Paulus Maringka was only a young teenager when he arrived in New Zealand from Indonesia, alone but determined to make something of a life that had gone off the rails.
Even at a young age, Paulus had experienced the good and the bad that come with being born into wealth. Among the fond memories are the toys he grew up with, which would make a comeback when Paulus opened Toy Box at Crave in Morningside many years later. But as he entered his teens, Paulus discovered that wealth also brought opportunities to do things he would come to regret.
“Back home, when you were born into a wealthy family you became untouchable,” Paulus says, weaving in and out of “off-the-record” stories from that time. “It’s such a corrupt country … the street kids are just tools. The older kids who have money are using them—so they are the problem. Because it’s such a corrupt country you can’t touch those kids.
“That’s one reason I chose to come here. I knew that if I carried on like that I wouldn’t last. I think it’s worse than organised crime because these kids aren’t equipped to make a right decision. In organised crime they have a reason for doing it—as kids you just do it for fun. We just do this out of boredom.”
It’s difficult to square the image of a wealthy Indonesian boy running street gangs in Jakarta with the Paulus who can be seen most mornings at the big communal table at the front of Crave, meeting with clients and friends and welcoming patrons to the cafe. For many, he’s the first face that people see as they enter Crave, though his role is an informal one. It’s just the way he is. Paulus was a chief contributor to conversations around how Crave could promote sustainability in Morningside when the cafe moved across the road at the beginning of last year, and he owns and operates the Toy Box, which keeps adults (and some kids) coming back regularly to see what vintage toys Paulus has been able to source.
“I’m not a dealer by a long shot,” Paulus says of the collection. “When I started with this the whole idea was not about making money. The whole idea was how I could align Toy Box with Crave and hopefully inspire the younger generation to come and say, Look this is what your dad used to have, and look at how much they’re worth.”
As well as promoting sustainability, collecting old toys gives Paulus a vehicle by which he raises money for the community. Last year, he was able to restore an arcade game that was due to be scrapped and include it in Crave’s Christmas auction.
But Paulus’ main gig is a design company called Design Zone he runs from Rosebank Road. He was a lecturer in design at various tertiary institutions around Auckland and Hamilton for 27 years—quite a turnaround for the kid who arrived in Auckland with no idea what he would do next.
“I arrived here and freaked out because it was quite different back then. The streets weren’t as good, it was all gravel farmland around the area. I didn’t know anyone so I jumped on the airport bus that takes you to the city, got dropped at the Downtown Centre. I didn’t see anyone on the streets because it was 9 o’clock at night … so I just hung around near the post office for the whole night. I picked up a newspaper in the morning—I didn’t even know I had to pay for the paper because I saw people dropping it off. I picked one up and saw a boarding flat, made a phone call, and this lady picked me up.”
Paulus’ heart was set on becoming an architect, but he would face some uphill challenges before finding the key to how to succeed in a foreign country. One of his major challenges was recovering from the shock of incurring a $20,000 phone bill and having no way to pay for it.
“That’s when the penny dropped,” Paulus says. “I talked to my landlady. I remember I was worrying and stressed out.”
His understanding landlady got him a job and thus began a painstaking process of hard work, juggling multiple jobs with his studies, and battling insomnia to eventually finish school and begin a tertiary design course, topping his class at Unitec and going on to become a respected lecturer and consultant.
“The rest is history,” says Paulus.
But you know with Paulus that even as he’s looking backward, he’s got an eye on the future.