Posted by: scribe9 | December 3, 2009

In search of New Zealanders

Last night I went to a barbecue for a small group at St. Andrews. The group regularly studies the book of Judges, but this was a purely social occasion.

Although most of the people there were immigrants, I did meet a few people who were born in New Zealand, including a woman whose great-grandparents came from Ireland and England. A few years back some Maoris demanded that the whites return to their homelands, and she wondered where she would go. (A Maori MP who was recently questioned about avoiding official business on a trip to Paris responded with a vituperative email against whites, which caused quite a stir. I’ve heard quite a few racist comments from whites, too. Although New Zealand is proud of its race relations, a fair amount of animosity and suspicion is lightly veneered with politeness.)

She works at the hospital’s breast clinic, and mentioned that one woman was supposed to return fifteen days after her screening, but it ‘s sweet potato planting season, and she won’t come in until rain drives her out of the fields. “We’re supposed to drop them from the list if they don’t come in within thirty days, but what good would that do? The rule doesn’t address reality.” (While the Maori brought sweet potatoes–called kumara here–700 years ago, those were very small. American sweet potatoes were imported in 1850, and strains of that type are what are planted now.)

Two women had immigrated recently from Johannesburg. (There are a fair number of South Africans here; it’s part of the Commonwealth migratory circuit). They described residential areas as armed camps–houses surrounded with six foot walls topped with broken glass and electric fences, and guards wielding AK 47s–but said the countryside was much safer. One said that she first moved to New Zealand, it took a while for her to realize that she could walk down the street without getting her purse snatched. My older daughter and son-in-law are planning to attend the World Cup in South Africa in 2010. I hope they skip matches in Jo’burg; there are plenty of other, safer venues.

I also chatted with the church organist, who immigrated from Melbourne and whose husband is from England. They do a great deal of hiking (“tramping”), and she was describing some of the nearby walks to me. A friend from the US gave us a book of New Zealand walks before we left. Now that we’re more settled, it’s time to get out on the paths. At least I walked the half-mile (oops–.9 kilometre) to the barbecue and back.

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