Updated: Dec 24, 2020
While in New Zealand, the family and I had to deal with one of the strictest COVID-19 lockdowns in the world. (PHOTO: David Moir/AFP/Getty Images)
This is an excerpt from Andrew Powell's first book '2020: A Year So Wild I Had To Write a Book About It' which is expected to be released in the first quarter of 2021
GOODBYE, NEW ZEALAND. HELLO, FREEDOM.
Things got started off as normal with the planning process in regards to booking international flight tickets from New Zealand to the United States, domestic tickets to each Los Angeles, New York City and Miami, all of that jazz. We got all of that done in early February, about a month before the hoopla surrounding the coronavirus, and planned the trip for late May.
Me and my fiancée even bought clothes and other things that we needed for the trip. Everything was good, everything was sweet, everything was planned. We were going on a journey to the United States of America.
And then, it happened.
The World Health Organization (WHO) would declare the novel coronavirus a global pandemic, and as we all know, everything would go into absolute chaos. As for us in New Zealand, the country would shut down the borders completely to foreigners, and the only ones who were allowed were citizens and permanent residents.
With the WHO's declaration, New Zealand's overreaction, the media scaring the hell out of everybody and fearing the unknown, we originally ended up cancelling the trip to America. And it wasn't just because of all of that either: Air New Zealand, the island nation's only airline, were cancelling flights and complete routes left and right.
It was just too chaotic, and we had decided to stay home. The end.
As the facts came out – for example: COVID-19 having a massively low death rate and not being dangerous at all, for starters – me and my fiancée developed an attitude of defiance.
An attitude that we weren't going to be told what to do, especially not by any government, and especially when a government already had you on complete lockdown for a whole month. Remember, New Zealand had one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, we had to deal with that. That's what largely built up the mindset of defiance. And on top of that, we just wanted a vacation. We needed a getaway.
We were completely locked down by New Zealand for an entire month.
We weren't going to be scared by the press either, an entity who we had found out had been lying to us throughout this whole experience – or should I say, verified even more what we had already known and verified even more the media being a bunch of scumbags.
We were going to America, and that's what we did.
Our bags were packed, and we were gone.
"Goodbye, New Zealand. Hello, freedom."
FILE PHOTO: An Air New Zealand Boeing Dreamliner 787-9 takes off from Auckland Airport in New Zealand, September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Nigel Marple/File Photo
Before we get to the motherland, a lot of people have wondered why I moved to New Zealand and how it was like living there, as well as how life was away from the United States of America – the greatest country in the world that has left all of us Americans spoiled.
Back in 2017, I was running a small conservative news outlet, and you might remember it, called Powell Media. As the Editor-in-Chief and focusing on constantly getting content out, I needed to recruit a team of writers to be able to pump out original news articles. That's how I ended up meeting my now-fiancée, Crystal.
For a while, however, everything was innocent between us two and we worked together on Powell Media, along with a few other staff members. As time went along, that's when we started developing feelings for each other. It went from working together, to talking about politics together, to discussing right-wing issues together, to eventually leading into personal conservations.
Her intellect, her beauty, how much I loved hanging out with her, I admit I fell in love.
As my feelings grew, and her feelings grew, I finally popped the first question of "will you be my girlfriend?"
She would obviously say yes.
Now as you know, I live in the United States and she lives in New Zealand, so we knew that we were going to have to maintain a long distance relationship. And not just any long distance relationship, one that is international – literally half across the entire world, across all of the Pacific Ocean. However, we loved each other strong, and we were determined to make it happen.
We went a solid amount of months before we actually got together, just spending time together on the phone and video calling each other on Facebook. Eventually though, in 2018 at the time of the last midterm election cycle, I would go over to New Zealand to visit my then-girlfriend. And oh man, it was magical.
Crystal and I hit it off great, and literally the entire two weeks was a magical experience with a woman I love. Now, you might be asking yourself: Why did you have to go to New Zealand? Why couldn't she come over to the United States?
Well, she actually has three kids from a previous marriage, so out of respect towards her and the kids, we thought it would be best for me to travel to her to be able to take our relationship to the next level. And I personally didn't mind. Not only did I get to see my girlfriend and meet her kids (especially Rizzo, I'll get to her momentarily), but I also got to experience intense air travel and a new culture in the island nation of New Zealand.
