Saturday, July 31, 2010

Foggy morning

Woke up yesterday to find the bay full of fog. We live high atop some cliffs that overlook Karaka Bay, just east of Auckland. Normally we look out the windows and see Browns Island, a small grass-covered dormant volcano, and Rangitoto Island, a larger dormant volcano island covered with native forest. And lots of sparkling blue water. 

Yesterday we looked out to see the tops of the clouds instead of water. It's a large area, you can see for miles, so looking down on that amount of fog along with the invisible ships' foghorns sounding from all directions felt like something that wasn't quite real!

Then after it lifted, everything was coated in droplets of water with the bright, bright sun shining through. Just spectacular!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Getting settled

Friday already. Tomorrow we will have been here one week, though it seems longer. It’s been a bit overwhelming getting the house all set up and the kids enrolled in school, but we are feeling much more settled now. You just don’t realize how many little things make up your everyday life until you have to assemble them all at once in a foreign country. It’s kind of mind-blowing, really. Cooking utensils, dishtowels, bedding, an iron, a blow dryer (of course all of the plugs are different here), a vacuum, cleaning products, school supplies - on and on. Eight carts full of stuff later, we’re in pretty good shape. I do still need a clock next to the bed and possibly a laundry basket…

One interesting issue that we didn’t anticipate is that many homes here don’t have a central heating cooling system because the climate is so mild. But for two months or so, it does get somewhat chilly now and then and so they have portable heaters in each room for those days. You see about 100 different varieties of these when you shop here. They make life much better, I can attest to that!

Grocery shopping (we’ve already been three times, I believe) is pretty similar to the US, besides the shelves of unrefrigerated eggs and the open coolers of whole fish in the aisles. Amounts are in kilograms and grams instead of pounds and ounces, but they have fairly similar items. Contact lens solution is around $12US/bottle, for some reason. The kids’ school doesn’t have a cafeteria, so they must take their lunch each day, which has led us to explore all of their options. Yesterday we bought some Cornish pasties and other meat pies for them to try. On Tuesdays they can order Subway and on Fridays they can order sushi.

And speaking of school (some of you already saw some uniform pictures on facebook) they are enrolled and started on Wednesday, which was poor Laurel’s birthday. She not only had to start on her birthday in the middle of what should be her summer break, but she also had to take two hours worth of tests to determine which grade she should be in as her July birthday would have her in Year 5 here, but in Ohio, the cutoff is later and so she started earlier there. They were quite skeptical about moving her up, and I was very proud of the Solon schools when she finished up some pretty intense math and literacy testing and they decided that she should be in Year 6. She’s by far the youngest, but doing just fine and already making lots of friends and playing ball tag at recess.

Trey is in the same school, Year 8, and today has his first Japanese class. I guess that will not help much with Spanish once he returns to Ohio, but it’ll be different anyway! I was shocked to see him so happy after the first day because he was NOT at all thrilled about this whole changing schools issue. He’s fitting in quite well it seems. One thing I’ll always remember is walking by his classroom after he’d been there for a couple hours on the first day. I could see him going in the door and all of the kids in the classroom next to him got up and ran to the window to see him. The new American boy was quite the attraction.

None of this is very exciting, is it, but it’s the little stuff that makes up a life. It’s been fascinating to me to see the various differences and similarities. People have been so very friendly and welcoming and helpful. It truly seems like a lovely place and we are so happy to be here! I did drive for the first time two nights ago and didn’t hit anything or run anyone off the road (that I know of) so hopefully a car is in my near future and then I can really start exploring and showing you guys around Auckland.

Not a whole lot of shooting this week up until today, but here are a few photos from around the house, shopping, Maori language week, etc. There are tons of flowering trees in the yard and Laurel loves making things out of them.

xoxo to everyone!!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

OMG, we live in New Zealand now

Well it worked out just as we planned a while ago – we packed up a bunch of stuff and left from Cleveland on Thursday afternoon, landed in LA for a while, took another plane 14 hours across the Pacific to Sydney, Australia, had some breakfast there, brushed our teeth and hair, and looked at all of the zillions of versions of Toblerone in the Duty-Free shops, and then got on another plane and headed back across the Tasman Sea to Auckland. And now we’re here. It shouldn’t seem like much of a surprise, but it IS kind of surprising to walk around and realize that’s where we are. I guess it’s just that so much planning went into this, maybe it didn’t occur to me that it would one day actually happen. Well, whatever – it’s very cool here and we’re happy to be here safe and sound. It took nearly 32 hours and everybody did just great.

We’re staying the first few days at a hotel downtown because our house needs a few things (forks, towels, sheets, a TV, plates, tables, a toaster) before we can live there. We saw it for the first time today. It’s just crazy awesome. Way up high on a cliff overlooking the water –Karaka Bay to be precise. It’s in a suburb of Auckland called Glendowie. We’ll buy a bunch of stuff tomorrow (Monday in these parts) and move in tomorrow or Tuesday.

Some random things we’ve noticed so far: the sun is like SUPER bright here!!! The kids are required to wear hats as part of their school uniform and my friend Andrea who’s from here says that there’s a hole in the ozone over NZ. I believe her! It’s like there’s two suns down here. Also, they put eggs in or on EVERYthing – usually poached. Sometimes there are small fish involved. 3. I’m definitely nervous about getting into a car and driving on the left side of the road and negotiating parking lots and roundabouts. And sitting on the left side of the car while Dennis drives on the left side of the road seems to make me a bit queasy. I hope this goes away. And one last random thing: it’s winter here. I should say “winter.” I saw a woman in a down-filled hip-length parka. These people really think this is winter! I would wear my down-filled hip-length parka when it’s below 20, maybe. Trey is wearing shorts and I am wearing flip flops and capri jeans. It’s 58 degrees. I can’t believe they think this is winter. That’s awesome.

These photos are from a walk downtown, a visit to the kids' school, and the beach down below the house. Also, breakfast this morning. Though I do not enjoy food photography all that much, I really enjoy photographing our meals! :O)

Hope all is well with everyone. Xoxo, K.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Are we really doing this?

T minus two days to liftoff! At this point, after having months to think about all of this, we are almost ready to go. We even have a few suitcases packed and ready. It seems as if I've obsessed and lost sleep over this for long enough that we must have thought of everything, but I know I'll think of something crucial as we're 18 hours into the trip! :o)

For now, the dogs are safe and sound, all the library books have been returned, a nice group of friends has keys and codes to get in, Rachel knows how to replace all the security system batteries, the lawn is taken care of, bills are all online, Paul's gonna drive my Mustang every month or so, laundry's almost done, the house is relatively clean, and the kitchen has been purged. Thought I'd show you guys what six months and two seasons worth of packing looks like. Kinda cracks me up... I know I'm not going to believe this until we're there. Crazy!

PS -- if you look at the big version of the suitcase image, you can see the my entire carry-on bag is camera equipment. It's packed in Laurel's lunchbox and book bag! :O)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

First Post

Two weeks from tomorrow we leave for Auckland. Three out of four of us have never been there and certainly have never been that far from home, but we remain optimistic that this is a really cool thing! Lots of people, knowing that I am never ever ever seen without my camera extending from my body as my third hand, have asked to see photos. Now I'm not sure if they are sincere or if that's just what you say to someone with a camera as a third hand, but this is where I'll be posting photos. Probably pretty often. Take a look if you want and post a comment now and then so I know that my friends and family are still here in the US, doing all of their American things that I'll certainly miss as soon as we arrive in New Zealand!