New Zealand FlagWelcome back to the New Zealand and Australia journal.  This is the 3rd trip to both countries where I have kept a journal.  It has been five years since I last visited, and things have changed. 

We changed our itinerary this year.  Instead of 18 days in New Zealand, it is only 8.  We are only going to Auckland and Rotorua.  We are, however, spending more time in each location. 

I was amazed and the building going on in Auckland, the city is really expanding with multiple major high-rise construction projects in the works.  It is really changing the face of the city. 

Building in AucklandFor those who follow the blog or have been on the trip, we also changed our location this year. We are now at XBase which is located next to the Universities and for those in the know, much flatter around the Hostel and down to the harbor than the YHA. As hostels go, it is nice.  The model is different with both food service and a bar as part of the facilities along with the traditional kitchen and other services.  It also has larger general space than the YHA.  It is also much bigger. I see these things as different, not better or worse.  I suspect I will have a more informed opinion later. 

In 2006 when I made my first trip to New Zealand, I don’t think I saw a fast food place at all.  I was surprised at the number of franchises today: Starbucks, Wendy’s, Burger King, McDonald's, etc.  And the growth of hotel chains.  Fortunately, the international character of the city does not seem to be any less.  As we are in the University area, there is a broad change of small food shops available.

Eating in AucklandThe interesting observation occurred at a local food court.  Most of the menus were primarily in the language of the food type with secondary English labels.  The students went into overload and could not decide what to eat. Their choices ranged from Japanese, Turkish, Indian, Chinese (regular and Szechuan), Noddle shop, Vietnamese, and a bakery/coffee shop and the ones I can recall.  It was fun to watch them wander back and forth trying to decide what to eat.  Since Sushi was the first thought as we were deciding where to eat, it was not a surprise that most of the students ate food from the Japanese counter.  In case you were wondering, I ate from the Turkish counter and had the mixed grill.

The other surprises for students were the birds in the building.  Since the food court had an open entrance, birds could fly in and out.  No one seemed bothered by the situation. 

I was surprised at the number of apparent homeless around.  The difference is the panhandling was really low key.  The example I like is that I was having difficulty getting into the ATM machine (more on this later) and what appeared to be someone homeless stopped to help me.  Only later did he ask about something.  I was going in the other direction and I told him I would swing by on my way back.  When I did he was not there

Unlike in the states, the ATMs are normally not out on the street hanging off the side of the back building. Most banks have purpose build lobbies with multiple ATM machines.  You are required to swipe your card to unlock the doors.

Our first-day strategy seemed to work again.  We got into Auckland about 6:15 am and got through immigration (automated – swipe passport, get the picture [face recognition] and go.  No stamps, no questions, no fuss – 5 minutes maximum. Customs for me was easy.  Handed in the form, answered the basic question, and I was allowed to go without getting luggage x-rayed.  Less than an hour to get into the country.  We were met by our driver (full-size bus for 12 people).  They completed the highway system so that it would take us directly into the city rather than the over the hill and dale in the past.  I will admit that I would prefer the old way as you got to see more of the suburbs. 

group photo in the rainAs usual, we put our luggage in storage for the day after getting cleaned up for the day.  I then walked with the students to the Auckland Museum. Fortunately, it was only some 1.5 miles.  Unfortunately, it was ¾ of the way uphill.  My endurance is not what it was.  So, it was an effort. And it rained. 

The students then spent time about 2 hours in the museum. Not sure how they do it.  I normally spend hours going through the exhibits.  But, as I questioned them, they seemed to have seen the important parts. For a couple of them, when I asked if they had seen X, they did not but then go off to see it. 

Met a localPerhaps the most interesting thing to observe was that several of the students met a local.  They were surprised at a number of things including an NZ$18 per hour minimum wage, that she had no interest in visiting the United States, she had a negative image of the united states, that she was young than the students and was out on her own living and going to school.   What the students did not know is that higher education is free to people in New Zealand that qualify.