49

Avondale

A intro

 

For the second and final Auckland post I did think I should probably balance the first Otara post – poorish and Polynesian – with one set in a suburb more affluent and white.

But when I read that 40% of Auckland’s population were born overseas and that according to a recent study by Statistics New Zealand, minority communities are almost certain to outnumber whities in Auckland in the next few years, I decided to choose a suburb that might be more reflective of Auckland’s future than its past – Avondale, west of the city centre.

Quick facts. Settled after the late 1850s when the Great North Road was built. Early industries included brickyards, tanneries and market gardens. Semi-famous for the ‘Avondale spider’, a huntsman spider from Australia, as well as Sunday produce and flea markets. Population wise, a real mix of people from all over the globe.

Let’s do it.

 

Part 1: At the local mosque

Wandering around the shops at Avondale I found a spice shop run by some Afghans. Was there a mosque nearby, I asked. Yes, just up the road, turn left, you can’t miss it, they said.

But I did almost miss it. Because Avondale’s mosque doesn’t look anything like a mosque – more like an oldish school hall without a minaret or dome in sight.

What was very mosque-like, however, were all the people piling into the unassuming building – Afghans, Indonesians, Indians and Somalians, all dressed in their traditional clothes. Swarthy men in white salwar kameez-type suits, caps and keffiyeh scarves. The women covered from head to toe. This was a mosque, no doubt about it.

 

 

the only domes at the Avondale mosque

the only domes at the Avondale mosque

 

 

 

 

a far cry from the mosques of his own country - Wasim, 18, from Afghanistan

a far cry from the mosques of his own country – Wasim, 18, from Afghanistan

 

 

 

 

and more recent ones - Nadia from Ethiopia

and more recent ones – Nadia from Ethiopia

 

 

 

 

the new Kiwi - Gul, originally from Afghanistan

the new Kiwi – Gul, originally from Afghanistan

 

 

 

 

from Afghanistan to Auckland - Hewad and Shahid

from Afghanistan to Auckland – Hewad and Shahid

 

 

 

 

Hewad

Hewad

 

 

 

 

flower girl - Hind from Uzbekistan

flower girl – Hind from Uzbekistan

 

 

 

 

the times of Muslim prayer are determined by the position of the sun

the times of Muslim prayer are determined by the position of the sun

 

 

 

 

Islam in the suburbs

Islam in the suburbs

 

 

 

 

Part 2: From Afghanistan and Uzbekistan to Bangladesh and India

The article I read about the impending shift from white to non-whites said that, between 1986 and 2006, “the numbers born in Asia and now resident in New Zealand increased by 661 per cent, with the Chinese (899.4 per cent) and Indians (841.6 per cent) dominating growth”.

While I certainly saw a huge number of Chinese at the Sunday Avondale markets, I didn’t see that many wandering around the suburb. I did, however, see a lot of people from the Indian subcontinent, including a lovely woman from Bangladesh and another from India. Did they like Auckland and were they fully accepted here? Yes and Yes.

 

 

then and now - Nazreen from Bangladesh

then and now – Nazreen from Bangladesh

 

 

 

 

Bangladeshi Nazreen at the spice shop run by Afghans

Bangladeshi Nazreen at the spice shop run by Afghans

 

 

 

 

successfully transplanted onto NZ soil

successfully transplanted onto NZ soil

 

 

 

 

and more recent ones - Saleha from Gujurat, India

and more recent ones – Saleha from Gujurat, India

 

 

 

With all these people continuing to arrive in NZ from all over the planet, I wondered what the original inhabitants thought – the Maori. Unfortunately I’m none the wiser – the only Maori I met in Avondale was a wonderful man called Jacques. His full face tattoo was so intriguing I completely forgot to ask his opinion on the subject. Instead we discussed his name – his mum named him after Jacques Cousteau because he was the guardian of the sea. Cool.

