From one of my favourite blogs Africa Is A Country.
Songs for, about and dedicated to Nelson Mandela. RIP. I am lucky that he was a living inspiration in my life and not a figure from the history books.
From one of my favourite blogs Africa Is A Country.
Songs for, about and dedicated to Nelson Mandela. RIP. I am lucky that he was a living inspiration in my life and not a figure from the history books.
It was time. Itchy feet urging me to figure out my next travel destination. Two years since I partook in any transnational perambulation with the intention of adventure and the eternal search for place. A colleague at work suggested one of the islands. A short break in the sun, away from the Wellington winter. The Pacific Islands have never been on my radar as a destination. The sun and sand and sleek, tanned, non-bathing bodies lounging at beach resorts disconnected from the locals is not my idea of a holiday. But you don’t have to do just that, my colleague said. Drive around the islands, visit the markets, go to church. Yeah, I never thought about that. Samoa in my backyard and I did not see it! So it was. Backpacking 701. Cheap, economical and keeping me on my toes.
There was a band playing at Faleolo airport as we walked out from immigration; a bunch of dudes in lavalavas strumming guitars at 3 a.m. Welcome to Samoa. Talofa lava.
The first ferry to from Mulifanuana Wharf to Salelologa, Savaii at 6 a.m. carries cargo. Passengers huddle around the sides, shielding themselves from the sun, watching the magical dawn over the Pacific Ocean.
Savaii is the bigger of the two main Samoan islands but less developed. Villages line the coast from top to bottom. I stayed at Jane’s Beach Fales, swimming in the Pacific Ocean and gazing out at the horizon enjoying the downtime. There was nothing else to do except church on Sunday. I have never been to mass and it was an interesting experience. The service was in Samoan and English. When the priest spoke about giving, he looked at all of us, the visitors, and spoke only in English. Geddit After the service he individually thanked us for attending mass. Then, true story this, as narrated by Rusty from Glenorchy, the priest saluted Heil Hitler to an elderly German couple! They took it well Rusty said. Samoa has a history of German settlement before the World Wars but I am sure it was still not kosher eh? Okay, bad joke.
I took a taxi guide (Ropeti Paulo, phone 7254413) around the Savaii and the state of the villages was interesting. They get poorer as one goes northwards. Lots of big churches every two villages and double the poverty. God seems to be taking a lot here, not giving. My guide talked about tsunamis, cyclones and bad weather getting worse. What he meant in his limited way I suppose was the reality of global warming. I also suppose few big economies would care if these Pacific Islands were annihilated. Just the other day a New Zealand court rejected a bid by a Kiribat man seeking asylum here. The first ‘climate change refugee’ in the world.
Three days later I was in Upolu, in the capital Apia. The bus ride from the wharf to the city was just like being on a Maharasthra State Transport (ST or eshtee as the locals call it) except that the bus was smaller and very colourful. Apia is a mixture of the rural and the urban with some gorgeous architecture thrown in. I stayed downtown at Tatiana’s Motel close to the bus depot, the flea market and shopping. Apart from generally walking around and absorbing the goings-on, as I love to do, there were two places I wanted to visit.
The Robert Loius Stevenson Museum is housed in the home he built. A gorgeous abode oozing history. After RLS died a German businessman bought it, then the colonial New Zealand government took it over before the first head of independent Samoa moved in and moved out. The story is that some crazy RLS fan offered millions for the structure to be restored to its past glory and be a museum. Good for us. I re-read Treasure Island before visiting Samoa and my gosh was it fun! Now all his book are on my to-read-again list. (Trivia-RLS introduced pineapples in Samoa when he brought them over from Hawaii.)
The other place I wanted to see was the cigarette factory that New Zealand built. This was after ‘smoking is injurious to health’ became a public health issue globally (as a Wellington doctor working in the public sector told me). Samoans smoke a lot; everyone smokes, from old men and women to young people. There are a few hoardings across the islands that warn about the harmful effects of smoking but few pay heed. New Zealand already exports fatty meat leftovers to Samoa, America feeds Samoans Spam. Western colonial powers do have a lot to answer for apart from invading countries and creating empires. Anyway, I went hunting for the cigarette factory because I was curious. Very inconspicuous it was, behind the beer factory, apparently making Rothman’s cigarettes.
