A month and two days actually. I am now a Wellingtonian, ex Aucklander, loving my job so much it would need to be duplicated for me to move to any other place. Not so sure about Wellington the city though. This is a charming, quaint little place. Almost like a Himalayan hill station that the British might have replicated in the Antipodes by the Pacific Ocean. They even named one suburb Khandallah, like there used to be in the Western Ghats between Bombay and Poona, before the national highway made it a fragmented remnant of pre-globalised India. Then there is the architecture, almost colonial yet not grand enough. As if building such abodes and edifices was too offensive to the sensibilities of the retired servants of the Raj; as if one day they were going to return ‘home’ and so constructed half heartedly half way dwellings susceptible to the cold and wind. So you see the structures built on stilts, the grass growing underneath, winter seeping through the cracks in the flooring and along way above the road, most adverse to urban development. Some might say that is good. Why does Wellington need to be more urban than it is, reflecting the parochial mentality of its old Scottish inhabitants, if I may stereotype and generalise. This is the capital of Aotearoa New Zealand. The seat of government and associated bodies. Yet to get to the airport one has to drive through town rather than take a motorway that bypasses downtown traffic. Surely there is severe need of urban development like an electrical jolt?
In my last post, one week old in Wellington I sought Asian grocery stores and an eyebrow threader. I found both. In the concentrated pocket of refugee settlements, new migrants and cafe culture gentrification of Newtown there is Pari Beauty. Mostly frequented by other ethnics and Pakeha women who want threaded eyebrows for NZD7 a pop. Salons are a great place to gather information. There as I sat getting my nails done, another customer discussed Indian grocery stores and Hindu temples. I’d just done my Asian grocery shopping that afternoon around Jackson St in Petone, Lower Hutt. It had reminded me of Ponsonby Rd, Auckland, without the snooty air. I’d shopped at one Indian store and then discovered another and then I’d gone quite nuts in the Asian store Davis Trading Company. As if in a lolly shop I’d bought the Chinese sauces, the Thai curry pastes, dry shrimp, ginseng, bamboo and other delights like an apothecary concocting medicinally nutritious winter foods. So I’d done my shopping and this Indian customer waiting for her eyebrows to be done at the salon informs me that the other Indian grocery store was better because the one where I had shopped stored foods close to expiry date and does not have that much variety. Now I know. Also that there are no mithai shops in Wellington! Not that I indulge often but where there is a South Asian community there have to be sweetmeats ja? In spite of cardiovascular disease and diabetes?
In my last post I also complained about the lack of diversity. I take that back. Somewhat. Wellington may not be as densely diverse as Auckland but I have spotted young Indian families, Korean schoolboys, gorgeous Middle Eastern women, the sporadic funky Africans, lots of Paficic Islanders and many, many Maori. I guess it is only because they make an incomplete kaleidoscope in a largely white, lethargic city?
My work keeps my busy and I love my doctor’s job. In my other avatar I delight in the arts and world cinema this city offers but my global self is afraid of being blunted. Wellington is like living in a bubble that seems immune to the world’s pace of change or how this existence might be affected. The entrepreneurial spirit, so essential for growth, is missing. I am assuming that when an outsider, a migrant or a refugee comes here they lower their expectations and live like the locals. The only Oporto store that opened in Wellington last month created ripples! While I am not a supporter of fast food chains their presence is an indication of the local economy. Or maybe someone will discover hidden JRR Tolkein novels for Peter Jackson to make into movies and keep this city afloat? Perhaps I’ll start something, shit stirrer that I am…