Women are Smarter...That's Right!
surviving in a world turned upside down
Trouble ahead, trouble behind.
Over here, everything is metric. Gas comes in liters, there are about 4 liters to a gallon, length is measured in meters, which is a few inches longer than a yard. Distance in is kilometers. There are about 2 km in a mile.
So when we play golf and they tell you it is 100 meters to the green, it is really about 110 yards. Gas costs 1.66/liter, which is close to $7/gallon (!). If a town is 150 kilometers away, it is actually 90 miles.
So now to the point.
The speed limit on the roads in Nelson is 50 km/hr. That is 30 mph. On Friday nights there is a lot of partying and drinking going on so they put extra police on the road.
We were driving home from dinner . Of course, I had nothing to drink, and I was driving at the speed I normally do, totally safe, I thought.
On the master plan of this adventure, the next box to check was "Get Jobs". Everyone in the group certainly believed that Kimberly, the nurse, would be the first and possibly, the only one to accomplish this.
But, au contraire.
I took a walk across the street to Nelson College for Boys to look into relief work, which is what they call subbing.
Within minutes, I was seated in the headmaster's office being interviewed. I fully expected to be tossed out on my fat ass. But he needed subs and needed them now. I was taken to meet a teacher that was going to be gone for 3 days and was hired on the spot. Applications were filled out and schedules were given to me. I was now on the relief team and practically the captain.
Total time at Nelson College...12 minutes.
I was to show up for work the next morning, and so it went.
As the song says, "If you become a teacher, by your students you'll be taught" and I arrived ready to learn.
First off, the room was a disaster. Even the headmaster referred to it as a "shithole" By the end of my stay this week, I had the students clean it up, but what that room needs is more like a bulldozer.
The kids are uniformed high school age and all boys. The older ones swear like sailors, roughhouse right in class, interrupt, don't like reading or doing homework. One class was younger and all advanced kids; they were my favorites. I think the headmaster was letting me get my feet wet to test me out.
As our brilliant President wisely said, "Bring it on!"
By the end of the week, I was somewhat well known, being the only American in the school. (I was accused often of having an accent). Now the kids greet me on the street and are very friendly and kind.
The teacher's lounge is large and comfortable with about 20 couches and other comfy chairs. Each day, we get a stact of morning papers. The big news this week was about a high school girl who streaked the Saturday rugby game. Apparently, she was inspired by a woman who streaked the All Blacks Pro game last week. You can bet when the ball is put in play this Saturday, there will be a new eager American fan in attendance, binoculars in hand.
Back to the teacher's lounge... They have a full kitchen and every morning, there is fresh coffee with all the trimmings. there is a girl, Teresa, who serves it and cleans up after us.
In the middle of the morning, they have a tea break; the kids go to the canteen to buy snacks and junk food. The teachers return to the lounge where there is tea (with milk?) or coffee. On Fridays, there is a large assortment of cakes, crackers, cheeses. No wine. Teachers do not skip school to go play golf of kick back because they feel like it. It don't work that way here.
As our readers have surmised, I will not be looking for permanent work anytime soon.
Relief teachers get paid by the hour. This week, I worked a total of 12 hours. I should get about $35-40/hr after tax, which comes out to more than they pay in California. Go figure.
When I arrived home today, wafting through the house was a sweet, familiar smell. Ah, that delightful treat I have missed for lo, these long 4 weeks...
No, not that.
Kimberly had made chocolate chip cookies.
Those of you out there that have had the experience of tasting one of these things know how happy I was. Kimberly intends to slowly expose them to select neighbors and friends. The tellers at the bank are on the short list to get some. Before too long, all of Nelson will be abuzz over this new found delicacy.
Maybe I can trade for bagels.
Everyone who knows us is aware of our love for Howard Stern. When we were in California, we were subscribers to Sirius Satellite Radio and when we moved over here, we kept paying in order to listen to the music on the computer website, even though Stern was not available.
But...on Monday, we learned that the Stern show began airing over the web. Life is now complete. We were so excited, we wrote an email to the show.
During the day, we took another ride to the east coast to see what there was to see. What there is is Marlborough Sounds, some gorgeous water the color of Glacier Blue. Here are some pictures.
When we came back from our 6 hour drive, we turned on the computer to listen to the replay of the Stern show. How shocked were we when Howard actually read our letter over the air!!!! He even mentioned our full names. This is very rare. Ask us how excited we are, go ahead, ask us...
