Friday, May 30, 2008

Kiwi Kids Are Rockin' It

Kiwi Kids (R Rockin It) - The Starbugs


Haley came home from school today singin' this song. I love that Kiwi kids have their own anthem! I looked and couldn't find much information about this band, the Starbugs. From what I can tell they were a kid band in the 90's and their music was played primarily in NZ primary schools. Pretty cute to hear Hales singing it. I've got to get that on camera if she'll let me. And from my own observations, I can confirm that Kiwi kids definitely ARE rockin' it. :)


Here are the inspiring lyrics should you not care to/not be able to listen:

Kiwi Kids (r Rockin' it)

Now the game begins
As the spotlight beams upon us you can see us centre stage
We're your kids, your hope. We're the heroes of the future
We're the new, unwritten page
The time has come around at last for us to show the world that...

Chorus
Kiwi kids are rockin' it, rockin' it
Kiwi kids are tops
Kiwi kids are living it, living it
Look what we've got
Kids can do anything, anything
Give it a try
Kiwi kids are rockin' it, rockin' it
Just watch us fly!

Now the game begins
You can see us from the sidelines, we are in the winning team
We're the best there is, we can take it to the limit
We can live our wildest dreams!
The time has come around at last for us to show the world that...
Repeat Chorus

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Working Late Dinner Break

Just a quick update as I temporarily duck away from my first work deadline since I've been working here. They're ordering-in... *drumroll* ...pizza! The more things change, the more they stay the same. It's the universal tech employee one-button feed-the-mob solution. I wonder if overtime employees in Japan get pizza ordered-in too.

Drugs

My family continues to get hammered by angry winter-time antipodean virii that have our carefully collected North American antibodies shrugging and turning out their pockets in resignation. While everyone back home was out enjoying Memorial Day Weekend in the heat and sun, we were holed up and sniffling with headaches and sinus pressure in the wet and cold. I felt (and continue to feel) like there's an ill-tempered monkey in my head boxing the backs of my eyeballs.

I was at the chemist (Drugstore) across the street poring over their selection of cold medication and came up with a few observations:

  1. Codeine is available in over-the-counter pain medication. You can get your codeine with ibuprofen or with paracetamol (another name for acetaminophen) in non-trivial amounts.
  2. They have real Sudafed here (I think I mentioned this once before) and not the speed-lab-safe kind they sell in the states.
  3. Anything you buy---over the counter or from the pharmacist him or herself---eventually gets wrapped in a small paper bag which is taped shut with a piece of cello tape and thus becomes a "packet."
  4. Just about nothing comes in bottles. The preferred keeping device is a blister-pack. This extends to just about everything in the store save adult undergarments.
  5. I saw cough drops that offered an active ingredient called "flurbiprofen."
Flurbiprofen.

I picked it up and flipped it over, halfway expecting to see the Swedish Chef from the Muppet Show, having doffed his chef's cap in favor of surgical scrubs.

Flur-dee-proo-dee takee doo-ee en callee de mornee bork bork bork.

Nuts

Anyways.

I just now had a piece of the ordered-in Hell pizza that had nuts on it. I think walnuts.

I hate walnuts.

Walnuts are covered with a mouth-dessicating brown film that, when bitten into, releases powerful neurotoxins that penetrate the blood-brain barrier instantly, lighting up the "yuck" section of my cortex like a huge roadway sign that says "last flavor for 500 miles." Maybe I'm overstating that a bit.

I've never had nuts on pizza before and frankly never considered that pizzas might want or need nuts. Having had a piece now, I can say with some astonishment that contrary to what I originally may have thought, it's actually pretty terrible.

Facelift

Before I get back to work again, I also wanted to mention the new look of the web site. Joanne and I were becoming more and more annoyed that the Blogger template we were using had the body text flowing into a narrow strip down the middle of the window. She changed it to something else, then I changed it something yet again, and then I carefully custom-edited the style sheet HTML until it was painstakingly tweaked into a highly refined state of very very green. Then I tried several times unsuccessfuly to revert it back to the way it was before this all started and just gave up and just left it the way it is now.

I don't know if it's better because I spent too much time looking at it to tell with any certainty, but at least it's no longer flowing down a narrow column in the middle of the window.

