Week 1 of Course 2

Wow, only one week. Haha, in your time, yeah, it might seem like an average week. Here, it seems like its been way longer than that. At the same time, it doesn’t seem like we’ve done all that much.

The course we’re on is run by civilians, so I can say a bit more about it. For those of you who can remember way back when I was considering doing an NMIT course, before I decided to join the RNZAF, the course I am on now is the same as the first 3 months of the NMIT course. Its even run by NMIT.

Its been a slow start, we did a bit of administration for the first 2 days, then we started slow with workplace safety and maths. These both continue till the end of next week. Because its a civilian course, it has to be set up for everyone, and we have to stick to the syllabus, so these first few bits are just doing it for the sake of it, the maths and H&S is all stuff that we’ve learnt already in the AF, in fact the maths was what we needed just to join up. Although, for those that struggle with maths, I think they’re finding it useful. For someone like myself, though, I’m just considering that Mum was a pretty good teacher…

We also have a bit more time off, study breaks in the afternoon and such, which will be quite useful once we have stuff we need to study. For now they are just an excuse to knock off early. No fear, within 2 weeks I expect to be using most of the given study break, and within 3 weeks I’ll probably be using free time to study as well, so I don’t mind study, its just that I don’t see the point in studying stuff I don’t struggle with…

Its been a good chance to go into town and stock up on supplies etc too, I’ve managed to chuck my uniform in the wash, go to town, do some shopping, grab a meal, come back, iron everything, shower, and then be in bed by 7. Okay, that’s partly also the novelty of living 5km from town. I think I prefer living an hour and a half out tbh, but there definitely are some benefits of living closer…

One thing I’m not too happy about though is my car. I like it a lot, its good to drive, and doesn’t use an ounce of fuel more than I’d expect. However, I learnt a lesson in parking. Never park on the corner of a parking space. No, because Countdown parks here don’t have a concrete buffer at the end like I’m used to, so there’s no safety zone between your car and any car driving past. As the front left bumper of poor little Mitsi found out. Okay, yeah, if any of you saw it you’d laugh at how small a scratch it is, to be honest I would too, except she’s only 7 months old! I mean, really! I knew that if I kept her till she was 20, she’d probably have a few scars and scratches, maybe a ding here, a bit of rust there. But I guess I never expected anything to happen to her that early in life. And also considering the trip I just took her on to get her down here, I thought that I at least might get the privilege of choosing her first ding, not just get back from shopping and suddenly notice. Meh, oh well. Personally I think it was a targeted attack, for being a Gisborne driver. I’m amazed they don’t have more accidents, it seems more like what I’ve heard about India. People pulling out in front of you without warning is one case. I guess it follows logically, if they don’t stop to create gaps in traffic here, people will learn to create their own. I was bragging to my family about driving over the Whareratas, a hilly range south of Gisborne, without using my brakes once, just using the brake gear to slow myself down. Admittedly, it was wet, so I wasn’t going fast to start with, but I was still impressed with the ability of an automatic to do that. I tried again on the Rimutakas, the hills heading into Wellington, and got close, but there was one cutting too steep for it and I braked slightly. But I think that in the three trips to Blenheim I’ve had, I’ve probably used up more of my brake pads than in my entire 2 day trip down here. And I drive the same way I drive in Gisborne, so it’s not that I’ve suddenly started speeding or something. It’s insane.

What I find amusing is that they let us restricted drivers loose in a place like that, to deal with the hustle and bustle of busy rush hour traffic, but they won’t let us drive after 10pm, when the roads are quiet and most teenagers and young adults are normally awake then anyway.

It’s kinda annoying, too; I’m thinking of applying for an exemption to my license. When I finish this course, I really want to drive back home, as it’s cheaper. However, the way times work, for it to be practical time-wise, I have to get a night time ferry across the Strait. I can board at a completely legal time of around 7pm, but if we dock at 10pm in Wellington then I’m stuck. Short of driving off the ferry, pulling up before I get on the motorway, then sleeping in my car. I haven’t yet talked to the NZTA, but if I’m lucky I can get a half hour extension to my driving times, it’d make life so much easier…

Anyway, that’s all a long way off yet. In my last post, I mentioned some excitement. That was this Sunday. However, I also had some extra excitement on Saturday.

On Thursday, I received an email from Mark Fox, the CEO of the NZ branch of MAF, a mission organization I support. A lot of you might not know who they are, but they are an organization which flies in remote areas, such as PNG, Arnhem Land, Madagascar, Bangladesh, South Sudan, places like that, where there are millions of people in places hard to reach by land. MAF was started by two Kiwi WW2 pilots, who decided to use planes to reach those people, flying in supplies, food, first aid, evacuating serious medical patients, everything like that. Ironically, they actually have more planes and work in more countries than the RNZAF, and they commonly land on over 3000 airstrips around the world, more than any airline of any form. They help thousands of other organizations, from the UN right down to groups like World Vision. They are also an organization I’d like to work with one day.

