Not really, but that is the year I kept hearing all day while at the Royal Armouries in Leeds. Regarding the Battle of Hastings, of course. I’m spending Easter weekend here with a friend, which is conveniently when the armouries hosts a jousting tournament. We went along to watch competitors from the UK, Norway, and France. In the teams event France beat Norway, which I was secretly hoping for. It did seem a bit out of reach when Norway stormed ahead, but the Frenchman almost singlehandedly pulled ahead of the Norway team and won it for his country. His individual score was 1 point behind the Norway team’s total.
These competitors manage to travel the world for their work, and so did some enterprising British people who we find in New Zealand’s immigration history. Heading forward a few hundred years, to the late 1700s, we see some sealers and whalers arriving in New Zealand. Not many people would think to make the journey over. 100 days at sea, crossing vast deadly oceans, and heading for a land that nobody knows much about would not be the most attractive prospect. But these people did it. They left their lives back home and headed off to seek these potentially great opportunities.
It’s understandable then, that thousands of us make the journey back the other way every year. I spent about a day and a half travelling on planes to get to Paris. After a few brilliant days there for a long overdue catch up, I took a two hour train ride to England. Even with that delay in France, I arrived in London less than 7 full days after leaving New Zealand. Did I have troubles? Of course. Were they potentially dangerous? No. As I left Wellington for the first stage of my trip I was delayed by about half an hour. No big deal, especially when there were many big delays and cancellations over the following few days. Leaving Auckland was fine, and we even arrived in Shanghai half an hour ahead of schedule.
The biggest issue I had was getting through Shanghai airport. The standard process when transiting is to have your bags checked to your final destination and only clear customs once you arrive there. In Shanghai, you and your bags have to clear customs pretty much no matter what. I had about 3 and a half hours to get through this process. Get off the plane (I was in the very back row); clear temporary visa control (1 desk for dozens of us. I was about 15th in line and it took me about half an hour to get through. A lot of us were in another line before we were told to go to the other end of the room. That was a sign of things to come); collect my checked bag; go to the other terminal and check in (Ok, here we go. Go to the counter to check in. They check you in and send your bag away. Then you have to follow your bag to a manual security check where you open it and show what is in there. Then you take it BACK to the check in desk where they give you your boarding pass and send your bag straight back down the same conveyor belt); clear customs (just like visa control, the number of agents for foreigners was abysmal); clear security (rinse and repeat. Also, felt even more strict than US security); go to gate. It was the most stressful and long transit I have been involved with, yet surprisingly only took about 2 and a half hours. So it sucked, but it wasn’t a big deal. Probably wouldn’t do it again though.
Once I was on the plane to Paris, it was smooth sailing (or flying) from there on out. My exposure to French culture began from the moment I boarded that plane and I was finally excited for what was to come. Everything I had spent the previous nine months planning for (and 4 years prior to that just thinking about it) was finally a reality.
What did I have to worry about? Nothing. I wasn’t risking my life by leaving my country, probably never to return, on a boat that takes 3 months to reach its destination, to chase money on the other side of the world. I was taking a leisurely 7 day trip, including a 5 day stopover in Paris, to a country I am not likely to spend the rest of my life in. I am chasing career development and new experiences. Money can come later. Being a white, western immigrant in 2017 is without a doubt a much simpler experience than being a white, western immigrant in 1817.