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Feeling Upside Down

Updated: Dec 10, 2023

Christchurch In Your Home There exists a show. That show is called Parks and Rec.

That show has plots. One plot is about getting a park built.

In order to build the parks, you need a site, so occasionally a map is used.

In general, many maps have lots of similarities, with green patches, roads, buildings and blue represents water.

The reason I bring this up is because if you’re really familiar with Christchurch NZ, and you get a good look at the map in Parks and Rec, you may notice that the map in the show looks a little like Christchurch.

A lot like Christchurch.

In fact, it's so much alike, that the map from Parks and Rec is based on Christchurch. There’s only a few times the ‘Pawnee Map’ is really visible in the show, but each and every time they show it, they are showing you Christchurch, with some different names for the streets and parks.

Below shows one of the scenes where they are looking at the ‘Pawnee Map’

And here’s the map they are looking at.

And small as that map is, where we live is on there. Even though they renamed Hagley Park into Ramset Park and most street names have been altered.

It’s a weird thing. It begs the question, “FOR WHAT REASON?” Why on earth would that show make their map based on a city on the other side of the world?

It’s because a graphic designer created a map for the city of Pawnee in the show, and felt that Christchurch was the right size and feel, after he had visited Chch in 2004. If you were thinking to yourself, “Christchurch is a small town in small New Zealand, and it’s known for small things, because it’s small and silly and also it’s small”…you might be right. But lest we forget, Christchurch is a big prime-time star. Technically, Christchurch has made it into the homes of millions of people worldwide, because of this small and weird factoid.

You can read more about it in an article here.

Bowling Bowling in NZ is not the same as US bowling. They call it bowls. And they usually do it outside on grass. It’s more like bocci ball actually.

I wish I had more to expand on here, but that’s it. When you’re in NZ and here someone say bowls or bowling, just be aware. Cam Doing, What Cam Does Best: Complaining About Being Confused Here’s a small history lesson that helps me get confused about my own psychology: Weetabix is a popular breakfast cereal made from whole wheat. It was first developed in the United Kingdom in the 1920s by the Weetabix Company. The company was founded by Sir Richard George Stapley and Bennison Osbourne in 1932. It’s the kind of food that you eat and instantly think This must have been made during a wartime. I can see how it's nutritious, but it's also the worst thing to eat that I could possibly imagine.

Those that don't know Weetabix it’s made-up of thin little sheets of cereal that are grouped together in a lightweight brick (think of original shredded wheat, but differently shaped). It's a lot like a medium density fiberboard that you build and plaster with. It also tastes very similar to medium density fiberboard.

Trying to eat Weetabix is an extreme challenge. If you tried to eat it dry. It will suck all of the moisture out of your mouth to such an incredible degree that your body will be left with about a third of the moisture that you had before you took that bite. It seems like a military grade dehydrating compound. It's not clear to me if it was actually invented. With the intention of eating or as a biological warfare weapon. I'm convinced that if you were to leave a couple of Weetabix around your house. It would suck all of the moisture out of the air, and you would never know what wetness feels like ever again.

So the natural conclusion is:

"Then don't eat Weetabix Dry. Try adding some milk.”


Well, here's the thing, How you eat Weetabix has turned into a very political game. There are lots of thoughts and opinions and experts, That weigh in on this particular issue. Some people are partial to milk, others swear that water is the best Liquid to enjoy your Weetabix. And we haven't even gotten to the temperature of that liquid, because some people like it boiling hot while others prefer it cold. It's easy to see how many permutations of enjoying this simple breakfast food exist.

Regardless of what liquid you use, you are going to find one thing: Your Weetabix is going to breakdown rather quickly with the oppressive weight of a liquid. This does not mean that the liquid has an extraordinary amount of weight. What it means is that the chemical compounds that form your Weetabix brick seems though they were scientifically engineered to be weaker than any other chemical bond in the known universe. From the instant that you pour liquid over your Weetabix, you’re in a race against the clock. You have but mere seconds to consume that bowl of cereal before it turns into a soupy mush, That resembles porridge. Maybe not even porridge. It’s sort of like a gloopy-pond water that has had years of leaves and debris fall into it, without any animal life to breakdown all the ‘stuff’. It’s something I imagine witches in the 16th century put into their cauldrons as they stirred them around.

