28 December 2005

This is a POSITIVE Post

No need to cover the begonias in Hell. We’re still curmudgeons, so we’ll likely find things to complain about, but yes, something non-awful happened to us, even rather anti-discouraging.

As we’ve observed before, there are plenty of things down here that have been disappointing. Nature is all owned, whether it is for grazing, tree farms, or just to cordon off animals and slap a price tag on them. We had imagined a lot of virgin territory ripe with native bush, but those corners are far rarer than we had hoped. The teacher shortage is mythical, it seems, so CS still has no employment, though brands have been thrust to flame. The Kate Sheppard precedent hasn’t kept women from being oppressed by knuckleheads. We even witnessed domestic abuse as we were strolling through a wee neighborhood in Kaikoura. (A woman staggered past us with a bloody face and she said “I just got kicked out of me home. No worries.” Later the police showed up.)

HOWEVER, yes, one thing that has proved to be very true, indeed, is that we have encountered such friendly, laid-back, helpful, even ETHICAL people. This is a definite improvement over life in the U.S. Friends and family back home, upon hearing this, seem a little defensive, saying that people in _____ (their city) are nice like that, too, and that Los Angeles was just a ghastly, dreadful place, and that we are simply reacting to THAT hellhole. OK, well, the L.A. part is quite true. It certainly is a parody of a cesspool, a paragon of misbehavior, no argument. But still, we’ve never seen any people cut through bureaucracy and make us feel welcome like the people here. Sure, nice people exist in the States, but would a stranger in a money-making situation in the U.S. give up that opportunity just to be a good person? Watch it. Your nose will grow if you say yes to that.

We’ve been processing all kinds of paperwork down here in Kiwiland. In an effort to send off CS’s Teacher Registration, so he can legally obtain employment (this is separate from credential verification and any immigration processes) he had to put together nineteen documents and have them all certified before sending them off to the head office in Wellington.

K gathered information on notaries, all of them law offices, and CS called them. Most were on holiday till 4 January, 2006, but one office was open with their notary on hand. The receptionist (a woman, of course, just like in every other country—that’s the sound of Kate Sheppard sighing in her grave) connected CS directly with the notary, Mr. Nolan. He said that the notary service costs forty-five dollars per page, but that he is used to processing just a page or two for people. He offered to do the lot for a hundred bucks. This is about what it would cost in the States. Things, generally, aren’t cheaper here than in the States (except salaries), and some things, like furniture, are maw-gapingly expensive. (We saw a cheaply made office chair yesterday for $800 dollars. I’m still grappling with that one.)

So we made the appointment with Mr. Nolan for 2:30 that same day (you heard right) and we collated and copied documents at the library, then walked downtown. Mr. Nolan said his office was a block and half from the cathedral in the center of Christchurch—a beautiful structure, but you have to pay to step foot inside—and that it was on the Avon River, which snakes elegantly through town. Since the address indicated that it exists on the ninth floor of a building, we proceeded to the only possible candidate.

Once there, we were sent right in. Mr. Nolan, looked at the instruction that the Teacher’s Council had given me (they wanted every page to say a particular thing—a tedious lot, the Teacher’s Council) and then Mr. Nolan said:

“Well, it says here you can use a notary, but that you can also use a solicitor. I can do that for free.”

I sort of panicked then. Kind of like what a person does when an alien with twelve tentacles, seven eyes, and seventeen testicles appears in front of him and asks to be led to Bill Gates. All I thought to say was “Why would you want to do something like that?” I’m not sure if that was a rude comment, or just kind of silly, but I simply couldn’t fathom any lawyer anywhere saying to me, in his own office on a work day, that they would do something, anything, for free.

“Well,” he replied, “the holiday spirit and all that, you know?” He just smiled then and looked through my papers, saw that they were in order, then popped out to process them. He came back five minutes later with that correct wording printed on the back of each page of the copies, then he signed each page in front of us. He handed me the packet, shook my hand, and sent me on my way. All of it free of charge. Not a bloody cent, mate!

I’m still not elated about this. I’m too busy being bewildered for that. Our neighbor and landlady, Jodie, had us over for some fresh juice and a couple of hands of cards last night (we rather enjoy her and her boyfriend, Barry) and when I told her this story, she said “Well, some lawyers will give you the first service for free so you come back.” Then Barry quipped “So then, next time, you can go to the next law office and get their free service,” as a rebuttal, I think.

I still don’t know what the explanation is for why the solicitor did that work for free, but it is a pattern here in NZ. You folks in the States may live in a beautiful, albeit polluted, place with frogs and bats and an abundance of wild bunnies (we miss wildlife SO MUCH) but I challenge any American to find a lawyer that will work for free, or an immigration officer that will resurrect your paperwork from the dead, or a landlady that will allow you to pay your rent a week late as you scramble to get money wired, and then have you over for potluck and cards. No, it’s a pattern. It’s different here.

Other stuff still bugs us, though.

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