Talklander NZ

May 29, 2009

Little Mexico, Samba Café, Delissimo Delicatessen, Kebab City

There’s a restaurant we’ve grown quite fond of in downtown Auckland and not just because of its name. It’s called Little Mexico Cantina & Tequila Bar, and the food has a more international, gourmet taste than the more basic, spicy Mexican food we were accustomed to eating back in Guaymas, Mexico where we lived and taught for a semester.

Little-Mexico

 Jose, the owner, who’s ancestors are not from Mexico but somewhere in the Middle East, is an affable man who treats you like an amigo (friend) the moment you enter his beautifully faux painted/decorated restaurant that features warm wood floors and golden/brown hues and red table tops. Low-level lighting adds to the location’s cozy ambience. He had originally wanted to open another Middle Eastern restaurant, but the owner of the space he now rents at 31 Wellesley Street West in Auckland said, “How ‘bout Mexican? We already have a Middle Eastern restaurant a few doors down.” Being a businessman, who owns several other eateries in town, Jose said, “Why not!” And so Little Mexico was born.

Jose, the owner of Little Mexico.

Jose, the owner of Little Mexico.

 Alicia and I first came to Jose’s place just after my meeting with an elementary school principal on the North Shore. I can’t say our lunch was celebratory. After all I wasn’t offered a teaching job. In fact, I felt a little bit down after that particular meeting as the principal I talked to asked if I had any New Zealand teacher training. She seemed concerned when I said I didn’t. (Note to foreign teachers looking for work in New Zealand. If you don’t have New Zealand-training, you will have a difficult time getting a job. In fact, you will probably not get registered by Teachers Council, which is key to getting a teaching job in NZ. I’ll address this in a future Talklander NZ.) Interestingly enough, I haven’t heard from this principal since; I assume she found a New Zealand-trained teacher to fill the position that was open. In light of my less-than-satisfactory interview, I thought having lunch at Little Mexico would lift our spirits and our palates too. It did.

 Open for lunch and dinner, Little Mexico’s main dishes include enchiladas, burritos, fajitas and tacos, all presented on a plate in gourmet fashion. The menu even boasts a Little Mexico Burger, served with chips, for people like myself whose favorite foods are burgers and pizza. If you’re really hungry, you can order starters, including nachos, bean dip, or a salsa dip platter served with fresh salsa, tortilla chips, sour cream and guacamole.

Fabulous Gourmet Spanish Dishes!

Fabulous Gourmet Spanish Dishes!

 During our lunches at Little Mexico, Carolina, who’s from Brazil, is usually our waitress. She speaks with us in Spanish/English. Alicia always has a glass of Chilean red wine and I order ginger beer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlI3X4cEfHo&feature=related . On one visit, Carolina took us on a tour of the very small kitchen that turns out the melt in your mouth Mexican food. I asked the chef if I could take his picture, but he was too shy for that.

Artfully decorated, charming Little Mexican restaurant.

Artfully decorated, charming Little Mexican restaurant.

 Another restaurant we’ve frequented is Samba Café http://www.sambacafe.co.nz/ , and it’s Brazilian. The colors of the walls (one is pumpkin orange, one of my favorite colors) pop when you enter the big square space that’s both serving area and dining room with a big picture window that lets the outside light stream in. In the back and up a set of stairs is the kitchen where fragrant food aromas linger. Up another set of stairs is a second floor that is a bar/stage and additional dining area for patrons. It’s open for happy hour from 5 pm to late Tuesday through Sunday. Monday through Friday lunch is served from 11:30 am to 3 pm. Every Saturday from 12pm to 4 pm a special Feijoada e Caipirinha (black bean and meat stew) is served.

Brazilian fast food - without the fast food taste!

Brazilian fast food - without the fast food taste!

 One of the co-owners of Samba Café is Cicero. A native Brazilian, he’s imported the best of Brazilian food to 466 Queen Street in Auckland. “Part of Brazil in Auckland” boasts their website and stepping into Samba Café is like visiting Brazil without the long flight and need for a passport.

Alicia and the owner of Samba.

Alicia and the owner of Samba.

 At Samba Café it’s a serve-yourself proposition from heated trays with a variety of Brazilian entrees and side dishes, including sucos duces e acai and polenta (boiled cornmeal), prepared by chef Ana Paula. Your lunch is paid for by the kilogram! So, if you’re really hungry and don’t mind paying for additional kilos, pile your plate high; otherwise go light on your stomach and wallet by ordering the restaurant’s fresh salad. Once you’ve gone Brazilian, rice and beans just won’t be the same. Many of the menu selections are influenced heavily by traditional cuisine from Southeastern Brazil (Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuisine_of_Brazil .

Hot, fresh ingredients - every day!

Hot, fresh ingredients - every day!

 If you happen to be walking through Queen’s Arcade in Auckland, you’ll surely stop to look inside the window of Shop 32, aka Delissimo Delicatessen, located at 34-40 Queen Street. There’s a pile of freshly made sandwiches sitting on a tray just inside, waiting for hungry customers to order them.

Ivan, the owner of Delissimo.

Zan, co-owner of Delissimo.

 Zan and Iva, originally from Eastern Europe, owners of Delissimo Delicatessen, will meet your gaze and warmly embrace you with their smiles. They’ll invite you into their little shop and encourage you to check out the freshly made pastas and pot pies and salads. You’ll close your eyes for a second and smell the wonderful food that they and their small staff prepare daily in a tiny kitchen in the back of the shop.

Delicious European sandwiches and salads!

Delicious European sandwiches and salads!

 A blackboard on the back wall announces the specials of the day. On one occasion, Alicia ordered a German potato salad and I had a salami and provolone cheese on ciabatta bread sandwich that tasted as delicious as it looked in the window.

 What’s unique about Delissimo Delicatessen is that you feel as if you’ve been transported to someplace in Europe as you dine at tables just outside the delicatessen which is sandwiched between other shops selling clothes, cd’s, jewelry and kitchenware. It’s a great place to relax and people watch.

 Alicia and I enjoyed a late lunch one day, and the staff of Delissimo, along with Zan and Iva, was eating their lunch at an adjacent table. They acted like family and made me love this little restaurant, open for breakfast and lunch, even more.  

Alicia enjoying an incredible potato salad for lunch!

Alicia enjoying an incredible potato salad for lunch!

There are a multitude of kebab places in this Kiwi city, but the one I happened upon one day is Kebab City, adjacent to Show Girls. Located at 51 Customs Street, the manager, Sam, gifted me with a Java Joe sign, which I plan on framing some day. Java Joe brand coffee is just one item on this restaurant’s menu. Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Kebab City sells a lot of chicken kebabs and also fish and chips. You’ll find hookahs http://www.hookahhookah.com/hookahhookah_com_-_store2/home.php also on the menu. So, if you’re inclined, you can stay while after eating a kebab, and indulge in a flavorful smoke.

Owner, Joe and co-worker.

Sam and Alexi of Kebab City, a place for flavorful food and hookah smoke.

 

If you’re looking for a light snack and a flat white (that’s what they call a latte coffee here in NZ) stop in at one particular Esquires Coffee Houses (a chain of coffee places that are as ubiquitous in Auckland, NZ as Starbucks is in Seattle, WA) at 33 Lorne Street (Shop 2). Vimesh is the gregarious manger there and he’ll treat you like an honored guest in his establishment. While you’re drinking your coffee and eating a muffin or sandwich, you can take advantage of free Wi-Fi and check your email as well, which is what Alicia and I have done many times. We’ve been to other Esquires Coffee Houses in town www.esquirescoffee.co.nz , but always return to Vimesh’s place because of his hospitality.

esquires

 Auckland is certainly the city of culinary creations, including those great food courts I wrote about in a previous Talklander NZ. It’s not a matter of when to eat as it is what and where to eat. Just like Alicia and I, you’ll find your favorite restaurants if you’re in Auckland long enough. And it’ll be easy to return to the same eateries again and again, just as we’ve done, but from time to time be bold and adventurous and try a new place to eat. We/you will rarely be disappointed.

 Written by Joseph A. Haviland

Edited by Alicia Frank Haviland

Copyright 2009

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Talklander NZ

May 17, 2009

Paradise at Poaka Place

 On the North Shore in the sparkling, waterfront suburban town of Beach Haven http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beach_Haven,_New_Zealand there’s a special, lush and verdant place, seemingly hidden from the world. It’s just a short trip from the teeming downtown metropolis of Auckland across the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

View from Tony and Michelle's deck

View from Tony and Michelle's deck

The first time Alicia and I ventured to Tony and Michelle Meynaert’s rarified retreat, we were thinking of sharing the space with them. We were considering a house share and had placed an ad on Gumtree, a free internet service that connects people who are looking for apartment/house rentals with people who have places to rent. Michelle, a happy-go-lucky native of New Zealand, contacted us to come and take a look at the beautiful home she shared with her husband, Tony, a scuba-diving fisherman with an old world accent.

group

Visting Tony and Michelle's lovely retreat!

Ultimately we decided to stay put in the noisy city at the Formulae 1 Hotel, eventually moving to somewhat quieter Freeman’s Bay, adjacent to downtown Auckland, and our own private, furnished studio apartment. But our first meeting with Tony and Michelle was marvelously memorable and ultimately sustainable.

A respite from the continuous cacophony of the city, at Poaka Place we found ourselves transported in this natural environment/home that’s owned by Tony, a gregarious, adventurous Belgian who ventured down under and met and fell in love with his wife, Michelle, a sweet, generous, short-haired Kiwi.  Together they’ve created an oasis not far from the tourist-tred streets of Auckland.

During our first meeting, we shared lunch on their wraparound deck, with sliding glass doors that open to spacious living room and dining room. Beyond that, up a step or two, is their beautiful blue, modern kitchen and a sun-drenched den next to that. There are three bedrooms (for guests) on the first floor with a shared bathroom, and a master bedroom (Tony and Michelle’s private space) on the second floor with a full bath. The house’s interior, tastefully decorated, is adorned with eclectic artwork and various cool chachkas http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=chachkas .

Delightful Dishes!

Delightful Dishes!

 It was as if we were already friends from long ago, and visiting after a long absence. They treated us as honored guests from the beginning. Even their black cat, Buddy, slowly took time out from his daily garden tour to greet us. That was purrfect!

Here Kitty, Kitty!

Here Kitty, Kitty!

In our first visit, we met Tommie, from Johannesburg, South Africa http://www.joburg.org.za/index.php. He’s a smart, young man, who was staying at their house while he explored warehouse management work possibilities in the city of Auckland. We bonded with him immediately since we also were looking for work: teaching jobs. He’s since returned to South Africa to his wife and two daughters, but not before becoming a good friend to all of us.

