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Saturday, February 23, 2008

The lantern festival

The lantern festival in Auckland's Albert Park was well worth the effort to attend despite the windy and showery weather. The food for me at any type of festival is the highlight - and last night was no different - although the Chinese poi/martial arts demonstration was superb. Not as many people because of the weather, which meant it was quite a desirable volume - any more and it would have been a little bit overwhelming.


  • The New Zealanders walk on the left but the Asians (recent immigrant Chinese I mean) walk on the right - so going along the paths and stairs it creates problems. The Asians do not yield to our customs however and the hosts accommodate by moving over to the right to enable them to pass - because they show no inclination to - and then move back to the left. Given that it is a Chinese celebration you may think it is appropriate that Albert Park change it's normal traffic habits for one night of the year - but the majority of people at the festival were Pakeha it is worth noting. At one level it means absolutely nothing and probably goes unnoticed, but on another it raises questions. This is the sort of cultural assertion that is a problem for the host society as it has its parallels in many aspects of conflicting customary observances/behaviour in other fields. It's how we relate to one another, it's the nuances of communication, it's whether we share ideas and understandings. In the spirit of politeness and courtesy the hosts will usually forgive the odd lapse, and the guests will absorb the tikanga/etiquette over time. And then you think about how many Maori concepts and protocols are observed by Pakeha (ie. about zero) and realise that numbers matter more than precedent. Cultural domination is all about numbers and persistence. For one month we have Chinese lanterns hanging all over the Auckland CBD to celebrate the Chinese lunar New Year. Why?
  • Someone dressed in black who wanted to assert his own rules set himself up as some sort of a cultural bouncer on one of the plinths at the top of some stairs offering everyone who passed (from what I heard) a "kia ora" - but it wasn't done in a friendly or spontaneous way, it was in a sinister fashion, like he was the guard and that was a test, so I only returned the greeting in a mumble because I resent being questioned and occupied as I was with thinking that maybe he was with the National Front, or Chris Prudence, or whatever. Itself a "backlash" (if that's a reasonable assessment) from a local to an influx of foreigners.
  • I didn't see any overt pyramid scheme/"investment" type sales drives like last time I was there.
  • Always hope to see some traditional Chinese hard-core gambling going on and all I've ever seen is the pyramid scheme sort as above.
  • Appetising - just about every food vendor had truly appetising fare - a huge strike rate. Usually you wander through and every second or third stall offers something that looks OK - but all down the blocked off part of Princes Street (between Albert park and the University) was an open-air food alley and it all looked good - and was.


    At 23/2/08 10:14 pm, Blogger The ex-expat said...

    I am annoyed as I was supposed to go tonight and it was cancelled due to the weather.

    At 19/8/08 7:23 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...



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