I may have come to Wellington for the craziest weekend of the year. After a 10-hour drive south from Auckland we pulled into New Zealand's capital city, parked the car, and sat down for a pair of beers and a basket of curly fries. Later that night we checked out a funny, funky play called Pirates vs Ninjas. The production is written, directed and produced by Anya Tate-Manning, who also happens to be one of my hosts in New Zealand. In fact, a lot of the friends I've made here are in the theater community, so it was cool to see them in action.
I had been warned the Wellington would be a little... well... "different" this weekend. It was very true, for three reasons.
First off, Saturday was Waitangi Day, a national holiday to commemorate the signing of the Treaty between the British Crown and the Maori chiefs. I mentioned before that the treaty is somewhat controversial, and I've learned a little bit more about that since I arrived in Wellington. The treaty was translated into Maori before it was signed in 1840. Years later, it came to light that the Maori translation was a little different than the English version. Not a big deal when you're dubbing over a japanimation flic, but this is the founding document of the country. It's kind of like of your version of the First Ammendment said, "Congress shall only make a few laws respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, of the press; or the right of the people peacebeably to assemble, and the petition the Government for a redress of greivances." You can see why Waitangi is a sensitive subject.
The second reason why this weekend was special is that Saturday was also the birthday
of Robert Nesta Marley. I had plans to attend Wellington's One Love Festival, but I heard he was going to be a no-show so I backed out too. Instead, I had a more personal Marley Fest on my iPhone and at a friends BBQ, enjoying about three or four of his albums throughout the day. My personal favorite is still Kaya. The BBQ was also cool because I tried my very first Ostrich Sausage, which, to my surprise, does NOT taste like chicken.
The third, and wackiest, reason why this was a "different" weekend in Wellington was that the International Rugby Sevens World Series was in town. Rugby Sevens is a small-sided variation of the game with a lot more speed, and a few less scrums. Every year when the Sevens come to Wellington, the city turns into a two-day party. Imagine Halloween, the Bay to Breakers, Mardi Gras, and All-Star Weekend all rolled up into one, and then you're halfway there.
I didn't attend the actual games (most folks don't, they just get dressed up and go nuts), but I did get a little caught up in the fun. While cruising down the wharf, we came across a massive restaurnat with a few hundred folks hanging off the balcony, all facing the walkway. Hmmm... I wondered what they were all watching? So I went inside to investigate (and to have another beer).Apparently, the walkway out front was actually more of a runway... or a catwalk of shame?
I watched from above as groups in costume filed into the restaurant below. My friends and I were pretty juiced when Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, and Macho Man Randy Savage showed up in full wrestling gear. It was all fun and games until we spotted a SECOND pair, also dressed as the Hulk and The Ultimate Warrior. Now, anyone that's seen a decent science fiction movie knows that this would have dangerous repercussions for the fabric of the Universe... apparently, the drunken wrestlers agreed. Next thing I new, the catwalk had transformed into a makeshift WWF* wrestling ring and the crowd went wild! These guys were actually pretty good... DDT's, pile drivers, the suplex press... even a few "chops" to the shoulders and chest (do those actually hurt?)
I won't give all the details on what I witnessed from the balcony, but most of it involved peer pressure and countdowns.
After that show, we headed to the other side of the wharf or a quick jump off the pier. No, we're
not trying to look hard, it was just some cold ass water. From there, we headed to the BBQ, and
then to a bar to catch the finals of the Sevens: Fiji vs Samoa. Based on my recent travels, I decided I was going for Fiji. Plus, the buddy I was with is Samoan, so I thought that would make it more interesting.
The next day was relatively calm and collected. I got to meet up with Toya, and old friend from high school who's been traveling in Australia and New Zealand for the last 5 months. We swapped war stories and book recommendations. We shared thoughts about how amazingly hospitable the world can be, and what it will be like to come home to The Bay. We ordered gumbo and fried chicken: the food was cool, but a little overrated, and not quite worthy of Nina's Blog. I think when I get home one of my first stops will be Lois the Pie Queen!
*Any self-respecting 80's baby refuses to use the term WWE. No disrespect to the panda bears intended, but WWF will always stand for World Wrestling Federation.