I once wrote a book about New Zealand, in which I talked about BookCrossing, the Maori, the incredible scenery, and the odd way they speak.
My New Zealand friends tend to roll their eyes at the usual weary jokes about “fush and chups” and the unpronounceable Maori names – which are perfectly straightforward to them – but I could not disguise my affection for the place. If anything, it has grown over the years. I may be an Australian, but I love New Zealand.
Out of all the amazing places I’ve been, I think New Zealand is still the most scenic place I’ve been. Coming down from St Moritz on the Bernina Express was pretty special, and some of the rugged Highland glens wormed their way into my heart, but for sheer glory, standing on Bob’s Peak above Queenstown, looking at the Remarkables and watching the old paddle steamer smoke across Lake Wakkitypoo – that’s as good as it’s ever gotten for me.
There’s still a hole in my heart when I think of Christchurch. I last visited in 2009, before the earthquake destroyed so much, and in my mind’s eye, the wonderful old buildings and the cheerful suburbs are still intact. Such a beautiful city, with the River Avon winding peacefully past parklands and old stone buildings, and although not completely in ruins, so many iconic buildings were destroyed, and whole neighbourhoods were condemned as unsafe to live in.
But you cannot keep New Zealanders down. They plant their feet against the sway of the land, set their backs to rebuilding, and soldier on together. Broken and battered, they still live in paradise.
Rhonda Albom of Albom Adventures – a travel blog I heartily recommend – has written a piece about New Zealand slang and vocabulary that will be both puzzling and hilarious to those who do not speak Kiwi English. It is a must-read for anybody planning on visiting, or even trying to work out what the hell they are talking about.
Not that Aussie English is much better. Some of the idioms are the same, but it’s only here that if offended, you can reach down, whip off your thong, and slap a stranger in the face with it. In Auckland, that doesn’t work.
Recently a mate suggested that I am not just an American expat, I am Kiwi now. Living in New Zealand has changed me. I drink piss and eat tea. I wear togs and jandals in the summer, woollies and jumpers in the winter. Now I ring with the phone and call in person. I holiday at a bach, and if I am awake early enough, I enjoy a sparrow-fart. Basically, life is good as gold, and I am happy as Larry.