Speaking Kiwi

The day doesn’t start with my alarm, or with my required bowl of cereal. It didn’t start with the shower or the scramble to grab my stuff. My day starts as I stand at the doors of the lift and wonder for the hundredth time why one is always broken. And it’s not even the same one. The longer I stand there, the longer I have to consider the two sets of doors and the helpful screens that are supposed to say what floor they are on but never do. And the longer I have to question if people in New Zealand actually call them lifts or if they call them elevators. Kiwis. Why are they called Kiwis?

No, the difference is not important, but I am curious. If they say lift, should I also call it a lift? Or should I continue calling it an elevator. God forbid I go back to the states and call it a lift, my flat mates will laugh. Apartment. We call them apartments. That one I have already fully transitioned on. Never mind that I live in the Wellesly Student Apartments. I live in a flat. My roommates are my flat mates.

The lift finally beeps, the magic doors open, and I step in, poking the number for the bottom. Just as the doors trundle shut, a bloke appears heading for the lift. I press the handy button to open the doors and in he strolls. “Cheers, mate,” he says all chipper like. If I’d been in the states, I’d of thought he was Australian, but I know better now. But really? Cheers? Where’s the alcohol? And mate. Just what?

We get to the bottom after a long game of let’s not make eye contact but not stare at one spot on the floor or wall to long. I should have taken out my phone. He lets me exit first and I say, “Thanks.” I’ve gotten lift, flat, and even jandals down pat, but I can’t say “Cheers.” What’s there to be cheery about?

I make it through my 8 am tutorial like someone who is beyond gone and can only stare vacantly at the screen. Pissed, the word would be pissed here, eh? No, wait, when people say eh, it’s not a question. You just go eh. I make it through the tutorial and wander back into the lift, questioning why I bother going to a class where all I have to do is work on my homework. My first stop is coffee. Fuck tea, I need coffee. Starbucks.

The lady in front of me in line drops a two dollar coin as she pulls out her wallet. Those coins are sweet as. Who needs one dollar bills, when they got coins. Notes, not bills. “Ma’am, you dropped a two dollar,” I say as I pick it up for her.

She turns and I drop the coin in her palm. “Cheers,” she says, but the barista behind the counter laughs and whispers to her friend, “Ma’am?” I mean what do y’all say, Miss?

I order my coffee, getting a tall and again cursing the five dollars I’m spending on a drink half the size of a 2.50 drink in the USA. Sorry, 2,50.

Sometimes my Kiwi friends think I must be Canadian because I say sorry too much. I sorta feel insulted when they do.

Coffee in hand, I head to campus and my Maori culture class. Maori. For some reason I still have trouble ever pronouncing the word correctly, something about rolling the r’s. There we talk about religion and family and the importance of belonging to a place. I call where I am home and don’t really care, I’ve never met my mother’s sister’s children, and I’m not decisive enough to be an atheist. Or is that I don’t give enough of a damn? But the lecture is absolutely fascinating and the instructor completely delightful.

After class I enjoy the sweet comfort of talking to another American for the short walk back to our flats. We part at the lift because lunch waits for no one.

While enjoying a cup of tea—I have been converted somewhat—I make plans to see my girlfriend later. We text about dinner and as usually she says she’s “not fussed.” What does that even mean? She’s not picky? She won’t eat seafood or anything that is not mild, so it can’t be that she’s not picky. Eventually we settle on having pasta at her flat. I head to the grocery store.

As usually the footpath is crowded by tons of people and it’s a relief to diagonally cross the street. Ha, the diagonal crossing is the best! Don’t got that in the USA. No, I can’t say footpath. I reject that one. It’s a sidewalk.

In the store I shake my head at the capsicum and the questionable choice of calling every type of squash a pumpkin. At least the big orange one is still known as a pumpkin. I mosey towards the minced beef and wonder if it will ever feel right to call it ground again. On the pasta aisle I learn from my previous mistake and stay away from the tomato sauce, instead grabbing some proper pasta sauce. By sheer force of will I avoid the candy, I mean lollies, no candy, lollies means lollipops to me. For good measure I snag a bottle of wine, pleased that here I can actually drink legally, and I am all set to wait in the long line to check out.

A fifteen minute battle up the hill later, I arrive at my girlfriend’s flat. She says, “Good on you,” when I show her the wine with a smile. Good on you…. As we’re enjoying our wine she says, “I was afraid the feijoas had gone off, but they’re still good if you want take some home later.”

“Ha, I won’t say not to free food.”

Like she always does, she shakes her head and comments, “I can’t believe you don’t have feijoas in the states.”

“I can’t believe you say gone off instead of gone bad. That makes think that your food goes off on adventures. Like socks do in the dryer.”

“It’s not weird!” she protests and we start up again the discussion about Kiwisms. We exhaust the list of different words by the time I leave for my flat.

Back in my own room I get on skype with an American friend before she heads to class in the morning. “Hey girl, what’s up?” she asks.

“I just need to speak American with someone.”


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