No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow. –Lin Yutang
I managed to score a job in Wellington, capital of New Zealand from September to November 2005. I found a flat just 10 minutes walk from my office. It was their summer but coming from humid Singapore it was still too cold for me. I remember wearing a matrix jacket, boots, mittens, scarf just to walk from my flat to my office where local kids passed me by with just their tees on and eating ice cream. I enjoyed the place more so, if I could just wear a shirt. Wellington has picturesque natural harbor and green hillsides adorned with tiered suburbs of colonial villas. This place is the closest I got to nature while living in the city.
Most of the friends I met lived at the suburbs and most of them have a lovely home and cool cars. It’s like watching desperate housewives but you are in it. So every weekend I got the chance to go and see what’s outside of the city. One time, I went to a suburb mall where I find more people in one place than in the city on weekdays. There are more sheep than people in New Zealand. Contrary to popular legend, they aren’t always walking over the highways. At least, not all the time. Most of them you can find at the hillside. I had my first close encounter with a sheep when my friend showed me the outskirts of Wellington. I had to ask my friend to pullover just to take a picture with the sheep. They are just there roaming freely eating all the grass and nobody owns them.
Every year of November 5 they celebrate Guy Fawkes Day. I grasped the concept and the story when I saw the movie V for Vendetta. Guy Fawkes was part of a group of men who wanted to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London. He was caught red-handed with the explosives, foiled after years of planning. Guy Fawkes and his group were terminated and as a mockery to the conspirators it became a yearly event accompanied by firework displays, the lighting of bonfires and the ceremonial effigy-burning of one Guy Fawkes. The origin of this celebration stems from events which took place in 1605
Another highlight of my stay there was attending a photo exhibit. My friend’s hubby was into photography. They toured Europe shoot all the good stuff and organized an exhibit. Many of their friends graced the event. I like the place where they held it. A wooden museum in a small town. Where everything was old that it’s too familiar but at the same time new to you. It’s like you been there before and seen the place but just don’t know when and how. I also get the chance to see a play, The Little Shop of Horrors and I love the concept of their theater where you will sit in a chair with table and have drinks and food while watching the act. Like you are in a bar but the live acts are not the band. And my friends showed me Peter Jackson’s house and some spots where they shoot LOTR.
I forgot how cold I felt when I was in NZ. All I can recall are how warm the kiwis were – the friends I met, the colleagues in my office and people I encountered. I remember the view of the sea from my flat, the ray of sunlight in my office desk, Friday afternoon at the bar having beer at 4pm, and how striking even everyday people were – the sales clerk in 7 11 and even the construction guy down the street.
The name “New Zealand” comes from “Zeeland” in Dutch. Zeeland was a province of the Netherlands. It means “Land of the Long White Cloud”. About 4 million people live in New Zealand. They call themselves kiwis. Most of them have European ancestors. New Zealand has become more popular since New Zealand born Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings movies were all made there.