Friday, October 18, 2013

New Zealand report card

I did a report card for Thailand ( thought it would be fun to do it again for New Zealand. While I spent quite a bit more time in Thailand than I did here, I still feel that I 'get' New Zealand and been here long even to have formed an honest opinion. Final grade is done by my own Math skills and not all categories are weighted equally.

Food: B
New Zealand is renowned for its beef, lamb and wine. They also export all of these things so getting them in your home country isn't that difficult. Main food staples here are pies and fish and chips. No complaints about food, not outstanding either.

Price: D
I'm not sure how people live and save money here. Rent and food at my lodge was $820 a month to live in a national park with nothing other to do than go up the mountain. Living in Queenstown or Auckland would be even more expensive. Internet isn't widely available and costs a lot. I also understand that New Zealand is an island very far from other countries and they need to import many things. This would be my biggest complaint about life here.

Location: C+
You can look at this one of two ways. New Zealand is far from the rest of the world, is remote and adds to the small country charm. Beautiful islands are only a short flight away to places like Fiji or New Caledonia. The other side of the coin would be New Zealand is extremely far away from the rest of the world, excluding Australia but who would want to go to Australia? Going on vacation will obviously cost a fortune if you plan on leaving the country. I find it somewhat endearing but couldn't possibly live this far from the rest of the world.

Weather: B
This winter season has been the worst for snow and skiing conditions apparently in the last twenty years so I can't just base it on this season. I like that NZ has four seasons and was nice to experience winter again.

People that live in New Zealand are great. Similar to Canadians in being very polite but people here are much more approachable and will invite you into their group more easily than in Canada. The people are definitely one of the things I've enjoyed most about life here.

The only time I had a problem was one hobbit of a man wanted to fight me in Queenstown. Never been robbed or felt unsafe while here. Murders I have learned happen more frequently than I thought but no country is free of crime.

Activities: A
Taking money out of the equation, there are tons of adventure activities to do. Bungee jumping, sky diving, scuba diving, mountain biking, rugby, snowboarding, hiking, fishing, climbing glaciers, white water rafting, tons of things to keep you occupied if you can afford it.

Transportation: A-
The best way to get around NZ is just to buy a van for five thousand dollars, drive it until you leave then sell it. Flights are pretty easy to get and aren't priced that high. I use a bus company called Naked Bus that will take you almost anywhere around New Zealand. Also have many tour companies that take large groups around to the more popular destinations.

Beauty: A
No question about it, it is breathtakingly beautiful.

Nightlife: C
Yes there are parties in Queenstown but even there it wasn't anything worth writing home about. Auckland is average and no parties to speak of in my village. Definite weak point.

Health Care: A
I'd rather not know that NZ had a good health care system and that when you get hurt ACC covers everything for you. Being sick or getting hurt here, you will be taken care of/

Environment: A-
New Zealand is very clean, has tons of rubbish and recycling bins. Seems like keeping hiking trails and the mountains here in good condition is important to the government. There was just an oil spill on the other side of the mountain that just goes to show that accidents will happen anywhere especially when dealing with fossil fuels.

I'm sure there are beautiful girls here. I just have only seen about 10 in five months and they were probably tourists. If you come here to fall in love, I wouldn't hold my breath. Not a NZ strong point and let's leave it at that.

Overall quality of life: B+
Raising a family here would be great. Growing up here would be amazing but living here as a teenager until the point you want to settle down wouldn't be ideal to me. That is why tons of Kiwi's go to Australia for work and to live a bit faster pace life. You could do worse that have to spend the rest of your days in this beautiful place, I just find it too similar to life in Canada and Canada holds a special place in my heart.

Final grade: B

If you came here with more than ten thousand dollars for about two months, you would certainly have a different perspective than I do. However, I'm just a normal guy doing normal things in different countries and this is how I saw NZ. I'm glad I came here and got to experience it. I am also glad to be leaving to a hopefully more exciting lifestyle and getting back into teaching. I can't help comparing NZ to Canada and the edge just goes to Canada. Thanks for having me New Zealand!

