One of the things that surprises me most when I travel to other countries is visiting their supermarkets and analyzing their products. Specially: the cleaning products.

When I was living in Holland, me and my friend Chiara were totally obsessed with finding the same products that we have home, but that didn’t happen and we realized that Dutch people have their own things, and a regular mop was not part of that. So when I came to New Zealand, I also wanted to know what to they use. And, of course, it has nothing to do with Spain.

1. Dishcloth. Our spanish “bayeta”.

Here they don’t have this! I mean, they have it in the supermarkets but we haven’t seen it in any house! And it’s so useful! You put in underneath the wet dishes and… surprise! It absorbs the water!

Dishcloth in Spain

Instead of that, in all the houses we just found a regular cloth.

Dishcloth in New Zealand

2. Scrubber. Our Spanish “estropajo”

That was the most surprising thing. For me a normal scrubber to do the dishes would be something similar to this:

 

Scrubber in Spain

Instead, Kiwis use something that I would regard for the glasses only. I have to say that I’m getting used to it, and for pans and cutlery is really good. I miss my dear “estropajo”, but I admit that the Kiwi version cleans better. By the way, in Spain our procedure usually is to put soap in the scrubber, put soap in every dish and leave them in the sink and then we rinse them under water. In New Zealand what they do is filling the sink with hot (really hot!) water and soap and they clean and rinse at the same time.

 

Scrubber in New Zealand

3. Mop. Our Spanish “fregona”

Well, here comes a weird thing. Theoretically the mop was a spanish invention. We have always been told so, and so says the spanish version of wikipedia. But if you look at the english version, then it was an american invention. Uhm. That’s weird. Anyway, that thing used to clean the floor in Spain is something like this:

Mop in Spain

The mop handle is supposed to be longer than the person using it, so you don’t have to bend down while using it and you don’t hurt your back. Instead of this, in New Zealand we have found a weird mop with an extremely short handle. It might seem useful, but it has a weird inclination that makes impossible to clean corners, and, moreover, if you mop without sweeping… it’s impossible to clean!

Mop in New Zealand

And well, this is the post that will make you all think that I’m a cleaning freak. Believe me: I’m not at all. It’s just that I’ve been in lots of houses, in different countries, and hey, I find it interesting to compare the products.

Today Marina and I celebrate our first month in New Zealand. After more than 2 months travelling, we have already been here for a month. Thanks to Marty we have driven through nearly 4000 (four thousand!) kilometers. So probably I can start stating my opinion about the country. Completely subjective. 100% me.

New Zealand is like everyone can imagine: completely green, completely blue, absolutely stunning. The landscape is beyond what I expected. So far we have just seen the North Island, so I guess South Island might be completely overwhelming (at least according to what locals say). Besides Auckland and Wellington there are no big cities, mainly small tiny towns, so everything you see is just pure nature: green fields, cattle, sheep, goats.

I haven’t seen any big apartment buildings, even in Auckland most of the people live in houses. Houses with the shape of a house, not semi-detached houses. And all is made out of laminated wood. The scenery is not comparable to anything I’ve seen before, but it feels familiar anyway. I guess is because it’s a European country. Let me explain: even though NZ is at the other side of the world, they have European culture, European roots and a European lifestyle.

The Maori culture is also here, but not usually mixed with the European one. I mean: Maoris have their own lands, their own styled houses and their own language. We have been told that through the last years there is an increasing number of maori speakers. By the way, from a linguistic point of view, Maori is extremely interesting. I’m already reading a grammar! It’s the first no-indoeuropean language that I can learn!!

Kiwi English is not easy to understand for us. I come from an american-based learning, so every time I hear New Zealanders talking about jandals instead of flip-flops I have to think twice what they mean. Here a pepper (either green or red) is called capsicum. But  anyway probably the pronunciation is the hardest issue: milk is [melk] and bed is [bit] (dear linguist readers: this is just an approximation to their pronunciation, I’m not trying to be exhaustive about phonetics!). So far we are still getting used to this, but after one month I can truly say that my ability to understand them has improved: suddenly the English from England sounds so easy!

