First Impressions

We’ve landed!   New Zealand is great!

We got here sort of by accident.   Neither Pat or I listed New Zealand as number one on our places to go in the world (mostly due to cost – we tend to dream of countries where our dollars go farther and the traveling is a bit more adventurous).   However, New Zealand hands out work permits to Americans like candy (they need migrant workers) and the country contains never-ending mountain paradise coupled with an enormous landscape variety.   So, we are quite pleased to be spending the next year near the bottom of the globe!

You might have to have a fossik.

New Zealand is a quirky little set of islands – two large and several small – more than 1,000 miles off the coast of southeastern Australia.   Roughly, New Zealand is the size of California (a bit smaller).   Or a bit bigger than Wyoming if it’s easier to think of that size.   It’s known as “the land of the long white cloud” (we brought rain gear!) and has everything from the tropics on the North Island to full blown glaciers on the South Island.   Can’t wait!

The biggest difference so far, besides the seasons, is the switched roads.   Everything is on the opposite side.   Having worked in left hand traffic over five years at the coal mine, I thought I’d have a leg up on the adjustment.   Not so!   Everywhere I look I see lonely little “passengers” in cars without drivers.   I check both directions three times before crossing a road, and dash in a panic to the other side.   It will be hilarious (and hopefully not disastrous) when I start driving!

It was a neat reminder – on the way in from the airport – to see a sign about the upcoming “summer” of possibilities!   Spring is in full swing with the tree ferns unfurling.   Billboards with eye-grabbing extensions seems to be popular here – a beaker with the bubbles going outside the traditional square, a man’s leg extending outside the usual space to demonstrate “leg room” on certain new flights.   Oh, and coins here are made of heavy metals!   I was shocked to pull my camera out of my pocket and find coins stuck all over the magnetic closure.

The road signs are different as well as the vocab.   A red circle encompasses speed limits.     Yield signs are the same shape, of course, but instead the command is “Give Way.”   “Works End” means you’re out of the construction zone.   A motorway is a highway, and a bonnet is a hood.   “Sweet as” means “cool.”   “No diapers allowed in trash can” becomes, “No nappies in this rubbish bin, please.”   By way of directing me to search in a drawer for a rubber band, our host Steven told me, “You might have to have a fossik.”   Volunteering in the hot sun, an event organizer offered drinks.   I chose lemonade, and she returned with a Sprite!   All drink of that sort (7Up, Fresca, etc.) are called lemonade here!   I love that kiwis (New Zealanders) say “heaps” instead of “lot” and refer to your energy level in term of “beans.”   As in “Benjamin still has heaps of beans left in him!”   Or, “My, you’ve got a lot a beans to hike all that way.”

Some things are markedly more expensive, but minimum wage is more than double what it is in the U.S.   With the worldwide exception of unsubsidized fuel (gasoline is about $7.40 a gallon here), most day to day things are the same price or just a tiny bit more expensive – especially food.   We’ve eaten lots of peanut butter and fruit outside of the meals we share with our wwoof families.

We’ve had some interesting food finds.   The cheese industry here has escaped the strange marketing that’s turned U.S. cheese a rainbow of yellow and orange.   None of the cheese has color additives, making it all the color it was to begin with – white!   Vegemite and marmite are popular toast spreads here.   Basically, it’s low-sodium soy sauce that’s been evaporated into a paste.   Pat says it’s gross.   At the store, we found a new fruit to try – a tomarillo is like a long persimmon, is ruby red with black seeds, and tastes like a cross between a tomato and a melon.   Yum!

Final observations – people here seem really friendly.   There seems to be a really non-aggressive atmosphere.   On the bus, instead of a sign like, “These seats are reserved for elderly and disabled persons” the sign said “Make the journey easier for elderly or disable persons.   Give them this seat.”   Speaking of the bus, we won’t be riding much.   We’re off to the south island November 15th where we’ll buy a car (which we’ll sell back when we leave).   The bus is expensive – about $5 a ride around the city, and less convenient than having a place to keep our stuff!

I’ll blog more later about what we’ve been doing since we arrived.   We’re off to explore the little village up the road a bit more!

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