The Weekend Report, Saturday: Like That, But Smaller

More driving. This time to the west of Silverstream, over Hayward’s Hill through Judgeford to Porirua. I am still wrapping my head around the scale of this place. Looking at it on the map, this stretch of road linking the upper Hutt Valley to the west coast looks like it should take more than the ten minutes or so it actually did. It helped, I suppose, that the road is a good wide one, and not torturously twisty. Porirua has two bays, the easternmost of which, Pauatahanui (note to self: shell out for that place-names dictionary), flattens out into tidal marsh and wetlands, bordered on the north by farmland hills which are not too high, but very steep and pointy, and on the south by hills which are studded with the trendy housing developments of Whitby. Sheep and suburbia watching each other warily across the little inlet. Pretty country, and the seaside villages look like they’d be nice to stroll through. Comparable commuting distance to Whiteman’s Valley, I think.

From there, we drove down to Porirua, where they have something approaching a US style mall — one of the outdoors ones, though. Like Shoppers World, only about a third the size. You can tell you’re not in the US mainly because the parking lots are so small. It was easier to find parking at the biggest suburban mall in the greater Wellington area on Queen’s Birthday Weekend than it was to find parking at the grocery store back in Woburn. We picked up a new power cord for my PC, and (now that I’ve gotten over the sticker shock a bit) I got myself the CD/clock/radio I’d been eyeing.

Then we drove further south along Highway 1 until we came to Johnsonville, where we swung west out to the Ohariu Valley, which seems to be largely full of horse schools and riding stables. The one cafe in the valley has paddocks you can turn your horses into when you pause your ride for your tea and pastries.

Pics. Pauatahanui. The inlet is off to the right of frame. I somehow managed not to get a photo of the bay or marsh or anything. Oops. Second photo is of one of the shopping centers in Porirua, an older, smaller one, with more character than the one I described above. It occured to me that I’m presenting a lot of photos of pretty scenery, and not many of the places where the people go. The last one is of the wee little parish church up Ohariu Valley, services held the fourth Sunday of the month.

The Weekend Report, Friday: Kinda like Christmas

Here are some pics of my dancing partners (I’ll add one of the Police when I get it):

I don’t actually know what the third building is. We were a little early getting to MAF, so we walked around the docks a bit there. This is just an example of some of the amazing things the light does here.

The next shot below is of C&N’s front garden, with the roses and daisies and stuff all still going at full tilt. Not bad for what is effectively early December, eh ? And here we have the Moment of Truth: Will I open the container and find everything in itty bitty pieces ?

In general, things came out pretty well intact. There was definitely some shifting, though. We needed more bracing/roping in front of the oak bookcase, which shifted forward. We ought probably to have taped the lids onto the comic boxes, three of which conveyered themselves forward from whereever it was they’d been stashed and wedged themselves, lidless, between the bookcase, the roofring, and a couple of mid-sized bins. One of them (#1, in fact) overturned completely and spilled all its comics out into the newly-opened space behind the bookcase, amongst the various bits of pressboard shelving. (“Why is there a copy of Frank Miller’s 300 lying face-up in the bottom of the rocking chair ?” I wondered aloud. “Where the heck could *that* have escaped from ?”) None of them were crunched, miraculously (Remember kids: always bag and board). If moving tip #1 is “Tape everything, yes, including that”, tip #2 would be “Wrap the furniture, yes, including that.” The big wooden specimen cabinet I rescued from the Fogg left a long brown smear of itself along the side of a Coleman cooler, where it clearly spent many weeks rubbing up and down with every swell. Some tall piece of something left a big gouge in the back of it. The microwave stand was at some point lifted off the floor and set down on the edge of the paper wrapping protecting part of the futon frame. The little table that Judith got me that I still need to set the slate tiles into the top of survived, largely because the paper wrapping took the brunt of whatever was abrading *it*. Certain things that were once flat are now in interesting shapes, depending on what they were set on top of. For instance the comic boxes set in the bottom of the oak book case now have little stepped bottoms where they hung over, and a few of the plastic storage bins are not quite square anymore. But in general, everything made it. Woot !

I am, in fact, typing this on the PC that Len built for me before I left (small moment of panic to find the video card bouncing around loose in the case — how is it we managed to not screw that thing down ?), with the newish flat panel monitor, my spiffy little Zippy Mini keyboard and optical mouse. Yay ! Chris is afraid he’ll never see me again, but until I get a comfier chair down here, he’s got nothing to worry about. And I found clothes ! Yay !

