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NEW ZEALAND | Monday, 2 March 2009 | Views [602]

Sylvia and Oii bade us farewell early on the Monday morning – their schedule only allowed them another 2 weeks for the whole of the South Island and they had an early ferry to Picton.

Our journey 5 minutes up the street was shorter but we still had to make it twice given the amount of new crap – tents, sleeping bags, cookers etc we had now acquired. Installed (the room was unfurnished) Warehouse was again our next step... to acquire yet more crap. It was asking a bit much to live bedless so we picked up an inflatable and a bedside lamp, some sheets and even some real towels for a spot of luxury. It was quite pleasant to have things like a washing machine and a cooker and fridge and so enjoyed domesticity..

Eventually we met Will and Lisa, our other flatmates who were on their own way around the world, in the opposite direction and were working in a bar/restaurant near the CBD. Nate and Jordan, the Kiwis, were total computer game addicts and spent 90% of their time behind their door playing something called World of Warcraft online. They temped but were between jobs and Nate was looking to enter the army. As such we had the place to ourselves for the first few days. On days off Will and Lisa stayed in and watched MTV endlessly, particularly delighting in a show called The Hills which I could never quite work out if it was hammy reality TV or just very badly acted. The others made brief appearances to get coke or a snack out of the fridge.

The job hunt continued – in all I met about 20 agencies and my CV landed on the desk about the same amount of clients. But the near perfect storm of a recent change in NZ government (Wellington is a big public sector employed town) and global financial meltdown well in progress meant that companies just weren't biting. Claire on the other hand fared much better - once she had gotten through the red tape created by the NZ Nursing registration board she was uniformed up and picking and choosing her shifts immediately.

However, it was by no means all work (or job hunt) and no play – Wellington was just hitting its peak summer season when we arrived and had a myriad of events to keep us on the streets over the next few weeks.

There was a free greatest hits of the classics type concert in a local park one evening – a little cheesy but very entertaining, particularly the Maori elements woven in at the end although it was a little strange that the pushy white European vocalist rather then the Maori singer took centre stage for this bit. Not exactly bicultualism, the official NZ governemnt policy but hey, I don't profess to understand it all.

Waitangi day was celebrated the day after. The Waitangi Treaty is the document signed in 1840 by the Maori elders and the representatives of the British Government which essentially gave over sovereignty to the Queen. The document was signed in both Maori and English and the wording is somewhat different in both versions so there is a view that the Maori did not actually know what they were committing to. To this day a commission refers back to the document in order to resolve disputes over, for example, ancestral land ownership. It was very innovative in its time and created a (somewhat) bicultural society where other countries such as Australia allowed European culture to run rampant over that of the peoples that inhabited the lands before they arrived. Anyhow, Waitangi day is the NZ national holiday and there was a little festival in the appropriately named Waitangi Park which we attended. A German folk band were rather bizarrely the first on stage followed by a mohicanned violinist and then finally the pacific island traditional grass skirted groups dancing and singing in rythym.

The following weekend the international rugby sevens were in town giving what seemed to be the vast majority of Wellingtonians the excuse to dress up. They take their costumes very seriously and are very professional – super heroes, nuns, monks, Tellytubbies, medics, sexy police women... you name it – they have it. Watching some of the games on a big screen close to the stadium, and walking past the bars, it was interesting to notice that not one of the people dressed up had any interest whatsoever in the rugby. Not even when NZ played did people look up from their cocktails! There was a street party on the final evening of the sevens so we went down to see what was happening. One of the interesting Wellington takes on a street party is that there is a 24/7 liquor ban on all streets. So while there was a very good Led Zeppelin cover band (Whole Lotta Led) playing on a stage in the especially pedestrianised street, if you wanted a beer you had to go into one of the pubs where you couldn't see or hear them. The band were playing in front “the official bar of the sevens” which had a balcony looking straight onto the stage. Passing the bouncer, fully prepared to pay for the pleasure of drinking and listening to music at the same time, I asked, “How much is the cover”. The bouncer replied, in a thick Dublin accent “are you Oirish, are ye?” to which I said “yes” - Claire kept schtum and he waved us in. We watched the band and had a few drinks as was our want, made conversation with Bananas in Pyjamas and watched the dressed up world go by.

