Friday, August 5, 2011
The trip of a lifetime, safely ended
A haka on the beach in Vina del Mar, Chile. And why not?
For the first time in almost a month all four of us are under the same roof again. Comfort has returned. Morgan and his teammates came back to New Zealand from their three-country rugby tour of South America today. He's safe and sound, though suffering through bronchitis and a sinus infection.
The two teams arrived at Wellington Airport looking nothing like the smart, uniformed and impressive unit they had departed as. Retreat from Stalingrad comes to mind. While they left in sponsored kit, they arrived back in mufti - ponchos, Argentina soccer shirts and their smart luggage ripped to shreds. They were tired, haggard and sick. But proud, having won the last four games in a row.
Though exhausted, Morgan was gushing about the trip. Unfortunately, he had passed out by the time I came back from work. So we haven't fully caught up. He said the countries - Chile, Uruguay and Argentina - were wonderful and the billets with whom he stayed were gracious and kind. He loved using his Spanish. "It was a trip I'll tell my kids about," he said. And everything after that was inconsequential.
Now let's do a haka at Boca Juniors' stadium in Buenos Aires.
The haka, the Maori war dance, was an integral part of their trip. While their coaches blamed jet lag for their only loss of the tour - the boys had to play right after they arrived, due to a full day's delay in Auckland - Morgan informed me it was the only game before which they hadn't done the haka. They performed the most amazing haka I have ever seen to their host school in Santiago. You can watch it here.
It wasn't all rugby. The host families showed off their respective countries to the boys. Morgan was overwhelmed by the Andes in Chile. He loved Buenos Aires the most, perhaps because they had the most free time there.
Or maybe it was the steak. They were taken out to a gaucho ranch and the steaks, Morgan said, were the best he'd ever had. From my long stay in Argentina many years ago, I couldn't agree more. An Argentinian asado is something everyone should try before they die.
The biggest culture shock they underwent was the eating hours. Amy said Morgan didn't stop eating until he feel asleep today. The South Americans, the inventors of that fabulous siesta, eat lunch and dinner late. Many nights the boys didn't eat until after 10 p.m., stayed up till past midnight and spent much of the sunshine hours scrounging for food.
In Buenos Aires they had the chance to visit the cemetery where Eva Peron is buried. It's a marvelously grand, suitably maudlin place that made an impression on Morgan. He took note of all the right things during his trip: the vast disparity between the haves and the have-nots, the slums, the pollution, but also the love of conversation and the slower pace of life and the sheer beauty of South America. He liked the stopping to smell the roses that we Americans sometimes forget.
He worked hard to make this trip happen. He received a lot of support from dear friends, family and even strangers - blog friends - and he noted that as we drove home from the airport. He will blog tomorrow and tell you his own impressions. For Amy and me, we're deeply grateful he's back and proud of his attitude. As Morgan said, it was the trip of a lifetime. So, thank you friends and family who sponsored him and who helped make this a reality for him.
(Morgan has now written the first installment of what promises to be a novel about his trip. You can read it here.)