Monday, 18 July 2011

Stranger in a Lovely Land

Life continues in our new land.

All of the children I have given birth to are in this gorgeous country called New Zealand and it has been interesting watching them explore the area.

Rachel, my twenty three year old arrived this past week.  The first stop for everyone that flies into Whangarei is our favorite coffee shop, Caffeine (for obvious reasons), and happens to be where I am typing right now.  Her first comment was, "It's amazing . . . everyone is so stylish and they don't even know it." And then she lamented, "I didn't bring my cute clothes," so less than twenty times throughout that first day.  Expand the concept of everyone being stylish and not knowing it and you have a general sentiment for this area overall.

No local knows that the New Zealand schools are rated fifth in the world compared to the US's rating of 22nd. The polite Kiwi's are shocked to hear this and quickly abate their derisive commentary about how unsophisticated they see their lives or educational system and if you're perceptive you may see a humble glow of pride.

You see, we are in the "city" furthest north in New Zealand and the population hovers around 50,000.  There is a bustling downtown area and many different and interesting shops- so unlike Illinois' state capitol of 120,000 which like so many "cities" has outsourced the downtown action to lifeless malls and wages a mostly fruitless campaign to resurrect its quaint and historical city center.

Most Kiwis that I've spoken with do have an appreciation for the physical beauty experienced at every turn . . . the rugged coastline sprinkled with pristine and near private beaches.  The rolling green hills (mountains by Illinois standards).

I'm watching one of the Whangarei mail deliverers go by now . . .  on their bicycle.  Fancy that.  Later I'll go to one of the town's hubs, the library, where there is a popular coffee shop bistro that pulls people through the doors in droves.  Imagine that?  Not only do they make the library THE place to go to meet up, stop for tea and check out books and movies and peruse periodicals, but they make money serving really fine coffee and nibbles.  I've seen many US libraries that would do well with that model, but instead there is Barnes and Noble doing well with that model.

The paradox is that the locals see this area as a bit antiquated and unsophisticated when what we outsiders see is a very cosmopolitan small urban area surrounded by miraculously beautiful seas and terrain where the population of artists and writers and alternative healers and spiritually minded folk almost outnumber the surrounding sheep farmers.  And on top of it our youngest child is getting one of the best educations available in the world; a thing we are already witness to after three short months.

The locals have been delightful and we have already made fast and kind friends.  As I drove my children into Whangarei this morning to put the oldest two on the Naked Bus to go experience Auckland for a few days and to take the youngest to the artist commune for his clay class, and I really looked at the beautiful ocean side winding drive I was negotiating I couldn't help but have an overwhelming feeling:  I am home.