All to serve you better. And that's the kind of service you can expect here at 4kiwiwannabes... and I'm sure there's more where that came from.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sunday Night Nothings

It's been a pretty nothing weekend. Except for Zoe's netball game (Go Sapphires! Go Ngaio!) and a trip to Mitre10 (sort of like a small Home Depot or large hardware store) to pick up a dryer vent duct and some cut wood for a project I'll mention later, we were house-bound all weekend by illness and lethargy in equal amounts.

Netball

The Netball game was great. Zoe's game is improving and she's doing very well for someone whose birthcountry has pretty much never heard of the game. In particular her ball handling and confidence on the court have doubled at least. I had fun playing with the other kids with the ball we brought and talking to the other parents a bit while the girls played. The rain gods parted the clouds for most of the afternoon game but it started drizzling during the second fifteen-minute half. By the game's end parents and kids were scrambling back to their cars at a jog as the precipitation ramped up in volume and ferocity.

Think Metric

So far the switch to the Metric system has done nothing but confuse me. The Metric system sounds like a great idea and in theory it is, but when it comes to actually using it for anything meaningful it requires two messy extra mental steps that produce results in which I have almost no real confidence. Usually I have to convert whatever measure I'm concerned with from the English system to the Metric system using a hazily-remembered ratio, do the math itself (which usually involves moving decimal points around) and then convert back to the English measurement using a complimentary and hazily-remembered ratio to get my result. Sometimes this simultaneously involves a money conversion rate such as describing to someone the cost of gas in US dollars per gallon when I'm working from NZ dollars per liter.

But Saturday at the Mitre10 I saw in simple lucid terms what the Metric system might have in store for me. When I needed to measure out the wood that the helpful store clerk was to cut for me, I laid out the tape measure and there it was. 400 "mils" (millimeters) by 240 mils for one piece. Then for the edging, 420 mils to leave 10 mils at each end for the 10 mil edge piece, and two pieces of 230 mils for the sides.

No "five-and-eleven-sixteenths minus two-and-three-eighths is, uh, let's see three eights is six sixteenths, so that's 5 sixteenths left over so it's three and five sixteenths."

Doing woodworking without having to find common denominators? Crazy. I need to go build a bookshelf to celebrate.

Not that I'm a great woodworker. The last thing I built of any complexity was a novel but largely unused treehouse platform out of plywood sheets and pieces of two-by-four. Not exactly knocking together a Queen Anne jewelry armoire, but still requires some woodworking math of the sort described above to avoid jagged eye-gouging protuberances and dangerous splinter-causing edges.

The Bunk Night Bed Stand or Night Bunk Stand Bed?

Saturday's quest for wood was for a project idea Zoe came up with, which is to make essentially a "bunk bed night stand" where she could put her cup of water and her book when it was lights-out time. I thought it was a brilliant idea. Both of the girls have what I used to call "lofts" which is a bunk bed with no bottom bed. Instead of a bottom bed, there's a desk down there with a little chair. In the tiny rooms of our NZ house, getting your bed up above your head frees up a lot of move-about space and elbow room.

Zoe and I discussed the general design of the bunk bed end table and arrived at a common understanding that it needed to fasten to the bed rail on the top bunk, hang down a bit below the railing on the outside of the bed and that it needed a lip running around the edge of what's effectively a shelf to keep the contents in place while groggy children grope for water in the dark.

We'll post the results of our construction. We bought materials for making two of these things, though we still have to work out the fasten-to-the-bed rail part. I have high hopes that we'll end up with some sturdy and attractive bunk bed night stands that hopefully lack eye-gougers and splinter-makers.

Made simple thanks to the Metric System.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

All Punched Up



My first fully-punched bus pass.

Ngaio to Downtown Wellington CBD is 3 zones, so $3.50 a pop each way unless you buy bulk. With a 10 trip bus pass, it's $2.80 each trip. 10 trips for $28.00, though if you look carefully there are 12 punches in my pass. Ooops!

You buy passes at just about any dairy, not from the bus drivers (as I originally thought) or the train station (which I didn't actually verify.)

There are lots of bus stops, and I travel almost door-to-door on my commute. It's crazy convenient and I'm actually a little disappointed I don't have to walk farther. I could get off a few stops early, but that's, like, stupid. Most days I futz around with my PSP and the 20-25 minute ride is over fast. So far I haven't missed a bus. Most times of day there's another bus along in half an hour, but thirty minutes of standing at a bus stop doesn't sound like a roaring good time.

