Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Foot Lose

My feet have officially had it with walking everywhere! I have blisters and hot spots all over. So now I have to get really creative about getting around in shoes that won't kill the rest of me (namely my back - oops, too late!!) and that my tootsies can actually also tolerate. I think I'm reduced to "jandals", which would be flip flops. Crap. I am such an out-of-shape soft-footed wuss. But other than that I am a "box of fluffies"! Bronwyn is picking up catching me with Kiwi-isms right where Bruce left off with American-isms! What exactly are fluffies?!

I am getting a bit more into the swing of things at work. Some things are very much the same as in the States, and then of course other things are totally different. Health care being the biggest, and most overwhelmingly positive, difference. Perhaps most Kiwis might not agree that their health care is that great (and I found that in Finland as well - where the health care is probably the best in the world), but coming from the States, they really don't know what bad health care is. I practically started crying when I asked Bronwyn about the funding for services and she looked at me completely cockeyed. She said, genuinely confused, "Oh, no. There are no fees...?... That is not even a consideration...." And to fill most prescriptions is NZ$3. NZ$3!!! Yeah.

Also, we have two psychiatrists on our team. They are so laid back and "normal" that I accidentally confused them with social workers. There isn't a slightest sense of elitism or pecking order regarding titles... The doctors (who I have never heard be referred to as "Dr. so-and-so" yet) have time for anyone (especially clients) and have the most natural, warm disposition. In fact, Bronwyn had Mike (the doctor) run after a client after they left their keys behind! I was having fun trying to imagine doing that in the States! I'm sure those individuals exist there, but I sure didn't run into any in all my years dealing with medical doctors. (Sorry if I offend anyone, just my experience, that's all....) Also, no-one has their diplomas, licenses or other miscellaneous certificates on the walls here, just jokes and funny posters.

Everyone is also consistently calling their spouses or significant others "partners". Everyone. Civil unions (= gay marriages) are every bit as legal as heterosexual ones. And since everyone uses the word "partner", it actually does what it was intended to do - include everyone and allow for and respect diversity. I used to always have a feeling that "partner" was code for "they're gay", because no-one else used the term (at least 98% of the time they did not) - and using it became just another way of "outing" someone.... So in the end I never knew what was the best.... Here I've actually corrected myself a few times when catching "husband" slipping out of my mouth. Not that anyone has told me it is bad form or considered improper to use it - it's just not what I hear people saying.

It is kind of interesting arriving in this land of my dreams (and that of many others) and getting right to the heart of troubles though. I knew it would be, seeing as I am a social worker after all. I found that when I arrived in the States 16 years ago, it took me roughly seven years to come to understand the country more or less "inside out" (as much as one can anyway) and to know that along side the "American Dream" there was a whole different side to the story. I think that adjustment here will be far shorter. On one hand I wish I could have been afforded more of a honeymoon, but I suppose on one hand I'll have a far more realistic view much faster. Oh well. The overwhelmingly gorgeous outdoors will keep me feeling like a "box of birds"! (Can a box of birds really be that comfy and happy though?!?!)


Stephen Newton said...

Fascinating observations, Tia. What a wonderful workplace. It sounds like it's free of the usual hypocrisies and pretentions. And the health care. You're right, when you have no health care and suffer because of it, free health care sounds like a real gift. Here, as you know, middle class Anericans are losing the right to succeed and have any dream at all. It's comforting to know that a country like NZ exists on this troubled globe. Keep sending us messages of hope from down under, dearest.

Jennie said...

Great to read of your new adventures Tia, hope your feet get happy real soon.

Rulan said...

Gidday from this here kiwi. sissy b. sent me here. Welcome to New Zealand.

wow Is med care that bad in the States? whoa I had thought that most countries were as good, if not better. Shows how little I know. Hope you get the chance to enjoy our beaches.

God bless.

Jessica said...

fluffies = marshmallows, I think.

Glad to see you are settling in!!

As you said, being a social worker will make it different since you help where there are difficulties. But the help is needed, and they must be really glad to have you on staff.

Sorry about all the on and off rain this week. I think it made it up your way too...

Rulan said...

Oh, by the way, I would love to link to your blog. Just leave a comment on my blog if that is okay.

Catherine said...

"Box of fluffies" = "box of fluffy ducks" (similar to "box of birds")
Prescription costs - it is only $3 if you have a Community Services Card which you can apply for if your income is low. For the rest of us it is $15, but if you have a lot of prescriptions in one year, it drops to $3 after the first ten or fifteen or something.
Health care - it may be better than the US, but people complain because it is a lot worse than it used to be. There has been a great big stink about people getting dropped from waiting lists , i.e. they will never get a publicly funded operation, for conditions that in some cases leave them in great pain and unable to work. The result is that they end up on government benefits, costing the government more than it would have cost to fund the operation in the first place. It is getting more and more necessary to have health insurance, but not everyone can afford it, and it probably doesn't come with one's employment as often as it does in the US.
"Partners" - it is quite OK to say husband. Partner has often been used to mean "we are not officially married but we have a long term relationship" - not just for "gay". Most civil unions are for gay couples, but some heterosexual couples choose a civil union too.
Quite a few doctors here do display their certificates on the wall :)
I hope you don't get too disillusioned with NZ, getting to see the steamy side! Fortunately we are not all like that!

Jessica said...

ahh of course - box of fluffy ducks... sorry, D learned lots of coffee lingo for the new job, and I was thinking of the fluffy they sell for kids...
"A small espresso cup filled with milk foam, sprinkled with chocolate powder and a big marshmallow."

...maybe I should eat breakfast.

aldo said...

is there a slot for a psychologist?



kenju said...

It sounds like a very progresive place, Tia.

butwearesmall said...

OOOOOOOOH I am so happy that you are seeing a positive place of work girl. That is fabulous!

Tell us more!

bobealia said...

I'm glad to read that you sound wonderful. Your workplace sounds ideal, as does the country. Just today my husband and I were arguing over the American dream. I found Auckland very snobbish, but your NZ experience sounds quite the opposite.