Gisborne, Wairoa, Napier

Keep it indoors, mates. Most towns have this ordinance about public consumption of alcohol, but only Napier had this particularly classy design.

Keep it indoors, mates. Most towns have this ordinance about public consumption of alcohol, but only Napier had this particularly classy design.

After the Gisborne library we drove to Wairoa for an afternoon program there. Teensy little library. And the narrow little mezzanine was packed with 35-40 kids and grownups. The turnout they get for library programs! Granted, Wairoa is a small town and there’s not much else on for a kid to do on a sunny winter school holiday. Still…they were out of the house.

I was part of the Eastern and Central District Council-sponsored reading program called Winter Warmers — a lot like the Summer Reading Programs we run in U. S. public libraries. I was amazed at the one-on-one interaction between library staffers and blossoming readers. After a kid finishes reading a book, s/he sits down with one of the children’s staff and they discuss it for a few minutes. Eyeball to eyeball. Not like a book report. More like a book discussion.

The town of Wairoa sits at the edge of the Wairoa River, the banks of which are furnished with playground equipment and picnic tables. We ate our leftover Turkish takeout dinners from the night before (Note to self: When eating leftover lamb, be sure you can nuke it. Cold lamb is nasty.) and wended our way toward Napier.

The picture on the right shows what Napier looked like (nearby Hastings, too) in 1931 after it was hit by a 7.8 earthquake — much stronger than the earthquakes that rattled the living daylights out of Christchurch in 2010 and 2011. The city fathers decided the rebuilding of Napier would factor in earthquake safety, and since they were pretty much building from scratch they had a unique opportunity to establish some sort of visual cohesion to the new city. Even though the insurance companies did what insurance companies do best in times of natural disaster — denied as many claims

Is this not a precious little  office building / shop? The whole city is lousy with them.

Is this not a precious little office building / shop? The whole city is lousy with them.

as possible — an outpouring of charitable donations poured in. There was a Depression going on. Laborers and skilled craftsmen delighted to have a job to do. And within two years — by the beginning of 1933 — Napier was officially pronounced “reborn.”

We stayed in a backpackers hostel that had once been a hotel over a pub — The Criterion. And there, we met a young man from Oklahoma City (my hometown). That was the day before Germany killed Brazil in the World Cup. All the kids in the hostel were up EARLY to watch the game. Some of them were German. None of them was Brazilian. It was a party.

The largest of these pebbles was maybe two inches (5cm) across.

The largest of these pebbles was maybe two inches (5cm) across.

Napier’s beach is made up of black pebbles. The waves coming in made a different music than waves coming in on sand.

After a morning gig at the Napier library, we headed into the suburbs for a rousing afternoon in Taradale. Librarian Anne Davis took this great photo of everyone flaunting the sailboats they had just learned to fold.

The Taradale Library sits at the edge of a park with ponds and ducks and actual children actually playing!

The Taradale Library sits at the edge of a park with ponds and ducks and actual children actually playing!

Two nights in Napier, lots of walking and gawking. And then, after a triple header in Hastings, Flaxmere, and Havelock North … we were off to Te Rangi, a farm that sits just outside Otane, to visit our friends Mary and Peter on their home turf.

 

 

 

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Long time no blog.

We’ve been home from New Zealand for almost six weeks now, and I’ve yet to reflect here in printed form about that whole amazing month of July.

We got home on  a Saturday night, and I had “triple headers” on Monday and Wednesday of the following week. I had been counting on this August being as dead — gigwise — as all my previous Augusts. But this August never let up. Neither has September. Which is good. I’m delighted for the work. But it’s not conducive to blogging. Writing is one of those activities in which I lose track of time. Sometimes I knock a post out in under an hour (that’s rare); and sometimes (most times) I hit the publish command and realize that I’ve been sitting here staring into a computer screen for three or four hours.

I do want to write about July. For me. This is a journal as much as anything else. I don’t want to forget. So here, for what it’s worth, begins a series of (I promise I will try to write tersely and be brief) posts:

Impressions of New Zealand…

On the road from Auckland to Gisborne. A 500 km drive in New Zealand feels a lot further than driving 310 miles on  the interstates.

On the road from Auckland to Gisborne. A 500 km drive in New Zealand feels a lot further than driving 310 miles on the interstates.

Yep. That’s a volcano. And offshore, which isn’t far,  there’s an island that’s another volcano — Whakaari (pronounced, approximately “faka-a-rlee”), or in English, White Island. My phone camera wasn’t up to the task, so Jack captured those images — white plumes wafting over the Bay of Plenty. We drove through plains such as this one, and half an hour later we were in rolling green hills salted and peppered with sheep. Sheep. And more sheep. They looked like little white fleas. And the occasional small herd of cows. The hills, all cropped and green, looked lovely to me. It seemed as though we were driving through a verdant miles-long city park. I imagine the people who had lived there at the advent of Europeans would have been appalled to see the dense bush they knew, hunted, lived in, lived with so thoroughly denuded.

I think this is the Opotiki courthouse. It may be the first cute courthouse I've ever encountered.

I think this is the Opotiki courthouse. It may be the first cute courthouse I’ve ever encountered.

And this is the Opotiki public restroom. Open. Clean. Well marked. Tax dollars at work.

And this is the Opotiki public restroom. Open. Clean. Well marked. Tax dollars at work.

This part of New Zealand, or more appropriately Aotear0a, especially in this part of the country, while very rural, boasts the highest concentration of Maori communities. The librarian I worked with, Rangi (“rong–ee” — soft “ng” — it means “sky” and implies ((I think)) “heaven”), received us so warmly and spoke of my friend Mary Kippenberger, who is the reason I was invited to do this tour, with such affection, that I knew I was in for a great two-week tour of the Eastern and Central District Libraries.

We were on our way to Gisborne so I could do this. It was my first of 24 libraries. Great turnout. Warm welcome. Knockout gorgeous library. Notice the stained glass.

We were on our way to Gisborne so I could do this. It was my first of 24 libraries. Great turnout. Warm welcome. Knockout gorgeous library. Notice the stained glass.

We stayed that night at a holiday park, barely a stone’s throw from beach, breakers, and stunning bluffs. I love all accommodation options we were presented with. It’s almost as if they want to encourage everybody to take a holiday now and then. This place was like a KOA campground, only besides tent and camper sites, they offered cabins, dorms, cottages, communal as well as private baths, and a huge, well-equipped communal kitchen.

Next  up: Napier. Where Nick and Nora Charles go to get away from it all. I kept thinking I heard the yipping of a wire-haired terrier just around the corner.

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