Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The City of Sails

Auckland, New Zealand

Alright, alright, it's time to start writing again.

Certain things are obvious about Auckland.  It is everyone's first stop.  Not many people stick around for longer than a couple days before heading out on the well traced backpacker route throughout the islands.  Most people think it's nothing special.

Nothing special?!?!  Okay granted, it's been a long time since I've been in a proper city you'd want to be in.  (Panama City does not count.)  It's exciting to me that I can conjure up internet access through the air & go to the grocery store on Sundays.  In fact you can do almost anything anytime.  AMAZING!

Auckland has been particularly special to me.

I spent a couple mandatory days at a hostel, exchanging numbers, since the country's so small & well-trodden the chances are pretty good we'll meet again.  In my excitement in duty-free of having the opportunity to fianlly buy decent booze (Tahitian rum doubles as mouthwash) mixed with my first taste of Australian rum, I accidentally bought over-proof rum.  I explained my lament of having to carry around this bottle which would take me forever to finish to my new friends at the hostel, who cocked an eyebrow & accepted the challenge.  I woke up with a headache & half the bottle had disappeared.  Like magic.

I spent a couple nights at a Couchsurfer's house while I got myself (mostly) settled.  Anna's an axe-wielding bellydancer (literally) who does acrobatics, martial arts & LARP.  They are the most superhero of all the Couchsurfing houses I've been to.  I most recently have toenail marks from her from our recent acrobatics session & will definately be returning weekly!!!  (Afterall, I need to work on my handstands.)  :-)

I even spent a couple nights camping with the occupiers in Aotea Square downtown.  Mostly it's nice to get real opinions on the Occupation I hear about all the time on the radio.  There are some characters for sure, & some really great stand up people.  Every time I came around, someone was offering me a tent or a tarp or mattress for my own tent.  Even though I have a bed & warm shower, I've considered forgoing the security it provides for the community the Occupation offers.  It's nice to shake things up a bit, shake up the predictable, & it's nice to wake up safe outside in a public park.  Most of the Occupants have homes & jobs & families to attend to as well, which means they are not the ones who feel the injustice the most, so their (our) dedication is torn.  After more than 2 months a trespassing & civil disobedience order was passed down.  Most people have packed up for the holidays, 2 groups have relocated, while a handful of people are still willing to get arrested for what they believe is right.

Spent alot of days admiring Auckland, before getting a life.  Urban hills are a new concept; explorable but foreign still.  Public art pieces, sculptures, mosaics, & graffiti are proudly displayed.  The architechture is a mix of old & new & glass walls probably made of recycled bottles or something.  There are parks around every corner & every playground is an architect's dream.  There are concert posters!  There is enough of a music scene for there to be concert posters!!  Recycling, bike lanes & there are public toilets everywhere!  (For free even!)

Downtown shoulders the Hauraki gulf, where thousands of boats are docked, moored or anchored & vary between cruising yachts, ferries, racing yachts, fishing boats, cargo ships, or megayachts side-by-side.  Every night the harbour is filled with the sails of some yacht club's regatta.  (Thursday nights I sail with Fast Company).  Islands beckon in the distance.  The waterfront is rebuilt with a beautiful large park built among old storage silos, with a series of excellent cafes & restaurants made from old shipping containers.  The two main structures by which Auckland is identified are the Auckland Harbour Bridge (affectionately known as the Coathanger) & the Skytower.  You can jump off both of them.

On the other hand, it is a city & it sprawls.  To the north, south & west, all the way to the Tasman Sea.  It takes forever to get across the city, traffic is the root of all evil, the motorway doesn't make sense & public transit sucks.  Auckland has the biggest Polynesian population of any city in the world, & I think they've all been swept into hiding in the suburbs somehow.  They might never be found.  There are So. Many. Suburbs.  The idea of Suburban Polynesia doesn't make sense to me.

There are Champagne Clubs, Lamborghini dealerships, obnoxious nightclubs & everything else made of money.  Kiwis hate Auckland the way Canadians hate Toronto & the world hates America, for being loud & their shit-don't-stink attitude.  They shake their collective free-range organic fists at Auckland & she doesn't notice cause she's drinking with Australia (probably drinking & driving as well - cocky bastard) & they can't stop serving her, cause she owns the bar.

No one here is from Auckland - there is no such thing as a native Jafa.  Even the Kiwis are all from somewhere else.  We criticize, but she's adopted all of us.  Almost everyone I know is working or studying towards their permanent residency, or already have.

In 2011, Auckland was named the world's "10th Most Livable City". with the "3rd Highest Quality of Life".
No, you can't feel the earthquakes from here.

I don't know about where it would stand worldwide, but I feel there's something to Auckland.  Something I haven't quite found yet, scratching beneath the surface to keep me from carrying on.  An electricity that keeps me up at night.  I like that.  Always moving, another corner to explore.  Expand to fit the horizon.  Bustle.

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