There are two Lake Rotoiti in New Zealand. One in North Island and other in the South.
I visited the one in the north.
There are two Lake Rotoiti in New Zealand. One in North Island and other in the South.
I visited the one in the north.
I have lived in Auckland for the last three and a half years. I love this city, and by extension this country. I have explored the city: found new places, food cuisines and occasionally new people. However, in the last year, Immigration New Zealand announced a flurry of changes which on paper looks like an attempt to push me out.
About two months ago, Immigration NZ announced a the discontinuation of six temporary work visas. The six visas are going to be replaced by a since temporary work visa. Furthermore, this visa can only be applied by the company which is hiring the migrant. The details are hazy at the moment and the change will roll in 2021. Furthermore, the hiring company needs to be accredited by the Government and should explain why an migrant is being hired and not a NZ citizen.
Pessimistically, no company will want to jump through any of the hoops that Immigration is imposing itself on it. Even if a company is willing to put itself through the torment of Immigration and its processing times, who will stop the company from exploiting the migrant.
Optimistically, things might not be dire as they seem to be, in fact could turn out to be better with these changes. But I am not sure, these changes seem targeted.
Last month, Immigration also announced the Parent Visas are going to be allowed once again, however the applicants children need to earn at $100000 per year. It is even by Immigration’s own estimate that this will make about 80% of applicants ineligible.
Recently, I was invited back to AUT as an alumni for a networking session with currently enrolled students. I met a lot of International students who asked me the same kind of questions I asked everyone when I was a student: How difficult it is to get a job? Are people nice here?
I couldn’t bring myself to tell them that things were easier when I graduated, Immigration NZ didn’t seem to be bent on pushing us out. We had a lot more options, a little bit more freedom than what you might have.
I couldn’t tell them that ‘Hey! Things are going to be harder for you.’
I understand the reasoning behind these changes. Part of it could be chalked up to pure xenophobia. Part of it to ensure that the citizens receive enough opportunities. The remaining parts could be fulfilling election campaign promises.
It is my empathy of Immigration’s motives that infuriates me. I wish that I was just single minded to blame the Government and therefore Immigration for making my life even more hard than it is already. I am still waiting to hear back from Immigration for my residency visa and I have applied ten months ago.
I wish that this was an overt (non-violent) racism that I could just ignore and move on. What am I supposed to do about policy changes in country that I have very little civil rights? Even if I had any civil right, would I have made any difference?
I wonder what is going to happen eventually. Will this place that I love so much turn hostile to the point that I couldn’t live here anymore? Or was it always like this and it is only now that I am discovering its anti-immigrant stance akin to how I discover a new food alley in the city? I don’t know.
When I applied for New Zealand residency visa in December, I had a plan.
Usually, for visas I am pretty tense. My past experience with visa applications always had it roadblocks. My plan calmed me down and I almost forgot that I had applied for a visa in the last 9 months. After all, all I had to do was wait 6 to 9 months and then hopefully I would have an answer: either my visa would be approved or it would not.
This is how my plan has progressed:
My application has been sitting in the queue for the past 9 months. It has not been reviewed. A case officer has not been assigned. All I could do is wait. Check my email everyday to see if there is any update. Prepare to apply for another work visa because I need to stay in New Zealand.
I am not the only one who has been waiting a long time. A bunch of Radio New Zealand articles have been talking about Immigration New Zealand’s slow work for a while.
From my understanding, this has something to do with which party is in power and their promise at the time of election to cut down immigration numbers. They have successfully done that by slowing down the whole process. If I was not stuck in the middle of this, I would have applauded their method for its simplicity.
But I am. I hate this waiting game.
A couple of weeks ago I went to Karangahake Gorge, two hours west of Auckland. These are some of my favorite images from the day.
It was a beautiful day, bright sunny skies and lush green mountains. However, after editing, I liked the photos best when they were monochrome.
I will upload most of the photos from that day in another post in the distant future.
This post has been long overdue. I first thought about writing it when I was sitting in a bar with some of my friends. Half of us are non-native English speakers. I asked them, ‘which language do you think in?’
I wish the answers they gave me were revealing. They weren’t, all of them thought about it and then shrugged ignorance. No one knew.