There are no old people with fifty day stank on them. There aren't any between-fix crack addicts rocking rhythmically in the corner. No borderline-hookers thumbing their phones. It's a crowd of young people in their school-approved attire, businessmen and women in suits and coats, some have uniforms and/or nametags, and there's rabble like me. It occurred to me that if everyone else on earth were to mysteriously die while we were in the safety of that bus, the human race would probably still stand a chance.

Familiar Faces

I've started to recognize a few faces from along the line and been doling out nicknames to some.

There's a long-haired 11-ish boy with his mum who I call "Ozzy". He looks exactly like a young Ozzy Osbourne and also exactly like his mom---who looks exactly like a female Ozzy Osbourne.

There's "The Vicar" who's a very handsome older gentleman in his 60's with a big smile and lots of teeth. He sits with "Church Lady" who looks a little like Dana Carvey's SNL character but a little rounder and friendlier-looking and in knit gloves. The Vicar engages in lively and friendly conversation with people seated around him.

There are the two high school girls (called College here,) in uniform, who sit together and talk non-stop the whole way. Some days I sit near them to eavesdrop and try to pick words out here and there. They talk a blue streak punctuated with a little heartfelt profanity. When I say non-stop, I mean no period of silence between them has lasted more than three seconds so far---I've been counting it like I count popcorn in the microwave and I swear that bag's still in there... as it were.

"Thank you, driver."

It sounds more like "Thank you dry-vah!" If there are any questions when boarding, they're addressed to "driver." If someone's running for the bus but the driver's starting to pull away, you'll hear "Driver! One second!"

One out of every ten passengers thank the driver as they're exiting the bus. I got in the habit in college (here I mean University, not high school) and still do it. But I can't bring myself to call the driver "driver." I'm not sure why. He knows he's the driver---he took the job in the first place. There's really nothing insulting about being called "driver" by someone who doesn't know your name... especially if you're, in fact, the driver. I'm working on that. I'll probably be able to say "thank you, driver" with conviction right about the time I can order a "kebab" (rhymes with "slab" here) without wincing.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Prime Minister Helen Clark

So either no one is reading our poor little blog, or no one was familiar with the mystery woman from yesterday's blog post. She is none other than the Prime Minister of New Zealand Helen Clark. And yes, it really was as casual and easy as it appears to meet and get a picture with her. I did not have to go through any sort of metal detector, there were no Matrix-esque secret service officers scanning the crowd behind their sunglasses (well, I did see one, but his name was probably Ollie and he looked like he still lived with his mum) . It was as easy as hovering near by her until her media relations person asked if I would like him to take my picture with her. She and I chatted for a moment, got a picture and that was that.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Karori Wildlife Sanctuary



I attended the ground-breaking and blessing ceremony for the new visitors center at the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary today. The ceremony included a beautiful Maori blessing, and call and response singing. I think we may have sung the national anthem, in Maori, as well, because everyone knew the words but me. It was a gorgeous day to be outside celebrating one of the treasures of Wellington. Oh, and I met a new friend, as you can see from the pictures. Anyone recognize her?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Weekend Update



Whew! What a weekend! We managed to pack quite a lot in and had some really good times with friends. On Saturday, Zoe had her first netball game (go Ngaio Sapphires!). On our way home we stopped and bought a barbecue then grilled up some grub for Haley's birthday party. We hosted friends Jim and Leslie and their sons Skyler and Brook (who I must mention was a great sport having just flown in the night before from the States), as well as our friends Jacob and Brandie and their daughters Sophie and Josie. Haley got some awesome presents (thanks, guys!) and I'm pretty sure she felt celebrated.

Sunday I went to the Food Show at Westpac Stadium with Brandie and a new friend, Lisa. Talk about a small world, Lisa and her family moved her in September from Madison, WI! I enjoyed some much-needed girlfriend time as we laughed our way through the aisles of the Food Show sampling the various meats, cheeses, wines, beers, chocolates, breads-the list goes on and on. The Food Show itself was great, but even more I appreciated commiserating with two moms who have done this crazy move to the other side of the world themselves. Can't wait to do it again, guys!

While I was at the Food Show, Steve and the girls picked up then assembled a bunkbed for Zoe. The bunks are the type that have desks underneath instead of another bed. Now both girls have more space in their small rooms, and it gets the beds off the floor which is better for air circulation in damp Ngaio, and keeps them up high where all the warm air is. They're both thrilled.

