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Monday, May 05, 2008

Diary of a Kiwi Fruit Picker

My first day was thick with new surroundings. I arrived Friday night after a New Zealand Parliament Member picked me up on my hitchhiking excursion and dropped me off in the center of this little town called Katikati.(see my last note)

My new boss was this little German fellow by the name of Ralph or perhaps Rolf who picked me up from the center of town, taking me to the fruitpickers' quarters, talking my ears off about this and that. He has this almost Austrian sound to his accent. As though Arnold Schwartzneggar was talking to me; though everytime I turn my head, I see a little man instead of the big bad movie star and governor.

He brought me to "the farm". Where many of the other foreign workers live in one large house. Kiwi orchards stretch all about the roads here. I think, I was tenant number 13, though seeing there is constant change. Some backpackers leaving and others arriving. The number is never exact.

The entire household is made of a vast representation of many different countries. At this point mostly 3 nations are comprised under this roof. Our party at this very moment is made up of 4 Argentinians, 3 Germans, and 3 Czechs...and then one wandering American...me. An older South African resides in this house as well. I think he's been living here for the past 3 years. His name is Stan. He must be in his mid-forties. A very proper, elusive fellow to the guys; a very thoughtful, friendly fellow to the females.

I was shown to my room where Damien, one of the Argentinians has his bed and things laid out. He was to be my roommate. Though, he is not too comfortable in his English, our conversation is little..though we get along.

Many of the others, I can talk at great lenghth with. In fact, English is the common language between everybody. For not many Czechs speak Spanish and not many Argentinians speak German, and not many South Africans nor Americans for that matter, were very well trained in Czech. So English is the house tongue. (It is only when each group talks among themselves in their own language that you may fear what they are talking about.) Of course, I'm bothered by this less than the others, I think.

There is one TV, one computer, one oven, one microwave, one washing machine, and one shower, so you can see that this is definitely a lesson not only in patience and respectablity, but also of international diplomacy. (I wonder if anyone is thinking right now about that bloody American typing his long messages on the ONE computer.)

Everyone is friendly and everyone has to look after themselves. We live out in the country, so supplying oneself with groceries is a must. There is also a limited supply of vehicles. So if I need to go into town, like yesterday for instance, I have to break down and ask someone for a ride.

Today marks the morning of my 4th day. And I've only worked one day in the orchards. Kiwi fruit picking begs for a dry, sunny day. Any rain and the day is called off. There is alot of waiting to do. This afternoon, I hope to hit the orchards with my large sack and work for maybe 4 hours.

The down time is spent, either reading, on the internet, (like now) or taking trips with people. The first rainy day I went with the Argentinians Agustina, Juana, and Damien to the town of Rotorua to kick around the time. We spent the day in cold, wet sightseeing and in cafes. Then we picked one of the girls' brothers in the city of Tauranga. So that makes them 4. I already feel close to the Argentinians.

Rainy day #2, yesterday, I spent it with the 3 Czech girls and the one German girl visiting a museum here in Katikati. It was perhaps the most fanciful little museum with our own guide, who liked to ask embarrassing questions. The old Kiwi woman had a field day with the German girl. And then we she found out I was American, she became singing some derivative of "Yankee Doodle Dandy."

So that's enough for today. I'm always paranoid that some one else wants to use this computer so I don't want too stay long.


Anonymous Greg Newton said...

Ahh . . . the life of a fruit picker!

7:03 AM  
Blogger ПАПА said...

Do Kiwi plants grow very tall? are ladders used or do you scramble up the trees like a Kiwi bear? It is fortunate that there are no Mexicans there, you would all be without a job! Ive never known an
Argentenian that could outpick a Mexican when he's got his Kiwi- picking hat on! Are ya'll paid by the hour or by the fruit? You may want to establish a Kiwi picking contest..this would really pick up production...a little rain never hurt anyone!

3:27 PM  
Anonymous the author said...

Well...I'm gonna write all about Kiwi picking and the orchards and everything in the next note or two. So you'll know.
And no, I don't think we would be as fast as Mexicans, mainly because we are all basically tourists picking fruit for the expensive. None of us are feeding families by it.

11:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you have the family name of that Ralph in New Zealand? I also worked for him in 2002...a very nice guy with a german accent. Thanks

7:21 AM  

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