Promised Land

I’ve been in Wellington for quite some time. After hostel hopping, I found a sort of home base at a hostel called Trek Global. It’s a hostel smack in the middle of the CBD filled with other long term travelers. A lot of the people here are great, I have made a couple friends. I watch anime with this English-Indian dude named Jake and talk about the current state of the union with another English guy named Harry who can’t seem to control how fast he speaks sometimes.

When I first arrived in New Zealand I had the hardest time understanding everyone when they spoke. Everyone seemed to have an accent other than North American. I still have trouble understanding people but I think I have the most trouble with Kiwis. They tend to  speak really low and I haven’t quite figured out the Kiwi or Aussie lingo other than “sweet as”. A kiwi named Blake, who is also staying here at Trek, does exactly this.

I was looking for work for a while until I decided I was going to try demolition work. Due to the earthquake that occurred a few months ago, there a ton of agencies who are willing to take on anyone who walks in the door. Of course, eight hours of moving rubble around is no easy task. I am a skinny man so it didn’t take long for this to take its toll on me. I was sore for the entire week. I am hoping to complete an entire week this coming week as a sort of challenge to myself. Unfortunately, the money isn’t very great. Minimum wage runs at about $15.25 in Kiwi money which runs to about $11 in American. I am looking for other work while I am doing this. Hopefully I find something that doesn’t leave my body broken.

Many other travelers talk of Australia. In Australia, the wages are supposed to be higher. The minimum wage runs to about $17 in Aussie money but most gigs tend to pay higher than that. I am curious about what contributes to that. None-the-less, many travelers describe Australia as a sort of promised land for people preparing their next trip. Even visiting Australia itself is easy. Most things to see are right there on the east coast and it is a pretty straight shot north from Melbourne to Cairns. It really makes me want to wrap up New Zealand and head over there ASAP. I want to stock up on cash and visit a few Asian countries before I go back home. Korea, Japan, or some of the South East Asian countries are on that list of potential countries to see.

Hmm.. What else, what else…

In complete honesty, I am growing bored of Wellington. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice city but I miss the days when I was seeing a new town or location every couple days. Waking up early, hopping on a bus and finding that next destination makes traveling so much more thrilling. I am determined to just hoard enough money to leave the city and head south. Being able to compare Auckland and Wellington to some of the smaller towns has made me appreciate the countryside. I am just not sure I am finding what I am looking for here. I’m not sure I even know what that is.

Currently listening to: Hands like Houses – No Parallel

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9XnrOad6mM

Traveling bummers

It’s been about a month and a half since I have arrived in New Zealand. It’s been great(I promise) but, there are a few things that I have learned about New Zealand and traveling since I got here.

The Bar Questionnaire

This is probably the most important one. The problem is not exactly the bars themselves but the rules that exist around going out and drinking. It’s honestly a minor issue but I does irritate me a little. There is a law in New Zealand that doesn’t allow businesses to sell you alcohol if you are drunk are even think you are drunk. Whenever you go to enter a bar the bouncer always talks to you. “How are you this evening?” and depending on how you answer it he will follow up with “How much have you been drinking tonight?” as if you were getting pulled over for a DUI. If they are uncomfortable about your condition they may deny you entry into the bar or club. If you come how got into the bar, the bartender will just serve endless amounts of water no matter what drink you try to order.

I witnessed the worst of this a couple weeks back. There was a group of us who decided to bar hope down Courtney Place. Among us what this Dutch who had an absolute terrible accent when he spoke English. At our second bar, the bouncer continued to grill him thinking he was drunk until the rest of us had to explain that he wasn’t blasted out of his mind to the point that he can’t talk. He’s just Dutch.

The Same Introductions

When you arrive at a new hostel there are always new people to meet which means that introductions are frequent. Maybe a little too frequent.

Go ahead and picture this. You enter your new room of four or six at the new hostel.You throw your bag on the bed. If you haven’t said hello to your roommates yet then they have absolutely said it to you. Now you are automatically caught in one of those frequent introductions.

“Hey, how’s it going?”
“Where are you from?”
“When did you get to New Zealand?”
“How long are you traveling for?”

You cannot escape it.

Short live friendships

As you go from city to city and hostel to hostel, you come across so many different people. Some of these people you may find absolutely awesome after you spend a night out or even a couple of days with them. However, when i comes to traveling, not everyone is always on the same page. Some people have less flexible itinerary’s than others. Some have a goal of looking for work in specific location and others have a short amount of time to travel.

Over the holidays I met a group of some of the coolest people. We drank together in the hostel lounge and hit bars multiple nights a week. But, when the holidays ended, it was time for them to continue traveling and it was time for me to start looking for a job so that I could continue travel. This wasn’t the first time this has happened and it won’t be the last. You absolutely enjoy these awesome people and your time with them but having to day goodbye so often can be a tad bit… well, emotionally exhausting.

Every coffee shop is exactly the same!

This drives me nuts. The only reason this bothers me so much is because someone bragged to me about how great the coffee in New Zealand is when I first got here. Honestly, it’s a little overrated. There is no variety. It’s as if every coffee shop owner got together and agreed on a universal coffee menu.

Short Black
Long Black
Flat White
Americano
Cappuccino
Hot Chocolate

Holy crap guys, try to spice it up a bit. People like to rag on Starbucks back in the United States, but at least they give a constantly changing menu. I can happily treat myself with that White chocolate macho peppermint cappuccino frappe grande. Hell yes.

Also, anyone who says North America doesn’t have any decent coffee has never been to South Florida.
If you are looking to travel do not let any of this keep you from doing so. I have had a blast so far and I don’t regret it a bit. Even in the things you like most people tend to find something to complain about.This is just some of them.

