Thursday, August 31, 2006

I-Hug and Telecom Suck!!

This is a rant post about our ISP provider I-Hug, but really it's a rant about Telecom. Telecom owns all of the copper (ie: phone lines going into houses) for New Zealand. Costa Rica, considered a 'developing country' has better internet access than New Zealand. I'm resisting the urge to think that government should take over the internet delivery, but maybe the government should just set up or subsidize some new connections because the current system is expensive for business and residential users.

Is the current monopoly good enough anymore? If New Zealand wants to compete on a global scale for more white collar job growth then they have to do better. New Zealand can only build and attract the right kind of [green] growth if it's willing to invest in high technology infastracture.

Here's a good example: About two months ago there was a full day power outage in Auckland. Yes there was a big storm, Yes, it did some damage. But how can New Zealand's major metropolitan city lose power for an entire day? Especially when it's just as easy to do business in Australia where the taxes are lower and it's WARMER. In addition, there have been multiple days of internet outage since we have signed up, far more outages than in Costa Rica, where at least we had the option of doubling up our internet service, just in case.

Telecom was formed in 1987 from the New Zealand Post Office. That was less than 20 years ago. If Telecom can't provide a quality product at a reasonable price than somebody else should have that opportunity.

To explain why I am mad at I-Hug it's because they shut off our internet on a Saturday, for a problem with processing our bill. Remember I have a broken toe and being at home without internet would be the equivalent of breaking my other toes, seriously. We got it worked out, but ironically enough, a letter came in the mail two days later informing us that we would have 10 days to remedy the problem or risk having our service cut off.

Jack-asses, at least in Costa Rica they called you seven days in advance of your bill being due to remind you that the due date is coming up, and the person calling was proficient IN ENGLISH, in a spanish speaking country! Beat that I-Hug!

Oh and did I mention the bandwidth caps? There are monthly bandwidth caps. We are on day 15 out of 30 and we have hit our cap. BASTARDS!! We will be stuck with dial-up speed for the next two weeks. Go ahead break my other toe and bring on the painkillers, it will make the wait easier.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Cost of Living: USA, Costa Rica, New Zealand Compared

In the last three years we have lived in three different countries:

Portland, Oregon USA until April 2005
San Jose, Costa Rica until April 2006
Auckland, New Zealand current

Frak! That's a lot of moving, new banks and new bills to deal with. Yesterday I-Hug our ISP shut us off, though that story deserves it's own blog post (bastards!).

To sum up our living preferences, Adam and I like to live in neighborhoods were we can walk to a shops. In Portland our neighborhood was a twelve minute bike ride downtown and near a local pizza shop.

In San Pedro we were close to the university and downtown. There was a grocery store and a few good restaurants within walking distance.

In Auckland we are in the equivalent to Portland's Northwest 23rd neighborhood (fancy people barrios). There are lot's of coffee shops, restaurants and shops selling outrageously overpriced clothes.

Here's the comparison of living expenses in all three locations:

Northeast Portland, Oregon USA
Mortgage - 1,600
Electric - 40
Water & Garbage - 70
Internet* - 0
Phone - 20
Food - 350
Total (US Dollar) - 2,080

Barrio Dent, San Pedro, Costa Rica
Rent - 800
Electric - 40
Water & Garbage - 72
Internet* - 100
Phone - 18
Food - 250
Total - US Dollar 1280

Parnell, Auckland, New Zealand
Rent - 1296
Electric - 180
Water & Garbage - 36
Internet* - 48
Phone - 27
Food - 318
Total - US Dollar 1905

* We always get the fastest connection available for residential use. In Portland we were the neighborhood ISP. We hooked up about 5 neighbors with internet for cheaper than they were paying, we (Adam) provided the hardware and tech-saviness.

In terms of wages I took about a 25% paycut working in Auckland, but my purchasing power remained the same. So I can buy the same amount, but if I wanted to save up money in Kiwi dollars to convert to US Dollars I will take a 30-40% currency cambio hit.

Taxes seem a bit higher, though not excessive [Adam disagrees and thinks the taxes ARE substantially higher]. It's nice to have a functioning health care system and no homeless people. All the kiwis who go to the states, make the same comment "There are so many homeless people in the states". Yes there are, unforunately, the US government doesn't like poor people right now. Who knows maybe it will change soon. That reminds me I need to update my voter registration card.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Guatemalan smell

Today I was ironing a tapestry that Adam and I bought in Guatemala.