After the Food Show, we met up at Jake and Brandie's house for dinner. They have a gorgeous home in Miramar. I look forward to more good times eating, drinking, and testing the limits of the springs on their trampoline, in the future!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Yabba Dabba Doo!


Quittin' time is Quittin' Time here at Sidhe Interactive where I'm working down here down under the world.

I've never worked at a company where quittin' time was Quittin' Time like this. It's kind of amazing, in my experience. I've worked in Video Games for coming on 15 years now. I been t' four state fairs 'n two hog callin' contests and I shore ain't seen nuthin' like it!

The workday here runs from 9am to 6pm. At fifteen minutes to 9am, the offices are pretty much deserted and dark save a few early risers. At right around 9am, give or take a few minutes, there's a huge wave of people splashing through the doors and by fifteen minutes after 9am, the office is lit and humming with activity with people seated facing their monitors and reading and sending emails. A handful of them are crunching their way through a bowl of Milo.

At a quarter to 6pm, people are still intently focused on their screens, scrawling on paper or hunched over their desks working. At 6pm sharp, there's a flurry of jackets being zippered, chairs being pushed in, monitors and computers being shut down and shuffling of feet. By fifteen minutes after the hour the office is dark and deserted, with a few stragglers still finishing up a few things at their desks before heading out.

I've never seen anything like it.

To offset this rigorous punctuality is a sort of workday focus I also haven't seen in my industry. During the workday no one is reading and sending llots of emails, paying their bills, doing online shopping, reading news, posting in online forums, standing around and making chit-chat or the like. Everyone's focused on doing their work either at their desks or with their teams.

Sound restricting? It's not. And when 6 comes and you're expected to get the hell out and go do something else, you come to love it. And I do.

My Baby is Seven!



Happy Birthday, Haley!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

My Friend the Butcher





Yesterday I made my first attempt at cooking NZ lamb. I had some good advisors. I read Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, Donna Hay, Alton Brown and David Rosengarten to see what they had to say on the subject. In a favorite Julia Child cookbook Julia says, "...your butcher can advise you here. Get to know him. Make him your friend."

So that's what I did. I made a visit to the Willow Butchery, a tiny, clean and oh so quaint shop down the hill in our little village. It has a window full of gorgeous cuts of meats and sausages, all homemade. Inside, I was greeted by Bernie and Marcel, two of the friendliest faces I've encountered here so far. I told them Julia told me I was to make friends with my butcher, and they were tickled. I ordered my racks of lamb, and watched while Bernie cut them off a monster chunk of deep red meat, then slowly and precisely winnowed it away to two very delicate Frenched racks.

Meanwhile, Marcel explained to me what the various sausages and cuts of meat were and answered my questions about where the meat comes from, etc. Everything is local and much of it is organic. He was clearly proud to show off the homemade items. We got on the subject of NZ bacon, and when I compared it to pancetta, he gave me a sly grin. I explained that I was having trouble finding pancetta, and he held up a finger and disappeared to the back. A moment later, he came out with a 3 foot-long roll of brownish-pink meat, rustically bound with cotton twine. He explained that this was their first attempt at making their own pancetta, but they weren't sure it was coming out right. Six weeks into the process, they were concerned it wasn't dry enough, and would I mind taking a chunk and trying it and letting them know what I thought? Never one to say no to free pork, I enthusiastically obliged. Then, meat in hand, I headed back up the hill with my wrapped parcels tucked under my arm like a mad scientist heading back to the lab.

The recipe I chose for the lamb was a simple herb and olive oil gremolata. I found it in a Donna Hay (the Australian Martha Stewart, thank you, Rachel) cookbook and chose it because the parsley, mint and lemon were all readily available in our garden. The recipe was quick and simple, perfect for a weeknight dinner.

The pancetta was put to good use in the brussels sprouts I made to accompany the lamb. I had wanted to make a white bean puree, as well, but couldn't find dried white beans at any of the local stores, so I settled for a quick couscous made with chicken stock. The butchers gave me a couple tips on where to obtain white beans, so I will save that for another day and another chunk of pancetta.

The results were delicious. The lamb was tender and juicy and I was very happy with the gremolata I chose. The girls loved to eat the "lambsicles" with their fingers. Steve, who tends to be wary of lamb, went back for seconds, then thirds. I would definitely do this preparation again.