New Zealand (Māori: Aotearoa[aɔˈtɛaɾɔa]) is an island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It comprises two main landmasses—the North Island (Te Ika-a-Māui) and the South Island (Te Waipounamu)—and around 600 smaller islands, covering a total area of 268,021 square kilometres (103,500 sq mi). New Zealand is about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and 1,000 kilometres (600 mi) south of the islands of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. The country's varied topography and sharp mountain peaks, including the Southern Alps, owe much to tectonic uplift and volcanic eruptions. New Zealand's capital city is Wellington, and its most populous city is Auckland.
A developed country, New Zealand ranks highly in international comparisons of national performance, such as quality of life, education, protection of civil liberties, government transparency, and economic freedom. The service sector dominates the national economy, followed by the industrial sector, and agriculture; international tourism is a significant source of revenue. Nationally, legislative authority is vested in an elected, unicameral Parliament, while executive political power is exercised by the Cabinet, led by the prime minister, currently Jacinda Ardern. Queen Elizabeth II is the country's monarch and is represented by a governor-general, currently Dame Patsy Reddy. In addition, New Zealand is organised into 11 regional councils and 67 territorial authorities for local government purposes. The Realm of New Zealand also includes Tokelau (a dependent territory); the Cook Islands and Niue (self-governing states in free association with New Zealand); and the Ross Dependency, which is New Zealand's territorial claim in Antarctica.
A few months later after my two-week visit with Crystal and the kids, I would go back for another visit, this time for a total of six weeks. It was another opportunity to personally hang out with them and build on our relationship in person. Mission accomplished.
But here was the biggest thing accomplished from that trip: Crystal and I ended up getting pregnant with Georgia (my now 11-month-old daughter), taking our relationship to an even higher level. But don't get me wrong, it was no accident. My baby girl was completely planned.
When I got back to the United States from that trip, that's when we started to shift gears and planned on me moving over and becoming a family – no more visits, it was time to take another step to making Crystal and I completely official as a relationship.
I got back from the second visit to New Zealand in May of 2019, and I ended up making the move over with Crystal and the kids in October, so it was five months that we were separated before I finally started living over there. I hate that I had to leave my pregnant girlfriend for that long, but we didn't really have a choice because of immigration.
When I made my return to the island nation in October to reunite with Crystal and the kids, my daughter Georgia was due to be born two months later in December, which was fantastic timing to get back before her birth – a solid two months to enjoy each other before the baby, plan for the baby and make sure that we had everything that we needed.
The first family experience that I had was Halloween, but what's interesting about Halloween in New Zealand is that they don't make it a big deal like we do, which is a bummer. You guys already know how we do it in the States – dressing up in costumes, going from door to door to get candy, having Halloween parties, yeah, they don't do any of that in New Zealand. Yeah, I know. It's pretty lame.
However, being the American exceptionalist that I am, you know I had to Americanize the Halloween of Crystal and the kids, at least as much as I could.
So what Crystal and I did is go to the store and got some skeletons and ghosts to hang up, some pumpkins to place beside the front door to the house, and we also got a Halloween piñata full of candy that the kids got to knock the hell out of. Me and the kids tried to hit up a few houses to get some sweets from, but out of the six or seven houses that we knocked on, we were only successful with one – a nice old couple that lived right next door to Crystal. This is also the same issue that I had with the kids during Halloween 2018 in New Zealand.
New Zealand really needs to step up the game when it comes to Halloween. Regardless, the kids still managed to have fun with as much as I could do, and we made sure that they were hooked up with plenty of candy.
Americanizing Halloween: Successful, for the most part.
My fiancée Crystal, along with our two daughters Munro (right) and Georgia (left), waiting at Wellington International Airport in Wellington, New Zealand before we flew to Auckland, New Zealand that would eventually take us internationally across the Pacific Ocean to Los Angeles, California, United States of America. (PHOTO: Andrew Powell/The Powell Times)
The next experiment with Americanizing this beautiful little family was Thanksgiving, which is obviously just an American holiday, and to my now-fiancée's credit, she went all in as well to Americanize that Friday in New Zealand (they're a day ahead of the United States in time) in the name of Thanksgiving.
Crystal was a thoroughbred in the kitchen – turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn, macaroni and cheese, rolls, sweet potato casserole, baby girl definitely went hardcore! It was fantastic, and thank you to that beautiful woman for having us covered in the kitchen.
Me, I decided to take care of the culture side of it: Football with the TV blasting in the background, getting a bottle of Bombay Sapphire Gin (hey, it's an excuse to drink), and telling the kids stories about Thanksgiving. Remember, they're New Zealanders, so everything was new and fascinating to them.
