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My first year at ITC, John Windle

Posted on 16/11/2010 by

“You’re going where?” asked Rob. I was standing in the White Horse in Brixton, a busy noisy suburb in South London, the centre of the Afro-Caribbean community in London and my home for the last 5 years. It was the usual 6pm drink on a Friday night when I caught up with my mates to celebrate the end of another working week.

“I’m going to New Zealand. I’ve been offered a job at the International Travel College in Auckland”. “But who will you teach?” asked my mate Rob. All the kiwis are here on their OEs living in West London, working in bars” he said before asking if I liked Kangaroo meat. Geography has never been one of Rob’s better subjects. Ask him about which label the Doors recorded on or the artwork on the last Dr Feelgood album and he’ll bore you for hours, but knowing the difference between New Zealand and Australia (or any other English speaking country) and he’s useless.

Yes I was lucky enough to have been offered a job at the multiple award winning college by the director Karen Houston. The next few weeks were busy as organised a tenant for my flat, sold loads of stuff on eBay (the UK version of TradeMe) and waved goodbye to my battered little blue 1997 Fiat Punto. There were tearful parties with friends and family and then the big day arrived, more hugs, tears and those awkward silences when people see you off at the airport and you’ve all said all there is to say. And then suddenly I had gone through passport control and I was alone in the departure lounge at Gatwick waiting for the Emirates flight to Dubai where I would transfer to the Auckland flight via Brisbane.

I felt quite strange. This wasn’t like going on holiday where you know you’ll be coming back through the same gate in a week or two, back to your flat where piles of junk mail from Estate Agents and Indian takeaway menus will be waiting for you in the letter box. I was leaving London and I didn’t know when I’d be back. I was flying to a country I hadn’t visited for 13 years to work in a building I had never seen with people I had never met.

The flight was good but full. Dubai was hot and Brisbane was cool at 4am. And then flying over the Tasman Sea I got my first glimpse of New Zealand. But only for a second, as we were inevitably engulfed in Long White Clouds until we were right over Auckland. The cloud was low so I only briefly saw “No” Tree Hill, the Skytower and Waitemata Harbour. But then the mud flats of Manukau Harbour hurtled towards us and we glided into Auckland Airport.

My first day was good. Kerry introduced me to the rest of the team and Michelle organised a morning tea in Travel World where I shook hands with everyone apart from Lanthia who gave me a hongi. Nice touch I thought.

Since then at work I have taught a variety of subjects, been on field trips to Devonport, harbour cruises, ten pin bowling in Panmure, organised the ITC New Zealand Fashion Awards with Inder and Caroline last November, been up the Skytower, run with a torch through the tunnels in North Head, visited a Marae, organised the ITC FIFA World Cup (Brazil won) and worked with some amazing students. Travel and Tourism is a people business and the grounding the students get at ITC is excellent. Employers I have talked to are impressed by the quality of the students. ITC has just won another two awards this time at the prestigious Manukau Business Awards for customer service and innovation.

So, I’ve been here nearly a year now. I’ve missed English pubs and my mates. But Auckland has been very good to me so far. When I occasionally pine for home and a decent kebab I have found an English shop in Onehunga where I can buy Curly Wurlies and Scampi Fries. But I have been introduced to Jaffas, Pavlovas, the freshest fruit and vegetables and good hangis. I’m still undecided about L&P but I am now hooked on “This Is Not My Life” on TVNZ. I have discovered that when someone says bring a plate, they don’t mean “we have run out of crockery” so bring an empty plate, that they mean you’re supposed to take bring some food. And my mate Rob would be disappointed to learn I have had no kangaroo meat.

Maybe one of my strongest memories from my first year in Auckland is standing on Kohimarama beach at sunset with amazing shades of red, orange and purple overhead, watching the Queen Mary 2 sail past Rangitoto, out of Auckland harbour on her way back to England. She was an impressive site. I quietly wished her bon voyage but as I stood there barefoot with the sand between my toes I had no wish to be sailing back to England with her.

John Windle is the programme leader for the Diploma course at The International Travel College of New Zealand.

John (left) pictured with some of the team at a Graduation 

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