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978-954-529-696-3
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5 9
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Pages
340
Published
23 June 2009

East - in Eden

“East - in Eden” is a book written with a vivid language and enormous pleasure. Reading it could be a real amusement. The fans of Izabela, who already have read her letters on the Web, are well acquainted with her writing. Those, who are reading her work for a first time, will find in this text everything they need to know about New Zealand, expanded with a great collection of photos.

“East – in Eden” is not a novel, a travel diary, or an autobiography; it’s not a letter or a recipe collection; it is a little bit all of that and something more... A new type of literature, which holds no regard for any specific form or genre, but captivates with its honesty, freshness, extreme palettes and smashing sense of humour. A book painted with colour, and sprinkled with joy, it is impossible to put it down until the last page. It tells a story of a woman with many hats – a wife, a mother, a job applicant and an avid reader, a person with mundane responsibilities and intellectual curiosity. It exhibits the countless obstacles on the road to immigration and the exotic adventures of the newcomer; the adaptation challenges, the culinary shock - the little things from everyday life in a foreign country and the huge panoramic revelations of the local landscape - all lived through within six unforgettable years in “The Land of Rain”, “The Last Earthly Heaven”, “The Most Amazingly Beautiful Hell”, the far away, exotic and still unknown “Terra Incognita”.

A tale, sometimes joyous, sometimes sad, sometimes hysterical and shocking, other times ordinary and informative; but at all times - exceptional, honest, funny and provocative. Three hundred and fifty pages filled with intelligent entertainment, interesting knowledge and the healing love for a newfound home in New Zealand.

About the Author
Izabela  Shopova

Izabela Shopova (born 1971 in Varna) is a Bulgarian writer, now living and writing in Australia.

A child prodigy, she learned to read at age of 4, graduated from high school at 15, played piano and dreamed of conquering space. She was a professional model and an amateur astronomer; worked in a radio station but never planned to write on her own... She graduated from the local technical university, with major in radio engineering and then stepped in a completely different direction by establishing a career in business.

In 2002 she moved to New Zealand together with her husband and daughter. She wrote her first letter from the “Land of the Long White Cloud”, which became an instant hit back in Bulgaria. It was published by numerous websites, newspapers and travel magazines. She went on writing about first hand experiences and second hand memories, thus bringing together parallel cultures and histories… Some of her travelogues won awards in travel writing./ide.li; okolosveta.com/ Gradually, much to her own surprise, she emerged as a professional writer. She put together a collection of her writings – a fascinating amalgam of episodes from the everyday life of an immigrant and the amazing adventures of a tourist… Her first published book “East - in Eden” surpassed the success of her Internet publications and gave the readers a legitimate reason to call her “The Bulgarian Bill Bryson”.

Izabela Shopova lives now in Brisbane, Australia; she still writes for the electronic media and Bulgarian travel magazines and works on her second book about her family adventures in Aussie-Land.

