April 16, 2002
En route to my new job, I had a 1 day stopover in Hong Kong, one of my favourite cities; the famous Star Ferry, double Decker buses, fantastic high-rises and bridges begging the question what happens when the big Quake hits.
Hong Kong was a day filled with anticipation for me too.
After 60 hours en route I finally descended into Auckland. It is a spectacular city seen from above with much water everywhere. This was my first time to New Zealand.
I scooted through customs despite admitting that I had no work visa (yet) though I was arriving for a full-time job. The friendly and casual official waved me through.
One more flight took me on to Christchurch on the south island (mainland!).
It is a great adventure to be living and working in another country. I am thankful my eccentric lifestyle and philosophy affords me the freedom to do so. And the generous support of friends and family, of course. My brother Randy bailed me out in last minute banking confusion.
By the way, I was feted at thanks-for-leaving parties in both Saskatoon and Calgary. Thanks to everyone — especially for the awesome sheep cake in the toon!
In NZ I was met at the airport and whisked to the CSG (Christchurch School of Gymnastics). It is a terrific facility; about 12,000 square feet with an additional spectators gallery above, bunjie pit, excellent matting and new equipment. It is remarkably clean and spacious though the smell of stale sweat hangs in the air just as it does back home.
You might expect I would go straight to sleep then — nope — Rugby was on TV. Rugby is a religion in Christchurch. The Crusaders are undefeated! An infidel Canadian here must immediately be educated in the intricacies of the sport. (One stadium is known as THE HOUSE OF PAIN.)
New Zealanders as you probably know are friendly and down-to-earth. I have been very impressed with my welcome here. One of the gym families has put me up for the first 7 weeks in a guest suite with private entrance. The rumoured kayak transport to and from the gym looks not to be feasible. I bike or walk instead along the lovely Avon River which is crowded with ducks and rowers.
The gym is very well organized by the Executive Officer and my boss Avril Enslow who is one of the top judges in the gymnastics world. The competitive girls are fit and quite good. My predecessor, a Russian coach, has done a good job emphasizing basics.
He eventually came to grief coaching the teenage girls. This is an old story in gymnastics.
Everyone sums up the club with one phrase; great potential.
It is a good challenge for me and one I am enjoying a lot so far. (This after 9 hours in the gym today.)
We plan to build up the boys program this season and add trampoline sports and aerobics in the near future. We even offer Adult Recreational gymnastics. No doubt the club is on the way up and it is fun to be a big part of that progress.
See you down under?
I always have part-time work for visiting gymnastics coaches.
– Kiwi Rick
Interested in a gap year? In the process of planning a gap year? Loved your own gap year? Have no idea what we’re talking about?
The ‘gap year’ is (very) loosely defined as any amount of time taken out of normal life in order to whoop it up in different parts of the world.
There are no rules and the definition is broad to allow for all types of adventures.
Grown Up Gap Years by Tony Wheeler, Lonely Planet author and co-founder:
Another gap year? Been there, done that. Mine is ancient history, almost 30 years ago, when I managed to reach Afghanistan on my early ’70s gap year. I’m far too old now, aren’t I?
Come to think of it, however, I have had another, more recent gap year. In 1996 I moved to Paris with my wife, Maureen, and our two children for a year. We’d kicked around the idea of living somewhere else for ages and finally decided to do it before the children got too far along in their school careers. We enrolled them in an international school, near the Eiffel Tower. With emails, mobile phones and so on, I figured I could work out of Paris just as easily as anywhere else in the world. It was terrific, none of us wanted to leave at the end of the year.
So why shouldn’t there be more gap years – even at my age? Not everybody can shift workplaces as I did, but these days more people can manage time off. Indeed, for many, retirement no longer means simply carrying on in the same place, as if nothing has changed apart from the daily journey to work. Gap years shouldn’t just be for the young, though being young at heart is probably a requirement. And these days people seem to be able to manage this long after their passports shout ‘slow down.’
A couple of years ago I joined a trek in Tibet. We faced a seven-day walk across Nepal simply to reach the start, yet one of our fellow walkers was 74 years of age. The trail, which included crossing a pass higher than the Everest Base Camp, didn’t faze him. I later learnt that his gap year travels have taken him from the Himalayas to the Kalahari.
After a lifetime of travel, I hate the thought of stopping in one place, and the idea of serial retirement villages has become a favourite conversation topic: a year in New York would be fun; we’ve always wanted to spend longer in Japan; and another year in France certainly wouldn’t hurt. House-swapping, renting a flat, even buying a Land-Rover and spending 12 months driving from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, have all featured in those dreams.