 

 

recent arrivals and the original ones

recent arrivals and the original ones

 

 

 

 

"I used to be a carver, now I' I'm a truck driver" - Jacques

“I used to be a carver, now I’m a truck driver” – Jacques

 

 

 

 

Part 3: Tonga

While the Chinese and Indians might be pouring into Auckland, the number of overseas-born Pacific people also doubled between 1986 and 2006.

Unlike Samoa which was once administered by New Zealand (1914 to 1962), the kingdom of Tonga, with its 176 islands, has always been independent.

Maybe that’s why the Tongans in Auckland always seem quite regal. Especially when they’re dressed for church, like the ones I met late on a Sunday in Avondale. They’d gathered after church for choir practice as well as a meeting of elders.

 

 

fusion :: 1

fusion :: 1

 

 

 

fusion :: 2

fusion :: 2

 

 

 

 

from the islands

from the islands :: 1

 

 

 

 

from the islands :: 2

from the islands :: 2

 

 

 

 

elders

elders

 

 

 

 

a colourful tale :: 1

a colourful tale :: 1

 

 

 

 

a colourful tale :: 2

a colourful tale :: 2

 

 

 

 

And those wraps around their waists? The women’s decorative waistband is called a kiekie, the men’s, a ta’uvala (which they wear over their tupenu, which is a wrap around skirt with pockets). Both are worn for church.

 

"we wear the skirts to show respect at church" :: 1

“we wear them to show respect at church” :: 1

 

 

 

 

"we wear the skirts to show respect at church" :: 2

“we wear them to show respect at church” :: 2

 

 

 

 

Not that Samoans don’t have a commanding, striking look about them. Check out Samoan John in his church threads, picking us some Chinese takeaway on one of the main shopping roads of Avondale.

 

 

half Western, half Samoan, picking up Chinese takeaway - John, grabbing lunch after church

half Western, half Samoan, picking up Chinese takeaway – John, grabbing lunch after church

 

 

 

 

The Wrap

Everyone I met this week smiled broadly when I asked them how they found their adopted home, Auckland. It reminded me of my travels around some of Sydney’s outer suburbs, where people from around the world are able to start new, productive lives.

Not that it’s all a bed of roses. But while racism and discrimination might exist in suburbs like Avondale, for many people, it’s still a better life than the one they left behind.

Speaking of leaving, we left Auckland on Tuesday, flying off just after sunrise. Peering through the window at the city below, the harbour a perfect sheen, I thought how sad it was that so many tourists would never venture beyond the showy bits, as impressive as they are. If only they shunned the harbour tour and headed inland, to suburbs like Otara and Avondale, they’d see a whole other side of the city. Possibly, dare I say it, a more interesting one.

 

 

 

adios Auckland

adios Auckland

 

 

 

 

aka ditch

aka ditch

 

 

 

 

then and now - Coco in front of a mural depicting old Avondale

then and now – Coco in front of a mural depicting old Avondale

 

 

 

 

island girl

island girl

 

 

 

 

On the ‘home front’

Coco and I want to say a huge thanks to our Auckland friends, Gay, Mark and Meisha. Not only for housing us these past few weeks, but for endlessly driving me around, feeding us every night, and taking Coco off my hands for most of the time. After a year of juggling this project with being a mum and provider of three meals a day, it was such a relief to have at least one of my jobs taken care of. Aside from that, Coco loved her stay with you guys – as well as beautiful Ruby (dog), Saba (cat) and Coco (cat!). You’re all wonderful!

We arrived in Melbourne yesterday and tomorrow we’ll launch into my first suburb here – suburb No 50. 50! Can you believe it?

 —

This suburb has been brought to you by Anna Steiner, Chloe and Monique Leung

See you next week.

 

30

Jamaica

J intro

 

Welcome to New York City!

I should say upfront that I’m a hopeless fan. Ever since I first laid eyes on the place – exactly 25 years ago when the ad agency I worked for as a copywriter in Sydney sent me here for a “creative conference” – I’ve been hooked. It was 1987 and NY was fast and dangerous, ideal for a 20-something eager to experience life.

