Sunday, August 31, 2008

My Kiwis by Haley

These are my kiwis. One of them I got from a store. The other my Dad gave to me. Kiwis are important because they're the country bird of New Zealand. There aren't very many of them alive in the wild. They eat grubs and bugs. They are flightless birds. Kiwis only live in New Zealand.

My kiwi keychain's name is Rua. Rua means "two" in Maori. I named it Rua because it is the second kiwi that I've got. The other Kiwi's name is Fuzz. Both of the stuffed kiwis squeak.

There's also a kind of fruit called the kiwi fruit. The people in New Zealand call everybody kiwis. I like it.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A change of tune!!!

I joined the school choir this term. Luckily, I don't have to memorize the lyrics. ( They play them on an over-head projector!!!) Any way, there's only one way to stop from sticking out from the rest of the Kiwis, and that's to speak their language. (The accent!) So, every Friday, after lunch I go and sing in a non-American way. When we get to the word "S-T-A-R" I sing " staaa". For "air" I sing "a-ya"for "danger" "dan-ja" and on and on.I'm getting used to it, but yet I still find it tricky, especially numbers. Well, I'll pick it up.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Earthquake Shmearthquake

A 5.9 earthquake struck Hawke's Bay last night. (Don't worry, that's about 300km's from us.) 5.9!! That's like, huge! So what do you think ensued? Panic? Mayhem? Death and destruction? Nope. Not here. In fact, not a single emergency call was made despite power outages in some areas . GNS Science duty seismologist Warwick Smith commented to the NZ Herald that, "New Zealand generally got a quake measuring about 6.0 once a year and Hawke's Bay residents would be as hardened as anyone to quakes, being on the country's main earthquake belt."

And, ladies and gentlemen, that pretty much sums up the Kiwi attitude toward hardship. Harden the *&$%# up! There's a comedy sketch show from Australia that does a bit about this and it applies equally, perhaps more so, to Kiwis. Enjoy, but know this is not for the easily offended or perhaps the workplace due to language.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Winter in Wellington

Said Haley the other day as we walked to school, "Mom, this rain is really weird. It's just coming straight down not sideways."

update: more rain/storms forecasted for this weekend. Today's forecast, however, reads, "Fine. Northerlies freshening in the afternoon." I get the "fine" part. That means clear and sunny here. But what the *&#@ is "freshening"??

Monday, August 18, 2008


In case you were wondering, the Tooth Fairy does make visits to the Southern Hemisphere. The neighbor girl told me so. Haley lost her third tooth just now, her first in NZ. On our walk home from school-it was still intact at this point, hanging by a gooey pink thread- she told me she was going to lose it and we wondered out loud if they have the Tooth Fairy in New Zealand. I made sure to ask it loudly enough for the neighbor girl to hear as she was walking several paces ahead of us. I'd been watching this girl's two front teeth slowly grow in over the past couple months, and thought she was a likely expert. She took the cue and quickly turned around, smiling with her too-big-for-her-smile white teeth and said to Haley, "Don't worry, the Tooth Fairy comes to New Zealand." And just for the record, upon further probing she informed me that she usually leaves a $2 coin.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

American Pie

I partook in a very interesting conversation in the staff room during morning tea yesterday. One of the classrooms is doing a tour of foods around the world and the teacher was consulting with another on what would be typical American fare. I walked in on them as they were trying out their worst American accents and they both blushed deeply, as I could hear in their voices how unmelodious our accent must be to the Kiwi ear. Busted!

As I've noted before, the flip side of living in another culture is that you end up with a better definition of your own, so I was curious to hear what they thought of as American. Burgers and fries were unanimously considered quintessential American, as were pancakes and maple syrup, popcorn, hot dogs, and roast turkey. I groaned in horror when they all enthusiastically sited McDonald's as being uber-American. Oddly enough, it took me a beat or two to think of anything (not true, I immediately thought of Mexican food but quickly realized how stupid that would sound), but I put forth apple pie and pumpkin pie. I think in the end it was decided pancakes and maple syrup would be the easiest for the class to cook together, even if the maple syrup would be Canadian, which I guess is what they can get here.