I am writing a sternly worded letter to the company that they change the name to ‘Weakabix’ because it seems more fitting. Needless to say, I am …not the biggest fan of Weetabix. I don’t think they will be sponsoring me as a spokesperson any time soon, either, so the feeling is mutual.

Here’s the part that really ‘does my head in’ (Kiwi Expression), I keep going back to them. I have heard so many opinions on the proper way to prepare and eat this cereal. Everybody has weighed in and it’s not because they are nosy – I go around asking for it. I have polled countless Kiwis now asking for the best way to eat this mystery food that seems like it comes from a dystopian world. Cam asks himself:

“Do I use water, because that sounds gross?”

“How much milk do I use?”

“What can I add to this horrible food so that I enjoy eating it and don’t feel like I’m undergoing nutritiously-rich-form of anti-flavour torture?”

I have scoured the South Island of NZ trying to find the best way, but here’s what always happens

1. Someone tells me how they make their Weetabix with extraordinary detail (See “Cereal Footnote” for full tangent) 2. I go to the store, buy a box, and try it 3. And then… 4. I am just filled to the brim with disappointment

This is confusing to me but it’s not the height of my confusion. There’s more…

Here's where my head really starts to spin: Weetabix is popular all over the world, it's not just a food that's available in New Zealand. You can find it in many Commonwealth countries that are descended from the UK and even many countries outside of that. Yet, it’s somehow all the worst parts of food. It’s dry, until it’s not dry and then it’s mush. It’s flavourless, unless… nevermind, it’s always flavourless – that part doesn’t change. It’s a weird texture. It’s difficult to manipulate to eat with any sense of satisfaction. But still, it persists as a globally recognized and continually produced food.

Here’s where it gets interesting (you’re about to see how liberally I use the word ‘interesting’): I keep going back to it. When a child burns its hand on the stove, that child learns not to put its hand on the stove anymore. This has been the way humans have learned for years and years, ad infinitum. Then came the year 1989, and a boy was brought into this world with the first name Cameron, and he broke that system of learning.

I have attempted a relationship with Weetabix several times, and each time I rue the day. It ends in sadness, despair, tears and vitriol. I feel betrayed. I go paranoid that the world is out to get me and ensure that I only eat awful food for the rest of my days.

Then…

Some time passes.

Spring arrives. The flowers bloom.

Spring to summer.

So on and so forth.

And a new day emerges. A new CAM emerges. This newer, more evolved version of Cameron is enlightened. He is forgiving and embraces new experiences. He’s open to change. He thinks to himself, “surely, I was a kid last time I tried Weetabix, but with this newfound sense of maturity… this. This will change everything.” And he’s so damn wrong.

So why do I keep trying? Because he’s a very fallible human that spends his time reading about psychological biases, but despite understanding these reasonably well, his brain cannot separate the idea of ‘following the herd’ and doing what all these other people are doing, by eating Weetabix. Monkey see. Monkey do. Monkey experience disdain. A Newer, Older Phase I’ve entered a new phase of life (this has nothing to do with Weetabix), where I have a surprising number of friends that are not necessarily my age group. I have a majority of friends that fall into their 60s and 70s these days, with a few exceptions of young whippersnappers who are in their 50s.


I’ve long enjoyed the company of people more senior and wiser than myself, because they would make me think things that I couldn’t think on my own. They offer mind-expanding views, and that's not always a common thing.


I say this to share how I’ve enjoyed spending time with several people who are decades older than I am, and in some cases, twice my age. We spend time (maybe every couple of weeks), getting coffees and talking and I find the conversational material unusual (but usually in a good way). I really appreciate the perspective of life they offer me. The way that they talk about things is so different to how I naturally view things, and I really enjoy it. 


They are more blunt. Less affected. Things that I would have to swallow some emotion to say, they mention as if it’s a footnote. It’s a casual comment. Something like,


73 year old-“Bill died.”

72 year old-“Is that right? Oh”

73 year old-“Yep”

72 year old-“Cancer?”

73 year old-“No. Heart gave out. It’s what happens”

Cam-“{…]” (processing information)


The conversations are not the kinds of things that 30 year olds talk about casually and it helps me realize that these people have lived longer lives and laid witness to all kinds of stuff that I simply can’t imagine. One of them had tuberculosis when he was younger for crying out loud! Here I was, thinking tuberculosis got stamped out by the early 20th century, and a guy had it in 1960!