From right: Tony, Michelle and house guest, Tommie.

From right: Tony, Michelle and house guest, Tommie.

 Tony and Michelle’s mission is simple: They want to share their home/lives with travelers from around the world. They thoroughly enjoy meeting people of different cultures and sharing their lovely space with them. In the process they often times make life-long friends. They currently function like a bed and breakfast operation with lodging and food included in one weekly price for the guests who stay at their place.

The view from porch-side of their house is take-your-breath-away. I couldn’t decide what I was enjoying more: the camaraderie of newly-made friends or the sea and sky panoramic vista that was part of their property? From their deck it’s a poetic view of the inner channel of Waitemata Harbour http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waitemata_Harbour. We worship the sun sparkling like diamonds off the water and point out various boats traveling up and down the channel on this particular weekend. As Tony and Michelle and their guests admire the views, one wonders what it was like for native Maoris http://www.virtualoceania.net/newzealand/photos/culture/maori/ who lived here hundreds of years ago, perhaps perplexed to see the explorers from other continents sailing their channel!

One word - Breathtaking!

One word - Breathtaking!

 Almost two centuries have elapsed since Richard Alexander Cruise sailed on these same waters http://www.findingnz.co.nz/xb/hxb1_waitema.htm, and it was included in his journal kept during a ten month stay in New Zealand. Cruise commanded a military detachment on the HMS Dromedary, which accompanied the New South Wales government schooner Prince Regent under the command of John Rodolphus Kent. At 9 am on August 21, 1820, the Prince Regent entered Rangitoto Channel from the north with Cruise noting, “At first it was not more than three miles broad, but it soon widened to about ten. The mouth of a large river, called the Waitemata, was passed at ten o’clock.”

 “We fell in love with this place the first time we saw it,” said Tony, a bit of an adventurer himself. “How could you not,” he added, with a sweeping gesture of the verdant view as we sat and dined on a delicious lunch of steak, potatoes and salad.

 On our first visit, Tony and Michelle took us on a tour of the tree-filled neighborhood. We ended up on a path that wound down to the seashore where sunbathers were rejoicing. (Make sure you have plenty of sun screen on as the sun can be a scorcher in these parts of the world.) While I appreciated the view from up high at Poaka Place, I also enjoyed being at sea level and standing in the sand and watching the never-ending ripples of waves at low tide.

 It’d be wonderful to report that everything is right as rain in this corner of the world, but it appears that Tony and Michelle’s neighbors are doing their darndest to obliterate the incredible view that they now enjoy. The neighbors refuse to keep their hedge trimmed and if it grows up unchecked, it will completely obliterate the view they now hold so sacred. The neighbors claim they need more privacy, but ironically the actual owners aren’t even living at this property; it’s used as a rental!

view2

Unspoiled View!

 Tony and Michelle hope to solve things amicably with their neighbors, and have already written letters to them in the attempt at reaching a peaceful resolution. Time will tell whether a more drawn out legal action will be necessary and ultimately successful.

 We recommend that Tony and Michelle contact a New Zealand TV show called Neighbours at War http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DP6eommdUL8&feature=related . (Yes, neighbours is spelled correctly for Kiwis!) It’s a show that describes itself as, epic struggles of neighbourly disgruntlement. The show claims to have a 37% success rate at resolving neighbourly disputes. It’s on  right after Shortland Street, a hospital drama that Alicia loves watching on TV2 Thursday nights.

 The Meynaert’s are preservationist at heart. They want to preserve the view that they and their present and future world travelers now enjoy. It’s a little heaven on Earth. The picture perfect panorama just outside their door (and many of their neighbor’s doors too!) is a never-ending seasonal sensation that has something fresh and exciting to offer the senses each day they are privileged to be custodians of this corner of the universe they call home. They are like the Maoris from centuries ago, watching the water and checking out the vessels that pass by.

 Since our first meeting with Tony and Michelle, we’ve been back to their lovely home on a number of occasions. We love watching the Tui http://www.nzbirds.com/birds/tui.html bird drink from the red container that sits high up on a tree in the side yard. It chortles and chuckles in a way no other bird I’ve ever met sounds. Tony is particularly fond of his resident Tuis. He’s taken many photos, like a proud papa of the pugnaciously joyful birds.

 Fellowship with other people and nature makes this peaceful place popular. It’s also the food. Tony loves to barbecue and Michelle is always whipping up something in the kitchen. During one visit we gave them both a break, and Alicia cooked a tasty German meal (bratwurst and hot German potato salad). Another time, Tony and Michelle served us up a brunch fit for royalty. There were two new guests, Louise and Adel from London, staying at their place and they were thrilled to have found such a beautiful lodging with friendly hosts. “We really like the view,” they said, “The house is nice and clean and there is enough space. It is great to have the Michelle and Tony’s company.”

Tony grilling up a feast fit for a Kiwi!

Tony grilling up a feast fit for a Kiwi!

 If you are one of those lucky visitors to find his/her way to this special place, you’ll have memories that will last a lifetime. You’ll find yourself back home in your native land wondering what’s happening at Poaka Place and wish for a momentary glimpse of the view they are now still enjoying, God willing.  The good news is that you can always go “home” to Poaka Place and revisit Tony and Michelle anytime you like.

Written by Joseph A. Haviland

Edited by Alicia Frank Haviland

Copyright 2009

Talklander NZ

April 12, 2009

PIcture Perfect Ponsonby, Tree-Lined Streets, Murder Burger

 

 

While we’ve been living happily in Freeman’s Bay neighborhood of Auckland, with the busy retail-stuffed Karangahape Road a steep street away, there is a neighborhood just to the west of us called Ponsonby http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ponsonby,_New_Zealand (pronounced Pons-bee). It has its own main street (Ponsonby Road) of shops and eateries, but is less trafficked than K’ Road. On P’ Road (I wonder if locals ever refer to Ponsonby’s maind drag as P’ Road? But I will, respectfully, for the fun of it.) there isn’t the same plethora of pedestrians that visit K’ Road daily. It makes for a quieter stroll down the famous street with it lush, tree-lined leafy adjacent avenues and spectacular views of downtown Auckland.

 

 

From every side street off Ponsonby Road - Great Views!

From every side street off Ponsonby Road - Great Views!

 

On Ponsonby Road, home to art galleries, cafes, restaurants, bars, and more, there are “Butts Here” metal boxes slung on the side of garbage cans that line the street, resulting in less cigarette butts on the sidewalk. Like many streets in Auckland, there’s little litter here too. Smokers peacefully co-exist with non-smokers, unlike in Berkeley, CA, where smokers have to basically stand in the street to smoke.

 

Auckland - a clean, friendly city!

Auckland - a clean, friendly city!

 

Alicia first explored Ponsonby Road; I was running an errand. She was complimentary of the upscale neighborhood to the west of us. It’s a mix of businesses that cater to the residents that live in the area as well as outsiders; some of whom accidentally visit, escaping Auckland’s crowded downtown core.

 

We returned to the area on a number of occasions, more recently for cheeseburgers and shakes at Burger Wisconsin, where when dining outside one gets a primo view of downtown Auckland with the Sky Tower. Another time, we strolled up and down the road that saw more than a few blaring fire trucks pass by in a hurry. There is an impressive fire station standing at one end of Ponsonby Road which runs for half a dozen blocks filled with an electic mix of retail stores, restaurants (modestly priced and expensive), and pubs, where on any given sunny summer evening regulars hang out socializing with pints in palm.

 

 

 

Another great restaurant on Ponsonby Road.

Another great restaurant on Ponsonby Road.

 

In this newsletter, I couldn’t possibly list all the establishments located on Ponsonby Road, but I will list some that caught my eye. Keep in mind it isn’t just the myriad of retail operations in Ponsonby http://www.ponsonby.org.nz/default.asp that I find fascinating. It is also the side streets that make up this neighborhood. Each is adorned with a tunnel of tree leaves that drivers and walkers pass under daily. The thickness of foliage is unrivaled by other neighborhoods we’ve visited in Auckland. But back to the businesses that have taken up residence in Ponsonby.

 

If you’re hungry or thirsty, there’s restaurants/bars like Chapel Bar & Bistro, Lot 44, Orchid, Thirty Nine, The Crib, to name a few. For fashion, some of the places that pop out of Ponsonby Road include, Bee Boo, Fifth Avenue, Encore Designer Recycle Clothing, and Nadia. There are books to be read at New Zealand Writer’s Guild, and music/dancing at places like Lime and Safari Lounge, all on Ponsonby Road.

 

Night time club - open late until late!

Night time club - open late until late!

 

Il Buco, a gourmet pizza place, sits next door to a Subway which sells a roast lamb with mint sauce sandwich. That’s a sandwich you wouldn’t find back in the U.S. Il Buco sells only square slices of premium-priced pizza (NZ$4). The owner likes to experiment with different mixes of toppings (like parsley, oregano, Italian sausage, onions, broccoli, chili, garlic, tomatoes, mushrooms) drawing in customers who are eager to engage in new taste sensations. Dominoes this isn’t! 

 

Ilbuco pizza - gourmet and great!

Ilbuco pizza - gourmet and great!

 
Murder Burger is another “fast food” restaurant on Ponsonby. It features a cat with red eyes as on its store logo. Like Hell Pizza, a chain located in other parts of Auckland, this establishment seeks to do more than just serve billions of burgers like McDonalds or Burger King, and does it with some unusual advertising. I just might apply for a job! http://aht.seriouseats.com/archives/2008/09/murder-burger-funny-staff-wanted-sign-auckland-new-zealand.html
 
 
Alicia checking out the take out menu!

Alicia checking out the take out menu!

Quality Fruiterers with flowers out front is a place where one can buy fresh fruits and vegetables. Every town has at least one local market like this, where locals prefer to shop for fresh produce.

 

Beauty in Bloom!

Beauty in Bloom!

Sky Restaurant features Chinese food. It was closed when we walked past, so I made a mental note to visit it again for lunch or dinner. I’ve been dying for General Tso’s Chicken, but it appears that the Chinese restaurants in Auckland don’t feature this entre.

 

Bolliwood, and Indian restaurant which offers a NZ$10 (US$5) lunch special. The restaurant features a big screen TV where Bolliwood movies are played while diners eat spicy lamb vindaloo or other less hot Indian food.

Bolliwood - music videos from India and great food!

Bolliwood - music videos from India and great food!

