Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Just One Big Event a Day

Wellington waterfront
The Te Papa National Museum

Or maybe you could slip in two. When you settle down in a new location for an extended period of time you don’t want to experience all the local sites and events all at once. You want to space it out. I don’t think I have mentioned that Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and geographically it is at the lower end of the north island. Once upon a time Auckland was the capital, but it was moved so there was a more central location for the Kiwi’s (there is that word again). As the capital it is center stage for all the big national stuff. You know like the Blackcap’s Cricket team. Oh yea! I really do have to learn how the game is played and scored so I can understand the sporting news. The real big deal here is the Te Papa National Museum, which was our primary event of the day.

The Te Papa is a huge, architecturally imposing (translate as controversial) building on the waterfront. It has a wonderful perk in that it is free, although the map and guide book is $3. On this first visit we spent about two hours checking out the geologic history of the islands, the arrival of the natives and the pakeha (Europeans), and the culture of the Maori. We lasted until the feet, back and eyes could take no more. We know we must return and that the guide books are right in advising you can’t do it in one day. There was just too much to absorb. In order to keep your education moving along 25% of the land mass of the islands is dedicated to national parks. This might indicate how rugged many parts of the country are.

The other event of the day was my attending another Rotary meeting. I don’t think I am so really dedicated, but it is an interesting way to meet the locals. All service clubs have there own culture and design and this club was quite a contrast to the one in Auckland. I imagined it would be a large club as it met in a restaurant on the 17th floor of one of the best Wellington hotels on Lambton Quay. However, I think the club is struggling with membership. They have about 45 members, and with the two guests (the other one was a lady from Pitlochery, Scotland) the total attendance was 14 including the program presenter.

There were some very formal gentlemen with their double breasted blazers and gray hair. One was a Queens Counsel (the top of the legal hierarchy) and one a former mayor of Wellington. From these programs however, I am learning a lot about subjects I might not otherwise investigate. The speaker was John Gilberthorpe, the Chief Executive of the Wellington Museum Trust. This agency is part of the City government and operates all the city museums such as the Wellington Sea & City, the Cable Car Museum, and a couple of Art galleries. They have an extensive children’s outreach education program. The Te Papa however is not on his watch, as it is a national museum. For more information go to

Our apartment is just a block off Cuba Street which has a very eclectic selection of restaurants, including Cuban food. We ate at Ernesto’s, named after Che Guevara. In fact Che’s large photo was in my direct view. We thought a Cuban event was very timely in light of the presidential change in Cuba.

Quirky Living Note: You often find when traveling, some quirk which is unique to the country. Here I have noticed, both in Auckland and Wellington, that they have this thing about tearing up the brick sidewalks. The downtown areas of both cities have sidewalks which are very close fitting bricks and whole blocks have had the bricks removed and they are patiently replacing them. I think they must have a very strong bricklayers union in New Zealand.

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