ES Independent Column – New Zealand

In school, geography was a favorite subject of mine. If I had a good teacher, it was like traveling without leaving my desk. And I liked how places could be quantified by such things as population, elevation or precipitation. When not in Arkansas, I read everything I could about it and searched the sports page for mention of the Razorbacks. As a homesick army private in Germany, I would walk into town on my day off and visit the big German bookstore. There I’d go through the travel guides of the United States looking for mention of Eureka Springs, or at least of Arkansas. Sometimes I hit pay dirt and would try to decipher the German to understand what was being said about my hometown and state.

Now when I yearn to travel to new locales, circumstance usually requires me to do it as I did in school, from a desk. I’ve had a passing interest in New Zealand ever since I was a lad and my father told me about his visit there in the 1960s. I remember his saying that New Zealanders were more British than the British.

Occasionally, I become obsessed with a location. Besides visiting “Kiwi” websites (New Zealanders refer to themselves as Kiwis), I’ve discovered listening to radio stations over the Internet. Now I need a daily fix of talk radio out of Auckland for my news. The commercials are interesting. Since New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere, it is the beginning of summer there, so supermarkets are advertising fresh strawberries. Everyone is gearing up for the big traditional Christmas barbecue or trip to the beach.

All of this leads to my pondering how our visitors hear about Eureka Springs, especially our foreign ones. I don’t have much direct contact with tourists anymore, so I wonder what the trends are and if there are versions of me overseas obsessed with Eureka Springs or the Ozarks, hoping to visit.

If you are now interested in a trip to New Zealand, I might save you a journey to the Eureka Springs Carnegie Library by telling you that I have all of the New Zealand guidebooks checked out.