The Best Time Ee-vah!

I have wrapped up my visit to New Zealand with the Romance Writers of New Zealand annual conference, which reminded me again that romance writers are a special, wonderful breed. We learned a lot, we had fun, we forged and strengthened relationships, and we probably hatched up more than a few new projects.

I really liked New Zealand (can you tell?), and pass along to you here five things I noticed that made me think.

1) On the Air New Zealand flights, every announcement started with “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls…” What a concept: Children are visible people. It’s a detail, to include children in flight announcements, but a detail that caught my ear.  Very likely, every kid on the plane sat up a little straighter when they heard that greeting.

2) This is a very diverse culture (the Maori make up fourteen percent of the population, and many other minorities contribute smaller percentages), but it has no history of enslavement or genocidal polices. There is racism, there is wealth inequality, and relations between those of European descent and other cultural groups are not always smooth, but as one New Zealander put it to me: The problems NZ has finding justice amid diversity were far preferable to her than the problems they saw in places like the US and Australia where longer, more bitter history has to be overcome.

3) As an island, NZ grows as much of its food–nearly everything but bananas–as possible. The result is a very clean, locally sourced, seasonally varied diet, and every restaurant I went to offered vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free options.

4) New Zealand culture is gracious. This might be a Maori contribution; a legacy of colonists far from home; a result of people on an island having fine-tuned radar when it comes to the small rituals that help a society get along; or a by-product of a climate that never drives anybody indoors for too long, but it’s lovely. Driving from Wellington to Hawke’s Bay, we stopped to have a cuppa tea with another writer. Two hours later, we were still solving the problems of the known universe. I gather that’s not unusual in New Zealand, and nobody’s ever too busy to stop for a “wee natter.”

5) The most respected brand in New Zealand is Whittaker’s chocolate. This is a family owned business that set up shop in a suburb of Wellington that had few jobs. They’ve been offered many buy-out deals from the big dawgs, but the Whittakers are loyal to their workers and their product, and New Zealanders are loyal to their Whittakers. This is a much more long-term view of success than many businesses take, and it’s working well.

So… in honor of a lovely time in a lovely land, to one commenter, I’ll send a bag of Whittaker’s milk chocolates. Has anything made you stop and think lately? Some snippet of news? A line in a book? A headline or overhead bit of gossip? Is there someplace you’d like to visit, just to get a peek at the culture? (And yes, the authors whose book covers I’ve included above are all from New Zealand, and you can learn more about their books here: Bronwen Evans, Emily Larkin, and Janet Elizabeth Henderson.)

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10 comments on “The Best Time Ee-vah!

  1. 1

    Grace! I’m declaring you an honorary Kiwi. I feel I can do this, because I’m here and I’m a Scot. Surely one honorary Kiwi can initiate another? 🙂 You were the highlight of my conference and I hope we get you back again one day. xx

  2. 2
    Sue Gorman says:

    I would love to stay in a small cottage in Ireland. My grandmother visited Ireland several times and brought home Waterford crystal- much of which is in my dining room. I’d like to see where it was made and visit the Cliffs of Mohir. And maybe enjoy music in a pub.

  3. 3
    Mary T says:

    So glad you had a good time in New Zealand. I’m afraid my traveling days are over. That is why it is such a treat to follow you on your travels. Thanks.

  4. 4
    Anne Egger says:

    My husband and I recently became dog parents, we had a dog who passed away six years ago. The boys are around 4 years old. One dog is just this big sweet baby. The smaller dog, who I suspect is more intelligent is having a harder time adjusting. Now granted we have only had the boys about a week. My husband was frustrated this morning with the smaller dog. But I feel once the smaller dog gets fixed, gets his shots, gets micro-chipped, he will settle down, also to know that we really love him and that he is here to stay.

  5. 5
    Marianne says:

    You always make me think. Your questions and comments make me consider without a knee-jerk reaction, too, which is some trick.

    A young relative entered residential drug rehab this week, and I’ve been thinking about that a lot. I don’t know that the 12 step thing is going to work for her, as I’m not sure she has faith in anything or anyone except maybe herself. And I know that for myself, the drug withdrawal would be hard, but life without the easy money would be more difficult yet.

    And places to visit? Oh, yeah, but mostly it’s kids and parent/s these days.

  6. 6
    Teenie Marie says:

    I am going on vacation in a few days. Our usual; northern Wisconsin at an art colony. We do little trips during the rest of the year, here and there, but always spend a longer time in Wis. Why? Because its the one place we have found we can unwind and relax. We need it for the rest of the year–even the exciting and wonderful parts–to go well.

    There is an old one commercial tag line (you’ll remember it Grace, since you and I are around the age)that has been resonating in me as I get ready to go: *The Pause that Refreshes*….it was for Pepsi if you’ll recall. And like the Kiwis, the idea that a *wee natter* could restore you for the rest of the day makes sense. So even though this won’t be an exciting travel experience, it will help the year go better for us!

    Happy you loved your time in NZ!

  7. 7
    Suzanne Dye says:

    Several years ago I read a contemporary romance story and it was great. I noticed that it was set in New Zealand and had a New Zealand author of course. I realized there was a treasure box of books that I had not read and I actively seek New Zealand authors in New Zealand settings.

  8. 8

    We were so honoured to have you here in NZ with us. ALL your talks at the RWNZ conference were the talk of the conference.

    On a personal note you have taught me so much, over and above writing. You’ve taught me about courage, persistence, self belief, kindness, humility, strength, approachability and of course love.

    Safe trip home and I’m happy to send you Whittaker’s chocolate anytime.

  9. 9
    Beth says:

    It’s a beautiful world out there and I want more time and money to see as much as possible! NZ, Oz, then right on around to India and beyond until I come at things from a new direction. Best of all would be to eat my way around, trying all the local delicacies.

  10. 10
    Sarah N says:

    This has been an awful summer (even here in Minnesota). I’ve never been able to stand heat/humidity, and now that I’m finding more and more Vikings in my ancestry I am convinced this is the reason why. I would love to go to Norway and take the Hurtigruten up the coast, plus go to the Lofoten Islands and Svalbard and the Faroes and Iceland and Greenland and . . . I feel cooler just thinking about it! BTW there are lovely fjords in New Zealand as well, I hear. The mostly bad news we’ve been hearing about the environment and climate change is really making me think about what I can do, even small things.