Auckland, 30 Oct 2005
I’m sending this mail to friends and relatives. Sorry for not writing separate mails. But as I will need to convey almost the same information (about our first days in New Zealand) to everyone, it makes sense to do this.
We spent a few hours in Singapore and then boarded our flight for Auckland. The flight was quite comfortable except for the last three hours or so when the turbulence became too much and the cabin crew had to stop serving breakfast.
Lydia was sure that we were going to crash. But apparently, it was not too uncommon for this region, as people around us did not seem overly concerned.
We did not crash but had a safe landing. Customs was easy and soon we found ourselves in the open air with a good friend Francis. It was past noon and yet it was chilly, although the sun was shining. We were not that prepared with warm clothing and so it was a bit uncomfortable. But we were distracted by the sheer beauty of the place. We reached Francis’ house and met his wife and kids, who spoke with a kiwi accent and were so cute.
On the same day, Francis took us to a bank and we opened accounts there. We got cell phone connections too. Over the next few days, we applied for the all-important IRD (Inland Revenue Dept) numbers, fixed a house, got basic furniture and so on. It was interesting to see many come forward and give us furniture to use. Other stuff we got in second hand shops at reasonable prices. The house itself came with a cooking range and microwave oven. In less than a week, we moved out of Francis’ house to our own house. Houses here have no grills on windows or wooden doors. It is easy for a burglar to enter the houses but generally no one does. Auckland has a low crime rate. However, this varies from locality to locality and ours was not one of the safest.
Beach Road house in Te Atatu
Another queer thing about houses here is that even in a 3-bedroom house like ours, you only have one bathroom. Many of the houses (including ours)have hot and cold water coming in separate taps without mixers. People also dry their clothes out in the sun as they do in India. Every house has an elaborate clothesline. This is usually not the case in cities in western countries.
Lydia had already started attending Te Atatu Intermediate School even before we shifted. Prisy and Tim got admission in Rutherford college in Year 9 and Year 11. In January, when the new academic year commences, they will go to the next class. So they will be in this class only for a few weeks. Lydia will join them at Rutherford in January. At first they wanted Prisy to go to Year 10 because Year 11 was part of a course called NCEA (Year 11, 12, and 13) and they wanted her to do it completely. But after they gave her a test, they thought she was terribly smart and could manage year 12 without year 11. Her smartness was news to us and she is still being teased about it at home.
We bought a second hand car at a car fair. It is a 1994 Toyota Camry. We have arranged for a driving instructer to give us a few lessons. After that we will take the car out by ourselves. Traffic in Auckland is orderly but fast. You must ride at 100 km in the moterway. So we will stick to our suburb initially.
Our first car ever
Then it was time to look for jobs. Philip thought that I could look for a job first. We applied in a few places. We got responses from two places for technical writing. But both places were far away. For one of them, I would need to take a bus, then a train, and then a bus again.
So we decided to go to Downtown Auckland and try our luck. We went to HCL Technologies first. We did not have an appointment and I wondered how we would be received We met a person called Vivek Iyengar who had previously been working in Noida. He was amazing in that he was welcoming. He took my resume. He then took us to his friend in a bank closeby and introduced Philip to him. He then took us to a coffee place and spent some time with us. He spoke encouragingly and it was just what we needed at the moment. HCL was good to me and apparently continues to be.
The weather is totally new to us. It is supposed to be spring. But there is a chill in the wind that can get pretty uncomfortable. Local people dress economically (a state of undress by Indian standards) and we go about with our fleece coats on. It drizzles without warning too. Otherwise the place is beautiful. Auckland has water in and around it. You are never more than 10 minutes away from the sea. It is built on a series of volcanoes and so it is very hilly with roads going up and down.
Buses are easy to use and neat. When you get off, you say “Thank you driver.” You greet strangers with a smile and a hello when ever you pass by. Cars stop at pedestrian crossings for you and you mouth a thank you to them. They reciprocate by lifting their hand. You never honk while driving unless to show your displeasure. So it’s a very polite and friendly city.
The community library was a pleasant surprise. We became members and can take upto 35 books each as well as CDs and DVDs. Even little toddlers are comfortable with the toys in the library while their moms look at the books.
Children here enjoy the green parks and the clean air. You see babies in prams every where. You also see double prams with two kids. Very often they are twins. Must be a genetic thing—lots of twin born to kiwis. But then these kiwis are of european, maori, or even chinese origin. So it can’t be a genetic thing after all.
Another thing that struck me was the kind of shopping here. Huge super markets, each like Spencer plaza or larger all over the place. For a place with a small population, it is quite something. People are affluent. It is easy for anyone to earn money here. The reason I have’nt got a job is because I am looking for technical writing. But if I decided to work at a supermarket like Farmers or Woolworth or Warehouse, I could earn $10 per hour to start with. If you have a low income, the government gives you various benefits. So there are no poor people here. But about the actual goods sold here, the stuff we get in India is better any day. I do not mean the food items but everything else—clothes, shoes, stationery, household appliances, and so on. A ball pen that we would pay Rs 4.00 for in India costs about Rs 40.00 here and it is lousy to write with.
I found all our Indian food items like garam masala and ladies finger at the Indian stores. But we will have to stop converting the dollar rates to rupees or we will not buy anything. But next time you see urad dhal or Idayam gingely oil, think of us and the money we are spending on these items. 🙂
It is time to stop my story. Some things about NZ are good and others not so. But God has brought us here and by and by we will find out why. We miss people back home already but we also look ahead with anticipation.