The YHA hostel was also awesome--hands down the best place I have stayed in so far, with clean rooms, homey lounge, a huge kitchen, and a spectacular view. When I saw Sam and Leanne, my friends from Nelson, I knew it was going to be a good Christmas. And when, an hour after arriving, I found a farmer's market a block away with peonies, new potatoes, and sweettart cherries, I was in heaven.
The first night, I joined Sam and Leanne for a movie--Eat Pray Love (yeah, I know, haha...)--at this kitchy little theater called Cinema Paradiso. You sit on old couches and car seats, have dinner half way through at intermission, and bring wine and homemade ice cream on in with you. The way all movie theaters should be! The next day was Christmas Eve and also Sam's birthday, so we celebrated with cake and champagne first thing in the morning.
I WENT SKYDIVING. My tandem jumper was Adriano from Brazil, and on the way up we chatted and went over instructions. He had a bit of a thick accent, so I was convinced I had misunderstood everything and would jump to my death. I didn't have too much time to get nervous though, because in no time, we were up at the jump site. But as I watched the two people before me nonchalantly topple out of the plane I finally thought...Oh. Shit. Then we were scooching over and I was hyperventilating and my mind went blank and I forgot everything Adriano had told me and I thought he'd count to three or ten or say "Ready" or SOMETHING...but he didn't. He just leaned forward and we fell out of the door of a plane 12,000 feet up and for two whole seconds I thought only:
That's it. I'm going to die now.
And then it didn't even feel like falling. For the rest of the 45 second freefall it just felt like staying in one place with really fast, really cold wind surging up past me. The ground didn't even seem to be getting closer. Then Adriano released the parachute and everything was lovely. Views like I can't describe over Lake Wanaka and Mount Aspiring and Mount Roy. I felt like I could see the whole world. Incredible. Because I am cheap, I didn't spring for the video or disc of pictures, but I do have this supremely awkward photo of me post-jump to share for your viewing pleasure:
When I got back, I made pie (my hands were still shaking from the adrenaline three hours later, and pitting cherries was a hilarious task), and then we got a big group together to go out for Sam's birthday. Great to meet so many people from so many different places. My friends here are American, British, German, and French. Fast travel also promotes fast friendships. What a great group to spend the holidays with!