It’s hard to resist the charm of New Zealand, and also its capital,Wellington. This city is one of those places we put on our bucket-list. So, we were more than thrilled when Rara Sekar agreed to share her Wellington story with us.
Her warm-hearted captures always caught our eyes, not to mention her beautiful music works with her former duo Banda Neira. Currently, Rara is living in Wellington with her husband, Ben. And this is how her days go in “The Coolest Little Capital in The World”*.
Tell us about you and where you live!
Hello, my name is Rara Sekar. I’m currently doing my master’s degree in Cultural Anthropology at Victoria University of Wellington under the New Zealand Aid-ASEAN Scholarship. I also work part-time as a tutor (teaching assistant) at the university. I live in Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand with my lovely husband, Ben Laksana. Ben used to live in Wellington back in 2012-2014 and after a year of saving up money, I was so fortunate to be able to visit him in 2013. I was very impressed and inspired after traveling around New Zealand for 3 weeks that time. I also felt deeply in love with the creative and artsy vibe of Wellington (as well as the fact that it’s such a compact city where one can just walk to places) which led to my decision of applying for a scholarship to continue my studies here.
What are 5 things you love about your neighborhood?
Ben and I live just behind Mount Victoria Lookout. We really love our home here in Wellington as we live so close to nature; our deck even faces the super lush town belt! We often hear the beautiful native birds such as the Tuis and the Kakas singing in the morning which is quite an experience in itself.
Another thing that we very much love about living in Wellington is that everyone loves gardening, and really, they take their love of gardening to a whole new level. Since I moved here, Ben and I have been trying to learn a bit of gardening to really understand where our food comes from and so far, we’ve come to understand how beautiful and at times difficult it is to grow your own food. We sometimes upload the progress of our garden on Instagram with #rarabenhomegarden.
Wellington is definitely not for the faint-hearted, and I mean it literally. The best way to explore the city and go about places is to walk, as it is such a compact city. However, Wellington is also quite famous for its gazillion steps and hilly walks, even our house demands a great walk uphill from the city. Living here has made me rather fit and definitely more conscious about the importance of daily exercise to live a holistically healthy life.
I also love the people here in Wellington. Kiwis are a friendly bunch. When a barista asks about how your day went, they seriously want to know about it – it’s not just “basa-basi”. Sometimes, small talks with strangers lead to interesting and genuine discussions on shared interests or just life in general. Something that I’ve encountered many times here in Wellington and in fact have led to beautiful new friendships. I’ve made really good friends here in Wellington and to be honest, these genuine friendships have shaped who I am today, really.
Last but not least, Wellingtonians are very very serious about their coffee and craft beer. It’s amazing to witness the passion and hard work that is done to continuously perfect and innovate the coffee and craft beer scenes. Wellington has very much transformed me into a coffee addict with the beautiful flat whites (Wellington makes the best flat white in the world and they only do double shots here).
Where are your favorite places to visit on weekend?
It really differs each weekend. The thing about working in academia is that it sometimes forces you to work every day, because thinking knows no weekends hehe. But usually Ben and I go to a friend’s house for a potluck party. Ben is quite known with his super spicy sambal and I usually make home-made desserts like Russian fudge or pisang aroma. Every Sunday morning we go to the farmer’s market to get our veggies and fruits. If we have good weather in Wellington (which doesn’t happen very often) we usually do walks around the town belt which is just a 5-minute walk from our house, or go do other walks or camp around Wellington. There are heaps of walks around here, forest walks, short bush walks, walks near the beach, you name it.
When is the best time to visit New Zealand?
That’s a hard to answer as many would say, “never” hahaha. I guess Summer might be the best time to visit New Zealand, especially if you plan to travel around the country (visit the South Island, do traming, hiking etc), there’s more chance of having good weather. But do bear in mind that Summer is quite short down here and even in the Summer the weather can get a bit bleak and cold. But definitely better than Spring (which is usually very wet). Summer here in New Zealand is around December-February.
Tell us the best place to have a breakfast, lunch and dinner in Wellington!
Ben and I love cooking at home and experimenting home-made recipes at home so we don’t eat out that often. But if I have to list some of the good places to eat in Wellington, I would recommend Tomboy for brunch – they make amazing brioche and tomato relish, Vicbooks (the coffee shop at my uni) and Lamason for coffee and donuts, Aunty Mena’s Vegetarian restaurant for lunch as we’re both vegetarians, and Capital Market for dinner, the best food court that offers a range of food selection from Indian, Korean, Japanese, Armenian to Chinese crepes. So good!
Where’s the best place to have a picnic?
We always have picnics at our deck as we have quite a nice view from up there. But sometimes we go to Mount Albert, a 15-minute walk from home, eat some fruits and enjoy a bird’s eye view of Wellington. Anywhere in the Wellington town belt is quite convenient for a picnic.
Is there any thrift store/second hand market there?
Yes, there are heaps of thrift stores here in Wellington and I sometimes go there. It’s a good way to resist the dominant narrative of capitalist living that is overconsumption (constantly buying new things just because) and it’s also good to have place where many of your preloved goods will have a chance to have new owners. Some of the good thrift stores in Wellington are Recycle Boutique, Emporium Vintage Boutique, and Thrift.
Where are the best spot to enjoy beautiful sunrise (or sunset and city lights)?
Ben and I aren’t really sunrise seekers especially because I’m not a morning person, but we love watching the sun go down from our deck (again, our life revolves around our home haha). It’s quite magnificent from here, really, so I guess there’s no need to go too far to savor nature.
Where did you buy stuff (interior/decor) for your home?
Most of our stuff at home we acquired from Trademe, Vicdeals, (online platforms where Wellingtonians can sell and buy second hand stuff for quite cheap) and Salvation Army shops (second hand shops). There is no IKEA here in New Zealand so for other stuff that we couldn’t get from second hand shops we just buy from The Warehouse.
Give us your mix tape (5 songs) when you’re walking around the city!
Nick Drake – “Northern Sky”
Bon Iver – “Re:Stacks”
Leonard Cohen – “Suzanne”
Joni Mitchell – “Little Green”
Sufjan Stevens – “To Be Alone With You”
*: Wellington is named The Coolest Little Capital in The World by Lonely Planet.