A Travellerspoint blog


semi-overcast 15 °C

Well, there goes our local pizza joint, they lost our business… how can people be so incredibly awful? Read on:

The Hell's Pizza outlet on Auckland's Quay Street faces a furious blockade and picket this Friday evening, as the anti racist group Socialist Aotearoa launches a boycott campaign in response to the chain's racist advertising, when they claimed that "at least our brownie won't eat your pet dog".

Socialist Aotearoa protest organiser Tania Lim says-

Speaking as a person of colour, I believe that such advertisements legitimises the negative stereotypes of people of colour, be we brown, yellow, or black. I'm protesting because I am opposed to companies like Hell's Pizza exploiting racism for the purposes of profit. Our message to Hell Pizza management and their smart arsed middle class "ironically racist" advertising idiots is this-

Insult Pacific peoples of Aotearoa at your peril. Expect flashmob protests at your outlets. Prepare to lose a lot of customers who don't agree with your racist insults, "ironic" or otherwise.

And don't tell us to "lighten up". You've already insulted our skin colour once.

Ouch! Like the rest of the world, sadly, racism is alive and well in New Zealand. In the paper recently they reported that there is brouhaha b/c a Maori MP said he didn’t want his kids to date Pakehas. Last month a distinguished Sikh, who was being awarded a special medal for good works, was not allowed into the club were the ceremony was being held – because they said he was wearing a HAT and he would not take it off. I have heard comments about Maoris and Pacific Islanders that sound racist, exhibiting ‘blaming the victim’ type mentality. Typically, the major complaints I have heard are targeted toward people who game the system and take advantage of welfare benefits. OK. Also, like many parts of the world, racism here is a sensitive subject with a long complicated colonial history of hegemony and exploitation. There are deep painful wounds from over a century of war over land which now continues in the court systems instead of battlefields.

However, it appears that the vast majority of Kiwis represent the more modern sentiment that NZ culture is based upon equality, that individuals can keep their national identities, take pride in their ancestry, and feel a sense of belonging. There is tremendous diversity in NZ, all sorts of people from all over the world, who are here to make better lives for themselves. Naturally, intermarriage facilitates a more peaceful way to live in the world and thus accept those who are different. Let’s all hope and pray that sentiment prevails.

Posted by Hilary G 23:58 Archived in New Zealand Tagged living_abroad Comments (4)

Real Estate and a Real Life Role Model (think staunch!)

more photos if you like included

sunny 15 °C

We are going on three months now and have made a major decision. We want to move – oh wait are we nuts? Well maybe, so don’t answer that! We want to move to get away from the busy main road, the high levels of funk, the low levels of heat in the house (it can be colder inside than outside), and move to an area with a bit more peace and quiet. Houses here are stacked up 3 houses per lot; everyone has a car or two so it’s insane. So every week end we explore and look at areas just on the fringe of Auckland, we look at the town central, at houses, at rentals, at parks, at people, and try to get a feel for the area. Call it research. I know we can get a better place for the same rent + we would feel much better. We plan to be out of here by Nov 1 when the fixed term is up. It’s been a great launching pad however, and we are grateful for that; having an address to come to made it all so much easier. Speaking of addresses, we had to get a post office box b/c the actual mail box is so funky that mail is drenched daily!

Recently I finished the most amazing book called They Called Me Te Maari by Florence Marie Harsant. Back in 1913 Florence left her home on remote Lake Taupo to travel north and organize for the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Like the indigenous people in America, Maoris had trouble with alcohol and Pakehas (Europeans) often paid them in alcohol for work thus shackling the Maori and crippling their chances at improving their lives. Yes, it is your typical story of colonial exploitation and we know it well. After 6 years of being away from home to work, at age 22 Florence travelled north often alone, by horse, steamer, whatever, and her diary records her day to day adventures in a lawless rugged region. Since she grew up with Maoris - her father was the local teacher - she was fluent - lingually and culturally - thus easily connected with Maoris all during her travels. She encountered quick sand, lack of roads/ poor tracks, a smallpox epidemic, lack of food, poor accommodations, and a pack horse aptly named Satan, and illness, yet was full of high spirits (no pun intended) warmth and humor; she was a welcome guest at many remote Maori and Pakeha households. Florence was very bold and used firm language against any verbal challenge, she did not back down one bit! Her goal was to empower women in these remote settlements to band together and support each others’ families. The work was grueling yet the story of travel alone is exhausting, e.g. 10 hours in the saddle through wild bush and in torrential rain, or forging rivers with water to her waist and of course freshening up and having a meeting in some remote settlement that same night! Her story is gripping! By WWI she is too ill to continue her work; before the advent of antibiotics appendicitis killed most patients. In 1918 she married and moves to a remote family farm far from her family.