“Sensible Swiss”

I was sitting in the hostel lounge recently reading Daniel Mitchell’s (Cato Institute) blog. Daniel Mitchell has become my go to guy when it comes to international economics. He doesn’t only talk about the things that have to happen but what is likely to happen and under what circumstances. He is a realist in that sense. It’s fun to hear libertarian scholars talk about the ideal conditions for prosperity but I find more worth while to hear about solutions in the situation at hand.

Of course, That is all besides the point. In his New Year’s Eve post titled “The Best and Worst News of 2016”, he used to term “Sensible Swiss” which he apparently first used back in June when Switzerland voted against Universal Basic Income in referendum. This is not the first time I’ve heard this praise for the Swiss by libertarians. The Foundation for Economic Education posted an article in 2015 titled “9 reasons Libertarians should love Switzerland” which points out that Switzerland is the fourth freest economy in the world. Libertarians tend to have this idea that the average Swiss citizen is smarter in regards to economics than the global average person. I had never met anyone from Switzerland before, at least not until New Year’s Eve in Wellington.

It was early on NYE. A group of us were sitting around the Kitchen talking about whatever came to mind. Since traveling, I’ve noticed politics and culture is a common topic. I sat next to a young blond woman and asked her where she was from (I have developed a problem that I ask people where they are from before asking their name) and we began a conversation about home. From Miami to Cuban food then finally Cuba itself. I immediately explained the event of Castro’s death from the perspective of the Cuban and South Floridian community and I received the response that I least expected. She told me how suspicious she was of the narrative she got from the media. The media was very sympathetic of Castro and his legacy. She was the first to point out the atrocities of the Castro regime to me. I was so pleased to hear that no everyone overseas was so ignorant of Communist Cuba.

Unfortunately, this is only me analyzing the judgment of one Swiss girl. Maybe they are as “Sensible” as Daniel and other libertarians make them seem.

 

 

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.

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.

 

Looking Back

I’ve started my final week of work. I’ve been in the Air Force reserves for almost six years and this vital chapter of my life is about to come to a close.

Joining the military was one of the hardest things that I had ever done. Basic training felt long, repetitive, and, to this day, is the largest mental weight I have ever carried in my entire life. Many people have joined prior to me and completed it but, I didn’t exactly have much faith in myself when I took my oath. I considered myself sheltered, coddled, childish. I was 19 years old and was caught up in this endless routine that I absolutely knew needed to change. Joining the military seemed like a full proof way to make it happen.

It doesn’t exactly matter what I think about the military itself. The military is a character builder. It won’t change a bad person into a good person but, it can change a lazy person and give them a little bit of a work ethic. It can give someone a new view on life, especially someone who feels that there is not path for them. I believe the military did that for me and more. It helped develop my social skills. Being surrounded by the same people you went to high school does nothing for you. I’ve met people and established a relationship with people all over the United States. As I moved up in the ranks and earned more responsibility, I learned to communicate with people of different status. Now, I haven’t perfected these new skills by any means but, I feel it in myself that I have come a long way.

When I first decided I wanted to do go to New Zealand for a year, I looked at it as another way to force myself out of my comfort zone. I will be over a thousand miles away from home so it won’t be easy to just turn back. I will have removed the easy connection to the comfort of my friends and family back home. I will be in a different culture than back home, surrounded by people who are doing the same thing as I am. It will be a learning experience. Not just to further strengthen my social skills but it will be a chance to hear the ideas and thoughts of people who live outside my home country. New Zealand is a popular backpacking country. People from all over the world come to enjoy the visual master piece which is New Zealand. It’s small and easy to get across so many of the travelers also happen to be novices to the trade.

This is what I look forward to. My views as an American may conflict with those around the world. American values are not the same New Zealand values, European values, or Asian values. At this point, I believe I have views that will never be changed but I am open to them being challenged. That scares me, but it also excites me. I plan to record every bit of it.

Trump Dynasty

It’s been a long boring week back at the Homestead Air Base clinic that I’ve been working at. I just sold my car so I could have some extra money for this trip of a lifetime that I am about to embark on. I will be going to New Zealand for one year.

There is something far more great going on today. The presidential election has spills over to the early morning. While leaving the movie theater with my friend Adrian, I take out my phone to check the results. I’ve kept my phone in my pocket to keep my anxiety down. This has literally been the craziest election year in recent history with two incredibly disliked candidates. A mentally handicapped person and the devil of corruption have spent the past year fighting for the highest office of the land. America seems to have chosen Donald J. Trump for President of the United States.

Absolutely shocking! No one in the media and none of the polls had predicted it. It is an American Brexit. Stocks plummeted and people protested outside of the White House. I feel incredibly uneasy. Though, I’ve spent the past months criticizing Clinton on her corruption and history as failed Secretary of State, I wasn’t exactly a fan of Trump either. He is unprincipled, not conservative, and can barely make a coherent sentence. However, I need to come to terms with this.

The week or so prior to election day was spent digging through Clinton e-mails, watching campaign members resign in response to them, reading opinion pieces about the Clinton conspiracy, and basically solidifying my discontent with Hillary Clinton. Even though I was supporting third party candidate Gary Johnson, I was really starting to believe that Trump was the only one that could put an end to the Clinton dynasty.

Regardless, Donald Trump is now President Trump. He’ll stay that way for at least the next four years. I don’t believe he made his wealth on his own and, at the very least; he surrounded himself with successful people who helped make him what he is today. If he does the same as President then I don’t think America has much to be concerned about.
I am not leaving the country because I fear the result of a Trump presidency. In fact, I think it will rather entertaining the view it from the outside, surrounded by people who have been watching the United States from the outside its borders their whole lives.