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Today I woke up with no voice and a terribly sore throat. It’s just that time of year. I am guessing my stressed out self probably hasn’t helped things in terms of housing a calm, well-rested immune system, but it’s just part in parcel.
Funnily enough, I got into a fit of giggles last night while lying in bed, with my wheezy laugh and croaky voice. I sounded like a hysterical 90-year-old man about to croak. The cause for my laughter? The realization that despite my natural ability to pick up languages, (about a decade ago I was fairly fluent in French and Spanish…can still read and half understand conversations) I am going to make a complete ass of myself in New Zealand.
You see, while being an English-speaking nation, New Zealand has also done an incredible job of incorporating its Maori roots into everyday language – many cities, towns, neighbourhoods, names of native plants and animals, foods, beer, etc. go by Maori names or words. The Maori culture is a brilliantly important part of the New Zealand identity, and the language is guaranteed to trip up us North Americans as soon as we open our mouths.
For starters, “Wh” sounds like “fa”. So towns like Whakatane (where Simon’s parents live) or words like whanau (family) are pronounced Faah-kah-taan-ay and faah-no. I proudly have the “wh” down, but it is the emphasis on the syllables that really “whaks” me off. Heh. Get it?
Last night we were on TradeMe, New Zealand’s equivalent of craigslist, looking for a place to live, when I stumbled across an Auckland neighbourhood called Otahuhu. I like to think I gave it a nice attempt with “Oh-ta-hoooo-hoo”. A bit like a choo-choo I know, but I couldn’t resist. The look on Si’s face was priceless. Before he could even open his mouth I was lost in uncontrollable (although almost silent, except for the rasping) laughter. Then it was his turn “o-TA-hoo-hoo”. The main difference being the emphasis on the second syllable, followed by a very short hoo-hoo – more like giving a hot bowl of soup a couple quick blows to cool it down, and less like the Via-Rail rolling up.
Are you laughing? I know you just tried both pronunciations out loud for full affect.
If I can get some audio of us doing this, I will. But for now, I would just like you to practice out loud in solidarity with me and imagine how much laughter I am going to cause on the other side of the Pacific. Hopefully it will be more like a ripple of laughter and less like a tsunami.
I can be a bit of a planner when it comes to travel. So naturally, I am trying to soak up as much info as possible about my new place of residence before I get there. It makes it more exciting to focus on the new and not think about the sad bits.
I recently discovered an entire section of Immigration New Zealand’s website dedicated to info for new migrants. There are back issues of migrant-focused magazines, a guide to living inNew Zealand and all sorts of other goodies.
Since I am a tactile kind of person, when it comes to print materials, I printed off the entire living guide (all 190 pages) and as many archived issues of New Zealand’s migrant magazine as I could find and put them in a binder to read late at night in bed.
Even though my partner is a kiwi, it has been informative, and a bit hysterical reading through my binder and yelling out “did you know’s” across the house. Simon has been in Canada for almost his entire 20’s – an extremely important decade in determining self identity as an adult – and in terms of health care, employment, taxes, the current arts and culture scene, transportation, banking, etc, he naturally knows more about these systems inCanada than in New Zealand.
So far some of my favourite “did you know’s” – for either informative or entertainment purposes are:
- Apparently the typical low point for a new migrant in a country is 15 months. It is a natural downward progression from the exciting highs of adventure to the bummed out lows of frustration and homesickness. (Note to self: Book a ticket home around this time!)
- All parts of New Zealand operate in the same timezone…Canada has what, like 4 or 5??
- In 2009 an average cost of a DVD player/recorder was $399 (YIKES!)
- In New Zealand, you get paid by the week and pay rent by the week…that’s a lot of cheques.
- Most expectant New Zealand mothers choose to be cared for by midwives and maternity leave is only 14 weeks.
- There are over 300 restaurants and cafes in central Wellington, more per capita than anywhere else in the world.
- The school year begins in late January or early February as opposed to September in North America.