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Category: Travel

Free man in Auckland

My friend Richard Freeman has been traveling around the world this year. He’s been to Argentina, Shanghai, and now Auckland, New Zealand. And here’s his latest e-mail update:

(AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND) 9 Dec 2005 — Ahhh, it is nice to be back in an English speaking country again. Even if they don’t really speak English! (Kidding). (Kind of). Auckland is a pleasant enough, if not boring, city. Many Kiwis (who do not live here), say it is the worse part of NZ. I can see their point. I was even in Wellington for 4 days (the capital), and it was smaller (300,00 v. 1.2 million), yet it felt like there was much more culture and other amenities…

NZ has this reputation of being a “green” country. Maybe I should hire their P.R. company to help get me a job. They produce more waste per individual then any industrial nation. They have more cars per capita then we do in the US!!!! Also, their streets are full of cheap Japanese used car imports. These cars could not pass the smog controls in Japan, so they sell them here, where their laws are less stringent! They also drive like idiots, (as well as on the “other” side of the road). NO ONE crosses the street without having a walk sign! It’s bloody ridiculous! I waited too. Especially because i had no idea from where i would be hit if i tried to cross. I played a game the first week; if i was to cross now, when it appears clear, from where would I get plastered? After a week or so, when it seemed the worse that would happen was a little nick, I started taking matters into my own hands (or feet), and began crossing without the light! Always a rebel! The culture of NZ is a total car culture, borrowed directly from L.A. There is the ugliest huge highway that cuts the city and fills an entire little valley with the juncture of several routes and overpasses and ramps. It cuts one side from the other to any pedestrian contact! (I will add a photo today or tomorrow). It is also VERY ugly! The bus system is not real helpful, although we have used it. Also, there is one kind of regional train (and cross-country). We have used the regional often enough, and it is not bad (although it is always late). One interesting thing, however, is that for much of its line, there is only one track. Yes one. That means two trains going in opposite directions (i.e. to the city, away from the city), cannot be running at the same time… There are some places for passing… Who in their right mind did this???? (I forgot to ask!).

Now, the population of the “floating” population of Shanghai is 4 million (to refresh your memories, it is not allowed in China to just move from one place to another, you must have a resident’s card to get all the benefits of citizenship (what few remain). Yet, most of the construction workers are “illegals” from the rural areas, uncounted in census numbers). The entire population of NZ is 4.3 million. The same as just the unknown quantity in Shanghai! This is a small and intimate place. People know each other. People know their Politicians, personally. We met with two mayors! Including the mayor of Auckland, Dick Hubbard, who is a cereal magnate. He started an “ethical” business, and has some great ideas for the city. Mayor Bob, of Waitekere (one of the 5 cities that makes up the Auckland region) invited us to his home in the woods (since we mentioned we will be near there our last week at a retreat for 5 days). (All this is only 30 minutes from the city). He is a very charismatic man, from the labor party, and is trying to get some interesting things done for the city as well, to make it really more green (as is Hubbard).

One of the great things about the city is the beaches nearby and the countryside, which starts right at the city limits. I have done some hikes, but will do more when the students leave and I take a 15 day trekking trip to the south island (Auckland is on the north island).

Now what is fascinating about this country is its cultural make-up: Mostly European, 15% Maori (Kia ora, all!), abut 8% Pacific Islanders (more Samoans here then in Samoa!), and a new influx of Asians. Things are not all harmonious, but they are trying. There was a treaty with the maori in 1839, giving them equality. But, it was a little different in both languages. The Europeans (re: the “whites”), or Pakeha, did not really keep the spirit of the treaty very well. Today there is a national debate about redress issues, they redid their parliamentary system to see to it that minorities (re: Maori) have representation (gee, let’s work our system so the Blacks are represented in numbers to their populations, and the Latinos too!). As I said, it is not all rosy, but there is a determination to construct a harmonious bi-cultural society. A discussion sorely missing in the US. Yes, racism exists, etc. But still, they are addressing it publicly! Now, a problem is that a bi-cultural society does not do much for the Pacific Islanders (who were invited to come in the 60s-70s because of a labor shortage, and whose kids have largely never been to the islands (we have met with many of them)), nor the Asians. This is also somewhat being addressed. The P.I. will be a higher % of the population then the Maori in 30 years or so. A fascinating experiment in multi-culturalism… (bi-lingual education, etc.).

Some numbers, back in the 70e when the Pis came, unemployment was 1%!!!! Today it is a whopping 3.8%.