Since then of course the city has cleaned up and in the process lost some of its weird and gritty edge. But I still love it.

Like many people though, what I really mean when I say I love New York is that I love Manhattan. Because aside from one small expedition to Brooklyn on my last visit to NY four years ago, I’ve never strayed beyond it.

Coming here this time, with a mission to explore the ‘unfamous’ side of the city, I was almost shocked when I looked at a map and realised how enormous ‘New York’ really is. Manhattan is just one of its five boroughs, which are all so large that they could each be considered cities in their own right.

In short, I realised I’ve seen diddly. Time to get off the island and explore.

But where to start? Given the size of the place, my first challenge was working out where to go.

I had some time to think – a strep throat laid me low for a few days when we first arrived a week and a bit ago. But even when I felt well enough to venture out, I still hadn’t decided. Then last Sunday while scanning the papers I read that a neighbourhood called Jamaica in the borough of Queens was celebrating the end of Ramadan that day with a gathering of 20,000+ Muslims for prayer at… 9.30am. It was already 10.30 so clearly I’d missed the mass gathering but I was curious what the rest of the day would be about.

‘Suburb’ No 30 decided: Jamaica, Queens.

Some quick facts… Jamaica is in Queens, which is the most diverse place on earth apparently. Jamaica itself has distinct pockets of different nationalities. White and upper-middle class from 17th century until the mid-late 20th century when it had become working-middle class African American, Jamaican (handy) and Hispanic. The latest and fastest growing group in the eastern part of the neighbourhood is the Bangladeshis, attracted by the neighbourhood’s mosque. (The name, by the way, has nothing to do with the Jamaicans who live here. The Dutch called it ‘Jameco’, a Native American word, which then became Jamaica.)

Let’s go Jamaica!

 

Part 1: Food glorious food

To get to Jamaica you get on the F train from Manhattan and stay on it until almost the very end.

Emerging from 169th Street subway stop the first thing I noticed was that the landscape bore pretty much no resemblance to the NY I knew. Aside from the subway itself and the distinctive yellow traffic lights, there were no familiar cues to convince me I was still in NYC – tall canyons, brownstones, fire escapes, bagels – none of it.

But what really threw me were the people. Instead of the usual mix of black and white and everything in between that you see on Manhattan, almost everyone looked the same here – we had landed in Bangladesh central. A few streets to the south was a whole other world of Jamaicans and Hispanics – but along Hillside Avenue where we were it was like little Dhaka, minus a few million people.

And because the Bangladeshis were celebrating one of the two most important holidays in the Islamic calendar – Eid Mubarak, the end of Ramadan – everyone was decked out in their finest salwar kameez or sari.

Having wondered what happened post-prayers I discovered the answer was, very little apart from eating; having just endured a month of fasting they were wandering around, visiting friends, eating whenever and as much of as they wanted. 

 

 

ice cream truck time again

ice cream truck time again :: 1

 

 

 

 

beards the colour of snow cone syrup

beards the colour of snow cone syrup

 

 

 

 

cookie love

cookie love

 

 

 

 

ice cream truck time again :: 2

ice cream truck time again :: 2

 

 

 

 

 

Part 2: Sultana’s story

Standing around on Hillside Avenue near the subway stop I noticed a colourful troop of women crossing the street. A very beautiful 26 year old called Sultana was amongst them. I took her photo and said goodbye. Hours later we ran into her again and learned more about her. She’d only arrive from Bangladesh a year ago and missed it very much:

“I work in a nail salon here. I get bored. But you have to work here because everything’s so expensive.”

What would you do if you could do anything?

“Teach.” What? “Subjects.” Like what? “English.”

