I am back in Cleveland from Auckland, recovered from flying for almost 24 hours, including the eight-hour layover Los Angeles. The older I get the more I dread these long flights before they begin but, oddly enough, the less tired I am upon arrival and hardly troubled by jet lag. In both directions, I was comfortably on local time almost immediately upon arrival. The only thing I do is try and sleep as much as I can on the planes (allowing for the cramped flying conditions that are now the norm) but it seems to work.
I had a wonderful time in Auckland. It is a beautiful city, full of attractive public spaces with breathtaking views of the ocean that are dotted with volcanic (but now dormant) islands. Because of that volcanic past, the city is very hilly but this enables one to find many elevated spots that provide panoramic views of the city and the ocean and the islands.
The climate in Auckland is extremely mild by Cleveland standards, getting neither very hot nor very cold and there is no snow at all, varying only from what we could consider early spring to late fall temperatures. The weather however is highly variable and on any day one can rapidly cycle through bright sunshine, clouds, rain, warm and chilly temperatures in rapid succession, so one has to be prepared for anything when one leaves the house.
I was impressed by the commitment of the New Zealanders to preserving the beauty of the environment and maintaining their parks and gardens and general infrastructure. The roads are in very good shape and the city seems clean and well-maintained. New Zealand does not have tipping in its restaurants, presumably paying their employees a living wage. The country offers universal and free health care funded by the taxpayers, though many people have supplementary private insurance as well, another area in which they are well ahead of us. We in the US could learn a lot from them about the value of committing resources to the public good.
While watching cricket on TV, I watched a lot of the ads and one set that struck me were a series of public service ads around the tag line “Don’t Drink and Fry”. They featured city streets late at night with clearly drunk young people with glassy-eyed grins and slurred speech advising people to buy and eat food from the many fast-food places that are open at those times instead of going home and cooking.
These looked like parody commercials of the kind you might see on Saturday Night Live and I initially found them hilarious. But after a few viewings, I did notice that they were sponsored by the fire department and my hosts informed me that these were dead serious. It appears that people, after a night out on the town, often go home and try to cook food and end up setting fire to their homes by having the oil in their fryers catch fire or falling asleep with food on the stove. I was surprised by this, since it is not a problem I had heard of in the US. People have drunken nights out here too but cooking after they come home does not seem to be a big problem, at least not on a scale that warrants issuing public service ads.
Anyway it is nice to be back. One reason that I hate traveling is being separated from Baxter the Wonder Dog and it was great to see him again after so long.
Let regular blogging commence!