I continued the conversation with one of the relievers (substitute teacher) who had once driven across the states in a Mustang convertible (which she only realized had no heat when she reached the Canadian border, but I digress.) She said she thought of barbecued spare ribs, and said she ate them every time she had the chance during that trip. I thought barbecue was an excellent suggestion of a true American food, and since our conversation I've been making a mental list of what could be considered uniquely American foods, not an easy list to make when you think of how many cultures we've absorbed and integrated in our short history. What do you think of? I'd be curious to know from both Kiwis, U.S. dwellers and anyone else, what, to you, is true Americana cuisine?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

I like my morning ride.

Presented for your inspection: two months of fully-punched bus tickets representing probably about two and a half months of riding buses due to the occasional cash fare. I switched to the plastic-credit-card method where you buy a month's worth of fare for $95 and just flash the card when you get on. It's got the month written on it in big easy-for-bus-drivers-to-read letters and I just have to show the right month name and I'm in. I can ride as much as I want now, which is as little as I have to.

Actually it just amounts to my daily commute. My entire commute expenses are $95 NZD a month. That's pretty good, I think. No wear and tear on a car, no gas, no carbon molecules drifting about in the troposphere making hippies choke on their muesli, and no messy paper tickets to clutter up my wallet towards an eventual George Costanza Fat Wallet.

Things are still the same on the morning bus, more or less. Ozzy and Ozzy Mom still ride almost every day, though The Vicar isn't seen as frequently on the 8:25. He might be catching the bus earlier or later, though I still see him from time to time. The hypoxia twins (the two College girls who talk a blue streak in a back bench) have been discussing prom, prom dresses, hotels, who's going to drink when and where and how much and the general sort of cute teenage prom-related madness that is probably singular in the whole secondary school experience for the intensity with which you magnify its importance beforehand and the puzzlement with which you discard its importance afterwards.

A few other characters have emerged as interesting regulars. There's a mid-height slightly porcine man with small-framed but thick-lensed glasses who sits near the front. He's always in a sportscoat and looking very neat and clean. I call him "The Engineer."

Then there's Good Scarlett. She's in her late teens, I'm guessing, looking a bit like Scarlett Johansson but a little more cherubic and not as pouty. I figure Scarlett Johansson is the "bad" Scarlett to her "good" Scarlett. She recently dyed her hair red, which makes her sort of pale cherubic qualities more pronounced but doesn't really suit her, I think. The nickname's also a play on Good Charlotte, which is a tedious American "screamo"/emo post-goth musical irritant. It seemed to fit, I dunno.

There's a woman who's probably in her mid 50's who dresses to the nines and carries herself like someone who grew up with privilege. She stands out because she's beautiful in a "I'm not trying to look 19 my whole life" sort of way. In fact, her clothes are pretty down-scale. She just wears it all with a sort of dignified composure that up-scales everything for her. Her purses are vinyl, shoes are worn, jewelry is scuffed and sunglasses are knock-offs. I don't have a name for her yet, but she's on the bus almost every morning---I'll think of something.

And finally there's a couple that rides together almost every morning. They're polite but not friendly as I see them waiting at my stop when I get out there. I give them the quickly raised and lowered eyebrows of "hello there, I see you there, and since we're going to be standing near each other I'll pass along an indication that I've noticed you and that I'm here and that I make eye contact and won't be likely to stab you and take your stuff" and get a half-smile or a nod. They're an interesting couple in that she looks a bit like a barn owl and he's way out of her league.

I still like my morning ride. I play video games on my Nintendo DS, use my Playstation Portable to either play video pinball or read programming textbook PDF files, or just look out the window or watch the curious New Zealand people.

Now, if it's not raining---which it usually isn't these days (not raining, I mean)---I get off a few stops early and walk through the city to work. I like getting the legs moving and the blood pumping before I sit down at my desk for the next nine hours. If it's a sunny morning, I sometimes get off at the train station and walk the rest of the way in.