I arrived safe, sound and fit in Germany yesterday and am sitting right now in my parent’s lounge, watching some TV and thought that I’d pass on a few of my experiences of the 39 hour trip. Yupp, it took a cool 39 hours and I didn’t even count the time on the ferry from the Barrier to Auckland. But I counted the 4 hours at the airport in Auckland, the 1 hour bus trip to the airport, the 7 hours in transit in Shanghai, the 3 hour trip from Amsterdam to Neuenkirchen and of course the net flight time of a bit over 24 hours.
Let’s talk about the ferry for a moment anyway, it was a comfortable 4.5 hour trip in calm waters and conditions – I refrained from taking many pictures and won’t try to upload any until figuring out how to resize picture resolutions on Windows 7. Didn’t think it was necessary to bring my laptop, which runs Ubuntu, well, only until I turned my mom’s laptop on. Running Windows as an operating system is like driving a car whilst crossing your arms on the steering wheel. Yeah, you can get used to it (I mean the driving), but why would you? It is simple and utter B***s**!
Back to the ferry. We spotted, some later than others, a pod of bride’s whales during the crossing of the Colville Channel and as I had feared, that was enough reason for the skipper to turn the vessel around and ‘chase’ them. Obviously, the skipper knows what he is doing and he didn’t chase the pod like some other tourist operators do, but in my opinion at least harassed them for a while. Whilst all passengers were so happy to take thousands of pictures of them, I couldn’t help wonder if approaching a pod with such a massive vessel and following them in close range of 5-10 meters is anything else but haressment. But let’s leave this question to students being funded by tax payer’s money to do some state of the art marine science. I hear Massey University is an ‘Engine’ for such research. After all, a student has (re-)discovered and (re-)documented that marine mammals can receive fatal injuries when being hit by a vessel or its respective props. Interestingly, a long-time (50 years plus) Barrier local told me that ever 3-4 years one of them dolphin and whale counters comes to the island on a regular basis, just to find out things that have been found out before many times. And if there are not on the water, there are in the bush, counting other fauna and making astounding conclusions based on their counting efforts (the conclusions are certainly not of statistical nature…). I reminded the local that as a matter of fact some marine science students do exactly that, namely counting, and end up with a doctorate.
There was a baby screaming for 7 hours on the 13 hour flight from Auckland to Shanghai and one of the few reasons why I could stay calm, pretending not to hear the screams, was that I paid considerably less than those ‘poor’ buggers in business class for the same trip. As you might have noticed, there is always a dedicated spot for infants in airplanes and often enough that spot is directly behind the last row of business class seats, the only separation being a curtain.
Another deeply annoying experience (at least for me, and always) is the rudeness of people in airports. Nowadays, almost everyone has a smart phone or a tablet-computer, and they are also so important. They must, because they are constantly on that f**g phone. Talking constantly and loudly. What ever happened to consideration for others? I DON’T WANT TO HEAR WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY ON THE PHONE! If it isn’t the phone, it’s some loud game on the tablet or lengthy and loud discussions about random shit with your companions. Living remote and in my case recluse as well, it is beginning to become quite dis-normal to me to being in ‘larger’ crowds of people. And if half of those people are talking, trying to be a little bit louder than those around them, I can’t help myself trying to find a private and quiet corner somewhere. Let’s bring on the smart-phone viruses that can be uploaded via blue tooth!
My first impression from the very brief stay in the Netherlands and Germany is that there are lots and lots of nice cars on the streets. Most of them are either very newish and/or Audi, Mercedes, Porsche, BMW etc. Of course, this is nothing new to me, nevertheless it feels a little bit like going to the future when comparing it with Great Barrier Island.
Another thing I like to mention is that I so often hear that living on Great Barrier Island, well, almost anywhere in beautiful New Zealand, is living in paradise. Well, let me burst your bubble right there, New Zealand is beautiful and clearly a place and culture that I enjoy very much. However, I cannot – and never have – say that New Zealand(ers) and the government live up to the potential of New Zealand. Be it the large businesses that often have a monopoly status asking for ridiculous amount of money for goods and services. Think about the costs of internet, mobile phoning, the price for vegetables and even meat, power, tuition costs for universities and schools, overall high taxes; all this and more, but that combined with the lack of professional service and as a matter of fact availability of some services and goods. Think about public transport for instance.
You can live in any little town in Germany and I bet you there is a baker (a real baker, not a franchise that sells breads), very close to that, there is always a butcher (again a real butcher, not one franchise), a bank, a post office, two or three grocery shops that compete with each other, resulting in low food prices, then there is the pharmacy, a school, a couple of sports clubs. Most importantly, all these providers of services and goods are in walking distance!
I’ll take some pictures of the vast amount of solar panels which houses or public institutions have -this is in a town with 13000 population – with south facing parts of their roofs almost entirely covered with them. Well, alternative energy is (heavily) subsidised in Germany, excess power goes back to the grid. Economically this can be good or bad, not saying that subsidising alternative energy must have a net economical profit, but I can’t help wonder why things like that are almost unheard of in New Zealand.
Finally, I had a discussion with a lady whilst in transit about the – I don’t even know how to put it in words – Connecticut school shooting in the USA, where once again a person has successfully transformed his anger with what ever many fold onto innocent people. It is sad, horrific, in the case of the USA – and this is my opinion – not necessarily tragic, because by definition, tragic implies that it could have been prevented. This was the topic of our discussion in transit. The lady’s main argument was that this and similar incidents are a result of lax gun control. There is (probably) some truth to that, but think about countries like Mexico, Brazil or Afghanistan, and other countries where lots of drugs are produced for the consumers (mostly in the West). Albeit laws on gun control will be different in such countries, it certainly wouldn’t be difficult to acquire semi-automatic machine guns. Or, as a counter example, the school massacre in Erfurt Germany, a country where gun control is severely stricter.
My two arguments in the discussion were that i) it is not guns that kill people (see picture further below) and ii) that, unfortunately, I believe that the reaction to this recent killing of the most innocent will be arming teachers and possibly even pupils and students. Moments ago I heard on the news that influential people (likely lobbyist from the NRA) are starting to state that all schools must be protected by armed police. There are almost 100000 public schools in the USA. I suppose a full-time police officer will earn a salary of more than 30000 USD per year. Obviously, it won’t be cheap, and how effective is one armed police officer going to be, when he gets surprised and ambushed by someone who has planned a mass murder?