The smells of Guatemala provoked memories of dusty villages, farm animals and young girls sitting on their porches weaving their brightly colored tapestries. They wore those bright tapestries which contrasted quite starkly with their long black thick straight hair. I remember being stranded on the bus on top of a huge ridge line. You could look down and see the 4:00 late evening colors start to form. Lines of people in other cars, trucks and busses were congregating on the side of the road. They were selling roasted corn on the cob. These were not average corn on the cobs. They were speckled with black and gold kernels that were mismatched in shape as well. It had wonderful flavor, after I wiped off the big gobs of mayonaise and ketchup.

I definitely think we need to end the invasion of bad ketchup and mayonaise. It's all over the world and it has got to stop. Kiwis premake sandwiches and you can't get one without mayonaise, Blek! They are disgusting condiments, people should start using their imagination and come up with something better. Blek!

Thank you for reading the stream of conciousness post!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Crippled in New Zealand

Since breaking my big toe I've had time to:

  • Reformat my hardrive
  • Write letters (by hand, imagine that!)
  • Install Google Earth, here's where we live 21A Cathedral Place (in the middle):

    You can now see why we have such an interesting  bird community off of our back porch. We are really close to a body oof water and the green patch just to the south of our house is one of the only 'natural' landscapes. The rest of the green space is manicured park areas. To the northwest is the Auckland Domain (major city park and museum). To the north is Parnell and to the southwest is Newmarket, both are 'happening' neighborhoods.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Crack-a-Toe-y and New Zealand Insurance

I'm starting to like the New Zealand healthcare system.

So on Tuesday night in a mad dash up the stairs I slipped and fractured my big toe in two places. Not knowing where the hospital was we called our trusty friends Clair and Bradley and they told us to go the private hospital, Ascot, near Greenlane so we wouldn't have to wait at a public hospital. We have additional private insurance via Adam's employer. A couple of x-rays later they sent us to the public hospital because they wanted a specialist to see us. They were concerned about charging us $50 for the x-rays. Ha! That's in kiwi dollars! We were imagining in the $1-2k range.

After about a half an hour wait we were able to see a doctor at the public hospital. The public hospital, about a mile and half from our house, was definately dirtier. We saw a couple of blood splatters and Headwound Harry in the lobby methed out. But otherwise prompt and friendly.

The doctor advised, after threatening surgery, that he was going to yank my toe and straightened it back into place and than put a splint on it. At that point Adam had to leave the room because he was getting nauseous. I can't say I enjoyed myself but the laughing gas helped. I had flash backs of whip-its from my younger days. Definintely one of the most painful experiences. He put a cast on instead, I thinking he was tricking me for my own good.

So now I am home bound until at least Wednesday when  the specialist will see me again to determine if I need to have surgery and pins in my big toe. I have no idea why my life needs an emergency room visit every 4-5 years.

All an all I was really happy with the public health care service. I went back the next day because the doctor was going to try to 'sneak' me in, in case the specialist thought I needed a surgery that day. I've been told that publich health care for emergencies is pretty good here and now, unfortunately, I can attest to that. I guess the private insurance is when you need a surgery that isn't an emergency you will have to wait some time. With private insurance you get to see private doctors faster, and consequently you will likely see the same specialist who works part time in public and part time in the private sector.

New Zealanders are covered by ACC or Accident Compensation Corporation. The doctor gave me a note that I am suppose to send to ACC indicating that I am unfit for work for 10 days. I think the first week of time off is unpaid and then after that it's covered at 80%. This coverage starts after only four weeks of work on a non-work related accident. I think I've been working for about 7 weeks. ACC coupled with public health insurance means that most people don't really have to worry about getting hurt because they will be covered. This is quite opposite of the litagous route Americans have to take to recover damage if needed. Though for snowboarding if I crash and wreck my wrists it's only covered if I'm wearing wrists guards. Remember this is the land that invented bungee jumping. A common term is 'Ah, she'll be OK'.

I really hope I will be WITHOUT surgery...

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Condoms vs. Rubbers

I went into the pharmacists to stock up on the goods, feeling pretty good about my self. I'm not squeamish about buying condoms any more, I'm an adult...

I went up to the old man behind the counter and asked for some condoms.

"Some what?" The old man says.

"Some condoms?" I reply.

"SOME WHAT?" The old man

"SOME CONDOMS!!" I screamed.

This went back and forth a couple of more times.

He points at his ear and looks at me confused. Oh, I get it.

"Do you have any rubbers?" I asked.

They call condoms rubbers here. That was a really funny experience.