I flew from Sydney to Auckland today. I got to the airport early so I walked around a bit. It’s amazing the kinds of places you can go from Sydney. Macau, Shanghai, Fiji, Guam, Atlanta…the list goes on.

This flight was going to Port Vila in the dream destination of Vanuatu.

The talk around town is about last week’s Auckland Tornados, which sadly killed three people. The taxi driver who brought me into town told me about the devastation. Something like 150 houses were damaged. It’s apparently very unusual for this area. Perhaps it’s evidence of the Mayan Calendar coming to fruition.

Anyway, after taking a quick walk around the neighborhood to shake the thought that the world is coming to an end, I noticed that the holy grail of eateries exists right here in this very hotel.

That’s the Ferry Building over on the left. My hotel is tucked behind that little white building in the middle

Let me put it this way: If I were on death row and they gave me my choice of last meals, I’d ask that they roll in a Teppanyaki. Griddle, set the thing up in my cell, and cook away. There is very little in the way of food that I love more than a Japanese-Cook-In-Front-of-You-Place. And there one sits. Right in the lobby. Even though I wasn’t really all that hungry, I couldn’t stop myself. How could I not dive right in?

So, I walked up three little stairs (that’s all the exercise you need to consume 10,000 calories of buttered-up goodness) and peeked around the folding screen. There was not a soul to be found in the place. Crickets could be heard as they hopped across the cold grills. The lights were fading. My hopes seemed dashed. Then, all of the sudden, out of nowhere appeared a waitress. My savior, I thought!

“Have you got room for one?” I asked pleadingly.

Looking pained, she said, “Let me see if we can make space.”

It would be easy for me to think she didn’t want me there. But I chose, diplomatically, to chalk it up to a New Zealand English v. U.S. English thing.

She came back and escorted me in, offering the best seat in the house. I know it was the best seat because it had a wonderful view of a TV, which was showing a charming YouTube clip of a Geisha dancing against a cartoon backdrop in a blue kimono with an imaginary snowball. I know it was an imaginary snowball because the narration told me.

I ordered and out came Steven, the chef.

“Where are you from?”

“The United States.”

“Oh! Are you excited about Obama?”

Now, I’ve learned by now that when that question gets asked abroad (which happens a lot), the right answer is always, “It’s exciting! What do you think?” A non-answer answer with a deflection is the right choice every-time.

“I really like him. And Hillary Clinton, too. My family are couriers and couriers really like them.”

Wait a tick. What? The President and Secretary of State are doing good things for New Zealand Couriers who moonlight as Japanese-Cook-in-Front-of-You-Place Chefs? I don’t follow. Steven went on talking more about Secretary Clinton and Vice President Biden and President Obama and really the whole of the cabinet. The guy’s knowledge of US politics was striking. I could have given him my zip code and he probably could have named my representative while pouring more butter onto my fried rice. Keep it coming, man!

Finally, he said,

“My parents brought me here from courier when I was very young.”

Got it. Finally. Courier = Korea. I’m an idiot.

Anyway, he went on to ask about what I was planning to do while I was here as well as how much I’d paid for the room. I began to feel vaguely uncomfortable. However his Teriaki Chicken was quite good.

That says, “Haddy Xmas Thank You,” which isn’t impressive except that it was written upside down and in salt! Can you do that? I can’t do that.

The poor waitress had the job of watching the two of us. I think either (a) Steven was on thin ice or (b) they were afraid I might dine-and-dash. Either way, I felt bad for her because the three-minute YouTube clip of the dancing Geisha was on repeat. She must have to listen to that thing hundreds of times every shift.

Anyway, tomorrow, I’m planning to explore the city a bit more. Hopefully, I’ll get some sleep. Some poor sap is hacking up a lung next door.