My favorite time of the year is when tax season ends, and my wife and I leave on vacation. Since our kids have grown old enough, we have been traveling the world. Traveling is a gas. You cannot understand the world unless you have traveled the world. The world we grew up in has gotten a lot smaller and travelling so much easier.
When we landed in Auckland to begin our trip to New Zealand and Australia, a man greeted my wife at customs directing her as to which line she should get into for processing. When he found out where she was from, he said “I know who your next President will be – Sarah.” I guess she has reached the consciousness of the world.
It is nice going to two countries that sort of speak English, even though everywhere we go they speak some form of English since they want our American money. I found it interesting how much American sports gear was being worn by locals in Auckland, the largest city of a country with four million in population and 19 hours’ time difference from our West Coast. You would expect to see a Yankee cap (but did not), but seeing a Pittsburgh Pirates jacket, a Detroit Tiger cap and a Chicago White Sox cap seemed a stretch for even this baseball fanatic.
The experiences are unlimited and your understanding of the world reaches new levels. We took a ferry across the Tamara Strait to a beautiful town called Devonport. While there we were told we must visit a local chocolate shop. The store had a little area with chocolates on display. I asked if they made their own chocolate and the lady said no, that it came from Belgium, but they made their own candies. I saw they were making them through a glass display. I told her when I was a young boy I would go to the local ice cream shop where they made their own candies downstairs. I spent many hours downstairs talking to the man who made the chocolates and helping him sometimes. I asked if I could go in the back and watch the ladies making the chocolates, and she said that the Health and Safety people forbid it. It is sad how government has limited our lives, even on a small island off the coast of New Zealand.
We went to a local Italian restaurant. The Italian Diaspora is spread all over the world. We can well testify to that as we have enjoyed their food in places as far-flung as Cairo, Hong Kong and now Auckland. The energetic young man working at the restaurant was excited to see two Los Angeleans as his girlfriend was from San Diego. He was from an area near Verona in Northern Italy. We asked how he ended up in Auckland and he said he had a problem getting a green card in America and she had a problem getting legal in Italy so they moved across the world to Auckland. As I said, the world is shrinking.
We do things right most of the time in the States, but sometimes we need a little fixing. The Kiwis dispensed with any coins below a dime (they have their own dollar). They don’t have pennies or nickels. The Aussies have nickels, but no pennies. The penny in the States has way outlived its usefulness. It is largely because of the lack of political will that we have not eliminated it. In an era when most transactions are electronic already, it seems a waste to continue to mint all those pennies on which we lose money. The Kiwis and Aussies seem to be doing quite well without them, and so could we.
We like to drive through the countries we visit to get a far superior view and to interact with people along the way. New Zealand is a stunning place to visit. Driving through the country provided two particularly fascinating experiences.
The first was stopping in a small town to gas up. I went into the station to pay the lady at the counter. She stated that I did not have to prepay. What a shock! It has been at least fifteen years since someone trusted you at a gas station in the U.S. It felt nice to be trusted to do the honorable thing.
Driving through New Zealand we not only saw the beautiful landscape, but also we saw lots of livestock. There were plenty of cattle and, of course, sheep as far as the eye can see (we’re told 70 million in the country). It reminded me of all those old cowboy movies where they had range wars between the cattlemen and the sheepherders. The most surprising was to see the herds of deer being raised as livestock. The U.S. has such a Bambi complex you would not see that. You rarely see Venison on a menu. In New Zealand, they raise deer and they had no compunction about eating them.
Other than that, from all our discussions and experiences New Zealand is just like the United States, except everyone speaks English. On to Australia.