Excerpt

The Upside-Down World

I never particularly liked the world described in ‘Through the Looking Glass’ (too surrealistic for my dialectical-materialism-Marxism-Leninism-brainwashed childhood), but now I regret that I can’t remember details of Alice’s adventures. Maybe there was some valuable advice on how to survive when everything is turned upside-down.
As if it isn’t enough that New Zealand is down there, on the opposite side of the Earth’s globe, so we walk upside-down here and the trees grow downwards, the North is warm and the South cold, it’s a bright day here when it’s a deep night in Bulgaria, and we endure the coldest winter here when Europe enjoys the heat of mid-summer. Even the water in the sink drain rotates clockwise (anyone who has read Umberto Eco or studied physics would know that this is because of the whim of some Coriolis character) while in the northern hemisphere water rotates counter-clockwise, but here they have also introduced a left-hand- side traffic and right-hand-side steering wheel cars. And just to top it off some seriously disturbed Japanese designer has put the indicator lever on the right-hand side, and the windscreen wipers control – on the left.
Nightmare!
Any normal European driver with normally developed reflexes when turning into a street will look to the left first, then to the right. In New Zealand you look repeatedly and with an increased concern in all directions, turning your head like a cat watching a Ping-Pong game, especially if there isn’t another car on the road to give you a hint on the expected traffic direction. Then with a confident gesture you turn on the windscreen wipers, and only after their squeaky scraping over dry glass assails your ears you remember with a jolt where the indicator lever is. Each time you reach for the gear stick your hand  inevitably grabs the door handle instead, and at the numerous roundabouts you turn counter-clockwise of course, only to see the astonished faces of the other road users and  remember with a startle that here the road rules are  the other way around and upside-down. Everything is upside-down!
You are perpetually perplexed (and terrified) to see in the rare-vision mirror that the car behind you has no driver at all (in the left-hand side seat), or the driver is a dog, hanging excitedly its long tongue through the window. And to top it up, the rules for giving way at an intersection are not quite opposite to the European rules. In New Zealand the left turning vehicles give way to the right turning ones. Just imagine if in Europe the right turning vehicles were waiting for the left turning ones, which in turn waited for the non-turning traffic. The result is a lengthy and absolutely pointless waiting, lots of wild hand-waving and gesturing  in order to indicate our intentions to give each other way and to politely thank everybody afterwards. (If you thought the Italians were gesturing too much when driving, you should see the sign language exchange at any New Zealand intersection.) Apparently some time ago there was a referendum to abolish this ridiculous road rule, but the kiwis didn’t agree. They are so used to it now and God forbid someone, somewhere might get confused with the new rule and create a dangerous traffic situation. No, no, no! It would be too much stress and effort for the relaxed layback nature of the kiwis. No. We would rather wait till drop. Besides, this makes as much more unique.
But the most startling upside down aspect is not the nature or the traffic. It is the people’s behaviour. When you meet a stranger in the park, he or she won’t look away and pass by in silence. No, of course not – this would be so rude and improper! So un-kiwi-like. Instead they look straight into your eyes, smile and give a long (and absolutely unprovoked) speech about the weather (always!), how beautiful the park looks today (sometimes), or how cute is that puppy over there (occasionally), ask about your day (without failure), whether you have enjoyed it and aren’t you happy to be here. If you give in to the temptation to smile back in response and gather your very poor and very shy English language skills to emit some assertive noises, an immediate introduction will follow and a long talk about where is your unusual accent from, how do you like New Zealand, where (not if!) do you go fishing and eventually (and inevitably) you and your family get an invitation for tea. (Which you are soon to find out – the hard and embarrassing way - doesn’t involve drinking of hot herbal infusions at all, but is actually dinner. Why can’t kiwis just say so is one of the biggest mysteries of Aotearoa.)
In the supermarket, while scanning your purchases the girl at the cashier isn’t grunting and sulking  as someone who has been carrying the whole world’s worries on her shoulders (most appropriate behaviour in Bulgarian shops), but she chatters happily, questions you  at length about  the weather outside – isn’t it a bit windy today (sometimes I am tempted to say “no”  just to see if everyone is going to rush outside to witness this unseen miracle), do you like fish (because I have canned tuna in my shopping basket) and where did you go fishing last weekend (again – where, not if). Yeah, the full moon these last few days was bad for fishing, but next week will be good for fishermen (kiwis plan their fishing trips according to the Maori fishing calendar, based on Moon phases and some other celestial advice). Where is your lovely accent from, ah, how interesting, and where about is this place? Europe?! How nice! How do you like New Zealand, it is so beautiful here, isn’t it?
Opening a bank account is a whole new ordeal, but not because of bureaucratic obstacles – they simply don’t exist in Kiwiland. It’s just that lady bank officer you are dealing with has no other urgent work obviously and is so radiant that you simply can’t leave without appearing extremely rude and offending her. After hearing the full story of her family’s arrival here, the difficulties and cultural shocks they encountered, and an extensive report on the peculiarities of the local climate, you move on to the topics of buying a home, mortgage types, a few funny stories about customers who have made wrong decisions and finally, after half an hour of non-binding small talk you leave the building with a bunch of brochures and business cards in your hand, and of course, with the vital debit card in your pocket. (The painful face muscle strain is a free bonus - from all the wide smiling and vigorous nodding.)
Should I even mention that when you have stopped at some random intersection in an unfamiliar part of town, frantically leafing through the road-map pages, unable to decide which way to turn, desperately trying to remember how to switch-off the stupid screeching screen wipers and wondering in astonishment where the hell has the gear stick gone, the other drivers don’t get on the horn, don’t swear, don’t even make obscene gestures at you, but kindly come to your driver’s window to ask if you need help. Without a trace of irony (or God forbid sarcasm!) in their voice!
Upside-down world!