It was a good time, and it was fun to celebrate such a great holiday in another nation. Thank you again to my fiancée for doing everything she could to make me feel at home for Thanksgiving! Damn, I love that woman!
A month later around Christmas time, the focus wasn't really too much on the holidays, and for a couple of reasons: 1. We didn't have much money at the time, so couldn't really afford ourselves or the kids too many presents. And more importantly, 2. Crystal was nine-months pregnant with Georgia and was due to give birth at any moment around Jesus Christ's birthday. As a result, the vast majority of the focus was on our daughter being born.
That was one hell of an experience, and it all started with me hoping that Peach (Georgia's nickname) was going to be born on my birthday of December 19th, and with her due date being the 16th, it was quite the reality. So once we got to December 16th and there was no baby, I was hoping that George would make a move and be born on her daddy's birthday. The opportunity was there, and I was hoping for it badly.
With this being the case, Crystal and I decided to go to the hospital to see if they would induce her so Georgia could be born on my birthday. It was a dream scenario. However, here was the issue with that: In the United States, we all know that you can freely get induced and call it a day. Well, in New Zealand, it's not like that. They have more of a nanny-state system in that country, and instead of just inducing you, they make you go through an entire process and series of tests. After all of that is over, they then make the decision on whether or not to induce you.
Well, after nine hours in a hospital (which was majority waiting), the series of tests and then waiting another hour in another section of the hospital (that nobody showed up to by the way, which in turn we just walked out without talking to a doctor), Georgia ended up not being induced and it was a complete waste of time – and remember, all of this happened on my birthday. Yes, my birthday in 2019 was literally spent in a hospital all day. Needless to say, it was pretty irritating. For both me and Crystal. At the end of the day, she was the pregnant one, and having a tough time with it because Georgia was such a big baby. She was a champ throughout, however.
My birthday wasn't completely lost though. After we got out of the hospital, we decided to pick up some pizzas and Bombay Sapphire Gin to celebrate in Crystal's step dad's party shed. Obviously, Crystal had to pass on the alcohol. Still though, it was a pretty fun night.
Just three days later on December 22nd, that's when Georgia decided to finally show up – six days overdue. For Crystal, she was just happy to get the pregnancy over with, can't blame her there. For me, I had mixed feelings, because I'm like, "damn, did you really have to wait three days after my birthday to be born? You couldn't have just done it on my birthday while we were at the hospital?"
Me (left) posing for a picture with my newborn daughter Georgia Ronan Elizabeth Powell (right) on the day of her birth, December 22, 2019, at Dannevirke Community Hospital in Dannevirke, New Zealand. (PHOTO: Crystal Powell/The Powell Times)
But hey, baby girl wanted her own birthday, and I'm not going to hold that against her.
I still remember that day like it was yesterday.
Crystal was up early, it was around 5:30 in the morning, in excruciating pain and it was obvious that she was going into labor – Georgia was ready to come into the world.
We hurried up and got ready, packed our bags together for the stay at the hospital, and waited for Crystal's mom to pick us up to take us there. As soon as we showed up, to their credit, the hospital staff immediately got to work and was ready to get this baby out.
With this being my first baby, it was a pretty crazy experience for me, both from the standpoint of strictly analyzing the birth and being emotional because of my daughter coming into the world – needless to say, my head was all over the place.
Crystal was great, she was just ready to get the baby out and end the intense pain, and like the staff, she immediately got to work when it was time.
There for a while, she was trying to push the baby out and was sucking on the laughing gas at the same time. And not just sucking on the laughing gas, inhaling the absolute shit out of it. She was killing that laughing gas. Eventually though, the nurses told her that she needed more motivation to get the baby out, and the motivation was simple: The gas is now gone, which creates more pain, and the quicker you push the baby out, the quicker the pain goes away. It ended up being an effective strategy, because Crystal pushed out Georgia just minutes later. As funny as it sounds, it worked.
I admit, it took me a little while to get adapted to fatherhood. At first, I felt completely out of place, I wasn't actually sure what to do and how to be. For Crystal, this was her fourth child and she's obviously got years of experience being a parent. For me, this was a completely new thing, and something that changed my whole life with Georgia being my first child.
