“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center.” Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The oldest profession

The first time I visited Springfield, New Zealand, the Simpson's movie donut wasn't there. In March 2009, it was back! I was so happy! (yes that's me waving from behind the giant foam/plastic pastry).

There's a bit of a row going on right now about prostitutes walking the streets in south Auckland. From the New Zealand Herald April 19, 2009:

Community group squares off with street prostitutes

A Papatoetoe community group is fighting to get prostitutes off the area's streets. While Manukau City Council has another crack at making street prostitution illegal, a community group is confronting street walkers and their kerb-crawling customers in a notorious red light area of south Auckland.
The Papatoetoe Community Patrol is trying to scare off prostitutes' customers at Hunter's Corner by breaking up their negotiations and warning them of health dangers.
"These people are unregulated. Some of them carry diseases, so there's a risk not only to the client but also the client's partner," patrol member Stephen Grey told Sunday News.
In just over a year, three members of the 15-strong patrol group have been assaulted and they've had to change their patrol car three times because prostitutes have lashed out with weapons, the newspaper reported.
"The cars we use get considerable damage on them," Mr Grey said.
"They take to them with rocks, take to them with shopping trolleys, take to them with crow bars, kick them, kick the tail lights in."
The group is also sending the prostitutes' clients letters, tracking them down through their car registration plates.
Prostitutes Collective national co-ordinator Catherine Healy said she found the group's actions "astounding".
"We're really upset this is happening," she said. "It's harassment. The men aren't law breakers, assuming they are seeking someone over the age of 16."
There had been similar action taken around the country, Ms Healy said, but this was the first time a "formal, organised group" had targeted street prostitutes.
Last week Manukau City Council's policy and activities committee decided to recommend the council seek amendments to the Prostitution Reform Act 2003 to make street prostitution illegal.
In 2006 a bill, sponsored by Manurewa MP George Hawkins, that would have given the council the same powers was defeated in Parliament.
A 2005 report by the Prostitution Law Review Committee estimated there were 423 sex workers in Manukau, of whom 150 were on the street. The report also found that street prostitution was the most likely entry point for underage people to the sex industry.

My comments:

I knew prostitution is legal in New Zealand, but had no idea prositutes were legally allowed to solicit on the streets, nor that there was a "red light" district in Auckland. I don't think I would want it in MY neighborhood. I feel a bit sorry for the residents, who are complaining about offensive trash, noise, and violence. None of the articles elaborate on what violence is happening(or if it is real), but the trash is said to be needles and used condoms (Herald article Apr 22). This blog post gives an interesting perspective with regard to migration. Having recently read the book A Crime So Monstrous, about slavery and to a large degree sex trafficking, I have expanded my thinking on the subject of prostitution. There are a lot of unanswered questions. I would probably feel more comfortable with it if I knew someone who did it, and was happy and well balanced. I can't help but think that prostitution seems like a pretty crappy job, and why would you do it unless you had to make cash fast. For the most part, the business is done very discreetly, and personally, I prefer it that way. At the same time, the secrecy and and independence of prostitution makes regulation more difficult.
Still, the model seems to be working. I suspect the "news" paper is covering the story of the annoyed neighbors because of the backlash against the old "liberal" Labor gov't (National is currently in power and more "conservative"). BBC news did a good article in March about the legal prostitution here, and puts it into perspective of some other countries.

On a more positive note, I'm dreaming of a trip to the South Pacific Island of Niue- a raised coral atoll with super clear, warm water and limestone caves. Plus, they use NZ money and speak english. It's tiny, only 1600 people live there, and few accomodations so it's never crowded. Darin and I attended an Australia travel expo last weekend, and we decided we want to go somewhere WARM in August (winter here) for our wedding anniversary. Cairns went onto the list, but the flight is expensive and about 8.5 hours! We could get cheap-ish flights to the east coast of Australia (Brisbane, Adelaide, "Goldcoast" and the like), but they are heavily promoted as tourist destinations. We're more interested in the independent adventure with a comfy bed.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Positive progress