One thing very obvious in Samoa is the Chinese presence. Not the old Chinese-Samoans nor Chinese tourists but Chinese money. Samoa’s new parliament house is made from Chinese money, the roads are being built by Chinese money so is other infrastructure. My taxi driver back to the airport told us that the Chinese are even sending over labour to work at cheaper rates than the Samoans. Of course the quid pro quo being fishing quota because Samoa has pretty much nothing else to offer. So while post Kyoto protocol talks are stalled China has already depleted the oceans of fauna. And it is more than just being a big country with a hungry population. This is about global power and hegemony. Look at Chinese presence across Africa. (I think I should learn Mandarin beyond the four sentences I can speak *wink*.)
I loved Samoa. The people are lovely and warm. I loved the sound of the water, its changing nature and colour. It is definitely on my list of places to visit again. Like China, Hong Kong, Berlin, Sikkim and Dharamsala.
I love the anonymity of travel; the mere act of wandering in search of belonging but not quite. I see myself as an integral part of humanity rather than from a specific place. Samoans would ask me, where are you from? One taxi driver called me palagi (pronounced paa-laa-ngi, white in Samoan), another asked if I was half Samoan and half Maori and a third if I was a Latina or Spanish. Only one guessed my origins. Of course my tattoos confuse people even more. Can’t wait for my next expedition.
(For photos visit http://www.flickr.com/photos/drsapna/)
By Us I mean the ‘other coloured folk’, middle class migrants chasing the American (replace with any other Western country) dream. What does the shooting of and subsequent acquittal of the shooter, George Zimmerman, mean to us? Do we think that something like this will not happen to us because we are:
d-acquiesce with the dominant white folk
Just because we, the other coloureds, categorise ourselves more like the white but not those black/indigenous/dole bludgers blah and blah we continue to be an accessory to discrimination. Our rights did not happen automatically. Many Treyvons gave up their lives so we could be treated as ‘equals’ in this world. To forget that is to deny our skin colour and place on this earth. Because one day it might happen to us one day.
Many words have been written and said about the acquittal and many academic arguments had about race. This post encapsulates it perfectly.
This is the first instalment in a three-part series.
You start the day bleary-eyed and anxious. You stayed up late last night working on a post for your blog, gathering facts and memes from about the web and weaving them into an incisive whole. Has it produced a spike in the stats?
In response to The Wellington Report by The Dominion Post. Because the voice of the ‘other’ is missing so how can it be a balanced report? See for yourself. All Pakeha faces and voices. No tangata whenua (Maori), no Pacific, no Chinese/Indian/Middle Eastern/other ethnic migrants or refugees. Not even international students. When Wellington and the surrounding region has three universities whose business is dependent on all those foreigners paying high fees.
So what does one make of this exclusion? That The Dom Post is racist? Or that the editor has no imagination?
Now I can be labelled Just Another F$%^%ng Auckland, JAFA come lately on the hills of this little capital. Fair enough. I lived in Auckland for eleven years so I am attached to that place but I am also a wanderer. Life brought me to Wellington and ten years from now I might be Berlin or Hong Kong, my favourite cities. I cannot predict. The only thing I’ve learnt is that wherever I live I must take ownership of that place, to immerse myself in it, to participate, to give rather than take. So I am.
The Dummy’s analysis of The
(One-Sided/Racist/Unimaginative) Wellington Report.
(Note: Pakeha businesses from the Western world and creatives only from Hollywood or from Asia too? Guess who has the money? ;-))
D-uh. A Somali from Newtown could’ve told you that (but the editor didn’t think of asking perhaps).
Waste of space 1:
Question: Did the daughter just go to Courtenay Place/Cuba Mall (because that is her idea of Wellington)? If there were more restaurants in buzzing suburbs then she might have found a seat? And she did not think of going to Jackson St, Petone? Too downmarket and working class? Oh but that is not Wellington. My bad.
One more question: Why does Kelburn, the centre of Victoria University, not have more student based commerce such as cheap eating places, bubble tea and karaoke bars?
The Top Cuisine Food Bar in Marsden Village, Karori, makes a mean black bean chicken. Why does he not open a yum cha place, I asked him. Too dead he says. Maybe instead of always having to go into town to eat at a restaurant, people could detour to a suburb if they had a choice? East Asian students from Kelburn could pop over too?