Probably I have been extremely lucky or I have chosen extremely well my friends, but I have to point out the extreme hospitality of New Zealanders. From the first day they treated us as we had been friends for ages. Marty has been travelling with us for the last month, and he and his mates (Steve, Stevie and Jai) have had us in their house without almost knowing us. They have taken us to one of the most special New Year’s Eve that I can remember and well, to sum up, they have made us feel like home. It’s amazing to think about it. I wonder if in Catalunya we would do the same, and I guess we probably wouldn’t. Every morning these guys teach me that people ain’t so bad and that I still can rely on strangers.

Cultural differences have also appeared: New Zealanders have an impressive sense of privacy. No one enters a room unless is invited to. People respect other people’s space and belongings, even thoughts! Totally the opposite from Spain. I have also realized that definitely Spaniards are more passionate about everything. I thought that was a stereotype, but probably it isn’t. For Marina and I everything can be celebrated: a goal of our football team, 12 grapes in New Year’s Eve, the sight of a star in the sky. But New Zealanders seem much more relaxed about it. We were in a music festival during New Year’s eve, and no one seem to be as excited as us when the clocks past midnight.

The food culture is mainly british. So to say: the national food is fish and chips. Ok, the fish is incredibly tasty, but anyway, this is not a country with a huge food culture like Spain. I have eaten the most delicious scallops ever, and I have tried kinds of fish that I can’t even pronounce, but what I really need to stress about their food is BUTTER. Oh my God! New Zealand butter is amazing! So rich, so salty, so delicious! I even eat it without bread at all! Yummy!

Drinking is, like everywhere, an important activity here. Mainly beer. All sorts of beer. So many kinds of delicious beer! And also cider. Pear cider, apple cider! Refreshing and perfect for summer days. Mixed drinks are like everywhere else but Spain: really expensive with too few alcohol. I think I’ll keep drinking beer and cider for the next months.

The prices are more or less European. We haven’t found any big differences. Olive oil is not as expensive as one might think, potatoes are unexpectedly expensive but other products are just like in Europe: depending on the supermarket more or less expensive. For example a beer can cost between 1 and 2 euros in a supermarket and between 3 and 6 euros in a bar.

In general, New Zealand seems to me like a big Netherlands (I lived there a year, so I can actually compare both countries) because I could live here for a couple of years, but probably no more than that. The landscape is impressive, but the inhabitants are just outstanding.

Hey, I am really proud of the trip so far!

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Me in New Zealand

 

After so many days raining we were already loosing any hope of sun. No matter if the guys kept telling us that the sun would eventually come out, we weren’t buying it. Summer time, yes, but in summer there are plenty of rainy days too. So, when Monday morning was just cloudy we thought that a miracle has happened, and finally we could do some proper tourism!

First we went to visit Marty’s brother, Steve at Shaky Isles Coffee. Guys, kiwis have real and delicious coffee! Spanish style! I am so incredibly happy about that! The place is located in Kingsland, an Auckland suburb with cafes and nice shops.

After that we went to K’ Road, one of Auckland’s most hipster streets. You know, that kind of street from London or Berlin with amazing vintage shops, fashionable clothing, sushi places, vinyl stores. Auckland has the biggest concentration of hipsters that I’ve seen in ages! Everyone is so incredibly cool that we feel totally ordinary! Thank God we are from Barcelona, obviously that’s makes us cooler.

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Stamps in K' Road

No need to mention that I saw lots of pin-up dresses that I could have bought instantly. But again, I had to control myself and think about travelling a whole year and my tiny suitcase…

Whatever. K’ Road is the place to party and also the place to shop. The equivalent to Malasaña in Madrid. Makes me feel like home, and I like it.

On Monday evening we decided to do some spanish cooking (the day before I had cooked a mallorcan “coca de trempó“!), so Ina did her famous croquetas. First, spinach ones and then ham and cheese. Amazing. She’s the croquetas queen. No doubt about it! I didn’t take any picture, but I almost didn’t have time: we ate all of them in minutes!!

