Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Settling In.. Has it only been one week?

Saturday Market was an opportunity to get our feet wet in the local scene. There was fresh produce, all organic, food, art and people watching. Who knows what we spent? The items were all so new and different and our tiny fridge was empty as a pocket with nothing to lose.

I took a neighborhood walk and marveled at Nelson College, the famous school where I hope they let me substiute teach.

The last few days have been hectic and informative. Lest anyone think one can enter a new world and be in control, think again. It takes patience and persistance to stay on track and centered.

Since our last post, we now have a bank account, tax numbers, P.O. Box, Sky TV, yoga and golf memberships.

Still no car.

We failed to make a deal with Norm Lovelock for the Suzuki Grand Vitara. They must have seen us coming and pegged us as rich Americans who would pay anything for an $8000 SUV. After 2 hours, including a test drive and a serious sit-down with the manager, we were still miles apart. We came up 5500 and they came down 1500. And there was still a giant space in between.

So we walked and went for a stiff drink at Lamretta's, our new favorite watering hole. The place is decorated in a european motor scooter theme.

The bank was much more friendly as was the govt. tax office. We were in and out in less time than it took for Norm Lovelock and his manager to wish they took our deal.

Kimberly has found several yoga studios and taken some classes. She will probably be teaching before we get a car.

I played a round of golf at the Nelson Golf Club, which borders the estuary and is quite beautiful. The course is challenging, inexpensive, and uncrowded. If you pay the annual membership of $275US, you get to play for free all year! You also get the same deal at 15 other NZ courses around the country. I joined today and already have my membership card and bag tag. I told them I was a novice which means I don't have an official handicap, which happens to be true.

This morning, we took a 20 minute drive with our Kiwi buddy, Frith,

to magnificant Mapua, a small colony which features art, wine, boating, fishing, camping, and hiking. We had marvelous chocolates, wine, coffee, home grown olive oil, picked delicious apples and looked at sheep. We finally found them hiding in a apple grove. The grower lets them graze between the trees so he can avoid mowing the lawn.

Later we walked to town and I shopped for Honda CRVs. Hopefully a deal can be made with young Nick Devereux because my feet are getting tired.

We also got grocery store cards to earn points when we shop. We are not sure what the points will get us, but we did not want to miss the opportunity.

Tonite we dine at home on local produce, wine and capsicum/almond tapenade, which is a spread we will put on local bread, and free range chicken.

The fire is blasting and warming our little New Zealand home.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

We're not in Kansas anymore

This entry should have been much, much better, but our laptop developed a severe case of frozen touchpad disease (FTD). Yesterday, we hooked up the modem and got online. After checking the many encouraging emails, we came to one from brother Barry, always a source of trouble, and the touchpad locked up. Of course, it was Friday night. All problems that require outside assistance always happen on Friday night. Nobody is around anywhere on earth to help anybody on a Friday evening; that is a rule of life.

I am writing this without the use of the touchpad, or mouse if you will. I know our dad, who is a registered Luddite, is having this technical information decoded by a 21st century human. Be that as it may, we hope the problem can be solved and corrected in a few days.

On landing, Kimberly got teary eyed, looked at me and said, "we're home", I was very confused and frightened that we made the mistake of our lives. We were to learn that this was due to jet lag as the plane ride including the wait at the LAX took almost 21 hours.

The house we rented here was damp and cold, the shower has no hot water pressure. There is no microwave oven. No Cable!!! We collapsed into the bed and tried to sleep, but it was morning and we were restless.

So we stayed up and drove into the town of Nelson.

We had to focus on staying on the left side of the road and it was raining. We were hungry and still confused. We parked our car and needed to put $2.NZ into the meter. We had only traveler's checks, and plenty of them. Also in Kimberly's purse was a Soprano sized wad of cash. It didn't take long to realize that "your money is no good here" is a common phrase. We needed kiwi dollars to avoid our first traffic violation in NZ.

Certainly, our ATM card would save us.

No. It doesn't work that way sir.

After a trip to a bank and a currency exchange desk, we had NZ100 and looked all around for some food and drink.

On our wanderings, we ended up at a used car lot and met Norm Lovelock who showed us a Suzuki Grand Vitaro. Can you imagine us attempting to negotiate a used car deal in this condition, or actually in any condition? We liked the car, 2001, low miles, roomy, only 20,000NZ, which is something like 12,000US. Anyone out there know what this thing is worth? We sure don't.

Luckily, hunger led us away from Norm, who we promised to visit later when we were awake.

Finally, we came to Lambretta's, and had a fine, tasty salad and pizza. Kimberly had her wine, and I had a local beer, as I have decided to start drinking at this point in my life. This new vice will be added to the others which I have nurtured over the years. The food was all organic and Scott, the kid behind the counter was very friendly and invited us to a sports bar Saturday for the finals of some Rugby tourney.

