Because Newzealand comprises two main, long thin islands and a variety of smaller ones, everyone lives not far from and is familiar with the ocean, most people live their whole lives being able to see and interact with the sea every day and I find that very therapeutic and comforting. For example, some days when the weather is right, my wife and I take our lunch, wander e a short distance around the coast where we sit and eat while watching the ships in the harbour or the seabirds, or just observing the city in the distance and the snow-clad mountains behind.
For me, being close to nature and away from crowds of people has become more and more important as I’ve got older and here in Newzealand that is easy to do. I live in a city, but it is a very green city, built on hills, with lots of parks and trees, walkways, cycle routes and generally loads of uninhabited places where you can ramble and forage. My wife and I love to wander down to the foreshore and forage for wild sweet pea buds, to add to a salad and water crest which grows in abundance, if you know where to look. Also, we both love to go down right on the shoreline at low tide and forage for mussels, Paua, (the NZ Abalone) and if we’re lucky a few scallops.
The people of Newzealand are a friendly lot, who accept people at face value and will do you a good turn if they can. There is a joke in NZ that if you want to make friends and meet new people, all you have to do is stand on a street corner with a map in your hand and look lost and within moments at least two people will have asked if they can help, try doing that in central London. As the country has only been settled for about two hundred years, many of the inhabitants, like myself, are immigrants who get on well together and again, like myself, are pleased and feel privileged to live in such a beautiful part of the world and be able to call it home.
Had I been younger when I wrote this, I would probably have waxed lyrical about having a world-beating rugby team, a pretty good cricket team, and every kind of sports team that are right up there with the best. However, as a more mature person who no longer feels the need to chase a ball, of whatever shape, around a field, Ill skip that bit. Mind you, I still acknowledge the importance of sport and international competition and feel great pride to know my ‘little’, young country can compete with the biggest and best, especially on the water and win, or at least give a very good Kiwi showing.
Having had a few trips to various locations in China over the years, it is not difficult to compare their vastly overcrowded, often polluted, very industrialised, high-rise tower block living to New Zealand’s much greener cleaner, more rural environment, with even in the city suburbs, houses that are detached, with the traditional quarter acre garden and fruit trees. Where I stayed in China, I could see out of my bedroom window 14 high-rise apartment blocks, being built all at the same time. Some of the blocks were 25 stories tall but some were 50 stories. Each story would have five apartments, which when multiplied out, bearing in mind that most Chinese families comprise Mum Dad, one or two children and sometime as many as four elderly Grandparents would constitute several thousand residents. The population of a small NZ town suddenly moving into the area who will need jobs, transport, shops, schools, doctors, and all the other facilities that populations require.
I became so interested in these apartment blocks, and their sudden appearance in the skyline that I made a few inquiries about them. It seems that the builders don’t sell the apartments to individuals, they sell a floor or a number of floors to speculators, who decorate each apartment then sell them on to individuals at a profit. One point that concerned me, and is still, lingering in the back of my mind, is what if, once all the apartments are full, something happened that required all the occupants to vacate and all come down to ground level at the same time, there just wouldn’t be enough space to accommodate everyone.
Although I have been to China many times since I was 20-years-old, the last trip was the first time I had been into the heart of industrial China and I was really shocked by the conditions there. The very first impression was that there was something wrong with the atmosphere. Visibility was restricted to a limited horizon which never lifted all the time I was there and the air tasted smoky, and within days had given me a sore throat. The ride, from the airport to where we were staying was a nightmare, with motorway traffic 12 lanes deep and nose to tail all the way. The trip which I was assured would take 45 minutes took over two hours, at sunset as darkness overtook us. It seems that in China there is a belief that turning on the side, or headlights can hinder night driving so many drivers never use them. Also, motorcycles and cyclists seem to have the right to drive against the traffic flow and pedestrians wander Willy-nilly across the motorway amongst the traffic. There were a lot of accidents, but none serious, because of the sheer volume of traffic, and the nose to tail congestion the speeds are low so any collision seemed to end in a bent car but no injuries.
At one point we were running alongside another 12 lane motorway and gradually the two road systems, came together, separated only by a row of poles with a few strands of wire and suddenly even that disappeared and the two motorways ran side by side with absolutely no dividing barrier. Then we came to a screaming halt and were confronted by a number of cars and huge Lorries driving in diagonal opposition to us and obviously intent on changing from the opposing lane across our lanes in order to join the other motorway, which they eventually achieved without bloodshed. Further along, our 12 lane road opened up with many more lanes on either side and I realized we were entering a Toll Road. While the driver was paying the toll I attempted to count the toll booths, I got to 37 before we moved on and I believe there were more. On my first trip from the airport, I was given the front passenger seat, but the confrontational style of driving frightened the life out of me. Later, I was offered a small car to drive around myself but even though I have an international license, I declined. Driving on the right side of the road instead of the left and going around round-a-bouts the wrong way was more than I could handle, so I chickened out.
I have always enjoyed Chinese food and thought I was going to be in for a treat, eating up large in the heart of China, but I was disappointed. Everyone seems to eat out all the time, especially on Sunday the only working day off in China.
On the first Sunday we had booked, but still had to queue for over an hour to get a table, and there was a long queue behind us all out the door and down the road. Because it is such a big industry, it is obvious that much of the food is prepared long before the meal is served, so I found it came to the table less than hot. I was also disappointed to discover that a favorite of mine in NZ Chinese restaurants, sweet and sour pork, wasn’t cooked in that part of China, as a compensation, my host bought me a small glass of snake bile. Snake bile is considered a great delicacy which supposedly brings all sorts of health benefits, including enhanced sexual performance. It would have been disrespectful not to have drunk the green viscous liquid, so I downed it in one go, and before you ask it did not have any effect on my love life, although, strangely I did have a stiff neck for a week.
Having seemingly criticized China I would like to say that I have always admired the country and particularly the Chinese people, who have a good work ethic and as a country are forging a place for themselves in the world by sheer hard work and effort, something you have to respect. The reason I mentioned China is to emphasize the difference, between sparsely populated NZ and vastly overpopulated China.
However China isn’t the only part of the world with problems, just look at the Middle East, at war with itself and the rest of the world with no indication that there will ever be peace in that region, ever. America is now into its second civil war, with so many different factions, demanding their rights and opposing what America used to stand for. France is into its second revolution with the common people against Macron and his pro-EU policies. The UK is on the brink of revolt over the pending betrayal of Brexit, Greece, and Italy are bankrupt. Just makes me happy to be living in uncrowded, rural NZ where the biggest problem we have is methane emissions caused by cows farting, but I can handle that.
I love Newzealand because it’s not as crowded as other counties I’ve lived in or visited.
People still cherish their quarter acre section, fruit trees and flowers in their gardens to grow such exotic things a Limes, Lemons, choko,(a type of tree cucumber) loafers and we even have grapes and Bananas in our Garden.
New Zealanders also enjoy lots and lots of open space to roam around in, including mountains forests and seashore. The great thing is if you prefer solitude to crowds, you can visit all of these places, within the city boundaries, without there being any tourists, in fact you can spend the whole day on a very nice beach without seeing another living soul, if you so choose, or you can go a mile or two in the other direction, into the heart of the city and rub shoulders with people from all over the world. I see that as a choice, living in Newzealand offers, and something I greatly value.