I remember reaching in Auckland two years ago. I remember my first conversations. I would pause before speaking because I would get my languages mixed up. Even though I am a competent multilingual, I couldn’t think of the words. I had to translate every sentence I was going to utter from Hindi to English.
I don’t remember the time when I stopped thinking in Hindi. I wish I did so that I could give a definite answer it took for me to leave my language behind. One day when I was biking home and I was thinking of which route to take when it hit me, my thoughts were articulated in English.
When I was studying for undergraduate degree or when I started working in India, I met new people. On the basis of languages, I could categorize two types: ones who would mostly speak in English and others would communicate in Hindi. I also learned that it didn’t matter as eventually everyone who could, would revert to Hindi.
It was natural, almost instinctual amongst us. Sentences would get a motley of words from both languages; idioms roughly translated and laughed at.
It didn’t matter if I couldn’t get my message across in English, I had the safety net of just doubling down to Hindi just like my peers.
In Auckland, there are numerous times when I have to re-frame my sentences because what I said was incoherent. It wasn’t particularly because of our lingo differences, I always found it difficult to form sentences on the go while speaking. Writing, on the other hand, came naturally.
There were also numerous times when I didn’t understand what other Kiwis are saying. Sometimes they would say ‘Cheers’ as thank you and other times they would exclaim ‘Sweet As!’ to express their approval. I still don’t get the second one.
I had to relearn the programming jargon so that I could use it when I am working, or explaining my code to someone.
I am not an accurate representation of every non-native speaker or everyone has the same issues. I don’t face the same issues all the time either. There have been occasions when I was perfect and then some bad days when I would stammer and lisp my way through a conversation. Probably has something to do with my level of confidence on that particular day.
I have a lot of free time in my hands these days. My friends with whom I would spend most of my weekends are gone, and I wonder what to do with them. Sometimes I think it would be a great thing to learn a new language. I ask myself, do I need to learn a new language?
Is it even useful anymore?
Then I go to an Asian supermarket and listen to people speak their language and realize: yeah it is. I really want to eavesdrop on other people’s conversations.
It was one of my first months in Auckland. I was returning home and I was sitting in the back of the bus. A group of three people were talking loudly near me and I could hear everything they said. They were talking about bacon.
‘You never have to use oil when making bacon because there is enough fat in the bacon’ one of them said. I made bacon for the first time a couple of days later.
I also looked over to the speaker and saw that he was also Indian, possibly a Kiwi national by his accent & fluency. One day, I thought.
Looking back on the different things I have done, people I have met, I know that the one day has long been crossed. English is no longer a second language, a means to illustrate my education ( India ) or a barrier ( New Zealand ).
Image Credits: Photo by mali maeder on Pexels.com
I have always enjoyed taking photos and a while back seriously considered buying a DSLR or a mirrorless camera. The only problem with such a purchase is the camera isn’t as compact as I wanted it to be. I ended up buying the new OnePlus 5T. I am not going to review the phone, it is pretty fantastic and it gives me some features a normal phone camera doesn’t. The result:
I have been taking heaps of photos in the last couple of days. Last Saturday, I purposely woke up at 6am in the morning, something I don’t do on a weekday, to try and take pictures of the sun rising over Auckland’s skyline. It was a really good day and now I am constantly spending a couple of seconds be fore taking any photo. The biggest surprise for me was when I was able to take a night sky photograph just outside my home in the middle of the city.
Fair to say that I will be taking part in heaps of photo challenges from now onwards and my instagram will be constantly updated. Hell I even started signing my photos because I wanted my name out there!
A year ago, when I had just met a new hiking group, I heard about Tongariro Alpine Crossing. I met people who were going to attempt the crossing with the group and I wanted to join her. I love hiking/walking and it would have been a great opportunity. But I didn’t. For the last year, I have been looking for a chance to try the crossing. I would tell everyone whenever the topic came up. Finally, some of friends decided to do it.
This is not a road trip post and neither is this a hiking blog, so I am going to spare those details. I will tell you this: Tongariro Alpine Crossing was one of the toughest walks I have done. No one ever told me that it would be this hard.