Wa-wa-wa-waltzing…

So, it looks like the stuff situation is more or less in hand. There was some urking there for a bit, because Customs wanted this permit for my knives, and the District Officer told me that although he’d sent my app in to HQ pretty much as soon as he’d got it, HQ probably wouldn’t get to it until middle of next week (it’s a long weekend here, for Queen’s Birthday. I understand the Queen’s *actual* birthday is some time in, like, August or something, but since when do any of the official B-days we observe in the US fall ontheir actual days ?). If the container wasn’t released, though, I’d get charged $60 for every day it sat on the dock, starting Saturday.

So I phoned Customs back, and they said “No problem”. They just had me come down and sign a form saying I’d set the potentially objectionable stuff aside and phone them to come take a look at it some time next week (by which point hopefully the permit will have come through). This is the cool thing about all of the bureaucracies I’ve been dealing with: none of them *actually* want to give you shit. They’re just doing their jobs. If they have to throw an obstacle at you, the next thing they do is tell you how to clear it.

There was a bit more drama towards the end of Thursday, when it looked like the shipper wasn’t going to release the container to the movers, because they’d misrouted the paperwork that said they’d been paid. But Chris, my erstwhile dance partner, tagged himself in and got it sorted before I’d even heard about it.

Upshot is: I’ve got our stuff. It all fits in the various places C&N had marked to squirrel it away into. MAF has taken away the two sets of antlers, the hunk of driftwood, the two fake styrofoam crows, a bag of feathers, and the rainstick, all of which will cost me about $25 to get fumigated. Whee ! And Chris, clever monkey that he is, kept an eye out for boxes of clothes and dance gear and stuff, so I can (once I go through them — I wish I’d been a wee bit more specific in my labelling, as five boxes all marked “Tam’s Clothes” aren’t all that helpful, really) have more than two pairs of pants and two skirts to wear to work. Huzzah !

So. Off to Molly’s for Chris’ Birthday. Pics later.

Cats are a go!

We have apparently been awarded the import certificate for the cats. (Chris called the local MAF office in Wellington and found that the form had been sent last Thursday.) This means it is time for me to get going! Tomorrow they go to the vet for their second blood draw for the final rabies titer test. I have to also find some kittie poop to bring along for parasite checks. (Yum!)

If all goes according to plan the cats should be getting on a plane by June 15th or so. It will be nice to be past that last major expense/complication/hurdle to the moving process!

Meanwhile we continue to have a wonderful New Englad Spring. Over the last month we have had about 3 sunny days. All the rest have been 55 F (12C), cloudy, and often raining. I fully expect that we will have no spring, shifting directly into punishing summer weather- 95 F (35C) with high humidity. After the terrible winter I fully expect an equally terrible summer. I am glad I have not sold my air conditioners yet!

Do a little DA-ANCE!

Dancing.
Monday was my second class with Beverley, who I am really coming to adore. We did a quick review of the stuff they learned in the previous classes this term, and something like 70% was brand spanking new to me. I wished I could have somehow instantly recorded it all for playback to the Dancing Ladies back in Boston. Then we did a whirlwind tour of Trance in Africa and the Middle East that left my head spinning quite literally.

My head is still spinning tonight, but that’s largely an after-effect of the other dance I’m doing, which is getting our stuff cleared through MAF and Customs and, it turns out, the Police. I was preparing for a Police interview in any case, since some of the pieces in my knife collection are technically prohibited for import. If you are curious, they are: two knives with double-edged blades under 10 cm in length (“suitable for throwing or stabbing” — as opposed to spreading peanut butter with, one supposes), two bayonets, and a gloriously gaudy Moroccan cane which just happens to have a pig-sticker inside, qualifying it as a “sword-stick”. Me and my damned acquisitiveness.

