02.12.2010 20 °C
Today I flew back after 5 days in Dunedin, which is a small city at the southern tip of the South Island. I went for a Library conference at the University of Otago - celebrating 100 years of public libraries in NZ as well as 100 years of the University. The University of Otago is the FIRST University in NZ.There is rich, diverse heritage and the town is reminiscent of Northern California with elements of gold mining, university students, ocean and mist, rolling green hills dotted with fat happy cows, and really good coffee and beer - so I am told! At the conference we had lots of fun, good productive work, met all sorts of fascinating and friendly people, and now I’m tired. I will catch up @ home this week end.
Dunedin hosts a population of about 130,000 and is a city of many firsts according to the guidebook. Eco tourism is really big. There are spectacular beaches, rugged hills, farmland, a gorgeous harbor, albatross, and penguins. Architecture is Victorian, Edwardian + modern; I love the contrast of old and new. Dunedin has a heritage of Scottish settlers, whalers, and Maori. Check it out. I really want to go back to sight see and play. Food was very good, interesting, fresh, and pretty healthy.
Christmas is around the corner in 3 weeks time yet trees and decorations are just going up. I like that the holidays do not begin the week end of Halloween. Today driving home from work I missed a great photo: cute young guys in shorts and flip flops, muscle shirts and shorts, selling 8 fresh Christmas trees on a corner. This is the first tree lot I have seen! Weather today was mildly muggy warm. This week I visited a few shops and most were devoid of anything overtly Christmas. Even the airport interspersed carols with non Christmas music.
Flying within New Zealand is very easy. There are a few planes going to a few cities at a time. Auckland to Christchurch is one hour +. Christchurch to Dunedin is one hour +, and we flew that in a puddle jumper. The luggage people were so nice. I had funny luggage as a vendor participating in the conference and each piece was an odd shape, over sized, or fragile. “No worries Miss!” We were charged extra but I sweetly questioned that and was kindly docked $150.00. Thank you!
While in Dunedin, a group of us went to a happening place, yes after dinner, and the bartender was a beautiful young woman from Arvada, CO. I was floored! She arrived with her parents 3 years ago and loves it here. Went to the US a while ago and was very happy to come “home”. She was a lovely, poised, confident, smart young woman working to earn $$ while finishing her degree. I was very impressed with her level of articulation and verve. Meeting people and leaning about their motivation to be here is so engaging. I can’t get enough of that, maybe that confirmation helps me verify my own experience?
People are fascinating. I love talking with people and yet not talking. For those of you who really know me, I know this surprises you! I’m really listening. Stories blow my mind. Perspectives jar my mind set. Despite my occasional discomfort, tiredness, or awkward stress (which is lessening each day), the stories of people grab me and hold my attention. Random examples: Greek dad from Zimbabwe (used to live-in staff up the whazoo) who brought family here for a better life. Gorgeous brilliant young woman + hubby from the UK living in the sticks of NZ for same. Edgy young guy from Singapore whose wife is getting her PhD; and many many Kiwis who share their journey with me in an open and humorous fashion. If I was an oral historian I would have a field day. Since I’m not, I’m simply fascinated and feel very connected to people as I listen.
I don’t think it is truly the perception of time that is different, although time feels slower here than in the US, I think perhaps I pay attention more fully. However, that is a generalization. I cannot say that about everyone I meet. Impatience and haste are certainly present yet solid, polite, upbringing seems to overcome. Sure, people can be very polite and seemingly connected and act interested, yet not really. OK I can deal with that! That feels more normal. Overall, the level of humaness and civility feels refreshing. Since Auckland has the largest population and is so urban, getting out of Auckland feels more like the real NZ. Look forward to lots more travel as the year unfolds.
Cheers! (that means “cool thanks!”)