Waste of space 2:
In her column about Wellington, Rosemary McLeod spoke only about botoxed Auckland women and the ugly houses on Paritai Drive.
D-U-D-E, even Aucklanders don’t care about botoxed women and the houses on Paritai Drive. There is so much else going on.
Big, big chip on the shoulder and existing in a really, really small world. She does eh?
Besides, comparing Oriental Bay with ‘any Auckland beach’ is an even bigger waste of precious space. It is like arguing with geography. Each place has its own charm.
Conclusion: Some Wellingtonians need to get a life and many have a fixation with Auckland. All the other important types The Dom Post featured are afraid of the coloured people coming in their precious city even though they know that the empire is gone.
A city is made up of people; is because of the people. If a large part of the local population is excluded from any discourse about its identity and future, then how would people have a sense of belonging? How will they contribute, why should they contribute? Wellingtonians, as constructed by The Dom Post, are rich, white, hip, caffeine consuming politicians, creatives or businesspeople who live in their own little world; whose concept of existence comes from the West. As if detached from global realities and from the local requirements of the hoi polloi. They only talk to themselves about themselves.
New Zealand as a whole needs migrants and skilled labour. Wellington does too if dependence on government employment has to be minimised. With this new population will come commerce, diversity, new ideas and a new buzz because this new population will not be from England. Those days are gone and the days when migrant labour was imported, only to set them up in ghettos before Dawn Raids. This new population will be global, of those travelling where there is work; of transnational people who might choose to stay if they like the life, if they have the diversity and variety. That is the discourse to be had. But if The Dom Post does not see this new citizen of the city, only whiteness, then those in there are merely meditating on their umbilicals. In a fear-of-change fashion.
Wellington is sister city to Beijing. Not a single word about how that relationship can be enhanced. (Gawd, more Asians! What does one talk about to these Orientals? Not cricket eh old chap?)
If we were sister city to L.A. might the report be orgasmic about it then?
Wellington can learn a lot from my two favourite cities-Berlin and Hong Kong. One with a small land mass and fear of damage from cyclones and tornadoes. Yet HK is defiantly democratic with the speediest internest in the world, a strong economy, big film industry and vibrant expatriate community that only adds to the madness and buzz. It is also a tourist destination. A walk through Kowloon at any time will prove that. Berlin, flat and wide, with a history of devastation through war and political division yet rebuilt again and again. Bergmanstrasse, Kreuzberg, Freidrichshain…how many buzzing suburbs, a strong heritage and culture, amazing architecture, migrants ranging from North Africa to Turkey, Vietnam and Korea that add to the vibe. Plus lots of introspection about Germany’s history.
Why? Because both cities welcome people from all over the world.
Wellington does not have to look at Auckland but at the people who live here, the coloured other, the tangata whenua. They are not going to go away by ignoring them as The Racist Wellington Report does. Because they are the people of this city, the present and the future. They will stand up and be visible. One day. Soon. That is The Other Wellington Report.
This is a guest post by ALEXANDRA DELANEY:
“Yeah, Indian guys think white girls are easy”, a British-born Indian remarked nonchalantly to me this week. Normally I’d be shocked by such gross racial stereotyping (of Indians) but in this case I’m inclined to agree. Not because Caucasian women by their very skin colour or cultural preferences are any more promiscuous than their South Asian sisters, but because of their sustained portrayal as loose and morally deficient.
The jury is still out. It is too early to tell. But I am trying. Last month I visited Auckland for a weekend. As the Airbus rumbled along Dominion Rd I noticed the new shops that had sprung up. An entire road the size of Lambton Quay, Courtenay Place, Cuba Mall, other bits of central Wellington put together. Buzzing and vibrant. DIVERSE. Then I told myself I should not complain, I should try.
Wellington is picturesque. Every day I drive to and from Porirua to Karori along the water and last week when it hailed on us, the snow streaked hills lining the harbour made for a stunning sight. I almost crashed my car stealing glances at the lovely view. Umm. That’s about it. Nah.
I got my first parking ticket in the last week of April. Signs of settling in, I think. Still to find the mythical free car park but I have an infringement notice.
