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Sunday, June 25, 2006

New friends

Danie, Rita, Katy and Razvan have all been good friends to me since I arrived here in NZ. Danie is from Zimbabwe, and he had been here in NZ the past 2-3 years working on a dairy farm. Unfortunately, his boss turned out to be a chump, and so now he’s leaving again. He’s headed to Perth, with warmer climes, better money, and friends from the past. He and Rita have been my flatmates since arriving here in NZ, as I am to take over the flat they're living in now. They met while working together at a dairy farm near Christchurch a few years ago.

Rita came over in a large wave of Romanian immigrants several years ago, and she had nothing but a suitcase and she couldn't even speak English (she claims she ended up learning to speak it from a Pink Floyd concert DVD she had). Initially she and Danie hated each other, as Danie was her boss and he ran a tight ship and was in charge of the milkers. Rita is quite stubborn but is a hard worker, so at first they butted heads but since then they've become close friends. They've lived together the past two years, and haven't been involved romantically but they look out for each other and have a pretty tight bond.

It's been really great for me, coming over here and starting anew, just like each of them did 5-6 years ago. In fact, they're both now full citizens of New Zealand. For both Danie and Rita, coming here provided them with better pay and better quality of life. I have six suitcases and I speak the language, but I really have a lot in common with them when they were both starting out here. They've made the transition much smoother for me, from simple things like giving me lifts around town until I get my own car, to telling me a lot of what it's like to live and work here in NZ.

So Danie is basically out of work and hanging in limbo before he moves away to Australia. Not only has his job situation here soured, but right before I got here he had his car stolen in Christchurch. Unfortunately for him, this theft occurred not 2 days after he had just amended his car insurance policy to include car theft. Not surprisingly, the police and his insurance company are suspicious of him, so they're making him wait while they investigate it fully. Danie is quite bored and he does have a cousin who lives here and has lent him his car, but basically he passes his time looking at Google Earth, chatting on Yahoo with his friends from Africa, and helping me get settled with everything.

His brother is helping to build a dam somewhere in Guinea right now, something Danie has helped with in Africa in the past. He also spent a lot of time running a coffee plantation in Zimbabwe, named Smaldeel. He showed me, using Google Earth, lots of different parts of Africa, including Lake Tanganyika. That lake is huge and had these 2 concrete bunkers with power generators blown up in a recent civil war. Since then, much water is draining rapidly from the lake and there is no hope in sight for rebuilding. There is a deep gorge formed by erosion near the plantation in Zimbabwe, which he drove right up on at one point. There is a very tall waterfall and probably some undiscovered tribes deep in the Congo, Danie says.

Danie is a really cool guy, he's completely selfless and pretty funny. Listening to him and Rita talk is funny, and usually this amounts to Rita bitching about her boss or her boyfriend and Danie providing a running commentary. He refers to Rita’s boyfriend as ‘polystyrene’ and ‘condensation’, as the guy is apparently obsessed with the amount of heat loss that goes on here in NZ.

Let me explain a little bit. It’s true about Kiwi housing that they in general have badly insulated homes. The windows are single-pane and not glazed, so they are basically huge heat sinks in the winter. The other part of this problem is that lots of condensation builds up everywhere in the house, it's really quite noticeable. Rita’s boyfriend (his real name is Terry, I think) spends a half hour each night before bed putting up large slabs of polystyrene over the windows so the heat doesn’t leak out. But there is also condensation forming on the windows, possibly from the polystyrene being there. So he keeps the heat in but now has to periodically swab all the moisture from the windows. This is fairly routine for most Kiwi homeowners! It is hilarious and referring to her boyfriend as condensation never gets old.

Rita is also a vet and she has the same boss I do for now. She's done a right good job of swaying my opinion into the negative right off the bat, but when I separate her negativity from the actual truth in her complaints, it seems I do have a real reason to be concerned about my new job here. This sucks because of course I wanted everything to go smoothly but I'll have to look out for myself as apparently our boss likes to make life difficult.

Anyways, last night Danie and Rita and I headed over to Raz and Katy's house for a get-together. They're a Romanian couple that came to NZ a year after Rita did, and Katy's also a veterinarian. Raz is a mechanical engineer and the two of them spend a lot of time restoring old motorcycles (called motorbikes here) and riding them around. They're really proud of an old Soviet Army bike they've restored from the 1940s and it's a really cool-looking bike. Raz also is really into model airplanes and builds his own and flies them as a hobby as well as in competitions.

Raz apprehended Danie and I and showed us a bunch of movie clips he had taken during a recent air show, one that's held every year somewhere on the south island. These guys all get together with all of these restored aircraft or homemade kit replicas of older aircraft and they fly them around, lots of them doing stunt flying. It looked pretty cool and I'll have to try and check it out next April.

KFC, Pizza Hut and McDonald's are all really popular here in NZ, so it was easy for us to handle the food. We brought pizza and chips (yes, the ever-present chips, or french fries as we yanks call them) from Pizza Hut, and Raz and Katy opened a nice bottle of red wine. I could only have a sip but it was good. It was good night and we talked about gypsies, planes, motorcycles and working on farms. Katy and Raz are moving north to Blenheim as she’s got a better job there and they’ll be happier there. Raz had joined the NZ Air Force for 12 days but quit because it was hard taking orders from someone 8 years his junior. I'm sure Raz won't have trouble finding work as an engineer.

It's really cool to see these other people that have come to New Zealand and are making the most out of their experience, all the way up to becoming citizens themselves. That's something I could see myself doing one day, but for now I'm happy to have made some friends and I'll focus on trying to make the best of my own situation.

For now, I'll keep a close eye on the condensation build-up in my new flat and try hard not to eat too much Subway or KFC while I'm here.


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