Sunday, October 31, 2010

Laurel's garden

We have almost nothing hanging on the walls here in this big half-empty house we're calling home for now. Laurel decided to try to change that. She's good at that sort of thing.

Goat Island & Waipu, wai-not?

Saw some beautiful stuff recently at the Goat Island Marine Reserve a bit north of Auckland. We've read about this numerous times and in fact Trey's class took a field trip there just before we arrived. Of course I'm not bitter at all about having missed that only to be chosen as the chaperon for their morning at Pak 'n Save. We all love snorkeling but have only done it in warm places before. Just checked and they say that the "water temperature has jumped to 16˚!" wooo hooo! That is 61˚ F. Needless to say, we needed wetsuits. Never wore one before -- kinda yuck, very tight and claustrophobic. But they worked.

Neat area with a small island just off the beach and lots of fish and other creatures to see and caves to explore. (Great little place on the way there, too, with one woman that runs the whole place and makes amazing salads and cookies!) Dennis and Laurel (the more adventurous of our group) actually swam over to the island and explored there. Trey and I wanted out of those wetsuits asap and walked along the beach after we'd seen a few stingrays and cool fish.

After Goat Island's sunny fun, we headed north a bit more for an hour or two on unpaved roads through the mountains to Waipu Cove. There we found a beautiful very sparsely populated area (I could say this about most of the country) with gorgeous beaches and tasty pizza. The area was settled by a bunch of Scottish people in the mid-1800s who had been kicked off their land, had nothing else to do except either give up or head to Nova Scotia, where they all built a couple of big wooden ships and then gathered everyone up and sailed across the Atlantic, around Africa and then that short little jaunt over to New Zealand.

This doll made the journey, too. She was the first mate, I think. They settled in this area north of Auckland because it was suitable for farming and had timber for shipbuilding. Can you imagine? Their ship started leaking on the way from Scotland to Nova Scotia somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic so they stuffed some clothing and blankets in the leaks and kept on going. What choice was there? This is fascinating to me, the idea of people leaving the only home they've ever known with a few possessions, most of the family or just some, and heading off in hideous conditions to another part of the world. And the difference between those people and the ones that didn't go. Very interesting.

Having the luxury of pre-booked accommodations and a car, our trip to Waipu Cove was a bit less harrowing than that of our Scottish friends. This was our first of many Homestays/Farmstays and it was so lovely. We stayed in part of the home of a Swiss couple who operate a small dairy farm and orchid greenhouse, right on the water.

 A lot of the little towns here don't have a Hyatt or even a Motel 6 and honestly we rather hate hotels anyway. We usually rent a house when we travel ( or, but again that's not always possible here. We have a ton of travel coming up and all of our accommodations are at Home- and Farmstays. There's typically a portion of the house that is separate from the hosts' living quarters and you come and go as you please and eat breakfast (sometimes dinner, too) at the family dining table. What a cool way to really experience a culture! On farms, there is often a renovated barn or a cottage that is separate from the house. So far our South Island trip in December includes 4 different Farmstays. Should be very unique!

Yeah, that last breakfast item is smoked Kahawai, caught the night before. It was delicious, if a bit strange. :o) The big bowl of goop is something I'd never heard of till our trip over on the plane. Bircher Muesli. It's Muesli (rolled oats, various grains, dried fruits and nuts) soaked in yogurt, cream, and fruit juice. We love it!!

Saw some great scenery there -- especially at sunrise and sunset. Just gorgeous from a kayak.

These last two were in Whangarei (pronounced Fon-ga-ray') where everything we wanted to do was closed but we did have some good ice cream and visited the National Clock Museum. No I'm not kidding.

Lots of xoxoxo, K.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Project Jonah

Hey there, everyone! The kids and I saw the coolest thing driving home from downtown today. As we came into St. Heliers we could see a few clusters of people with big canvas things on the beach. It looked as if they had some stranded whales, so we parked and went to see what was up. A lovely woman saw us and was quick to reassure us as we approached that everything was OK and that they were training.