What’s the Weather Like in Heaven?
As a welcoming gesture on the occasion of our arrival in New Zealand, the local climate in treacherous collaboration with the local meteorologists, conducted a highly accelerated, extended and generously upgraded crash training course on the very popular topic in this part of the world - rain.
We had the very non-unique opportunity to enjoy all the aggregate states of water, which, with all due respect to the physicists, count far more than three. In one day alone we witnessed torrential tropical rain (causing spectacular floods in two major towns), a gentle spring rain (spitting relentlessly for hours), hail, fog, showers and some sort of a delicate water dust flying aimlessly in the wind. Then there was frost, rain, another variety of rain, thick steam rising from the ground becoming clouds straight before our unbelieving eyes, and some other, new brand of rain, yet to be discovered by weather science. Then it rained, and rained again, and again, and again.
There were also demonstrations of some combined visual weather effects – rain and sun, rain and wind, fog and wind and other seemingly impossible combinations. But mainly the majestic efforts of all natural forces were concentrated in the production of spectacular, colourful, high quality, extra-high resolution, full screen, from horizon to horizon rainbows. Magnificent and dreamy. In uncountable quantities. I am not sure about the ‘long white cloud’ (most clouds I see are sort of greyish), but New Zealand could easily be named The Land of the Thousand Rainbows.
And just when I naively thought we had mastered the most important part of the curriculum, we moved on to the next topic - winds. Once again, a complete crash course  - a small local storm (only 120 km/h), some characteristic local wind, breeze, a cold south wind (special import for our sake - directly from Antarctica), warm wind from the North, several excellent well-defined cyclonic winds and not a single moment of calm, if only for a change, or an element of surprise.
The clouds in the sky rush at such a frantic pace that it is as if they are special effects in a movie, when the director wants to imply how quickly time passes. This casual demonstration of mighty power by the natural forces makes me feel small, insignificant and ephemeral.
Air temperatures in our town vary mostly between ten and twenty degrees Celsius, with very few exceptions, independent of any season. The temperature of the ocean water is also mostly constant. New Zealand meteorologists have the easiest job in the world! If you predict that tomorrow the weather will be eventful, rainy, and windy, with temperatures between 11 and 19 degrees, you will be right 90% of the time. The remaining 10% can always be blamed on a computer error or a natural phenomenon – global warming seems to be a popular culprit these days.
Only, predicting the wind direction is a mission impossible. Even local fishermen and sailors admit that there is no telling when and where it is going to blow from next. There is only one constant – it will be windy. Sometimes it even blows from two different directions simultaneously. As if the skies can’t make their mind up, but still don’t give up and keep bringing winds from all corners of the world.
After we mastered the second part of the course on local climate, we were granted a short break. A well-deserved one. Two days sun without hurricanes and water only in the form of morning dew. And astonishingly - no rainbows! We were relieved to discover that somewhere, high above the clouds, in some other cosmic reality, the sky is still blue. In New Zealand it is easy to forget this simple fact. Listening to the water soaking into the soil, for the first time in my life the poetic expression "to hear the grass grow” made sense to me.
To our neighbours, however, this sound must have been unusual, because they rushed as one to water their lawns and gardens. God forbid the mud dries out! Some got overly enthusiastic and climbed on the roofs of their houses to wash them. And I have not even mentioned the cars yet - they get washed three times a day. Every single person around here is obsessed with water. A whole nation of waterholics!
As we finally got a chance to look around on a sunny day, it appeared that New Zealand was a very beautiful place indeed. Everything is green. And I mean everything. Where there isn’t green from grass, it is green from moss, mould and mildew. The visual effect of all this green stuff is fantastic! If the sun shows its face just for a moment the whole world shines bathed in gentle spring freshness. All year round.
A joke supposedly invented for Florida (or some claim Melbourne) is very topical here too: "If you don’t like the weather in New Zealand, just wait for five minutes."
In the bizarre antipodean upside-down world of “Through the looking glass” sun and rain alternate with such speed that you could never be dressed appropriately.