So I set those aside, and have been moseying my way toward getting a permit for Stephen to ship them to me. The hitch is that Customs wants me to get a permit *now*, for the rest of them that are due in probably tomorrow. So I have hurriedly written up an “application” — which is to say, a letter saying “Please, I’m a folklorist and a hopelass pack rat, please don’t take my pretty shinies away!” — scraped up what photos I happened to have on disk documenting both the knives and the fact that I’m a hopeless pack rat (they suggested that if I sent more photos of the other junk I collect, it would help establish that I’m a bona fide collector. If they only knew). And I hope that the Police will call me in soon for my I’m-not-a-dangerous-criminal-no-really interview, after which they will hopefully tell Customs to let me have my stuff, so that Customs can then tell MAF to let me have my stuff, so that MAF can tell the shipper to give my stuff to the movers who will bring my stuff up to C&N’s place, where MAF will inspect all the potentially bio-hazardous stuff (the bicycles might have black widows living in them), and finally let me have my STUFF, so that I am no longer surviving on what I managed to cram into two suitcases.

Gawd, I am such a materialist. Stephen, meanwhile, is apparently becoming quite adjusted and comfortable living the Zen Spartan lifestyle, and is busily dreaming up ways to convince me to part with MY HARD-WON STUFF. (Insert crazed, “My Prrrrrecious” cooing here.)

And since I am (with luck) supposed to be doing the unpack-and-display-for-MAF dance on Friday, I’ve been working late the rest of this week to make up the time, since I haven’t accumulated any vacation yet.

Sooo tiiiired.

The Weekend Report, Sunday: Masterton and Rimutaka

Sunday started out nice and sunny, so we did some laundry and hung it out back to dry. Most people here hang their laundry instead of using dryers. Then for a lark, we took a road trip to Masterton, which is the next reasonably large town up highway 2. Highway 1 runs up the west coast to Palmerston North; Highway 2 runs inland, east of the Tararua Range. Chris was interested in seeing what Masterton looked like, in part because he’d just never driven that far (it was about an hour, I guess), and in part because it’s rumored that Peter Jackson is building himself a big ol’ house there. Getting there took us up over Rimutaka Hill, which is sort of a low spot between the Tararua Range and the Rimutaka Range, which stretches all the way down on the east side of the scoop of Wellington Harbor, west of the Wainuiomata Valley and Pencarrow Head. I drove this time, so Chris could have a chance to gawp out the window for a change. It was lots more twisty roads, but this was an actual *highway*, which meant that not only did I have a whole lane all to myself, the lane was actually wide enough to fit the car with nothing hanging over the lines. Quite roomy. We only passed one articulated sheep truck, going the other way with a long chain of cars trapped in its cumbersome wake. Here are some shots taken on the way, including more fantastic New Zealand bird life: pukekos. In trees, no less. Pukekos are wading birds — I have *no* idea what a gang of them was doing up in the pass walking on the tree-tops. And they *were* walking, with their enormous orange feet. Even if the Maori weren’t calling them pukekos, the whites probably would anyway, since that’s exactly what they say when you startle them.

The land on the other side of the range is quite flat and open. Not quite as tame and English Countryside as Canterbury, but definitely flat. It was kind of refreshing to look at flat country after looking at hills for so long. We stopped at a place in Carterton that sold paua shell, both plain polished shell, and also made into a fantastic array of tourist geegaws. We picked up a little bag full of shiny polished bits to take home and admire. Carterton also does hot air balloon flights, out of an airfield which is not the airfield that I have a picture of below, but which looks much like it (the picture is at the Masterton Aerodrome). The next two shots are different perspectives on the same river. Look, Ma, geology !

On the way back over the Rimutaka the clouds, which had been slouching hooligan-like around the tops of the hills, decided to come down and drop some rain. Chris and I were pretty well convinced that our laundry would be soaked by the time we got back, but the rain line stopped short of Silverstream and we got everything in in plenty of time.

For dinner: Potato Night.

The Weekend Report, Saturday: Riverstones, Moonshine, and Molly Malone's

Saturday started late and leisurely, with a phone call from my sweetie. After breakfast, some email, and some pre-planning for the upcoming Paperwork Dance (the container with all of our stuff in it is due into Auckland in a week, and I must learn the steps of the dance that will let me guide it through Customs and MAF (the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry — they have to prevent stuff like fruit flies and hoof-and-mouth coming in) with a minimum of trauma), we pulled out the map book and picked another more-or-less random road to drive up. This was started with a jaunt to Riverstone Terraces, which is a new subdivision carved into a less steep bit of the hills across the valley from Silverstream. Chris tells me it was an ugly brown gash in the side of the valley for quite a while, but is looking more attractive now that it’s greening up a bit. I had a passing interest in it, in that it’s one of the areas where the lot sizes are somewhat larger. It was…. interesting. Certainly very bare in between the houses that have been put up already. The lots (they call them “sections” here) were marked out with neat brown wooden fencing, festooned with “For Sale” and “Sold” signs from various realtors.

