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Fulbright in New Zealand


" W hat struck me most about New Zealanders was the distinctly ‘British’ character of their ways. In no other respect is the best of British heritage more pronounced than in the exemplary behaviour of children. On boarding a bus, more than once did one or more small school children jump to their feet to offer me, an elderly gentleman (though not all that frail) their seat.

One memory of a bus ride is unforgettably inscribed on my memory: we were approaching the terminal stop, and few people were left in the bus. An elderly lady up front had engaged the driver in a conversation. A boy of teen or preteen/age had advanced to just behind the driver's seat, clearly with the intent of asking the driver a question. It seemed to be an urgent one — as if concerning his getting off at the right stop. The driver did not see the boy and was unaware of his obvious eagerness to address him. His conversation with the old lady continued throughout the stop — one of the last ones on this route. The boy bounced forward on the tips of his toes, trying to attract the driver's attention. He failed. Yet, despite his clear desire to speak with the driver, he did not dare to interrupt the on-going conversation. Thus, the bus continued on its way ... Such mannerly self-restraint in a youngster! Where else in the world could this be found in our day?" George F. Rohrlich, Fulbright researcher/lecturer, 1980

"I still remember calling the Consulate-General's office in Los Angeles when I first considered coming to New Zealand. They told me over the phone that it was impossible, except under very extreme circumstances, to do a PhD in New Zealand. I requested the necessary applications anyway, and then the woman said, ‘Well if you could get a Fulbright then it would be possible.’ With my usual optimism I decided then and there that somehow or other I'd get a Fulbright. It completely changed the course of my career. Thanks to the Fulbright the ‘impossible’ is being achieved." Linda Lively, Fulbright graduate student, 1983

"I found that I got little response initially when I wrote to universities because I was to them an ‘unknown’. I applied for a Fulbright, partly for some financial assistance, but more as an introduction. Indeed, once I could page 92
Black and white portrait photograph of Judith Hoffberg

Sonia Gernes, Fulbright lecturer, 1986.

say I was ‘a Fulbright’ then most universities I applied to made me welcome."
Roger Hall, Fulbright lecturer, 1982

"I'm less sure of a lot of things than I used to be. I cannot tell direction in these antipodean hills where the winter sun moves across the northern sky and cold antarctic winds blow up from the south. I suffer from a sort of temporal vertigo. I've had to learn new traffic rules, reversed phone dials, the fact that the water goes down the drain hole the other way round. When I take a trowel out to my back garden to aid the early spring flowers I poke in the borders, but I'm not sure which green tendrils are the weeds. Even the stars are different here — the winter constellations spread out across a cold August sky in a way that is foreign but tauntingly familiar. I see no Big Dipper on these clear, chilly nights, only a Southern Cross pointing straight to the icy heart of that pole.

When I had been in New Zealand four days I wrote in my journal, It is
strange and somewhat dislocating to scruff your way through autumn leaves on a May
evening that has fallen rapidly as evenings in autumn do. It is even stranger to see page 93 those leaves gather around the base of a hibiscus in bloom, to pick up the scent of flowers whose name you do not know, to see the shape of palm trees against the crepuscular sky over Albert Park and out beyond them near the harbour to see a crescent moon and what looks like the evening star in a place it has no right to be.

And yet that's why I came to New Zealand, to be dislocated, cracked open, forced out of my shell of preconceptions about how the world spins. That's why I applied for a Fulbright grant to lecture in American literature for six months at a small North Island university, a choice most of my colleagues found quixotic. I wanted to learn to see again." Sonia Gernes, Fulbright lecturer, 1986

"Perhaps the best way I can describe my experience is to relate my first week in Wellington. I arrived on a Thursday before Queen's Birthday weekend after the long trans-Pacific flight and a connecting flight from Auckland. Faced with the prospect of a long weekend in a strange city and country with cold and rainy weather was not the most pleasant idea. But from the very beginning I was immediately made to feel at home. Indeed, in Auckland the staff of Air New Zealand had gone out of their way to assist me and Laurie Cox was waiting for me at the Wellington airport. He took me to my apartment, showed me the shopping area, introduced me to my landlord (who lived upstairs) and the following morning walked with me from my flat (across from Victoria University) to the Library, helped me open a bank account and gave me a good introduction to what I might expect.

I then went to the Turnbull and visited with Jim Traue, met members of the staff and discovered that everything had been planned to give me a ‘super’ welcome. By the time I left the Library my entire weekend was taken up with tours of the city, luncheons and dinners and a chance to meet people and get to feel at home." Sandra Myres, Fulbright researcher, 1982

"I found the two countries so different in size, in scale and in modes of operation that I felt it impossible — even insensitive — to attempt comparisons. Rather I approached any situation with the questions, what is it I like/dislike about what I am seeing/hearing/feeling? Then what is our equivalent of this situation, whether it be good or bad? Through this approach and the benefits of five years of hindsight I have seen dimensions of our work (diversity and education) appear in this country since my visit which were not apparent in 1982. This confirms a belief that the New Zealand scene is very highly influenced by what happens in the USA but that it follows several years later. I believe this could be turned to New Zealand's advantage. We could anticipate more and be less likely to repeat mistakes, providing it is the issues we identify, not the detail." Brian Leabourn, Fulbright educational development scholar, 1981

"As a person with experience in language and refugees, I was interested in page 94new migrants adapting into a new country. America is so diverse and nearly everyone is a migrant of recent generations. I asked people what they thought holds America together, what contributed to patriotism, what is the essence of America to a new migrant.