Anyway, back at Easter, when we went to the Omaka airshow, they were there advertising, and I spoke with a couple of their guys about joining one day. One person I spoke to was Mark. On Thursday, like I say, he emailed. He said that their NZ plane was back in Omaka this weekend doing some promotional work, and would I like a short scenic ride? I think you can guess my answer!!!

Just a side note, their NZ plane has worked for them in several countries, but has now retired to NZ to go to airshows and such to promote MAF, and also to help with pilot training. The plane no longer flies aid missions as such. However, during the Kaikoura earthquake, it was brought back into service, delivering food and supplies to the isolated farms, such as Molesworth and Glenmore. Pretty cool that a plane bought by people in NZ, funded by people in NZ, flown by people in NZ, and retired to NZ, could suddenly see its last service helping people in NZ.

The purpose of the weekend was to get a flight in one of their planes, 4 of us plus a pilot took off from Omaka, flew about 15 minutes to a small rural airstrip which is similar to what MAF plans normally use, then we landed, turned around, and flew back. All in all just over 35 minutes between taking off from Omaka and landing again.

The small airstrip was interesting, I thought our old airstrip was bad. The strip is actually slightly bent, curving round the foot of a hill, so when taking off and landing, you don’t just go in a straight line. Also it is incredibly narrow, barely two planes wide. Our old strip you could have three or possibly four planes wingtip to wingtip across it. And there wasn’t a long straight run at it, you had to come in at an angle of around 90 degrees, then turn at the last moment, so you were still turning within about 15m from the ground. Still, it was a lot of fun, and definitely only made me even more excited for Sunday.

After landing, we then talked with the CEO of MAF, who did an informal recruiting presentation I suppose is how you’d describe it. Basically just letting us know what MAF does in a bit more detail, finding where we were at, that sort of thing. Overall, it was a very enjoyable few hours.

And then came Sunday. Sunday was what I had been planning for for a long time. I think even when I was 5 years old it was something I wanted to do, and now the dream has become a reality. (I don’t know how much cornier I can make this sound, so I’ll cut it there.) I WENT FOR MY FIRST FLYING LESSON!!!! Sorry, no photos, but I’ll try and get some next week. Yup, that’s right, next weekend I have another one!!!

So this one was an introductory lesson, learning the basics of everything. Spent about half an hour in the air, which included a brief intro to turning, go higher, go lower, going straight and level, taking off, and landing. I picked most of that up pretty fast, so just for fun he chucked in stalling, engine failure, and then for the thrill of it, wing-overs. The wing-over was definitely the best, that’s where you go completely sideways, one wing pointing straight at the ground, the other pointing straight at the sky. (Dad, you will probably be glad you weren’t there.) He offered me a chance to do it, although I declined, because it does apply several Gs (if you don’t know what G’s are, 1G is the force of gravity. Right now, provided you are sitting in a normal place, ie, a house or something, stationary and on solid ground, you should feel roughly 1G, depending on how close to sea level you are. When you fly in a tight circle, that force increases, so you feel heavier than normal. So when we do a turn which applies 3G, that means that you feel like you are 3 times heavier than normal. Weird but awesome feeling, although it can be dangerous, because too many G means that your heart doesn’t have the strength to pump blood to your brain, thus causing you to black out. On the ground, blacking out is fine. In the air when in control of a plane, well, you can guess how that goes. 🙂 Anyway, because of the extra Gs, I declined, as I felt it might be a bit much to keep concentrating on the task while quite literally under all that pressure.

Since some of you will no doubt want to know, I was in a Piper Tomahawk. Not to be confused with Trump’s Tomahawks, although they both fly, they aren’t the same.

Its a cool little plane, two seater, ideal for training, forgiving, not too fast, not too slow, stable, and kind of a cute shape. The general gist of the training was that he’d demonstrate something and talk through what he was doing, then since it’s dual control I’d lightly hang onto the steering column and follow through his movements, then he’d give me control of the plane, and I’d have to do something similar. So that might be turn and line up with such and such a hill, get level to such and such a point, whatever. Some things we did together, like taxiing. At first he controlled the throttle and I steered, although he did give me the throttle a bit later. Taking off he had the throttle again but he let me lift it off the ground with the steering column. He did all the radio stuff though, he didn’t give me too much at once.

He was a pretty cool instructor, although unfortunately he has next weekend off so I’ll have the other guy, but no matter, they both seem very nice. My only problem now is to get the silly grin off my face.

Back To Work

Yup, back to work. RC is finished, I’ve had a nice week off (it was great to be home for a week!), but now once again I am on my way South, ready for whatever adventure awaits.

