Sunday, April 03, 2011

smalltown joys

The biggest thing we took away from our oh-so-brief time in New Zealand was the joy of the small towns. Sure, we were impressed by Wellington and Auckland but after 6 months in the marvellous Melbourne, not to mention a lifetime in London and extensive trips to world cities in the past, it was unlikely that there would be anything in these pretty small urban hubs to really wow us.

The small towns on the other side.... WOW.

I always imagined New Zealand to resemble to UK pretty closely but was instantly charmed to see the street-width roads they passed off as their highways and the one-horse towns that constituted worthy dots in an otherwise open expanse on the map.

But what made me really realize the joys of the small town was the first thing that happened....

As 21st Century 20 somethings we overlooked something so simple as jotting down an address that had been received in an email. I wouldn't go so far as to say we assumed WIFI or 3G connectivity upon arrival at New Zealand's capital city Wellington's international airport, in reality we never questioned it would be not be so.

Alas, we were wrong and thus we were in Wellington with a rental car and a free map but wider than that, no idea where we were going, where my boyfriend's aunt lived or indeed how to contact her to find out either of these pieces of information. All telephone numbers and addresses were stuck in the un-tappable realm of cyberspace we so often thought nothing of.

Sensible beings we are though, we led ourselves along the relatively simple one-road-north system and did indeed find Greytown, the town in which the aunt lived. Fortunately also, Aunt P runs a shop, so that was our first look out. After two drives along the long strip that is Greytown (pop. 2000), we finally spotted her discretely located shop and pulled up around the corner. Frustratingly the shop was locked up so our plan to locate her that way was not going to work. 

Spotting a 'community supermarket' across the road, I suggested we ask in there, honestly otherwise not knowing what to do (bar calling back to the UK from a payphone). I may be from the city but I have heard distant tales of country folk knowing their neighbours. The girl hovering the front foyer didn’t know so she suggested we ask at the till. Thinking it would be rude to ask for information without purchase we hastily grabbed a bottle of wine to go with our pursuit. We needn’t have bothered, they were more than happy to help us out. The Lady in the Supermarket (Sue) first provided us with the phonebook where we looked up Aunt P under her maiden name, her second married name and even her first married name. All to no avail.

Another supermarket worker then piped up when we connected Aunt P with her shop saying 
‘I don’t know where she lives but I know someone that does’. Within less than a minute, she’d located a ‘Judy’ in the phonebook, called her up and got Aunt P's address. Naturally, we were assured that they wouldn’t have given out the information had they not heard on the grapevine that Penny was expecting her English nephew and his girlfriend in town. For a committed urbanite this knowledge of one's neighbours was both an alien and terrifying concept.

Our next problem was then, having got the street address, not knowing where to find the street. But oh no, returning to the car we discovered that yes, we had actually parked on the street itself.

I wish I lived in a small town.

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