I got a new job! Within two weeks of landing in New Zealand one of my new friends put up a post on their facebook wall asking if anyone was looking for a short-term job – 2 weeks working at a liquor store helping uncrate product in prep for the holidays. Well… I didn’t really have anything better to do, and since I was already looking for a job I figured I may as well earn some money while looking. We chatted, I interviewed, and the guy offered me a position.
Ed Note: Holy crap New Zealand has excellent wages – over $13 as the lowest you can be paid. Downside though… taxes are a bitch. Upside though… Healthcare is free.
However, once Paul (the manager) and I started talking about what he needed from me, I found out that I needed a special IRD number… the equivalent of a Social Security number back in the states, from what I can tell. And IRD number is your personal tax number, and it proves that you’re paying into the national tax if you’re actually working in the country. Not that you need to be in order to receive benefits like healthcare or anything, but it seems to be quite key if you plan on earning money the legit way. And so I started in on a quest to get myself an IRD number.
I did my basic online research first, and found out that I needed two forms of ID – a passport with a valid working visa, and a photo ID. The ID I was good on, thanks to my US drivers license, but the passport… that would be tough. And so I looked into getting the visa actually transferred over to my new passport (See story about getting into NZ), and found out that my two options were to mail it to the Christchurch office, or to drive down to the closest real office in Dunedin. See.. the earthquake leveled the Christchurch office, so it would take between 3 and 4 weeks for them to get the passport back to me. 3-4 weeks that I wouldn’t have any valid form of ID, which means no going to bars. Nope, screw that. Driving time.
I asked around and found someone who sort of knew the area and who was interested in coming along – a girl named Carla that I had met through friends a few weeks back. It was perfect, actually, since she was effectively a newcomer to this area of New Zealand as well… she grew up in a city at the very base of the south island, and just returned from a year abroad living in Japan. So with many topics of conversation (and two fully charged iPods) we set up our directions, double checked the gear we needed, and hit the open road southbound.
Carla and I trucked our way southward steadily and relentlessly, taking pictures and chatting as the miles wore on. The drive wasn’t as perfectly picturesque as the drive Mike and I had taken up to Takaka, but it was still the bucolic landscape that I had started to expect from New Zealand. We chatted about this and that, traveling and kendo (turns out she’s a ranked black belt, yay for a sparring partner!) and general life, the universe, and everything. We stopped in at a town called Timaru for a quick lunch of pizza and Chinese, picked me up a massive bottle of Mountain Dew for the road, and continued trucking onwards.
The rest of the ride went the same as the first half, though we did see a few really cool Cairns on the hills off the side of the road, and soon enough we were pulling into Dunedin. First things first, we drove around a bit trying to find the right street, but once we did we locked down the car and ran into the immigration office, getting to the door just 15min before they closed. Or… 15 before they USED to close. Turned out that they had changed hours in the last month or two, and the hours that I had been given at Immigration in Aukland was off by an hour – instead of closing at 4:00, they shut their doors at 3:00 now. Damn.
Fortunately Carla knew the city pretty well, so we parked the car in one of the public lots and then started walking around the city trying to decide what to do with ourselves. First order of business was to figure out where we were and where everything else was – a task made quite simple by New Zealand policy of helpfulness. We walked into one of the visitors centers, called “i-Sites”, got ourselves a map and got a few reviews on “backpackers” in the area… the equivalent of a Hostel in South America or Europe. We walked around and visited a few of the backpackers before finally choosing one for the night, a pretty solid place called “On Top backpackers”, since it was located right on top of a pool hall. After check in and looking through our rooms we wandered into the city, starting our tour with a Chinese Scholars garden.
And, I have to admit it, that garden was one of the best places I’ve been. Ever. As soon as I started walking through I knew that I wanted one, and it became a life goal of mine to have one built. See… these gardens were designed for a scholar, philosopher, or ruler to walk around and focus themselves, exploring the garden and loosing themselves in the myriad pathways the lead through the space. The idea seemed to be the unexpected, where paths opened up and terminated when you least expected it, and there was no singular way to “correctly” walk through the area. My favorite part was the amount of perfect little meditation spots; areas where one can overlook the entirety of the garden and just reflect upon the nature of the area. (Ed note: Yes, I am fully aware that I sound like a 13 year old boy after meeting his first “true love”. I don’t care. I am infatuated with this garden and its honestly one of the coolest spaces I’ve ever been in.) For one last piece of awesomeness before we moved on Carla and I stopped into the puzzle room for a quick spot of brain teasing… and I have to admit that I layed out a rather epic smackdown to the puzzle that I chose; It was one of those “make this cool shape out of all of these pieces of wood with notches cut into them”, and I was able to get it together pretty quick… though I’ll admit that undoing it afterward was a pretty impressive challenge as well.
After the garden we went onto the town for some R&R and dinner, finding ourselves making a tough decision between an amazing looking gourmet burger joint and a really cool traditional sushi restaurant. In the end we kept our nights theme oriental and took in the sushi… mostly for the deliciousness, but partially because Carla actually knew what to order there, and could tell me all about the cultural aspects of the food thanks to her stay in Japan. The restaurant was cool and the food was spectacular, although I admit that the service left a bit to be desired… the waitress didn’t speak English (or Japanese, annoyingly), and wasn’t really sure what order to bring our food out in – Carla got her soup first, followed our drinks and my main meal, followed by her main meal, and finished up with the appetizer that we ordered for the two of us. Interesting… but acceptable, since it was so delicious.
After eating, paying, and wandering for a bit we headed back to the Backpackers for the night, planning on taking a quick nap and then playing some pool in the hall downstairs. The nap went quick for Carla, a bit longer for me, but the pool never materialized, thanks to some folks hanging out in the common area watching the Hangover 2. We stayed up ’till about eleven watching the movie, and by the time we headed downstairs the pool hall had already closed. Thats right… a pool hall in a university city closed at 11:00. Seriously… WTF. Double-Ewe. Tee. Eff. Mate. So back to the room we went, and fell asleep pretty quickly, aiming to be awake early as sin to make sure that I got to the Passport office right as they opened.