Home was fun, we had a heavy rain warning (not my fault) out the day before pregnancy testing our cows, the chainsaw died (probably not my fault), and a water pipe cut (okay, that one was my fault I gotta admit). Incredibly, my parents still said they look forward to my next trip home…

The next stage of training won’t be as exciting so don’t expect as many posts. Its just an engineering course related to aircraft. I daresay there’ll be some laughs and I’ll keep my ears open for quotables, but otherwise don’t expect much. Oh, and there’s hopefully something exciting planned for this weekend, but that’s saved for another post.

For now, I shall enjoy the few luxuries offered, such as being allowed to use a laptop (some of you can expect a few more emails lol), having my own car, and slightly more freedom.

So, the car. Oh, Mitsi is such a lucky girl. Saturday morning I left home and drove to Masterton, her longest trip with me yet. Also my longest drive yet, and first time driving by myself outside my home town. Went well, no accidents, nothing noteworthy at all really, other than unpleasant weather. One time the rain got really heavy, I was just starting to think I might pull over and wait for it to pass when it eased a bit which was nice.

It was also my first time using my phone to navigate, that was interesting. It took a few back roads and bypasses that I never knew existed, but which meant I skipped a couple of towns that have intersections and roundabouts and all those horrible things. Haha, no, it was scenic and probably did make things faster, so I’m not complaining. Wellington was a challenge, some intersections were too close to give commands between, I learnt I had to glance at the screen to see where it wanted me. Also when I went through a tunnel it lost GPS connection and missed an intersection while it reconnected. But at least for every mistake I made, it just figured a different route. Gotta love electronic navigators… One good thing was that I knew roughly where I was going, but having a rough idea in your head and knowing exactly what to look for on the ground are two different things. Not to mention, when the navigator takes you on a shortcut, you suddenly don’t know where you are, only it does…

The downside was the speed limit. It generally changed the speed limit quite a way before or after the actual road sign, which meant I wouldn’t slow down when it wanted or I would speed up before it wanted, then it would start setting off alarms saying I was speeding.

(And now I’m back.) Strange, the past 14 weeks, I managed to control myself and not get homesick. I just prevented it, I guess, I knew if I started then it wouldn’t get any easier. However, when I first drove away from home, then the last 20 minutes driving from Picton, and finally unpacking just now, I got the most homesick I’ve ever been. Strange, I enjoy it here, everyone’s great, I like my job, but, yeah, there’s kinda this big unknown of what’s ahead, and for the first time, I felt homesick. Thankfully I’m fine now, not that I don’t want to miss home, its just, when I miss it, I really miss it.

Today (Monday) was good, it was mostly admin, learning what it is that we have to learn, touring round hangars etc. It’s a reasonably hard course, I need a 70% pass rate just to pass the next 3 months, so don’t get your hopes up for too many posts or anything. For now, though, I have no homework, so let’s catch up on some of those emails, I don’t think I have anything left to add here.

The End Is Where We Begin

As I start writing this, I am on day 3 of my week off after having completed Recruit Course. I do admit that I haven’t talked about a lot other than that over the past 13 weeks, but at the same time, I haven’t done much other than that either.

Graduation went well, we had incredible weather, and it was great to see Mum and Dad again. I won’t go into detail about grad, in short it involved lots of marching around the parade ground, doing different drill moves which meant different things, but if you didn’t see them, they really wouldn’t make much sense. Bee, if you really want photos, Kayger has some, so feel free to get them off her.

Oh, and I should also put a disclaimer that this blog title is a song by TFK, if there’s any copyright concerns guys? No? Okay, all good…

This post is really just a collection of some of the short stories that didn’t make it on to previous posts, plus I’ll wrap up RC, and if you’re really lucky, I’ll include some other stuff.

Other Stuff #1:
A while back we discussed blog views and which countries visit? Here’s an interesting site stat for you:

Blog Stats

That’s all the countries that have viewed this blog in the last 2 years. Yup, that’s right, Highcountry View is now entering its third year. Time flies huh?

These stories will all seem unconnected and brief, but they just get an honorable mention.

The first is the Story of the Magic Broom. I’m not sure if you’ve ever seen a broom with a telescopic handle. I have, but no one else in my section had. I laugh, but I guess it was fair enough. We had to clean some walls, and they were high walls that a normal broom wouldn’t reach. However I recognised some of the brooms in our cupboard as being telescopic, so while our section debated how to clean the walls, I quietly went off and got one of those brooms, and without saying anything, just walked up, unscrewed it, and started extending it. I don’t usually put memes on here, but this sums up the expression on each face in my section as they fell silent and watched:

