The Little things..

Trip Start Sep 09, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Saturday, September 18, 2004

There is a wonderful thing here that I'm going to have to learn to adjust to and be comfortable with - if I am going to stand any chance of getting on here. It's a kind of 'non-optional' extra or 'condition' that is characteristic of not only living in New Zealand, but just being here.

What I'm talking about is quite simply that the people here are unconditionally friendly. Now as great as that might seem (and don't get me wrong, it really is great - it's all I have ever wanted from my environment), it is surprisingly hard to get used to. I've been walking round downtown Auckland now for a few days, soaking up the culture and surroundings and from day one I have been hit with 'in your face' friendliness. Obviously, it's only hard to get used to if you're not used to it. It's quite simple.

But when you're used to walking down the street conscious not to engage in 'too much' eye contact with the person coming towards you or even hold your bag a bit tighter because you've just clocked someone in the far corner of your eye walking closely behind, it comes as quite a shock when complete strangers say 'Hi' and ask you how your day's going. Similarly, you walk in to a shop and a shopkeeper or assistant comes over and strikes up a conversation about something completely unrelated or offers advice on the general area because they are genuinely trying to help. Then they wish you a 'great day' with a smile even though you didn't buy one of their postcards or a bottle of water. And when you do ask for help with a particular product or service they give you their undivided attention and lay out all the options clearly, concisely, impartially and once again friendly, because they hold such a passion for their job and truly want to help you. It takes some getting used to. That's all I'm saying.

At first I thought people we're taking the p*** and quickly realised that the kindness really was genuine. It was 'me' not 'them'. And that was because of what I had become 'used to' not 'me'. Well now I'm starting to get used to it and I'm starting to love it! It's infectious and it's making me approach people in the same positive way, and they're just the same back, time after time. This really is a great country!

I thought it would be worth mentioning a few of the 'little things' I've noticed since being here that have made me smile, frown or even chuckle.

A couple of things I was keen to write home about very soon was the completely different 'star set' under here and of course, the 'plug hole' phenomenon. Unfortunately, I'm not staying in a place with the kind of sink that reveals the plug hole secrets. Nor have I had a proper opportunity yet to sit out and study the beauty of the stars that are cherished by the Southern Hemisphere - so cannot confirm either as yet. All will be revealed soon though - watch this space!

What I can tell you so far though is something I hadn't even considered until I experienced it first hand and got thinking about it. I was sitting on the harbour's edge the other day soaking up a bit of sun while I watched the ships come in and sail out of the harbour. It was a very peaceful day and the sun was soothing away the jetlag as I sat there listening to some music, it was beautiful. A bit later on in the day it suddenly dawned on me that the sun hadn't moved. The day had gone on and yet the sun hadn't moved with it - like it does (well, it's us that move of course but you know what I mean!) Upon closer inspection, it was clear that not only had it not moved, it had also gone backwards. As the day progressed the sun had moved more 'to the left' than 'to the right'. That's when it hit me (forgive me if I appear a bit slow here, but this really made me smile). The sun hadn't gone left instead of right or East instead of West for that matter. It had done what it always does. 'The sun rises in the East and sets in the West'. Of course it does. Only this time I wasn't sitting under it facing South and watching it pass gradually over my right side. Oh no - this time I was sitting under it facing North and watching it pass over my left side. Well I'm a simple chappie really and easy to please - and that really did make me smile.

There are a couple of things I've noticed in the local bars too. If your excessively drunk they don't serve you. It's dead easy. It's illegal for them to do so. I know this from the many 'signs on the wall' not from getting aggressive with the bartender for not giving me another jug of 'Tui'! The other one is the cigarette vending machines. In order to prevent the under-aged from procuring a fine pack of Marlboro, they have a little system where you have to ask the bartender to unlock the machine so that it will accept your coins. He/she will then make a brief assessment of your age (asking for ID if necessary), then pull out a small remote from behind the bar and unlock the ciggy machine in a jiffy with a quick blip of the infra-red. You are then free to unwrap your favourite brand.

The food here is excellent, absolutely superb. The beans however are hideous - or certainly were when I tried them. For the fast food junkies back home, I can report that I did stick my head briefly round the door of Macky D's and can confirm that they offer a tasty looking 'Chick'n McCheese' and for those a little more adventurous with a bigger appetite, there's the 'Mac Attack' or you can take a seat and try tucking in to 'The Boss'.

I'll report more about the 'real food' another time though, a busy day lies ahead..
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