After a quick spin through there, we decided to see where the left fork of the road went — “Moonshine Hill Road”. It went — twisting and snaking along the edges of the hills — up through more of that lovely high country farmland:

Unlike the Horokiwi road, though, Moonshine keeps going up and off the edge of the map, until it meets up with another twisty little white road that itself runs between Akatarawa Forest and Judgeford. Which is to say, off into the boondocks. Very high, pretty, sheep-infested boondocks, though.

After Moonshine, we stopped into Totara Park, which had some nice bottom land properties with ponied paddocks. It looked, however, as though a long rain and a good strong sneeze would be about all it took to get the Hutt River to decide to shift its bed to run through the ground floors of the pretty little houses there. We continued on and drove a little way up into the Akatarawa Valley, where we stopped at this lovely little cottage with a terraced herb garden perched on a cliff above the river. The garden was a riot, even in what is effectively late November, and the shop was packed full of herbs and all the stuff one makes with them. If I were the sort of person who liked to make soap, or hand cream, or magic potions, I’d be all set right there. They even have classes in the tiny little enclosed porch. Must come back in the spring. I don’t know what the little thing is growing on this stump behind the moss, but it was neat. The pony was just hanging out munching on the side of the back road where we turned around. (It was one of *many* we saw this weekend, at various little farmlets. Different breeds. There must be some tiny pony fad going on right now. Doesn’t it have the cutest ears, though ?)

The bird, photographed in the garden, is called a fantail, on account of the little display it makes, fanning its tail out and in. (Flashback to three years ago, Stephen and I on vacation, marveling at the new birdlife:

“Excuse me, can you tell us what that bird is called ? The one that fans its tail in and out ?”
“A fantail.”
“Ah, naturally. How about the one that looks kind of like a robin, only black ?”
“That’s a black robin.”
“Ah. Right. How sensible. And the black one with the little white frill that sounds like a refugee from the Lucasfilm sound archives ?”
“That’s a tui, mate.”

Wanna know why they use the Maori name for the tui, but came up with a neatly descriptive name for the fantail ? Because the Maori name for the fantail is Tiwakawaka. Actually, that’s only one of several Maori names for it, all of which are pretty long, and most of which are descriptive of its behavior in some way. Like the hummingbird in South American folklore, the fantail is thought to be a warrior bird, and its bobbing, jumping display — especially the way it swings its tail back and forth like a spear — is compared to the haka, the Maori challenge dance. Hikers like them because they’ll follow you down the trail, fanning and cheeping, waiting for you to stir up yummy bugs for them to eat. (Aside: The robins that are black are not precisely the same as the black robin, which is an endangered species confined, I think, to the Chatham Islands.)

Saturday night was the birthday party that Chris and I were invited to last week. It was in the third floor function room at Molly Malone’s, an Irish pub on Courtenay Place (the one place in Wellington where the sidewalks stay firmly unrolled all night — at least on weekends). Had some of the best pub grub I’ve had in a long while, then went up and had a fine old time. There was live music all night, all provided — and some even composed — by the party-goers themselves (there was quite the pile of instrument cases in the corner). They started out with an oud and violin duet, then progessed through raucus celtic, raucus bluegrass, country and western (I have to tell you it was a treat, a *treat*, I tell you, to hear the same guys switch from their best Clancy Brothers Irish accents into Wayne Newton drawls), and even a bit of jazz. By the time Chris and I staggered out, well past our usual pumpkin time, they were playing the Doors. Tim and Liz (the oud and violin player, respectively) dragged Chris and I onto the floor for a bit of impromptu contra dancing at one point. Karl would have been appalled. He’d have enjoyed the hell out of it, but been appalled nonetheless. Tim and Liz have promised to take us to an ME jam session next Thursday night. Score !

So, how was it ?

