Electronic Postcard From Down Under #3

Hi again --

I know it has been a while since I last wrote but getting out e-mail has not been easy. Tim has had to sweet talk the hostel people into letting him disconnect the Internet computers to get to a direct line. Here in Wellington, he used the hostel's fax line. Elsewhere, there is no local number. So here we are:

I last left you in Auckland (our first day there). Since then we have truly enjoyed our time with the Kiwis (as New Zealanders call themselves). Here's some random culture differences/observations:

Fashion: There are people going barefoot everywhere; stores, restaurants, banks, on the street -- even on hot blacktop roads. It is accepted and seems to come from something the indigenous people, the Maori (pronounced morrey) did. Now it's done by all ages. Lots of young people with pierced body parts, dressed in black, brightly dyed hair, and interesting clothes. This was especially true in Auckland as kids were coming from all over to Big Day Out, a day-long outdoor concert with alternative groups like Marilyn Manson, Hole, Korn, etc. Will they look back someday and wonder how they could ever look like that? (I think about bell bottoms, etc., of my college days and wonder.) Another Maori influence is extensive tattooing on the face and arms for both men and women. The tattoos are all black and consist of swirls and lines.

Food: Instead of catsup, it's called tomato sauce and flavored with spices. Beetroot (sliced pickled beets) gets put on plates like we'd put on a pickle. A McDonalds "kiwi burger" is a burger with lettuce, tomato sauce and beetroot. A handle is a mug of beer. Use of utensils is similar to use in England and Europe. Take your fork in your left hand and turn it with prongs down. Now take your knife in your right hand and use it to cut food and smash it on top of the upside down fork or onto the prongs. I (Di) am getting pretty good at this....despite the cashew that flew across the room at the restaurant...It's actually more efficient than our method of switching our fork between hands. Napkins are called serviettes. A milk shake is just flavored milk while a thick milk shake has ice cream in it. A pie is a handheld portable meal consisting of a filling (like beef, chicken, or spinach/cheese) between two layers of pastry crust. Oooooh, delicious. You get them at fast food pie places like King pies or Georgie's pies...they even have drive-throughs. Tim thinks Pepsi tastes different but Coke tastes the same. Lemonade is carbonated. McDonalds is ubiquitous...even the little kids recognize the golden arches...buy McDonalds stock. Very few canned soups but lots of packaged dried soups, veggies, and mixes for meals like pot roast and stew. Nachos are a hot food item but we can't find a water chestnut anywhere in this country.

Traffic: Di did a little driving on a winding country road in the pouring rain but is primarily the navigator so far. Tim does the driving and is getting quite good although Di still needs to yell out "Keep Left" every once in a while. Right turns still require concentration and major intersections are often traffic circles (roundabouts). Yield signs say "Give Way" instead. At some big city intersections, all the traffic stops in all directions at one time and pedestrians can walk across the street or even diagonally if they wish. Most gas stations have attendants to pump your gas. More on driving later.

High Finance: Thank goodness for ATM machines and credit cards. Kiwis have $1 and $2 coins about the size of our quarters. Their 50 cent piece is huge and a couple of them really wear out the pockets. Also, they seem to be trying to phase out their 1 cent piece. When you go to a store and the bill is $1.43 they will round it to $1.40 and charge you that. The receipt even has a line called rounding. Since the NZ dollar equals approximately 55 U.S. cents, stuff seems cheap to us.

Do we sound like tourists or what?

I know we haven't talked about what we've actually been doing but I thought you might find this stuff interesting. We will tell you about swimming with manta rays and tubing in an underground river and clipping the curb with the rental car in the next installment.

Hope everyone is well. Respond when you can.

Di and Tim

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Tim and Diane's email address is ttdk@aol.com