Monday, June 29, 2009

And they called the wind Mariah

Or, as I now like to call her, Ophelia. Mischievous, vindictive and a little bit mental...

You see, since moving to New Zealand, I have really come to appreciate the sheer force and relentless power of Mother Nature. Did you hear that, Mother Nature? I GET IT. All hail your power and glory and bow beneath your will. Point taken. You can relent now.

It's hard to describe to Americans what it's like to live in New Zealand because it's literally inconceivable. Even the richest among us live in homes that would likely be condemned in the US. Homes without insulation or central heating. Homes with drafts and leaks so bad that the clearance of mould becomes part of the weekly cleaning routine instead of a reason to call a contractor. Where the presence of weeping walls is not a sign of the Beast or a supernatural infestation, but rather just par for the course. And for those of us living on a meager public servant's salary, well you can just forget it.

Case in point, I just scalded my hand while filling up my hot water bottle, which I like to sit on while I watch tv to keep my teeth from chattering, and I literally could not bear to run my burned up hand under cold water. In fact the scalding water felt good. First time that hand has been warm since I left the office.

And the worst of it is that even with the cold, you learn to love inside. Inside is a glorious respite from outside. Inside there may be a draft, but there is at least shelter from the interminable and tormenting wind that lives outside. Gale force wind. Constant wind. Wind that can blow a girl my size off of a street corner (seriously).

Sometimes I lay in bed in the morning after the alarm clock radio has come on, snuggled reasonably peacefully with the electric blanket (turned up to high, thankyouverymuch), and listen to the weather. Inevitably this time of year, the weatherman comes on to tell me that the temperature is going to be single digits and the winds will be Southerly. And for just a moment, I feel hope. Hope that I will step outside to feel wind on my face with just a slight tinge of warmth and I will remember what it's like to feel my toes again.

And then I remember. I live in opposite world, where Southerly is cold, July is winter and home is a place where you can see your breath.

Friday, June 05, 2009

I'm a man of means by no means, king of the road

Alright, so pictures normally go in the other blog, but this one is about life in New Zealand and this picture so totally sums up life in New Zealand that I could not resist.

I took this picture on the sly because, even after a year and a half here, I cannot believe that this is acceptable behaviour.

This was taken on Queen Street in the busy central business district in Auckland. For the uninitiated, Auckland is to Wellington as New York is to Washington, DC. Well, if New York had a population the size of Baltimore and Washington had a population the size of, I don't know, are there cities smaller than Baltimore? Anyways.... my point is that Auckland is the financial centre of New Zealand where the fancy people meet and greet and air kiss and Wellington is the centre of government, usually dominated by 'suits' wearing ill-fitted suits and worn down heels.

Now, even on the flashest street in the flashest district in the flashest town in New Zealand, it is COMPLETELY NORMAL to see otherwise reasonable people walking down the street barefoot. This I cannot abide, and my people come from trailer parks. You know those "no shirt, no shoes, no service" signs that you're most likely to see at a gas station in small town America? They do not apply here. I've seen people barefoot on the street, in the supermarket, at the dairy, in the mall and even at work (!!!).

I used to think that these people just had bad parents or, perhaps, were brought up by wolves but there are too many of them walking about. I mean, unless there's some gigantic children-raising wolf village somewhere turning out barefoot hillbillies to roam the streets. But no. I even dated one of these barefoot menaces. And though the family dynamic was something akin to a Greek tragedy, I can confirm that he did actually have parents who were crazy but not technically insane. Or wolves. I've even met other people who have normal, delightful, non-sociopathic mothers and they feel completely entitled to take their bare feet anywhere they want.

This offends me. Primarily because it is dirty (ew), but also because, come on, show a little self respect. The only thing that separates us from the apes is toilet training and shoes.