When others mentioned above had completed their crossing, the weather was pretty bad. My trip had two things going for me.
One: When we got to our starting carpark, the weather was picture perfect: blue skies with one or two clouds.
Two: I was given a DSLR camera. My friend had an old one and he was more than happy to let me use it ( he used his GoPro ). The entire crossing, I had the DSLR hanging on my chest, bouncing off my tummy.
The walk was easy until a certain point, I guess one fourth of the way in. Then we started ascending: first on spiraling staircase with many false finishes and then on the slope of Mount Tongariro. The staircase path raised my hopes so many times as I could see plateaus where people were resting & I would think: almost there. But I would be wrong cause there would be another staircase, and then another and then another and then another. After a while I stopped hoping.
The steep uphill walk of Mount Tongariro was the toughest, I kept stopping every minute. I kept asking my friends whose idea was to do this walk and they would tell me it was mine.
The last 6km of Tongariro Alpine Crossing felt like 30km. We kept walking, heading downhill steadily stressing our knees. I didn’t take one picture during that part, I was too tired to care. The 20km Tongariro Alpine Crossing sure felt like 50km long at certain points.
Once we finished and I was on the shuttle back to our lodge, I took a deep breath. I had done it, I had finally crossed Tongariro. A year of anticipation, nine hours of leg punishing walk and some three hundred pictures.
There were some great, breath taking moments. Some pictures I took instantly became my favorite. I saw Mount Ngauruhoe ( Mount Doom from Lord Of The Rings franchise ), I could see snow-clad Mount Ruapehu. In the distance I could see Mount Taranaki ( The Snow Mountain as I call it, where I saw with snow for the first time last September ). I saw the famous Emerald Pools, I could see smoke billowing out of the hills.
I don’t think I will do this walk again, but I know that if I will have the feeling with me. Every staircase will seem puny as compared to Devils Staircase. Every uphill will be simpler with respect to Mount Tongariro. As my friends were making the joke as we were getting back to Auckland, ‘We did Tongariro, we can do anything now.’
Living in New Zealand, I have had the privilege of meeting a lot of people from different countries. The biggest advantage of meeting people is that most of them are/were traveling the world. The disadvantage of meeting people is that most of them are/were travelers.
I remember a Belgian guy from the first group of travelers I had met. He started calling me ‘Mayo’ and the name has stuck since. He showed me his passport, it was full of immigration stamps from different countries. I was fascinated by his passport and since then my first question to any traveler is to see their passport.
Recently I met a woman who has been on all of the 6 continents and plans to set foot on Antarctica at the end of the year. We were on our way to Raglan with two others, both of them had traveled a bit.
Sitting in the car with them, we ( they ) spoke about their trips. The adventures they have been on and the different cultures they have seen. It was entertaining to listen to them recall their great moments and the highs of their years past. All of them were 6-7 years older than me.
Mumbai is big and everyone knows that. I have lived there all my life prior to moving to Auckland and even then I haven’t seen everything. There are areas I have never been to, suburbs I have no clue where they are located. I don’t even know all of the suburbs in my hometown.
Auckland is similar. It is not huge but most of the areas are unknown. I haven’t seen everything, I don’t know all of the beaches. I don’t know the best bars or the perfect restaurants, haven’t hiked all of the hills.
“Where do you wanna go?”
“Nowhere” I replied, “I don’t wanna travel”
The fact that I haven’t actually been everywhere in Auckland is half an answer. It is not crucial but it is the easiest one to say offhand.
It took me a long time to get adjusted to this place ( moving houses multiple times didn’t improve the situation either ). It took a long time to build something resembling a life here and I don’t see why I would wanna leave anything behind.
I like the stability. I like the familiarity that the city offers ( Auckland/Mumbai ), the sense of being home. Traveling in itself is not a significant reason for me to leave my life behind. I don’t wanna live my life off a backpack even though I like minimalism. I don’t wanna be on the road for months at a time even though I don’t mind weekend getaways. I don’t wanna be at the mercy of the strangers that I encounter even though I have read enough tales strangers’ kindness. I don’t wanna talk about the feeling of loneliness or knowing the fact that most of the people you will ever meet traveling, you might never see again.