Today (Tuesday) we woke up and realized that it was sunny. SUNNY!! So we decided to have a real walk trough the city. We took our guides and headed to uptown. First stop: Auckland Domain, a beautiful park where the Auckland Museum is located.

 

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Pōhutukawa (also known as Christmas tree) and Auckland Museum

The Museum is a must see in the city. Not only we found some of New Zealand’s oldest maori art but also expositions about the most recent history (World War I and II), New Zealand’s volcanic geography and its flora and fauna. It was a general country overview, well explained, not boring at all and the entrance is just a suggested donation, so, it’s also cheap. We learned about volcanic explosions, we saw all kinds of weird animals and we found out that there’s a non-european perspective for World War I and II. Definitely worth it. And, obviously, we saw (unfortunately just a reproduction) of the world’s cutest animal: KIWI! I can’t wait to see them live!!

 

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Spotted Kiwi

Then we walked Parnell Road and it’s beautiful shops. So many amazing things! From head pieces to all sorts of paper sets with stamps! All really cute.

Walking through Albert Park we arrived to Midtown and to Auckland Art Gallery. We saw a very interesting exposition with portraits from the beginning of the XIX century. The fact was that the portraits were exactly like the ones we have always seen, but with Maori people, so everybody had their faces covered in tattoos. We also saw there some cool contemporary art.

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Auckland Art Gallery

 

And, after the first exhausting day in ages, we came back home. Hey, definitely, sun makes the whole difference. And Auckland is much cooler than what it’s inhabitants think!

By the way, despite the first days of total incomprehension with New Zealanders regarding their accent, I think I’m getting used to it. Or something like that. I know what jandals are, and how to top up a mobile phone. And I know that eventhough they say [melk], they mean [milk]. In a few months Australians will make fun of me too. Yeah!

Dear readers if you still exist,

Don’t think that I forgot about this blog. It’s just that our trip is in stand-by until we start doing all the paperwork for our visas. It all will start in August, because the trip is still planed for November. So, just stay tunned.

On the meantime, my friend Mo has send me some links that I wanted to share with you.

This incredible image is one of the ten things in Australia that will make our skin crawl.

(more…)

It is deeply fascinating to learn about NZ birds. Specially if you think that I cannot name more than five spanish native birds (and I could even say that five is a too high number!). However, as I told you when I wrote about the weird penguin that lives in forests, travelling is the best way to learn more from other countries than from you own one.

One of my latest and funniest discoveries are a parrot called Kea and another parrot called Kakapo. But today I just will focus on Kea. Shorter story!

Kea is a really beautiful parrot. As you can see:

But what is special about this parrot is not its beauty, but it’s character.
A Kea parrot is an incredible bird capable of destroying a car in a few minutes. Don’t believe me? Look at this!!
(more…)

This is going to be the long wait. We can’t do anything until three months before the trip, so we bought the NZ Lonely Planet and we have started reading about that country.

Reading a Lonely Planet guide is always useful, but it gives me a weird feeling. Once I read the Lonely Planet about Spain, and I realized that I didn’t know most of the things about my country. But well, is what I always say: foreigners know my country better. Erasmus students, for example, always find the best bars and the coolest concerts. So, if I read the entire guide, probably I’ll know NZ better than a kiwi itself. Maybe it’s a good idea, this way I might find a job as a touristic guide…

Anyway, what Mo and I really want to see in NZ is a kiwi bird. Yes, not a really original idea. But, have you seen that cute kiwi-fruit-a-like bird? I want to cuddle it!

Kiwi birds are actually the national symbol of New Zealand. An endangered animal with five recognized species that has the size of a domestic chicken.

However, what really surprised me was reading about the Yellow-eyed Penguin or Hoiho. That penguin lives in the forests!

I have several friends who are veterinarians and they were really surprised to hear about a penguin that doesn’t live next to water. And, what’s even more surprising, those penguins are still black and white, without any camouflage at all in the middle of a green forest! Is hoiho against the laws of survival? How do they keep themselves alive?

Anyway, I hope I see them: penguins and kiwis. It’s funny, because as a child my mother always called me “penguin”. I can’t wait to see them and send a picture to her!