He Is (at 32:45)

Old notes taken mostly from my personal time with God. We're moving house again, so, I guess we're back to being, literally, pilgrims on the Rough Roads of Planet Earth. (Photo taken on a road to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, North Auckland, NZ, Dec 2009.)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Suddenly Summer

It’s suddenly Summer here in Queens, NY and it’s really surprising. As late as February we were still operating our central heating full-blast and there was still snow on the ground. Spring came quite suddenly when the trees sprouted overnight after a day or two of rain sometime in March and we had beautiful intermittent blooms in trees, grass and bushes (I don’t know the name of the trees!),  with colors mostly in white, pinks, reds and purples. And then suddenly it’s hot, humid Summer! Now we have started using the aircon instead of the heater. Just when we thought we can save on heating bills, now it’s cooling charges. Haha!

 Our house in Winter.

 Our house in Spring.

Our house this Summer. How the colours have changed within a few months!

It never gets this hot in Auckland, as far as I can recall, but we had no aircon in our house then, so, Summer in Auckland was quite tough. We also had lots of flies coming in because our windows had no netting. So, despite the extreme weather here, looks like the houses are better-built  and indoor life would be more comfortable than in mild-weather Auckland.

We’ve settled in quite a bit more now and we can’t help but compare a lot of things in the different places we’ve lived in. So, how does it compare?
                                            Auckland             Tokyo        K. Lumpur                         New York
Winter Weather                    Mild                Cold             N.A.                                 Very Cold
Heating  / Insulation             OK          Less Than OK       N.A.                                Excellent
Summer Weather                 Mild           Hot, Humid       Hot, Humid                  Hot, Humid
Cooling System                N.A.A.            N.A.A.                Quite Common             Common      
Food Costs                          High             Highest              Lowest                              Low
School Lunches           Less Healthy     Healthy           Less Healthy                      Least Healthy
Health Food             Easy to Find        Expensive        Easy to Find                   Not Easy to Find
Public Transport        Least Efficient   Most Efficient   Least Efficient                  Efficient
Clothes, Quality          Less Choices     More Choices    Most Choices                 Less Choices   
Health Care Provided         Good                Good            None                               Best  
First Language            Kiwi English       Japanese          Malay                            American English                
Second Language        Maori          practically none     English                          Spanish                                          
N.A. – not applicable
N.A.A. – not always available
Just trying to make a quick-glance comparison of the places we’ve lived in. I didn't think of including Singapore because it is quite similar to K. Lumpur in terms of weather. So, yeah, though the weather here is harsher than in Auckland we feel more comfortable, as long as we stay indoors, because of their better insulated/heated/cooled houses here. Food here is quite reasonably-priced, if you know where to go, especially Chinese “eat-out”, and they taste better too, than the Chinese “eat-out” in Auckland. There’s a big Oriental population here (Chinese, Korean, Filipino and other Asian) so, Oriental food is readily available, has a lot of variety and competitively-priced. As for school lunches, my younger son said he thought the food at his school in Auckland was junk (mostly sausages, pizza and meat pies) but then he said they taste really good (potato-topped beef pie was his favourite)! Whereas, here in New York, he says  the food in his school is really junk (mostly chicken nuggets and fries) and they taste awful, too! My younger daughter doesn’t even touch her school lunch, she still sticks to her salad lunch box which I pack for her from home. My younger son misses the Kiwi meat pies a lot and the only one, a frozen version, I can find in our local supermarket is not up to mark for him. It doesn't taste as good. :( And I haven't seen any potato-topped ones at all.

As for Health Food I find that it's readily available in Auckland. You can find vitamins, organic food, granolas and whole cereals, fruit juices ( a wide variety of them!!) off the shelves of your local supermarket. Here in New York you have to hunt for most of these items in a health food shop. Most of the food they sell in the common supermarkets are highly processed food. I get the feeling people here love highly processed, sugary and / or salty convenience food which easily can be classified as junk. Compared to K. Lumpur, Auckland has definitely more healthy food and vitamins readily available, and also cheaper. In Tokyo, everything is more expensive than in most parts of the world and that includes health food, too.

The bus and subway system here is also quite good, except that there aren’t enough buses running in certain routes and the buses hardly follow their posted schedules. But then again, in Auckland, sometimes bus services just disappear, even without prior notice, or buses simply don’t turn up at all, for unknown reasons. Their bus system is still unreliable, probably because of lack in commuter volumes. Of course, the best in public transport system would be Japan. Their buses and trains always come on time, just as predictable as the Japanese  people’s  behavior is, largely, when it comes to public protocols. It’s mostly due to their culture of discipline and excellent organization / automation.  In that sense, Singapore’s public transport comes close to that of Japan’s, too.

