Wednesday, March 9, 2011

New Zealand, Day 5 - Interlude

My mom has a Christmas cactus that, for whatever reason, is enormous. It's easily 4 feet across, and blooms with hundreds of blossoms a couple times each winter. It's pretty amazing. I got one myself at the same time she got hers, but mine died miserably. So we have this in-joke where she'll call me up and say "I just don't know what to do with this ostentatious cactus. Can you BELIEVE it's blooming AGAIN? That's the third time this winter. So tacky, it has no shame."

Earlier today I had a moment like that. We walked around a corner of a building into this spectacular view, and I said, "Good lord, New Zealand. Again with the panoramas? Seriously? Every time I turn around, it's a new incredible view. So ostentatious, you have no shame." ;)

New Zealand is sometimes weirdly familiar. Apparently we've now traveled into a region with different local petrol franchises. We rounded a corner in Hawkes Bay wine country and I saw a Mobil on the left and a BP on the right, with the road lined by vines and rolling hills off ahead. I had a moment of cognitive dissonance where I thought I was in Sonoma -- but the cars were driving on the wrong side of the road! The other day in Taupo, we saw a Subway, a McDonald's, and a Pizza Hut lined up next to each other.

Then we went into a Countdown grocery store, which was amusing. It was a sort of three-way hybrid of a Safeway, a grocery in London, and the Asian market near our apartment. You see a lot of European brands (they have Kinder eggs here! but no Cadbury Snack sadly), sitting next to straight-up American brands (Coca-Cola, I'm looking at you), and over there are names I recognized from the US but for strange products (yes Schweppes Rasbury... stuff... I'm talking about you.)

Other times New Zealand is totally different. We have been in two different Dick Smith electronics stores now (once on a lark, once looking for a cable to plug our phones into the car stereo), and the larger one felt like an alien Best Buy while the other an alternate universe Radio Shack. (Reading their entries on Wikipedia, that's more or less exactly what they are.) And then of course there's the "flat white" which I've quite come to like. And I love the roundabouts here, beats the pants of the stupid 4-way stop intersections the US uses. Right now we are in Napier. The bay here is awesome, it's unlike anything I've ever seen except in the Bahamas. Very unlike any coast in the US, and I've seen most of them.

So yeah, 50% same, 50% similar, 50% different, 150% awesome. :)

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