There are only two countries where the locals have volunteered to help us when we were poring over a map – Japan and New Zealand.
In my mind, New Zealanders (I know they are sometimes referred to as Kiwis, but I’ll only do that if the rest of the world follows suit and Australians are ‘Roos, and China Chinese are Pandas, and Singaporeans are Merlions. Until then, New Zealanders are New Zealanders or “NZ-ers” to me) are the “Japanese” of “Western Civilisation” or “Western Culture” or “White Culture/Society” or… you know what I mean.
When we were in Christchurch, we were poring over a map to figure out how to get to the Public Bus Exchange (“Bus Interchange” in SG lingo), when a cyclist stopped to offer help. Then he pointed us in the general direction.
At the Bus Exchange, we were pondering over the transit map when a commuter asked where we were going, and pointed us to the transit office and information counter.
When the tour guides spoke of NZ’s flora, fauna, and history, there is an apologetic tone (that you only find in Japan with Japanese) for the damage the white settlers had done to the land, the wildlife, and the indigenous people and their culture. There is a respectful tone, a politically-correct mindset, a sensitivity, and a humility that is rare and much appreciated.
Which is not to say that they are dull, bland, unhumourous people!
I really enjoyed talking to the various people we met. Linda in Grey Mouth who is a guide with Kea Tours. She looks to be in her 60s (or older) but is extremely fit – out-walking PL on the trail to Fox Glacier. She and her husband has 6 cows and 12 sheep on 10 acres. The cows will be slaughtered when they reach market size, and they will keep half a cow for themselves (it would last them about a year), and sell the rest. The sheep will be allowed to “lamb” and the lambs would make “good eatin'” (to use a phrase from another guide) when they are about a year old.
Hmmm…. that just makes her out to be ruthless carnivore. I guess I mean to say that we connected enough that she was willing to share that much information about herself. Of course it may have helped that I told her I wanted to eat a Weka. (Another story).
Another guide which was fun was our “punter”. We went “Punting on the Avon” which is probably more interesting in Spring and Summer when the flowers are blooming. In winter, all we could see were ducks – Mallards, Scaup, Paradise – and some greenery.
But Josh was fun to talk to. He’s part Maori and shared that Weka was tasty (I go around telling everyone that I wanted to eat Weka in the hopes that someone might offer me some on the black market or some illegal restaurant). I asked him if he had eaten Weka and he said he had. He explained that you could only eat Weka on Chatham Islands (same info from Linda), or if you were of Maori descent. I asked if I could be adopted by a Maori. He said he would ask his Uncle. But I don’t think he was sincere, ‘cos he didn’t get my contact, so how could he get back to me if my adoption came thru?
He shared that he thought of the Scaup (diving duck) as “The Batman Duck” cos they had yellow around their eyes which make them look a little like “Batman”.
We also enjoyed the commentary by the driver of “The French Connection” bus service (drove us to Akaroa), who thanked us for using their service as it kept him with a job. He shared that Paradise Ducks were “good eatin'” along with other animals.
And the “captain” of the Canterbury Cat (Black Cat Cruise) who took us on the Akaroa Harbour Tour.
And then there was the passenger we call “Mr Alzheimer’s” ‘cos he explained that he had Alzheimer’s although he took the cruise by himself.
And then there was the staff at Antarctic Centre who, when chided by another staff for not preventing a penguin from leaping into a cordoned off area, retorted that her comment “was a little rude”.
That apparently was the height of NZ-er’s anger and argument!
Like I said, they are the Very Nicest of People.