The Upside-Down World

I never particularly liked the world described in ‘Through the Looking Glass’ (too surrealistic for my dialectical-materialism-Marxism-Leninism-brainwashed childhood), but now I regret that I can’t remember details of Alice’s adventures. Maybe there was some valuable advice on how to survive when everything is turned upside-down.
As if it isn’t enough that New Zealand is down there, on the opposite side of the Earth’s globe, so we walk upside-down here and the trees grow downwards, the North is warm and the South cold, it’s a bright day here when it’s a deep night in Bulgaria, and we endure the coldest winter here when Europe enjoys the heat of mid-summer. Even the water in the sink drain rotates clockwise (anyone who has read Umberto Eco or studied physics would know that this is because of the whim of some Coriolis character) while in the northern hemisphere water rotates counter-clockwise, but here they have also introduced a left-hand- side traffic and right-hand-side steering wheel cars. And just to top it off some seriously disturbed Japanese designer has put the indicator lever on the right-hand side, and the windscreen wipers control – on the left.
Nightmare!
Any normal European driver with normally developed reflexes when turning into a street will look to the left first, then to the right. In New Zealand you look repeatedly and with an increased concern in all directions, turning your head like a cat watching a Ping-Pong game, especially if there isn’t another car on the road to give you a hint on the expected traffic direction. Then with a confident gesture you turn on the windscreen wipers, and only after their squeaky scraping over dry glass assails your ears you remember with a jolt where the indicator lever is. Each time you reach for the gear stick your hand  inevitably grabs the door handle instead, and at the numerous roundabouts you turn counter-clockwise of course, only to see the astonished faces of the other road users and  remember with a startle that here the road rules are  the other way around and upside-down. Everything is upside-down!
You are perpetually perplexed (and terrified) to see in the rare-vision mirror that the car behind you has no driver at all (in the left-hand side seat), or the driver is a dog, hanging excitedly its long tongue through the window. And to top it up, the rules for giving way at an intersection are not quite opposite to the European rules. In New Zealand the left turning vehicles give way to the right turning ones. Just imagine if in Europe the right turning vehicles were waiting for the left turning ones, which in turn waited for the non-turning traffic. The result is a lengthy and absolutely pointless waiting, lots of wild hand-waving and gesturing  in order to indicate our intentions to give each other way and to politely thank everybody afterwards. (If you thought the Italians were gesturing too much when driving, you should see the sign language exchange at any New Zealand intersection.) Apparently some time ago there was a referendum to abolish this ridiculous road rule, but the kiwis didn’t agree. They are so used to it now and God forbid someone, somewhere might get confused with the new rule and create a dangerous traffic situation. No, no, no! It would be too much stress and effort for the relaxed layback nature of the kiwis. No. We would rather wait till drop. Besides, this makes as much more unique.
But the most startling upside down aspect is not the nature or the traffic. It is the people’s behaviour. When you meet a stranger in the park, he or she won’t look away and pass by in silence. No, of course not – this would be so rude and improper! So un-kiwi-like. Instead they look straight into your eyes, smile and give a long (and absolutely unprovoked) speech about the weather (always!), how beautiful the park looks today (sometimes), or how cute is that puppy over there (occasionally), ask about your day (without failure), whether you have enjoyed it and aren’t you happy to be here. If you give in to the temptation to smile back in response and gather your very poor and very shy English language skills to emit some assertive noises, an immediate introduction will follow and a long talk about where is your unusual accent from, how do you like New Zealand, where (not if!) do you go fishing and eventually (and inevitably) you and your family get an invitation for tea. (Which you are soon to find out – the hard and embarrassing way - doesn’t involve drinking of hot herbal infusions at all, but is actually dinner. Why can’t kiwis just say so is one of the biggest mysteries of Aotearoa.)
In the supermarket, while scanning your purchases the girl at the cashier isn’t grunting and sulking  as someone who has been carrying the whole world’s worries on her shoulders (most appropriate behaviour in Bulgarian shops), but she chatters happily, questions you  at length about  the weather outside – isn’t it a bit windy today (sometimes I am tempted to say “no”  just to see if everyone is going to rush outside to witness this unseen miracle), do you like fish (because I have canned tuna in my shopping basket) and where did you go fishing last weekend (again – where, not if). Yeah, the full moon these last few days was bad for fishing, but next week will be good for fishermen (kiwis plan their fishing trips according to the Maori fishing calendar, based on Moon phases and some other celestial advice). Where is your lovely accent from, ah, how interesting, and where about is this place? Europe?! How nice! How do you like New Zealand, it is so beautiful here, isn’t it?
Opening a bank account is a whole new ordeal, but not because of bureaucratic obstacles – they simply don’t exist in Kiwiland. It’s just that lady bank officer you are dealing with has no other urgent work obviously and is so radiant that you simply can’t leave without appearing extremely rude and offending her. After hearing the full story of her family’s arrival here, the difficulties and cultural shocks they encountered, and an extensive report on the peculiarities of the local climate, you move on to the topics of buying a home, mortgage types, a few funny stories about customers who have made wrong decisions and finally, after half an hour of non-binding small talk you leave the building with a bunch of brochures and business cards in your hand, and of course, with the vital debit card in your pocket. (The painful face muscle strain is a free bonus - from all the wide smiling and vigorous nodding.)
Should I even mention that when you have stopped at some random intersection in an unfamiliar part of town, frantically leafing through the road-map pages, unable to decide which way to turn, desperately trying to remember how to switch-off the stupid screeching screen wipers and wondering in astonishment where the hell has the gear stick gone, the other drivers don’t get on the horn, don’t swear, don’t even make obscene gestures at you, but kindly come to your driver’s window to ask if you need help. Without a trace of irony (or God forbid sarcasm!) in their voice!
Upside-down world!