As I mentioned in my previous post, an old friend was here to visit. We took him about an hour's drive north to the Warkworth area. We really enjoyed the Brick Bay winery and sculpture garden. We had fish and chips on the beach in Snell's Beach, and also had a little picnic at the beautiful Tawharanui Regional Park.
I also took him on the Auckland City Walk in the Cascade Kauri park, near our house in Swanson. The best part of this walk is the waterfall, which is on a side track. There are big boulders you can climb up on to get a better view of the falls, but they are mainly hidden in the rocks across a deep and cold pool.
The picture below is from the Piha area, also in the Waitakere Ranges. I wish I had time to walk around this area more often. As you can see it is just magical.
Darin and I bought a new water tank for the new garage on our Maungaturoto property, and Darin installed it over Easter (aka Zombie Jesus) holiday. The rainwater will be collected from the roof. The pipe hanging down on the side there is the "first flush" which drains off the first wash of water, which may be assumed to be more dirty than the following water. We stayed overnight, and made the dogs beds in the crate that Fargo travelled in from Los Angeles (Ruby on the left, Fargo on the right). They seemed quite comfortable in there, but Ruby got us up at 5 am, needing to go outside, probably because she feasted on too much sheep dung during the day. We also made progress on our Swanson property, where we had a new roof put on the house. Darin found that there was no insulation above the bedrooms, and only a tiny bit above the lounge, so he bought a bunch of "pink batts" (aka insulation). There is a great advertisement for this insulation here, with a guy dressed up in a pink bunny suit hugging a guy as he goes about getting ready to leave the house. The difference in the house temperature was immediately noticable. I was really surprised by how much warmer it felt. The cost was high, but it was such a worthy investment. We had leaks in the ceiling of our bedroom and lounge, so replacing the old roof was a high priority before winter starts here. These last two pictures were taken in Christchurch. I'm pleased with this last picture, which was taken at night. This artwork is displayed on the exterior of the art museum and is surreal and weird- just my style.
Chicken update: Our Araucana hen has died. She became sick while we were away in Christchurch last month. All the hens got some medication for coccidia, but only Araucana was showing any symptoms. We made sure she got some of the treated water, but she did not improve. I don't know what it was that she suffered from, but I was helpless to heal her. We still miss her. She was such a smart chicken, and a good mum too. We are pretty sure two of the chickens she raised are roosters, including Elvis, but they haven't started to crow yet, so they are safe for the moment.
On the reading list currently is Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. It's pretty good. I absolutely loved Water for Elephants. I wish all novels could be so enjoyable. I learned a lot, but was deeply sadened by reading, A Crime So Monstrous, which is non-fiction. It's anamazingly well researched book about slavery in the modern times. Apparently the Bush administration made a decent effort to combat human trafficking, but focused exclusively on trafficking for prostitution. Their attitude was that all prostitution is slavery. This view is difficult to hold, considering that prostitution is legal, and well regulated, in New Zealand. At some point, I'd like to do a bit of research into this mostly-hidden cultural aspect by talking to someone at the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective. The government has a guide to occupational health and safety for sex work, which is probably very interesting reading, and can be found here.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Time off for good behavior

Our friend from Fargo North High School, Christian, was here to visit for 12 days (not long enough!). The weather was nothing short of fabulous, and we had so much fun showing him around the north and south islands of New Zealand. We took so many photos! Many of them consist of us drinking beer. Most of them are of the outstanding scenery. Here's a few highlights from the South Island. Above is Darin and I at Lake Wanaka, which is huge. Many of the lakes around there are not only long and wide, they are also extremely deep.

The above photos are from one of the many lovely stops along the road to Haast from Wanaka. Our itinerary was thus: Auckland to Queenstown, ride the gondola up the mountain, beer in the lounge, then get on the chair lift to the luge, and ride that a few times. (photo from the gondola)We stayed overnight, then went through Wanaka the next day, where Christian hoped to paraglide, but the wind came up and foiled that plan. On to Haast (west coast), where we went to the beach at dusk. It was gorgeous and we had it all to us.The next day, we drove to the Fox and Franz Joseph glaciers. I had a possum meat pie on the way to Hokitika, where we shopped, then on to Greymouth for the Monteith's Brewery tour. From Greymouth the next day, we drove across Arthur's Pass to Christchurch, stopping to re-balace our chi (ha ha, I kid!) at Castle Hill. I had intended to do the Cave Stream walk near there, but was foiled by a lack of proper attire- wetsuit, booties. Next time for sure!! It's looking a bit like the mouth of a giant reptilian skull, actually, in the photo above.

Then a day in Christchurch (see us below, punting- a must do), and back to Auckland that evening. Then back to work for me- bummer.