 

 

Bangladesh arrives on Hillside Avenue

Bangladesh arrives on Hillside Avenue

 

 

 

 

'I'm a nail artist but I'd like to be a teacher' - Sultana

‘I’m a nail artist but I’d like to be a teacher’ – Sultana

 

 

 

 

Sultana at the subway

Sultana at the subway

 

 

 

 

wearing her country's colours

wearing her country’s colours

 

 

 

 

mmm, okay so your mehendi is better than mine

mmm, okay so your mehndi is better than mine

 

 

 

 

dear Sultana, I hope this turns into a school blackboard one day

dear Sultana, I hope this turns into a school blackboard one day

 

 

 

 

 

Part 3: A warm welcome

The very first people we met when we arrived in the neighbourhood were Kainath and Nova. I mentioned I wanted to nose around someone’s house to see what went on there during Eid Mubarak and Kainath said, sure, come over to my house later.

 

 

Nova and Kainath, busy organising

Nova and Kainath, busy organising

 

 

 

 

Kainath showed me where she lived and said, come back at 5pm.

 

 

'this is my house, please come back at 5'

‘this is my house, please come back at 5′

 

 

 

 

So we did. Only she wasn’t there, but her mum, Nagris, who’d never laid eyes on us, invited us in anyway.

 

 

'Kainath's not home but come in and have something to eat' - Nargis

‘Kainath’s not home but come in and have something to eat’ – Nargis

 

 

 

 

Then Kainath’s sister, Munira, who we’d never met before either, turned up and said, do you want to come across the road to see my hand being mehndi’ed?

So we did.

 

 

'I don't know where my sister is but come across the road and watch' - Munira

‘I don’t know where my sister is but come across the road and watch’ – Munira

 

 

 

 

After we left them we walked around a little – and then ran into the woman who did Munira’s mehndi and her parents in law.

 

 

'he's my father in law'

‘he’s my father in law’

 

 

 

 

'and she's my mother in law'

‘and she’s my mother in law’

 

 

 

 

Somewhere in between all that we also met Mohammed. We only talked briefly but the next time we visited the neighbourhood we had a long chat standing outside his flat – so long that his wife called down to invite us in for dinner. Well, I ate while Coco raced around outside with Mohammed’s kids. Mohammed explained that he’d done many things but now drove a taxi so he could be his own boss, spend time with his kids and visit the mosque when he needed to.

 

 

King of Manhattan, living in Queens - Mohammed -  "I drive a taxi so I can be my own boss"

King of Manhattan, living in Queens – Mohammed – “I drive a taxi so I can be my own boss”

 

 

 

 

Given how important Eid Mubarak is, I thought perhaps we might have been regarded as intruders. Far from it. Thank you to everyone who welcomed us so warmly during our short stay in Jamaica, Queens!

 

 

 

Part 4: More images from around the hood

 

not the NY Times

not the NY Times

 

 

 

 

same thing minus the mountains

same thing minus the mountains

 

 

 

 

play after prayer

play after prayer

 

 

 

 

Khajida and her mum, Alaya :: 1

Khajida and her mum, Alaya :: 1

 

 

 

 

Khajida and her mum, Alaya :: 2

Khajida and her mum, Alaya :: 2

 

 

 

 

Sujan

Sujan

 

 

 

 

Part 5: From Bangladesh to Jamaica

A few blocks down from Bangladesh central is Jamaica central – on, wait for it, Jamaica Avenue. Two different worlds so close together.

 

from Bangladesh to Jamaica :: 1

from Bangladesh to Jamaica :: 1

 

 

 

 

from Bangladesh to Jamaica :: 2

from Bangladesh to Jamaica :: 2

 

 

 

 

wow, she looks so beautiful, and she's not even going to a wedding

wow, she looks so beautiful, and she’s not even going to a wedding

 

 

 

 

just streets apart - Pam and Sultana

from Bangladesh to Jamaica :: 3 – Pam and Sultana

 

 

 

 

same faith, different religions

same faith, different religions

 

 

 

 

This part of Jamaica may be full of people from the Caribbean now but it wasn’t that long ago that Jamaica Avenue catered to a very different crowd – an all-white one.

