Paradise, Hail and Farewell!

19 August 1993 Solair 711 Auckland to Port Vila, Business

The last day or so had been fairly quiet, and I made my way early to the airport to check in for the flight. One intelligent thing that the airline staff have realised is people pay premium fares to avoid queuing. That is why most airlines have separate desks for Business Class check-in. Most carriers overlook the fact that departure tax needs to be paid elsewhere. Air New Zealand have realised this, and let premium passengers buy their tickets at the desk while they check in. Not only that, but I was invited to go to the Air New Zealand lounge too. After a little while wandering around, I did so and took advantage of the facilities to the full, eating cheese, biscuits and fruit, drinking wine and coffee, reading magazines and newspapers and looking at the aeroplanes taking off and landing. For the first time ever, I took a shower in an airline lounge. Rather, I took a shower in the bathroom of the lounge.

The flight itself was a few minutes late, but nothing to worry about. I sat next to a businessman from the South Island who was travelling on to Honiara having already come from Christchurch. The flight was completely full, having necessitated a business class premium to be paid in each direction. It does make for a much more attractive flight, however.

Even so, it was good to be back in the informal islands and to see my wife and children again. There was a lot of work to do, however. It was late August and I was due to start work for my new Company in less than two months. During the intervening time, there was much to be done in three countries, Vanuatu, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

11 September 1993 Air Vanuatu 51 Port Vila to Auckland

Formality and informality continued to combine during my last weeks as a resident of Vanuatu. Some of the things that happened were not happy, but some were. As with most of the expatriates of long standing, for this is what we had become, there were a number of farewell parties and functions held for us. Along with all this, there was the closing down of my work in Port Vila and the final approval of my application for residence in New Zealand. With a formal job offer, I had sufficient points on the system for residence, and so we were now to embark on another great adventure. However, that was still to be in the future, with a long journey ahead before it happened.

Loadings on Air Vanuatu's Auckland route continued to be extremely high, but this time there were no business class seats available, so were obliged to travel down at the back. Considering the early hour, a surprisingly large number of friends turned up at the airport to say goodbye to us.

The journey from Port Vila to Auckland was one that we had made on several occasions before: it was the fifth time for us to make the journey at all, and the third time in the year. I find little to say about it as a result.

On arrival at Auckland, however, we had the residence visa in our passports converted into a residence permit. The only problem was that we had only until Monday night to acquire a returning resident visa. If this was not done, then our residence in New Zealand would be one of the shortest on record.

Nevertheless, we started off by going to the Auckland City Travelodge as usual. Even if Air Vanuatu could not accommodate us in the accustomed manner, the City Travelodge could.

On Sunday morning, we went up Queen Street to the Baptist Tabernacle, as I had done when on my own. After the service we were all invited to have lunch with the family I had met in August. They were disappointed that we would not be settling in Auckland, but pleased to hear that I had found new work, and that I had found it in their country.

Come Monday morning and I was obliged to visit the Immigration Department in the centre of Auckland. A large number of people were there with all manner of immigration related questions. A returning resident visa is a simple thing to acquire. All I had to do was provide a straightforward application form correctly completed, photographs, a fifty New Zealand dollar fee and a residence permit. For the average person, the last of these is the most difficult to procure. It had taken me from the end of January to the middle of August, with considerable effort and expense. As soon as we had this, we were free to take part in the next section of the amazing journey, but before doing so we went to Kelly Tarlton's. The company, we understand, was to be opening a new attraction based on the Antarctic, which would open at Christmas. After a period of perhaps six months, I suppose that the queues will be manageably small.

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