We came home and passed out at 8 pm, in some time zone or other. I dreamed that Nelson was better.

After a short 12 hour nap aided by Kimberly's Ambien stash, which is larger than that of Patrick Kennedy, we awoke and felt refreshed. We managed to take showers in the dribble in the bathroom, we made a fire in the fireplace and felt much more cozy.

The town is only about a mile from our house and we thought a walk would do us good. The sky was clear, we were surrounded by rolling hills coated in trees of brilliant fall colors. It looks like new England, without the drunken Kennedys.

The trees played the music of a thousand birds.

On the way, we passed a real estate office and dropped in to met Helen, who gave us a pile of listings and some facts about the area neighborhoods. We were pegged as future homeowners in Mapua, the best place for property and views of the water. We promised to be back later and buy a house from her.

We came to town on foot very quickly, chatting with everyone we bumped into along the way, from students who go to Nelson College, a magnificent school on a hill next to our house, to Lynda, a very old henna haired woman who was raking leaves as they were falling all around her like golden paper.

Thai food for lunch was delicious and priced reasonable considering you do not tip here.

We went to every bank and talked with very friendly people about opening up accounts. The town seemed completely different, like the way the Wizard of Oz goes from black and white to color. Absolutely enchanting. We walked and walked. More used car dealers, yoga studios, bars, restaurants, gardens, parks, the cathedral on top of the hill at the end of town, the views of the bay, the fall colors...blah, blah, blah.

Things we have not seen or heard:

People with ipods
fat people
water bottle carriers
swearing (F-bombs)
Rush Limbaugh
W Bush
loud music blasting from cars
sheep???? Where are they hiding?

Another superb meal at another great watering hole (NZ is no longer only mutton and potatoes). We even met the chef, who is a kid from San Diego.

When we got home last night, we stoked up the fire and hooked up the internet to the laptop. Life and Nelson were much, much better.

Then we read Barry's email.

So today, we went to the farmer's market and spent about a million dollars on wine, cheese, organic fruits and vegetables...and ...a plug in mouse to override the touchpad problem. Already we are back in business and life is good again.

But Barry may still be a pain in the ass.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Old Man

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

-Dylan Thomas

We have had the honor of spending the last 2 months in Tucson, Arizona with our father, Bernie Bortnick, a greater man than any of his progeny could ever be. He is struggling with an opponent that no man can defeat. How lucky we are to have has this precious time with him.
But the wind is in the shoulder of our sails and we can no longer delay our departure, though our eyes are clouded with tears.

Farewell Dad, we hope to see you again soon.

Monday, May 01, 2006

3 weeks to go

On May 23, a plane leaves
Los Angeles bound for
Auckland, New Zealand.
We better be on it, damn it!

The flight will take about 12 hours and most all of it is at night. After we get to Auckland, we will hop on a small plane and fly down to Nelson.

Nelson is around 7000 miles from LA. The time is usually 5 hours earlier, but the following day. So if it was 5 PM on Friday in LA, it could be noon on Saturday in NZ, depending on daylight savings.

For those visual learners out there who need a geography lesson, maps have been

New Zealand is not Australia. It is easy to make that mistake. They are rather close on the map. It's like some people would think America was Mexico.

The whole country is about the size of Colorado. Above is a world map. You can see New Zealand on the lower right edge. It is small and green colored.

You faster ones can help your neighbor find it.

The next map is that little green shape blown up (non-terrorist style). You can see that New Zealand is actually a country of 3 islands. The island to the North, which is closer to the equator, is called North Island.

Of the 4 million humans living in New Zealand, 3 million live on the North Island. 1 million of those live in Auckland which is NOT the capital, but the largest city. It is one of the great cities in the world.

At the bottom of North Island is Wellington, the capitol. Wellington is supposed to pretty cool, but it is always very windy. Who needs that?

Can you guess what they call the Island to the South??? Anyone?? Anyone??

Yes, you there in the back, Josh..

That's right, they call it South Island, and there are only 1 million "folks" on the whole thing. And look how big it is. North Island is simply beautiful, pastoral, a dream to visit. Beautiful
beaches forests, sunsets. The only place on earth that makes North Island appear pale is South Island.

Nelson is on the top on South Island, the center of the country. Nelson is the sunniest city with golden beaches and 3 national parks nearby. 8 golf courses and lots of yoga studios. There is a big hospital and swarms of schools.

Perhaps there will be some work as we are in dire need of funds if we hope to find shelter in this formidable place. Currently, we are planning to reside in the city proper in a furnished 3 bedroom house.

But this will set us back a very dear $780/month. And that does not yet include cable TV and internet, which could raise the sum another 100/mo.

Lord, why have you forsaken us?

Here is a link to a Nelson website to play around with. http://www.harlequin.co.nz

Jeanne, help that slow guy next to you. He can't even find his pencil, let alone a mouse.