It was interesting that most people said language holds Americans together, as I came across a number of people surviving quite well without English. The flying of the American flag seemed to me to be a more uniting symbol.

In Albuquerque my host was a middle-aged man who drove a fairly battered Toyota. This was unusual on two counts, first that the car was an old and battered one, and secondly that it was Japanese. Before I could comment on this he said, ‘I should explain about my car. I feel bad not buying American but I think Japanese cars are better. That's how I get over my guilt feelings.’ He nodded out his window to the aerial, which had an American flag attached."

Rosemary Middleton, Fulbright educational development scholar, 1982

Black and white portrait photograph of Sandra Myres

Sandra Myres, Fulbright Fellow, National Library of
New Zealand, 1982.

page 95

"When I first got to New Zealand I was really guidebook-ignorant. After spending about nine months there I sure knew more than when I first got off the plane. While there and after I developed a real warmth for the place. New Zealand was a whole new world that I loved at once and knew virtually nothing about. For me, the Fulbright was pretty exhausting, but a wonderfully positive experience.

I found almost every aspect of New Zealand that I encountered to be refreshing. The place really is as beautiful as the guidebooks make it out to be. This surprised me. I found the preliminary warnings about excessive automobile expenses to be incorrect. I bought an Austin mini (used — really used) for $900. True, gas was expensive, but a mini doesn't use much gas. I very much like the New Zealand notion of throwing nothing away. That mentality got me the car, after all."
Patrick Morrow, Fulbright lecturer, 1981

"The plan was to drive across the USA, coast to coast. So finally we decided on a mobile home. You've probably seen the kind of thing on our roads at holiday time: large vans with sleeping accommodation above the driver's cabin; a dining table which folds down into a bed; a gas cooker and fridge; and sometimes a toilet and shower as well. There are thousands and thousands ands of them in the USA where, for many people, they are a way of life. But what type should I get? How much were secondhand ones? Where should you park them at night?

The most helpful publication was Trailer Life. Trailer Life gave no
indication how much secondhand RV's (Recreational Vehicles) would cost, but the price of new ones was alarming — $20,000 and up. But I took heart from knowing that almost everything secondhand in the USA is always cheap. I estimated I'd be able to pick up something in good condition for about $5,000 and then be able to sell it for almost as much as we paid for it once we got it to the other side of the country. I was to be wrong on both counts.

One useful thing I did get from Trailer Life was the name of a dealer in Los
Angeles, called Travelland. Travelland covered 35 acres. It was so big it even had its own restaurant. Thirty-five acres! The thought was enough to keep me awake at nights. I have difficulty enough choosing what type of ballpoint pen to get. How was I going to be able to select one vehicle from 35 acres of them?

Travelland turned out to be a group of dealers, most of whom dealt only in new vehicles. There were very few secondhand ones. After half an hour we found one for $8,500, and a further hour's search revealed two more at $9,000 each. And then all our prayers were answered. A van with its price marked clearly on the windscreen, eighty-two-twenty. It looked brandnew, the fittings were luxurious, there was every comfort you could think of. And all for a little over eight thousand dollars!

But, I thought, I'd better check the price with the dealer. ‘That vehicle, sir, is $23,176. Plus tax,’ he said.

‘But — Eighty-two-twenty?’

page 96
Black and white close up photograph of Roger Hall

Roger Hall. Photo: John Burney

It was a nineteen-eighty-two model, twenty feet long. We decided to have lunch at the restaurant."
Roger Hall, Fulbright lecturer, 1982

"I began looking for a vehicle on a street in Palmerston North that was lined with used car dealers. The high prices and the steering wheel on the opposite side made me quite tentative, but I finally worked up the courage to test-drive a Ford. The salesman, a young man, looked a bit concerned as page 97he watched me attempt to get the car off the lot. Not being used to shifting with my left hand or looking in the right place for the mirrors, it was probably three or four minutes before I got onto the street.

By this time I was feeling pretty calm. I drove along a wide, quiet street for several blocks and then ran into a roundabout. Having never encountered one before, I decided to wait and see what other cars did. It wasn't long until a car came from my left and slipped through the roundabout smoothly. I watched it drive away and then entered the roundabout and turned right, the same direction as the other car.

