Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hanging Out With Seals

I am in Wellington and having a good time. I have long wanted to visit New Zealand, and I haven't been disappointed with it one bit. The terrain is quite different from anywhere else I have ever been: for example, mountain ranges seem to just erupt from the sea; pine, palm, and fern trees grow next to each other in dense forests; and cities and towns seem to cling to the shoreline (and parts of them are even washed away). And Kiwis are even more laid back than Aussies, a feat that I thought was impossible for any other nationality.
My morning started out with a 45-minute wait for my tour bus to pick me up. When the driver finally arrived, he announced, "we are running a little late, but that doesn't really matter." We then drove around the SW corner of the North Island for eight hours. This particular tour advertised visits to "Lord of the Rings" sites, which turned out to include a stop at a gravel pit and two city parks, none of which particularly evoked memories of the movie. We did visit a park that had a section nicknamed "Rivendell," the site of the Elvin world in the first movie, which actually did remind me of the film...sort of. Anyway, the real highlight of the trip was our very long journey way out to Palliser Bay to see a colony of fur seals (that group of rocks in the upper right side of this picture, which I got from here). There were only seven of us on the trip and we were able to spread ourselves out among the rocks and watch dozens of seals and their teen pups frolic in the waters around us for nearly a half hour. It was absolutely amazing. Other highlights included lunch at a small cafe, wine tasting at Martinborough winery, and a perilous drive across the mountains. It was all fantastic!

I did catch up with some of my colleagues at the conference welcome reception at the end of the day, so I can say I did a little work. Tomorrow the conference really gets into full swing. I will have to try hard to keep my thoughts from drifting back to those seals.


Dobbs said...

Enjoy your trip to New Zealand. It is a beautiful and my wife and I had a fantastic time there during our holiday.

Anonymous said...

Eric, usually I find your observations insightful but I just don't get this about laid-back Australians.

I am an expat Australian and what staggers me about my homeland is the hour people start work (8:00 am !), the short lunch breaks, the mania for paperwork, the necessity to write 10 pages of blathering "selection criteria" waffle for an admin job, the general infatuation for rules, regulations and uniforms, the pettifogging and pomposity. Any comments?

The Prof said...

I did enjoy myself, dobbs. You'll have to see Wellington on your next trip.

And, Anonymous, thanks for your comment. Although I agree that Australia is more laden with bureaucratic nonsense than, say, the U.S., I still think it is more "laid back" than America. I will try to write a more detailed response to your comment in a future blog posting, but my conclusion is based on how slowly everyone seems to move, even when their livelihood depends on it! BTW, where are you living now?

Anonymous said...

Well, I have moved back to Oz but I regret it! I live in a colder climate than Qld's and I guess people are not slow here like they are in Brizzy.

I have had a lot of appointments with tradesmen and every time they request an 8:00 slot (I am not a morning person!) - then they show up, without fail, at 7:40.

But what is simply destroying my will to live (or at least, to keep living here), is the tedium and lunacy of red tape and the expense. An Australian passport costs 200 AUD. WHAT??? Why does a US passport only cost (around) `100 USD? Why is public transport here so expensive?

I could go on and on but the thing I despise the most are the "selection criteria" that you have to write a masterpiece about even if you're applying for a crap no-brain job, in addition to a several-page resume, plus cover letter and application form. I can't get my head around it. Is this bilge known in any other country on God's green earth - none that I've worked in, that's for sure.

The other thing that is out of control in this country (you have alluded to it) is "investment properties", which have done immeasurable harm to the country's economy.

Over the past 7 years, possibly because real estate is so out of control, the cost of just about everything has doubled. GST had a huge inflationary impact. It ought to be abolished and the tax shortfall made up by heavily taxing "investment properties".

The other striking thing is the obsession with obedience, rules, "criteria" of all sorts. It saps the will to live after a while. I could tolerate a nanny state if it was a provider or a generous place, but this country has become hard and mean.