April 12, 2006

Show me the way to the next whisky bar

Every day lots of tourist and day tripper visitors come to Waiheke to spend an agreeable (or dirty) weekend or an expensive slap up meal, usually paid for by a corporate entity or wedding, at one of the vineyard restaurants. And usually this is a well-organised, if somewhat overwhelming experience for ferry passengers and islanders (unless it involves TV stars, alcohol and testosterone bravado).
Last weekend, when waiting at the city ferry terminal - as first impressions of Waiheke go before you have even arrived, it is a truly atrocious dysfunctional structure doing a huge expensive disservice to us islanders - I was approached by a swarthy looking young man, who asked whether "there was anything fun to do on the island or any good bar to go to". He was about my height and stood really, really close, much closer than we're used to regards personal space, so I was a little taken aback and surprised. In normal circumstances when good looking men ask me where the fun is I usually tell them to wait till I'm down on my knees but this response would have been somewhat inappropriate for the venue we were at, so I could only mumble something about which bars and cafes on the island would be good to check out, it being Saturday night and all. I noticed he had these really pale brown eyes, almost the same hue as his skin colour. He was dressed in all the latest, if somewhat upmarket, international youthful fashions and he continued telling me he came from Saudi Arabia and was travelling around New Zealand and had escaped from Christchurch because it was really boring.
The Saudi remark threw me because I can't remember ever meeting anyone from that country before and I was a bit intrigued since I would never have guessed - he and his travel companion weren't wearing any traditional gear or anything. Getting out of Saudi Arabia for your overseas experience must be like walking into a worldwide sexual candy shop or bar hop, I'd imagine, especially if you are a fit male, and they had obviously no problems integrating into New Zealand culture. This in contrast with what you hear about immigrants and their offspring not obviously wanting to fit in and wanting to keep their traditional culture at all cost.
I have known a Pakistani man here in NZ who had a very liberal attitude towards his culture and religion, even to the point of enjoying a beer or glass of wine like the rest of us. This in contrast to some local (European) Muslim converts who are in some sort of competition to be the purest Muslim in the village. Aren't born-again people just the most insufferable?
Anyway, I'm sure the Saudi boys had a swell time, and I was quite happy to board a ferry (and later a bus) with them.

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