 

Follow your nose to the Ponsonby International Food Court, which features a variety of cuisines and has sparrows coming to dine, is where Alicia and I stop for dinner another time we visit Ponsonby Road. Alicia had a chicken bento box with miso soup.

 

Food galore! Many nations under one roof!

Food galore! Many nations under one roof!

 

City Convenience Store advertising internet is one of the more practical businesses on the street and contrasts with Ponsonby’s few nighclubs (not open during the day) or the fairy shop that sells whimsical children’s dresses.

Fast and convenient!

Fast and convenient!

 

 

 

 

 

Capricious is a trisculptural installation (from 1999) by sculptor John Radford in Western Park at the beginning of Ponsonby Road business district. There are three (trisculptural) installations based on buildings that used to stand in various parts of the city of Auckland more than a century ago. They are the tops of buildings buried in the dirt, making it seem like there is whole multi-storied brick buildings buried below. On top of one sculpture it reads: Birds used to sit here and watch people far below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

bird1

 

Those birds once perched high atop those original city buildings are now long gone, but I’m sure the birds that currently make Ponsonby their home enjoy it as much as Alicia and I do. I suspect they also continue to watch the humans who walk the popular length of Ponsonby Road today.

 

Happy Easter to all our family and friends around the world!

 

Some bunny loves you!

Some bunny loves you!

 

 

Written by Joseph A. Haviland

Edited by Alicia Frank Haviland

Copyright 2009

 

 

 

Talklander NZ

April 5, 2009

 Architecture in Auckland, Frans the Bus Driver/Writer, Disappearing Cicada

 

It’s the stuff of fairy tales. Not the modern glass skyscrapers and signature Sky Tower that compose the prospering downtown Auckland skyline, but the single family houses that permeate the suburbs surrounding the city’s core.

 

Tree line street in Auckland!

Tree lined street in Auckland!

 

With its multi-colored painted metal roofs, many of the houses here in this part of New Zealand remind me of the ginger bread house in Little Red Riding Hood or Hansel and Gretel, but even more magical and visually delightful.

 

Quaint and charming abode!

Quaint and charming abode!

 

 

Many houses in New Zealand have a slim porch with tall windows in front with a curved roof over the porch and a larger gable or pyramid roof and wood siding that give the houses a finished Victorian http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victorian_architecture or Queen Anne Style look. I imagine family members sitting on these porches, relaxing, drinking tea, watching the world go by, and uttering a friendly word (“G’Day, Mate!”) or two to say to passing neighbors. Some of the doors to these houses you just won’t find back in Seattle. They stand out not just because of their vibrant reds or blues, but because doorknobs are located in the middle, suggesting they are from a different time. And the chimneys poke up above the roof-lines, some with smoke coming out of them on a chilly summer night in Auckland.

 

 

Lovely foliage and warmth line the pathway to this charmer!

Lovely foliage and warmth line the pathway to this charmer! !

 

I’ve taken up running again and on a sunny day jogging through various neighborhoods of Auckland I marvel at the assortment of plants and houses I run past. Everything seems to sparkle in the sun’s light, which we’ve been warned to be careful of as there’s a much thinner ozone layer in New Zealand than further north in Los Angeles or Seattle. Even on an overcast and sometimes (not very often) rainy day, the houses radiate a unique Kiwi personality.

 

Pretty little porch - sized just right to get out of the rain!

Pretty little porch - sized just right to get out of the rain!

 

In Auckland, very rarely have I run or walked past a house that was in disrepair or unkempt.  Even apartment buildings, which feature more block-like, modern architecture, are neat and tidy, like their residents.

 

 

Studio apartments with light emitting windows to capture the sunshine!

Studio apartments with light emitting windows to capture the sunshine!

Patio to party!

A party patio to hang out with friends!

One resident Kiwi is our next door neighbor, Frans. We had him over for pizza recently. (It was our first time eating Hell Pizza http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hell_Pizza .) Unfortunately our spontaneous invitation resulted in him temporarily getting locked out of his apartment and with the help of another neighbor, Graham, he was able to get back into his flat (the word for apartment here in New Zealand). .

Frans and Alicia - pizza anyone?

Frans and Alicia - pizza anyone?

 

Originally from Holland, this self-effacing Dutch Kiwi moved with his family to Christchurch (South Island) when he was five. He’s relocated to Auckland (North Island) and is currently driving a bus and tells us selected stories about some of the more interesting passengers he’s had on board his bus. Sadly, bus drivers don’t make a lot of money and work long hours in Auckland, so he’s looking to eventually get into journalism. Perhaps he’ll write a book about his experiences driving a bus in New Zealand or the time he managed a sometimes noisy, rough-and-tumble boarding house in Christchurch on South Island.

Frans soon to be journalist drives different routes around Auckland and never a boring moment!

Frans, the soon to be journalist, drives different routes around Auckland and never a boring moment!

 

Speaking of noisy, those heat-seeking, chattering http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cicada cicadas are winding down and now during the day I can hardly hear them. Thank goodness for that. As we approach fall here in New Zealand, I’m not sad to see the noisy buggers (the males “talk” with noisemakers known as timbals) come to the end of their life cycle, most of which is spent as nymphs under ground.  You’d think the yard and sidewalks would be covered with their corpses (like the dead crickets at school in Mexico that were swept up by the dozens), but it’s as if they just went “poof” and disappeared into thin air. More likely they became dinner for other insects/animals further up the food chain!

 

Now it seems like the only cicada-free clatter we hear outside our studio apartment is the traffic up and down Howe Street, the toddlers playing in the nursery school across the street, or the sweet sounding birds that chirp in the trees in our garden. These are sounds that are more palatable to me.

 

 

Our own little hideaway!

Our own little hideaway!

 

Each day I wake up here in New Zealand I marvel at how different this place is compared to the United States and other countries we’ve been to. Whether it’s in the architecture or the laid-back Kiwis, there’s something very special about this island country in the Pacific that starts a day ahead of many other parts of the world. It makes you want to stay a while and sit in a chair on those ubiquitous fairy-tale porches and visit for a spell.

 

Written by Joseph A. Haviland

Edited by Alicia Frank Haviland

Copyright 2009

 

Talklander NZ

March 31, 2009

Missing in Auckland, Snack-Free, Homer Simpson 

It’s almost the end of March and a very snowy winter back in many parts of the United States, including Seattle, where Alicia and I used to live before we started our world tour. Snow, the cold white stuff that Frosty the Snowman is made of, is one thing Auckland, NZ doesn’t have. The weather is mild all year round and precipitation comes mostly in the form of rain. “Right as rain,” is what Kiwis say when something is perfect. It’s still summer (your winter in the U.S.) here, and it’s been delightfully sunny and right as rain weather-wise.

 

 

New Zealand Summer!

New Zealand Summer!

 

Besides the lack of snow, ice, frozen slushy-like floods in places like Fargo, ND, and bone-chilling temperatures, there are other things that are non-existent in this part of New Zealand, and I thought I’d talk about some of those missing bit and pieces this week in our newsletter. Some of it I can do without, like the cold weather; others I wish I had here in North Island.

 

Seattle Winter!

Seattle Winter!

  

What’s lacking in New Zealand makes us pine occasionally for the United States, but it distinguishes what the differences are between the two countries. It allows us to wake up each day and realize that yes, in fact, we are living in a uniquely fascinating place, and far from any home we’ve ever known. I recommend moving to another country for anyone who’s interested in stepping out of the box that their daily life has become.

 

It’s not necessarily a bad thing that I can’t buy a bag of Doritos in the supermarkets here, but every time I travel down the snack food aisle at Foodtown or New World Market, it’s apparent that Doritos and a variety of other American-brand snack foods (Tim’s Cascade potato chips, Planters peanuts, Gardetto snacks) I love, are absent in the marketplace here in Auckland. Instead, there’s a plethora of penguins parading on packages of Bluebird potato chips. And they even have their own TV commercials, one where the barter for ice with their chips: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeJ9OOVnW7Q&feature=related. Maybe New Zealanders just don’t like Doritos, produced by Frito Lay, as well as Lay’s potato chips and Hot Cheetos? I know I miss munching on them. Or it might just be an executive decision by Frito Lay, which in 2006 purchased Bluebird Foods, Ltd., the largest manufacturer of chips and snacks in New Zealand. It’s all good, as Alicia is trying to change me from Junk Food Joe to Fresh Fruit/Vegi-Man! I know Dr. Sanchez would be very happy if she succeeds. 

 

 

Fresh Vegies and Fruit - Not junk food!

Fresh Vegies and Fruit - Not junk food!

 

Other food products like Klondike Bars http://www.icecreamusa.com/klondike/ aren’t in New Zealand supermarkets. What I’d give for a Klondike Bar right now! I hear they have new flavors, like Reeses Peanut Butter Cup and Oreo Cookie. There’s no Double Stuf Oreo cookies on the shelves here either. Nabisco doesn’t have any of their cookie products in stores here. Absent are the Keebler elves. Consequently, I’ve been deprived of dunking my favorite cookies!

 

I must admit I’m getting a bit squirrelly not having my favorite junk food here, but there is a benefit from it; I’m eating less of it and not ingesting salt and empty calories.

 

Speaking of squirrelly, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Squirrel , there aren’t any squirrels here in Auckland. Lots of birds chirp happily in the trees, including the Tui bird http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sh_Ly4ewgCM&NR=1 , with its very distinctive sounds, but no squirrels! They are strangely absent. Maybe New Zealand needs to import gray squirrels from England, where they outnumber the diminishing red squirrels and are making Brits very unhappy. In their “Save our Squirrels” campaign, the Brits have a slogan, “Save a red, eat a gray.” It promotes the eating of wild gray squirrels as a low fat meat alternative and a way to help increase the red squirrel population.

 

 

New Zealand Tui bird - sings loudly especially in the early morning hours!

New Zealand Tui bird - sings loudly especially in the early morning hours!

 

I’ll stick with hamburger thank you, but I can’t find a good hamburger here in Auckland, a city full of tasty Asian foods. Alicia and I have been to quite a few hamburger places, and found the hamburgers lacking in some ways. We haven’t experienced the White Lady http://portlandhamburgers.blogspot.com/2008/11/new-zealand-white-lady-auckland.html  yet and so our search for the perfect hamburger continues. We’ll keep you posted.

One of my favorite hamburger toppings back stateside is cheddar cheese, the sharper the better. You won’t find sharp cheddar cheese here in Auckland. In fact, most of the cheese we tasted here so far is quite bland, other than the Brie cheese. Alicia finds that savory.

