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The raving thoughts of a misanthropic academic

February 19, 2013

My Neighborhood

Silverdale, Hamilton NZ

I don't have many friends here in New Zealand. In fact, aside from my colleagues at the school, I've met hardly anyone. This dilemma is the three-fold product of not having a vehicle, awaiting my first pay stub, and working full-time. But the longer I'm confined to my corner of town, the more I find that belonging to a place is a funny thing. And, in fact, this sense of belonging is not terribly difficult to achieve if one tries. 

Consider my almost daily trip to the carry out place down the street, or as they say here in New Zealand the "take away." By the by, I can't say I understand the nomenclature. But then again, I can't understand why Kiwi drive on the left side of the road and substitute the letter "s" for "z" in ways that make no sense. For example, if New Zealanders had the word in their vocabulary, "privatize" would be spelt "privatise."

I suppose it's not only the nomenclature that makes little sense. They play cricket here too.

God bless America.   

Anyway, back to my take away shop.

It's difficult to chat sometimes with the amiable proprietor given our language barrier. As noted, I speak American whilst they speak English with inflections of Vietnamese. But I come in often, and I feel rather comfortable here. They've also gotten to know me quite well and usually fire up a cheese burger when they spot me crossing the street. 

The place is run by a father, his son, and his wife - who, incidentally, speaks way better English than either bloke. But it's the father who's the chatty sort. He likes to give me a hard time for ordering the cheapest, least healthy thing on the menu. I can't understand him all the time, but those times I can't, I'm pretty sure he's saying in Vietnamese that I'm going to give myself a heart attack. I respond to his shenanigans by reminding him that my consistent patronage keeps him in business. This always gets a good laugh.

Tomorrow, we'll repeat the schtick. Because, after all, we both know I'll be back. 

And that's the funny thing really. My analytical mind knows that this is a transactional relationship. He and I chat because we both want to continue the arrangement: he provides a service and I pay him for providing me with food. But in nearly all ways, it's a perfectly honest, open relationship. Does that make it less of a friendship because its transactional? I don't think so.

The bottom line is that they are keeping me well-fed and I am helping to keep them in business. And when you share a small corner of the globe in a small corner of the country, in a small corner of town, well, that's just what neighbors do.


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Organic, free-range thought courtesy of your average, coffee-addicted, American Indian, academic. Program Manager @IGPatUA.


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