Living in En Zed

Living in New Zealand or "En Zed" is different in so many ways from the United States.  For example, much less plastic is used here.  Most people seem to buy the equivalent of tupperware and don't use plastic bags in the grocery store when they buy their fruit and veg.  They are more likely to use a cloth instead of paper towels.  It is a small thing and makes a difference.  Kiwis also rarely use a clothes dryer.  Clothes are hung dry outside or inside.  It works well. The public toilets are VERY clean and often smell nice (a floral perfume).  It is also easy to find a public toilet in public.  Imagine! 

Coffee is not made by the gallon in homes or in public.  Most coffee is consumed as an espresso drink.  You can sometimes get it a a take-away, but that is not common.  Most people stop and drink their coffee from a real mug (or bowl! at the Mecca Stonehouse in Mission Bay). 

Lots of tea is served at church, and the china cups laid out on the counter already have cream in them!  You have to ask for black tea.  You can buy water and drinks in plastic bottles.  Generally though, people are not walking around hydrating themselves all day. 

Lots of people ride their road bikes along the bay.  And most of them (estimated 95%) are men.  Although yesterday I saw a women's cycling club with about 6 women all in yellow. 

Everything is more expensive here.  The sheer size of the market in the US keeps prices low for most goods except in places that are hard to get to.  My guess is that NZ's prices are similar to Alaska.   Luckily I do not need to buy much except food.  I do feel for people with growing children.

Everyone here seems to have a toddler!  I have been told that St. Heliers has a lot of retired people.  That is also true.  However, the number of young children is really noticeable.  Fewer dogs and more kids.  The kids are doted on and indulged.  They seem to behave fairly well overall--although I did get a dose of bratdom yesterday, parents worse than kids...

I have seen the All Blacks (NZ) vs Wallabies (AUS) rugby match from the Tri-Nations final replayed at least 3 times on various public tv screens.  This is a match they played last week and lost.  Imagine seeing the Super Bowl replayed on t.v. several times after everyone knows the outcome.  Huh?

Yesterday I attended the grand reopening of the Auckland Art Museum.  The Mayor and the member of parliament both addressed the crowd and opened their remarks with a few sentences in Maori.  It came across as largely obligatory and I am anxious to have a chance to meet some Maori people who can tell me how it strikes them.  The opening was impressive with a big video screen for those of us non-VIPs outside that made the event very accessible including the haka and singing (longer version) performed by Maori youth group.  I will have to go back to see the museum this week when the crowds are not so crushing.

I saw the Mayor again that afternoon at the All Blacks Capping Ceremony.  I believe you could say that if you cut a Kiwi he/she would bleed All Black.  They are big fans.  However, they are also low key.  There was a big crowd in the square but people were not screaming or yelling.  It was all very polite.  I met a couple of Americans in the coffee bar and we agreed that if it were a US team in the States the opening musical act would have been trying to get everyone pumped up (instead of the folk/blues singer we had) and the crowd would have been chanting USA, etc.  This is a ceremonial occasion when the team members are honored for being selected for this tournament.  So the crowd behaved sedately and with respect and a great deal of interest.  

In Rugby you could make the case that the All Blacks are the best in the world.  No matter the outcome of this world cup, they have the most wins over time of any team and you can never take them for granted.  However, the Kiwis seem to almost be worried about assuming too much and would never express "We're number one."  It is very charming.