David and Lili's World Tour


April and May 2008 - A Camper Van Tour

Kia Ora! People sometimes ask, "What is your favorite country?" I used to say, "India if you want a good adventure, where things are inexpensive and the culture is rich. Or Brazil if you want a great wife :-)" Now I say, "New Zealand, for livability."

We rented a camper van, the best way to see the country. For USD$40 per day (off season), one can purchase a place to sleep and a kitchen on wheels. We made a fantastic loop just ahead of winter's cold, hiking almost every day. On the ferry across the Cook Strait, we met John, a 78-year-old Australian who reminds me of my grandfather (except for the Aussie accent). We travelled with him from Wellington to Auckland. Sweet as.

Aside from sand flies in limited areas, we have nothing negative to report. The people are friendly and the scenery is fantastic. Violent crime is mostly adolescent, drunken brawls on Saturday nights. We've heard of gang violence in Auckland's poor neighborhoods, too, but this is a small problem compared to Brazil. We even like the politics (for the most part). New Zealand has a touch of socialism as a partial antidote to the ravages of capitalism's institutionalized greed. This helps explain why "Kiwis" are generally happy people.

We did meet a few Maoris (the native Polynesian people). They were all wonderful. The Maoris have done well relative to other victims of European colonization, thanks in part to the Treaty of Waitangi, where they made a partnership with the British Crown. Especially in the North Island, there are still places where Maori culture is vibrant (albeit greatly influenced by the modern world). But we are Pakeha, foreigners, "out of the loop," and newbies to New Zealand, so the most I can say is that Pakeha tend to be better off economically than Maoris. Of course, colonizers generally bring enough wealth to stay on top. And it's a myth in the Western Democracies that anyone can get ahead with hard work and a good attitude. Some can, but "cultural momentum" does exist, and treaty or no treaty, it takes money to make money. Consider the cost of a quality university.

We found Auckland to be friendly and modern, with an infusion of Asian and Pacific Island immigrants, a very livable city. But we prefer Christchurch, the main city on the South Island (British culturally with a pleasant urban center). I lined up a job, and we plan to emigrate!

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