In New Zealand there is no whirlwind,
more like a soft, gentle breeze
When you're in another country you take notice of the uniqueness that surrounds youthe noises, the sights, the smells are all brand new. For Mark Dell'Aglio, M.D. and his wife Trinj, a locum tenens assignment in New Zealand meant an opportunity to turn the unfamiliar into an adventure. "It's interesting to watch us learning outside of ourselves...learning the Kiwi way of life," says Dr. Dell'Aglio. When you visit a foreign countryeven if they share your native languageyou find yourself learning colloquialisms, customs, and cultural caveats that aren't familiar. Everything from setting up a new home to making new friends is an entirely different experience in a foreign country. But it's a welcome experience.
New Zealand is a place many visit and few want to leave. A place where the landscape is as gorgeous as it is diverse. Sometimes it takes a philosophical mind to dive into why a country is so "strangely beautiful" and Dr. Dell'Aglio is just the man to do that. He's a man who understands the significance of being uprooted from familiarity to being dropped in a place where there's "a need for vigilance in your actions, speech, perceptions, and navigation of social customs," as he puts it. Luckily, New Zealand greeted the Dell'Aglios with beautiful weather, a crisp sunrise and smiling faces. The Maori phrase Kia Ora ("welcome") rang true as soon as they stepped foot on Kiwi soil.
Acclimating to the Kiwi way of doing things in the hospital wasn't hard for Dr. Dell'Aglio either. "There's very little hierarchy here," says Dr. Dell'Aglio, "First names are used among everybody, from the students to the doctors." You get to focus on pressing issues "without dealing with all the games insurance companies sometimes make doctors play." Quite simply New Zealand medicine is different from the States; the Kiwis are more relaxedmuch more patient. "They are a 'live-and-let-live' type of people. It's tremendously refreshing...impatience seems to be indoctrinated in [Americans] at a young age...That's not as strong here. Here, there is no whirlwind, more like a soft, gentle breeze."
Sometimes unwinding with good company and a cold brew is the only cure after a day of familiarizing yourself with new surroundings. Dr. Dell'Aglio and Trinj settled into a quaint neighborhood pub that (as one night went on) turned rowdy due to a rugby match on TV. They quickly found out the Kiwis' love affair with their national sport.
A few weeks later, having caught rugby fever, they boarded a train to Wellington to watch a quarterfinal match between Ireland and Wales. On the train, the air was electric with each stop taking on more people. Fans from Ireland and Wales traveled to support their namesake. And even though it was a foreign match, the Kiwis were still gung ho about it. "Did I mention that rugby is a religion here? They're fanatical about it. Fanatical."
It seems the stereotype is true: Kiwis love their rugby. They also have lots of sheep and sprawling green hills. In fact, New Zealand is filled with varied countryside that makes you stand agape at the splendor of it all. Gisborne is just one of these many beautiful, coastal suburbs with green hills that sprawl out underneath rolling, white clouds. Dr. Dell'Aglio describes it: "We drove up the beautiful coast and through some forest. There were magnificent green hillsides...we went from Shire-like landscape to gorgeous misty valleys falling into deep gorges carved out by rivers, to rainforests, into farmland, orchards, wineries, flatlands, tidal plains, and back to the coast again outside Gisborne."
From Shire to fiord, Dr. Dell'Aglio and Trinj ventured to Doubtful Sound-the second largest of 14 fiords in the region. One moment the skies surrounding the park can be mysterious and mist-cloaked, the next they're clear blue and sun-drenched. When the Dell'Aglios arrived it was "shrouded in misty, low-lying clouds and it gave an otherworldly, Lord of the Rings feel." Soon enough the clouds retreated and the sun came to the rescue showing the serene, unspoiled wilderness of Doubtful Sound. You'll see everything from cascading waterfalls to penguins and dolphins swimming beneath. "We awoke to see the sun rise the next morningthe contrast of sudden silence broken by occasional birdsong was powerful. It made me want to come back for more."
From country life they headed to city lifeon the Riviera (well not exactly but that's how Dr. Dell'Aglio likens their next stop): Napier. A sun-blessed town nestled on the east coast of the North Island, it's filled with cafes, pubs, restaurants and shops decked out in Art Deco design. "The town's architecture is set amidst picturesque parks with palm trees and blue skies," says Dr. Dell'Aglio. "It's coupled with a vibrant skyline of shops and cafes that make Napier a tourist dream"and we'd say an architecture lover's paradise. The city had rough beginnings; it was destroyed in 1931 by a devastating earthquake only to be redesigned by the prevailing architectural style of the time. It now stands as a proud city treasured as the Art Deco capital of the world.
The Dell'Aglios, being enamored with the city, had family visit from the States for a Napier-wide Gatsby-styled Deco weekend. "Everyone dressed fashion-backward in flapper dresses and fedoras while the town was transformed," says Dr. Dell'Aglio. "There was a parade of antique cars...and old planes overhead." A celebration second to only one of Jay Gatsby'swe're sure he's doing the Charleston in his fictional grave.
New Zealand, Aotearoa or simply "Land of the Long White Cloud"no matter what you call it, it was home to the Dell'Aglios; six months that were filled with exotic land and culture, new friends and fantastic foreign adventures. Now back home, they're steeped in wonderful nostalgia with plans to go back. "You can never get enough of New Zealand," says Dr. Dell'Aglio, "It's like summer when you were a kid. It was happy and carefree..."