The pancetta was delicious. It was buttery and peppery with just enough fat to cook the shallots and flavor the brussels sprouts, and with plenty of salty little nuggets of meat. If people want to know how I get my kids to eat brussels sprouts, they should know that a little bacon-y goodness goes a long way. I'll be glad to report back to Bernie and Marcel that their great pancetta experiment was a success. And I can also happily report that my first attempt at the meat that makes NZ famous was a hit.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mothers Day

My mom asked for a video for Mother's Day, so we made this.

This goes out to ALL the mommies and their mommies from the 4kiwiwannabes.

video

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Nothingday

Zoe's netball game was canceled due to rain, something that's got to make outdoor sporting events around these parts (the Wellington region?) either pretty touch-and-go-play-it-by-ear or, um, wet.

Joanne and I were looking forward to meeting the parents of our kids' schoolmates today.

We sort of barricaded ourselves into the house and bundled up against the weather and had a very idle and nothing day. There were two sorties during the day---one for fish and chips at Tan's Takeaways here in Ngaio---and one for snacks and supplies to go along with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom's broadcast on TV3 at 7:30pm tonight.

Joanne had a nap. We played a little Super Mario Galaxy. I believe the girls watched Mary Poppins at some point... I read National Geographic.

It was actually pretty great.

Friday, May 9, 2008

No Shoes, No Problem

At first I thought it was just Peter Jackson being weird. Eccentric people who produce multi-million-dollar worldwide blockbuster film series are generally tolerated. He famously wore no shoes when collecting awards and attending gala events.

From "11 Things You Must Know About Peter Jackson"

He is best known for wearing shorts to the shoot and going barefoot. In fact, his going barefoot is so legendary that Oscars host Billy Crystal took one look at Jackson's feet and declared, 'he's wearing shoes.' 'I always dress formal to formal events,' Jackson told Rolling Stone in a recent profile.

But I don't think it's Peter, it's Peter's birthplace---this place. Here. Where I'm standing right now.

As Joanne bemusedly pointed out earlier, the kids leave their backpacks AND shoes outside the classrooms and run around their schools in stocking feet. That struck us as both strange and cool.

But... I also see people on the street in downtown Wellington without shoes on, about half of my coworkers kick their shoes off under their desks and walk around the office barefoot or in socks, and yesterday I saw the bit of this barefootedness that drove me to write a blog entry about it: a computer science professor from Victoria University Wellington was meeting with the tech director at my company and about five other people and he came into the office barefoot.

He was toting a backpack with his bike helmet in it, and his bike and presumably his shoes were out in the entryway to the offices. There was no "oh, hey, look you're barefooted." or "Look, it's Dr. No Shoes On" or any kind of comment made about it at all---it was just totally normal. It's a shoes-optional society and people of stature meeting with local businessmen about job recruiting fairs in the central business district of the capital city need not adorn their feet with anything at all.

Am I living in The Shire after all?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Netball



Isn't she adorable in her uniform?! Zoe and her netball team, the Ngaio Sapphires, had their first practice after school yesterday. There are 8 girls on the team, and all except one are new to the game. A local college (high school) student is coaching them. We'll all need to take a crash course in the rules because her first game is on Saturday!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Shhhh! It's a Surprise!

Our container of "stuff" will be delivered today. I've chosen not to tell the girls, so that it will be a total surprise. Zoe has her first netball practice immediately after school, so they won't be home until late this afternoon. They're gonna flip!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Sha'ken Not Stirred

Those of you playing along with the home version of the game may notice that the Kiwification Process indicator on the right bar has been updated to include both the School for the Girls and Car. Moving to Ngaio has convinced us that we need a car to adequately attend to the needs of our family and home. We were game to give it a go without---for a while---and if we stayed in the city we'd have probably done without one for a while longer even. But life in the suburbs requires a car, no doubt about it.

Jim (a repeat character on this blog) alerted us to a car dealer that deals in used Japanese cars exclusively. They sell low cost high volume cars that they get from Japan, clean up both cosmetically and mechanically, and then pass on to Kiwis who want used Japanese cars. There's a whole industry here in NZ to deal with taking Japanese used cars and preparing them for New Zealand streets. And there are some interesting reasons why that is so.

Sha'Ken (車検)

Shaken is basically Japanese car inspection.

