Saturday, November 3, 2012

Land of the Long White Cloud

That’s the Maori name for New Zealand – Aotearoa, land of the long white cloud.  Today, it fits – on Friday the wind turned wild and came out of the north, icy cold and gale force, shepherding in clouds like flying sheep.  The clouds blew in overhead, first in small puffs like lambs, then larger and greyer, until eventually they were huge rams, butting heads and pushing each other out of the way, filling the sky.  By Friday night the wind was raging and the clouds turned to mist, fog, and eventually rain.  Saturday – rain and rain and more rain.  Cold, grey, wet, we might as well have stayed in Seattle!
Richard pointed out that we aren’t on vacation – or holiday, as people would say here.  We’re just living.  We’re retired.  So I don’t have to be my usual see-everything-today kind of traveler.  I can relax and just do what I feel like – and if I feel like staying in on a nasty rainy day, then that’s okay.  I don’t have to see everything and do everything.  MY TIME IS NOT LIMITED.  That’s the most important concept – my time is not limited.  We can stay here longer.  We can come back.  We don’t have a set itinerary.  We’re living – we just happen to be living in Wellington, NZ for a while, and we happen to be living in a hotel at the moment.

My brain is adjusting to this.

I’m also adjusting to the language.  Who knew that reading British children’s books as a child would prepare me for time in New Zealand?  Sultanas are raisins.  (You can buy sultana scones, which are tasty for brekkers, or sultana bran cereal, also for brekkers, haven’t tried it yet.)  Milk comes in jugs, not pitchers.  Of course, tea also comes in jugs, not tea pots.  We’re asked if we’re on holiday – not holiday as in a special day, just holiday as in vacation.  Sometimes our brains try to sound more British than American.  We both have shifts in our accents, and our phrasing sounds slightly like Jane Austen.

Anyway, I took a long walk on Friday, watching the clouds blow in, trying to not get blown down the street or off a bridge myself.  There was one point, while crossing a street, when a sudden gust blew me off course – that’s how strong the wind was!  But it was a walk on the wild side as the stormy weather blew in, elemental, atavistic.

I found a sculpture, a large boulder carved with the Maori design of a feather – the symbol or emblem of the son of one of the Maori gods (or ancestors?  I don’t remember exactly).  But the feather has come to symbolize spirituality, harmony, and unity – and from there, a symbol of peaceful co-existence among the various Maori nations.  The feather seems to be the symbol of the All Blacks, New Zealand’s national rugby team – a team that I believe began with all Maori players and now is mixed, but is still one of the best rugby teams in the world.  (Interestingly, the women’s rugby team is the Ferns – and the stylized feather on the Rugby Union can double as a fern.  At least, that’s my visual take on it.)
I also found a building with, well, I don’t know how to describe this.  Silhouettes of explorers?  Maori warriors?  Various ancestors?  Anyway, larger-than-life-size silhouettes marching across the exterior of a building, maybe eight or ten storeys up.  Marching around the corner of the building, with no explanation.  Just marching.


But my favorite – in the railway station – there it was, the platform we’ve all been looking for, the platform to the Hogwarts Express.  I wasn’t able to buy a ticket for this train, but at least we know how to find the platform when we need it.

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