Meanwhile I continue to battle the low water pressure. You see, the shower rose goes through the cold water first before it can deliver any water that is warm. See this contraption?
That is the two tap pipe that brings water from the cold tap and hot tap through a single pipe into my bucket so I can have a decent bucket bath. Selling like hot cakes in the low pressure plumbing world of Wellington. My landlady’s plumber told her there is no hot water problem when I complained. He, I assume, who can live without his clothes in Alpine conditions, shrivelled body parts and potentially damaged lungs. So I have third world problems in a first world country. Bucket baths in a bathtub not built for that purpose. This contraption cannot be used as a shower because guess what happens when the pipe is lifted above the level of the taps? Physics, my dear Watson. The shower is now part of my imagination.
Aren’t we migrants lucky to be hardy? And then we stand up to make noise and complain. She ain’t gonna be right ‘coz she need fixing.
A friend once said to me that the pioneers who came from ye olde England/Scotland/remnants of the British Raj always wanted to go ‘back home’ so they built cold, damp houses here which constantly reminded them that it was temporary.
Think. Any new settlers would learn from the natives about habitation that suits the local climate. Warm and dry in the winter, relatively airy in the summer. Instead it was all about civilising the barbarians and imitating buildings from ‘home’. Then all got asthma and/or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, suffering from their ill abodes. Which bright spark would build a low pressure water system across the hills of Wellington? Hence I wash my thick, long hair from a bucket.
But like I said at the top, no more complaining. It is important to try and my philosophy in life has been to take charge of things so I can make the change. If I believe Wellington needs to be more than four streets and the five hipsters who work at start ups or in the creative industry, if this city needs more diversity, more migrants, more commerce, a united region, an international airport out beyond Whitby or those parts and outspoken leaders; new blood, not the fuddy-duddy, marbles-in-the-mouth Pakeha minority with a blinkered world view then I am going to work on it. So next week I am meeting Jack Yan‘s team to see how I can help him for the Wellington mayoral elections.
Considering that I might be living here for the next few years and might become a Wellingtonian yet.
By the way, Wellington does have a wonderful public transport system. Except that the last bus leaves the airport at 8.30pm.
The Easter weekend gardening, getting it ready for winter is a New Zealand tradition but I have never actually done any planting during the long weekend before, my usual procrastination gripping me until mid-autumn. Not this weekend, not today. Having a backyard in my new place is a boon and I wanted to take full advantage of that. So I went to the plant shop and bought the garden Nah.
The Wellington weather is radically different from Auckland’s relative warmth. This city is windy, cold and damp. That means the flora varies too. The winter frost means nothing edible will grow above the ground. Except greens like spinach, silverbeet, salad leaves etc and all sorts of roots. Also, this year’s drought has stopped the good citizens of Wellington from watering their gardens to make up for the dry summer. One has to be innovative in reusing water.
I love gardening. It is like meditation. I talk to my plants. And to grow my own food is such a basic activity, I bond with Mother Earth and this land of which I am made, of which we all are. So there I was, planting and replanting my preciouses.
I ran out of soil so could not plant the baby carrot seeds but I covered my tulsi with dried leaves so the moisture stays in and she needs less water. Also plan to make mulch from the dried leaves in the yard and pondering whether to get a mini earthworm farm or a compost suitable for urban gardening.
A month and two days actually. I am now a Wellingtonian, ex Aucklander, loving my job so much it would need to be duplicated for me to move to any other place. Not so sure about Wellington the city though. This is a charming, quaint little place. Almost like a Himalayan hill station that the British might have replicated in the Antipodes by the Pacific Ocean. They even named one suburb Khandallah, like there used to be in the Western Ghats between Bombay and Poona, before the national highway made it a fragmented remnant of pre-globalised India. Then there is the architecture, almost colonial yet not grand enough. As if building such abodes and edifices was too offensive to the sensibilities of the retired servants of the Raj; as if one day they were going to return ‘home’ and so constructed half heartedly half way dwellings susceptible to the cold and wind. So you see the structures built on stilts, the grass growing underneath, winter seeping through the cracks in the flooring and along way above the road, most adverse to urban development. Some might say that is good. Why does Wellington need to be more urban than it is, reflecting the parochial mentality of its old Scottish inhabitants, if I may stereotype and generalise. This is the capital of Aotearoa New Zealand. The seat of government and associated bodies. Yet to get to the airport one has to drive through town rather than take a motorway that bypasses downtown traffic. Surely there is severe need of urban development like an electrical jolt?
