Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Peruvian People

I've been meaning to post about the best part of Peru: the people!

We all know first impressions aren't everything, but if they were, I'd want to spend all my time with Peruvians. They are friendly, warm, inviting, laid-back, family-oriented, fun, and sweet. The family running La Posada Atahualpa even let us hijack the hotel lobby for a play one night. I think they enjoyed the snippets of Spanish as they laughed at us, piscos in hand, from the bar. Never before had strangers made me feel like laughing at myself as much as they did. (I blame Bob, my role was an un-dead being possessed by the spirits of 500 conquistadors).

The nightlife is what really got me. Venturing to pubs at night in the U.S. (not that I do it that often) usually results in good food and a good time with my own group. In Cuzco, the stranger sitting next to you suddenly is your friend and you're all singing, laughing and clapping together. A nice restaurant in Cuzco taught me this. My group enjoyed a tapas-style dinner late at night with a round of drinks, but, while waiting for the food, we abandoned our tables to run upstairs and watch the live music. This didn't have a touristy feel. Wood beams and stone walls with a modern edge welcomed us, the few American faces in the crowd. Peruvians sat around the bar and tables in the warm light, singing heartily with the singer's melodious voice and the accompanying classical guitar. Every face was smiling, hands were clapping, bodies danced in their seats, laughter echoed and the friendly atmosphere became a contagion. As I chatted with these instant friends and admired the music with them, I thought, this is what it is to be human. You can be anywhere in the world and just soak in happiness together. You got the sense that people in Peru just loved each other, for being human beings, for sharing joy.

And that's what set the Peruvian people apart to me. No matter how difficult life is, no matter how unfair, they wear their smiles well. Their music can charm a crowd. They make life light and cheerful. They're joyful, fun and they know how to celebrate: this is a lesson I want to remember.
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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Working in New Zealand


A description of any work day would not be complete without describing the traffic.  Auckland is a rapidly growing city with not enough housing for the people who want to live there.  According to Wikipedia, the population of Auckland in 2016 was 1,495,000 and the population density was 3,500 people/mi2, which is a big difference compared to the 6 people/mi2 in my hometown of Koeltztown, Missouri.  With almost 600 times more people, I knew commuting in Auckland was going to be intense.  My host dad, who was also my supervisor, and I carpooled and had a 40-minute commute from home to work during the peak of rush hour traffic.  When it wasn’t rush hour, the commute was 20 minutes.  One benefit of the commute was the opportunity to talk with my host-dad about whatever topics came to mind.  I would forget about the crazy traffic when we shared our interesting stories. 
I worked for Chemical Solutions Ltd. (Kemsol for short.)  Kemsol began in 1991 by Peter Vaughan who had the desire to develop better products than what was currently available.  Kemsol now offers a range of institutional and industrial cleaners that are sold in New Zealand, Australia, and the Pacific Islands.  Products include hand soaps, floor cleaners, laundry powders, and air fresheners.  I like the range of products that meet the Environmental Choice New Zealand standard.  The company is 100% NZ owned by its employee shareholders.  More information about the history of Kemsol can be found at the following link: http://www.kemsol.co.nz/About/History
During my first two days at Kemsol, I had difficulty with the Kiwi accent and names for objects.  Sometimes, I enjoyed the sound of the accent and would forget to focus on the task I was asked to do.  After a few days, only occasionally did I need clarification for what people said.  My daily morning tasks as the lab technician intern in Quality Control and Research & Development was to calibrate the instruments. The remainder of the day involved anything from adjusting production batches to product development.  I enjoyed all of it, every challenge and accomplishment I experienced including the tedious microfiber (microfibre for my Kiwis) project.  The work experience and new skills, such as instrument calibration, broadened the scope of my résumé, which is always a benefit of any internship because there is always more to learn. 
Watching the Dye Disburse in a Sample Product
The Kiwi work environment was more relaxed than the American work environment.  I am not saying that Kiwi workers do not accomplish their tasks, but the pressure of work felt less intense.  There were times when I worked on my projects while talking to a colleague about life at the same time.  The stories I heard and the laughs we had allowed me to learn more about my field and my coworkers.  Since I was not the only person born outside of New Zealand, I learned about other cultures thorough my coworkers.  New Zealand has become home to many immigrants in the last few years.  One of my favorite days at Kemsol was when a coworker noted at the lunch table that everybody in the room was born in a different country: England, U.S., Malaysia, and India.  I also had co-workers from South Africa, Philippines, Samoa, and Fiji (I hope I didn’t forget anyone!).  Despite being a foreigner, I never felt like an outsider at Kemsol. 
Since the internship, I have more confidence in my ability to problem solve and to be an effective chemist.  My favorite part of the internship was working alongside fabulous Kiwis who taught me about their role at Kemsol and about their culture.  Finally, I know the type of company and environment in which I want to work.  Overall, I would describe my internship as wonderful.
                Wearing mask to make laundry powder               

