I work for a helicopter company. To be exact, I'm the Marketing Manager for a tourism operator who really is more of an entertainment company. We provide extraordinary (and yes, they really are), interpretive excursions by helicopter. We also happen to be "the" luxury helicopter operator in Queenstown. As such we are very much involved with the local tourism body, Destination Queenstown, and the national tourism body, Tourism New Zealand. This past two weeks, I've been working with both groups on what are called "famils". This is short for familiarization. Basically, budgets and logistics get worked out to bring in influential people to visit Queenstown and NZ. On Friday we flew 3 very influential journalists from New York who write for a world famous publication. I drove to town to pick up these 3 interesting and well traveled people, 2 women and 1 man. They were nice people. Definitely people you would love to chat with for hours to hear of all their experiences, stories, and people they know and have interviewed. In fact, one of the women is the author of Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Storyteller. This is the book of which one of my favorite movies was based on, Out of Africa, starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford.
Anyway, after their flight and what I heard was a fantastic lunch at a local exclusive golf clubhouse, they returned to our hanger, one of them claiming to have just had a life-changing experience. (Proudly I say, this is quite a common comment from our guests.) Luggage already loaded into the boot of our company Jeep, I drove them to the airport for their return flight to America. After loading their many bags on trolleys, they all thanked me for the experience and gave me hugs wishing me good luck in NZ. Then quite by surprise, the gentleman leaned toward me for one last farewell placing his face so close to mine that it quite surprised me. I thought, well, this is a bit much, but many it really was a special experience for them. So I kissed him every so lightly. Immediately I was horrified as I realized that he was attempting to do the hongi. The hongi is a traditional Maori greeting expressed by the rubbing or touching of noses. In the words of Homer Simposon, "DOH!!!!!!" One of the women must have seen my embarrassment as she approached me to do the hongi as well. This time I got it. Thank the Maori Gods!
Honestly, as worldy and educated as these 3 clever people are, I never suspected that to come from them. They were so "city" and so "New York". Shame on me, I know. Anyway, that was probably embarrassing moment #2. I'm still trying to decide if I want to share my #1 moment which has now apparently earned me the comment, "Now Carmen has finally arrived", from local friends.