We attended a dinner party where we were the youngest guests. It’s a normal dinner event with drinking and eating and chit-chat. But the conversation shifts that one of the guys used to do salsa lessons and really missed it. Then, flash-forward 20 minutes, as if my life was a film, and LC, a 50 year old dude and 2 women in their 60s are dancing/ tearing up the living room. Partying hard!


In a meta-sense, I've had a full circle experience with my friends in their 70s that I have coffee with, because in the time that I started writing this email, one of the gentlemen has been diagnosed as terminally ill. He was given 6-12 weeks to live and that leaves about 2-8 weeks from now. 


We go to his home for coffee at this point, as he's less mobile these days. The conversation is often lighter, because the tumor is in his brain, so his focus is strained when it comes holding onto a single thought. Now, every time that I see him, I realize it might be the last time that I do. There will inevitably come a week, in the near future, when his wife sends me an email or text that he's been hospitalized and won't be able to have coffee with us. 


This is not about to turn into some allegory about "life is short", but it does illustrate some interesting ideas to me. Things like:


  • Life might be short. It might not. But for some, it's done rather quickly and none of us know if we are going to have it finish quickly or the drawn out option with time. Because we don't know which path we will head down, we must assume that it is short.

  • Life is completed by death. By definition this is true. It's universal and it can sound uncomfortably harsh. While I understand it isn't exactly a 'warming' idea, it's something that can be interpreted positively.

  • For those that feel whole, death is not something that is shocking or saddening... it's just the next thing. For those that are left behind, we may feel sad and see what comes next in our own lives, but for those that pass, it's something else.


I won't pretend to have novel ideas about death. I really don't have any so it would be fraudulent. What I do have is a new way of looking at these concepts that is different. I feel more removed from them and like I have less of an ego playing a role, and can view them from a more objective stance. It's odd to view death in this new way but, on the upside, I feel like a child discovering something for the first time, and I'm delighting in my fresh experience.

Blunders with Words Every once in a while I stumble upon a subtle difference in the way that Americans and Kiwis speak. It happens less and less these days, but it still comes up. One shining example though is how I grew up in California, and understand the phrase “excuse me” to be 100% interchangeable with the phrase “pardon me”. I always believed (and still do) that they were the same meaning, in which you are asking for the forgiveness from someone else, for a misstep or small gaffe, and it was no big deal.

In Spanish, it’s “Perdóname” and I just got used to using the phrase ‘pardon me’ for coming around blind corner and bumping into someone or attempting to get out of the way from something.

Welp. That’s not the case everywhere.

In New Zealand, excuse me fits in perfectly for when you take up the sidewalk (or footpath as they call it). You say ‘excuse me’ when you are in the way, or say something incorrect. ‘Pardon me’ is reserved for different situations. In New Zealand, you would only say ‘pardon me’ if you had some kind of gastrointestinal action, such as a burp or flatulence.

This means for about the first 2.5 years of living in New Zealand, any time I would walk past a corner and someone else would be there, my instinctual reaction was to say ‘pardon me’. I thought this was acceptable, until someone explained the difference to me (a 70-year told me what I was saying). My perception was that I was excusing myself. Kiwis perception were that every time I walked past someone, I was crop dusting them with a fart cloud.

Just another verbal blunder. I can only imagine how many times I did this and gave a VERY odd impression to those around me. Whoopsies. Some VoKiwibulary Mo = mustache Snooker = pool

Shichya = yes (a bastardization of 'shit yeah')

Shingle = gravel road


Until Next Time...

Cereal Footnote: I love cereal. Always have and likely always will. In the US, the cereal aisle in any grocery store is a holy place to me. I feel at peace. Atonement. Enlightened and surrounded by my million little wheat-based cereal friends. When I say that I have eaten a lot of cereal in my day, I’ll ask you to do the math and understand that for a couple of decades of my life, I ate 3 bowls of cereal every day. You can calculate how much that is if you feel inclined. So when I am used to a two-step process of eating cereal, it’s always been: pour cereal in the bowl, then pour milk in the bowl. Done. There’s not too much complication with that. Thus, it ASTOUNDS ME the detail that comes with preparing a bowl of Weetabix. I have heard plans laid out with timers, schematics, diagrams, and ingredients down to the nanogram (or so it seems). I feel like some architect has come and laid out plans or blueprints for building a 20-story high rise. It’s like building a furniture set from IKEA, but with no images to actually show you how to build it. Anyway, tangent concluded.

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