Saturday, 20 May 2006

Kiwis don't want your money

This is kind of the opposite end of the spectrum when you compare businesses in New Zealand to businesses in Malaysia. Businesses here place a lot of trust in customers and they are not out to take your money. I am sure there are businesses here that does the opposite but my experiences so far are that they don't take your money unnecessarily.

If one walked into a post office or post shop as they are called here, you could just help yourself to all the stationery, envelopes and what have you without having to pay on the spot. Often I have taken envelopes, written on them, went to the counter to buy a stamp and I have to tell the lady at the counter that I am also paying for the envelope because she had not included the envelope in the bill. How weird is that?

Once we were going to pave our backyard with pebbles. So we went to the local Mitre-10 to buy pebbles. I wanted enough pebbles to fill a 4 square meter area. Mitre-10 sold the pebbles I wanted in small bags and it would take quite a few bags to fill that area. So I enquired if they had bigger bags or how I could buy larger quantity. Instead of taking my business, they told me to contact their supplier and said I will be better off buying from their supplier who could also include delivery with the price. They gave me the name of the supplier, the phone number and the likely cost!

Last Friday, as I was walking along Lambton Quay, my shoes gave way. I had a meeting to catch and I had 10 minutes to spare. I went to the nearest cobbler and asked him if he could get it fixed. He said it would take him 2 hours, for he needs the glue to cure and could not do it sooner. So, I told him I needed a quick fix and did not have 2 hours. He took my shoe, placed some glue on the soles and nailed it in and took him all of 5 minutes. When he was done, I asked him how much I owed him for that. His reply was "if I can't guarantee it will stay, I can't charge you mate". It is now about a week of walking around in these shoes that could not be guaranteed by the cobbler and it is still as good as new.

Go figure!

Monday, 15 May 2006

Becoming a Kiwi

This morning right after my alarm clock rang me awake at 5.30am, there was another kind of alarm! An earthquake! Yes another one. Usually at this hour of the day, quakes are not as a result of the earth's seismic activity but the rumble of Vera's washing machine. I knew this time it was not my clothes rocking the earth as Vera has not yet started playing with the "big girls" toys.

This must have been quite a shocker as the house did wobble a wee bit for a few seconds. We later found out that it took place 50km North-West of Wellington out in the sea and measured 5.0 on the Richter scale. The star in the picture below shows where it took place. See the proximity to Wellington!

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The last time we went through this, we went out and looked if anybody was evacuating and checked if the kids were alright. But this one was quite different. We lay in bed, as though nothing happened. I asked Vera "was that an earthquake?" and she calmly responded "yes, it was". After about ten minutes, we went to check if anything was amiss and apart from some figurines having moved from their original place on the display cabinet (probably out of shock), nothing was out of the ordinary.

Then I sat there thinking, if this was indeed a major earthquake, what would we have done? Then again, thinking how we reacted this time and how we did the last time, we knew we were getting used to being in New Zealand. Or becoming one!

But the fact of the matter remains! What would we do if it was a real serious quake?

Friday, 5 May 2006

Minister of what?

The other day Ashwini's school had an open day for parents to come in and mingle with other parents and teachers. We were told to bring some fish and chips for snacks. The meet was scheduled at 5.30.

Of all days, I had to miss the train that of all days, had to leave on time. Then the train that I caught had to be late. To cut a long story short, we all were late because of me.

Anyway, we bought that fish and chips and took it with us but when we arrived which was close to half past six, others were wrapping up their left overs. So we decided to take ours home to eat.

As I was standing looking for other parents to speak to, I noticed this man approaching me. I said my "how are you's" and introduced myself. He asked me what I did for a living and I told him... then my turn to ask. He said he was a minister. I was stunned! I am standing there speaking to a minister? Wow! So I asked him which government department he worked for. He immediately blushed and said "no, I am a minister at a church". It was then my turn to blush. But thankfully, I was too dark to show the redness through my face. He turned out to be a priest at a local church!

Is there a difference between being a priest and being a minister?

This afternoon at a meeting with one of my auditees, I was introduced to someone who said he was from the ministry. Being a Friday, most offices dress casually. And this bloke was dressed in a Mao suit (a white shirt and a black collarless jacket buttoned all the way up). It really looked like a what a priest would normally wear.

Not learning from my previous mistake, I automatically asked him which church he belonged to. He started laughing and said I was not the first person today to say that. Dejavu! You know what happened after that...

I later found out, he works for Michael Cullen, the Deputy Prime Minister who is also the Finance Minister.

Thursday, 4 May 2006

The sun still rises from the east but...

I remember when I went to school, we learnt that the sun rises from the east and sets in the west. That fact of the matter was never doubted for an instant. Every morning, I would clearly see the sun rising from the east and without fail each evening the sun will set in the west.

When one bought a house in Malaysia, he or she will see to it that the house was facing east so that the house gets much of the rising sun which is not as hot as the setting sun. That said, most houses in Malaysia are linked or in Kiwi terms town houses. That means one would only need to worry about the front. In all likelihood if it is not an end unit, both the sides are somebody else's problem and the back as well. When I mean somebody else's, I mean there would be another unit on all the other sides. And if you don’t belong in the “circle”, in all likelihood, the back unit will be so close you can whisper the latest gossip and still be heard - that’s how close it can be so no sun will get in there!

In New Zealand, what one looks for in a house is very different. Well, we heard about this and somewhat knew this but until today, it did not really hit me. In New Zealand, the fact that the sun rises from the east and sets in the west has holes as big as the sun all over it!

When one buys a house here, it is important that it faces north! That is because over here, the sun does not travel the half circle over your head but takes a rather gentle curve rising from the east and setting in the north. I also learnt in school that at noon, one can't see your shadow because the sun was over your head. That may be true elsewhere but you may need to lean like the tower of Pisa to get no shadow here. So that explains why my sun dial did not give me the correct time. This was why I was at work before 7 every morning. The days I am in at 8 are when I used my trusted battery operated watch.

Being in a cold climate, one would want to heat up the house as much as possible. So, the house needs to be facing north to get as much of the setting sun as possible. And since most of the houses here are detached, the movement of the sun is important so that a house gets most of the sun as it makes its day round.

Earlier I said it did not hit me till now. That is because I am currently working in an office in Auckland, seated in a room 27 floors up with a view to kill for and also one that gets the rising sun. For some reason, the rising sun in Auckland is just as hot as the setting sun. Anyway, when I came in I thought “hey”, when the sun moves to the other side I won't feel so hot. How wrong I was! The sun travelled from one window on my left to the other window on my right. All the time the sun was on my back, literally.

Now after being in this building for a week, I mean in this sauna, I not only had a crash course on the sun, I think I have also developed a tan on the back part of my head and neck!