Mrs. Harsant concludes the book with a bit about her marriage, four children, and pioneering farm life. In the 1970s she was able to revisit Taupo and see many of her childhood Maori friends and even record her life for NZ radio as well as write her book and other articles. Her closing statement is that although she is European she has a Maori heart:
It is perhaps a selfish thought that I have shared in the best of both worlds; pakeha and Maori. And it would be less than honest not to say that at times I have seen the least desirable features of both cultures, though I must admit that in the case of the Maori people many of those weaknesses have been pakeha induced. I am a European. My skin is white; I cannot trace my whakapapa back to the Great Fleet. But I do know that the happiest years of my life were spent in the company of my Maori friends.

Tell me Rangi, Papa, elemental Gods, - can a Maori heart beat in a pakeha body? (p. 188)

Mrs. Harsant tells an anecdote about her husband which sticks in my mind as classic, staunch, kiwiana. When he retired from the family farm at age 70 he wanted to go back to the bush; camp during the week, chop trees, clear roads, and find gum, go home for the weekends and get provisions. Everyone thought it a bit silly but he really liked that lifestyle so he did that for years. One day he accidentally stepped on dynamite and was badly injured. He lost his legs after a harrowing journey to hospital, surgery, infection, and so on. So he was home with fake legs and crutches. Years later he decided he needed to do some painting so climbed up on a ladder, but he slipped and his legs got trapped inside the ladder…. no worries, he just took off his belt and tied himself to the ladder and just hung out, waiting for someone to come home. He died “unexpectantly” at age 88! Classic staunch.

Florence Harsant, 1979. They called Me Te Maari, Whitcoulls Ltd., Christchurch NZ.

Posted by Hilary G 00:44 Archived in New Zealand Tagged living_abroad Comments (1)

HELL, slugs, and religion


semi-overcast 13 °C


Wait…. I thought NZ was supposed to be heaven on a stick? That’s what I heard at any rate…. are you nuts?

So, go to hell, and eat PIZZA in HELL! Hot as hell delivery (for only $7.00 extra) and winner of awards for best in taste, lowest fat, salt, and all bad things. Must say it was YUMMY! There are several Hell Vege pies to tempt you. Basic pies are based upon deadly sins: lust, greed, envy, wrath, pride, sloth, & gluttony. Gourmet pies include: mayhem, trouble, cursed, purgatory, limbo (resonate w/ that one!), damned, sinister, serpent, and underworld. Gotto love the dark side. Don’t forget to slurp up sides like prawn horns and squid rings. To be all inclusive the pasta includes spirit, demon, and kali. Nice. $15.00 = take home bargain.

Incidentally, religion in NZ breaks down as follows:
Christian 52%
Hindu 1.6%
Buddhist 1.3 %
Muslim 0.9%
Spiritualist etc. 0.5%
Sikh 0.2%
Jewish 0.2%
Total religions 58%
No religion 32%
Don’t know /won’t say 9.8%
(None adds up to 100%, get over it)

UPDATE SEA SLUGS: toxins may be due to stupid slugs nesting on top of toxic asian date mussels who came to NZ in the early 1970s. Scientists are investigating links between the two and any basis of causation for sick/dying dogs. If anyone has a reason for slugs in the grand scheme of things feel free to let me know. What do they DO beyond aggravate us? Why do we have slugs in the first place?

Posted by Hilary G 01:17 Archived in New Zealand Tagged living_abroad Comments (2)

Decompressing at Lake Taupo

Singapore, wait, what?

rain 13 °C

Despite being veteran movers, moving is still always hard. Moving to another county is harder. Everything is new and has to be figured out. So many things to deal with: customs, MAF checking boxes for bio-security (Did you say Christmas ornaments, OMG, are they made of PINE CONES?), immigration, banking, new PO box, where to shop for what (and dealing with how expensive it all is), which “brand” to buy at the market, how to get from B to D when you usually go ABCD, so many where?, how?, what? questions first to even articulate, then master. It can be stressful! Add our normal bickering and you get the picture. Thankfully only one of at a time gets upset; we simply take turns, and prop up the other when the going gets tough. Overall we are fine and yet sometimes do succumb to “moving stress”

We realized we had been working pretty hard and needed a break so last week end drove 4 hours south to Lake Taupo. Silly me, I thought that since the main road in NZ is Mwy 1 and near our house it is a major motorway that the motorway would continue like a state highway ….. How wrong I was! About one hour south of Auckland Mwy1 it turns into a 1 or 2 lane road, sans median, twisty, hilly, through towns and round round abouts with vehicles (busses, trucks, cars, motorcycles) driving at very fast highway speeds. No wonder there are so many fatal car accidents reported in the paper every day! Of course it was raining and exceedingly hard to see; we got there right before a major meltdown and just in time for a hot lunch. Driving home in the dark is another story but suffice to say: hell.

Lake Taupo is FANTASTIC! The town is charming; the shops are plentiful and vibrant. Great geographic back story: the lake was formed 1800 years ago when the largest volcanic eruption recorded by man occurred (dang!). Both Chinese and Romans recorded to the event of global darkness for 3 days. The lake is approximately 40 x 30 KM (240 sq miles) this is very close in size to the city/island/nation of Singapore, population 5 million. Due to the natural volcanic faults, there are geothermal beaches and pools; our motel had a private spa pool filled with mineral water at a very pleasing hot temp. Oh to be warm!

