Saturday, June 13, 2009

June 13, North Minerva Reef

North Minerva Reef is a coral lagoon that is about 2/3 of the way between northern New Zealand and Fiji. The reef is a 3.5 mile diameter circle. There is one narrow pass in and out. Inside the reef the water is about 40-50 ft deep, surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. There's nothing relating to civilization on the reef except one navigational beacon.
At high tide the reef is awash and we are surrounded by breakers. At low tide, you can take the dingy to walk and wade on the magnificent coral reef and see octopus, starfish, hermit crabs, and splendid live corals at your feet. It's warm but not hot. Chris is keeping us and the three other yachts here provisioned with fresh fish which we have eaten sushied, fried, barbecued, chowdered, pated.
We arrived just after dawn on June 8, after a mostly pleasant passage of 6 days. We were shocked to see a cargo ship anchored inside the reef. On closer examination, it looked more like a pirate lair. We have since learned that the ship is a Tongan-Chinese sea cucumber harvesting operation. The crew - 9 stationed here for 6 months- walks the reef at low tide. In broken English and pantomime, they showed us how to eat raw giant clam (which turns out to be an endangered species).
This was supposed to be a quick rest stop to meet up with our friends on Asylum and Scholarship. However, we are essentially trapped here by north winds that will make continuing the passage to Fiji miserable and have made it virtually impossible to get off the boat the past two days.
You can't escape the life lessons that are helping us get by:
- Patience. Patience. Patience.
- This too will pass.
- Don't put off til tomorrow what you can do today.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Divided by a Common Tongue

Another essay, still waiting for weather out of New Zealand. We plan to leave tomorrow, June 2, in the morning. But then, we planned to leave Thursday and we planned to leave yesterday....Someday we will have a good internet connection that will allow us to post pictures, but not in this little village at the top of the North Island...

With apologies to a speaker on NZ Public Radio, we agree with the thesis that there are profound cultural differences in the modern English speaking world. The more time goes on, the more our initial impression of NZ (it’s just like home) seems misplaced.
Work. Q-“Why aren’t there any Kiwis on Star Trek?”A – “New Zealanders don’t work in the future either.” “What do sperm and Kiwis have in common?” “Only 1 in 50,000 work.”
In New Zealand, work is a means to an end. That end is lifestyle. You get enough money from work to live your lifestyle (not just own it).
Therefore, work is where you can take off for a month to sail to Fiji with your mates or two months to go visit the kids in England. A construction business where you can sit out a recession. A cafe that you open 8:30 – 4 weekdays so you can fish weekends. Complete unreality in the US. Here, it’s the expectation. The trade-off is that the standard of living is lower, and personal debt is higher.
Naturally, owning your own business is big. Not only do you get to call the shots about work hours but you also rule your own empire. Do you have complaints about the service, price or quality at my business? Get out. I don’t want to see you in here again. Take your business elsewhere. It doesn’t work and you want to return it? We don’t do returns, you need to be more careful when you shop.
Education. There is great pride and respect for the trades and working with your hands. University graduates downplay their education and often end up far from home, in London or Australia. Farming is the top of the economic ladder – not only is it a source of income but the land, when sold off, is a source of substantial wealth. The farmers we have met have been sophisticated business people in family teams, well-heeled, knowledgeable about agrarian science and the world, owners of second homes and beautiful boats.
Sex and the family. People are very matter of fact about sexuality and sexual relationships. It is odd to hear people refer to their husband or wife, partner is the term of choice for all ages and sexes. One assumes that parents of young children are not married. When they do marry and divorce, joint custody is the rule. A common custody arrangement is the family nest, where the parents move in and out of the family home according to the custody schedule.
According to several surveys, Kiwi women are the most promiscuous in the world. We have not experienced that first hand but we can say that women tell the bawdiest of jokes in mixed company and seem comfortable in pioneering and iconoclastic roles. NZ has already had two women prime ministers. One of the top films here this year is about a pair of farmgirl yodelling comedian folksinging lesbian twins who made it big in show business. Contrast that with Australia, where the dominant female icon was, to our eyes, the fashion model.