Sunday, January 31, 2016

New Zealand 2016 Day 22. Back home in Wellington

By the time the ferry had docked and we waited for our turn to disembark it was already 11:30 pm, so we pulled in at the house of KC and Tim Little by midnight. KC had left the porch door unlocked for us, and it was with a sigh of relief that we finally laid down in bed in “our” room.

Later that morning we found out that Tim was still in the field, and would come back in the late afternoon, so KC became our tour guide for a day in the town. Our first stop was the Weta Workshop. What is a “weta”? It is a very large and spiny cricket/locust, and if you look at it in close-up it looks like a being from another world. That is exactly what the Weta Workshop specializes in. They are the designers of all sorts of extraordinary beings one encounters in movies, like the aliens in Avatar or the trolls in The Hobbit, and are the foremost special effects studio in New Zealand. I didn’t know such a thing existed outside of Hollywood, but it turns out these guys are among the top in the world. We only visited the small museum they have in the lobby but I was very impressed with their work. Of course their greatest call to fame are the armors, weapons, and scary characters of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, but they also did The Adventures of TinTin, and the new releases of King Kong and The Thunderbirds, to mention but a few.

Afterward we went souvenir shopping and visited the Farmers’ Market in downtown, where Anna had a yummy Greek souvlaki, and KC and I had delicious Indonesian noodle stir fries. The market forms along the waterfront, and has great deals in veggies (spelled “veges” down under) and exotic food.

The early afternoon was devoted to shopping for a pair of new boots for Anna. Hers came unglued, and she figured that New Zealand, with all its hiking enthusiasts, was a better market than India. Indeed, in about a couple of blocks we found a half dozen sports shops that were having great deals in their end of the summer sales. Unfortunately our little Anna has expensive tastes, so she had to pay full price for the boots that fit her really well (Anna’s prayer” Dear Lord, I beg you, either give me lots of money or take away my expensive tastes”). In the meantime I wandered through the big downtown bookstore, and felt totally at ease with the universe.

Back home KC prepared a delicious curry pumpkin soup and a cold barley salad that were to die for, and as soon as Tim arrived we sat down for a very convivial meal. One of the topics of conversation was the referendum, to be held on March 24, on whether the old flag should be kept, or a new design adopted. The issue is controversial because, although many are not opposed to change, they are only given one option for a new design (mind you, they started with 20 alternate designs, that then some committee whittled down to 5 designs based on some limited polling, and finally to the one alternate design. Folks here are not very happy with having selection by committee, so after spending 24 million NZ dollars in this process they are likely to have the vote be for no change simply because of discontent with the procedure. Incidentally, the alternate design has two diagonal fields, separated by a silver fern, the latter being a common logo in anything Kiwi and representing their love for nature. The upper field is black, which is the national sports color. The lower field is blue, to represent the surrounding ocean, and on it is the Southern Cross in red and white, to retain part of the old flag and the colors of the British Commonwealth. I think it is a handsome design, but fortunately what I think is of interest to anyone.

After dinner we sat down to see one of the best movies I have seen in a long time: The World’s Fastest Indian. It is a 2005 film starring Anthony Hopkins as an old Kiwi who transforms a 1946 Indian motorcycle into a high speed thunderbolt, and with great trouble takes it to the US to run in the Boneville Flats and impose a speed record. As Tim put it, it is a great “feel good” movie that I strongly recommend to all my friends and family.

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