In the hospital, I was emotional when Peach was born, I cried happy tears when Crystal finally pushed her out. I was incredibly happy that I was a father. But when I got home, it took awhile for me to get adjusted and figure out how exactly I was supposed to be. It took me about a month to get it together, but once I got going, I feel like I've been steamrolling ever since – now I understand I'm not the best father in the world or anything, I've got a lot of learning to do with George just being a baby, but up until this point, I feel like I've done a good job at fatherhood. (Thanks to Georgia and my step-children.)
I'm now a family man, and to be honest, it's a life that I never want to give up. There's so much joy that comes along from having a good woman and beautiful children. I've always been career-driven and put my career first, but they have definitely changed the game – family is the best thing you'll have in this world, truly, no matter what an organization like the Marxist Black Lives Matter says about the nuclear family.
A couple of months later, right before the China virus put the world in a state of chaos, I decided to propose to Crystal officially making her my fiancée. As time goes along, the more we fall in love, the closer we get through everything we've been through, and more importantly, both of our relationship with Jesus Christ grows stronger and stronger. So, we want to get married for us, Georgia and God, and we had actually planned to do so in New York City in June, however, those plans got ruined because of the coronavirus.
Now, the target is to get married in Las Vegas on New Year’s Weekend, and with plane tickets and clothes already bought up for said weekend, it looks like that mission is going to be a success – both for us getting married and visiting Vegas for the first time.
The city of Las Vegas and its shining lights at night. (PHOTO: Just Fly Business)
With New Zealand, it's a fantastic country to live in.
In the particular area that I resided in with my fiancée and the kids, it's a small town on the North Island called Dannevirke. There really isn't much to it, but they do have everything you need: Grocery store, gas station, a store called The Warehouse that has a little bit of everything, a few other shops on the main road, a few palm trees scattered out throughout town, and they have a good number of restaurants to get a bite to eat.
Speaking of food, if you're ever in New Zealand and go through Dannevirke, make sure you stop at a place called Hi-Way Dairy. It's not the most flashy place, but it's about the food, which is take-out only – they don't have anywhere to sit down and eat. It's literally just in-and-out, and if you need anything else with your food, they have a good selection of everything: Cigarettes, toilet paper, milk, etc.
With the food, they're popular for fried chicken, pies and chips, what we know as fries. With their pies, a "pie" means something else in New Zealand. To us here in America, we have apple pies, cherry pies, pumpkin pies and so on. Across the Pacific in Kiwi Nation, their pies are full of mince and cheese, steak and cheese, and they even have butter chicken pies – and oh my God, they are so delicious. If you visit, definitely be sure to get you a pie, which you can find anywhere in New Zealand – I personally get mine at the BP and Hi-Way Dairy in Dannevirke.
What Hi-Way Dairy is the most popular for though, and deservingly so, are their chips – what we call fries and/or potato wedges in the United States. They are honestly the best tasting chips/fries/potato wedges I have ever had in my life. I don't know what it is, but I'm thinking it's the chicken grease they fry them in, and then when they're done cooking, they load them up with chicken salt. They're incredibly delicious, and can either be treated as a snack or a meal. If you're ever in Dannevirke, I highly recommend getting you a bag (or even box) of some Hi-Way Dairy chips. I promise you, you will not be disappointed.
Another town that I would go to quite a bit was Palmerston North, mainly because that's where Crystal's step-dad lives, and we went over there a lot to hang out in his party shed – good times that I would have loved to have back, but hey, I rather be here in America. We would go in there to hang out and enjoy the vibe, talk politics and have other conversations, drink and smoke a little bit, and listen to music. That's the main thing we would do in "Palmy," as New Zealanders call it, but they also have a pretty nice mall that you can go to and a lot more options to shop and eat at.
As far as food suggestions there, I suggest going to a place called O&Bowl (or just ‘Bowl’ for short) in the Palmerston North mall (called The Plaza), who serve some very delicious Japanese food. Every time we go to Palmy, we always make sure we stop by to pick up a bowl (hence the name of the restaurant), which features some quite tasty rice, chicken and that's just the start of it. I personally like to keep my bowl simple. You, on the other hand, can get as crazy as you want with all of the selections that they have.
As far as the rest of New Zealand, I'm not completely familiar with what the country has to offer, but there are four cities on my radar for you to visit if you ever do decide to visit the island nation: Napier, Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch.