In today’s age, when everyone travels the world in their gap year or being on the road is associated with maturity, making my point is hard.
It is easy to find something new and exciting when the city is new. It takes time to find something exciting amidst familiar settings. I just think the latter lasts longer.
This last weekend I was in Raglan, a small cute little town along the west coast of New Zealand. I did a lot of things that I have never done before. I jumped off waterfalls, walked in a forest in the dark ( and made new friends? ). It was a great weekend. I had the privilege of seeing glowworms.
Yes, it was a privilege.
We were canyoning along a stream, stream’s name I never bothered to ask. I knew I was gonna see glowworms as that is what we went for. The glowworms just blew my mind.
I have to just close my eyes to see them again. The river was dark, the sky a shadow of light and the trees silhouettes against the faint sky. The trees’ branches swayed and leaves made rustling sounds as the wind flowed. The sound of water splashing against the rocks. Just behind some of the shrubs and weeds I would see a shining dot. Just a dot, no different that a star on a clear night.
A star that was a few inches away from me.
With focus, I saw more glowworms. It isn’t exactly apparent to know if what I was seeing were glowworms or a reflection of our head beams but soon I could see the difference in the colors. I grinning from ear to ear at the beauty around me. I would frequently tell everyone to shut off their head beams so I could look at the glowworms. I slowed them as I kept stopping to checkout the glowworms.
Of course I didn’t really need to slow down and turn off my head beam. I could also shine a red light that allowed me to see glowworms but I didn’t know that. Our guide, Anne, told us about glowworms and how they actually shine lights. It is a long story and you could read about it here.
The story is not beautiful and in fact it is carnivorous. Regardless, the glowworms’ beauty didn’t diminish in my eyes. We were at the last leg of our trip, it was pitch black now and we had shut off our head beams completely. There was no light, the moon was hiding behind clouds promising rain. We were the only 5 people in the stream. But we weren’t really alone. We were sitting down on the rocks in the stream. Our guide poured us some cinnamon tea which we shared, the beverage being the only source of warmth around us; it made me aware of how tired and cold I was. Our guide said that the last part was like a scene out of Avator.
Avator had a scene out of our world.
There were eels and there were snails in the stream. These snails secreted a glowing chemical so the water also glowed in patches. And the glowworms, oh the glowworms were surrounding us, in their hundreds, nay, in their thousands all around us.
They were in scattered without any apparent pattern but their randomness gave birth to multitudes of connections. In those last 5 minutes of story time in the stream, with the thousands of glowworms, not only was I not alone but I could see that I was not alone.
(My weekend was not hard except this bit. Considering how much fun I had writing last week’s post, I wanted to continue this. I might write an entire post about my New Plymouth trip later)
‘Is it hard?’ someone in the van asked. A guy, let’s call him C had done it before with his partner L said ‘You need good upper body strength to do it. L did it!’
Well, if L was able to do it, I thought how hard can it be?
My fear of cliffs and shear drops was forgotten. See a while back, while walking along the coastal hills in Piha in West Auckland, I found that I am scared of heights. I can do it but I would rather not stand close to the edge and look down at the abrupt chasm. I can walk on any height as long as I don’t have to look down at a cliff.
Paritutu Rock is hardly 100 ms, located at the edge of New Plymouth over looking the ocean. Hikes take the stairs halfway and then reach the peak rock climbing. The climb isn’t vertical so you can use just your feet while getting to the top.
I went on all fours. And I made the mistake of looking down halfway through. I bit down a scream because I was at a cliff looking down at the embrace of harbor rocks. I swear they were arranged hands spread apart.
I knew coming down would be harder. For the residents of the city, the hike would/should be a weekly exercise. I saw a family descending with their 6 year old daughter while I was standing at the same edge with A. It was sobering moment, cause I was really tempted to go back down.
I was right about one thing: coming down was harder and scarier. If I slipped, I would tumble down on hard rocks all the way, if I don’t fall off a cliff. My left knee (I guess the ice skating issue) had to bother me while descending too. Great!
I took my time. I didn’t care that children were climbing a million times more gracefully than I was. I squatted to keep balance, used my hands for grips slowly covered ground (or rocks?). My eyes were wide open and I don’t think I was blinking them anymore. I told (pleaded?) others behind me, ‘Don’t rush me’.