 

Kiwis, who seem to like their cheese just fine, also like to use sexy models in their TV advertisements, but you won’t be seeing this Burger King commercial in New Zealand http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FcTWwXyt_Rs anytime soon, as it’s been banned there. Car commercials aren’t like they are in the U.S. When was the last time you saw a toddler driving down the road? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_JgD81GiAE .

 

You won’t see the tame drinking responsibly or designated driver ads you see in the U.S. There’s something more dramatic in New Zealand’s alcohol TV commercials. In their public service announcements (PSA’s) http://www.clipaday.com/videos/new-zealand-alcohol-psa their slogan is: It’s not the drinking; it’s how we’re drinking. They’re urging the public to watch how much they are drinking because the alcohol content is higher here down under. One beer has 9 percent alcohol, considerably more than in the U.S. or any other country we’ve been too, including Venezuela, which has the lowest alcohol content.

 

Local billboard ad for a bar!

Local billboard ad for a bar!

 

Missing in New Zealand is streamlined governmental processes. Now, I know Americans probably think that they’ve faced bureaucracy at one time or another in their home state, but from what Alicia and I have experienced so far here, trying to get teacher registrations and work permits, New Zealand takes the cake. Even more than Costa Rica, which was extremely difficult to get any kind of licensing approved within a reasonable amount of time. There is nothing expeditious about the processing of paperwork here in New Zealand. We’ve been at it for almost six months now and there’s still no end in sight.

 

You’ll have to wait ‘til hell freezes over to get free internet in this part of the world. Every time you get on the internet, even at the Wi-Fi cafes, where one would assume you can get free access to internet, you have to pay for a cup of coffee first. Then you only get up to an hour of internet. Here in New Zealand internet users pay by the megabyte even at home and the bill can be astronomical.

 

Though they do have a Dunkin’ Donuts in Auckland, I find the variety of donuts small and stale. I used to be a big Dunkin’ Donuts fan. But now I’ve dumped Dunkin’ Donuts like an old girlfriend. Sadly, New Zealand doesn’t really do donuts, so I’m donut-free for now. I advise Homer Simpson to bring his own supply of donuts when he visits New Zealand.

 

 

Auckland's Dunkin Donuts.

Auckland's Dunkin Donuts.

They don’t have the ubiquitous Starbucks on every corner like in the U.S. There are a few scattered around the city, but Esquires Coffee Houses seems to be the premier coffee place, along with other competitors for my caffeine fix, including java joints like Atomic Café, Orb Coffee, or Roasted Addiqtion Coffee Dealers.

 

Coffee lovers addiqtion!

Coffee lovers Addiqtion!

There are some unique street signs and many intersections are without stop signs, so walker/runner beware. Drivers have the right of way here, even when you, the pedestrian, are in the intersection. I almost got run down while running one day. The driver, who screeched to a halt, was mad and wanted me to rack off (go away). He yelled, “Mate, get on the footpath.” Translated, it means “Pal, get on the sidewalk.” I tried to argue with him nicely, explaining how in America pedestrians have the right of way when in any intersection. He looked at me like I was from Mars. Besides driving on the other side of the road here in New Zealand, drivers also seem to have a different view on who has the right of way in an intersection. Car first; pedestrian second, unless you’re in a marked crosswalk. Even then walker be careful.

 

Though there are lots of things that are different between our two countries, I’m not getting my knickers in a twist (upset). Thankfully we share the same language; well almost! There are times when I’m hard pressed to understand the local diction/dialect, especially when it’s spoken too fast. (There’ll be a future newsletter on this!) When that happens, I turn to Pink Monkey and he translates for me.

Traffic in Auckland!

Traffic in Auckland!

 

Some Kiwis stop for coffee but not for pedestrians.

Some Kiwis stop for coffee but not for pedestrians.

 

 

Next week, we take a look at Auckland’s unique architecture. Join us for a house tour, won’t you?

 

 

Written by Joseph A. Haviland

Edited by Alicia Frank Haviland

Copyright 2009

 

 

Talklander NZ

March 23, 2009

Karangahape Road, Architecture, Running in Auckland, Hot Coffee in a Can

 View down Howe Sreet from the top of K'Road, Freemans Bay. We live at the bottom of this very steep hill.

 

For the past month, Alicia and I have been living at 133 Howe St., Flat 2A in Freemans Bay, just across from the Auckland Girls’ Grammar School http://www.aggs.school.nz/ and a nursery school, where children chirp Monday through Friday, their little voices birdlike. It’s a fairly quiet satellite community, except during rush hours in the morning and evening with cars, buses, and trucks speeding by. There’s summer sounds of cicadas too. It’s just outside of downtown Auckland; we can still see the Sky Tower from where we live. It’s lit up at night; a beacon of sorts. We live down the (steep) street from busy Karangahape Road http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karangahape_Road , also known by many (locals and tourists) as K’ Road (maybe because it’s so hard to pronounce!)

You can tell Alicia and I are getting old; it takes us a while to climb Howe Street to Karangahape Road, often having to stop once or twice to rest. The descent on Howe is much easier, and on any given sun-speckled afternoon we may be treated to female students, some of whom are bigger than me, at the Auckland Girls’ Grammar School practicing Maori dances and singing. We become a captive audience on these late afternoons.

Karangahape is Maori for “winding ridge of humanity activity.” Alicia and I were concerned at first that this ridge of humanity from K’ Road would spill down to our apartment, especially late at night and early in the morning. But aside from the cars, the cicadas have been the noisiest residents (and only during the day) in our neighborhood, and they’re almost finished their short summer fiesta!

 

Karangahape Road has seen quite a few changes over the years, especially since Queen Street eventually eclipsed it as Auckland’s premier street and in the 1960’s many stores closed and relocated to the growing outer lying suburbs, reached by newly completed inter-city motorways. Throughout its metamorphosis/transitions, K’ Road never lost its Cool! http://www.teara.govt.nz/Places/Auckland/Auckland/10/en   One of the oldest streets in Auckland, it’s still home to one of the oldest professions. But now, due in part to the gentrification of surrounding local neighborhoods, it’s a shadow of its former seedy self back in the 60’s/70’s when K’ Road was home to Auckland’s Red Light District.

 

 

The Red Light District of Auckland.

The Red Light District of Auckland.

Remnants of that past still linger in the few shops that sell sexual paraphernalia. Because prostitution is legal, the government has set parameters on the trade, and you generally don’t see hookers soliciting or plying their wares on the street. It’s a more discreet operation that’s even represented by a union! So, to say that Karangahape Road is family-friendly is not a stretch, but don’t look for Disneyworld here!

 

Making it a more inviting place for all people, the street received a major upgrade of its footpaths and street furniture. That was completed in 2006 at a cost of NZ$3.5 million (US$1.75 million). 

 

Visited daily by an eclectic mix of humanity, from off-duty street walkers to pedestrian pedestrians, the two-block long covered footpath (street in kiwi-speak) offers something for everyone. It’s a bohemian mix of cafes, restaurants, NZ$2 Stores, sushi shops, bars, boutiques, mini-marts, new and recycled clothing (Alicia’s favorite attraction) shops (Leo O’Malleys Menswear, Peachy Keen Recycled Glamour, Op shops, where clothes are cheap as chips), tattoo parlors, hair salons, including the African Hair Braiding, and even food courts comprise the street that’s busy day and night. There’s culture too at the relocated MIC and one of the oldest cemeteries in Auckland and the first official burial ground.

 

 

Thrift shops and going green!

Thrift shops and going green!

Fabulous vintage finds!

Fabulous vintage finds!

 

For me, strolling down K’ Road, which has a thriving gay community, is like being back on Broadway in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle; at least the way Broadway used to be back at the 90’s when there was also an eclectic mix of residents living and frequenting stores there. Maybe some of those people have relocated to Auckland, NZ?

 

In a town where prostitution is tolerated, if not completely accepted, there’s lot of sex shops like Kinks, Pleasure Chest, The Exclusive Adult Shop which probably becomes more active in the late hours, as I never see anyone coming or going from them in the daytime. There’s also clubs like the Scorpio Entertainment Club and the Las Vegas Strip Club that cater to certain segments of the population.

 

 

Las Vegas Strip Club on K'Road.

Las Vegas Strip Club on K'Road.

Cafes (Joe’s favorite attraction!) are in abundance here, including established chains like Starbucks. But it’s places like Verona (a settting made famous in NZ’s Elemeno P’s song Verona), St. Kevins, The French Bakehouse, Hollywood Bakery Espresso, and Blue Caspian Café with tables and chairs spilling out onto the sidewalk that capture the most customers. Incidentally, the song Verona by New Zealand rock band Elemeno P, from their album Love & Disrespect, refers to the cafe/restaurant/bar of the same name at 169 Karangahape Road.

 

The famous Verona Café on Karangahape Road!

The famous Verona Café on Karangahape Road!

 

Restaurants/bars populate the street, including “The Thirsty Dog” at the corner of K’ Road and Howe. Top Kebab serves Turkish food further down the block and also features hookahs for people to smoke fruit-flavored tobacco from. There’s also the elegant Handmade Coffee & Burgers restaurant, with delicious coffee and tasty burgers for sale (That’s a no brainer!), that looks more like a church inside, with its sweeping staircase and curved cathedral ceiling. There are two Asian food courts that Alicia and I visited.

 

Coffe Burger Handmade, cozy little burger shop.

Coffe Burger Handmade, cozy little burger shop.

Little shop, big burgers - delicious and messy!

Little shop, big burgers - delicious and messy!

The Rectifyer - a burger with everything including plum sauce!

The Rectifyer - a burger with everything including plum sauce!

The Mercury Plaza Food Court, a block off K’ Road, and the other on K’ Road, located in the Lim Chhour Supermarket, feature great smelling, palate pleasing foods (Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Indian, Thai) from many parts of the world. The food courts on Karangahape Road are like their downtown Auckland counterparts. We’ve found whatever town we go to, there’s likely to be a food court there. It’s a communal, cafeteria-style dining that’s become popular here in New Zealand. Finding a food court is easy in this town; deciding what to eat is not! 

I don’t know how many total businesses exist on K’ Road, but one, Mecca, has gone out of business and a sign thanking it’s customers for the last 12 years, is posted on the defunct establishment’s door. Still thriving are places like Newton Pharmacy, BK Hostel, X-press Mart, Cadenza Guitars and Musical Instruments, the Style Mart, Great Wall Health Center, Instant Finance, Regent Fisheries, This is Not a Love Shop, D.O.C Bar, and Walia Superette, which features a fresh popcorn machine which dispenses a bag of real-time popped corn for NZ$2, are a few of the many places Alicia and I have walked past each day on our errands for groceries or mailing postcards at the orange-colored post office.

