28 November 2008

How are New Zealanders like?

As I was riding the bus a couple of days back, I was thinking about what to write next for my blog. We have been here for two months now and so I thought it will be a great idea to share my impression of how Kiwis (that's what New Zealanders are also called) are like in the eyes of a migrant.

Admittedly, one of my main concerns was discrimination. Filipinos have had their share of this, including stereotyping. This can especially be an issue because my wife and kid is with me. What if it happens to them?

It is undeniably a sense of hope that New Zealand is a welcoming place to migrants. And they even have an admirable track record for being a family-oriented place and where migrants are appreciated for their contribution to society.

And after two months' stay in Wellington, how was it like? Wonderful. The people are generally friendly. Many people you meet on the street would smile at you or utter a greeting. They say "thanks!" to the bus driver when leaving. When you didn't understand what they said the first time, they would say it again a bit more slowly.

There was even a time when we were walking back home and it was an uphill climb on an early sunny afternoon. A lady stopped her car and was montioning us to hop in, so she can drive us up the rest of the way! How nice is that?

On the downside, there were some minor instances with bus drivers. In my first time at the bus the driver got a bit impatient when I got the bus card off the reader too early and he had to input our fare again but later on in the journey he even pointed out where we have to get off and walk to Te Papa Museum, and where to get a bus ride back. Another driver was a bit impatient for us to get in. But there are ultimately more friendly drivers.

And then my wife brought to my attention this incident. We have to face the fact that discrimination is something that can happen anywhere. It happens in the Philippines, it can happen here, it can happen anywhere else. What we do about it is what can make the difference.

That said, I still believe that New Zealand is a great place to be in. They have a growing awareness of the multicultural society and acceptance of their Maori heritage. It's the growing pains we have to watch for.

22 November 2008

The Frank Kitts Park

Completed in the late 1980s, Frank Kitts Park was one of the first areas of the waterfront to be developed. The design was heavily influenced by the annual street car race that ran through the area at that time.

The seaside promenade was the start grid for the race and is the reason why the promenade is flanked by a high wall on its city side – to ensure spectator safety.

The last street car race was held in 1997 and since then a desire has been expressed by many for the wall to come down and connections from city to sea – physical and visual – to be improved.

Source: Wellington Waterfront

Something hilarious actually happened to us with Frank Kitts Park. A couple of weeks back, we were in town and when we were finished with our tasks for the day, we still had a couple of hours left before going back home. And so we decided to do the Wellington Waterfront Walk.

There are many Walks in the city and surrounding areas, where you become your own tourist guide. There are free brochures for the many walks and each points out interesting highlights such as preserved structures and places. The Wellington Waterfront Walk starts near the Central Railway Station and ends at Te Papa Museum. Somewhere near Te Papa is the Frank Kitts Park, which was our ultimate goal so Jo-Lo can play.

The guide said the walk will take around 5 minutes to reach the park, but we have been walking far more than that, and then we already saw Te Papa from a distance. Thinking we passed the park and missed it, we decided to return to the train station and go home.

Last Sunday when we finished watching the Santa Claus parade, we decided to visit a park since it was still too early to go home. Frank Kitts Park it was. We were surprised to learn that had we continued with our walk the last time, it was already at the opposite end of the building we were facing!

That's the longest and highest kiddie slide in a park I have ever seen.
Bungee jumpers in training.
Jo-Lo enjoying the park.
The grounds of most parks here are covered with this soft rubber matting. Really nice to walk around in. It's similar to the mat used in the play area at Glorietta in Makati City, Philippines.

Frank Kitts park will undergo renovations soon. This is a nice place as it is, but the renovations will make it an even nicer place for family fun.

19 November 2008

The Tip Top Santa Claus Parade

A mailing list notice alerted us to the Santa Claus parade last November 16. The e-mail describes the parade as one of Wellington's oldest tradition, with the parade dating back to the 1960s and was originally named the James Smith Parade. The parade is organized by the council, with various companies getting naming rights sponsorship. This year it's Tip Top, an ice cream company (at least, that's where I always see their logo).

Apparently a collection is held during the parade for the benefit of Friends of Children in Hospital. It didn't pass us though.

We caught the train to get places at the head of the parade route (which is near the central station), but we arrived only a couple of minutes before it started and people were already pretty much settled on the sidewalks and across the street. The crowd isn't as huge as Baguio City's Flower Parade, but they make it up for height :-).

We didn't have to wait long before the parade started. I only had the iPhone with me , Jo-Lo was on my shoulder, and we were a couple of rows behind so pardon the paparrazi photos.

Thomas the Train

Storm Troopers! Jo-Lo excitedly called out "Star Wars!" when he saw these costumed dudes. Yeah, I'm training him on the ways of the Force.

Too bad this photo was way too dark. These four were dressed up as the GhostBusters!

Stephen King distorted my view of clowns.

Soon enough, Santa Claus and his reindeers arrived! And it signalled the end of the parade.

No sooner had the crowd dispersed when the clean-up crew arrived, removing the barricades, picking up the rubbish, and cleaning up the gutters. I was amazed. That's the taxes at work :-).

The celebration continued at the Civic Square, with a program that lasted for a couple of hours.

15 November 2008

Bring a plate!

The English language takes on various forms as people twist and turn words to make it their own. This is very much applicable with our country the Philippines as well. Take for example, "cardiac". In the true sense of the word, it refers to the heart. But we use it to define something very exciting, like a "cardiac game" on basketball finals. When we also say "salvage", we usually mean it's when somebody dies of very questionable and violent nature. But the true sense of the word actually means to save something!

Here in New Zealand, we are learning words and usages unique to the country as well. When somebody offers you a cuppa, they're inviting you for a break (a cup of coffee or tea). And when somebody says he'll "shout" you the drinks, or if there's a shout after office hours, it means that you're in for a treat. When they ask you to "bag" a seat, it means to go ahead and look for a table in a pub and reserve seats by placing your bag or jacket on the table.

And if there's a gathering or party and you're invited, you may be asked to bring a plate. Don't take it literally. They mean it's a potluck party, and that you are expected to bring a dish along. It's good practice to ask what sort of dish is expected so that you'll have an idea of what to bring.... on a nice plate :-).

New Zealanders have a rich vocabulary of colloquialisms so aside from getting acquainted with their unique accent, part of the adaptation process is learning about these words and phrases. I just hope I don't make a fool of myself anytime soon when I get a different meaning from what they are trying to say.

That'd be all, mate!

11 November 2008

The Central Library and the Te Papa Museum

Finally, we were able to visit the Central Library at Wellington! It was like walking into a bookstore. The open shelf policy enables you to roam about and take your pick at a leisurely pace. It has four floors of book heaven! A cafe is conveniently located inside the premises, the inviting scent of brewed coffee occasionally wafting through the nearby reading places.

The Library is located at the Civic Centre.
Books, books, books and more books!

I can use my Johnsonville library card here as well. How convenient!
Of course, there are also books for kids like Jo-Lo.I also managed to drop by the Te Papa Museum and took a few shots to share.
New Zealand has a rich natural resource, and the museum displays species native to the country.

The sadly extinct giant flightless bird moa (or is it emu?) comes to "life" in the gallery, and puts into perspective its majestic size.
For art aficionados, their gallery is a must visit.
There are lots of multimedia areas in the museum. There are enclosed theatres that can seat around 20, and there are open ones such as this one below. Other interactive features include an earthquake simulation, audio-visual treats, and virtual rides (this one's for a fee).
Displays of rich Maori heritage abound.

There are lots of areas designed for kids as well.Information kiosks are strategically located to give more information on the showcased exhibit.

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