Ryan and I are in full-on freak-out mode. Tomorrow is when we officially leave our glorious, stunning southern city of Dunedin (it's amazing how you only appreciate your hometown when you leave it. Usually my adjectives of choice would be 'cold, rainy shithole'). We will fly to Auckland, and spend 3 days there. Then, early on Saturday morning, we are outta here. Narita Airport will welcome us with the seductive embrace of an exotic temptress. Our love affair with Japan will begin.
The other day, we went shopping for New Zealand souvenirs, or in Japanese, omiyage, that we can use to bribe people to be our friends. I say this in the least desperate way possible. But really, what does tiny little New Zealand even mean to Japanese people? I remember during my high school exchange in Hiroshima, one time a middle-aged man came up to me on the street, and asked excitedly 'America?!'
'Nup,' I started proudly, 'New Zealand.'
The disappointment - no, the heartbreak - was evident on his face. I was no yankee doodle dandy. I was from a country that was known more for The Lord of the Rings than its historic, diplomatic and economic relations with Japan.
There are also a couple of rugby balls in the pile. I hate rugby. But all I know is, the last time I was in Japan, for a speech competition involving participants from all over the world, rugby was New Zealand's one redeeming factor. Everyone 'oohed' over the Canadian maple leaf flag. Everyone 'ahhed' over the traditional Cambodian dancing. They all frowned when I tried to talk about the Treaty of Waitangi. But then, someone yelled 'can you do a haka? Like the All Blacks?'
I am going to Japan, a country with a fascinating, rich, ancient culture.
I am from New Zealand, a country that is famous for Dan Carter's groin.