Sunday, December 11, 2016

Installation Complete

IRDs (the Kiwi SSN), bank accounts, driver's license, bus/ferry pass (because we're scared to death to use a driver's license), health check, (one of us has) paycheck, an address that actually receives mail, and some loose change to boot: after almost a month, our installation is complete. The acquisition of each has been a process, some more pleasant than others. The banking system is easy and user friendly. Kinda like the postal system and the government backed banking systems in France are commingled, Kiwibank and the Post here are collocated. You can open a business account and send a package from the same line, I mean, queue. Unlike France, the folks at Kiwibank are nice and at least try to be helpful.

When checking out of the grocery, restaurant, or whatever, you just wave the bank card around in the air, say "levieosa", and voila you've paid for something. I'm not sure the "levieosa" is required, but it adds a certain flair. Unlike in the US, you don't need a physical address, security clearance, and a hair from your first born (anyone who's read Name of the Wind understands how precious a hair is to a loan shark) to open an account. A "smart" card that you have to insert into the machine still works here, but are sooooo yesterday.

The driver's license was more challenging, especially for Cath. For me, it was the eye test. "William, they are all letters, no numbers, or names of water fowl. Give it a go again." Eventually, I made it through. Cath's French passport again caused problems. A few silly countries in the world always use someone's maiden name, rather than married name, as the primary name on the passport. Since married names can be rather, well, ephemeral, this convention has a certain logic. Still, it tends to throw most bureaucratic system into a tizzy. Included among these are Australian visa (don't ask) and the Kiwi AA (not what you're thinking) who issue driver's licenses. After some stern over-the-phone consultation with "superiors", "We need a paper trail of your name change. If it's in French, it must be translation by an approved translator." Oh God, not the "approved translator" thing again. What a racket. In this case, the approvee was a uni-directional translator of questionable origin working out of her home, with an obviously disgruntled husband scowling down all that would pass the threshold of his dominion to participate in this racket that is probably the only thing paying for the beer he's drinking: in the morning. As with all such things, persistence and patience trumps all and things worked out in the end.

View from the trail
We've also been working the socializing end of things. That's right you dolts, Cath & Bill are actually socializing. Theron gave us the advice to always say "yes" and we've taken it to heart. Last weekend we signed up for a trip with an Auckland tramping (hiking) club. The group is representative of the Auckland international melting pot: Germany, Australia, Indonesia, China, Russia, Zimbabwe, Somalia, France, Auckland, South Africa, and one lonely 'merican (me). We were cautious because we heard through others that Kiwis are no whimps and don't sugar coat it for you. If they say it's hard, there's no sand bagging; it really is hard. This particular hike was a 3.5/5 from Pakiri Beach to Matakana and the invitation was full of cautionary clauses, which gave us, me in particular, pause. (We later learned that the only 5/5 hike this year left them stranded on a cliff after dark above a high tide.) I looked at the route. The wicked climb was an out-and-back, so I figured if I couldn't hack it I could just take a nap and meet folks on the way down. Only when it came to it, we ended taking a different route. After the first climb, the leader suggested that anyone currently in need of medical care, which was half of us, should just stroll back down to the cars and chill for the afternoon. Pressed on we did, pride intact and body failing. I heard "shit" and "what the f**k" more than once. I might even had said it myself. Talk about writing a check you can't cash. We hacked through bush and slogged through mud, up inclines so steep they benefited from 4 limb drive. I wondered why many of the hikers wore gloves. In retrospect, we had a great time with some stunning scenery, but a price was paid. I even had my first sand fly bites. "These aren't so bad." Yeah well, I didn't sleep much that night. Scratch, scratch, scratch ...

Waiting on the lawn for
the movie, projected on
the silo, to start.
Friday evening we walked back to a wharf area called Silo Park, for the silos left over when this was a working commercial harbor. It's a fun place in the evening with kids running around, parks, vendor stalls, and food trucks. Each Friday they show a movie on one of the silos at the head of a grassy area. We took a spot out of the chilly wind to watch at least the beginning of "When Harry Met Sally", our favorite New Years movie. It was fun, but they left out the best scene in the whole friggin movie! Something's up with that. Clearly there's something we don't yet know about the culture here.

Auckland Sky Tower for
Christmas!
Our landlords, Chris and Jason, upstairs have more-or-less adopted us, probably out of pity having seen our social ineptitude first hand. They had the pool all warmed up for us after our hike last weekend and collected us from down the hill to bring us home. Saturday they even invited us to a party with all their old friends. We met folks from all over, even one from Texas! Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, which is a little different from the norm. We can't quite put our finger on it, but, with a few appreciated exceptions aside, kiwis have been very friendly and helpful without being terribly welcoming. We're not quite sure that's the right word, but something like that. It could be that we're migrants and to be kept at a distance until we've proven ourselves over time. Everyone we ask seems keen on the idea of migrants, provided they bring in skills of value. Most countries would have much more push back or even resent migrants. Dunno, just kind of curious and it might just be us.

Hiking through Albert Park
Our hike this weekend with the group was canceled, so we did the urban hiking thing exploring Auckland. The city is very walkable with many interesting areas and no danger of wandering into a rough neighborhood or some such. Auckland also has heaps of beautiful parks with lovely walking paths. (In Kiwi, it's never "many" or "a lot of". It's "heaps" or "shit loads", though I never knew "shit" to be a unit of measurement: must be metric.) Given that Auckland sits on a bunch of hopefully extinct volcanoes, walking around town is even plausible exercise: up and down and up again. I can't imagine anywhere else in the world with happier trees! These guys are old, huge, complicated, and gnarly.

The ultimate destination today was the Auckland War Memorial museum. It was free for us since we're, ahem, Aucklanders. (We brought proof of address since we figured, correctly, they wouldn't believe us.) Wonderful exhibits, less about the wars than the history of Aotearoa (New Zealand). So much to see that we lost both ourselves and each other. I finally had to page "Catherine Connor" to reel her in.

This week was also time to sign up for the medical system here. First I blew my appointment by forgetting that it's day/month here, not month/day. "That's alright dear. It happens all the time. Shall I reschedule you for Monday.?" I'll bet it doesn't happen all the time, but thank you for being so nice. After the nurse gave me a going over and frowning at my habitual glass of wine at dinner, she said I should schedule to come to the surgery next week. The surgery next week! I had no idea it was that bad! The "surgery" is just the doctor's office, as it turns out.

Here's a another introduction to Kiwi vocabulary. Chris was explaining with great exuberance how, when faced with the potential crisis of warm beer while touring an island, they found a cardboard box, lined it with plastic, filled it with ice, and no problem for the rest of the day. This short story says sooooo much about Kiwis that it could be the basis for a blog in and of itself, but for the present purpose, Chris had improvised a "chilly bin": an ice cooler. Everyone needs a chilly bin going to the beach, which we hope to do shortly!


1 comment:

  1. Wow! I hope that my advice to always say yes doesn't get you into any trouble you can't get out of. It sounds like you created a great memory, though.

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