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I’ve decided to travel in an English speaking country, but there are still times I find myself scratching my head and trying to figure out what exactly is being said. I give myself some leeway on Maori words and phrases, I’ve installed a Maori dictionary on my phone for help, but beyond those instances, I’m enjoying learning a plethora of new phrases.

Fine up. I was talking to a local about the weather one morning before setting out from a campground. It was raining and I asked if they knew how long it was supposed to last. They informed me that it was supposed to fine up by afternoon and stay that way for the next two or three days. Then he looked at the quizzical look on my face and laughed. When the weather goes from bad to good, Kiwis say it will “fine up”. New meteorological term for me. No worries.

Rubbish bin. Frequently in the evenings Te Araroa trampers stop at common points. One evening, after we all finished cooking dinner I asked my fellow trampers to give me their trash and I’d put it in the campsite trash can. Peter, a section tramper, asked me what that was. I pointed to the green canister by the toilets (they’re called toilets here, not bathrooms or restrooms). He just smiled and said “oh, the rubbish bin.”

Biscuit. This is what Kiwis call cookies. One of my favorite Mountain House backpacker meals is biscuits and gravy. Now, being raised in the south, biscuits and gravy is an incredibly common breakfast food. But when I offered my fellow trampers a taste of my meal, I was met with the oddest looks until I explained that to Americans, biscuits are a type of bread, not cookies.

Tomato sauce. To me, tomato sauce is used for making spaghetti sauce or other dishes. Here, tomato sauce is what they call ketchup. I stopped at a McDonald’s when I was tramping through Bulls. I rarely eat french fries (those are “chips” here) but that day I decided to indulge. When I asked for ketchup it took the further explanation that I wanted it for my fries for the girl to figure out what I wanted.

The language barrier is by no means insurmountable, but I like that I’m bringing at least a moments enjoyment to others lives while I learn the correct turn of phrase. I am eternally grateful that Kiwis are a patient and understanding people. They’re certainly understanding of this yankee traveler!

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