I met Roland at Solscape in Raglan. He was the one who asked me where I was from when I wasn’t even looking at him. He is Swiss German. 25 years old and about to start his PHD in what he translated as “sports medicine” but isn’t quite that. For his master’s thesis he conducted experiments on rowing test subjects to see if their strenth and power, and other physical attributes, changed according to the level of cheering. His girlfriend is a medical student in Switzerland, and he says though they have been together five years they have never vacationed together. When he is on holiday, she has exams, and vice versa. Also, he is a keen surfer and this can often not be too fun for a significant other if they are not a surfer as well.
When I first met him, I thought that he must be a typical Swiss German. Serious, reserved, stoic. Especially in relation to Tom the Australian who was gregarious and talkative and had me laughing non-stop from the moment I met him. I liked them both immediately.
Roland’s English is really quite good, but he does have to concentrate to understand. Around him my pronunciation has gotten a whole lot better. I had a hard time understanding Tom with his thick south Australian accent, and poor Roland could barely follow. At one point Tom asked him something and he had been spacing out. He apologized and said he was exhausted from trying to follow the conversation and was taking a break. So this air of seriousness is less a personality trait and more a symptom of the effort it takes for him to understand.
As we have spent more time together over the past week, and gotten more comfortable around each other, I have found that Roland is really very funny himself. A somewhat dry sense of humor, delivered straight. The first night I met him, Tom had been asking me if I liked wine and I explained I didn’t drink. He pressed me a little about it and I gave him the standard short version which is I used to drink, it was messy, so I quit. Roland and I are in New Plymouth now, sharing a room at a hostel. While I was hanging around in the lounge, he came out and said’ “Did you notice what it smells like in the room?” I hadn’t. “Tequila.” Huh, I definitely didn’t notice that. A while later as he ate his bowl of pasta and butter he says to me’ “I think you are drinking when I am not looking” with a sly smile. “And you just go around telling everyone you don’t drink”. Hahahaha. A while later as I was cracking up to the clip of Jon Stewart taking the piss out of CNBC, Roland says from across the table, “Now I am SURE you are drinking”.
Roland has been the perfect traveling partner. Courteous, friendly but does his own thing, helpful and generally easy-going. When I first arrived and people kept asking me about my traveling alone, I was quick to reassure them that I loved it. I could go where I want, when I want, not having to worry about anyone else’s plans. But I have to say I have been more than happy to make the little compromises necessary to travel with Roland. It does help that we have very much the same plans. And now that we are in Taranaki, finding the best waves is paramount. Today we are going to pack up and travel farther south down the surf highway. There is a southwest swell on and this means that the part of the coastline facing southwest will be getting the waves straight on. With little wind it should be a good day.