 

Quaint and old fashion popcorn - anytime you walk by this convenience store! Another K'Road delight!

Quaint and old fashion popcorn - anytime you walk by this convenience store! Another K'Road delight!

 

 

There’s also the Moving Image Centre. It’s also known as MIC Toi Rerehiko. It’s a multidisciplinary cultural institution exhibiting international and New Zealand artists, via “contemporary film, video, digital media, installation, music and live performance”. MIC http://mic.org.nz/  used to be a fixture on Karangahape Road, but has moved just below K’ Road to Galatos Street.

 

And what road would be complete without a cemetery? There’s the Symonds Street Cemetery, final resting place (graves) of Auckland’s early settlers including Captain William Hobson, the first Governor of New Zealand who died in 1842.

 

On an extension to Karangahape (Great North Road), I’ve been running a lot lately, trying to get back to the shape I was in high school. Yeah, right! I find my joints and muscles ache just a little longer after a three mile run than they used to. I’ve been taking advantage of the sunny summer mornings, running where there’s a lot less foot traffic, but must be careful of cars as they seem to feel that they, not pedestrians, have the right of way in an intersection. In one case, I was almost clobbered by a driver who yelled at me to get “back on the footpath, mate!” I briefly talked to him and he said it was my responsibility to watch out for him as he made his rolling stop at the intersection, not the other way around. So, runners (and pedestrians) beware in New Zealand

 

On some days when I’ve felt more energetic, I’ve taken forays away from Great North Road, which is populated by new car dealerships and used car lots, and have been enjoying the architecture of houses along my spontaneously decided running route.

 

Food courts, vintage shops, and charming cafes like St. Kevin's that serve breakfast and lunch along with New Zealands famous flat white.

Food courts, vintage shops, and charming cafes like St. Kevin's that serve breakfast and lunch along with New Zealands famous flat white.

 

 

The homes are not like any I’ve seen in the United States. Roofs are metal and painted; most come with skinny front porches and trim. They look as if they could be in a fairytale. A picture is worth a thousand words and I took quite a few of houses in the areas I’ve run to including Grey Lynn, Mount. Eden, Ponsonby, Kingsland. Just so that you get a different perspective of Auckland, NZ, this week I wanted to include this link: http://www.bamjam.net/NewZealand/Auckland.html.

 

Last week, I made the mistake of drinking a Latte Style coffee in a can from Master Café! Foolish me! It’s made by Uni-President Enterprises Corp. in Taiwan. It’s served hot and you have to put a heat-resistant sleeve on it, but that’s doesn’t stop it from being hot to your lips when you try to drink from the 8 ounce can. On the side of the can is written: The occurrence of sediment is natural to the product.  I didn’t see any visible sediment, but the coffee did taste sour. I wouldn’t buy coffee in a can again. To finish this week’s Talklander NZ New Zealand rock band Elemeno P, will perform Verona http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/e/elemeno_p/verona.html from their album Love & Disrespect.  I visited the famous Verona Café here on Karangahape Road and enjoyed a flat-white coffee one afternoon in a booth near the open front doors. I wrote postcards to family and friends, while intermittently watching the few pretty people (like in the song) inside and a steady stream of street steppers outside. At one point I found myself immersed in the flow up and down K’ Road and temporarily swept away on a breezy, sunny New Zealand summer day.

Written by Joseph A. Haviland

Edited by Alicia Frank Haviland

Copyright 2009

 

Talklander NZ

March 16, 2009

Shrimp on the Brazilian Barbie, Food Courts, Pink Monkey’s Java, Pizza in Hell

 

Alicia and I are having a barbecue tonight at our Brazilian neighbor’s place, and at the moment we’re having a little trouble getting the charcoals lit. I’m a gas grill man myself, missing the grilling I used to do on the back deck of our apartment in Mukilteo, WA. I’m starting this week’s newsletter while sipping a bottle of Italian beer (Peroni Nastro Azzurro Birra Superiore). On the menu tonight is marinated steak and shrimp, tossed salad, roasted corn on the cob, and baked potatoes. I’m licking my chops just thinking about it.

 

 

Joe, Marcellus, and Andre, our Brazilian Friends! You Go Guys!

Joe, Marcellus, and Andre, our Brazilian Friends! You Go Guys!

 

Karina, Alicia, and Larissa, Chow Time!

Karina, Alicia, and Larissa, Chow Time!

We are in gastronomical heaven (and hell) here in New Zealand. Alicia and I have savored the foods from around the world here in Auckland and our taste buds are bursting because there’s such an incredible variety of cuisine (Asian, Indian, Italian, Mexican, Thai, Japanese, Greek, and more) and a plethora of restaurants to choose from.

 

Our first foray into food in downtown Auckland involved a Wendy’s. What can I say? We needed our fast food fix; there were no Wendy’s in Mexico! And except for one other visit to a McDonalds for their NZ$3 (US$1.50) cheese burger, small fries, and Coke promotion, we’ve essentially kissed fast food goodbye here in New Zealand, preferring instead to dine often at the inexpensive, delicious food courts that are found throughout downtown Auckland and its suburbs.

 

Our first food court experience came on Queen Street at an eatery called Eat Asian, just across the street from a McDonalds and a Dunkin Donuts.  It’s located in the basement of the Strand Arcade (It’s the same place Larry the Travel Guy featured in his Auckland video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZj_Vj8rsfw). We descended a set of stairs, just like Larry did, and entered a veritable basement bazaar of mostly fragrant Asian cooking stalls (there was an Indian and Brazilian stall here), set side by side in a semi-circle with lots of tables and chairs, filled with happy diners, in the center. For what you’d pay at a fast food place back in the U.S., you could order an Asian meal made from the freshest ingredients. I picked a Chinese dish of spicy Shanghai noodle soup (#33 on the menu board with pictures of each dish), and Alicia ordered a beautifully arranged bento box http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bent%C5%8D from Fuji, a Japanese/Korean stall. It came with tempura of prawns and vegetables, and a salad, miso soup and sushi too, all for NZ$12 (US$6). As we ate our scrumptious food, we felt transported to the Orient.

 

 

 

Food Court on Queen Street in Auckland.

Food Court on Queen Street in Auckland.

 

Fuji Korean and Japanese food in Eat Asian Food Court! Yummy!

Fuji Korean and Japanese food in Eat Asian Food Court! Yummy!

A subsequent visit to another food court on street level at Albert Street, one street over from Queen Street, during a weekday lunch hour, sported a variety of foods from around the world. I opted for a very spicy lamb vindaloo at an Indian stall and sweated my way deliciously through lunch. Alicia ordered a kebab sandwich at a Turkish food stall. I slurped from a draft of beer and Alicia wet her whistle with a can of L&P (Lemon & Paeroa http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paeroa ) soda, a favorite fruity drop in Kiwiland since 1907.  We bought our drinks at a separate refreshment stand, which featured beer, wine and an assortment of non-alcoholic drinks. We made friends with some office workers seated at the next table over from us. This food court is a popular lunch/dinner place every day/night (open 7 days a week until 10 pm)), but especially crowded during lunchtime Monday through Friday. 

 

We’ve been back to this particular food court on Albert Street many times. Alicia loves Teppan Yaki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teppanyaki, and Kevin, the chef, cooks on a grill right in front of you. It’s a dining experience for all your senses. For a moment or two you can act like Donald Trump and think of Kevin as your personal Japanese chef. Alicia always orders the same combination of salmon, scallops and prawns, with a side salad, rice, and miso soup. There’s so much food, we often share it. She could eat Teppan Yaki every night of the week and all for NZ$21 (just over US$10).  We’d be paying at least twice that much back in the United States.

 

 

Japanese Chef Kevin, the best Japanese chef internationally hands down!

Japanese Chef Kevin, the best Japanese chef internationally hands down!

 

Jaro restarurant on Albert Stree, Auckalnd, Kevin and his wife cook together like Joe and I as a teaching couple!

Jaro restarurant on Albert Stree, Auckalnd, Kevin and his wife cook together like Joe and I as a teaching couple!

Alicia's favorite dish - salmon, scallops, and prawns! Out of this world flavors! This is a must try dish! You will not be disappointed!

Alicia's favorite dish - salmon, scallops, and prawns! Out of this world flavors! This is a must try dish! You will not be disappointed!

 

At a third food court, located in the shadow of the Sky Tower, I had soupy lasagna that was tasteless. Not all our food court experiences are divine!

 

Just in case you think Auckland is only made up of food courts, think again. There are a lot of stand-alone restaurants that we’ve patronized. Even Pink Monkey has joined us on some of our dining-out experiences (He can’t live on bananas alone!), but says he doesn’t like Indian food. It leaves him running to the toilet the next day. He does love the coffee here, though, and can be seen most mornings at a local café, reading the New Zealand Herald while drinking a flat white coffee (New Zealand’s name for latte here). In a future blog, Pink Monkey will be writing about the many coffee places that exist in Auckland, including a Seattle Espresso coffee shop on Quay Street.

 

 

Post Alley Seattle Espresso here in Auckland!

Post Alley Seattle Espresso here in Auckland!

 

I thought I was in Seattle! Had coffee and did internet and met some real NZ sailors!

I thought I was in Seattle! Had coffee and did internet and met some real NZ sailors!

 

Pink Monkey and a flat white! Delicious!

Pink Monkey and a flat white! Delicious!

 

Price in NZ Dollars, we love the flat white with fancy designs with a wonderful, hot, incredible sip just this side of heaven!

Price in NZ Dollars, we love the flat white with fancy designs, an incredible sip - just this side of heaven!

 

Alicia and I had lunch at Little Mexico on Wellesley Street; that was on a Tuesday after I met with a principal from a primary school here on Auckland’s North Shore. We dined on the colorfully decorated, tasty nachos and chicken quesadillas, along with a bottle of Frank (no relation to my wife) Ginger Beer for me and a glass of full-bodied Chilean red wine. The salsa, very hot, was made from red chilies and olive oil; not your typical Mexican-style salsa. But then this is a unique, refreshingly gourmet restaurant; not your basic taco stand. The food was infused with flavorful influences from South America and New Zealand. We got to spend some time talking with the owner, Jose, who showed us his postage stamp-sized kitchen. This is not his first foray into food, having a track record with other restaurants throughout downtown Auckland.