Went to my first local dance class Monday, with Beverley, whom I’d heard good things about from a gal at a shop on Cuba Street. (Beverley’s troupe name is Amerain, incidentally, which I took as a good omen — Hi, Lynne !) Class was, in fact, quite fun — Beverley is upbeat and friendly and seems to know her stuff, and I got good vibes of many of the other women in the class, although I didn’t get much opportunity to interact with them yet, apart from a brief conversation with a Samoan woman by the beautiful name of Tuviata. (Aside: It’s apparently pronounced SAA-moa, not saMOa. And Maori is something more like MOW-ri, not may-OR-i.) This term Beverley’s having sort of theme classes — each class explores a different style. I missed some good ones, it sounds like, but this week was “American Tribal”, coincidentally enough, and some of the moves were similar to the stuff Anne’s been showing us. (I note that I’m still using “us”… *sigh*) Another interesting note was the use of live accompaniment in the form of a guy on a drum machine (I think the drum machine was new — this was the first time they’d tried it out). Beverley would say, “Give us something in a slow 6/8,” and he would oblige; or she’s just start going over moves, and he’d noodle out something that seemed to fit what she was doing. It sounded pretty good, actually, and was very useful for those stretches of class where you just want to go over the moves again and again. She did throw in a tape once or twice, though. Next week is Zar/trance, and the week after that we’re going to do a light “MTV Pop” class, where we learn some Shakira choreography. Hah !

The weather, which last week was clear and kind of chill, warmed up a bit and got cloudy this week. And windy. Monday was a gorgeous evening, if damp, and I was still pretty buzzed after the class (plus I’d had a yummy Mexicanoid dinner followed by yummy chai in an Indian cafe before class, so all in all, things had been going well) so I decided to walk the 20 or so minutes back to the train station, instead of taking the bus across town. It was really quite enjoyable, walking in the damp, warmish wind through the quiet streets. It was only around nine, so there were still people wandering toward restaurants, and there was still traffic in the streets, but not all that much, and it quieted considerably as I shifted closer to the waterfront business district toward the train station. There’s something about wandering a city at night that makes you feel more a part of it — like you’ve gotten to hang out with it out of its day clothes, just padding around in its T-shirt and boxers. Or maybe it’s that with fewer people around, the city has more attention to spare for the ones that have stayed past closing time. I dunno. I’ve been taking an hour in the middle of the day and just walking around, and I think I may be starting to feel at home in Wellington, a bit. Monday night certainly got me closer, anyway.

Speaking of Monday night, the Bestest Buddy award for this week goes to Chris, who got home all tired and sweaty from Kendo just in time to take an embarrased phone call from me, asking him could he pleeeeeeaaaase come pick me up downtown, because my decision to walk to the station had let me miss the train, and the next one wasn’t for another hour. He made sure I’d be more careful next time by playing the country music station (just a show, really, on a mixed access station) all the way home.

Tonight, we went to see the Matrix: Reloaded, which I enjoyed.

The Weekend Report, Sunday: Houses, Houses Everywhere

Sunday, Chris graciously drove me up and down more twisty little mountain roads (very twisty, very narrow, very I Hope There’s Not An Articulated Milk Truck Barreling Towards Me From Around That Blind Curve, because that’s a Very Long Drop), in my continuing quest to figure out just *where* we’re going to find a house that has the magic combination of Decent Commute and Land for Beasts. We started by driving up a road that the map would have you believe had nothing at all up it. There’s a quarry at the end nearest the highway (very likely the quarry they put Helm’s Deep in, but I haven’t confirmed this yet), and the other end is obscured in the map book by the Lower Hutt Enlargement. What’s *actually* up there is a lot of high country farmland with some absolutely *spectacular* views:

That’d be Horokiwi, for anyone following along at home. We gawped a lot, and chatted with an elderly British ex-pat who’d driven up with his wife to have a little picnic and take in the view, then came back out and made a stab at driving through Korokoro — which was very pretty, but also very residential, and very vertical — before scarfing down some meat pies and making for the two open houses we were actually aiming for. The first being a gorgeous little 10 acre farmlet up Whiteman’s Valley — which is sort of the next valley over from the Hutt, behind Silverstream, which is where C&N’s house is. It was neatly divided into paddocks by lines of trees and hedge, and on one side a little brook. One had a couple of cows; another had chickens (“chooks”, to rhyme with “books”) and a big black pig. There were a couple outbuildings, and in addition to the flat paddocks, the property continued up the hill behind. The house is what they call a “Lockwood”, and I’m still a little fuzzy about what exactly that means, apart from that it’s all wood paneled inside. It was pretty, but it felt kind of dark, and the rooms were very small.