Much discussion is that the land to the Maori is not just physical, but it is their ancestors, and is very sacred. So, there are discussions in urban planning when land sacred to the maoris is threatened. Etc. (Interesting, the Maori’s arrived about 1,000 years ago from around the Pacific. Islands. Their were some 50 tribes. And they fought with each other constantly, until the Europeans arrived which united them (see, we always define our community in opposition to who is not one of us, the “other”). They were all from the same basic language family. They were only called the Maori after the arrival of the Europeans).

Well, I think that says most of the basic things i have discovered here. I also hiked in a park within Wellington where they shot the scene from Lord of the Rings when the hobbits were hiding under a huge tree root from the dark riders. And let’s not get started with King kong…

Today was the last day of classes. Monday we are heading into the hills for a 5 day “retreat” at a Yoga retreat. A beautiful space in the woods, with hiking trails, a river to swim in, cabins, food will be served to us, and we will get to the ocean a couple of times. While there we will close the semester with reflections and shit like that. The faculty stopped by last week on drive. It is lovely! As for the students…. Well, they are the same bunch of very ego-centric individuals who just can’t see beyond their own worlds and their own comforts. The faculty? Well, my tongue is very bloody from holding it all semester… But overall we do get along (at least we talk and laugh with each other, unlike last year). And our program fellow, “jefe” is just great. She helps my sanity, and she gets along with the students, so she is a good balance for us (I get along with the students too, just to be clear) (The other two faculty… well….).

I really do think the students have gotten a lot out of this program. They really will not see it until they are back home, for the most part. Their assignments for my class showed that when they put their minds to it, they do “see” things. My assignments are all fieldwork based, so it forced them to go out and look and talk to ….. locals. For the most part, i was pleased. One young lady, a Texas raised Bush-ite born again Christian, is, apparently, having an existential meltdown. She had lunch with our fellow, and is worried about going home. She sees things now that she did not before, because she was raised to think in this way, and not to look (she is also an engineering student at MIT). Her grandmother is a racist, and her parents do not treat others different from them very, well, Christian (heh, heh). She sees that there are many other views out there, all valid, some more so then hers. And she has seen people struggling in ways and communities she had never new existed. WOW, no? My work is done. Time to move on.

Soooo, I will. Everyone flies home next Friday (the 16th). As I mentioned, i will stay here for 2 days then fly down to the south Island to do some trekking. Landof glaciers and lakes and adventure! Then visit a friend in Adalaide, Australia (She and her friends are renting a house on the ocean in a national park while I am there). Then off to Sydney for 5 days… And home to the cold winter days of western New york (on the 18th, for those who care)! Well, it is nice weather to edit my video, get the revisions done for my chapter (due early Feb) (to be published in an edited volume on teaching visual anthropology by University of Texas Press), and some other business (which, unfortunately, does not pay). Although, this program (IHP), is going to pay me for a month to do some curriculum development work to try and get this program better integrated. Also, i will be teaching a 4-week intensive seminar at the University of Rochester this May-June. I am going to try and put together a mini version of this program, looking at Rochester, talking to local politicians, activists, touring neighborhoods, etc. And, next August it looks like I will be off again!!!!!

So, my friends, our journey together is coming to an end. I really appreciate the time you gave me, allowing me to bend your ears. I hope you liked my “yarns.” I will leave you with three images of Auckland. Nothing shattering, but a glimpse of the city, and the beach, only 40 minutes away, near where we will be next week. I will lose this laptop and regular internet access, but will hit-up the internet cafes every couple of days. So, please feel free to say hey.

Love to you all, have a great holiday and a very happy new year!!!!!!

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Among the soccer people

As a soccer fan in the U.S., you spend a lot of your time (a) trying to convince your friends that the game is worth watching; (b) watching SportsCenter highlights to see if 15 seconds of soccer coverage made it in; (c) sitting in bars and restaurants with strangers watching TV broadcasts of the US National Team in some faraway land; or (d) all of the above.

Once in a while, though, you find yourself surrounded by soccer people, and you realize that you’re not alone.

Today was a day like that.

For the second consecutive year, I went to the National Soccer Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Oneonta, NY. (Yes, the Hall of Fame is in Oneonta. Don’t ask.) This year was the first all-MLS class to be inducted, and it featured one of the all-time great players in American soccer, Tab Ramos of my beloved MetroStars. Also inducted were Marcelo Balboa, John Harkes, Fernando Clavijo, and Hank Steinbrecher.

Just like last year, the Hall was filled to overflowing with soccer fans who had traveled from around the U.S. (and from Europe) to witness the induction of five men who helped shape the modern game here in the U.S. Everywhere you looked, you saw soccer royalty, from the heads of U.S. Soccer and MLS to folks like MetroStars GM Alexi Lalas and veteran broadcaster JP Dellacamara.

The Hall itself is wonderful, filled to the brim with soccer history and memorabilia from the game’s earliest days to its modern era. But perhaps the coolest thing is to see all the young kids roaming wide-eyed through the exhibits. They already know many of the names, and they remember the best goals and games.

