I have been lucky enough to have many reunions with dear friends during this visit to New Zealand. But one stood out in my heart more than the others. When I lived in Queenstown I had made friends with a little boy and we met up weekly to hang out and do fun stuff. I was really missing the meaningful relationships and effect that I had previously had with pupils, so when the opportunity arose to befriend this little fella I jumped at the chance.
We became buddies when he was 5 years old and one of our first missions was to teach him how to ride a bicycle without training wheels.
He is now 14 years old and visiting him was one of my last stops before getting back to Queenstown. I had saved this reunion until near the end, a little bit like you might save your favourite food on your plate until the end of your meal.
I visited him 3 years ago and he has been quite shy, which surprised me. He was always like a little ball of energy and we instantly got on well with each other.
This time there was no such warming up and we were straight into reminiscing and joking. It is something pretty special to know a small child and wonder how they will turn out when they grow up. He is everything I hoped he would be and more; funny, caring, excitable and contented. We spent an evening with his family, having brilliant banter and laughs and then the next day we spent the day taking Invercargill by storm on our bikes.
It was amazing to see him flying about confidently on his bike, much of the time with no hands, and hear his stories of mountain biking missions. What a joy, to still share a love of bikes, so many years later.
We made friends with animals in his local park, span on the roundabout and giant hamster wheel until we were both dizzy, took countless selfies, tried (unsuccessfully) to cycle through a MacDonalds’ drive-thru and ate amazing burgers at Devil Burger. As with so many friends, the distance and interim time melted into insignificance and we slotted right back into a great friendship.
I had to leave all too soon, as has become a normal feeling on this trip. But I do know we will be friends forever and I am excited for future updates and catch ups. BFFs for sure.