Saturday, June 14, 2014

new zealand travel journal 6/2/14: like vancouver, but shorter

1. emily 2.0

Today was our chill-in-Auckland, get-used-to-the-time-difference day. Emily loves it here and is sick of Pullman, Washington, where she lives and teaches. Immediately we could see the happiness roll off of her—not annoying giddiness, but true, hard-won happiness. I think she’s sort of declared Auckland her safe space, where only good things happen, like I have with our house (this started when I used to get home from work and it was too late in the day for doctors to call with bad news), except a bigger, cooler version.

Emily is a good role model for this week. She dresses like an older, updated version of Daria, in jewel tones, perfectly fitted down jackets and arty T-shirts. Her apartment is spare but charming. A kiwi made from salvaged fabric perches on the back of her couch. A small tag on his gray foot says his name is Sean Finnegan.

Sean's brethren in a shop window.
After AK and Emily’s friend Rachel died, Emily found herself a therapist who helped her stop catastrophizing, and we had a good conversation about being on the other side of trauma. She showed us the two tattoos she’d gotten above each shoulder blade: a tiger for Rachel and a plum-colored, abstract flower.

2. a country weighted

Then it was off to explore Auckland—Emily is the perfect tour guide because she loves history and knows good, cheap-but-tasty places to eat.

What I learned: A third of Auckland’s four-million-person population lives here, a country weighted in one spot. It looks like a diverse city, with pink-cheeked English people and a good amount of Maori folks (they fared better than most indigenous peoples, Emily said), lots of people from Asia, some Southeast Asian Muslims, Fijians and people who seem entirely miscellaneous to my clueless gaze, like the little trio of thin-faced, dark-skinned men with Jewfros I saw at a shop, chatting in an unidentifiable language.

The part of the city we saw looked a little like Vancouver, with yachts parked next to modern apartment buildings made of ocean-colored glass (but shorter than those in Vancouver).

Winter sunset.
Carrot salad at Vic's Park Cafe. By the end of the trip, I was mostly living off chocolate.
We ate at Vic’s Park CafĂ©, then skipped the zoo in favor of a nice indoor film festival, where we watched a docudrama (a form that always takes a little acclimating to—and it was kind of funny because the New Zealand M.O. seems so undramatic) called Erebus: Operation Overdue. It told the story of a 1979 plane crash in Antarctica from the POV of the eleven Auckland cops who cleaned up the bodies scattered in the ashy snow. It was partly about a cover-up by the government, partly about PTSD. Everyone interviewed remembered their gloves smelling like melted human grease.

In L.A., the Q&A is always about some dude asking what kind of camera the filmmaker used, so he can show off that he totally knows that kind of camera. In L.A., I could happily live the rest of my life without ever seeing another Q&aA.

But in Auckland, it quickly became clear that this plane crash was 9/11 or a Holocaust—the even that everyone is sick of processing and which no one is over processing. And because New Zealand is such a small country, it seemed like half the audience had been personally involved in one way or another. Even the guy who was adamant that there was no cover-up praised the filmmaker’s work. It seems like a polite town, too.

The heroines of this travel journal.
A few more shops, a little more wandering and we finished the night with oysters and sushi on the waterfront at Soul. Next we’re off to a two-day camping trip in the Pinnacles.

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