Day 1

November 18, 2005 – 7:00 pm

The problem with flying to New Zealand from America is that if you
get a well-timed flight, you don’t really have jetlag on the first
day. You get this fantastic feeling of competence, because you’ve
flown halfway around the world and are fizzing and popping with
energy. That lasts until the next day.

I woke around 7:30, puttered around until 9. Then we went into
town to make our first shopping run, including gas for the car. Holy
Jesus H Christ on a Crutch: NZ$65 to fill the tank! I’m absolutely
useless at making sense of the metric amounts, I’m so attuned to
American miles/gallon and so on, but I know that a shitload to fill
the tank isn’t good. I guess that’s why there’s now a “give me $20
worth of petrol” button on the pumps–the wallet’s the limiting
factor, not the tank.

Things in general are more expensive here, and I’m amazed at the
amount of wank that’s for sale. I don’t remember NZ being a consumer
society when I was a kid in the 80s. Now we have our own Wal-Mart
(The Warehouse) and there are dozens of stores in town all trying to
sell art from a local coop, wanky yuppie furniture, and a dozen cafes.
The rest of the town is taken up with real estate agencies.

Apparently there’s been a real estate boom while I was gone and now
the national sport is buying and selling houses. The road from
Warkworth to our house is peppered with “For Sale” signs. The main
street of town must have a dozen stores on it. The newspaper has a
Wank Up Your House section, there are “we’ll let your second
property!” services advertised in the budget local rag, and so on.
Where the hell do people get the money from?

When I left, salaries were crap. Now I’m back, salaries are still
crap. At least, I think so: it’s hard to tell because none of the job
listings mention salaries. Either I’m misinformed and salaries of
>NZ$100k are commonplace, or everyone in the family must be
working. Any ideas how I’d find out what I could earn here, other
than applying for jobs which seems a slow and frustrating

This emphasis on spending seems a new thing, but I haven’t seen it
discussed in the popular press the same way that I see the brain drain
or the latest policy decisions from Wellington. Perhaps I misremember
what it was like in the auld days–always possible given my age and
the premature senility induced by two children.

We went to William’s new school, Leigh School. It was great to see
again the place where I went to school. We met William’s class
(he starts Monday). They’re how I remember kids when I was growing
up: a little scruffy, not polished and shiny like kids in the US.
Kids here are like cars: probably second-hand economy models rather
than the all-leather-interior SUVs of the US. They all seemed
friendly and nobody was sullen and stropping a razor, so I took the
liberty of feeling optimistic that William will get on well with them.
Raley I’m not worried about: she owned the preschool as soon as
she walked into it. Possibly this was because she was wearing a
Princess dress, but I’ll be a Proud Dad and assume it was her strong
friendly personality.

As we talk to people, it’s obvious that our part of NZ is
remarkably classless. In London, it was apparent that everyone
thought in terms of class. In Colorado, there was only the fabulously
rich and the suburban middle class. Poor people weren’t visible, so
the range of thought about the human condition was much lower. It
didn’t feel ostentatious to have William walking around Fort Collins
with an iPod while we did the shopping. In Warkworth, I felt a little
self-conscious knowing there were people struggling to make ends meet
(and that we could be those people with a few poor budgeting decisions
in the coming months) while our six year old had a frivolous toy.

I’ll close with domestic matters: the fridge. Jenine’s been on TradeMe and has some lines on good
ones. The prices on TradeMe are 40% of the prices we were being
quoted from the “do you a deal!” guy at Halls Retrovision (I kid you
not, that’s the name of the store). I love the Internet.

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