But where car inspection is relatively straightforward in the US (yearly safety and/or two-year emissions standards inspections,) in Japan it's more involved and expensive. In California you pay $47 for a "smog check" emissions inspection. If you need a full safety inspection you'd pay somewhere around $100 or so. In Japan, fees associated with Sha'ken on a 5 year old vehicle may be as high as $1500 USD or more!

New cars must submit to Shaken after the first three years, and then every two years after that (in most cases.) Aside from the aforementioned fees, the vehicle owner also has to pay for all repairs to return the car to legal driveable state or they get a big red sticker on the back indicating that the car is fuseikaizousha! Mechanics there apparently charge an arm and a leg as Japanese cars are generally very reliable. Things are definitely structured to encourage car owners to get rid of their cars before having to submit to Shaken too many times.

The costs and rigors of the Shaken have given rise to a very large used vehicle export industry in Japan, and Japan's loss is very literally New Zealand's gain.

In Japan, they drive on the left-hand side of the road with the steering wheel on the right-hand side of the cabin. Just like here in NZ and in the UK and Australia. Unlike the UK and Australia, New Zealand has no domestic auto industry to protect and does not have high tariffs on import cars. These used Japanese cars are super-cheap here!

Our new car is a 2000 Honda Civic 5-door hatchback. It's light blue/gray-blue in color. It's very clean and in excellent mechanical condition. We bought it from Shackel Motors over on Kent Terrance in Wellington. They specialize in the used Japanese car trade and keep a constant flow of overseas cars coming through. Many of their cars cost less than $10,000 NZD, or around $7,000 USD for cars between 5 and 10 years old. Most of these cars are very low mileage and very lightly used (Japan isn't exactly a huge country and the Japanese don't eat in their cars like we do... the interiors are extremely clean.) Our Civic has about 64k kms on it. That's kilometers. That's less than 40k miles. For an 8 year old car. Crazy.

So cheap! And so many to choose from. What an unexpected but happy thing to discover about global automotive market dynamics!

Our little 1500cc engine won't suck down the gas, either. At $1.80 for a liter of petrol (somewhere around $7/gallon) we're not keen to use too much of the stuff.

You'd expect cars like the Toyota Prius to be popular here, but we don't see very many of them at all. The green-thinking angle coupled with the low petrol use makes it a shoo-in for NZ drivers, but I'm guessing when the Prius turns 6 or 7 years old we'll start seeing used ones showing up on boats from Japan as owners sell them instead of submitting to a Sha'ken on a hybrid car over there.

Hooray for School!

The girls had a great first day yesterday. They came out of school happy and energetic and chatty. The homework was light and fun, some maths (it's "maths" here, like mathematics) games via a website for Zoe, a bit of spelling, and reading for both girls which is part of our nightly ritual already.

Zoe has expressed an interest in the school netball team after hearing about it from a new friend. I think it could be really good for her. I'm curious to learn about netball which I had never heard of until we came here. I saw a bit of a televised game recently and it looks a bit like basketball without the dribbling.

Haley was still a little nervous about going this morning. I stopped in to chat with her teacher to ask some questions about the homework. I was confused because there is nothing to turn in, just a sort of checklist saying you have done it, which you turn in at the end of the week. Nice! Her teacher is young and sweet and very understanding of what Haley is going through, having moved to NZ from England when she was Haley's same age. It was such comfort to me to learn that.

Zoe begins her Maori education today. The students are taught the kapa haka. Not sure what is in store for Haley's day, but I look forward to the walk home to hear all about it. Stay tuned!

Monday, May 5, 2008

First Day of School



Did you hear about the woman who just left her children with complete strangers in a foreign country? That gets close to what it felt like to leave the girls at school today. And yes, I got teary, of course, because I am me, but only after I turned away from saying goodbye.

Wearing their school shirts from home like armor (we had all their friends and classmates sign them on their last day of school), they marched down the hill to a day certain to be full of confusion and apprehension. But they're kids, so it will also be filled with giggling and goofing and running around school halls in their socks, and best of all, making friends.

I will be very relieved to gather my brood at the end of this day. It's going to be all I can do to not wring every juicy detail out of them. I'm picturing the walk home, climbing the stairs up to our house on the hill, and hoping that they will choose to share the many new and amazing things they did with their day. And I will breathe a sigh of relief and smile.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Timing the Walk

10 minutes down the hill to Ngaio school.

