Piquen' your interest 

A Postcard from Middle Earth

Have you ever bought a particular car and then realized how many of them just like it are on the road? It’s always like that for me. Prior to owning the Ford Econoline, the Nissan Pulsar Japanese import and the Matchbox-size Diahatsu-Charade I had hardly even seen these vehicles. But now I see them parked in malls, driving down the highways, cutting me off at intersections and going through drive-thrus.

Moving back to New Zealand after two full years in Canada has been exactly the same. Maybe Canadians have always been a regular part of Down Under life and I had never noticed it. Or maybe the maple leaf carriers have developed an affinity for the silver fern clan in recent years. Whatever the reason, you Canadians are everywhere.

It all started when I got off the plane. The Canadian flag was not only flying at the airport, it was also hanging down over my local multi-lane swimming pool in Wellington, fluttering in the downtown tourist mecca of Rotorua and wrapped around a ski-lift pole on Mount Ruapehu – our answer to Whistler. Nearby was another sign suggesting you drink Jagermeister to warm up. You could swear you were in the Northern Hemisphere if it wasn’t for the five-minute burn time.

Coming home after years away brings certain traditions. Such as "get a haircut and get a real job," so soon I was back on the airwaves of Radio New Zealand. However being away nearly six years in total meant I was out of touch. We are talking about missing three changes of government and god knows how many rugby games.

Re-familiarization was needed with all things Kiwi – i.e. cheap vegemite, rugby league and the All Blacks, fish & chips, the world’s best ice-cream, the café scene, that Kiwi humour, beers and barbecues, the list goes on. Travelling on the local buses really brought home that I was back in New Zealand. Big posters tell kids to give their seats up for adults, and everyone says "thank you" to the bus driver when they get off. It’s nice.

As part of my re-familiarization tour, I checked out my new suburb, Lyall Bay. It’s famous and infamous for its surf break. It has the nickname "Lake Lyall," given that good surf days are few and far between. On an average day around 40 surfers will be bobbing up and down on their boards hoping the big one ‚ will come in.

I ventured into the town centre, where taking pride of place is a large piece of metal machinery-come-art. I‚m not sure exactly what it is but it bears the proud stamp of its designers – J. Bertram Sons and Co. of Canada. I continued the walk through town and popped into a jewelry store. Serving behind the counter was a friendly Canadian rugby-playing girl who is soon to marry her NZ rugby-playing boyfriend. She complains of our habit of calling our other halves "partners." Says it sounds like cowboy talk – howdy partner.

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