 There is so much diversity in population (Caucasian, African, Hispanic, Asian, Greek, Italian, etc.) here such that even for Medical , Dental and Optical care, one can have the option of visiting the health professionals of his / her own ethnic group. It’s very interesting. Thus, even if you speak only your own language, e.g. Chinese, Spanish, Greek, you can survive by doing business only with your own people group. The population of each ethnic group is big enough to be a community or economy of its own.  It is really interesting. You can easily disappear into your own microcosm. And a major discovery we had a few weeks into moving here is that America has a second language(!) and it’s called Spanish. Public signs often have Spanish versions and forms for filling up always have Spanish translations. This surprise is similar to the surprise we got when we moved to Auckland: NZ is more diverse than we thought. Before we moved there we always thought NZ is made up of mostly Caucasians when in fact their people and culture is very much diverse. The student population in the school my younger daughter first attended, for instance, was 80% coloured (made up of Pacific Islanders, Maoris, Asians, etc.) and only 20% Caucasian. The staff make-up was the other way around though - 80% Caucasian and 20% coloured. That was a kind of shock for us. But then again this may be true only in West Auckland or Auckland in general, or even the North Island. The South Island is "another kind of NZ" yet again. The Maori and Pacific Islander cultures are very similar to the more popular Polynesian culture I know which is Hawaiian. Their dances, songs and languages are so similar to that of Hawaiian and they use flowers a lot in their cultural activities, too. Thus, I get the feeling that NZ is a kind of "British Hawaii".  I have never thought of New Zealand that way before. This also makes me realize that we Asians of Malay stock - Filipinos, Indonesians and Malaysians (the Malay race) - have cultures similar to Polynesians, too. I was thrilled to hear some Maori words similar to that of the Filipino languages.

As for the Health Care provided by the Government, in New Zealand they cover only for the medical costs, in Japan they cover both medical and dental costs and here in New York they cover medical, dental and even optical care! (I heard it’s not necessarily the same in other States in the US, though.) So, New York is really tops, whereas in Malaysia, the government doesn’t cover any health insurance at all for its citizens. Everyone has to pay out of his own pocket or buy his own private health insurance.

Well, these are just some of the comparisons I can think of off-hand but I better stop rattling on. Many people might find my opinions and observations offensive, but then this is my blog and my statements are just a matter of personal opinion and observation, which are not backed by statistics or thorough research. So, please do bear that in mind, if you, my reader, would care to quote me. :)

So, back to the Summer heat here in Bayside. Yeah, looks like Summer in New York is going to be sweltering-hot but the heat makes everything green and beautiful!

Now I get to go for a walk in the morning, it's warm enough for walks!

These are photos of a generic and random apartment building in our neighborhood and I find the lamps are still on shortly before 8am. I thought it's pretty.

Yeah, still the same apartment block. Then, I turned around to take a photo of another lamp still lighted on the other side of the road...

...only to find a senior citizen had come out from the house next to that house with the lighted lamp, and was looking at me, suspicious and cross, probably for taking these last three photos. So, I pretended taking a photo of the tree / sky instead and got this shot. :(

I went on pretending to take photos of the grass as well, but hey, this turned out to be my best photo so far of a dying dandelion. Perfect!

I walked on and discovered this: A bird sitting on her eggs on a nest in a tree in someone's front yard. Funny, I grew up in a small farming town in the Philippines, have lived in "100% Pure and Natural New Zealand", have lived in a farming area in Tsukuba, Japan, but this is the first time I actually see a bird sitting on her eggs in its natural habitat - in the suburban city of Bayside, New York! (Well, actually, there was once a bird nest on the tree at the back of our townhouse when we first moved into it in suburban Kuala Lumpur but the eggs had already hatched and we only saw the mother bird feeding her birdies in it.) Can you see the bird in the pic below? It's facing backwards to the camera and its tummy is colored reddish. It's on the right middle side of the photo. I couldn't come closer as I didn't want to disturb it.

I walked further and saw this just-rained-on Rhododendron in bloom (not sure if that's how you call this plant).

This one is detail of a Red Maple (?) in bloom.

Two days later I walked past there again and the eggs in the nest have hatched! The mother bird was gone and  I spied on the birdies so I suspected she must be not too far away looking for food. True enough, I caught her rummaging for worms on this green road-divider. (Click on the photo twice so you can see her in the bottom middle of the pic.)

This one is another Rhododendron in a neighbor's front yard.

A Summer white bloom. This one is in front of someone's gate next to a bus stop. I saw lots of Spring white blooms here in Bayside but there are more blooming even now in Summer. What is it about "white" here? It seems people here love white flowers. I have seen white peonies, too, besides the pink ones. Well, I for one, love "white and green," anytime. :)

Detail of the same white bloom.

A "white tree" in Summer in the front yard of the church near our house. (It seems to have been left behind by the "white trees" which bloomed in Spring along that same road.)

This one's a budding rose bush - red rose! I looked forward to it going in full bloom so I can photograph it but alas, this morning, it's totally gone! The owner is renovating his driveway and totally annihilated this poor beauty! So, there goes the promising red rose bush of Summer. I guess Summer here also means Renovations. :) (The roses here are mostly red, and small-sized, unlike the very colorful and huge ones I have seen in Auckland.)


July 6, 2011, 9:58am - Lately, my older daughter took a photo of a bird she saw in our neighborhood and it looks exactly like the bird I saw sitting on that nest above. I do not know what this bird is called.

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The Many Versions of Love Stories 1. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, kiss and marry. They live happily ever after. 2. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, kiss and marry. The marriage sours, they part, and live happily ever after. 3. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, kiss and marry. Then boy finds out it's more fun to be girl... or girl finds out it's more fun to be boy, they part, change sexes and live happily ever after. 4.Finally, boy or girl meets God. It's love at first sight... The roads went rough, the tides rose high, the strong winds blew and the quake shook the ground... but they truly live happily ever after, forever and ever. 5. Try God's love... it's always happy forever after, and the story never ends. :-D