"Move to a new country and you quickly see that visiting a place as a tourist, and actually moving there for good, are two very different things."

Tahir Shah

Monday, October 14, 2013

Do we choose to be afraid?

The mountain has been closed most days lately so I have had an abundance of time on my hands. On Sunday, I watched the entire season on An Idiot Abroad: Bucket list. Basically, Ricky Gervais gets one of his friends to travel around the world, completing other people's bucket lists. Some of the things he does are pretty spectacular like diving with sharks and visiting tribes in the jungle. Some events he refuses like bungee jumping while completing more dangerous looking tasks like standing on the wing on an airplane while it does tricks thousands of feet from above.

In one episode, he goes to Russia to do the Trans-Siberian Railway. Along the way, he stops off to 'relax' by digging his own grave, getting a plastic sheet wrapped around him, putting a tube in his mouth while he is buried alive. Apparently this is a thing.

 When he wants to get out, he blows on the tube 3 times consecutively and people dig him out. This idea terrifies me. Like anyone, I try to imagine how I would react if I was in that situation. I understand that it is good for you to live outside of your comfort zone. I understand that fear only holds you back and in most situations you aren't in any real danger. While I was thinking about how I would get out of getting buried alive, I thought of another question: Are we only scared of things because they use to scare us and we are just so use to living with a certain fear that we just accept it? What if we just decided not to be scared anymore? I'm somewhat claustrophobic, possibly from being locked in a trunk when I was a kid.

But that was like twenty years ago. Do I really want to be afraid or miss out on experiences because I was scared once twenty years ago? Do we act a certain way only because we acted like that in the past? I can only assume that these fears will just get progressively worse as time goes by.
I don't know the answers to anything really but I'm just curious to find out what would happen if I just 'decided' I wasn't scared to go talk to that beautiful girl eating my favorite type of bagel? What if jumping out on an airplane strapped to a parachute was exhilarating and not terrifying? Is being afraid merely just an option that I can chose not to control my life? Or is it just part of being human? Maybe doing things we are afraid of and conquering those moments are the times that we are actually really living.

"Fear is a habit, so is self-pity, defeat, anxiety, despair, hopelessness and resignation."

"Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it."

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Drinking and driving

Canada and New Zealand are very similar in many different ways. They are both extraordinarily beautiful countries, polite and helpful people, each are a part of the monarchy, both countries have great reputations and are respected around the world. Obviously there are differences between the two such as some of the vocabulary kiwi's use, they drive on the other side of the road, don't find it necessary to wear shoes and other small intricacies. There is one difference that has stood out since the first day I got to New Zealand and it is somewhat controversial.

Let's say it is Saturday night and you are going out downtown with a group of your friends. You've eaten dinner, showered, dressed up for a big night out and start drinking. Maybe play some beer pong or flip cup, listen to some music and be glad you aren't at work. In Canada, you might call a cab or a sober driver would drive, you down your last drink, have a loud chat with the cab driver/your friend and get dropped off at your destination. Closing time is 2 am so maybe you get home around 3 and probably had a great night.

In New Zealand, the night would progress pretty close to the night in Canada. In Canada, we might pre-drink to hockey, they pre-drink to rugby. They also have a rule with your friends that if you spill a drink on the table you suck it up with your mouth. Table suck. If you spill it on the floor, well that's a floor suck. Savages. Then it is time to get into the car. While in Canada you would finish your drink because it is illegal to have open alcohol in a vehicle, in New Zealand all of your friends could be drinking as well. Which I view as a positive because it isn't hurting anyone and makes the trip more fun. But, New Zealand takes it to another level. Not only can the driver's friends be drinking, the driver as well can have a beer or two as long as he or she isn't over the legal limit. This would be unheard of in Canada. Cab drivers will make you pour out your drink before getting in. Here, you could give him one as a tip.