If you’re a soccer fan, you really can’t do any better than Induction Weekend. From now on, many of the great MLS players and Men’s and Women’s National Team players will make up the inductee ranks, and each year promises to bring in a larger crowd. A crowd of soccer people. As Hall of Famer Hank Steinbrecher said today: “Our time has come.”

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The Cranes on the Cape

When I was a kid, I spent some fun vacations on the Atlantic coast of Massachusetts (my home state), including in Plymouth and on Cape Cod. This summer, for the first time in years, I went back there. And this time, I brought my own family along.

We stayed in Brewster, in a house my parents rented. It was close to Sheep’s Pond, where we went on the first sunny day. Massachusetts is filled with small lakes — called “ponds” by the locals — and some actual ponds, also called “ponds” by the locals. (The most famous of which is probably Walden Pond, favored site of Henry David Thoreau.)

Early in the vacation, Jen and I left Bernie with my folks and made our annual pilgrimage to my hometown of Lenox, Mass., to see James Taylor play his July 4 show at Tanglewood. Wonderful, as always. His band this year included Rochester’s own Steve Gadd on drums; Larry Goldings on piano and organ; Lou Marini of the Blues Brothers on sax; and the great Arnold McCuller on backing vocals. I also got to see my first fireworks over Stockbridge Bowl, an old Berkshires tradition.

One thing that really surprised me about the Cape was the food. It wasn’t very good. Particularly the seafood. From what I’ve read, the Cape has been so overfished that most of the seafood you get there is flash-frozen far away and shipped to the Cape, making it about as much a seafood paradise as, say, Pittsburgh. Plus, it’s incredibly overpriced. I went to the Kream -N- Kone for a fried clam platter with onion rings and fries. The price: $19.99. You’re welcome.

If you’re going, there’s at least one other thing to avoid — the ZooQuarium in Yarmouth. The name alone should have been a warning. And when we pulled up and discovered that it was housed in a huge concrete bunker, we should have turned tail and fled. But for some reason we plunked down $30 to get in to what was essentially a petting zoo with a sea lion. It was like paying $30 to go to Petco for the afternoon. And Bernie’s not a big fan of loud noises, so the main attraction — a sea lion show in a big concrete auditorium — sent him running back outside in about 10 seconds. Traveling tip: Avoid the ZooQuarium.

On the plus side, the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History was wonderful. The museum itself was closed when we went, but we walked the trails, which were beautiful. If the trails are any indication of the quality of the museum, it would be worth a visit. The John Wing trail (named after an early white settler of the area), wound across a marsh and a cranberry bog before crossing a small island and ending at a secluded beach. Absolutely gorgeous.

We also had fun in Plymouth, one of my old summer haunts. (And the town where I famously spent a week at the age of about 7 eating Ding Dongs and candy at my grandparents’ house, and returned from vacation as round as a basketball, much to my parents’ chagrin. They made me jog every night for a week or so, but natural growth eventually took care of the weight.) Bernie and Jen and I went to Plimoth Plantation, a living museum which houses a 17th-century settler village and a Native American village. My one comment about the Plantation is that I’d like more third-person interpretation in the settler village. It’s interesting to talk with actors playing the part of 17th-century pioneers, but when you ask them how they did a job without a drill and they respond “I know not of this tool,” it doesn’t really answer your question. Overall, though, a really interesting trip, even in the rain with a two-year-old.

We also went to the Mayflower II, a replica of the original that was built in the late 50s as a postwar sign of friendship between the UK and US. The boat sailed from the UK to the US when it was built, and it has sailed several times since. I remember going there as a kid and learning this deathless humor: April showers bring May flowers, but what do May flowers bring? Pilgrims. (I’ll be here all week. Try the Indian corn.)

When I used to go to Plimoth Plantation as a kid, I always fantasized about my family having arrived on the Mayflower, which of course they didn’t. In the intervening years, though, I discovered that my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather (that’s nine “greats”) Stephen Flanders came to Massachusetts in 1638. The Flanders line goes through my maternal grandfather Bernard (after whom my son is named) and my mom to me. At Plimoth Plantation, when I looked through many of the books on early settlers of Massachusetts, my family was in there. So that was pretty hip.

If you go to the Cape, make sure you go see some games in the Cape Cod Baseball League. One out of every six former college players in Major League Baseball played in the Cape League, which is the premier college summer league in the country. Jen and I read The Last, Best League by Jim Collins, which tells the story of the 2002 Chatham A’s. We went to a couple A’s games, and they were everything we’d imagined. Future stars, before all the hooplah. Don’t miss it. (To get a little taste, you can listen to Cape League games online.)

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