Napier (/ˈneɪpiər/NAY-pee-ər; Māori: Ahuriri) is a New Zealand city with a seaport, located in Hawke's Bay on the eastern coast of the North Island. The population of Napier is about 62,800 as of June 2019. About 18 kilometres (11 mi) south of Napier is the inland city of Hastings. These two neighbouring cities are often called "The Bay Cities" or "The Twin Cities" of New Zealand. The total population of the Napier-Hastings Urban Area is 123,960 people, which makes it the sixth-largest urban area in New Zealand, closely followed by Dunedin (104,500), and trailing Tauranga (135,000).
Napier is a popular tourist city, with a unique concentration of 1930s Art Deco architecture, built after much of the city was razed in the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake. It also has one of the most photographed tourist attractions in the country, a statue on Marine Parade called Pania of the Reef. Thousands of people flock to Napier every February for the Tremains Art Deco Weekend event, a celebration of its Art Deco heritage and history. Other notable tourist events attracting many outsiders to the region annually include F.A.W.C! Food and Wine Classic events, and the Mission Estate Concert at Mission Estate Winery in the suburb of Taradale.
The marina and waterfront in Ahuriri, Napier, is a sea-tourism attraction. Swimming and family activities are popular in Pandora Pond – a salt water inlet by the inner harbour in Ahuriri – or on the beaches and playgrounds of Marine Parade, Westshore and Ahuriri. The many rivers that flow through the region are used for water activities, such as jet boating, jet skiing, rowing, kayaking, fishing, whitebaiting and swimming.
Napier is one of the few cities that I do happen to be familiar with being there a solid amount of times, and for a few other reasons: 1. Crystal used to live there. 2. She has one of her best friends there. 3. We love the beach culture and lifestyle. And 4. To be honest, we happen to have a marijuana connection there. We love our weed, which you’ll certainly find out more and more as you read along.
Due to its palm trees, beautiful beaches, warm weather, Art Deco and smaller size, I've always liked referring to Napier, New Zealand as "Little Miami." This particular photo is of Clive Square, a feature in Napier you can walk through which features five different species of palm trees and other exotic tropical plants. (PHOTO: Richard F. Ebert)
One of the first things that you'll notice about Napier is how bright the sun is, how beautiful the palm trees are, and probably the biggest, how blue the water is – and it's incredibly blue. Napier is a gorgeous city.
One of the biggest things, if not the biggest, that Napier is known for is their 1930s Art Deco architecture, and it makes the city that much more beautiful. There's so much Art Deco that they even refer to themselves as the Art Deco Capital, and even though I love the Art Deco culture in Napier, I have to disagree with their sentiment that they're the "capital." The city of Miami, Florida in the United States of America has that label, and it's not even close, though I do like to refer to Napier as "Little Miami" – there are a lot of similarities there. However, Napier is no Miami, though I have massive love for the city of Napier.
With the Art Deco, it's so big that they even have a special weekend every year designated to it called Tremains Art Deco Weekend where people dress up in 1930s suits and drive around in cars from the same time period. I personally haven't been to one of these, but Crystal wants to take me to one sometime in the future, and I'm excited for the simple fact that it gives me an excuse to wear a stupendous pinstripe suit with a matching all-black fedora to top it off, and I'll certainly go for the black leather loafers with some soft, crisp black Ralph Lauren socks underneath. Thank you to Roger Stone for the fashion tips.
If you're into shopping, you'll be into Napier as well, especially if you go on Emerson Street which is full of shops and pedestrians walking up and down the street going into them, with minimal cars to worry about. It's just stores, a fine brick road, green palm trees and good weather to enjoy. Even if you don't like to shop, it's still somewhere to enjoy the vibe and the views, it's certainly good for that.
As far as the swimming culture there, I've personally never swam in Napier. You can swim in the ocean there, but you have to be careful, because Napier has dangerous waters to swim in, but people do swim. Just do so at your own risk.
Here is a description from Stuff, a media outlet in New Zealand, describing the waters of Marine Parade Beach in Napier:
A sudden drop in depth means waves here can be large and unpredictable. Rogue breaks have snatched people from the shore and sucked them out to sea. Following drownings, there are plenty of signs to warn swimmers. It's best to stay clear of the water's edge.
My experiences with the beach have been without the swimming. I've hung out with Crystal several times, had a date with her, smoked weed with her, had a picnic with the family, and fed the seagulls with Munro, my soon to be four-year-old step-daughter. There's a lot of different stuff that you can do on the beach.
One of my favorite things to do is right when you come through Napier, going up Kennedy Road with palm trees everywhere coming at you from every direction. It's something that we always did when we went to Napier, mainly because I love it so much – I'm a huge fan of palm trees.
Wellington (Māori: Te Whanganui-a-Tara[tɛ ˈfaŋanʉi a taɾa]) is the capital city of New Zealand. It is located at the south-western tip of the North Island, between Cook Strait and the Remutaka Range. Wellington is the major population centre of the southern North Island, and is the administrative centre of the Wellington Region, which also includes the Kapiti Coast and the Wairarapa. It is the world's southernmost capital of a sovereign state. Wellington features a temperate maritime climate, and is the world's windiest city by average wind speed.
The position of Wellington as capital of New Zealand is not defined in legislation, but established by convention. Its metropolitan area comprises four local authorities: Wellington City, on the peninsula between Cook Strait and Wellington Harbour, contains the central business district; Porirua on Porirua Harbour to the north is notable for its large Māori and Pacific Island communities; Lower Hutt and Upper Hutt are largely suburban areas to the northeast, together known as the Hutt Valley. The Wellington urban area, which only includes urbanised areas within Wellington City, has a population of 215,400 residents as of June 2019. The urban areas of the four local authorties have a combined population of 416,800 residents as of June 2019.
As the nation's capital since 1865, the New Zealand Government and Parliament, the Supreme Court, and most of the public service are based in the city. Architectural sights include the Old Government Buildings—one of the largest wooden buildings in the world—as well as the iconic Beehive, the executive wing of Parliament Buildings. Wellington is also home to several of the largest and oldest cultural institutions in the nation, such the National Archives, the National Library, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, and numerous theatres. It plays host to many artistic and cultural organisations, including the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and Royal New Zealand Ballet. One of the world's most liveable cities, the 2016 Mercer Quality of Living Survey ranked Wellington 12th in the world, and was first in the world for both liveability and non-pollution by Deutsche Bank, from 2017–18.
Described by Lonely Planet in 2013 as "the coolest little capital in the world", the world city has grown from a bustling Māori settlement, to a remote colonial outpost, and from there to an Australasian capital experiencing a "remarkable creative resurgence".
Wellington is primarily surrounded by water.
And that it is.
Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, is an extraordinary city surrounded by buildings, billboards, political power, and of course, water. (PHOTO: Phillip Capper/Flickr)
I have very minimal experience with Wellington, but from what I saw during our drive through to the airport, it's a very beautiful city.
As Wikipedia says, one of the first things that you will notice is that the city is completely surrounded by water. And not just by the Pacific Ocean, but also the Cook Strait, which features a ferry that takes citizens and tourists back and forth between the North and South Island. It doesn't have the exotic tropical climate that Napier has, but it's still a cool city regardless with the ocean culture there.
When you get into the city, there's a load of people that you’ll notice that are walking, jogging, talking, fishing – whatever it may be that they’re doing – around the water, which creates a beach-like community. That's what immediately drew me into Wellington, and it was a good prequel to lead me into this vacation that was going to eventually take me to Miami.
But that wasn't all though, the big buildings (all crowded next to each other which made for an even cooler look), huge billboards, and government landmarks where laws are made (like the famous Beehive) take Wellington to an even higher admirable level. Plus, the New Zealand mainstream media is obviously quite present there with their politicians headquartered in the city, so it's a town that could be like Candy Land for me if I ever decided to get into Kiwi politics – which I highly doubt would happen at this point in my life. It’s all about the United States and American right-wing politics for me.
I've only been to Wellington once, and it was just a quick sneak-peak of what I saw, but I was impressed with the limited experience. I definitely want to go back when we visit New Zealand again. It's a city I certainly want to explore, and I suggest you do too if you take the trip to the island nation. You won't be let down with how flashy it is – and like I said, it has an airport there in the city for your convenience, to either travel all around the country or get back to Auckland for an international flight.
Auckland (/ˈɔːklənd/ AWK-lənd; Māori: Tāmaki Makaurau) is a metropolitan city in the North Island of New Zealand. The most populous urban area in the country, Auckland has an urban population of about 1,467,800 (June 2019). It is located in the Auckland Region—the area governed by Auckland Council—which includes outlying rural areas and the islands of the Hauraki Gulf, resulting in a total population of 1,642,800. Auckland is a diverse, multicultural and cosmopolitan city, home to the largest Polynesian population in the world. The Māori-language name for Auckland is Tāmaki Makaurau, meaning "Tāmaki desired by many", in reference to the desirability of its natural resources and geography.
Auckland lies between the Hauraki Gulf to the east, then extending in Hunua Ranges to the south-east, the Manukau Harbour to the south-west, and the Waitākere Ranges and smaller ranges to the west and north-west. The surrounding hills are covered in rainforest and the landscape is dotted with 53 dormant volcanic cones. The central part of the urban area occupies a narrow isthmus between the Manukau Harbour on the Tasman Sea and the Waitematā Harbour on the Pacific Ocean. Auckland is one of the few cities in the world to have a harbour on each of two separate major bodies of water.
The University of Auckland, founded in 1883, is the largest university in New Zealand. The city's varied cultural institutions—such as the Auckland War Memorial Museum, the Museum of Transport and Technology, and Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki—and national historic sites, festivals, performing arts, and sports activities are significant tourist attractions. Architectural landmarks include the Harbour Bridge, the Town Hall, the Ferry Building and the Sky Tower. The city is served by Auckland Airport, which handles around one million international passengers a month. Despite being one of the most expensive cities in the world, Auckland is recognised as one of the world's most liveable cities, ranked third in the 2019 Mercer Quality of Living Survey.
With Auckland, my minimal experience gets even worse, and this despite the fact that I've been to Auckland more times than Wellington. And that's because I've only been to the airport and immediately exited each time from the city, whether it's by plane or getting straight on the motorway – what we call a highway.
Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand, and its skyline shining in the night sky and reflecting beautifully off of the Pacific Ocean. (PHOTO: Wallpaper Flare)
In other words, I've only seen a very limited portion of Auckland.
I don't know how much of Auckland I'll ever experience either, because Crystal considers the city a "shithole" and doesn't want to take me the next time we visit New Zealand because, well, she hates that town. She's been there, done that, and has no interest in going back. I, on the other hand, would like to see the ins and outs of Auckland, but at the same time, it's not something that will make or break my life.
However, for you, take advantage. At the end of the day, it is the most populous city in New Zealand, and I'm sure there's plenty to do and plenty to eat. They have the only Taco Bell available in the country, so sky's the limit for the island nation when it comes to Auckland – New Zealand's epicenter.
For real though, take that Taco Bell factoid as valuable information, because the way I see it, it just shows you that Auckland is going to have more than the rest of New Zealand. And that's incredibly obvious with the way the press in that country focuses on Auckland and ignores the rest of the nation, similar to the bias towards New York City and Los Angeles here in the United States.
Christchurch (/ˈkraɪs(t)tʃɜːrtʃ/; Māori: Ōtautahi) is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand and the seat of the Canterbury Region. The Christchurch urban area lies on the South Island's east coast, just north of Banks Peninsula. The urban area is home to 377,200 residents, and the territorial authority has 385,500 people, which makes it the second-most populous city in New Zealand after Auckland and before Wellington. The Avon River flows through the centre of the city, with an urban park located along its banks.
The city suffered a series of earthquakes between September 2010 and January 2012, with the most destructive of them occurring at 12.51 p.m. on Tuesday, 22 February 2011, in which 185 people were killed and thousands of buildings across the city collapsed or suffered severe damage. By late 2013, 1,500 buildings in the city had been demolished, leading to an ongoing recovery and rebuilding project.
Christchurch has one of the highest-quality water supplies in the world, with its water rated among the purest and cleanest in the world. Untreated, naturally filtered water is sourced, via more than 50 pumping stations surrounding the city, from aquifers emanating from the foothills of the Southern Alps.
The close proximity of the ski fields and other attractions of the Southern Alps, and hotels, a casino, and an airport that meet international standards make Christchurch a stopover destination for many tourists. The city is popular with Japanese tourists, with signage around Cathedral Square in Japanese.
Now with Christchurch, I've never been there (or the entire South Island at that) in my life, however, I do have one reason why I would like to go: To explore the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch where the shooting that killed 51 Muslims and injured 40 took place in March 2019.
I don't know much about Christchurch, I've never been there, but it's obviously a beautiful city. I've love to visit one day, particularly to witness the site of the 2019 mosque shooting. When my family and I visit, Christchurch will be on the checklist. (PHOTO: The Crazy Tourist)
If you're not familiar with that story, here is a description from The Denver Post (via the Associated Press):
CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — Mass shootings at two mosques full of worshippers attending Friday prayers killed 49 people on what the prime minister called “one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” as authorities detained four people and defused explosive devices in what appeared to be a carefully planned attack.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the events in Christchurch represented “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence” and acknowledged many of those affected may be migrants and refugees. In addition to the dead, she said more than 20 people were seriously wounded.
