Monday, January 01, 2007

The Year Begins

An advantage in New Zealand’s location is that we enter the new year 19 hours ahead of my old hometown. So, I get to ring friends and family back in America and joke about calling from the future. Silly, I know.

As it happens, 2007 began not very differently from any other year. There were a few spots around the country where drunkenness caused problems on New Year’s Eve (What? Drunkenness on New Year’s Eve? I’m shocked). Unusually cool and often rainy weather helped minimise the problems. However, there was a fatal stabbing at one all-night party where alcohol (and, allegedly, more) was in abundance.

Our own New Year’s Eve celebrations were far less dramatic: Just a sister-in-law and a couple friends, some Thai takeaways and a few wines (a fair few, perhaps...). The whole neighbourhood was similarly quiet.

We’re in the middle of the summer holidays, so it’s quiet in most of the country right now, with even the politicians staying out of the media. It’s a welcome relief.

Still, there were a couple news items that caught my eye:

New Zealand’s official representative at the funeral of former US President Ford will be Cabinet Minister Chris Carter. As it happens, Carter was New Zealand’s first openly gay MP (there are several others now), and its first openly-gay Minister. I couldn’t help thinking to myself that the fact that Chris Carter will be NZ’s official representative at the funeral illustrates one of the things I love about living in New Zealand: I like the fact that here an openly gay Minister is no big deal, nor is designating him as an official representative of the country. I can’t even imagine an openly gay cabinet member in the US.

The other story was published yesterday: The United Nations 2006 Human Development report indicated that 78 percent of New Zealanders use the Internet, more than anyone else. We were followed by Iceland at 77 per cent and Sweden at 76 per cent. Only 65 percent of Australians access the Internet, as do only 63 percent of Americans.

We’re far less likely to use mobile phones, however: “New Zealand is far down world rankings of mobile phone ownership.” Personally, I’m not sure this is a bad thing.

Taken together, these stories provide a snapshot of what New Zealand is like this time of year: Mostly quiet, laid back, probably emailing or surfing the web (or blogging), but maybe not using mobiles too much. The social problems here are similar to those of other countries, but ratcheted down a few notches.

To me, New Zealand is a great place to live. I hope it’ll become even clearer why I feel that way as this year progresses. Right now, though, I need to go place some phone calls from the future.


GayProf said...

There were a few spots around the country where drunkenness caused problems on New Year’s Eve

New Year's Eve is for amateurs.

Hope that your year goes well.

Arthur Schenck said...

Thanks for stopping by, GayProf!

Personally, I think New Year's Eve shows amateurs should never attempt to do a professional's job. I certainly tried to do my bit to uphold professional standards.

All the best to you this year, too, GP.