Tag Archives: New Zealand

Learning creative thinking on the road

26 Dec

I once went on a course to learn how to be a creative thinker. A scenario was produced. There is a library in a small town in the US. Suddenly these “latch key” kids start using the library as an informal after school club. They make lots of noise. They throw things around. They don’t want to sit quietly and read books. They create hayhem in the library. This annoys the older users of the library who were used to a peaceful, calm environment where they could sit and use the library facilities for quiet reading. The librarian does not know what to do.

Her first reaction is to ask the kids to leave after all this is a library not a free child minding service. That was the approach I thought appropriate. Why should a few kids whose parents don’t want to pay for child minding ruin the whole atmosphere of the library? The lecturer went around the room. Some folk came up with interesting ideas like creating a space for the kids with computers and stuff so they could use the library but not annoy the older users. Someone even said to sack the librarian as she was not embracing this “change” in her library.

The whole “creative thinking” came down to looking at the mission of the library and the “right” answer was that the library was a place for everyone to learn not necessarily by reading books. So, that said, the librarian should create a space for the kids and embrace them within the learning space of the library. Of course, this seemed to me ridiculous. Have the library ruined by a bunch of kids…I just wasn’t a creative thinker…

But then I started travelling and arrived in Pahiha, New Zealand. Now in New Zealand the libraries offer free internet and free wifi for all which is very attractive to travellers in a country where the internet is extremely expensive, extremely limited and not seen as a human right as it is in other parts of the world.

The library in Pahiha is no exception to this.

But the librarian is not quite there in embracing this.

She doesn’t want all these smelly, strange sounding, dreadlocked travellers in her library. So, she tries to rid the place of them by imposing ridiculous rules like no more than one computer on a table (the tables could hold at least two), no charging a computer unless it’s on a table (meaning travellers use one of the desk computers rather than their own if the battery is running low), signing in every half hour (explaining that internet is a privilege not a right).

She even tries to send the travellers outside where they can’t see their screens in the blinding sunlight and get burned while wifing and skyping their mates. Use of skype in the library is much frowned upon. If these guys want to chat to their families they can surely stay at home so they can do that in person? All of this is, of course, annoying to the older users of the library who want a place of quiet contemplation and reading.

One of these horrid, smelly travellers even asked her to borrow a pen one day. She happily explained that there was a shop nearby where a pen could be purchased and would thus be available for the traveller to use at all times.

But why doesn’t she think of creating a space for these travellers?

A room where they could lounge around wearing strange headsets speaking in their foreign tongues to their long lost families. You could even introduce a coffee machine and a book exchange so they could learn while on their journey. You could leave a few lonely planets lying around for them to peruse while they are updating their facebook statuses. You could put this room away from the main space of the library so it’s not so disruptive for the older users of the library who want to come and relax, read papers and read books. But all of that would involve a creative thinker.  Not someone who just wants to ban the travellers from the library as they’re a bit annoying.  Wait a minute…I came up with those creative ideas for the travellers to use the library.  Hang on..that creative thinker…it’s me!

Culture shock of New Zealand – Part 3

7 Dec

I’ve been wondering recently how I kept up my eternal optimism while using public transport in South America and how much better it must be to be a bus driver in South America than in New Zealand.

I had my fair share of hairy journeys in South America..hanging off the edge of cliffs in Northern Argentina, ascending to over 5,000 metres on a dirt road in Bolivia and speeding around the rough roads of Northern Peru on a motortaxi. I sometimes felt a little afraid during these journeys but never experienced a vehicle breaking down.

The drivers in South America were, on the whole, incredible. I mean you give them a crap bus without suspension on roads more suited to a heavy duty 4WD and they just get on with it and bang you along to your destination. You’ll not sleep but sleep is overrated when the scenery is mainly stunning and it’s a better thrill than any of these adventure sports and cheaper.

David, the New Zealand bus driver on my route from Auckland to Pahiha had a lovely bus.

It was clean to the point of being sterile and equipped with all he needed even suspension and he was given nice, new smooth roads to drive on …lucky David you might think.

However, poor David was beset with an endless list of rules before he could even drive his bus. These started before the bus set off.

“no food allowed on the bus”. There is a special shelf under the bus to store food.

“no bags on the seats in the bus” he announced. “If I see a bag on a seat I will personally move it and put it on the floor”.

Once on the bus poor David was provided with a microphone to set out more rules which I am sure even he, a New Zealand bus driver, found a little bit embarrassing.

“no drinks allowed on the bus except water and light coloured juices as if these are spilled once they dry they cannot be seen on the upholstery”.

“no tea or coffee on the bus”.

“no bags allowed on the seats in the bus. Some bags have feet on them and this can damage the seats and if that happens I get into a lot of trouble from my boss. If I see a bag on a seat I will personally remove it and place it under the seat in front”.

“if you do want to recline your seat to relax then please speak to the passenger in the seat behind you as this can prove to be an inconvenience for the passenger behind”.

“today’s bus was late in setting off. 4 passengers with tickets failed to turn up. We have to make special checks for these passengers as, if they have fully refundable tickets they can claim a refund”.

“if you feel sick, let me know immediately. I had a passenger last week that did not do this and I had to clean up the mess”.

“if you need to use the toilet let me know immediately as while we have designated toilet stops I can also stop outwith a designated stop if that is required”.

“I know exactly where each one of you is getting off the bus so if you are sleeping I can wake you up”.

“we have one passenger in Akarango (at least it sounded like that) who has an unconfirmed ticket. This passenger is unlikely to turn up but it is mandatory that I stop there anyway”.

Poor, poor David.

And what was worse was that he had to repeat this ridiculous spiel as each new passenger got on.

I felt that David was craving change. You could feel it in the air. He wanted to be released from the constraints of his job…cue the bus breaking down…all of a sudden on descending a hill huge amounts of white smoke starting coming out of the bus together with a strong plasticky small of burning.

David pulled over.

We all got out and waited for a few hours for a new bus to arrive.

Someone played the bagpipes in the meantime.

All of this was unplanned, unscheduled..in short, madness..

A new bus arrived and David got on along with us all.

He enjoyed moving the baggage for customers, sorting it all out on the new bus and being a passenger on the new bus. He was excited. He was getting to go to Pahiha and then back to Auckland as a passenger.

Suddenly he was liberated from the rules. He went crazy. He allowed an unauthorised stop. He joked with the new driver when the new driver stopped by the side of the road that if he didn’t move a few feet passengers would fall off the cliff and that wouldn’t be good. He apologised for the problems jokingly and said at least we were all alive!!!!

I started to like David.

He would love to be a bus driver in South America…there people can eat anything in the buses..even whole meals served in plastic bags…a driver who told them to store their food under the bus would be laughed off the bus..they can drink drinks of all colours..madness….as for reclining seats..if David was lucky enough to get a bus with reclining seats which actually worked and then told the passengers to ask permission again he would be laughed off the bus…David might even get to rap along with some of the South American rappers who come on with their ghettoblasters to sing and earn some cash.

I can see David rapping. He would say “TTTTTT aaa KKKKK eeee meee to Colombia…where the drivers are free, where on the buses you can even drink tea…take me to freedom, release me from these straps…I want to work on a bus where everyone raps….”

Bagpipes at side of road, New Zealand

Bagpipes at side of road, New Zealand

Broken down bus, New Zealand

Broken down bus, New Zealand

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