Auckland’s K’Rd

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K’Road in Auckland

For the last two evenings I have had the pleasure of frequenting a wonderfully diverse part of Auckland’s Central Business District, K’Road (Karangahape Road). Its name appears to come from the Maori “Calling on Hape.” Hape was an important chief of the Maorii, and this might have been the path to visit him. Alternately, it may mean “Winding Path of Human Activity,” and that certainly fits K’Rd as we find it today.

This 1 km stretch of curving road is packed with every kind of shop, restaurant, bar, you-name-it. Cuisines vary from a wonderful Crêperie where we had dinner last night (the whole crew is from La Belle France), to Mexican, Moroccan, Lebanese, Thai, Chinese, Turkish, great Kabab placxes (in one of which we had a feast the night before), Italian, and anything else you might want, Bars and clubs of all flavors abound, and the general atmosphere is welcoming and friendly.

Most major cities have a district like this, and I suppose the old term for this was Bohemian, denoting unconventional, devoted to the arts.” I am not sure how the term for the German area around Munich (and in the old days, designating the Czechs too) became associated with Beatniks and their like, but it did.

For New York, think The Village. For San Francisco, the Haight, Valencia, Columbus Ave,…and more. For L.A., perhaps Melrose and Venice Beach. For Phoenix, well…. Tempe’s Mill Avenue is kind of a yuppified stand-in (more may developed since I lived there…Phoenicians, sound off!).

Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver and many other Canadian cities have their Bohemian districts (Canadians, please let us know), and certainly La Rive Gauche (the Left Bank) in Paris is perhaps the quintessential archetype of this type of district.

In fine, if you are a major Western Civilization City, ya gotta have one! Its where things are usually inexpensive and creative. Freedom of expression is the byword, and diversity is its strength. It keeps the Urban landscape vibrant, and (I am from the 60s), funky.

K’Rd is all of the above. There are many fascinating neighborhoods in Auckland, including a vibrant Central Business District, diverse suburbs with every kind of store front you can think of, all set down here is Paradise. Our cab drivers have shown us all kinds of neighborhoods in our short time here.

We understand why people love this place. I know it has its share of trouble like anywhere else on the Planet, but I have yet to meet anyone on the street or in establishments who didn’t look happy, There are car crashes (three on the news this morning) and all the other ills of human life, but I get the impression that overall, New Zealand is a happy and peaceful place.

In the days to come, I will learn more about how the Maoris are doing, and how Christchurch is digging out of its disastrous earthquakes. I’ll keep you apprised. So far, something has struck me very forcefully. We’ve been through a number of neighborhoods of all economic classes, and I have yet to see anyone sleeping on the street in this city of a million (SF is only 700,000 and our Homeless Brothers and Sisters are ubiquitous). No pan-handlers either.

To be sure, on K’Rd later at night, there are people who have had too much to drink (or too much of something!), but they are making their way somewhere. There are tweakers and others, but you will find them anywhere.

I do not know how this has come about. I will ask around, as we need to take care of so many people back home who need assistance. If anyone has any reflections, please comment here.

We are getting ready for the next stage, sailing around the magnificent islands of the Northland of NZ. More soon!

— Steven Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant, Member and Customer Service


There and Back Again: Halfway around the World!

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AucklandMontage24032011I Find Myself in Middle Earth!

…Or at least in its cinematic setting. New Zealand. All the way around the world!

I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would be here. But as my old Latin teacher, Fr.. Maurey Brill, S.J. said to us in class, “Never predict what may happen in your future.” In fact, I think he might have used the analogy of going to Australia (where I will be soon!).

I hope to send a series of reflections from my travels, and this will be the first, from the Wi-Fi Breakfast nook of the Jet Park Hotel in Auckland.

Often when I come to as new place for the first time, I have an idealized experience which stays with me forever. My first encounter New Haven, with Berkeley and with Haight Street in SF all have a faerie quality to them in my memory.

Something similar happened yesterday when we got to Auckland after an exhausting period of travel (3 flights, about 18 hours in the air, plus layovers and normal travel problems). We don’t have Anthony Bourdain‘s production crew with us to smooth things out!

When we landed at the airport, it all seemed somehow familiar, and somehow different. Our language was everywhere, but so was Maori. The money looked different, but it was in dollars, and my ATM card worked fine to obtain it (with the foreign currency surcharge, of course…blast you run-away capitalism!).

But it all got stranger when we took a cab ride up to K Road, a popular downtown district. As we drove through many different neighborhoods, some reminded me of Britain or Eire, some of Phoenix, some of New York–say Brooklyn or the Bronx, some of Toronto and Vancouver. And all of this is smack-dab in the South Pacific, world away–literally–from all those other places.

And much was distinctively New Zealand.

What began to dawn on me was this was my civilization, projected onto these paradisical islands, mixed with Maori and Pacific Rim culture, and alive and vibrant. Wow!

The closest analogy I could draw was from a number of episodes of Josh Whedon’s Firefly, in which we see Old West towns established on other planets. This is another world, yet Her Majesty is on the banknotes, and they make good mixed drinks.

Now you may say…Steven, you grew up in North America, where several European Cultures projected themselves and morphed: the many regions of the U.S., Canada and Mexico all are a result of this. But I am experiencing what G.K. Chesterton called Mooreeffoc.
He describes taking a long voyage, and recounts the strange habits of those he meets. Of course, in the end, he is speaking of the Britons, his own people, just seen from another perspective. Mooreeffoc is Coffee Room seen thought the other side of the glass door. It means that we must often get a different perspective to see what we have been experiencing all our lives.

I reflected on the awe the colonists must have felt discovering these lands, and also the surprise and all-too-often horror that the inhabitants felt when they saw these uninvited strangers setting up camp. Frequently it was not a good mix from their standpoint.

With the Maoris, I know that there have been many tragedies, many problems. But from what I can tell so far, this was a more successful partnership than most other European colonizations. I am sure that Maoris will help me understand better, but when I look at how the Native Peoples of the Americas were treated (with remarkable exceptions such as the Jesuits), this feels better. I’ll keep you up-to-date.

I am fascinated to have this opportunity to see my own assumptions, my own viewpoints from another perspective, Mooreeffoc! And to experience a part of our planet I never hope to visit. I know it will enhance my service in teaching and Member Services. I hope this gets through to all of you, and please send your prayers and light for safe travel.

An editorial note: I am typing these on my iPhone with a Bluetooth Keyboard, and although this arrangement works well, I am not able to proof these entries as carefully as I would normally. I pray you forgive me for any typos and infelicities!

Your Faithful Correspondent,

Steven Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant, Member Services