Countdown to Wedding: On the Road in New Zealand

John McManamy Health Guide
  • Today is Wednesday. Let me explain. I’m in New Zealand. Friday night, I boarded a plane out of LAX and landed 13 hours later in Auckland, NZ, then on to Wellington. I lost all of Saturday in transit, but I understand I get Monday back on the return flight, plus a day to be named later.

    Prior to disembarking from LA, I caught up with two good friends. I went with one of them to a lecture given by Robert Liberman MD of UCLA, probably the world’s leading authority on psychiatric rehabilitation. Recovery is the big buzzword these days, but the true pioneers have been doing rehabilitation for decades. Dr Liberman has been refusing to give up on the hardest group of patients since Day One. He is one of the enlightened ones.
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    Of course, I was on vacation, but, hey, this is what we do in our spare time.

    Sunday: 9:00 AM. My daughter Emily and her financee Hamish greet me at the baggage carousel. She is the most beautiful woman in the world, and she is marrying the greatest guy. Suddenly, I’m wide awake, despite maybe two vertical hours of sleep in the past 30. We don’t stop talking till around midnight.

    Monday morning: My sister-in-law arrives.  More talk-talk-talk. Then I start looking up old mates. I arrive at “Linda’s” for dinner. She goes back to my law school days at the University of Otago. Through most of our second year, my first wife, Gail, also a law student, was pregnant with Emily. Gail and Linda have remained best friends ever since. Linda has seen Emily grow up.

    We immediately start talking and don’t stop till midnight. Hmm. A pattern. I give Linda a copy of my book, Living Well with Depression and Bipolar Disorder. Midway into the evening, the conversation shifts to a family member of hers. My job is to listen. Serendipitously, the stuff I learned from the Liberman talk directly applies.

    Quick interlude: I lived in New Zealand for 11 years in the 70s and 80s. Wellington has changed enormously since I last visited in 1991. The waterfront is now a mini-Sydney, and the city has all the advantages of an American city minus the homeless and George Bush as President. They have a health care system that works, the arts are thriving, the right-wing crackpot fringe is just that, a right-wing crackpot fringe, and even the most conservative political party is more liberal than the most liberal political party in the States.

    At the same time, a strong entrepreneurial spirit is driving a vital economy.

    Nothing is perfect, of course. I used to be a financial journalist here, and when I left in 1986, the country was in serious danger of becoming an IMF basket case. The standing joke used to be, last one to leave New Zealand please turn out the lights. My biggest fear was that of my daughter growing up in a third-world nation.

    Somewhere, somehow, New Zealand righted itself. I have always loved New Zealand, bad times and good. This is where my daughter was born, grew up, and will be sharing her future with a great guy.

    Like me, she has two passports, New Zealand and US. But she is the Kiwi and I am the Yank. We are family, and no distance, no dateline, can separate us.
Published On: March 11, 2008