About 2 weeks after having moved into the flat and we were now in a routine. Claire would work and I would try and convince agencies to see me or to forward my CV to clients. I started looking into temporary bar work just to ease the boredom – there are only so many air crash investigation programmes that I can watch before going bonkers. At last something came to break the routine – a small, highly localised flood in our sitting room caused by the frequent howling gales and rainstorms that come down the Cook Strait to menace Wellington. There was quite a lot of water in the house so the landlord was called and he promised to have someone come over and have a look. This they did, and said that it was nothing to worry about. At this point the decision was made to hand in our 2 weeks notice in the flat. The job hunting wasn't going great, but I would continue. The flat was ok but only just so we would move on in 2 weeks – either into a new house if I could get a job, or back on the road.

In the meantime we carried on, making the most of Wellington's sights and sounds. We visited the Karori wildlife sanctuary, an urban mainland island equipped with a massive predator proof fence with the goal of recreating a large native forest close to the city centre with all the flora and fauna as it would have been before man came to NZ over a thousand years ago. Thankfully the weather behaved the day we were there. We saw lots of birds, Weta, giant insects native to NZ but alas no Kiwis. I suppose them being nocturnal didn't help.

I finally got a call from a temping agency to go and do some bar work. My assignment was to

work at a Super 14s Rugby game in the Westpac Stadium – the home of the all blacks. It was a corporate box with a free bar and as it had been all set up before I got there, there was another barman (albeit he had only worked in a bar once before) and there were only 50 people it was an easy nights work. It was nice to go back behind the bar for the first time in over 10 years and never having worked in a stadium before it was a bit of a novelty. The staff were pleasant and my shift ended after about 5 hours.

Cuba St carnival was on the next day and I had arranged for Claire and I to meet up with Anoushka, one of the waitresses from the previous night and her husband Toby. He had been a doctor in Derriford where Claire used to work so there was lots to chat about as we saw the sights. It's a little bit like a small polite version of the Notting Hill Carnival with street performers, food stalls and lots for the kids. The liquor ban was still in force so most people were hemmed into bars by steel fences or milling around outside one. There were some good acts, morris dancers, flaming stilted jugglers and some funky stuff such as a knitathon, inviting punters to knit little jumpers for trees (!!). We were joined later on by a boisterous bunch of doctors doing round after round of shots. We lasted the pace while we could, in front of a cheesy “Irish” band from Auckland but eventually succumbed to the promise of our blow up mattress.

The Terracotta warriors were in town and we gave them a visit – and were glad we had not done so in London at about 3 times the price. It was interesting to see but they were all replicas and I suspect their true majesty can only be understood where all 8000 of them are together. This exhibition had transplanted about 30 of them away, I presume for a world tour, along with a few bits and bobs. We had sushi, I visited Te Papa again to see the other floors, we went to a fairly substandard comedy night but what gave me most happiness were the 6 nations games that I went to see in a Welsh pub that used to be a Public convenience in the wee hours of a few Saturday mornings. I managed to see Ireland beat France and England live in their last matches in Croke Park and this made me glad.

One night Claire woke up during one of the torrential rainstorms that hit Wellington thinking that water was coming into the room. I duly checked that the windows were closed and tried to go back to sleep. There was a strange dripping though ... I turned on the light to see a stream of water pouring out of the light. Good job we had an inflatable matress that we could bring to the sitting room to sleep.  It was time to move on.


The most promising lead on the job front was a CRM role with a agriservices company in Christchurch. It was luke warm at best and our 2 weeks were up. We sold our bedroom “furniture” to Nate and Jord, who had none and booked a Ferry across the Strait to Picton on the South Island and a car to take us around.

But what had I learnt from this time in Wellington? That it's much easier to get a job as a nurse than as a project manager. That I can't live with people who have no interests or personality. That I quite like Wellington and could live here for a while but as the most happening city in NZ I think NZ in general might be a bit quiet for me. That I need to work in order to feel normal – I don't think I'll ever be able to not work and I don't understand how anyone can watch TV all day.

Tags: apartment, carnival, concert, flood, rugby, work

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