Back in 1898, trout from the Russian River in CA were imported to stock the lake. Now they are so fabulous, big, and healthy, they ship some back to the Russian River in CA! Lake Taupo is the last place in the world for natural wild trout, great news if you like to eat trout and bad news if you are a trout. Incidentally trout is not sold here and must be caught of you want some.

The other thing about Taupo that is significant to us is that it is the home of the annual NZ IRONMAN competition. With mountains, lake, pristine air, cute town, seems perfect place for the IRONMAN. Apparently, every month Taupo has some sort of big race, big event, big thing to attract people; it is a resort town and ready, willing, and able to host a bunch of visitors each month. It is a beautiful setting for anything really.

We jumped on a cruise boat and toured the lake for a few hours, saw one of Rod Stewart's houses in a billionaire’s enclave, saw amazing Maori rock carvings, saw the 9,000 ft snow covered volcano, Mt Ruapehu, and enjoyed watching all the various boats on a sunny winter day. Back in town, we had a great time in the museum. The museum was so interesting; modern presentation and lighting juxtaposed with 100 + y.o. paintings of the area, digital slide show of early photos, dioramas of timber industry and life in the area, massive ancient Maori canoe, various artifacts, ancient/extinct Moa bird skeleton, and a whole Maori ‘marae’ or house for the tribe to gather. There was also a re-constructed garden that won major prize in Chelsea (THE major UK garden show!) which incorporated elements of Maori beliefs: The Garden of Well Being. It was a surprisingly engaging small museum!

Just yesterday we received our second load of goods, this time 3 months to the day of leaving the old house. We are really happy to have some of these boxes so we can have sweaters and jackets. I found a pair of jeans – I was worried if they would fit and they do, whew! (I seem to have coffee, kuchen, and all good warm winter comfort foods several times per day). Most of the boxes we will not unpack as we want to move from this launching pad to a longer term rental. It is nice to have Granny Joan’s chair, and other bits. All this stuff is part of my identity and important - even though I don’t technically need any of it. Need and want are interesting constructs.

On a final note, Kenzie continues to be the most remarkable and cool little being; she is beloved where ever we go and attracts people like a magnet. Everyone is her new best friend. She is a wonderful traveler and goes with the flow; for those of you who remember Jack, she is quite similar. It is such fun to have her here and think that we see the world through her POV. Red huskies are rare here and no one so far has ever soon one. Kenzie is a celebrity!

Posted by Hilary G 01:52 Archived in New Zealand Tagged living_abroad Comments (2)

National Education Standards

more photos upload too....

sunny 13 °C

Education Updates NZ:

July 3rd headlines NZ Herald: Standoff over Education Standards Policy Deepens

The Minister of Education, Anne Tolley, has pushed national standards hard and fast. She forced them into law over Christmas 2009 in a surprise aggressive attack. In contrast, the national curriculum was developed, in concert with teachers, trialed/piloted nationwide, revised and thoughtfully considered, about a 5 year process to roll out for the country. It is an excellent curriculum!! The new standards do not mesh with the new curriculum; principals and teachers are furious! At a recent national principal conference, another 200 principals refused to attend trainings for the new standards; this brings the total to over 600 schools refusing to capitulate. The Herald notes four major complaints which include: 1. Standards assume that children are failing if they don’t meet the standards. 2. Repeated labeling of young children as failures can harm learning and motivation. 3. Poorly worded standards will results in inconsistent and unreliable results. 4. The way schools are rated publicly will create “league” tables (used in the UK) comparing schools. I am proud to be living in a country where professionals stand up and say no thank you! It is a sorry drama and we all know that the children often lose.

Incidentally, did any of you see the essay by David Brooks in the NY Times? I found is fascinating and appreciate how people perceive themselves as readers - or not. I will never forget the look on Adam’s face, a 5th grader back in the early 1990s, when he finished his very first chapter book. He was a READER! See the article, The Medium is the Message at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/09/opinion/09brooks.html

Everyone here says it is VERY cold! This makes me feel better and not so wimpy. Now we are experimenting with different kinds of heaters. The gas heater cost about $90.00 and the filled propane tank cost about $75.00; when the tank is empty you go back and switch it for a filled one for $35.00. Our other heater ($60.00) is filled with oil; principle being the electricity heats the oil which remains warmer longer…… you buy them with a variety of “fins”. Under my desk I have a tiny electric heater that blows warm air on my feet; it is amazing how that keeps me warm!

Today I uploaded another batch of photos if you are into that. What questions do you have? Are you wondering about something I can answer or send photos? Let me know and I will do my best. Cheers!

Posted by Hilary G 23:33 Archived in New Zealand Tagged educational Comments (4)

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