Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Peace and non-peace in paradise.

Blackpool Beach.
Leisure boats in numbers for the Queens Birthday long weekend.  Off Little Oneroa Beach.
My beat up old van. We carted plywood and planks for our project this morning. We will sleep in it as our bedroom tonight. 
"Emi" our Hungarian "daughter".
We slept apart
The main reason we are staying here with my son, daughter-in-law and grand daughter Edith, is that we are to be here as "support crew" when a child is born. Well on Friday evening my daughter-in-law put her two year old daughter to bed, then her and my son caught the ferry over to Auckland to go to the hospital. The baby was well overdue and after a scan the medical staff had said it was time to have the baby. So my wife slept upstairs to keep an eye on our grand daughter, while I slept in the van under the house. The baby was born shortly after mid night and at sometime after 1 a.m. I received a text from my wife, who was in bed on the couch on the floor above me, to pass on my son's text that "he was out".  Our mission was to look after the two year old.
Big adventure
On Saturday we were asked to bring the two year old (Edith) over to the Auckland hospital to visit her mother, meet her little brother and catch up on her dad. After her early afternoon nap we got her up, fed her, packed a back pack with all the stuff a two year old needs, and headed down to the ferry. We thought we had left in plenty of time. Our instructions were that we were to take one of the family cars (because it had a child's seat in it) down to the ferry terminal and find a park to leave it in.  We were then to locate the other family car left there on Friday evening, unlock it to get a child's buggy out of the back, before heading to the terminal, get our tickets and board the ferry. We ended up having to park quite a distance from the terminal. We got to the other car, retrieved the buggy, set it up, but not correctly. At that point we discovered my wife had left her hand bag in the first car. I let her head to the terminal pushing this incorrectly set up buggy, while I ran back to the car to retrieve the handbag. I caught her up just before the terminal. The ferry had arrived and it's discharged passengers were clogging the footpath as we raced toward the ticket counter. The woman handed over the tickets and with a smile on her face said, "You have just under two minutes!" "Plenty of time!" I threw back at her with a cheeky grin. "Yeah - have a nap on the way!" she shot back as we gathered all our things and rushed away.  We were about the second last passengers on the ferry, they shut the gate behind us.  We flopped down in a seat for the half-hour ride. Then, in a strange city, we had to find the right bus to get to the hospital and get off at the correct stop. What a mission! We were pleased to see my son at the bus stop ready to take us to meet his new son.  Coming home we were not as rushed and much more confident, though keeping a tired two year old happy on a ferry for half an hour in the dark is a challenge. I quietly sang to her, but had some funny looks from people nearby. I find I am enjoying spending time with my bright, hyper-active two year old grand daughter.  We seem to "get" each other and we are becoming good mates. Being a grand parent has nice moments.  When I touched my new grandson's hand as he lay in his hospital crib, he opened his eyes, wrapped his little fingers around my finger, looked at me awhile and shut his eyes again, still holding my hand. I know it is a reflex action, and that his eyes are not really focused, but it does feel special. 
Waiheke Island is a lovely place, with lovely looking idilic bays. The permanent population is 7 - 8 thousand people. It goes up considerably in holiday times. There is a real mixture of people. Some of the richest people in NZ have homes on Waiheke. There are wineries and olive groves with palatial homes associated with them. Then at the other extreme there are poor beneficiaries. There are alternative lifestyle type people and many people who commute to Auckland for work each day.  It has quite a nice community feel to it and people seem to adopt a laid back lifestyle. But even here there are sad signs of human conflict. I was walking past a house on one of my walks and could hear abusive screaming of a man toward his children. Filthy language flowed freely, and a woman and a child screamed in response. As far as I could tell there was no physical violence, but it seemed odd in this house with all the trappings of an idilic lifestyle. When we came back from Auckland on Saturday night we came out of the ferry terminal and there was a group of young men. Obviously lubricated by alcohol they were screaming at one another, again filthy language flowing. They had their fists up and were threatening, and swinging, though no punches landed while we were around, but I think it got more serious after we passed. I walked out toward them with my two year old grand daughter in a buggy. I decided to cross the road, she did not need to be distressed by this event. Tonight in the early evening I walked down to the beach. The sun was setting over the ocean, making the scene look very beautiful. Yet in two houses I passed, people were screaming at one another! It seemed out of place and really sad in such peaceful surroundings. 
On the positive side I passed a bay, where even at 5 p.m. at night families were at play in the playground and on the beach. Couples were dawdling through the trees hand in hand. An elderly couple sat on a park bench leaning against one another taking in the scene. At another beach a family were having a picnic tea at a table by the beach, laughing and sharing amongst themselves. A couple of pairs of "elderly" cyclists came past and gave a cheery greeting to me, a fellow elderly exerciser.  This afternoon shop keepers talked warmly with us. To balance out the violence and conflict, there are loving, friendly scenes. Oh that we could all embrace friendly, responsible caring ways of relating. What a sad world! ... and yet "What a wonderful world!" 
"...meet at St Andrew Street."
We have a Hungarian friend who used to help us out at St Andrew St Church of Christ Community. We grew very fond of her and she called us her NZ "Mum" and "Dad". She is now back in Hungary, but when I emailed her to tell her we were coming to Edinburgh she is keen to come and meet us there. "Wouldn't it be funny" she writes,"to meet on the corner of St Andrew Street in Edinburgh?"  Dunedin, New Zealand was settled by people from Scotland who used Edinburgh street names in their new city. It is often called "The Edinburgh of the South." We are looking forward to catching up.  

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