I proceeded several more blocks, navigated through a rather confusing set of lights, and then turned into a road leading into the countryside and picked up speed. After a mile or so I decided to turn around and head back into town. It was at this moment that I realised that I had been concentrating so hard on driving the car that I had forgotten which dealer I had gotten it from."
Thomas Sauer, Fulbright graduate student, 1985

"Once I put a slight dent in a car bumper and went in search of a body shop in order to have it repaired. When I asked someone in Hamilton for advice as to which body shop he recommended, I was astonished to learn that only one existed in a city of 100,000 people. ‘Go down the main street,’ he said. ‘Take a left, and you'll see it on the left about five blocks down. It's called the Queen of Hearts.’ I hastened to explain that I needed to locate an automobile repair shop. ‘Oh!’ he said. ‘You mean you want a panel-beater!’" Richard Curry, Fulbright lecturer, 1981

"I bought some designer (Bill Blass, for those in the know) sheets, pillow- cases and comforter, in navy and white. This made quite a sizeable package all encased in slippery plastic.

I set out for New York with my bag, my sheets and comforter wrapped in plastic, and a pile of papers from ETS, also in plastic. This motley collection, bulky and heavy, had been lashed onto a luggage trundler, expecting that the bus would have a luggage compartment. But no, and I had to try to manoeuvre this contraption down the narrow aisle to the back of the bus. Turned sideways, it would not roll on its wheels. Turned frontways, it was too wide for the aisle and the plastic snagged on the seats. I eventually wriggled it to the rear and hung onto the thing for the whole journey during which it repeatedly tried to lie down in the aisle. I then had to face getting off again but had figured that if there were no people sitting with heads to be knocked off, I could lift it about the seats and walk sideways down the bus. It worked!

Negotiated the bus steps, got down the terminal stairway, managed to ride down an escalator, walked a block underground, found the right platform for my train, trundled the contraption to the train by which stage the plastic packages had slipped out of the knots and lashings and had to be pummelled back into place every ten minutes. Got out at 116th Street and page 98carried the bundle, like a corpse on a stretcher, upstairs to street, trundled to Amsterdam Avenue and 120th Street, then up the Victorian steps of Whittier, through the electronically controlled door, into an elevator, up nine floors, along the corridor, opened two door locks and then home!

The sheets and comforter looked great on the bed. Also was able to put my only other ones through the wash."
Geraldine McDonald, Fulbright researcher, 1981

"During my first week in the States I had a phone call from my contact in ten days' time.

He told me who he was and said he had everything jacked up for my stay. He would meet me at the airport; I would spend my first night in my booked hotel but from then on he had other ideas.

‘I need to know a couple of things about you,’ he said. ‘Do you play bowls?’ Rather stunned, I thought of lawn bowls in New Zealand and said, 'No, I'm not that old.'

‘Ah, we'll teach you,’ he said. ‘What about playing around with little planes?’

‘No,’ I said. ‘I haven't done much of that since I was very young.’ ‘Oh! How about bike-riding, then?’

Well, I had never been on a cycle track, not even on a racing bike, so, ‘I'm sorry,’ I said.

‘Oh? Hell! What about golf?’
‘Yes, yes,’ I said.

‘Ah,’ he said. ‘I'll meet you at the airport.’ Well, the outcome was:

A night of skittle bowls had been arranged. I had hospitality with people with a six-seater Cessna. I had hospitality with people who cycled as a family. It snowed so I couldn't play golf."
Roy Young, Fulbright educational development researcher, 1980

"My wife and I tend to talk the most about the graciousness and generosity of people whom we met throughout the islands. There was that time in Nelson when both kids had chicken pox. The motel owner, noticing the children's ailment, phoned his own doctor. Soon the phone rang in our room. It was a Sunday afternoon and the doctor had offered to come to the motel and take a look at our children. A house call — on a Sunday afternoon! Then there was the time that I drove through Hamilton at 6 o'clock in the morning. Hamilton, a large town by New Zealand's standards, had a couple of gas stations open at that time. I pulled in, filled the tank, and asked the gentleman with the pump if he sold coffee. He said, 'No, I don't sell coffee. But I just put on a pot and I could sure use the company. Come on, let's have a chat.'

I was on a whirlwind tour sponsored by the Art Galleries and Museums Association in New Zealand. As I left, I guess what impressed me the most page 99
Black and white photograph of Bill Tramposch sitting beside his desk

Bill Tramposch, recipient of the Fulbright in Museum Education, ‘sitting dazed at his desk
in the wake of the news’.

was watching the openings of Te Maori. As the Taonga returned from its United States tour, I saw the power that museums have to encourage racial relations and promote the best kind of nationalism. I left just as Te Maori was making its tour through the islands. I have to tell you that leaving at that time was like having a wonderful novel ripped from my hands just minutes before I got into the climax.

I need to return to this country, and the sooner the better. It almost seems like a fantasy to me now that I ever went. But occasionally I'll show my slides and discuss the experience with friends here in Williamsburg and the reality will return. There is such a place as New Zealand, and waiting to get back there is fortifying and entertaining in its own right." William J. Tramposch, Fulbright researcher, 1986