Journal Entry -- 25 March 2009:
"Arrived in Wellington late this afternoon. At the bus station, we found a cab driver from the Czech Republic who transported us to the i-Site Tourist center, complaining that the locals, and the Brits, don't tip him. There is a rule in New Zealand: you do not have to tip anyone, at any time. The sense is that everyone has a job, and are paid a decent wage.
At the i-Site center, the tired young woman who helped us find a hotel was near the end of her shift, and acted as if she certainly wanted to be rid of the likes of us. I don't blame her. She sent us up the hill to a newly-refurbished hotel on Cuba Street. Enormous room, new carpet, huge windows, lots of light. Determined there was no electricity in the room. Then discovered that one must put one's room card key in the slot by the door to activate the room's lighting and power. Saves a ton of energy a year for the hotel. Makes sense.
This is a land of balance. The food is bright, clean and beautiful. The water you drink from the tap tastes like the expensive bottled water one purchases in the States. The egg yokes of this morning's breakfast were a beautiful orange, pure under the fork. People are calm. There is little crime. Children are rosy-cheeked and behaved. The closest I have seen to a brat tantrum was delivered by a small blonde girl standing with her mother at a street corner. The little one stamped a sneakered foot and simply stated, 'No, Mummy, I do not care to do that.' The mother took hold of the little girl's hand, said, 'Straighten up now,' and the two crossed the street.
Doug has gone off in search of takeaway pizza, wine, coffee and dessert. The Internet connection is not wireless, but hard-wired broadband in this room, so I asked him to stop at the front desk on his way out to shop to request that a wireless router be borrowed for our stay.
Soon there was a soft knock on the door, and Andrew, the hotel manager, requested permission to enter so he could install the router. Once it was plugged in, he used the room phone to call his IT folks to activate the connection. While he was on hold, he and I got to chatting about tech stuff, New Zealand weather, and cricket. He told me it had been a tough day. 'My wife is home sick, and I am supposed to be there right now, cooking supper,' he told me. 'I may be getting divorced by the time I get home.' He wasn't looking simply to dump his personal troubles on any available ear, or to have someone feel sorry for him. He was simply stating facts. In New Zealand, everyone has a job to do, and that includes, for some, marriage.
Doug came back with a pizza from Hell. That is the name of the pizza shop down the street, and the pie was great. He also found a bottle of wonderful Australian Shiraz at "the bottle shop" around the corner, plus lattes and apple dessert at a wonderful cafe a block away called Fidel's. Yes, as in Castro.
Walking up Cuba Street today, I noticed a street artist's stencil of Tolstoy's face on a wall, accompanied with the quote, 'In the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you.'"
PHOTO: Coffee cup illustration on wall of Fidel's Cafe, Wellington, NZ