Thursday, December 4, 2008

New Zealand! New Home!

Pictures: Auckland with Sky Tower and yatchs; Auckland Airport; St. Helliers Bay with Mount Rangitoto in the distance; typical NZ home; St. Lukes Shopping Mall; view from Sky Tower; vineyard outside Auckland; gannets nesting on a wind cut rock at Muruwai beach.

New Zealand!!! New! yes, the "new" proves right everywhere, hardly any structures, for example, office blocks or residential stand-alone or town houses, needing fresh coat of paint; neat green lawns, sidewalks with green patches, green rolling country side, some of this within city limits! (Funnily, within Auckland roads are topped with good finish surface, country roads, by contrast, in many stretches, have a rough surface, not damaged surface mind you; this is to hold wet tyres from slipping, in snow, or rain.......lots of the latter in regions throughout NZ., throughout the year.)

I have a joke, all my own.......I come from God's own country (India) to God's new country, God's beautiful country! New Zealand. Kiwis, New Zealander's name for themselves, prefer to keep a respectable distance from God, they prefer being real good guys themselves!

I always intend to nudge my visitors to NZ, after picking them from our lovely Auckland Airport, to look out the window .............every bit of the route, the Manukau harbour (where the airport locates south of Auckland,) the Hillsborough and Blockhouse Bay roads to my New Lynn suburb, mostly picture postcards.

And I would tell them, wait, this is nothing, wait till we drive down the North-Western motorway to Muruwai beach, or the other way to West Harbour, rolling green country around Whenupai airport, picturesque houses, blue waters (all these withen Auckland!!!); further up, vineyards, more green, horses grazing, English cows and sheep dotting the hill sides..............these hills, green, with some topped with clusters of trees, look suspiciously small until you look at the scattered cows and sheep, all small dots on those green slopes, and you realise the hills are not small, but slope gently..........rolling countryside.

If you intend visiting New Zealand looking for magnificent buildings, than it's better you visit London or Paris or Prague etc etc; of course, the City, with its Sky Tower and stately modern high rises around, make for good viewing, especially from across the harbour, from the shores of Davenport. And, of late, it now appears, some guys in the building business, especially residential blocks facing the city port, are bent on making money, the city views from anywhere are getting to look a trifle cluttered! And if you choose to rent an apartment in the City, you are most probably getting small poky rooms; in New Zealand you are far better off living in houses that come with their own green patch.

Auckland, City of Sails (includes the Councils of Auckland City, Manukau, Waitakere, North Shore, Rodney and Franklin) would very easily be somewhere on top the world's cities in the race for a good place to live in; the City (the Central Business District), the outlying office and residential areas like Mt Eden, Point Chevalier, Western Springs and every suburb are clean and spic, green patches, well laid roads, well marked- (more roads needed for more traffic in peak rush hours as everywhere else,) shopping malls and ample parking, no rubbish anywhere (barring a few places where residents with a scant respect for civic values leave some rubbish outside their homes, but these areas are very few.)

And Auckland is cosmopolitan, now some 43% of Aucklanders are non-European origin, indigenous Maoris, Pacific Islanders, Asians, Indians and Fijians of Indian origin, Africans, Middle Easterns, peoples from many Muslim countries, etc. There are no jostling crowds, no rubbing shoulders in crowded places, for a city that spreads out some 60 kilometers in every direction, Auckland has a modest population of 1.4 million. And everywhere, mostly everywhere, looking out from a moving car, are a series of lovely picture frames.

Most shopping malls are spic, with gleaming floors, well presented shops, some with cinemas, Village Cinemas, at the top level, groceries-Food Town, Pack and Save, Countdown, and plenty of food courts (with choice of European and Kiwi, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Middle Eastern, Indian, Iranian and Turkish cuisine).........malls seem to be favorite places to window shop, sit with a coffee and pastries, very cheerful afternoon at the food court, those old tottering folks, probably on dole (family assistance in NZ.) whiling away sipping coffee or gorging on pastries and pies.......mind you, these same oldies, 70/75 and above, will drive away in their car, some new and flashy breeds!