I am beginning some substitute teaching this week at Nelson College. I hope the kids are good. I will write about the experience later this week.
Lazy Kimberly has not even begun to look for a job...
Lastly, and most important, Dad has had a procedure today to help fight his liver cancer. We hope all our readers will take a monent to send out a positive thought.
I am always envious of how the old man can jump into a situation, make a deal, leave everyone smiling. Every time I tried to do the same thing, I ended up getting screwed. How does he do it?
Well, out here, we can be like Dad. We are meeting probably for the last time on the Pink House...(sorry) TERRA COTTA. All parties know that at the end of the day, a deal will be made and we will own our New Zealand home. We all know Kimberly will customize it doing whatever she does to make it even better.
Then, today, we purchased our 2nd car, for running around town and going to work. The whole experience took about an hour, from hello Norma to registration and licensing.
We bought a 1990 BMW 320i. It has 68,000 miles, which is only about 4000 miles/year. We got it for about $2500US. And believe it or not, it was owned by a little old lady who has all the records to show it has been constantly serviced. Her husband, since passed away, was a professional "groomer" of cars. A groomer is a car detailer. It runs great and has no dents or dings, always kept in a garage.
We can't wait to give it to Josh as a birthday present.
I also had time to get a haircut. There will be no photos.
Congratulations to brother Barry on his guest appearance on Good Morning America. Thanks to email, we were able to see it out here.
By some odd coincidence, the girl who cut my hair today is also a binge drinker.
Small world after all.
They tell us June 1 was the first day of winter here, so we have been expecting the worst. But as of yet, the days have been sunny and warm and the nights have been nippy and cold. We stay in evenings and keep the fire going.
On Thursday, I thought it was so beautiful that I would navigate the 10 minute drive to the Nelson Golf Club and have a go at a game. When I got there, I was not charged as I am a member and my annual $280 dues covers all greens fees. I was given a personal score card that had my name and handicap already printed on it. The pro, Richard, put me right into the Thursday competition with a group of regulars.
I was partnered up with Owen Kirkit, the editor of the local paper, the Leader. I had to quickly learn the scoring rules using the Stableford method. There was also in the bet, something called "The Haggle" which was so complicated, I still don't know what went on, except that we broke even and nobody paid anybody. After the game, I had a pint of the beer that they drink here, Speights. Owen told me that, generally Americans are not well thought of because of Bush. The Kiwis cannot believe we were so ignorant to elect him....TWICE!
I told him that is one of the reasons we left the country.
The next morning, I was jonesing for a bagel. The only ones here at the store are like Lenders and I wanted a Bruegger's. There is a place in Wellington, Wholly Bagels, that has NY style bagels, but they want about $1.50/bagel and they have to ship them overnight across the Cook Strait via courier.
I wonder if the guy has them in a special briefcase handcuffed to his wrist?
We heard there was a store in Mapua, The Naked Bun, that sold home made bagels, so we took a ride out there.
No, it doesn't work that way, they don't sell bagels; they sell sandwiches on bagels.
However, you can pre order them a week in advance, they are mainly plain and they cost 1.80/bagel. There were some in the display case surrounding already made sandwiches and they did not look like they were worth it. I ordered a fine Spanikopeda and will probably be eating the Lenders for breakfast.
While we were out in Mapua, and it was a beautiful sunny day, some of us thought it would be a good idea to get some exercising by taking a hike. Others in the group were looking at the dessert tray.
So off we went to hike on Rabbit Island.
Rabbit Island is not an island, nor are there any rabbits. The name reflects only 2 lies. Perhaps it was given this moniker by our Uncle Bert, a well know prevaricator.
We drove down a road thru a marvelous forest bordered by parks and picnic areas until we came to a huge beach that was about 20 miles long. There were sand dunes at first, then a soft beach sprinkled with shells and sea birds. The only problem was that it was very crowded. We counted at least 6 people the entire time we were there.
We walked on the beach, the sun was warm. We saw a fisherman who was net fishing. He caught some baby sharks and released them back. Some seagulls nearby were hoping he would toss them ashore. It did not work that way.
Turning away from the sand we went inland into a vast, thick, forest with myriad trails and walking paths. The sun shone mystically through the branches and everything smelled clean and green. While in the forest we saw new kinds of birds and plants and giant (dare I say) mushrooms.
