Israel, Scotland, and Liberalism

I’ve transferred myself to a new hostel. The experience has been pleasant and the people are generally nice. Last evening I found myself talking to a small group consisting of a young American from Seattle, a Brit, a very proud Scotsman, and a young woman from Israel. Absolutely, Israel was the hot topic of the evening.

Apparently, meeting an Israeli is rare. This young Israeli had just separated from the Israeli Defense Forces and has been spending her new found freedom traveling the world. As interested as everyone seemed to be about her homeland the conversation didn’t take long until it turned to politics. Not surprisingly, I observed the Scottish man slowly maneuver this conversation as he would gradually input his opinion regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Of course, he was never out right be rude about it. To an extent, I think he knew better. The Israeli seemed to tread carefully as the conservation went on but it also felt more like she had been here before. It was later confirmed that she gets asked about this very topic just as much as Americans get asked about the election.

I made several attempts to defend Israel as the sole functioning democracy in the middle east. I even reminded the group that Israel has large political parties that consist of Islamic Arabs which she confirmed. That conversation ended calmly. However, a later conversation took a strange turn. Probably because, at this point, most of us were intoxicated. No real shame there.

It started from a conversation about the election until I was trying to explain my disdain for Hillary Clinton and my own views regarding foreign affairs. It felt like she was trying to attach US foreign policy to me. She tried to make US foreign policy my views on foreign policy. Which I shouldn’t exactly be surprised about. I’ve discovered that when you travel abroad you act as though you’re an ambassador for your own country to other travelers. I had to keep clarifying that I could disagree with my own government and even the historical actions of my own government.

I thought for a moment that maybe she felt as though the actions of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria played in favor of Israel and she didn’t want me taking a position of abandonment. I’m probably also over thinking that considering our mental state. She could easily just be a liberal Israeli. I was often reminded that Israel is a country like any other. There are those in Israel that don’t support Netanyahu and that Israeli is far from a one party state.

As for Scotland… as friendly as this guy turned out being, he was the epitome of how I stereotyped on Scots. Typical socialists.

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A European Political Shift

 

Picture source: Washington Post

I woke up to two vicious attacks in the news this morning. A truck ramming into a Christmas event in Berlin and the assassination of a Russian ambassador in Turkey. Both are already being labeled as terrorist attacks by the respective governments. Both of these attacks are significant considering the German election and the Russian involvement in the Syrian conflict.

I’ve only been here in New Zealand a short time so I haven’t had many conversations regarding world affairs and politics. Considering those I’ve had, I am decently surprised by the range of views many people have had. I have seen quite a few Germans here and many tend to lean to the liberal side who’ve voiced some concern about the coming German election and the possible rise of the populist party, AfD. This usually comes up after we discuss the recent US election which I am frequently asked about. I try to be as honest as possible when it comes to this topic since it isn’t exactly black and white for me. Regardless, the foreign response has been more than pleasant, even with my conservative leaning views.

The immigration issue is a hot topic among Europeans. I understand the situation as an out of control influx of people entering European countries who have no idea what to do with them. I’ve found that my European friends agree with that description which allows me to skip the moral argument for accepting refugees and go straight discussing the social impact that had occurred within these countries. I am not opposed to immigration and neither is anyone I’ve talked to but we do find ourselves agreeing that immigration to this degree has huge unintended social consequences.

I met a French man who has very strong opinions on the immigration issue in Europe. He seemed to follow the populist wave going through the continent but not to the point where he would claim that he supported the French National Front party leader, Marine Le Pen. However, he described his experience going back home as almost a completely different place. Crawling with Somali immigrants. A fast and swift demographic evolution that could overwhelm most people. He talked about their inability to integrate and their habit to sticking together. I told him I was surprised to meet someone from France who is so open about that view. He merely responded saying that not everyone in France is a liberal. I laughed but it also made the political shift moving across Europe that much more real. It’s not something I only read about in the news anymore.

It’s actually all quite fascinating.

Time for Part Two

Wellington Central

So it’s been something like five or six days since I’ve arrived in Wellington. I got off the Kiwi bus and had to say goodbye to all the people I had met on there. It was pretty sad to see them go. I didn’t click with them when I first met them but by the time the trip was over I learned to appreciate having them around. Even the one English girl, Lucy, who I thought was incredibly annoying when I first heard her speak turned out to be a sweetheart with an interesting story behind her.

A few from the Kiwi bus stayed a couple extra days in Wellington but eventually they’ve all moved on to the South Island. The past few days have been almost dull while I’ve been waiting for something to happen. I’ve only just started applying for jobs and I hope to find one soon. Not because I am endanger of going broke but because I am getting so damn bored.