Aucklanders, though not some of the best dressed, would easily rate high for their style, heads held high, a quick spright in their walk, women very pretty with fine figure, many blondes; and somehow in the midst of this, some Kiwis choose to go around bare foot and shabby...........

and if you come from a country where people stare, or at least show some curiosity, Kiwis by sharp contrast will never meet the crowded malls, everyone will pass by everyone without looking you in the eye, will never be looked at; somehow a straight ahead look, not rude, not indifferent, just plain everyone minds their own if you are looking for a smile or want to be looked at, you better go some other place( meaning country.) Rather, exception to this are morning joggers/strollers............ all say good mornings! I like that.

These same Kiwis, yes these same Kiwis, if they happen to sit by your side, and this sometimes encountered whilst sitting opposite Food Town- (I hate going inside, and sit opposite the cashier counters)- a bored fellow, first looking askance at you to judge if you are the communicative type, with time on your hands, will give you his full life story, very warm and friendly.

Besides, for Kiwis and other New Zealanders, when it comes to communicating with one another, things are quite different; a telephone call to confirm an event like the estimated time your courier will arrive to pick your parcel, is a friendly, polite, cheerful and honest piece of information-if he or she knows you, its all on first name basis-cheery and "its a fine day out there isn't it?" ............if your tradesman gives you the time he would do your work, and something keeps him, he will phone and apologise for the delay; a hospital nurse will talk cheerfully and make your day with light banter; your physiotherapist or doctor, call center lady, your regular scheduled time bus driver will strike up a light conversation at the slightest chance. (Hi mate, how are you this morning.)

You must meet a tourist bus driver in the Bay of Islands......on a full day tour of North Island he will not stop his light banter, sprinkled with jokes..........passing a cemetery, he said, I have booked my plot here before the land prices go up! I asked him how he could keep up this continuous one sided, but entertaining, conversation, and he said "mate, if I don't, I will fall asleep on the wheel!"

But the same people (not those you have met/or with the usual formal/informal introductions,) the same people will not meet the eye, no way, no sir, whilst passing you in the mall, in the car park, at the post office or gas station queues.

When you decide to get accustomed to this, you get an unexpected jolt, you find yourself getting a cheerful smile....................Kiwis are sure moody people!

And the Council chaps treat you with VIP status...........I have had to contact them sometimes and sure made to feel I get my taxes worth...........if the street lights are out, just phone the Council.........they will have these fixed within a day, sometimes two.....and you will get a call later: "are your street lights working today, everything fine?"
I had one incident where a neighbour's dog, on leash with the owner, got irritable and charged at me; I was lucky because the owner pulled at the leash or I would have had my face torn out. The incident unnerved me, but some friends adviced I contact Dog Control...........I did that and was amazed at the repartee I established with them........several calls were returned from Dog Control, updating me how the dog's family was being counselled so the dog would not be a nuisance in the future!!

There is also some degree of slide rule, dogs should be accompanied by owner and on leash-only after 7 p. m. your dog can be roamed free-.............these rules are sadly ignored..................there have been several incidents in the last two years of dog attacks, some by the Rottweiler breed.......and these are quite something.

There are an increasing number of young, good for nothing, punks, who drive crazy through the nights, their car engines roaring away and loud rock music. The police plan to use ariel surveillance for spotting these chaps and for other road violations, like speeding. More instances of house invasion and burglaries, hold ups at groceries/dairies, purse snatching..............and one of the worst irritants, painting and disfiguring walls, fences, house exteriors...........stores are banned from selling small paint spray canisters, but this has not worked.

New Zealand traffic is one of the best well mannered courteous driving anywhere in the world; migrants and tourists can drive on an international or their home country driving licence for one year. After this, a written test on road rules and a no nonsense practical driving test will get you a NZ licence. Warrant of Fitness, WOF, has to be renewed every six months, and a WOF licensee is likely to ask you to spruce up your car.

I was saying traffic manners are some of the best in the world; everyone, almost everyone, barring a few exceptions, follow traffic rules and road rage is almost non exist ant. Preference/give way to traffic on the right, stopping at stop signs and at zebra crossings, allowing traffic from an inner road to join the main stream, overtaking/passing only in permitted stretches of the road, signalling before changing lanes, no honking, headlights never on full, and lights "on" during rain spells, waving out and thanking fellow motorists for any reasons etc etc. After the chaotic driving in India, driving in Auckland is a cheese!

Rarely, quite rarely, the quiet pattern of traffic is thrown out when a couple of police cars have to chase an offender.
No policemen at traffic crossroads, but they do park with some degree of stealth with speed cameras..........some roads have an electronic meter that displays the speed of your passing car.

More in the next post.


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