Sweet As First Week
We made it to New Zealand and successfully lived in Auckland for four days. Except replace ‘successfully’ with ‘barely’ and ‘living’ with ‘collecting tourism pamphlets and eating sandwiches’. For the most part, Auckland is like all other big cities in the world; a bus system that I don’t know how to work, tourists speaking languages I don’t understand and bananas selling for $1.50.
Our first day in Auckland didn’t start off the story book way I had imagined. We landed at 7am but couldn’t check into our hotel until 2pm so we wandered the downtown streets in strict box pattern to avoid getting lost. I wouldn’t say it wasn’t obvious we were tourists, but I WOULD say it was obvious we smelled like asshole. The combination of being on a full airplane for 11 hours, lugging heavy suitcases around and the fear/excitement of having dropped your entire life and moving to New Zealand produces a very special kind of sweat. And we were covered in it. Once we were able to check in and make ourselves presentable to our new peers it didn’t even matter because we were out in the world for 2 hours before passing out in the hotel at 7pm while watching the short lived NBC sitcom, “Best Friends Forever.”
The next few days brought much more excitement: we went to a museum and went zip lining. Two things that are very out of the ordinary for me. Considering I don’t frequent museums I was pretty judgmental about the lack of Maori information and considering I don’t like flying or being the passenger in a car because I’m not in control, I was surprisingly chill about dangling high above tree tops by a carabiner. My natural personality falls somewhere in between those two extremes – falling asleep at 7pm watching the short lived NBC sitcom, “Best Friends Forever” is pretty much my main speed.
We went zip lining on the island Waiheke and it was so pretty and sunny and the water was a color I can only describe as the ‘best water ever seen in real life or in dream life.’ We sat on a beach where shirtless boys played rugby while teenagers hung around a zig zag painted Volkswagen Van and a shack on the side of the road sold fish and chips. It was like something out of a teen movie and I felt like a mix of Jonathan Taylor Thomas in “Wild America” and Brendan Frasier in “Now and Then” – a wide-eyed thrill seeker, capturing the beauty of the unknown world by photo slash a 1960s hippie rebel bumming cigarettes/orange soda off youths on the side of the road.
Now we’re visiting my family in Orewa, a small town north of Auckland that our zip lining guide referred to as a retirement community, which it is. But world travelers and senior citizens have a lot in common. We’re both looking for a cheap, early dinner deal, we both need personal assistance using the public library and the sulfur hot springs feel great on our weathered bones. Seeing my family at the beginning of this trip has been so great in slowly transitioning us into a new country; lots of hugs and delicious home cooked meals. All of this familiarity and comfort is not to say we have been without our culture shocks.
First things first: the metric system. I hopped on a treadmill at a nearby gym (because you can take the girl out of the fitness game but you can’t take the fitness game out of the girl) and was shocked at how my days of sedentary travel activity had actually doubled my running speed. When I finally realized everything was measured in kilometers I ended up working up more of a mental sweat than a physical one trying to do the the conversion in my head. I still have no idea how far or fast I ran. It was hard to share our fellow zip liners amazement when our guide boasted about our 50 METER HIGH ZIP. Is that a lot? Can we get that height in Shaquille O’Neals? Or Yao Mings?
Second point of culture shock: dollars being in coin form. Because I live in America and because I don’t have to pay for my laundry, coins are basically useless. All excess change goes into a tip jar or into that little dish I keep by my door that also holds gum wrappers and bobby pins. I can’t be so cavalier with my coins anymore, I could end up leaving a six dollar tip on a 4 dollar coffee. Who knows how long it’s going to take to train my brain to see coins as actual money and not just pocket maracas.
The last and most disastrous culture shock: coffee. It has taken me four days to figure out how to order an iced coffee without it appearing with milk, sugar and/or ice cream in it. After several different shops and several different approaches I finally found my rhythm at a neighborhood coffee shop down the street from our hotel. I’m not ethnocentric but it is hard not to believe whole heartedly that America is correct in what we serve as iced coffee.
In all seriousness, there have been struggles. Internet access is spotty, our bags are too big, navigating our way to the nooks and crannies by bus is a long, sweaty, stressful mess and there is a hole in the ozone layer over New Zealand so my fair skin is howlin’. But this place is beautiful and everyone is so nice it’s weird. I’m used to being the nicest person in the room so now I’m just getting competitive. I feel like we’ve been gone for two months and it hasn’t even been a week. I hope I’m aging well in this intensely sunny country.