Monday, September 3, 2012

42 degrees below the equator

Waiting on gate 42 at LAX airport, all I thought was wanting to get into the flight and sleep like there was no tomorrow. Getting into the swanky premium economy space seats on the air new zealand just reaffirmed my plan of sleeping on the 13 hr flight to Aukland.  After a long and unusually peaceful sleep, I got up to another 3 hrs to go before touchdown. looking out of the window it struck me that I was flying to  the last big country in the southern hemisphere before the beautiful and mysterious Antarctica. the land 42 degrees below the equator, the land of the long white cloud !!

landing in Aukland and boarding my local flight to Christchurch, I could already sense how beautiful the land would be beyond the routine cities and how friendly the people are. this particular piece is an account of the people I have met, the experiences I've had in my short yet amazing time in New Zealand.

I was told in a bar here that I could easily me mistaken for a local Maori because of the color of my skin and size. Is it that or something else I dont know but I end up with one free drink almost every time I go out to a bar with a Chilean , an Austrian, an American and a half Irish American, I often think that we can have a United nations meeting in our house here in Christchurch. just the way different cultures live, work, enjoy etc. is a fascinating learning experience in  itself. We try to put this cultural difference to great use every monday night at the local english tavern with their bar quiz. trying to bring knowledge from practically every corner of the globe. Another first for me are the savory pies. Kiwis can stuff anything into a pie and have it practically all day long for breakfast, lunch and dinner. this added up with the great tasting brews make up for a great culinary experience in this beautiful country.

Having moved from India to the U.S and now having temporarily moved to New Zealand, my experience with pronunciations and words in English have also changed. the most confusing bit is the use of  'i' in place of 'e' here among kiwis. At the airport the airline representatives will tell you to 'chicken' your baggage instead of 'check-in'. also Tomaato, aluminium and something called 'sweetas' which is more like cheers. the most commonly heard word or rather sound is 'aaayyyeee'. this sound/word is used at the end of almost every sentence and what it signifies, I haven't been able to figure out.

coming back to my experiences here in this land... . driving a 'campa van' as it is called here to lake tekapo and a ski town called Wanaka was quite an experience. a first for me. the drive was so beautiful that through the journey we often joked  that the whole land had been photoshopped. watching a new zealand vs australia rugby game in a small town farmers bar was an experience in its own.

the concept of PUB meaning public house is personified here in New Zealand.  the number of new, different and amazing personalities you meet in a pub is reason enough to hit up a pub every night :P. My first such  experience was with this coal miner from Australia. he was having a drink and struck up a conversation. his experience in the mine, how hot and difficult it gets and his near death experiences were a fascinating listen. another guy who was a ship builder based out of Christchurch was philosophical and talking about how money would ruin this world and that world war three is just around the corner. I would never know if those were his true beliefs or the alcohol speaking. the bar tender was an interesting personality herself. after being laid off from her job in home country Ireland, she decided to pack her bags and travel around the world in search of a job and possibly a better life. she flew into Australia and worked at a bar for a year, after which she moved to New Zealand to work for a year and plans to go to china after this.

my most recent pub escapade got me to meet a person who has accomplished a rare feet, that of spending time working at McMurdo which is the american station down in Antarctica. a few friends and myself were having a conversation in the smoking zone of the bar when this almost 7 feet, bearded guy walked up and joined in the conversation. this guy  from Montana had just gotten back from the 'ice' a day ago had a great story to tell. the rest of the night was filled with us asking him questions about antarctica. He gave us some great insights on the work he does there, the weather, the experiences and how you can get sunburnt in Antarctica due to the absence of the ozone layer.

following are some highlights from our conversation that night. a five hour flight from christchurch in an American airforce flight takes you to Mcmurdos station which follows the New zealand standard time. the temperatures at the station get upto -50 to -60 degrees celsius in winter and about -10 degrees in summer. He also spoke about the food which is shipped every 3 months and stored in the station due to the lack of vegetation there. the fascinating things he spoke about included how you can see the moon circling right above you in its one month cycle from full moon to complete darkness in those days when they have 24 hours of darkness, the penguins and seals which come down in summer and the friendly rivalry between McMurdo and Scotts base which is the new zealand station. He also spoke about his greatest adventure yet to be undertaken next year, that of driving from McMurdos station to the south pole on a tractor. A thousand mile ride which he said would take him 30 days to complete in extremely severe colds of the south pole. the research done there ranges from anti freeze liquids in fish in the lakes to paleontology and underground unfrozen lakes.

all in all my experience here in New Zealand has been one of amazing experiences, great people and  scenic locales.  I am glad I came here for work and learnt so much more about the people of the world.


  1. Beautiful post Rushil! Makes me wamt to visit NZ, how long are you there for?

  2. i fly back to the u.s on the 20th of oct