In the past year I have visited Wellington quite a few times. I come on different days, at different times, go to different places. Sometimes I feel like I am some kind of a smuggler – I come and go and you never know when you will see me again… :).
So far, my trips have always been work related. A meeting, a conference, a working lunch. This enabled me to get to know the city from one perspective – I know different hotels inside out, Te Papa museum has a pretty good events area and I have had a chance to attend a function within the Beehive, the parliament building. I have mu favourite Italian restaurant, just because it is close to the hotel. And I have my very own taxi driver, for no particular reason actually.
The past weekend I visited the city as a tourist. And I loved it just as much! The weather has been warm and non-rainy (which is considered to be lucky at this time of the year). I walked and walked and walked. I explored. I got lost, couple of times. I climbed to the top of Mt. Victoria (well, it’s more like a hill, something like Roznik in Ljubljana, so climbing it might sound a bit exaggerated). I ran along the Oriental Bay. I spent the whole afternoon in the Te Papa museum (and I have to say that it is one of the best museums I have been to) and left it just because I was politely asked to (due to closing times, not my misbehaviour). I even went on a tour to see NZ fur seals. Not because I have never seen seals before, but because the tour fit well into my image of a tourist, the seals were just a cherry on a top of a cake / whipped cream :).
Through all those trips I have grown fond of the city. Interesting, because my very first memory of it was rather unpleasant. I guess coming from the beautiful South Island to the rainy city just took its toll years ago. On contrary, the more time I spend in Wellington, the more I like it. It can be very windy. It can be freezing cold. And it can shake (one of the major earthquake fault lines goes right through the city). But it is at the same time really cute. The town centre is small and compact (just like in Ljubljana). Shops and cafes have a character. The city is surrounded by “a green belt”, a line of parks, farms, recreation areas, walking, running and mountainbiking trails. Its hills offer spectacular views over the harbour, the city and the coast. On a good day you can even see the South Island. There is a huge international community. And along with this culture mix there come incredible personal stories. “I’m from Iraq but I lived in a refugee centre in Jordan for years before I moved here and got a job as a taxi driver. New Zealand is a beautiful country!” or “I was in fashion industry when I was in Korea. I travelled to Milan and Paris often! I hung out with all those models, ha ha. I came to New Zealand 20 years ago, for my kids to have better opportunities, better life. I drive taxi around Wellington and it’s fun, you meet a lot of people.”
Speaking of taxi drivers, I think they have one of the most interesting jobs in the world. Imagine coming across such a variety of people, spending mostly short time with them. Where do they come from? Where do they go? Some are keen for a chat, the others are rather grumpy and prefer to be silent. Some are nice and polite, the others can be rude. Some are so focused on themselves that forget to ask “How was your day, Mr. Taxi Driver?”. The others again want to hear driver’s whole life story. Sometimes you must feel like a psychiatrist. Sometimes there are two or three of the passengers together. “Should I listen to their conversations, should I be part of it, or should I mind my own business?” Do you get caught in the same meaningless conversations over and over again? Maybe at the end of the shift you think of your favourite passenger of that day? When seeing a person approaching your cab, do you have thoughts as “I hope he/she will need a ride” or “Please, pass by, please, please, just don’t sit in my car”.
Just as I was about to say that I hope that some taxi driver writes a book accumulating all the stories he/she has come across, I found Confessions of a New York Taxi Driver. It just made it onto my to-read-list!