Tomorrow is the girls' first day. Monday the 5th, the start of the second term and our introduction to the New Zealand school system.

I hope they get some sleep tonight.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Scones!



Thursday, May 1, 2008

My Own Private Ngaio



The girls and I had an absolutely lovely day today. After a massive wind and rain storm last night, it was still overcast and sprinkling this morning so we thought we'd plan a day of indoors activities. I've been dying to try my hand at baking some good old New Zealand afghan cookies using the Edmond's Cookbook, so we headed to the store for the ingredients.

On our way, we to stopped at the library to get library cards and check out some books. The girls got a ton of books on tuataras, their latest obsession, and I picked up the latest No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency book. I've been so out of it I didn't even know there was a new one coming out! I'm not sure what is more fun, anticipating it coming out and picking up my months earlier pre-ordered copy, or being out-of-the-blue surprised to find it just when I was looking for a good read. (oh, by the way, did I mention we have no tv and no intentions of getting one for the time being?)

By the time we finished at the library and the grocery store, the sun had come out. It's winter here and the sun puts on a good show when the clouds finally part. It's the really low, golden, kind that streams down in shafts. Our house sits on a hill that faces the sun all afternoon and the whole house warmed up in it's radiance and dried out after the soaking from the night before.

We decided to take advantage of the break in the clouds to head to an excellent park very close to our house that we just discovered. I took some pics of the girls going down what has got to be the hugest slide I've ever seen. Kiwi parks and play structures are flippin' awesome.

When we got home, the girls played in the room downstairs that they have claimed as the play room. They mostly read their books and drew pictures of tuataras which they hung all around the room. I made the afghan cookies, and took some pictures of the yard. The plants and trees are beautiful and Haley and I planted some herbs amongst them yesterday.

The girls start school on Monday. We had to buy all their school supplies and put together emergency kits. Zoe is really looking forward to it, but I can tell she's nervous about being the center of attention. I know she's dying to be around kids her age. Haley is a bit nervous. I think she has a harder time imagining what it is going to be like and she worries that she won't know what to do when. I'm nervous for them as well. I hope they quickly master all the little cultural differences so that they can focus on their learning. As much as I crave time alone, I know it will only take a small dose of it before I'm once again missing my girls.

At the end of the slide show are the afghan cookies, er, afghan BISCUITS I should say. They didn't turn out as tasty as the ones I've bought. New kitchen, new recipe, new ingredients in a new country. I'll just have to keep trying. Tomorrow it's scones!

note: the first pics in the slideshow were taken last weekend on our whirlwind tour of the Greater Wellington Area. I belive that is Kapiti island you can see off the coast. The views were breath-taking. We are living on the end of the earth, quite literally.

My Wife is a Driving Mutant

My wife has no problem driving here.

Just as we were getting the keys to our house, we rented a small car (Toyota Corolla Hatchback) for a very reasonable price from Budget (budget.co.nz?) so that we could easily pick up items that we hadn't yet realized that we'd forgotten to get. This proved wise, as things like toilet brushes aren't really at the top of the move-in list.

We're in Ngaio now (pictures to follow) and it's not as easy to get around. Ngaio is a bowl of hills with the shops, the school and the train station on the valley floor. There are no straight streets in Ngaio. There are no perpendicular or parallel streets in Ngaio. Getting around quickly and easily requires mountaineering gear or a car.

So we picked up the car and Joanne took the helm and she just... drives.

She's always been, as she calls it, "left-right indifferent." I've used the phrase "left-right impaired" but she doesn't like the negative connotation there. When I ask her if I should turn left or right, she'll just say "go that way" and point. When we got off the plane at Auckland Airport and went through customs, the customs agents gave us directions to the next gate saying "it's to the left, and then to the left again." With Joanne in the lead, she took off into the terminal and very decidedly made a sharp right. "Is this the way? This doesn't look right..."

I'm wondering if her "left-right indifference" is somehow serving her here--as if it were some sort of mutant evolutionary condition with an unexpected upside. Sort of how being double-recessive for the sickle-cell anemia gene makes you highly resistant to malaria. She seems to have absolutely no problem driving around, maintaining her speed, obeying traffic laws and keeping her sense of direction. She's already got Ngaio pretty well wired-up and can get around extremely well.