The only solace descending was I could the carpark getting closer. I knew I wasn’t just going around in circles. I took more time than my group and they were waiting for me at the carpark.I reached the stairs but didn’t stop till I reached my group. K asked me ‘How’s it?’, my face must have shown my fears. I blew out some air while nodding and sat down, allowing my fear to take over.
‘How hard can it be?’ I thought and had a small laugh. I realized that my week could have been completely different, I could have been walking around snow clad Mt Taranaki. The cliff on Taranaki would have been so much scarier.
Of course, it was worth it. The view from the top of the rock was splendid-breathtaking-astonishing and my vocabulary can’t cover it. As I got the summit, to the left, I could see the New Plymouth arrayed systematically like legos. I could see Mt Taranaki in the distance beyond the city, staunch and inviting in its white attire. Clouds obscured the peak from time to time, testing the patience of the group’s photographers H and D. The view on the opposite side was even better.
I was standing on the edge of the world. If I started sailing straight from there I might not encounter any land till Africa. Edge of the World with nothing but blue sky shading the ocean with a darker hue, the sky and ocean seemed to be going a long way and finally meeting at the horizons. I could hear seagulls, I could see the waves crashing on the shore.
Now, if I do that again, I will not be afraid. I could do it when I was scared, I could do it again. In fact, I am looking forward to the next trip and I am hoping that someone invites me for the hike to Mt Taranaki soon.
After all, how hard can that be?
Weekend, Credits: D
After two years of hard work, failures and obstacles that still seem unbeatable me and my family now have finally done it. I write my very first post from Auckland, New Zealand.
The road has been not been easy. The last six months were the hardest months that I had. Almost zero friends, a job which I didn’t fully enjoy and a slippery future were everyday thoughts. I crawled through the thick and thin, some days having support and the other days with my head bowed in guilt and loneliness.
The day before was the family dinner. Just the four of us, no Jimmy because restaurants are not exactly animal friendly here. We walked, and for the first time my elder brother, Navin was not fussing about my clothes. The dinner was never going to be a grand gesture, nothing flimflam but just something we do. Thanks to the India-Sri Lanka T20 match, the table talk was not filled with awkward silences.
I love food. But I love eating the comfort familiar food more than trying out different new dishes. Give me a new cuisine and I might excuse myself. Give me Dal Rice and I will definitely ask for more, probably with some fried potato slices. So the menu for me was fixed: tomato soup, Chicken lollipop, Nan and curries.
Familiar Dishes. Dishes with which I have grew up with.
The other day while roaming my town to complete some work (still pending and I’m worried about it.) and it was then I realised that there is so much that’s left to eat. I walked, music played by my phone echoing my mood, remembering all the small stalls where I would eat. Junk food, delicious food and places which I will not visit for over a year now. A couple of blocks away from where I was, an awesome vada pav (Indian Burger) stall is located. He would add chat masala and onions as garnish. I remember the innumerable times I finished my tuitions and ate there. That Idli corner or the sugarcane juice stall or the Pav Bhaji stall.. My mind raced and my belly growled.
So as I walked, ignoring my belly’s urge to go and eat away the food again. I did eat most of the said food but there’s only so much time I had.
So the family dinner was no different. As we four walked back home, I looked around trying to soak in every scent of my neighbourhood. To remember the school and the college, because I know I’m going to miss it when I’m gone. My school, where I spent 7 years is now a mammoth structure that is sucking the marrow off parents savings. The school is under reconstruction for years now and who would send their children to a school that is under construction. Or so I thought as the school is only getting bigger and prosperous. It’s just school management’s greed to run the school.
A couple of my school classmates houses past, my memory gates opened and I was inundated: the corner sweetshop Kaveri sweets which became so popular that everyone renamed the bus stop. I lived and saw throught the slow gradual process of renaming a locality took place. Half a block past is a building which once was the dream building: from the gates of the building it looks as if there is an city inside. Opposite to the building is the power office. When we were in school we would come home, me and Navin and look at the schedule for power cut and whine about having to miss Pokémon again.