So instead of grabbing a coffee from Tim Horton's before a long trip, you can crack open a Heineken, take a drink in front of a police car, get pulled over and not get in trouble. On the one hand, it isn't that different from being allowed to consume a few drinks before driving as long as you aren't over a certain limit. On the other hand, it might encourage someone to drink while driving who eventually becomes impaired and gets into an accident. Really not sure how this is still a law, many people here aren't aware that it is in fact legal and it isn't publicized that much. The best policy to avoid confusion would just to have a zero drinking and driving policy. Simple and to the point. But maybe I'm wrong. I looked at stats to see if there was a major difference between drinking and driving stats between the two countries but the sheer number of Canadian to New Zealander's is so big that it is hard to compare. This is what I found:

Assistant Commissioner Road Policing Dave Cliff highlighted Ministry of Transport figures that showed drinking and driving killed 1463 people and injured 24,789 others in road crashes between 2000 and 2011.

Police estimate that each day in New Zealand, approximately 5,923 compulsory breath tests and 2,743 mobile breath tests are undertaken and 100 people are charged with drink driving (New Zealand Police, 2010) - See more at:

In 2008, driver alcohol/drugs was a contributing factor in 103 fatal crashes, 441 serious injury crashes and 1156 minor crashes.
These crashes resulted in 119 deaths, 582 serious injuries and 1726 minor injuries.
- See more at:

Figures show that during the past two years a total of 9703 teenagers were found guilty of drink driving in New Zealand. Fifteen teens have been convicted at least six times in that period

In 2010, it was estimated that 2,541 individuals were killed in motor vehicle crashes in Canada. MADD Canada estimates that at a minimum 1,082 of these fatalities were impairment-related.

To sum up, don't drink and drive. It's fairly simple. And to add the Thailand perspective, they do have road blocks set up to stop drinking and driving. However, in my town, 95% of the time when I would drive through one of those stops, they would see that I was white, couldn't speak English so they would just smile and let me through. Probably not the best way to enforce the law.

A designated driver helps you party another day.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Life on an active volcano

Mt. Ruapehu is one of only a handful of active volcanoes that have a ski field built upon it. All around the mountain there are signs warning of possible eruptions and telling you to go to higher ground. I learned that a lahar is a volcanic mud flow and will usually follow one of three paths on the mountain. Unless there is a complete eruption, then were in trouble. Death trouble. A big bonus of working on a volcano is that you can hike to the summit in just under an hour from one of the T-bars. Then you ride down. People also come here in the summer and walk up the trail. Here are some pictures from the crater:

The coolest job on the mountain is by far ski patrol. They are the best skiers, can save your life and can basically do anything. Next time I have a life problem I'm just going to call them up and they will sort me out. Somewhere down the line is being a lifty. We essentially help people get on and off lifts, make sure ramps are all good and help customers with anything they might need. I wouldn't say it is a hard job. It can be boring standing at a lift all day telling customer's the same thing a hundred times but if the weather is nice, the day can fly by. The best thing about being a lifty is riding on your days off and riding when you get breaks at work. Going for a one hour snowboard on your lunch break makes everything else worth it. Random mountain closed days due to poor visibility, no snow or high winds are also a welcome surprise. Living in a National Park does limit the amount of fun things you can do if the mountain is closed so there is definitely a pretty massive drinking culture. Not uncommon for people to start drinking beers shortly after breakfast.

Other jobs on the mountain are ticket checking, rentals, food and beverage, road crew, drivers, snow makers, trail groomers, customer service, maintenance and HR people.The drama level has been pretty low this year but so has the snow. Apparently it is one of the worst seasons for snow in the last twenty years. In the last 18 days, I think I've worked one full day. On the plus side, you get paid a minimum set of hours so that at least covers my rent. And the place I'm staying at I get free hot chocolate and that is priceless really. A trend I've noticed is people get addicted to the snow. After this they either go to Japan, America, Europe or Canada to get their fix. I can see how it can become addicting. The people are laid back, you get to travel and ride whenever you get the chance. Downsides are lack of pay and limited career mobility.

One of the other lifties here made a video with his GoPro that does a much better job of showing what my life is like here.Thanks for reading and will have more posts coming up in the next few weeks because I will actually be travelling instead of working like a commoner.Very excited. Enjoy your day!

"If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant."