Outworn Graduation gowns

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Its uni graduation time in Auckland. There are black gowns everywhere. Students looking like they are by no means ready to enter the labour market are celebrating their uni degree by dressing up in a long black gown and a cap and parading through the mains streets of Auckland.

NZ is a lucky country. Basically everybody who wants to, can go to university. Yes you’ll build up a debt, but unemployment in NZ  is pretty low, so you can pay that off pretty quickly afterwards. There are degrees in all sorts of areas that would not necessarily have been seen as academic years ago and are still not in most European countries. It doesn’t mean the skill learned is not valuable. It maybe should just not be a uni degree nor should it follow the academic traditions like the formal graduations. The only reason it does is because tradition is just applied : we’ve always done it this way.

For some reason NZ likes their education traditions. Take all the incredibly ‘important’ school gala’s, where girls are expected to basically dress as if they are getting married, with all hairdo, nail polish and expensive limousine transfers bells and whistles attached. The amount of grief and unnecessary expense it causes! Becaue if you’re not there dressed as a princess, you are ‘missing out’. And this is not only at the last year of high school, there are at least 3 years you have to go.
The other week somebody told me there was a formal graduation ceremony they had to attend from day care with presents and all. Really?

I can see this is my practical down to earth Dutch mind at work here. The mind that questions traditions for traditions sake, all having to dress in the same uniform (and paying big bucks for it too) because heaven forbid individual expressions amongst a group and yes, mandated unnecessary expenses too.

I am very happy for all of them that they have passed their exams. Education is fantastic and  achievements should be celebrated. But do they really have to be so traditional, so regulated and so costly and commercial? Go celebrate, do it your way and not because others tell you to put on that outworn gradation gown again.

Bussing and the myth of losing freedom

B Bussing into work is for a lot of kiwi’s a foreign concept. Something that might happen in other countries or to other people who live in different circumstances. Those people that don’t have kids, pets, a normal working day, don’t exercise, don’t want to get home on time … Really? Traffic in Auckland peak hours is pretty horrendous since Auckland is one of the most congested cities in the world in peak hour. People are spending up to 101 hours a year in peak hour traffic (TomTom Traffic Index Q2 2013). And still people cannot see why leaving the car at home might help improve this situation. Growing up in the Netherlands of course I am used to taking public transport, and was very spoiled by the great train, tram and bus systems that are in place there. But it is also a mind-set no matter how extensive the bus network is. You accept that you plan in advance when you are going somewhere and yes maybe you will share your personal space with somebody you don’t know for an hour a day. Is that crazy? It’s a change, a big change for those who are so attached to their cars and believe taking this away is like giving up freedom. But look at yourself, sitting in traffic going 2 km/h, one car after the other with only a driver in it, every day, twice a day. You get to work stressed as it’s taken you 20 minutes longer then yesterday and you missed the start of a meeting. I’m up to date with my emails, refreshed from my walk to and from the bus stop, motivated by conversation I had with my co-bussers. I can have a drink on Friday afternoon and not worry about drink driving. Does that feel like less freedom to you?

the only sound is quiet

Access to space is a luxury that is not appreciated by many in NZ that have never lived in a crowded country liked the Netherlands. Space is not scarce here, and if you are willing to be a bit away from the main cities, it is very affordable to own a good amount yourself.
Having grown up in a house that had shared walls with the neighbours (“twee-onder-een-kap”), where we were told not to climb the stairs when they had an open home, it is a dream to own an acre, let alone the 10 we bought a few years back. Its a piece of heaven with lots of native trees and birdlife. We can do with this land what and when we like it. Nobody in our view, just our own trees, stream and some old paddocks. The best thing is the noise… there is none! The quietness here is as good for distressing after a hard working week as a massage or a sauna. It calms you right down. Back in the Netherlands with 17 million people on only roughly 41000 sq km, open space is hard to find and only available to a few. My parents really believe I must have hit the jackpot here in NZ. Well I certainly have by being able to live here!
paparoa morning