Hostels

Back in Auckland I stayed in a hostel that was smack in the middle of the CBD. Great location. However, more importantly, it wasn’t a dry hostel. Every hostel I’ve been to since I left Auckland has been a dry hostel which I think contributes to a poor social atmosphere in the common areas. I’ve stayed in two hostels in Wellington and so far they have been dry and they have been relatively quiet.

I am not trying to get shit faced every night but I am trying to meet people. I met two girls in my current hostel and I have a feeling it is only because I recognized them from one of the Kiwi bus stops.

I feel as though I am off to a rough start in Wellington. Orlando was rough for me and I don’t have the same amount of time to waste here like I did back in Orlando.

Auckland-Wellington

A few days in we decided to hop on a tour bus operated by the Kiwi Experience. It’s a bus a lot of young people take to see as much of the country as you can. Our bus takes us from Auckland to Wellington with numerous stops in between.

I haven’t quite made it to Wellington yet but, right now I am in the small town of Taupo, smack in the middle of the north island. We have a two days to enjoy the town but every other stop has been a one day stop each. It’s been quick and a little hectic but very entertaining.

First stop was Hot Water Beach, where I did three hours of kayaking in the ocean through Cathedral Cove experiencing some of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. Everything looked like a painting. After kayaking we finally went on over to Hot Water Beach where we dug holes in the sand making our own hot pool.

Next stop was Waitomo which is probably my favorite stop so far. “Wai” means water and “tomo” means hole in the native Maori language and that basically what we did. We spent five hours exploring caves where these glowing maggots called glowworms reside. We zip lined and went tubing through the cave. Crawled through narrow passages and finally climbed waterfalls to find our exit. It was probably the coolest thing I had ever done.

From Waitomo we traveled to Rotarua, the Maori culture capital of New Zealand. Before arriving at Rotarua, we stopped at “The Shire” or also known as Hobbiton. This was the movie set for the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films, but I thought it was so much more than just a movie set. The level of detail put into this place was astounding. The movie crew created an entire village with over 30 hobbit homes and various gardens. The movie tour ended with a stop at The Green Dragon pub where we all enjoyed a pint before leaving for Rotorua.

Our time in Rotorua was much more relaxed. We spent the evening learning about the native Maori tribe. All our groups had assigned chiefs who participated in a short presentation of Maori tribe warriors sizing them up and determining whether we had come for war or for peace. I was able to briefly partake in learning the “Haka” which is a war cry dance before the Maori’s fnally treated us to a Polynesian style dinner. Chicken and Lamb looked in the ground. Potatoes, Oysters, and Fish. Absolutely delicious.

So far the Kiwi Experience has been exciting. The majority of people on the bus seem to be English followed by the second largest group being German. There seem to be only three Americans on our bus. I did expect some hostility for my nationality, everyone turned out to be very friendly.

I was hoping that the Kiwi bus would consist of more people who first began their travels in New Zealand but this was not the case. There were already groups on the bus who had been traveling the Island for sometime and cliques had already been made. It was a little more difficult to make friends then I hoped.

Only a few more days until we arrive in Wellington.

Auckland, New Zealand

It was a 13 hour flight from Los Angeles to New Zealand. Other than some small turbulence, it was a pretty smooth flight. I barely got any sleep(just as usual) and I arrived extremely exhausted having to figure out how to make my way from Auckland Airport to the central business district where our hostel was located. It took a little bit of time but we managed to find it.

One thing I realized while walking through Auckland was the smell. It reminded me of Taipei. It was the restaurants. Auckland was filled with Chinese, Japanese, and Thai restaurants that smell far more authentic than the Chinese restaurants from home. Auckland has a huge population of people from various Asian countries. Just from what I can hear and from looking at all the signs it seems the majority is from either Taiwan or China. Reminds me of the Spanish billboards at home.

Of course, other than the extremely noticeable large demographic minority, Auckland is a very diverse city which makes it incredibly charming to walk down the street. So many different languages are spoken by so many different kinds people and there is variety of different food options at every corner. Our first meal was from a Korean Pancake restaurant called Pancake #1. It was literally just a Pancake cooked with meat, chicken, or potatoes inside but, I had never had something like that before and it was delicious.

We ran a couple of errands after checking into the hostel but soon enough, our exhaustion caught up with us. We knocked out for about 3-4 hours but, when we finally woke up,we decided it was time to grab some beers and discuss what’s happening next after our short time here in Auckland. A couple of beers turned into a long night at both Ding Dong Lounge and this Karaoke Bar that I can’t remember the name of for the life of me. Aid and I sang “Call me Maybe” and Mariah Carey’s Christmas song. The crowd was easily entertained and we found ourselves back on stage with some new friends who we managed to convince to sing their own favorite songs for the crowd.

What a night.

As someone from the hostel told me, “If you want to get over your jet lag just get wasted.”

PS: Auckland, if 60 degree evenings is your idea of summer… well screw you.