“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” Ardern said.
New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush, who said the death toll was 49, told a news conference that a man has been charged with murder and will appear in court tomorrow. He would not say whether the same shooter was responsible for both attacks.
Police took three men and a woman into custody after the shootings, which shocked people across the nation of 5 million people.
Now obviously, I know I won't be allowed to go into the mosque, nor do I have any interest in going into the mosque, but honestly, I just want to see it. It's such a massive piece of world history, at least as far as shootings go. Hell, it completely changed the entire landscape of New Zealand politics and lawmaking. I just want to witness it and add it to my list of experiences – with the wave that this caused in the news cycle, it would be cool as both someone who is interested in politics and as a journalist.
That's about all I personally know about Christchurch, but with it being the most populous city on the South Island and the second-most populous city in the entire nation of New Zealand, I'm sure it has a lot to offer.
Plus, it has a cool name. I personally hope to visit one day.
New Zealand is an awesome place to live, and for multiple different reasons: It has everything you need, it's an absolutely beautiful country and it's relatively safe for the most part – there's a reason why Americans are flocking there or setting themselves up to be able to leave for the country just in case.
There was even a report that Americans were visiting the Immigration New Zealand website every 30 seconds at one point.
With me, the United States of America is my motherland, but with my family being from New Zealand, the island nation has become a homeland. I take pride in having investments in both countries, and honestly, it's been a cool experience living overseas and experiencing a different culture. Yeah, I've missed the United States, but New Zealand has become a home, and I've enjoyed living there with my family.
Like every nation, New Zealand does come along with its fair share of both pros and cons, with some of the cons being they’re a bit too much of a nanny-state for me, they coddle their youth too much and schools are constantly on "holiday," prices and taxes are sky-high, they have a bit of both a gang and drug problem, they have a lot of soft liberal types in their population, they make it nearly impossible to have a gun, their consumerism is nowhere as advanced as America's (which is expected when you're an island) and so on. But like I said, every country has it's problems.
As far as the pros, the nature is the first thing that will pull you in, which features beautiful green hills (miles and miles of it), farm-land with cows and sheep all around you, palm trees and tropical plants everywhere, gorgeous beaches, beach-like and Art Deco architecture, and it also features volcanoes and earthquakes – and even though that may sound scary, it's pretty cool for me to live in a land like that considering I grew up on the East Coast of the United States.
Also a part of their nature is the wildlife, and one of New Zealand's most popular features of that element are their birds. In fact, the island nation is known as the seabird capital of the world, and they also have birds that don't exist anywhere else on the planet other than New Zealand. Some of their most famous birds are: Albatrosses, New Zealand falcons, tuis, kakapos, and the most famous: the kiwi bird, which is why New Zealanders are called Kiwis, and the country is nicknamed the Kiwi Nation. Oh, and on top of that, they also have penguins, which I find it incredibly cool to live in the same place as!
Also, with New Zealand being an island nation, there's a ton of exotic marine life here: Dolphins, whales, sharks, devil rays, sea turtles, sea snakes, seals and sea lions. And a lot of their creatures are both rare and exclusive to just New Zealand, a lot are even exclusive to just certain parts of the country, which just shows you some of the rarity of their wildlife.
A kiwi road sign on the South Island of New Zealand. (PHOTO: crbellette/iStock/Getty)
An honorable mention of New Zealand's wildlife is a large snail that they have called the Powelliphanta, which I'm sure it's obvious why I'm giving it an honorable mention, but if you don't know, I'm totally embracing the 'Powell' part of that snail's name. That's it, I just wanted to give that snail a shout out for its name. What can I say?
Powelliphanta is a genus of large, air-breathing land snails, pulmonate gastropods in the family Rhytididae, found only in New Zealand. They are carnivorous, eating invertebrates, mostly native earthworms. Often restricted to very small areas of moist forest, they are prey to introduced mammalian predators, and many species are threatened or endangered.
Those are personally all of the things that I enjoy about New Zealand, but they also have other things that may peak your interest: Skiing, snowboarding, sightseeing where Lord of the Rings was made, there's more than just the shopping, wildlife and beaches. There's plenty here, and it's a gorgeous country to view as you travel around.
If you ever get the opportunity, come take a visit to New Zealand. It's a fantastic nation.
But it's, of course, no match for my beloved United States of America.