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currently: eating lemon cheesecake:

Welcome to Mel in the Milkyway. Or what it is becoming now, a picture collection of tasty things my mum makes.
Above is the lemon cheesecake I have now devoured.
And below is the red velvet cake with a meringue icing. Which I also devoured and finished.

I'm thankful that in winter I can pack in the cakes. :)

Hope you've been having a great week. In Auckland, it's been cold. Not like "Ohmygoshwhyisitsocold!" but "itscold! but it isn't enough to decently snow". And unfortunately, from the Auckland CBD upwards, there was barely any snow. I touched one "graupel" of snow at 2pm. And that's the closest I've gotten to snow falling.

Anyway, this week's 'debate' has two pieces from me this week. My column, and an extra review I did (which you can see tomorrow if you wait :D) For now, read my third column in "online print" here, or read it below. And if you have any suggestions to other column topics - leave a comment!

Homegrown Banana #3

In most common dollar stores, there’s a section where they sell paua shell pendants labelled as “genuine New Zealand souvenirs”. Typically, this is where you’ll see silver and sea blue paua shell pendants in the shape of a kiwi bird, butterfly, dolphin, or something that is meant to represent a traditional Maori fishing hook. But there’s one new design I’ve been seeing recently that’s caught my attention, and that’s a paua shell souvenir necklace in the shape of the Auckland Sky Tower.

Now, despite its cheap $3.50 price tag, I cannot seem to understand why someone would want to wear an Auckland Sky Tower paua pendant around their neck. I have as much pride for our city as most other JAFAs (Just Another Friendly Aucklander), but I would not feel compelled to buy the pendant equivalent of our city’s tallest building. The Auckland Sky Tower is no where near worthy enough to become a romantic accessory charm like the Eiffel Tower jewellery I find; and when shaped into its paua pendant form, it resembles more of a small deformed soldering mess than a classy cultured item. In my mind, it is something that gets your attention for all the wrong reasons.

Seeing ugly looking pendants in the dollar store had me thinking about all the other terrible souvenirs I’ve collected myself throughout the years. Nail-clippers moulded with the image of the Malaysian Petronas Towers, snowglobes with cartoon dolphins from the Gold Coast, a big fuzzy Koala head attached to a pencil case from Perth, just to name a few. Although these souvenirs represent the iconic symbols from their native homeland, they remain closed in a box, hidden somewhere out of sight in my room. Why? Because they don’t hold much value or purpose, and they’re just darn tacky, just like cheap dollar store souvenirs.

Rugby World Cup is all ready to start in less than a month’s time (yes, it is happening that soon). Hundreds of tourists will look to find souvenirs they can take home to their friends and families, the reminders of the culture they encountered on the other side of the world. Are they going to buy items like badly crafted paua pendants, or glow-in-the-dark purple tikis, or temporary Maori tattoos sold cheap in stores along Queen Street? Our country has such a unique culture and history, but it is going to be represented by plastic mass-produced trinkets of tackiness. What kind of impression is this for tourists when a large percent of our culture is produced overseas? One can only think of the disappointment little Sally will have when Uncle Bevan goes back home to hand his niece a keychain/bottle opener in the shape of a tiki head (which I’m sure would break many sacred values).

When visitors buy souvenirs from our country, they should be buying pieces of our culture that are worth displaying, not items that devalue the country’s traditions. There are artists that create items that are filled with heritage and are authentically produced in New Zealand, but are rarely seen because badly crafted souvenirs are all too accessible. We really don’t need badly shaped Sky Tower pendants to symbolise what New Zealand’s culture offers the world. Maori designs, Kiwiana art, and tastefully done paua jewellery – this country has so many worthwhile items that aren’t being valued enough. Maybe if they were seen more in stores, our country’s better souvenirs won’t end up being hidden away in a box in people’s rooms.

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