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Kiwi Language & Accent

While both the US and New Zealand are former colonies of England, the English language in each country has taken different paths.  American English has diverted further from British English than Kiwi English.  This could be a result of either the American idea that we must be different at everything or from the fact that New Zealand was not legislatively independent of England until 1947.  Thus, Kiwi English has had less time to divert from the motherland.  In the last 70 years, the Kiwis, aka the New Zealanders, have found a way to make English their own.  Here are some Kiwi spellings and words I encountered.  By no means is this an exhaustive list:

U.S. / New Zealand
meter / metre
favorite / favourite
Mom / mum
program / programme
organization / organisation
They also talk about morning and afternoon tea as their breaks.
rappelling / abseiling
Trash can / rubbish bin
So far, not too different from England.


Sweet / sweet as
            I didn’t understand why they didn’t finish the comparison. 

seam ripper / unpicker
Because seam ripper is too violent.

eraser / rubber

trunk (car) / boot

z (alphabet) / zed (pronunciation)
Radio advertisements would say “dot-CO-dot-N-Zed” for a website.  Later, I listened to my host-dad say that the last letter is “zed” when spelling to saying a URL.  He would correct me or give me a dad look when I said “zee.”  One night when he was tired after a long day at work, he yawned, stretched his arms, and said that he needed to “catch-up on some ‘zee’s.’” 
Almost instantly I respond, “You cannot pick and choose what to call the last letter of the alphabet if you are going to make fun of me when I say it.” 
            “It sounds weird saying ‘catching up on zed’s.’”
            “I know.”
            One of the reasons I liked my host-dad was that we could tease each other for a good laugh. 

bill (currency) / note
            My host-mom had sound logic in my opinion: “Bills come in the mail, and nobody wants them.”  Why call our money the very thing that takes it away? 

College or university / uni
            The New Zealand equivalency of high school is called “college.”  All undergraduate degrees are earned at universities. 

hiking / tramping
            I asked my host-sister to not say that in the States.

meeting / hook-up
            This synonym was used in the workplace and nothing weird happened. 

zipline / flying fox
            I don’t understand this one. 

What (as in you didn't hear what someone said) / pardon
These people are so polite!
Sandals / Jandals 
In Australia, they call those sandals (flip flops) thongs.
Ground beef / minced beef
How Kiwis said "minced" sounds a lot like “mint” to me.  Needless to say, I was very confused and concerned until I was corrected.
French Fries / chips
            How does one distinguish the type of potato now?!

ketch-up / tomato sauce

cooler / chilly bin

Jell-O / jelly

jelly / jam
            I was corrected many times; Kiwis are particular about their JAMS.
I was very upset to learn that New Zealand does not have grape jelly!  I think I found every other possible jelly and orange marmalade.  Grapes are basically only used for wines and juices in New Zealand.

To become one with the Kiwis, I tried to imitate the Kiwi accent since the best form of flattery is imitation.  Sadly, I was only able to sound like a Kiwi for 5 seconds before I would again sound like a foreigner.  In words like "garage" and “massage,” where Americans say the first a like a short u, Kiwis say it as a long a.  Changing the a sound in those words felt weird.  Also, we have been saying Rutherford incorrectly.  I have forgotten which way is correct, but the difference lies in the u.  Warning: Kiwis get offended if you say their accent is Australian. 

Last but not least, the native language of the early Polynesian settlers, the Māori, is incorporated into New Zealand culture.  According to Wikipedia, the three official languages of New Zealand are English, Māori, and New Zealand Sign Language.  Māori translations are on traffic signs and monuments.  The names of some businesses are in Māori.  Food such as “sweet potatoes” are advertised as kumura.  Some Māori words like whānau for “family” and Kia ora for “Hello” are common to hear.  
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