[ Note : New Zealand allows nationals from certain countries “working holiday visas” where the holder can work while enjoying the sights around the country, for a limited time of course. I found out there were two such working holiday visa holders right in my own backyard, Ray H of Taoyuan Taiwan and Jack H of Bradford England. ]
THERE won’t be a single surprised Precious Reader to know that I no longer consider myself a young person. Sure, I still do crazy things, laugh at stupid jokes, and react immaturely to the silliest provocations, but the ravages of Time and dictates of Reality have taken over the hopes and dreams of younger years. I still act and think like a much younger person many times a day, but it’s no longer the norm.
One thing that won’t change about me however is feeling young and keeping a youthful perspective on life, and part of this outlook is my tendency to never hesitate introducing myself and mixing it up with younger people, in varied types of social situations. It helps that I have had the blessing of having children who are in the prime of their youth now, so I can add to my knowledge and experience of dealing with and interacting with them, for better or worse.
I had a youthful moment recently when I saw the newest temp tasked to clean the grain (shipping) containers that none of us regulars had the time nor patience for. Told that he was Japanese, I quickly jogged to the container area to say hello to only the third Asian on site.
Ohayo gozaymasu! I greeted to Japanese Temp, who quickly countered, “Sorry, I am not Japanese.”
And I should’ve known, his almond eyes and roundish face unmistakeably un-Japanese and almost surely of the other East Asian empire closer to my homeland.
So sorry myself! You are most definitely Chinese are you not? Zhongguo ren ma? I attempted in my rudimentary Mandarin.
Bushi, wo shi Taiwan ren. No, I’m Taiwanese, in identical Mandarin but on the other side of the ditch.
Okay. It being the start of the Year of the Sheep, I greeted him in Fujianese, the most popular Chinese dialect in the Philippines, which happened to be the same popular dialect in Taiwan. Kyong hee wat tsay then? ( as opposed to the more popular Kong hei fat choy of the Cantonese 🙂 )
Wow, you can speak Fujianese? Are you from Taiwan as well? Taiwanese Temp, also known as Ray H, asks.
Malaysian then? Or Singaporean?
umm, No, and no. I tell him that he has plenty of provincemates in the Pearl of the Orient, none other than Islas de los Pintados or the Philippine Islands. He says that there are so few Taiwanese in Wellington compared to Mainland Chinese, and even less non-Taiwanese who speak his tongue, thank God for English and Mandarin.
I ask him what brings him to New Zealand, and expectedly he says it’s a working holiday visa, and after saving a couple of week’s worth of wages, he visits the South Island, parts of the North Island, and most recently the urban wonders of Auckland.
I know that Taiwan was under Japan before and during the Second World War, so I tread carefully when I ask him about what he feels about the dispute between the two nations caused by disputed islands. His response surprises me.
“Recently we have come to admire all things Japanese and Korean, because of their adaptability to Western ways, but more so with Japan now. We don’t worry that much about our dispute with Japan, actually we are happy that someone has stood up to China’s bullying.”
Wow. In that case, then I told him that Japan recently gifted the Philippines with military speedboats to patrol our coasts, definitely a nod to recognizing a common enemy in the region.
No surprise to know that, Ray says. Cryptically, and in surprisingly good English, he tells me, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Was that referring to Japan and the Philippines, or Taiwan and the Philippines?
Another temp I didn’t realize was also on a working holiday visa here was Jack, whose job 90% of the day was tearing up bags packed defectively or printed with the wrong batch or production code. Boring work, but somebody had to do it. Somebody who wasn’t a regular employee.
I didn’t even know he wasn’t a local because he was as white as a sheet, and spoke like a local. Only when I bothered to spend a few minutes with him did I know that he was from the land of New Zealand’s former colonial master, the United Kingdom of England, Northern Ireland and Wales.
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Not having too much in common with the UK, a typical Pinoy like myself could only say so much about merry old England, but I still tried. Having no one talking to him 99% of the shift, and working tediously and monotonously, I think he deserved that much at least.
I told him that riding the London Eye would be a highlight for me on a bucket-list Europe trip, and that a good part of the nurses from our country make their way to the UK, one of the better places for our nurses to work in.
I realized that the quarter-hour I spent with him at the packing area, where he was shredding bags of product, I was doing most of the talking.
What was the defining emotion you feel while working and holidaying in New Zealand? was the best question i could come up with.
Just the impression that no matter how friendly the people are here, no matter how some places remind him of home, and no matter how easy it is to travel between the two countries, I’m so far away from home, Jack told me.
He’d been in both New Zealand and Australia the last six months, but even a seasoned traveler like him missed home, his old job in medi-science at a teaching hospital, and his 3rd division Bradford team that beat top-division Chelsea just early this year.
He loved his time using his working holiday visa, but admitted that he was looking forward to going home. Reminiscent of the words of the popular Passenger song (Let her Go), you only hate the road when you’re missing home.
Quite a lot I learned from those unlikely teachers, the two youngsters on working holiday.