 

I met the gregarious owners of Delissimo Delicatessen www.delissimo.co.nz , located at Shop 32 in Queen’s Arcade at 34-40 Queen Street. Husband and wife, Jean and Eva, serve up an exquisite selection of delectable delicatessen-derived dishes for breakfast and lunch. Their shop, accessible from Queen or Customs Street, is squeezed in between other small shops that sell everything from CD’s to kitchenware. Overstuffed meat and vegetarian sandwiches sit in the window, tempting you to come in and see other menu items; beef lasagna, quiches, pot pies, various desserts and more. It’s a small operation with big taste. Ask Alicia who ordered their freshly-made potato salad. She was in heaven. I had a vegetarian sandwich (basil, feta cheese and pumpkin) on ciabatta bread which left me sighing for more. (I did venture back a day or two later and got a salami sandwich takeaway!) We were lunching late and got to witness Jean and Eva dining with their small crew of workers, eating their own lunches after a day of serving customers, many are tourists who come off the cruise ships that land at the docks on Quay Street, a block away. I was impressed with how they treated everyone like family, including Alicia and me.

 

We don’t want you to think Alicia and I have only being dining out since we’ve been here in Auckland. We’ve actually ordered takeout pizza. This past weekend, we finally decided to sell our souls and call for delivery from a unique pizza chain called Hell Pizza https://hellpizza.co.nz/#i=5; we sampled three of their double pizzas last night while watching American Idol and visiting with another neighbor, Franz, originally from Christchurch (South Island in New Zealand), via Holland, who drives the bus here in Auckland, New Zealand, and had quite a few colorful stories to share. With a partial list of premium pizzas named Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Pride and Sloth, how could one resist ordering pizza from this devilishly-tempting pizza chain?

Gourmet Europen Potatoe Salad! Not one calorie but with all the flavors I love!

Gourmet European Potatoe Salad! Not one calorie but with all the flavors I love!

 

My friend, Kevin, from Boston emailed me and told me what he thought of the Hell Pizza website, even quoting some copywriting from its unique pizza sales pitch:

 

Your soul doesn’t do much. You can’t feel it. You can’t see it. It sucks at making coffee, and when you’re buggered after a hard day, it’ll never have dinner on the table. So give it to us. Then you can begin your descent into HELL. The deeper you go, the more retribution you’ll receive for your measly soul. The retribution could be anything from free morsels of food to exclusive access to random stuff. That all depends on how good you are at being bad. And if you make it right into the darkest depths of HELL, then you’ll receive free pizza for life. So sell your soul to us.

 

Imagine receiving pizza for life! That’d be heaven, not hell, for me.

 

The three pizzas we sold our souls for Saturday night, sharing slices with our neighbors, were double Lust (premium), double Doom (classic) and double Mischief (gourmet). For those not in the know, a double Lust pizza has the following toppings, salami, pepperoni, cheese, cabanossi, bacon and ham. Double Doom has ham, cheese, pineapple. Double Mischief has cabanossi, capsicum, black pepper, tomatoes, chicken, onions, garlic, and cheese.

 

Hell Pizza http://www.pmq.com/mag/2005november-december/allhell.php isn’t your average pizza place, for sure. I wish they could cross the Pacific and land in the United States, where I think they’d give Dominoes and Pizza Hut a run for their money.

 

I hope this edition of Talklander NZ has wetted your own appetites. Bon appetite to all our readers around the globe, may your food fantasies all come true. Sweet as, Bro! http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=sweet+as .

 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone. Here in New Zealand, Alicia were celebrating early at The Blue Stone, a pub located just behind the Formule 1 Hotel, where we stayed at the beginning of our trip to Auckland. The Blue Stone, open till Late every day.

 

I had a Black draft http://www.monteiths.com/nz/siteFiles/showroom/black.htmlbrew, with coffee malt characteristics, and Alicia had a Chardonnay wine during Happy Hour.

 

Cheers mates!

 

 

Written by Joseph A. Haviland

Edited by Alicia Frank Haviland

Copyright 2009

Talklander NZ

March 8, 2009

Go Wellington, Heavenly Bus, NZQA, Pasta Perspective with Pal, Tommie

 

Happy IWD http://www.internationalwomensday.com/ everyone! First celebrated in 1911, you go ladies, including my wife, Alicia, who is an amazing woman!

 

Alicia and Joe with Pink Monkey in Wellington!

Alicia and Joe with Pink Monkey in Wellington!

 

We’re celebrating IWD back in Auckland, our favorite New Zealand city so far, after a few days in Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city. It’s a laid-back Sunday and I’m looking out at the sunny garden as I write this week’s newsletter, sitting in the only chair that’s found in our semi-furnished apartment; it comes with a removable seat. The cicadas are keeping me company with their cacophonous electric buzz. Alicia and I are drinking our morning coffee, aptly called Lazy Sunday, a blend by Robert Harris http://www.robertharris.co.nz/occasions/, a popular coffee roaster here in Auckland. Sometimes I love reading the advertising on a product and each blend of Robert Harris coffee comes with its own story. Indulge me for a moment while I read what they wrote:

 

Lazy Sunday. Kick your shoes off, plump up a cushion. Lazy Sunday is a blend of slow roasted beans with hints of vanilla and chocolate, taste tested by experts to get the perfect laid back taste. Just add one heaped dessert spoon per person or a bigger heap if you love coffee as much as we do.

 

Sorry, no cushion to plump or couch to sit on in this “furnished” apartment, but imagine someone loving coffee as much as Robert Harris! Maybe I should start my own coffee company? Joseph Haviland Coffee Roasters. I like the sound/smell of that!

 

Recently, we spent a few days in Wellington http://www.wellingtonnz.com/australia,  where I had two meetings with primary principals at schools in (Silverstream) Upper Hutt and (Porirua/Paremata) Paraparaumu, country-like, bucolic regions north of the city. The meetings went well and Alicia and I had some time to explore Wellington, a more dense (not sprawling) city than Auckland, sans a signature Sky Tower, with lots of clothing shops, cafes (including Starbucks) and fast-moving pedestrians. We stayed at the Quest Hotel on Gilmer, being upgraded (for free) to a one-bedroom apartment (using the Secret) and enjoyed excellent customer service from front desk personnel, Maria and Gretchen.

 

Maria and Gretchen at Quest on Gilmore in Wellington! You Go Ladies!

Maria and Gretchen at Quest on Gilmore in Wellington! You Go Ladies!

 

Because Wellington is a compact city, with a combination of electric (guided by tracks overhead) and stinky, exhaust-spewing gas “Go” buses that are in abundance, noises (buses, ambulances and fire trucks) seem amplified. Once or twice I had to cover my ears, especially when an emergency vehicle blared by. Sidewalks on streets like Willis aren’t as wide as they are in Auckland; narrow in fact; but not as narrow as streets in Heredia, Costa Rica! There are a few pedestrian-only roads, like certain blocks of Cuba Street, laid with stone pavers and sporting uniquely-designed sitting spots for weary walkers. But for the most part, pedestrians are somewhat squished together on streets that often times don’t have a Wellington Harbour view at intersections due to a continuous high wall of buildings built along Customhouse Quay at water’s edge.

 

The combination caused claustrophobia in this writer. Auckland http://www.aucklandnz.com/  has done a better job of “opening up” the waterfront with water views from major streets like Queen. Both Alicia and I have also been spoiled by Seattle’s (Washington State) views of Puget Sound from every street corner.

 

Shopping, internet cafe, and lots of city walking - up hills like in San Francisco!

Shopping, internet cafe, and lots of city walking - up hills like in San Francisco!

 

Did you know that the Wellington region is vulnerable to climate change, earthquakes, and tsunamis? In the March 6, 2009 Dominion Post feature, written by columnist Paul Bruce (who looks a lot like my Seattle friend, Art), the writer warned that “the time to prepare for these eventualities is now.” How does one prepare for a tsunami? I don’t know if Auckland faces the same trio of possible disasters, but it had crossed my mind. For a variety of reasons, we were happy to return to Auckland this weekend, but not before taking in a breath-taking view in Wellington.

 

To really appreciate Wellington Harbour, we took the red cable car, a funicular railway http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wellington_Cable_Car opened in 1902, up to the “top of the city” where the botanical gardens are located. We weren’t disappointed by the extraordinary view of the city and harbour (Kiwi spelling of harbor) at our feet.

 

Uptown view of Wellington, cable car ride to the top of the city!

Uptown view of Wellington, cable car ride to the top of the city!

 

Alicia and I enjoyed happy hour (US$1.75 draft pints and US$2 glasses of wine), like bookends, at Shooters on Courtenay, a local pub, when we first arrived in the city Tuesday afternoon after our 45 minute flight, and just before we boarded the all-night two-story bus ride back to Auckland on Friday.

 

The double-decker Inter-City Bus picked us up at the train station in Wellington just before 8 pm and drove through the rainy night, with comic commentary (“Let’s not all use the bus’s bathroom as we’ll have a flood!” and “I won’t be calling out stops, so if you’re not paying attention, you’ll think you woke up in Heaven.” I had visions of him  falling asleep, the bus going off the road, and all of us ending up in Heaven. Now that’d be an upgrade!), like intermittent windshield wipers, by the kiwi bus driver, formally a truck driver. He made various stops along the way, for gas (He told us that he neglected to fill up the tank on one trip and ran out of gas and “my head was on the chopping block. Yeah!”) bathroom breaks, dinner at McDonalds at midnight, to pick up/drop off passengers, and then delivered us to downtown Auckland Saturday, just after 7 am. It was a first, traveling on the second floor of a bus, for both Alicia and me. And given our previous long-distance, multi day/night bus travel experience(s) in Central America and Mexico, the trip went by in a blink, but Alicia and I were tired by the time we got back to Auckland.  We did it to save money; it was much cheaper than the flight back.

 

Pacific Blue Airlines flying into Wellington form Auckland!

Pacific Blue Airlines flying into Wellington from Auckland!

 

On a much slower, protracted journey, NZQA, New Zealand’s “Qualifications” Authority, has finally finished its review of my teaching qualifications and has determined (ludicrously, in my estimation) that my master of science in education “cannot be given comparability to a recognized initial teaching qualification in New Zealand.”  My evaluator wrote further, “As you do not hold an academic qualification recognised in New Zealand as an approved teacher education qualification, you are not eligible for registration with the New Zealand Teachers Council under the regular pathway (Track 1).” I’ve been offered Track 2, whatever that means!

 

Alicia and I were shocked and then stymied by two things. One is that they are currently having a teacher shortage in New Zealand and NZQA has the power to so quickly dismiss excellent teacher candidates (both of us) because our educational/teaching background is not “comparable” to New Zealand’s. Two is that the evaluation dragged on for three and one-half months, when it should have been completed, according to NZQA standards, within 35 working days.

