Posted by: scribe9 | November 2, 2009

At the shops

Emily and I walked into town today to shop for things for house we’re moving into next week, which is not a moment too soon. (The house we’re in is 100 years old, and the decades of mustiness are not too pleasant to live with.)

We found some possibilities at a fair trade store—rugs and duvet covers from India. We also found kitchenwares at Farmer’s department store, which is much like Meier & Frank. Their manchester is on sale right now (a pre-Christmas sale), which helps a lot. Manchester? you inquire. What’s that? Bed and bath linens, because Manchester, England, was a huge cotton milling center a hundred and fifty years ago. Even though it has long since quit being so, the name has stuck—at least in New Zealand and Australia.

We drooled over all kinds of plants and pots at the garden store. Lots of the bedding plants are the same, but I’d like to try some new ones. Didn’t check the varieties of tomatoes yet; we’ll definitely grow those and herbs. They had organic compost. It’s apparently easier to grow one’s own organics here than to buy them—I’ve seen no organic produce in the stores.

We also stopped in at a stationer’s. The standard paper size is called A4, and it’s 297 cm x 210 cm—longer and skinnier than 8 ½ x 11. (Fortunately computers and printers know all about it and adjust easily.) But why 297? Why not 300, which would make the proportion 10:7 instead of 99:70? As it turns out, A4 is rationally irrational; the proportion is 1:√2 (rounded to the nearest centimeter), so if you cut it in half the short way (ie, halfway along its long side), the resulting sides maintain that ratio. And why is it A4? The series starts with A0, which has a one-meter long side, so A4 is four cuts in, and if you bisect A4 you end up with two pieces of A5. I’m indebted to Wikipedia ( for this information.

Most of our shopping is window shopping while we await our New Zealand Visa cards. (No frills—we have to pay for them, and there are no mileage benefits.) We’d rather pay in New Zealand dollars to avoid the bank fees imposed on transferring money from or charging purchases to our American accounts. I’m too risk-averse, and too cognizant of irrationality in the markets (which means irrationality in humans—I’m convinced that our most serious economic problems arise from denying that humans are not machines), to consider playing the exchange-rate game.



  1. Hello Amy! Is the picture on today’s blog whangamadoodle (saw the town spelling in your earlier blog but cannot remember how you spelled it…)? If so, it is stunning! If is not, i’d love to see some pictures of your town and your 100 year old apartment – its always fascinating to see. It’s great that you’re able to walk into town…take care and looking forward to reading more about your adventure.

    • It’s a lovely photo, but not mine, and I don’t know where it is. I need to figure out how to replace it, and I need to start taking pictures.

  2. Dear Amy,
    What a wonderful opportunity!! Sounds like you will be having and have had, all kinds of adventures. New Zealand looks like a beautiful country. Once you settle in to your permanent home, is your plan to go to work or to travel around some more? How long does it take to get to Australia from where you are? What are they saying about the “swine flu” down there? Much consternation here and bouncing back and forth about whether or not the vaccine will be available, effective etc.
    Richard retired on the thirtieth of September! He’s still getting used to the idea. Take care of yourselves and we will look forward to more postings and pictures from New Zealand! Kate

    • Kate–
      Once we’ve moved, I can get back to writing and tutoring. We plan to travel when possible (there are numerous holidays, and Rick gets a lot of vacation time), to see as much as possible of New Zealand and also to get over to Sydney and possibly some Pacific islands.

      It only takes 3 1/2 hours to get to Sydney from Auckland and 3 hours to get back. We’re 35 min by air from Auckland. Now that Richard’s retired, you should plan a trip here when Alexandria has some time off school (we’re only four hours different–three in winter–so not much recovery time from jet lag), and we’ll show you around! We’re renting a house big enough for visitors.

      Swine flu has been a big deal here, but is supposed to abate now that it’s spring. Lots of places still have hand-sanitizing stuff available, but we don’t see all the face masks we saw in Korea.


  3. Hi! Sounds like we are on parallel journeys – I found your site as a suggestion on my site, as I am here from Seattle for a year in Palmerston North. It’s fun to see your impressions as well! I look forward to more 🙂

    Laura Edain

  4. And I enjoy reading yours.

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