Image result for surprised cat

Next story relates to a towel roll. You know those towel rolls they have in public bathrooms, that just look like an endless towel? We use those, and as such we have also learnt that they are not endless. When they run out, we have to change them, and the set-up is actually a little bit tricky. Easy enough to figure out when you put your mind to it, but otherwise they can be quite hard. One day when it was our job to clean the bathrooms we needed to change the towel too. One guy insisted he could do it, and was quite scathingly condescending when I offered to do it for him. 10 minutes later, he still hadn’t got it figured, so when I offered again, he reluctantly accepted. About 30 seconds later, I had it all in place. I don’t usually put memes on here, but this sums up the expression on his face:


Another incident that happened with the same guy was when we did a “rescue” exercise. Basically, go out and find an “injured” dummy, give first aid, then bring him back to base. For this we had to carry a stretcher with us, so I offered to carry it. This guy was extremely critical of that offer, stating that at least two people would be needed to carry the stretcher. I could hardly believe him, it was two poles and a piece of canvas for goodness’ sake. I pointed that out to him in as many words. Okay, I probably could have been more tactful in my phrasing, but I was kinda in a state of disbelief that he reckoned that something only a few kgs needed to be carried by two people. In case you’re wondering, I managed to carry it the full 2km without resting, and I also walked faster than him just to prove a point. Okay, I can be a bit of a smart alec, I admit. I don’t usually put memes on here, but this probably sums up the expression on my face:

Image result for smug dog

One of the rules around the mess is that speed is the aim, eating is the game. Ideally all of us should get through in 15 minutes, and that counts going through the servery. I don’t usually put memes on here, but this sums up some recruits walking out of the mess:

Image result for dog gobbling food

We also had a few mog rides. It was funny how attitudes changed in the mogs; at first people would fight to get the rearmost seat, as that was where you had the best view. After approximately one trip, they started fighting for the foremost seat, as that was where it was warmest. Personally I don’t mind the cold and do like the view, so I often got the back seat. Lucky me. However, our last trip in a mog was 90 minutes in rain, strong wind and temperatures around the 5 degree mark, before including the wind factor. I don’t usually put memes on here, but this pretty much sums up what I looked like by the end:

Image result for wet tabby cat

Longest day, that was fun. Teamwork, hardwork, footwork, every type of work possible. Overall it was tiring but fun, the arguments we had with each other; different opinions and ideas, some of which worked, some of which didn’t. It helped most of our team bond pretty well, although sadly some never really put to work what we learnt during that time. I don’t usually put memes on here, but this pretty much sums up most of us during dinner after Longest Day:

Image result for tired dog

On the note of Longest Day, I should probably mention the first day. It is hard to think back to the first day, as we all stepped off our planes/buses/cars/ferries, scared, with no idea of what was coming. To look back on everything that’s happened, it’s amazing to think what’s happened. I don’t usually put memes on here, but this sums up the before and after of recruit course:

Image result for nervous dog meme
Day 1

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Day 96

Over Easter of course, some of us stayed back at base and helped out at the Omaka airshow. Unknown to anyone was that we’d fly in on an NH-90. So many recruits went home for Easter smirking at us who were staying behind. I don’t usually put memes on here, but this sums us up when they came back:

Image result for Really? But guess what I did meme

That’s probably enough stories for now.

With the review of the past 13 weeks, I will try not to turn it into some corny, sloppy little “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” kind of summary. Although in some ways, it was completely what I expected, in others, it was nothing like what I expected. On the last Sunday night, the day before we were to shift to our new barracks, our dorm deliberately had a small dinner, then ordered a whole bunch of pizzas and had a dorm pizza night. We just sat around and reflected on everything and it was amazing how we all felt. Jubilant at having almost finished, a little bit sad that we’d soon be each going our separate ways to different courses and dorms, and also just a little bit unbelieving that it was almost over.

I think we each expected to graduate as different people, better somehow, changed, but we didn’t really feel any different. We were still the same ordinary people that we were when we started, we just knew more. We may have changed in ways we didn’t realise, but we just didn’t feel any different. I dunno, whether we thought we’d feel more mature, more “adult” somehow, we’re still just a bunch of kids with a larger number in the age box. We still prank each other, we still joke around, we still have immature fun and enjoy it. I guess there’s nothing wrong with that, it just seemed weird. Different to what we expected.

At the same time, though, it’s been a great time and one we won’t forget easily. As everyone says, you only have one recruit course, and those memories and moments you create are what sticks with you. I can definitely say it’s created some good friends and there’s definitely a bond between most of us that won’t be broken easily. And that is most, not all. Some of us didn’t get along. Some of us don’t work well together. By far the minority, but there are definitely some nonetheless.

All in all, I have enjoyed it, and if I had known when I started what I know now, I still would have gone. For now, all that’s left is to enjoy the rest of my time at home, then onwards and upwards to the next stage of training. I guess I’ll end this post here because although I don’t usually post memes on here, this probably sums up you guys right now: