I spent much of last week at a conference in Hamilton, about 2hrs southeast of Auckland. I gave my talk on the first day, and other people were responsible for the exhibit booth, both of which lowered my stress level for the rest of the trip.
Hamilton is the capital of the Waikato region, and has a pretty poor reputation… agriculture, rednecks (called “bogans” here), etc. If NZ were big enough to have flyover states, Hamilton would be a place you scoff at from your business class seat.
But like many such places, there are plenty of good parts. The Waikato River is nice, well-stocked with rowers and paddlers, and bordered by a miles-long bike trail.
The downtown strip is mostly unattractive but they do love them some Christmas, so that’s all right.
And…and… and… it turns out Richard O’Brien thought up the Rocky Horror Picture Show while working as a barber here. Any town with a life size Riff-Raff statue cannot be all bad. And a Riff-Raff webcam.
I took a lovely little jog around Lake Rotoroa, and my knees didn’t hurt any more at the end than at the beginning, which is an improvement over the last few weeks.
We got a nice welcoming song and dance routine from the local Iwi. I blow hot and cold about the hat-tip to Māori culture that is sort of obligatory here, no matter how white the assembled audience. This time, I found it moving and inspiring. And on the subject of inspiring, if you ever want to be reminded why healthcare technology might be a career worth pursuing, check out Terry Lee, whose life is made more bearable by all the gadgets and gizmos and high-tech stuff.
The big conference social event was at Hobbiton. I initially had mixed feelings: my third visit in under three years. But this was the first time I’d been there without rain, and we had the whole place to ourselves, an amazing buffet dinner, and so on. As we stood around the fire pit watching the jugglers and listening to the band, all doubts were erased.
It was my third time at this conference, and a pleasure to catch up with some old friends (and tell stories about others not in attendance) and some New Zealand friends who are starting to feel like old friends. I can’t say I miss the level of travel I used to do, but it was fun to be back in conference mode for a few days.