Change of pace: New Zealand.
No targets on our back. Not unicultural. Women not effectively absent from public sphere. What relief. It’s enough to lead an atheist to say Thank God (a pluralist one). Of course, each country, city, landscape must be seen in its own terms, just as, of course, it is undesirable to do so and, strictly speaking, it is cognitively impossible.
First impressions of New Zealand derive from a day (of, after 30 hours of traveling over two days, post-travel resuscitation) in Auckland (North Island) and then a few days in Queenstown and its environs (South Island). Auckland offers the face of a multiethnic and multicultural world.
To our surprise, walking around the downtown area, we came across sections and cafes where Asian faces predominate. When we asked a fellow on the street for a direction, we discovered, as we walked together, that he was from Thailand attending cooking school in Auckland to learn European cooking, with the hope of remaining in New Zealand (more opportunity, better weather, and welcoming society). The locals (our Thai aspiring-chef included) all – without exception – interact in a friendly, cheery, and open manner (even the customs officials tasked with enforcing New Zealand’s stringent food importation laws hosannahed us, as if we were doing New Zealand a solid, as we ticked off the permitted items in our possession). Women and men mix openly and equally in all discernable places and phases of the public sphere, something the world teaches is not to be taken for granted and therefore merits a mention.
Then, there’s the landscape, really the landscapes of the southern part of the South Island, which are magnificent in myriad describable and indescribable ways. About such natural wonders in particular, we will be offering up considerably more words and images in coming posts.
All told, New Zealand promises a relaxing and rewarding time, so far confirmed by limited experience. Traveling can be stressful, even when nothing goes wrong. Traveling’s continual progression of logistics – routine barely exists, so nearly everything every day needs to be figured out and decided — often entails executive-function demands which can tax the system, especially when the system is composed of three systems. New Zealand, land of (seemingly) easygoing people, functioning infrastructure, pleasingly accented English, abundant gluten-free food, charming urban areas (sample so far is small),
and breathgiving landscapes, so far has taxed us less and rewarded us as much as anywhere. A journeyer’s bargain.