. Regardless of these facts I consider it home. All of my possessions are there, neatly stowed in two different storage closets at the Noble Hotel. I feel welcome and appreciated there and that makes it hard to leave. So when I travel 28+ hours around the world and get out of a shuttle bus at a new place in a foreign country and am greeted by a long welcoming hug, it matters. Walking into a NOLS branch ½ way around the world and seeing a friendly face, being invited out for the evening, and enjoying the company makes me realize that friends are one of the things that truly matter.