An organization called Project Jonah ( was conducting a day-long course for volunteers who want to help with the many whale and dolphin strandings that happen here. They learn how to keep them alive on the beach, determine what medical help they might need, and then how to move them and transfer them back into the water. It was really interesting and cool to watch. We've never seen anything like that before! People learning how to save whales with volcanoes in the background. It's just too much to take! Take away my broadband forever, I love it here!!!!

 Had to show you the smiley face on the whale, too. So non-threatening that way. Save me, save me! I'm not going to eat you!

Cheers everyone!
xo, K.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Perhaps I have misled you all

We really like it here, have you gotten that feeling? And I do try to be as positive and optimistic as I can be on any given day. I try. Some days that works out OK for me and some days I am a real crab. What can you do? I know I am not the only one.

So Dennis says I've painted a far too rosy picture of life in a foreign country. Granted, we are not in China. We do all speak vaguely the same language and crime and poverty are far less than what we're used to at home. We aren't eating chicken beak soup or breathing smoggy air or riding to work with four people on a bicycle.

But you see, this is where I digress! In counting our lucky stars and reveling in all that is fabulous and similar about living here, I have been skimmimg over the difficult parts. Such as the fact that I have had no Internet for the past week despite 5 visits by NZ's finest phone company, Telecom. I finally broke down and bought a 3G USB thingie for my laptop from the Vodafone store, so that my vast array of readers wouldn't have to wait any longer for my blog posts, but as of today, still no broadband at home.

They either show up and say, gosh we can't find any troubles, but let's switch out the port in the cabinet down by the dairy, or they don't show up at all. And previous to this past week of zero Internet, we've had 3 months of dodgy Internet and long periods with no phone service. It comes and goes as it pleases. The power also goes off for no apparent reason and so does SkyTV. It always eventually returns. So far.

Venturing out of the house and into the rest of the world, I could complain about the sum total of 50 miles of actual freeway here. The maps will lead you to believe that there are at least a couple of different 4-6 lane divided highways just like we know as our Interstate highway system. Entrance ramps, exit ramps, big green signs, rest stops with donuts, ice cream, and fried chicken. And Cheetos. Nope. Around Auckland, that's what you'll find, but a few kilometers out and that freeway turns into another winding two-lane road through mountains and zillions of sheep with trucks coming at you way too close. Six months of car sickness is what we've got here. We're cool with it now, but it's rather trying sometimes. We do a lot of driving.

And the driving. OK, so again the positives first -- I just can't help it. The drivers here are overwhelmingly polite. They "merge like a zip" instead of cutting each other off. They drive the speed limit (I know, you're shaking your head thinking, but gee Karin, you aren't usually a proponent of that!) They don't go through red lights, they wave each other through narrow streets crowded with parked cars, and stop in roundabouts that are jammed with rush hour traffic to let others go through. Very polite. Very considerate. HOWEVER, driving here is a freaking nightmare because of all of the healthy, happy people that are constantly out walking, biking, rollerblading, running...and darting out in front of me from between parked cars and scaring the crap out of me on all of the twists and turns. Good God! And the hordes of children walking (no school buses) to and from school. It's a constant automotive skills test. In fact it's rather like Frogger. Of course I am in one of the little trucks trying not to hit the frog, but you get it, right?

Back to household subjects again, I think that way back when we first got here, I told you all how there's no heat in the houses and they have single-pane windows that do basically nothing to stop the wind from visiting you in your bedroom at night and blowing papers around the kitchen. We had pouring rains and roaring, insanity-inducing 50 mph winds for nearly two months. It's warmer now, so that has been conveniently forgotten, but it was not pleasant.

Well, anyway, a bit of the frustrating side of living here for you all. Aren't you glad it's not perfect here? Honestly though, despite these things, I would stay here indefinitely given the opportunity. :o)

Monday, October 25, 2010

No surfing mishaps, tarantulas, or hula injuries for this girl!

Went down into Mt. Eden the other day to check out some antiques shops for old maps (Dennis loves them). Didn't find anything interesting, but did see these awesome Maori guys. I reached for one and then remembered the two-part Brady Bunch where they went to Hawaii. Remember? No Tiki statues for us, even if we are in friendly New Zealand. There are curses everywhere in the Pacific.

In fact I guess I didn't buy anything at all, but it was fun to poke around.

xo, K.