In my last post, one week old in Wellington I sought Asian grocery stores and an eyebrow threader. I found both. In the concentrated pocket of refugee settlements, new migrants and cafe culture gentrification of Newtown there is Pari Beauty. Mostly frequented by other ethnics and Pakeha women who want threaded eyebrows for NZD7 a pop. Salons are a great place to gather information. There as I sat getting my nails done, another customer discussed Indian grocery stores and Hindu temples. I’d just done my Asian grocery shopping that afternoon around Jackson St in Petone, Lower Hutt. It had reminded me of Ponsonby Rd, Auckland, without the snooty air. I’d shopped at one Indian store and then discovered another and then I’d gone quite nuts in the Asian store Davis Trading Company. As if in a lolly shop I’d bought the Chinese sauces, the Thai curry pastes, dry shrimp, ginseng, bamboo and other delights like an apothecary concocting medicinally nutritious winter foods. So I’d done my shopping and this Indian customer waiting for her eyebrows to be done at the salon informs me that the other Indian grocery store was better because the one where I had shopped stored foods close to expiry date and does not have that much variety. Now I know. Also that there are no mithai shops in Wellington! Not that I indulge often but where there is a South Asian community there have to be sweetmeats ja? In spite of cardiovascular disease and diabetes?
In my last post I also complained about the lack of diversity. I take that back. Somewhat. Wellington may not be as densely diverse as Auckland but I have spotted young Indian families, Korean schoolboys, gorgeous Middle Eastern women, the sporadic funky Africans, lots of Paficic Islanders and many, many Maori. I guess it is only because they make an incomplete kaleidoscope in a largely white, lethargic city?
My work keeps my busy and I love my doctor’s job. In my other avatar I delight in the arts and world cinema this city offers but my global self is afraid of being blunted. Wellington is like living in a bubble that seems immune to the world’s pace of change or how this existence might be affected. The entrepreneurial spirit, so essential for growth, is missing. I am assuming that when an outsider, a migrant or a refugee comes here they lower their expectations and live like the locals. The only Oporto store that opened in Wellington last month created ripples! While I am not a supporter of fast food chains their presence is an indication of the local economy. Or maybe someone will discover hidden JRR Tolkein novels for Peter Jackson to make into movies and keep this city afloat? Perhaps I’ll start something, shit stirrer that I am…
One week in a new city and I am finding my way around. Of course now I know the way to work, the short cuts to avoid steep roads and long waits at the lights on the morning commute to the motorway. It takes me between 20-25 minutes to get to work even with the minor jams on Tinakori Road. To an ex-Aucklander that is the time I would take to go from one end of the Ponsonby Road to the other at 40K during the morning peak traffic hours whether by car or on the Link Bus. This drive to Porirua is a piece of cake. So that is sorted.
After a week of unpacking and starting work it was time to go into the city and hang around, understand the bus routes and browse the shops. Wellington has some quirky fashion stores ranging from designer clothes to second hand, recycled, hand made everything. Wellingtonians dress more laid back than Aucklanders but what was obviously missing was the Asian influence. None of the kawaii, or the East Asian style Western clothes that Gwen Stefani tries so hard to copy for her fashion line Harajuku Lovers. Not even the East Asians on Cuba St. had that look. I guess I’d have to travel regularly to Auckland to get my fill.
But what one needs when settling in a new town is the Asian grocery stores. Where do I get my rice, my papads, the pickles, the savouries, the lentils? Will they be the same as in Auckland? Will I find packets of instant dosa and dhokla mix? Oh and where do I get my eyebrows threaded? Definitely not in the gora peoples’ beauty salons! Not at $20 a pop; not when I can get them done for $10 max.
Wellington is not as diverse as Auckland and I am probably going to have to travel further from home to get Asian groceries or my eyebrows trimmed. I do not even have any Indian female friends in Wellington and no point asking the guys. So it is going to be the trial and error technique. More grist for a blob post I suppose.
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