Kia Ora to Aotearoa! (Welcome to New Zealand!)

20 09 2010

This is the beach closest to where we are currently staying. Apparently at times Orcas make their way through the bay here. We are in the St Heliers area of Auckland, about 4 miles outside of the city center, and an easy bus ride or drive there and back. The boardwalk that begins here extends all the way to the city center and includes a bike path. Pretty cool. The above beach is about a 10 minute walk from the house we are staying at now, which is great because in our last house a ten minute walk only got me to the Waffle House.

We’ll be staying at our current location with our friends who have been here since May until the beginning of November. This will allow us some time to find jobs and cars and a place we want to live. We have also discovered that though we would like to be really green and take advantage of public transport, it is not so efficient. We went to visit out cat Palin, who is serving 30 days in quarantine after being convicted of being a cat, and while the ride only took 20 minutes in a cab on the way there, it took 2 hours to get back home by bus. So, we are looking for an inexpensive car that will get us from place to place.

Another thing that has surprised me is the friendliness of the people. The immigration people were very nice, and at the restaurants, bakeries, banks, and everywhere, people are friendly, and genuinely so. Kiwis are proud of their corner of the world, and rightly so. It is uniquely beautiful, and unlike anything I have ever seen. And I’m thinking it will only get better. We have been told that Auckland is considered the least attractive part of the country…

This is a picture of Rangitoto, a dormant volcano, and now national park/island, across the bay from Auckland. People can kayak there or boat there and camp, hike to the top, or go there and back in kayaks with a tour group. Pretty cool to have such a wild place so close.

At the edge of section of the city called Devonport, there is another dormant volcano, and you can drive most of the way to the top of it. Around the edges are bunkers and battlements left over from WWII. The views from the top are breathtaking, and you can see islands dotting the seascape in the distance. The day we climbed up was particularly cold and windy. It has been in the 50’s and windy and raining on and off since we arrived. The rain we are told, is normal, as New Zealand has a rainy season and dry season, and most subtropical regions do, but the winds have been abnormally strong. It has been jarring to me as we were in the heat and humidity of the Cincinnati summer, only to be confronted with weather more appropriate for March. As we are just ending winter here, though, I should not have been surprised.

Above is the inside of one of the bunkers along the side of the dormant volcano.

Another pleasant surprise has been the quality and healthiness of the food. There are few preservatives used here, and most fruits and vegatables are grown here as well. They are therefore, fresher and have more flavor. Also, the lack of high fructose corn syrup in foods makes them less overpoweringly sweet, and allows more of the flavor to come out. An example is Coke–in the US, it is sweetened with corn syrup, and here it is sweetened with sugar. The result is that Coke here is less sweet but tastes better.

We are thankful for all the well wishes and interest in our adventure. Prayers for jobs and for our cat (though she made it safely, she is very skinny–we think she is not eating due to nervousness) would be appreciated.





The Bell Tolls For We…

15 09 2010

Plane

In twelve hours we’ll begin a 36 hour journey that will begin in Cincinnati, have us go through Chicago, layover in LA for half a day, and then (finally) get to make the 12 hour flight to Auckland. In the meantime, things have not been slow. In the last two weeks, we’ve driven lots of miles, seen lots of friends and family, and on more than one occasion, forgotten which city we were in.

In mid August, my parents came for the weekend to help us pack and see our stuff off. The highlight was when I had moved 80 boxes from living room to front lawn, and had friends wait with me from 1 pm to 6:30 pm for the UPS Freight guy, only to be told we don’t live on a street, and we would have to deliver our stuff to UPS ourselves. I calmly asked the operator how it was she thought I got to my street, and explained that because a UPS driver decided that a “No Through Trucks” somehow translated to “I Don’t Have to Work” that I would have to pay extra, rent a UHaul, or find some other way to get my 80 boxes to them. I explained, again calmly, that this simply would not do, and they should call the police to verify that 1) we do live on a street, and that 2) trucks could deliver and pick things up. She told me that might be possible but that extra charges would apply. I asked (still calmly) did she mean that we would be getting a discount? What? was her reply. I said that we should be getting a discount seeing as UPS missed their window, not me, and that I didn’t think I would be paying extra for work not done correctly. She said she’d call back after she called the police. Five minutes later, another truck was on the way, no extra charges. Whew!

We then embarked on what I called our 2010 Victory Tour. What we won, I don’t know, but it sounded cool. We hit Chicago, Ft. Wayne, Grand Rapids, Detroit, and then ended back in Cincinnati. We had great visits, dinners, farewells, and see-ya-soons with lots of friends and family, the highlights being Volare in Chicago, Hopcat in Grand Rapids, and the NZ farewell party in Detroit.

Below are a few photos that encapsulate (sort of) the final days in the USA. More to follow…