 

Both Alicia and I have been bit by the bureaucratic kiwi bug and it really stings. Ouch! At least they refunded her NZ$225 before telling her that they wouldn’t even evaluate her alternative education/teaching experience because it didn’t meet certain initial NZQA criteria. For that reason, she’s a Track 4 teacher. This entire track talk; before we know it, we’ll find ourselves cross-trained and working for this country’s railroad system!  NZQA cashed my check and then told me I didn’t meet their qualifications. Imagine that! In our international teaching experience, this is the first time we’ve come up against such resistance. We’re qualified to teach in the United States and many other other countries like England, but not here in New Zealand. 

 

We’ve both been told that New Zealand is currently facing a deficit in teachers. We’ve concluded that its in part due to NZQA in its dogged paper-pushing pursuit, ostensibly comparing oranges to apples, and turning away countless qualified candidates.

 

I’d like to contest NZQA’s decision, but that’d require another NZ$225 and two more NZQA evaluators, trained by the same system. It appears that there isn’t a higher level of decision-making authority at NZQA to oversee/overturn the decisions made by evaluators. There should be.

 

Needless to say, Alicia and I feel a bit bamboozled and buggered by the bureaucracy here, and wonder if there’s still a way to stay in this country and teach. There is one loophole that the all-powerful NZQA allows. That is that the New Zealand Teachers Council, a separate governmental entity from NZQA  “does, however, have the discretionary provision to consider an applicant’s qualifications, work experience, and detailed supporting documentation as a package.”  I can’t wait for them to see my package!

 

So, perhaps both Alicia and I will receive some kind of twelfth-hour reprieve and be able to stay in New Zealand and teach on whatever track they put us on. (All roads/tracks lead to higher education, right?)  Otherwise, we’re not sure where we’ll end up next. (Could it be South Vietnam, Thailand, Russia, United Emirates, Albuquerque, New Mexico http://www.itsatrip.org/? There’s soothing music on this previous link!) It’s an uncomfortable position to be in and we’re handling it as best we can, while our savings acts like sand through an hour-glass. We’ve even considered doing some substitute teaching (relief teaching here in NZ) to re-activate positive cash flow, but at this point we’re not sure NZQA and New Zealand Teachers Council will even allow that. To be continued as they say.

 

In the end, whatever the outcome on our work situation here down under, we can definitively state that we’ve been enjoying living here in New Zealand, enjoying the friendliness of the people, especially the bus drivers, many of whom are imported from places like Fiji, and the supermarket clerks, who at the New World market where we shop regularly, are allowed to sit while they scan. Imagine that! The U.S. could learn a thing or two on how to treat their long-standing workers.

 

We’ve also made a lot of acquaintances and a few friends in our short time here and will make more if we stay. To name a few, there’s Tony and Michelle of North Shore, who we had a bratwurst lunch with last weekend, and a fashionably-dressed South African named Tommie, who’s in the same boat as Alicia and me, working hard at finding a job and securing a work permit so he can stay in New Zealand and bring his wife and kids here too.

 

Saturday, Tommie, Alicia, and I took a break from our hurdle-jumping race for work permits and jobs here down under. I made one of my favorite meals (no, not lasagna, but close): fettuccine with hot Italian sausage, salad and garlic bread. Tommie was ecstatic about the meal and Alicia was highly complimentary. And perhaps because my guests ate with such gusto, I enjoyed the pasta even more. Wine and beer complimented the food and conversation.

 

Pasta and Tommie from South Africa - another transplant like us!

Joe's famous pasta and Tommie from South Africa - another transplant like us!

 

Nothing like a home-cooked meal with family/friends, wherever you are in the world, to make one happy and put aside, if only temporarily, one’s striving for success in the work-a-day world, which now-a-days, given the world-wide economic picture, is a bit topsy-turvy to say the least. In our case, pasta helped to put things in perspective, for sure. Bon appetite to adventurous amigos every where.

 

I’ll leave you this week with the New Zealand’s All Blacks (Rugby Team) singing their national anthem: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=An5Hyoq-lXQ&feature=related and views of New Zealand’s highest mountains near Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo with a backdrop of heavenly voices from New Zealand’s National Youth Choir, singing the national anthem: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYLoL1pfxeA&feature=related .

 

 

Wellington Botanical Garden at the top of Wellington City!

Wellington Botanical Garden at the top of Wellington City!

 

Written by Joseph A. Haviland

Edited by Alicia Frank Haviland

Copyright 2009          

Talklander NZ

February 28, 2009

Living in Freemans Bay, Swapping City Noise for Cicadas, Chattel List

 

 

It’s a saturated Saturday, the last day of February, as I begin this week’s newsletter. I’m sitting on a damp seat and the only chair in our furnished studio apartment in tree-lined Freemans Bay. As one of downtown Auckland’s satellite neighborhoods it is comparable to the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, Washington where I once lived, for a few years in the nineties, as a single man.

 

joe-and-monkey

Relaxing in our new digs!

 

It rained all night (It’s feeling a lot more like Seattle every day!) and this morning Alicia and I were awakened by a deafening sound. At first I thought it might be an air-raid signal New Zealand-style, but on further investigation, I found out that it was a vacuum loading, water jetting, and road sweeping, orange colored tank on wheels.

 

Navigating noise in a new place is nothing new for me. I’ve lived in so many places since graduating from New York University. I try to take new noise in stride. But after a couple nights of a noisy, next door neighbor, the last thing we wanted was to be wakened on a early on a Saturday morning by a super-sized vacuum on wheels. Fortunately the workmen did their job and were finished before the noise became a permanent resident! Now we have an ongoing bass beat coming from the apartment upstairs.

 

Studio Living

Studio Living

 

 

 

 

As I am writing, we’re watching New Zealand’s Brainiest Kid. It’s a cross between ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and “Jeopardy.” “What does a cooper do?” Answer: Make barrels. “What kind of musical instrument is a fender?” Answer: Guitar. Out of eleven contestants, one boy, Sean, won and his final comment was, “My parents are pretty proud. Hopefully they’ll give me something.”  Kids!

 

We don’t have cable at our new place, but we are attached to the apartment building’s roof antenna, which means we get four, count them, channels of TV. Friday night we watched Jerry Springer trace his European Jewish routes in a teary-eyed episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?” That was on Prime TV. Then we switched to the second half of a two hour show, of American Idol on Channel 2, as Simon continues to be as acerbic as ever!

 

Also, we don’t have internet access either and are definitely feeling disadvantaged, even a little grumpy about it. In New Zealand they charge by the megabyte for your internet usage or you can have unlimited dial-up (so slow), so if you’re not careful you could end up with a pretty hefty monthly bill. The three major internet providers came under fire recently by the government of New Zealand that wants to invest in faster upgrading of a system that lags behind countries like the United States. For the time being, we have two choices. We can go to an internet café and use their computers, or we can use our own Dell laptop at a place like Esquires, which has Wi-Fi. All hotspots are security enabled so no free internet at all in this country! Either way, you have to pay in increments of 30 minutes to a hour at $1-2 and you’re constantly thinking, “Is my hour almost up?” It causes me a little bit of stress. As soon as we get settled somewhere, with fulltime jobs, we’ll arrange for contracted internet. If you’re family or friends, don’t panic if you don’t hear from us over an extended period of time. We miss calling loved ones via Skype, but until we get our own dedicated internet, it’s too costly to telephone, unless we use a calling card and I’m not sure if they’ll work with our new pre-paid cell phones.

 

As you can see, moving to a foreign country always comes with its challenges and not all things go as smoothly as you’d like. A perfect example is my recent acquisition of a voltage convertor because electrical current in New Zealand is different than it is in the United States. I think I fried the battery on my rechargeable (bought in America) Remington Titanium electric shaver. I guess it’s not as universal an adaptor as the Chinese company that manufactured it claims it to be. There was a confusing footnote on the packaging that read: This adaptor does not convert Voltages. 240V only. If different must also use a transformer. I’m just glad we left all our other electronics (DVD player, etc.) back at Alicia’s sister and brother-in-law’s house in Riverside, California. Only Alicia’s computer did not need a transformer or an adapter as it is manufactured for worldwide differences in power voltages.

 

I wish there was a universal adaptor for the cicadas that are noisy as ever here! I honestly didn’t expect to find them in New Zealand, but here they are, and I wish we could convert their irritatingly loud, scratchy sound into something soft and sweet; mellifluous even. Thank God they take a break in the evening hours and are silent. They make quite a racket during the day though not as loud as the vacuum loading, water jetting, road sweeping, orange colored tank on wheels we heard earlier, but cover-your-ears noisy enough, especially in areas, like our new neighborhood, with lots of leafy trees for them to hide out in. Last week I rarely heard a single cicada, where we were living in downtown Auckland, at the Formule1 Hotel; instead it was very early morning construction noise and beer-induced bellowing from local boozers!

 

The cicada chatter (created by males looking for mates) surprisingly doesn’t bother Alicia and others I’ve talked to, but it sounds like fuzzy static in my brain and it irritates me to no end. I escaped the summers in New York because I got fed up with the cacophonous cicadas. It’s not a pretty noise like the chirping crickets of Mexico made, but bold and belligerent and in your ear – in an overwhelming, oppressive way.  Thank goodness they’re not here all year round; it’s just during the hottest days of summer.

 

Lush Landscape! Our walk way to our new flat.

Lush Landscape! Our walk way to our new flat.

 

 

 

 

We may end up moving from our current address at the end of March, depending on where we find work in New Zealand. The Second term for public schools, which operates year round here, begins the middle of April. If we do stay in Auckland, we’ll probably still move, seeking out a larger living space (two bedroom) so when our family and friends come to visit, we’ll have room for them. In the meantime if you want our address just drop us a line or two!

 

This Tuesday, we’ll be jetting down to Wellington, (on North Island) where we’ll meet with a principal of a school. It’s a greet-and-meet, before the official interview. I’ve already had one of these greet-and-meets at a small primary school (about 240 students) in North Shore, across the bay from downtown Auckland. I was amazed to find elementary-aged children running around the playground and the school in bare feet. I asked one of the sixth graders what the school’s policy was on wearing shoes. I was told it was optional, year round. Hats, however, are required and students will get a time out if they’re not wearing them while outside. It appears that the ozone layer here in New Zealand is thinner than other parts of the world, and everyone is very careful about exposing their skin when outdoors. Lots of lots of sunscreen is advocated and/or covering up exposed body parts with clothes. Even the surfers here wear t-shirts when surfing.

