from the archives

Obama showed us a whole other side of Auckland

The last time I was in Australia, I met all sorts of people and went to a bunch of places that were off the tourist’s beaten path. Such is the nature of an educational/exchange type of trip.

This time around, of course, I haven’t had a team of local folks arranging homestays and meetings with local leaders. But tonight, Steve and I still managed to get off that beaten path and experience a bit of real life in Auckland alongside everyday, ordinary New Zealanders.

And we have Mr. Obama to thank for the experience.

Allow me to explain: Last night when the whole group was out at Mac’s Brewery, someone spotted a guy on the dance floor wearing a fake mustache and a shirt that read OBAMA 44. Steve wanted a picture with the guy, and I accompanied him on his mission.

The guy informed us that his name is actually Obama, and since we had met a man named Obi the night before who showed us a credit card bearing the name O KENOBI, I was inclined to believe him. After cracking a joke about being the president, he mentioned that he was involved in a Saturday-night salsa dancing festival. Obama also handed over what I thought were info cards about the event, but as we walked back to where the rest of the group was sitting, Steve and I noticed that we were each holding a $20 ticket to the Annual Auckland Salsa Fiesta.

So even though our late-night Friday activities made for a rather typical Saturday afternoon for me — sleeping in and only getting going about 4 p.m. — this is no Palm Springs Weekend.

Within a few hours of waking up, as some others in our group headed out to see the symphony, Steve and I were walking into a new part of the city en route to the community center where the fiesta took place. As we watched dancers perform and listened to a band play, Steve said, “I don’t entirely feel like we’re in New Zealand all the time tonight,” which was a valid point, to be sure. The Latin American music and the style of dancing may have suggested that we were in Mr. Obama’s native Peru or maybe back in the southwestern United States. Still, as I looked around, I definitely got the sense that we were seeing a slice of these New Zealanders’ lives that not many Americans get to see.