 

Jamaica Avenue - then and now

Jamaica Avenue – then and now

 

 

 

 

her dress is much prettier than mine

her dress is much prettier than mine

 

 

 

 

As distinct as the two areas are, there is some crossover. For example, Fauzia, a Bangladeshi, who works on Jamaica Avenue.

 

 

Fauzia on Jamaica Avenue, servicing a mainly black clientelle

Fauzia on Jamaica Avenue, servicing a mainly black clientele

 

 

 

 

And Meesha from Pakistan who was shopping on the avenue. She arrived in New York when she was 12, a decade ago. I asked her how she got on as a very devout Muslim woman. “No problem in NY, everyone’s too busy to care what you look like. But if I step outside NY, it can be hard.”

 

 

Jamaica Avenue - now and then

Jamaica Avenue – now and then

 

 

 

 

 

Part 6: Freddy and his bubble machines

Sitting in a restaurant on Jamaica Avenue eating lunch one day Coco noticed bubbles floating heavenward outside the window. When we’d finished we raced downstairs to find a grown man with a bubble gun in each hand – it was ‘General Vendor’, Freddy, demonstrating his wares.

 

 

bubble town

bubble town

 

 

 

 

spreading bubble love - Freddy

spreading bubble love – Freddy

 

 

 

 

Seeing as Freddy was having such a good time, Coco had to have her own bubble gun. So there we stood, she shooting bubble bullets while I shot her shooting them.

 

 

thought bubbles

thought bubbles

 

 

 

 

hands up

hands up

 

 

 

 

battle of the bubbles - Nicole and Carla

battle of the bubbles – Nicole and Carla

 

 

 

 

It was fun but a bit weird to watch my child wielding a gun at people, albeit a bubble gun. All the time I’ve been in NY I’ve been thinking, good lord, they have guns here. It didn’t help that as soon as we arrived in NY someone told me that a mentally challenged man in Times Square was gunned down by police that week. And after our bubble shooting spree, we got home to hear the news that a man had shot a former co-worker outside the Empire State Building earlier that day and then been shot himself. In both cases, police had to open fire in crowded tourist areas, injuring a handful of people in the process.

Two lessons learnt – guns are bad and being a tourist can be dangerous. Stick to the suburbs I say. (And before someone tells me that Jamaica isn’t a ‘suburb’, I know, I use the word suburb in the Australian sense, meaning any neighbourhood or area beyond a city centre.)

 

 

The Wrap

Queens is meant to be one of the most diverse places going and Jamaica was a good introduction to that diversity. It was a pleasant shock to see saris and salwar kameez en masse, swishing along a NY sidewalk, and then to leave South Asia and wander down into Jamaican/Hispanic territory, just ten minutes away. Like my own home town of Sydney, how wonderful is it that a city can support so much difference without too much trouble?

 

 

 

welcome to NY - Winston

welcome to NY – Winston

 

 

 

On the ‘home front’

As I said earlier, we arrived in NY and I immediately got sick. Very boring – and the cause for this very late post. Luckily Coco didn’t catch the bug and is perfectly content – in her first week here she manged to squeeze in some playtime while we were out photographing, look after Emma, a beautiful Golden Retriever, for a day, and as we speak is ‘upstate’ with some lovely friends of ours, toasting marshmallows and swimming in their pool. And home schooling? What’s that? There’s been none of it for weeks unfortunately. But I’ve warned Coco – come next week when we move into our apartment (we’ve been camping at a friend’s place) it’s going to be on like Donkey Kong – a phrase Coco likes to use that I’m sure she shouldn’t but in the scheme of things…

And that man in the photo above? That’s Winston. If you’re ever in NY, be sure to call him to pick you up from the airport. He’ll tell you everything you need to know about everything. 646-642-0042.

 —

This suburb has been brought to you by Margaret Johnson

 —

Assuming no more bugs come my way, see you next Monday.

 

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