What’s the Weather Like in Heaven?
As a welcoming gesture on the occasion of our arrival in New Zealand, the local climate in treacherous collaboration with the local meteorologists, conducted a highly accelerated, extended and generously upgraded crash training course on the very popular topic in this part of the world - rain.
We had the very non-unique opportunity to enjoy all the aggregate states of water, which, with all due respect to the physicists, count far more than three. In one day alone we witnessed torrential tropical rain (causing spectacular floods in two major towns), a gentle spring rain (spitting relentlessly for hours), hail, fog, showers and some sort of a delicate water dust flying aimlessly in the wind. Then there was frost, rain, another variety of rain, thick steam rising from the ground becoming clouds straight before our unbelieving eyes, and some other, new brand of rain, yet to be discovered by weather science. Then it rained, and rained again, and again, and again.
There were also demonstrations of some combined visual weather effects – rain and sun, rain and wind, fog and wind and other seemingly impossible combinations. But mainly the majestic efforts of all natural forces were concentrated in the production of spectacular, colourful, high quality, extra-high resolution, full screen, from horizon to horizon rainbows. Magnificent and dreamy. In uncountable quantities. I am not sure about the ‘long white cloud’ (most clouds I see are sort of greyish), but New Zealand could easily be named The Land of the Thousand Rainbows.
And just when I naively thought we had mastered the most important part of the curriculum, we moved on to the next topic - winds. Once again, a complete crash course  - a small local storm (only 120 km/h), some characteristic local wind, breeze, a cold south wind (special import for our sake - directly from Antarctica), warm wind from the North, several excellent well-defined cyclonic winds and not a single moment of calm, if only for a change, or an element of surprise.
The clouds in the sky rush at such a frantic pace that it is as if they are special effects in a movie, when the director wants to imply how quickly time passes. This casual demonstration of mighty power by the natural forces makes me feel small, insignificant and ephemeral.
Air temperatures in our town vary mostly between ten and twenty degrees Celsius, with very few exceptions, independent of any season. The temperature of the ocean water is also mostly constant. New Zealand meteorologists have the easiest job in the world! If you predict that tomorrow the weather will be eventful, rainy, and windy, with temperatures between 11 and 19 degrees, you will be right 90% of the time. The remaining 10% can always be blamed on a computer error or a natural phenomenon – global warming seems to be a popular culprit these days.
Only, predicting the wind direction is a mission impossible. Even local fishermen and sailors admit that there is no telling when and where it is going to blow from next. There is only one constant – it will be windy. Sometimes it even blows from two different directions simultaneously. As if the skies can’t make their mind up, but still don’t give up and keep bringing winds from all corners of the world.
After we mastered the second part of the course on local climate, we were granted a short break. A well-deserved one. Two days sun without hurricanes and water only in the form of morning dew. And astonishingly - no rainbows! We were relieved to discover that somewhere, high above the clouds, in some other cosmic reality, the sky is still blue. In New Zealand it is easy to forget this simple fact. Listening to the water soaking into the soil, for the first time in my life the poetic expression "to hear the grass grow” made sense to me.
To our neighbours, however, this sound must have been unusual, because they rushed as one to water their lawns and gardens. God forbid the mud dries out! Some got overly enthusiastic and climbed on the roofs of their houses to wash them. And I have not even mentioned the cars yet - they get washed three times a day. Every single person around here is obsessed with water. A whole nation of waterholics!
As we finally got a chance to look around on a sunny day, it appeared that New Zealand was a very beautiful place indeed. Everything is green. And I mean everything. Where there isn’t green from grass, it is green from moss, mould and mildew. The visual effect of all this green stuff is fantastic! If the sun shows its face just for a moment the whole world shines bathed in gentle spring freshness. All year round.
A joke supposedly invented for Florida (or some claim Melbourne) is very topical here too: "If you don’t like the weather in New Zealand, just wait for five minutes."
In the bizarre antipodean upside-down world of “Through the looking glass” sun and rain alternate with such speed that you could never be dressed appropriately.

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