The other one was in Stokes Valley, which is just south of Silverstream, and very residential. It was…. wacky, as you can see from that third picture. Very modernist. It bordered a track that went up into the reserve, which was nice, but… a little *too* wacky, I think. It was on 3.3 acres — which is why I wanted to see it in the first place — but apart from the bit they’d dug out right there alongside the house, it was all pretty much straight up the hill. Oh well. It’s certainly a good illustration of what Chris and Natasha observed during their own house hunt, which is that there simply *is* no standard house plan. Every house is different, probably necessarily so, in order to deal with each individual site’s combination of terrain and sun. So you can’t just look at a place from the street and say, “Oh, that’s a Colonial” (or a Cape, or a Ranch) and have some idea how the inside is arranged. Anyway, a lot of driving around this weekend, so I’m definitely ready to chill out tonight and watch more Fabulous Hat.

The Weekend Report, Saturday: If You Keep Driving, Eventually There is the Sea

Saturday morning started with returning the little clock/radio/CD player to Noel Leeming, where I’d bought it the week before. I figured if I bought a piece of electronic equipment for the express purpose of playing music, the sounds that come out of it ought really to sound like music. Call me fussy, but I like bass *and* treble, and this thing provided neither. Bleah. Clock/radios that also play CDs are thin on the ground, considering that they seem like such a useful, natural combination to have. I’m currently reconsidering my priorities in that department. In other areas, HEPA filters don’t seem to exist at all (Chris wanted one to help him deal with the wood smoke). I can only conclude that New Zealanders don’t suffer from allergies the way Americans do (possibly on account of a regular intake of wood smoke from an early age).

The trip to Noel Leeming (who offer financial services, in addition to electronics and appliances) was largely to kill time before the 11:30 show of Spirited Away at the local theater:

It seats about 30, all in those comfy padded sofettes. That’s the ticket counter, where they also sell tea, coffee, and home-made desserts. The little lounge area out of frame to the left features a cozy wood stove. So civilized ! (They have “normal” theaters here, too — we went to see X-Men 2 at one in Lower Hutt last week. They all have assigned seating, though, so when you call ahead to reserve your tickets you can also pick out your seats.)

After the movie, we did some more driving around, this time around the bay to the east and up over the ridge into Wainuiomata. Wainuiomata itself is more suburbia, but just outside it, you pick up the Coast Road to the south, and that goes all the way down along the Wainuiomata River to the sea. On a lark, we decided to see just how far that was, and are glad we did. The really big, gazillion-acre ranches are called “stations” down here, and we passed Pencarrow Station, which seemed to be mostly sheep, although we saw some cows as well. The weathered-looking building there is, in fact, a shearing shed — I had a peek in the window and saw stacks of fleeces and bits of equipment and stuff. Down at the coast is an empty stretch of much-pounded charcoal-colored beach, with seal colonies farther down, and a research station. At the breaker line, you could hear the stones being ground against each other, on their way to becoming sand.

Out just before where the breakers, uh, break (I’m sure there’s a technical term for this, that people who haven’t lived inland all their lives would know), there are beds of this *freaky* kelp stuff. It’s thick and rubbery, and it kinda flails around in the foam like cthulhoid alien tentacles. When it washes up and dries out, it looks just as weird — almost crystaline on the inside, and leathery on the outside. I got more pics if anyone wants texture maps for alien spaceships. Anyway, the light shines through it in a really neat way, as you can see.

After the driving, we had some time to kill before we were supposed to be at a “cocktail party” being given at the house that the woman who is one half of the twosome responsible for the Utilikilt is staying at, so we parked at Cuba Street (which was busily rolling up the sidewalks at 7PM on a Saturday night — I’m told Courtenay Place, where the clubs are, is open later) and walked around a bit. Our noses almost immediately led us to a little hole-in-the-wall family-run Korean BBQ which smelled fantastic and was full of Koreans. “Ah-hah !” we said.

Later, stuffed full of bi bim bap and kim chi, we arrived at the party to discover it mostly composed of forty-something Celtic musicians. I am not as good at pretending to be an extravert as I sometimes like to think, but nonetheless had a good time once I got to chatting with folks.