08 July 2016

Kiwis

It was a terribly rainy day today, and before I left Napier, I still had quite a bit of the Central Business District to wander around, and I dutifully did so, pausing frequently to try to dry off my camera lens, with mixed success.  The downtown shopping areas are full of buildings built in various Art Deco styles that have mostly been kept up with and refurbished, as necessary, but the view of many of them is tarnished by modern advertising placards or marquee signs, so I zoomed in as best I could to capture the interesting glasswork or motifs along the tops of the building, and I posted a few samples.  After getting thoroughly drenched, I drove back to the suburbs we toured yesterday so I could try to snap a few photos of the more interesting houses, and then it was time to hit the road.

There were signs alerting drivers of possible wintery conditions on the only road back to Auckland, but the gates were fully open and no road closures noted, so I nervously watched the thermometer in my car tick down degree by degree as I headed into the hills, but the temperature never fell below the mid-40s, and it was definitely ever only raining, so I was able to make decent time back to Auckland.  I'm here just for one night before I catch an early train for an exciting adventure tomorrow, so not much interesting in today's travels, so i thought I'd blog about a few random topics.

First, what is a Kiwi?  So, depending on context, 'Kiwi' refers to quite a few different things here.  First of all, originally, Kiwi is a bird, or actually a few different species of birds, native to New Zealand.  Kiwi is a maori word, assumed to mimic the noise the bird makes.  They're cute flightless birds, about the size of a chicken, and have a long beak, with nostrils at the end of it, which no other bird can say.  They lay the largest eggs relative to their body size, about six times larger than a chicken egg, even though they are approximately the same size as chickens. 

Because of the intertwined history of the kiwi bird here, New Zealanders are often called 'kiwis' as a nickname, just as the Brits call us Americans 'Yanks'.  The bird is featured on the dollar coin here, so like we might call a single US dollar 'a buck', you can call a New Zealand dollar coin 'a kiwi'.  Then, there's the fruit.  Originally from China, it was first grown commercially as a fruit crop here in New Zealand, when it was called a Chinese Gooseberry.  During World War II, Americans stationed here thought they were very tasty, and they were soon exported to the US West Coast.  In the 1960s, New Zealand decided to rename it as kiwifruit to give it a clever local name, and now you can get them worldwide.  NZ is still a leading producer, and they are in season currently.  I've passed a few roadstands selling them by the bag for less than a dollar.

Speaking of money, the New Zealand dollar is the currency here, and currently 1 US Dollar is equal to NZ$1.40, and as with most countries, dollar bills have been eliminated, in favor or dollar (and two dollar coins).  The smallest coin is the 10 cent piece, as they eliminated their penny and nickel coins a while ago, so prices are often shown with just one decimal place.  Everything is rounded to the nearest dime, although receipts still show both decimal places, and credit card transactions may still be accounted for to the penny, like for gas purchases.  The notes are made of plastic, and are extremely colorful, and include a clear window, making them extremely difficult to counterfeit.  The designs have recently been refreshed to make them even more colorful, and their new $5 bill won "Banknote of the Year" in 2015. 

I'll remember to talk later about food here, as well as the upcoming 2016 Olympics.