one year in

today marks the one year mark for me in new zealand.

the highlights

– public transport that works. a 3 block walk to my bus stop in island bay, a wait usually less than 10 minutes and i’m in the cbd 20 minutes later. less than a block from my bus stop in the city to my desk. the buses are clean, the drivers friendly and the riders courteous.

– a 12 minute commute. i hop on my vespa, park in one of the free spots in the cbd for scooters/motorcycles and i’m at my desk after a short walk. 20 minutes from door to desk

– neighborhood shops. from our house in island bay i can walk to the grocery, butcher, bakery (2), dairy (4), movie theater, pharmacy, post office, library, doctor, book shop, cafe (3), bar, fish & chips, chinese (3), malaysian, indian & thai.

– the cafe culture. almost every block has several small, independent cafes with coffee, drinks, light food and outside tables along the sidewalk.

– common courtesy. for example i’ve ridden the bus hundreds of times now and i can’t think of a single time someone was yacking away on their mobile phone. before they get on folks switch their phones to silent mode. my boston experience was the inevitable hummer parked in the fire lane and blocking the entrance outside the whole foods. or the person ahead of you at the check out counter more focused on their mobile phone conversation than paying for their purchases

– a vibrant city full of small businesses. only one mall way out in the suburbs and no big box stores. jackie went to our local hardware store and asked for a magnetic key box. they didn’t have any in stock but the manager said he would look into getting some. he called the next day to let her know they had been ordered, and then again when they had arrived. more than once i have been in a shop, asked for something it turns out they didn’t have, and had them point me to competitor

– a sense of community. wellington’s not small (500,000), but i feel much more of a part of the community that i did in boston. the city council takes out a full page ad in the paper with the latest community news, events and planned city works. i’ve already participated in two council surveys (public transport & road planning), something i never did (was never asked) before

– the ocean. i lived within an hour of the ocean for 21 years in boston and had no interest in it. since i’ve been here i’ve spent time at the water almost every day. i have no interest in going to the beach to lie down on a blanket and get a tan. but most of the coastline is too rugged for that anyway and is great to walk along. the rock and tides make it a new experience every time.

– the climate. i haven’t worn a winter coat since i’ve been here. and none of the melting heat in the summer. it feels like spring or fall most of the time.

– renting. my home chore list is empty for the first time since 1991. our weekends are for recreation, exploring and having fun.

– safe & secure. no colour coded national threat level. no tsa hassles at the airport. and yet i feel *much* safer.

– kids being kids. playing in the streets, getting to school on their push scooters, busy playgrounds.

– the simple life. used car, small house, less stuff.

– public healthcare that works. universally accessible healthcare for primary and acute care, the accident compensation corporation (acc) providing no-fault coverage for all accidents & injuries eliminating lawsuits, and pharmac objectively deciding what medicines will be provided. even though i had great employer provided coverage in boston there was always the fear of losing your job and being bankrupted by a medical expense. you do have to wait your turn for many procedures though.

– social services that work. kiwis may struggle to make ends meet, but no one goes hungry and everyone has a place to sleep. perhaps even a bit too generous at times, but i would rather error in this direction.

– the integration of maori culture into daily kiwi life. i’m struck by both the maori and pakeha (a new zealander of non-maori and non-polynesian heritage) actions here. the pakeha are very respectful of the maori culture – and the maori are comfortable sharing their traditions with the nation. when mahe drysdale wore a traditional maori cloak whilst caring the new zealand flag during the olympic ceremony it felt like a celebration of the maori traditions. the tomahawk chop at a braves game is not quite the same. when the national anthem was played before the all blacks game everyone sang both the english and maori verses.

what i miss

– cheap books. even taking the exchange rate into account books are almost twice as dear here.

– tivo. once you’ve had it, it is hard to do without.

– affordable home ownership. things have peaked here, but home prices had reached the stratosphere – totally unaffordable (80% of take home pay for example). and we thought boston was expensive.

– good pay. kiwi salaries are quite low relative to the us, the uk or australia.

– going to the ballpark. hard to beat a redsox game at fenway park.

– dunkin donuts. i don’t expect there is anywhere that had more coffee cafes and better coffee, but sometimes i just want my big styrofoam cup of dd, ready for me in 30 seconds. and an occasional donut is a fine guilty pleasure.

– the vermont cabin. actually, the cabin in the first few years we owned it when it was a relaxing place to enjoy the snow and sit in front of the fire. unfortunately in the end it was just a place to do chores.

– the climate. i do miss winter a bit. something about a gentle snowfall, or even the feeling of battling mother nature during a fierce winter storm. and the smells of the flowers in spring and the leaves in fall are hard to beat.

– having a shared history with others – particularly with the few that tolerate my sense of humour and cater to my near constant need for positive feedback.

– turkey day. food, family & football.

– christmas in winter. it should be cold and the ground covered with snow when you are picking out your christmas tree. there are also noticeably few christmas lights and decorations. we may have to set the example this year.

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