My Airbnb host came out to greet me and started showing me around right away. I took her up on her offer to take me to the local supermarket (grocery store), something I’d been looking forward to for some time. It was called Countdown and had a nice clean layout with a lot of good food. She showed me around and explained the different brands and foods I didn’t recognize. When we went to the deli, the lady behind the counter ended up chatting with me about my trip and what I was doing. As we talked, I was trying to make grams to pounds conversions in my head so I could buy the right amount of ham, but I just ended up with 200 g of ham, which is a bit less than half a pound. I don’t know how the price comparisons are.
But I found I need to become used to the friendly chatter and genuine interest in how I’m doing. I first heard of this in a video about the New Zealand accent. An American voice coach was explaining how we just say hello and then place our order in a store, but in New Zealand, people behind the counter carry on a full conversation with you. This happened at customs, too, when the officer read on my declarations card that I worked in agriculture and asked me for details, partly because it was his job and partly because he was taking a genuine interest in my occupation, as shown by asking where I taught.
My host formerly worked as a food technologist in the dairy industry. Part of her job was sampling foods. I asked her if that meant she knew the best ice cream. She just laughed and when we got to the freezer aisle, showed me the premium brands. She also helped me get a new SIM card for my phone, took me to the post office, and showed me the bus and train station, which is about a 20-minute walk from where I’m staying. By the time we reached that point, I was on information overload and ready to head back to the apartment.
Some of the best advice I’d received regarding international trips was to stay up all day upon arriving in the new country, no matter how tired you get, and go to sleep only when the country’s time zone said it was evening, not when your time zone said it was evening. That way, adjusting to the new place comes more quickly. I wanted to try that.
So I started flipping through the TV channels. It was interesting. The discussion style on morning talk shows is the same; there’s an NZ version of QVC; Phineas and Ferb was on; and the first commercial I saw promoted the Mr. Bean movie showing at 6:30 tonight. Camera angles can be a little strange and are taking some getting used to as they’re different from the video techniques I learned.
There were three Chinese stations in a row, as there is a significant population here. There also were a couple of Maori stations, one that has a mix of their language and English and one that is spoken totally in Maori.
I don’t know why, but the New Zealand accent is already starting to sound not all that different to me. I heard it a lot on the flight and started internalizing it. Here in Auckland, though, there is a melting pot of accents and nationalities. I’ve been hearing Sri Lankan, Fijian and Chinese. I haven’t been consistently hearing the usual accent.
Despite my best efforts to stay awake, my eyes were becoming heavy and my hand slow in writing in my new journal by 11:30 a.m.
I was writing about the first sound I heard in the Auckland airport: sheep baaing. I had looked around, baffled. It came from a loudspeaker next to a beautiful photo of ewes on pasture. And then the next sentence I wrote made no sense at all and my handwriting became illegible, like the one time I fell asleep in my public relations class at Purdue (the one and only time) and my writing sloped downwards. So I curled up on the futon around noon (8 p.m. Indiana time), setting my alarm. But I turned the alarm off five times and after that slept for a solid seven hours until 11:30 p.m (7:30 a.m. Indiana time).
I was wide awake and it was almost midnight. I was either going to force myself back to sleep or get on the computer. I ended up installing my new SIM card around 12:30 in the morning. AT&T unlocked my phone before I left, so I’m able to use the same phone, which is so nice. I don’t need to become accustomed to another phone or download my apps and information again. All I did was switch SIM cards, keeping my AT&T SIM card in a safe place. The phone company I’m using here is called Skinny, and they use some cool communication. My dashboard on their website says, “Hey Elise, how are things?” and the welcome text message I received upon activating my SIM said, “Welcome to Skinny, we’re stoked to have you on board!”
Having my phone set up with the correct time really helped. The phone plans are pretty nice, too. Mine is $16 NZD (~$11 USD) a month right now. Depending on how much data I use, I may need to go up to the plans that cost $26 (~$18.50) or $46 (~$32.81), but I still like those rates, especially since I was able to keep my Nokia phone.
I watched Al Jazeera coverage of the Britain vote and fell asleep around 2 in the morning. Again, I felt rebellious for watching TV so late. I don’t know how, but I was able to fall asleep again and slept all the way through for five hours. Maybe I just really needed it after the hectic pace of getting ready for this trip coming right after state FFA convention.
So now, I’ll wait to do the touristy stuff during the week instead of on the weekend. Basically, I’m on vacation for the next three weeks before starting work, so I’ll be here in Auckland for a couple of weeks. Then, I’ll travel to the south end of the North Island for some visiting for about a week.
I’ve been enjoying watching the advertisements on the TV. I’ve seen one for Heinz (I saw their factory in Pittsburgh), Colgate, and Beef and Lamb New Zealand (“It’s the way to grow!”). My favorite one so far featured a ram named Ramsey and a lamb called Lambert walking through a pasture talking about life insurance.
“Grass is like AA Life, eh dad?”
“It covers just about everything!”
The water here tastes good, and the blackberry jam is solid but more easily spread than the Smucker’s jam I usually get. There are still seeds in it, too. I have yet to figure out if I got some good deals on the food, as the converter in my head isn’t working yet (the exchange rate when I arrived was better than it was when I left, about $.74 USD to $1 NZD). But I think eventually, I may stop thinking in USD and just compare NZD to themselves.
Same with Fahrenheit and Celsius. I have Fahrenheit temperatures on my phone, but the forecast on the television is given in Celsius, so I will eventually need to just switch over to Celsius.
Don’t be surprised if I start using NZ or British spellings in future blog posts. I could feel a pull toward those spellings throughout writing this post. I’ve also switched the time zone on my laptop.
Yet, it still hasn’t sunk in that I’m truly here. It’s a fantastic place to slow down. New Zealanders know it and tell us that, too. Before we debarked the plane, the flight attendant said, “If you are visiting, welcome. We know you will enjoy our beautiful country.” Confidence in their place. They have something, they know it, and they’re willing to share it.