Thursday
October 19, 2017
Sunday, September 28, 2014

More than All Blacks

By Michael Soltys / Herald Staff

New Zealand promotes cultural side

Yesterday’s match between the Pumas and the All Blacks with its all too predictable result may have been the main occasion but New Zealand was anxious to show last week that it also has a more cultural side — last Tuesday the New Zealand Embassy and the Lower House hosted in Congress (Salón de los Pasos Perdidos) an event centred on a book launch but also washed down with New Zealand wine and pavlovas, as well as accompanied by binational music.

The two books were Kiwi Latino, un argentino en Nueva Zelanda and Picaflor, finding home in South America, respectively written by Emiliano Néspola and Jessica Talbot about their experiences living in each other’s countries.

After some introductory words from New Zealand Ambassador Hayden Montgomery on the ties beyond the sporting links and the natural affinities between both countries, the two authors took the floor in an unstructured presentation with no set talks but answering questions from a moderator and the audience.

Néspola is a beneficiary of the working holiday visas programme initiated in 2001 during the visit of then Prime Minister Helen Clark. If he had to summarize New Zealand in one word after his “mind-opening experience,” it would be “transparent,” he said, describing how his letter to the Education minister resulted in a direct meeting. He enjoyed the nature, the accessible beaches and the multiple sports opportunities but also warned visiting Argentines that it was important to have patrons and partners for anything they wished to undertake rather than attempting it out of the blue. Néspola said that he could have stayed on after his working holiday (minimum: three months) and he worked for some years for a New Zealand company after his return here.

The title of Talbot’s book comes from a hummingbird in Cuzco, Peru (now a tattoo) — Argentina was by no means her first South American country but it has become her home where she has formed a family. She described her joy in Argentina’s creature comforts — the Malbec and the asados (“not just the meat but the ritual”) — and the landscapes but above all the people who gave friendship a new meeting while she also found the traffic and the red tape frustrating.

Asked by the Herald if she would accept the zero sum logic that whatever she found home here must have been missing in her own country, she replied that in many ways it was Argentina’s problems which were its charm and created its identity — back in New Zealand everything was solved and that tended to keep Kiwis apart leading parallel lives but Argentina’s complexities brought people together.

Then the choir of St. Hilda’s School (whose headmaster Chris Gregory hails from New Zealand) sang a Maori song and Adiós Nonino before everybody enjoyed the reception washed down by “Spy Valley” wines (acceptable reds and superb whites).

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