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Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Chronicles of NZ: Chillin’ In Auckland (Written 1/19/07) – New Zealand Edition

Since we arrived back in Auckland on Wednesday we have just been doing our best to just relax and enjoy our last few days in New Zealand. We only had a few definite things we needed to do in Auckland but for the whole part we were just going to play everything by ear – the nicest part was not having to rush anywhere. We weren't under any time constraints and had all day to do what we needed to do, it was awesome! On Thursday, after spending a little time just vegging in front of the TV (btw, the television selection in NZ isn't the best….I never thought after a year of being away from TV a lot I would say there was nothing on, but there was literally nothing of substance on TV!) we drove over to this computer recycler that a lot of us Peace Corps in Samoa are using now to get computers over to the island. It's called The Ark and both Josh and I have been in contact with the owner (Brian) over the past few months just trying to get computers shipped for our schools. The 40 computers I got during the last year came from this recycler so it was good to finally meet the man and see the place that supplied my computer lab. At Josh's new school he will be building a computer lab this year so he was mainly interesting in buying some new computers, whereas my school had an order shipped from here before Christmas (thus before I arrived here to look at it – just another thing waiting for me when I return). The place is setup like a warehouse and it just stacked to the roof with computers, monitors and printers – all from companies that are cycling through their hardware but a lot of the stuff is what we need in Samoa. Fortunately, Brian understood that for us it's not necessarily the quality of the computers we are after but just getting a good quantity that are mainly all the same type – thus it's easier to replace parts if everyone is using similar hardware. So we talked to him about pooling our resources in Samoa so that shipping computer hardware there can be a little more organized (right now it's a little haphazard – we really only found this place during my time in Samoa, so fairly recently). It was definitely good to put a face to the emails and talk to him about what we are trying to do in Samoa – the fact that he understood was an added bonus. So with the new computer teachers (Group 77) finally going out to their sites this week, they'll probably be using the Ark in the future to supply their computer needs (it's cheaper to ship from NZ then the US, so that's a big reason for why we like using the Ark).

            After the Ark, we ran into downtown Auckland to run a mac errand for some friends in Samoa. Thank goodness I'm a kind and generous person because it was very hard for me to go into a mac store and not rip the place apart. We got out of there as quickly as possible and from there went to the mall downtown. Now the malls in NZ are a bit different from the malls in America in the fact that the buildings (I'm guessing) are all owned by the same company – Westfield. So they all say "Westfield <Location>". So the mall downtown is called "Westfield Downtown" and if you come from a society where mall's typically have the word "Mall" somewhere in their name you would have no clue that it was a mall. From the outside you would never guess that it was a mall because it looks small – when we were in Auckland the first time I just thought it was another business building. But then you go inside and you have no doubt that it's a mall (I also think this was the first mall I've been to that was in a downtown area and thus had no free parking around it) and I was just in awe. Nothing feels more like Americana then going into a mall and seeing McDonalds and Burger King as the staples in the food court. I also saw one of the few Electronic Boutiques (EB) in this country – before now, I had only seen ONE in the entire country and that was when we were in Wellington. For some reason, by making that trip to the mall it just felt like a "normal" day back home – like it wasn't a touristy thing to do, it was just normal and that was a nice feeling.

            After our trip to the mall, we went back to Carol's house for a bit to continue chilling (and take the requisite afternoon nap) and I made a few phone calls home. One of the things I'm going to miss about NZ is the great calling rates I get when calling home on a phone card, for the low price of $10NZDollars I got about 268 minutes to call the states – that's crazy! That allowed me the very rare opportunity to call home and have a normal phone conversation without feeling rushed and without feeling like I'm running up a huge phone bill for someone, it was a great feeling and definitely felt to the normal feeling of the day. I think Thursday was really needed for me because it made me appreciate the normal aspects of NZ and made me less ready to get back to Samoa. We were finally settled after jumping from place to place for 15 days and it was a great feeling to have. The last thing we did on Thursday was rent the movie 'Capote' starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman (he won an Academy Award for the part). Overall, I thought it was a good movie and Phillip really lost himself in the part but it was very hard to understand him at points – we had to turn the subtitles on because it was so bad (maybe the mix was bad or something). It was either Capote or United 93 and I really didn't want to see United 93 before getting on a plane – still kind of a raw subject for me.

            On Friday, we started the day with a bit of chill well into the afternoon. Had to enjoy this nice cool weather because when we go back tomorrow it might not be cool (although the weather report said it might be raining). Once we were all chilled out, we went back to apple store to pick up the items for our friends (fortunately, I kept my hands in my pocket as to avoid the temptation of smashing) and then headed to the mall that was closer to Carol's house called "Westfield Manukau City". Now this place actually looked like a mall – tons of parking and a huge building in the middle. This is what my idea of a mall was and we finally found it. Once we were inside, my ideas were only confirmed more – the place was just overflowing with people it was ridiculous (for those who have been to Opry Mills on a holiday or a weekend – it was that kind of overflowing, but not that much space) but it was great because I was just inundated with choices on stores to go to. I'm going to miss that! Josh and I couldn't escape the pull of the stores without buying something but we got things that were very tangible that we can enjoy back on the island (my electronics/music nature just comes out when I'm in a mall/store, I just can't help it!). But we got away without spending all our cash which was definitely a good thing. After we were home for a bit (and Josh was getting a bit restless) we took about a half hour walk around the neighbourhood just seeing what there was to see, talking and laughing….a good ending to a great vacation.

            So tomorrow we head back to Samoa and begin the second year of our tour in Peace Corps. When we first got back to Auckland I was so ready to get back to Samoa but now that we've actually had a few days to just decompress, I'm going to miss New Zealand. It kind of has the feeling of home (the States) but it lacks some very important people to qualify for that feeling. Other then that, it's a beautiful country and one I'm definitely glad I had the opportunity to visit. I'm also appreciative of all the folks who helped me and gave me (Josh and Kevin) a place to stay and eat during our trip – it made it a lot more special and unique then anything I could have possibly imagined. But the unique thing about going back to Samoa tomorrow is that I will actually be repeating today again (Friday)…so the sunset I saw tonight I'll get to see again. It's a strange thing – that international date line – and I can't wait to be on the right side again! See ya there!

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