We spent a few extra nights on the South Island in Picton while Cyclone Cook moved through. The North Island again took the brunt of the damage (much like a week earlier when Cyclone Debbie hit). We had very high winds for a full night and tons of rain for two straight days. The place we stayed had some chairs blown across their yard, there were flooded rugby fields and lawn bowling clubs, and we watched some people bailing out their boats in the harbor. It was nothing like the damage done up north, but still a weather event.
We stayed in a very cool Bed & Breakfast with the greatest hosts I’ve ever met named Kevin and Leita. I’m sure we’ll have more posts about them, but they have a few rooms they rent out in their house so guests are coming and going. The night Cyclone Cook came through, an American named Weird Brad stop in, hoping for a room and to get out of the rain. I changed his name slightly because I don’t know his last name, and he was weird. Anyway, Weird Brad stopped in whilst we were making dinner and we exchanged pleasantries and found out he left the US in 2014. Then we had the following conversation:
Me: “So, what brings you to New Zealand?”
WB: “I’m looking for freedom.”
Me: (Quickly answering to try to cover up my discomfort) “Oh, so are you here on a work visa?”
WB: “My work visa ran out months ago. Now I’m seeking refugee status. I went to Wellington to renounce my American Citizenship to find freedom. They told me it would cost $5K, which didn’t seem right. Then the man on the phone wasn’t very nice to me.”
Me: (Thinking “Hmm, if you’ve been traveling since 2014, what happened that you are ‘looking for freedom’? And then thinking, “Did you really just say, ‘The man wasn’t very nice to me?'”) “Oh, we’re having some frozen chicken strips for dinner.”
WB: “Oh, I made a bunch of chicken strips before I left Christchurch so I’d have something to eat.”
Me: “Yep, they’re easy and cheap so we like them once in a while.”
I kept pulling dinner together for a few minutes. Weird Brad then picked up his small backpack and his plastic bag of stuff and went out the door. I assumed he went out to have a smoke or something, but then he never came back. We were like two ships passing in the night. Or like one ship and one somewhat odd, disgruntled, “freedom-seeking” goofball passing in the night.