 

Pink Monkey goes to school -primary school in Takapuna.

Pink Monkey goes to school -primary school in Takapuna.

 

 

 

 

I don’t think either Alicia or I will be doing any surfing while were here. I think learning to drive on the other side of the road will be adventurous enough for us both! We could have rented a car and driven down to Wellington for our greet-and-meet, but we’re holding off on driving a car until we’ve been in the country awhile longer and settled in one place. For now, it’s enough of a challenge to cross the street and figure out which way a car is coming so that we don’t get run over in the process!

 

Ever hear of a chattel list? We got one this week, from the apartment manager, when we signed paperwork before occupying our furnished studio space. One of the items on our chattel list, like a double bed, bath mat, wine opener, mop, and venetian blinds, was a 14 inch color TV. The one with four channels on it! I’m thankful for this. Also I’m appreciative of the fact that all the shows are in English, though Alicia and I have talked about the need to continue practicing our Spanish. This past week she did get to speak some Spanish with the Chilean waitress at the Little Mexico restaurant in downtown Auckland. After lunch there, we spoke with the owner, a Middle Eastern man everyone calls Jose. He was as affable as all the other restaurant owners we’ve met here so far. I’ll be writing about him and others with entrepreneurial spirit in future Adventures Abroad.

 

It’s Sunday and we’re off to dinner at our new friends’ house on the North Shore. Alicia is making a German meal of bratwurst, sauerkraut and potato salad, learned from her mother, Rosel. I’m sure it’ll be yummy and I will no doubt report about it in next week’s blog. Until then, no worries mate!

 

Just a short ferry to the North Shore!

Just a short ferry to the North Shore!

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Joseph A. Haviland

Sunday, March 1, 2009

 

 

Edited by Alicia Frank Haviland

Copyright 2009          

Talklander NZ

February 22, 2009

Working the Wi-Fi @ Esquires Coffee Houses; North Shore; Climbing Mountains

 

 

The green and red and pink buses, that are part of the integrated, extremely efficient MAXX transportation system that includes buses, trains, and ferries, go by in streams like salmon, right outside the downtown Auckland coffee shop where I’m sitting. It’s Wednesday afternoon and Alicia is in another part of town, shopping for miso soup ingredients for dinner. I just mailed off a set of school-related documents (6-7 pages), including my resume (called a CV here, and it includes a picture) for NZ$.50 (US$.25!) to a primary school in North Shore, that just might be interested in hiring me; an interview has been scheduled for next week.

 

pinkmonekybus1

 

 

These days I have to keep pinching myself! I’m in New Zealand: a dream come true for both Alicia and I! It’s still so new to us and we’re a bit like kids in a candy store. At the moment, I’m sitting in an Esquires Coffee Houses café, with open, folding glass-front doors, that spills out onto the cacophony of Customs Street, which is a block away from the wharf and Freemans Bay. The street is abuzz with activity and it’s a beautiful, breezy, balmy afternoon in the youngest country on Earth! People wait patiently at the bus stop, while others hoof it up and down the street. Seagulls screech as they soar skyward. If I buy a cup of coffee (flat white for NZ$4.50; about US$2.25; it’s almost a 2:1 currency exchange ratio) I can get an hour of “free” Wi-Fi internet via Tomizone hotspot at Esquires (more popular than Starbucks here!). Alicia and I have logged more than a few hours at this coffee place that shares the same name with a magazine I used to subscribe to back in the U.S. It’s amazing how fast an hour goes when you’re using the internet on a timed basis! It’s a little frustrating to say the least.

 

 

It’s almost 5:30 pm on hump day. I text message Alicia on my new LG pre-paid Vodafone cell phone. “At Esquires on Customs Street” I type into the phone, painfully slow, and then send it. When we first arrived in Auckland we purchased two of the prepaid flip phones for NZ$99 (about US$50) each and that included a free SIM card for New Zealand. It was too good a deal to pass up, and we needed a way for potential employers to contact us. We aren’t too happy about the cell phone’s NZ$.89 per minute calling cost; we try to get people to call us!

 

 

Even though Wednesday is almost done here, for many of the readers of this newsletter you’re still finishing Tuesday, almost a whole day behind us here in New Zealand. I’ve got to get used to this fact and don’t feel rushed to get this newsletter out by Sunday since that’s Saturday for most of you. Hooray, I can actually wait until Monday now and still have the link to the newsletter in your email boxes by Sunday! How do you like that?

 

This day-behind business makes Alicia and I feel a bit like being on the moon and looking back at my family and friends. I feel that far away; it’s like we’re not even on the same planet anymore! With all the international teaching and traveling Alicia and I have done so far, we’ve manage to stay in the same day’s time zone with our loved ones. It gives new meaning to jet lagged! I suspect we’ll get used to it over time, but I know I’ll get a bit jealous when it’s Monday here, and we’re off to work, and most of you guys are still taking it easy on a Sunday.

 

 

I can’t help but think I’m back in high school, running the two mile and I’m more than a lap ahead of the rest of you. I’m so far ahead of all of you, it’s a bit unnerving; I keep thinking I’ll tire and you’ll catch up with me, but no worries; the world just keeps spinning. Alicia and I both will still cross the finish line before you, wherever that line is!

 

 

I’m feeling a bit blue right now, even though I’m living the dream, looking at the blue couch and chairs, and blue lights and white letters on a blue background for the Esquires’ logo.  There are lap toppers here in the café typing away. I wonder if they too are creating a weekly travel blog like Alicia and I?!

 

nz-0602

 

Small brown sparrows flit in and out of the café, looking for crumbs, but I have none to give them. Alicia and I are watching our respective weights these days, so no crumby, fattening desserts for us at Esquires. Sorry sparrows. I almost want to buy a muffin or something and feed the birds.

 

 

This past week, Alicia and I have been staying at the Hotel Formule1 for under NZ$55 a day. That’s about US$27.50. For a hotel room in a city, that’s not bad, but we’re looking to economize further and will soon be moving to a furnished studio apartment (NZ$265 per week; about US$130) that’s about a fifteen minute walk from the center of the city of Auckland to Freeman Bay, a neighborhood with tree-lined streets and a private girls’ school across the street from our flat. Other city neighborhoods include Ponsonby, Arch Hill, Newton, New Market, Parnell, and Mt. Eden, where we first stayed when we flew into Auckland. We’re pleased to have located a place so close to the city, but a whole lot quieter. We’ve had a few sleepless nights with merrymakers spilling out of local pubs, shouting and singing their jubilations in the streets at 3 am 

 

We had considered moving to a bedroom community called Beach Haven/Birkdale on North Shore, where there are lots of houses hugging the shoreline. This area, about a twenty-five minute ride away from the city, reminded us a lot of Edmonds, Washington, where our friends Joy and Herb and their dog, Bennie, live. But we decided we wanted to stay in the city. It reminds me of when I lived on Capitol Hill or the Lower Queen Anne neighborhoods of Seattle.

Joe reading in our room on the 16th floor of Hotel Formule1.

Joe reading in our 16th floor room of Hotel Formule1.

Though we didn’t move to the house-share in North Shore with Tony and Michelle, waking up each morning to take-your-breath-away views of Island Bay, we’ve made new friends during out meet-and-greet, steak-and-potato lunch at their beautiful house, a short walk downhill to the beach where you can swim when it’s high tide.

 

As I continue writing this newsletter on Sunday morning, I look out at the cloudy skies and the reflections in the skyscrapers that surround our hotel. A lot of insurance companies, like ANZ and AIG, are here. I wonder if it’ll rain today. We got quite a bit of rain on Friday, at some points so heavy Alicia and I thought we were back in Costa Rica! It’s probably why it’s so green here in Auckland, where there’s rain and a whole lot of sun.

 

When I’m not thinking about the exceptionally mild climate here, I contemplate how safe this city is. You can feel its safeness in the smiles of people you pass by and the cruising brown/orange checkerboard painted white police cars. When we compare it to our stays in South American (Caracas) and Central American (Managua) cities and even parts of Mexico (Mexico City), we feel totally safe here in Auckland, even when walking downtown at night. I know there is crime here; an octogenarian, retired serviceman was battered in a parking garage recently, his mangled mug shot plastered on the front page of the New Zealand Herald and the recuperating kiwi’s story run as a prime-time TV news story. It’s just like in other parts of the world, but we just don’t feel the immediate threat of it like we did in other countries.

View from our hotel room of the Skytower, this city reminds us so much of Seattle!

View from our hotel room of the Skytower, this city reminds us so much of Seattle!

 

Also, the city is unbelievably clean. Squeaky clean, mate! Walking from one end to the other, even on busy streets like Queen, which sees a lot of daily foot traffic, I’m amazed at how little trash there is to be found. During the day and in the early evening hours one can see men on green sweeping machines going up and down the streets. And where’s all the graffiti that we’re used to seeing in major cities? It’s not here!

 

Sony and Cher’s “I’ve Got You Babe” is playing on the radio.

 

 

 

I got you to wear my ring… If I get scared you’re always around… Put your hand in mine and there are no mountains we can’t climb… I’ve got you, babe!

 

It could be our theme song. Yesterday, Alicia and I took a short (ten minutes) ferry ride across to Devonport, a sleepy seaside town with a majestic view of the Auckland skyline.  There’s a small grassy mountain at the center of Devonport. We saw people climbing it to the top, presumably for the view. We stayed grounded visiting all the shops, including Ike’s Emporium, where Alicia bought me a coffee cup with four Dalmatians (but none with blue eyes like Java, my Dalmatian, who was adopted by my sister, Mary, in RI) on it. She also bought some cool candles. We also stopped in at the New World supermarket, where we found prices considerably less than the Foodtown supermarkets located in and around Auckland city.

 

 

Though we didn’t climb the small mountain in Devonport yesterday, we’ve been climbing metaphorical mountains throughout the world as we teach/live in different countries, and now by making this trip to New Zealand without jobs or even a place to live and vying with various other variables. With a little help from The Secret, we’ve realized that all we have to do is wish for something to happen; then relax and let the universe do the rest. I know that sounds a bit haphazard, scary even, and we’ve had our moments of teary-eyed trepidation (we’re still relative newbies at this Secret stuff), but we move forward each day, making contacts, and believing in our future here.  We’ve sowed our seeds and now are excited to see what grows in this verdant land down under. 

 

Written by Joseph A. Haviland

Sunday, February 22, 2009

 

Edited by Alicia Frank Haviland

Copyright 2009