Friday, April 8, 2011

In case you thought life here was perfect

So many of my posts (well, the earthquake posts excluded) have been about how awesome and amazing New Zealand is. And it is! But I do not want anyone to get the wrong impression of this place. There is a monster lurking underneath it all, and it is that monster I wish to share with you today (followed by more awesomeness).

The kiwis are a wonderful bunch of people, in case I have not made that abundantly clear. But being awesome all the time must get tiresome, and like those little squish toys, the tension must come out somewhere. Have no fear – it does! Where you ask?

The driving!

I have personally driven in some of the craziest cities in the states – Chicago, Los Angeles, and Phoenix full of snowbirds. I have driven into Paris and found where to return a rental car (I still consider that one of my shining moments in life). I have been a pedestrian in places as frightening as Rome where I do not believe there actually are rules on the road. I knew that New Zealand has a pretty massive drink driving problem, and I read a lot about the numerous car crashes, but I thought I would be safe as a pedestrian.

Oh how wrong I was. Yes, I have learned to “look right” before crossing the street. I have learned to walk on the left side of the sidewalk. In short, this is not a “wrong side of the street” issue.  No, it is simply scary to be a pedestrian here. Pedestrians do not have the right-of-way. Now, I lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan for four years, and the rule there is, “if there is any possible way for a car to stop for a pedestrian, even with ice on the ground and the pedestrian jaywalking, that car will stop.”

Here, however, cars do not stop. They honk at you as they come within centimeters of your little toes that you would really like to keep attached. They help with balance. And I do not mean just for jaywalking. I can handle that. No, crossing at a T-intersection where the sidewalk (“footpath”) ends, and you just need to cross a street to keep going straight – that’s where they get you. They come out of nowhere, from behind, and honk at you as they go whizzing by, barely slowing down. When you get scared and make a funny face (other people do that, right?) taxi drivers yell and say, “do you have a problem?”

Yes, I’m scared here to walk. But I will persevere. I will learn their ways, and I will make do. The funny thing is that if there is a crosswalk, and someone is waiting to cross, they will slam on their brakes risking the lives of all their passengers, or at least a good case of whiplash, to ensure that the person who has not yet entered the road may safely cross. To each his own, I guess. Remember, we are supposed to embrace the quirks.

But seriously, aside from learning that the road is a dangerous place in New Zealand, I have found one more thing I love – the birds. I have never had an affinity for birds, which is a bit odd considering my affinity for trees; in fact, I tend not to like birds. But I have noticed their voices singing recently. When I walk down the busiest street in the capital city and hear the birds call out, a little bit of joy enters my heart. New Zealand is famous for its birds, especially the flightless ones, but I have yet to see a kiwi (the bird), but there are birds everywhere, and they sing their songs in the morning, through the garden, and even on the busiest streets. They are a constant reminder that we are connected to nature, that it exists with us, and that we can remember to sing in the mornings and throughout the day along with the birds. It might just bring some joy into our lives.

Of course, paying too much attention to the birds here could also make you lose your toes, so be sure to sing carefully!

In other news, I have started another blog, this one dedicated to new ways of thinking in family law. If you work in the field of family law, in any capacity, or if you know someone who does, please share the following link with them: "Family Law - Shifting the Paradigm," at Thanks! 

© 2011 Rebecca Stahl, all rights reserved

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