Not everything was the same though. New sitting benches have been put up, the evenings now host a vegetable market. Not everything resembles my childhood.
But most of the things do.
The temple which would be the study spot for everyone as exam day arrived. Or the upslope road where my brother rode his bicycle with me seated behind. I was always lazy.
I was too busy in my nostalgia that I fell behind mom and dad. Every single place had a memory with it. Some with mom. Some with dad. Most of them with Navin. A tiny smile lit my face, a genuine smile which I missed in my life for long. I love this place, my neighbourhood.
As we climbed up my building stairs, memories kept me alert and reminiscent of my surroundings. I even recalled the smooth feeling of a wall which has long been remodeled. My building once has no automobiles parked now has a parade of cars, new and old, motor bikes and cycles. So much has changed and I want to say it happened too quick. It didn’t. I lived here since November 2002, 13 years.
I played with Jimmy, I make him run around the house and in no time he is tired and grinning his signature. I don’t think my dog has a sixth sense. He should be the emotional one and he is licking his butt.
I always said. Jimmy is an idiot.
Overwhelmed I wrote this before sleeping in my bed that night. My last night in my bed. Next day the very first thing was to change the location of my bed to accommodate some furniture and so my bed had to move.
My Mom knows me best and she senses the tiny changes in me. Mom teased “Enjoy the bed.” I laughingly say yes. Even though the lights are off but I’m sure my mom heard my smile in the dark.
Even after the lights are off I am still thinking about everything: from the way my brother talks and behaves. From my dad’s logic to my mom’s emotions to my dog’s stupidity: I cannot help but recall every instance that I have spent with them. I don’t remember what I dreamt that night but I am sure I dreamt about them.
Final day was full of nervous excitement for everyone. There is so much riding on me now, everyone had done so much for this. The unexpected surprise came when Navin made a special farewell video for me. I knew he was working on something but never thought he would make, edit an entire video.
Navin always had a good taste in music so obviously the chouse of music would be good. He roped in his friends, mom and dad into the video too and I watched barely controlling my quivering lips while with me exclaiming ‘Aap bhi ho?!’ (you are also featured in the video!) Trust my brother for a surprise and he never disappoints.
Mom and dad say Navin and me always fight. We argue, occassionally we fight too but at the end of the day there is hardly anyone more important to me than he and my parents. I got calls from friends and relatives wishing me good luck for my abroad trip. I never told anyone of them that its not that I am going abroad, the thing is I am leaving my family behind.
My parents worry about us both. They shouldn’t really. Not anymore: they raised two great kids.
Mom quickly made some delicious ladoos which I inevitably forgot. Now I regret forgetting the ladoos because the food at the Hong Kong Airport is either too expensive or just too bland for my taste.
Yesterday when we arrived at the Mumbai airport we were awestruck with the arcitechure and colossal size of the terminal. Somehow, despite my anxiety I sat down on the plane and braced myself for the take off. But my mind was still fixed on my family. I already know the first thing that I will miss when I reach in Auckland.
In India, I can call up Navin or Mom for anything that I want to ask. Now, regardless of the advanced internet calling services, that one thing will be missing. I can only keep them in loop but at the end I have to make the decision. It does not sound like a big deal but it is. My family always has my back and I will have their back; now there would be a distance of 5000+ miles and a time gap of 8 hours.
It was easy to get lost in the moment as I boarded the plane. First time experience, the gravity pull and push as the plane changes altitude. The sight of Mumbai from the sky; the sight of New Zealand as I flew past the shores of this amazing and beautiful country.
It’s quiet here: country side and the people are friendly. I love this place already.
Last night in flight I dreamt of the way my parents talk. How Navin would ask for something and Dad would just shoot him down. How I used to laugh at the embarrassing situations that I or anyone else faced. I have no idea how they lived with me laughing like an ass for so many years. Now, I am thinking of how will they do things. Who will walk Jimmy? Who will feed the plants? Will mom eat after coming home from work? Will dad tell me if there is something’s going on?
If I ask them this question they would tell me to just focus on my studies. I will focus on my studies and make a career. They have always been right about this: I can’t do everything at the same time.
Thank you Mom, Dad, Navin. Thank you everyone who wished me well.