We wound our way back to the car and sat on a bench to watch the water. Soon up pulled a car and a guy and his "mum" got out. Mom took a walk and Shane came over to us and started talking. He learned we were from America and had tons of questions. Shane had a little of that "Rainman" condition and had learned all he knew about the states from the telly. He could recall every TV show, its stars and plot. We tried to tell him that America was not really like that..TV is made up in Hollywood.
Fortunately, he never watched Judge Wapner, so we didn't have to go there.
He was a good guy and fun to talk to. His mother came by and told us he has a fraternal twin that is an accountant and completely different from his brother. I still would bet on Shane if they had a toothpick counting contest.
Sports note... tonight is the season opener between the World Champion All Blacks Rugby team vs. Ireland. We may need to order it on our cable just to watch the Haka Dance at the beginning.
Finally, happy 35th birthday to Joshua.
"Some are born to sweet delight, Some are born to endless night."
Last we wrote, house hunting was "key" for "we" who are looking to nest. We have toured several styles of kiwi homes , some alone, some with another new friend/husband/personal assistant to a realtor, "Marc". Marc is of course thinking commission, we know, but we agreed to ride in his "Merc" for a tour de' Nelson just for the education in NZ real estate. First stop, Orakei St., a fine 3 level, 3 bedroom, affair with killer views of Tasman Bay, a golf course, & the city lights. The current owners have done the proper gardening, making any Kiwi proud. Mike liked it ALOT, but I am not fond of the 3 level look or feel. Tough to heat I would think. Fairly priced, but a little out of our range. Since I wasn't doing cartwheels, Marc suggested we move on. Robin, you may have put an offer in, I don;t know..
Next stop in Tasman Heights, Top of the World Ma'... Mike hasn't been this high since we arrived! It was in a classy neighborhood, but that was just my point, IN A NEIGHBORHOOD! But, to be fair, huge, 4 bedrooms, 3 or 4 baths, killer view, but no property, all concrete around this palacial home. Also, Marc said it did get the "Southern" winds when they were around. We want to go where the chilly winds don't blow you know? Moving on...
Albert St., Deco Shmecko, what a dump!! A 50 year old disaster, Marc, shame on you. It was musty, with multiple labyrinth-like rooms & levels. Maybe if you poured $50K into it, crack whores might consider using it.
Now, it gets interesting. If you say "Murphy St" in Nelson, you'll get more thumbs down than Siskel & Ebert gave the movie "Ishtar". Another Deco style home, circa 1940-1950. A huge, beautifully appointed home with everything but location. Even the owner said it was the best house on the worst St. Did I hear ANYONE say "red flag"??
Like goldilocks we found a house that is just right... This is real art deco, classy. A modest size, but it is just the 2 of us. Actually a Nelson landmark, we later found out. It has been refurbished tastefully, not overdone, but with one funky aspect that actually works, (a kitchen of red & black). The grounds are beautiful, private, lush. The view is what could seal a deal, one side mountains, the Maitai Valley, and the other Tasman bay & city lights at night. We were there for the sunset, & blown away. The house was plenty warm for me, which many have not been, another big deal here when house hunting. It gets all day sun, a big seller in this town. We left, have taken a few days to weigh the pros & cons, & will take another look on Saturday.
Robin, Lauren please advise...
P.S., the house is NOT pink, it is Terra Cotta, per the current owner
Sorry about not writing sooner, but we have been so busy running all around trying to become locals that we have not been loyal to our readers.
When we last left off, we had not yet purchased a car. That is all different now. Thanks to our friends, Eyal and Frith, we borrowed a cheap auto of theirs, returned the rental and kicked around town searching.
Our dear brother-in-law in California , Larry, who is a used car salesman, advised us to get a Honda CRV. So we walked over to Bowater Honda and met the amicable Nick Devereaux who promptly sold us a 2002 CRV that is really clean with 48K miles. As Dad likes to say, "You can eat off the engine". Of course, the odometer is in kilometers and the price is in NZ dollars. Haven't done this much math since 7th grade. By the way, math students always asked me in their typical whine, "Why do we need to learn this?"
Now I know the answer is that you may need to buy a car in New Zealand. The photo is a facsimile. Later we will show the real deal.
We are waiting (and hoping) for the exchange rate to drop before we write the final check and pick it up. Until then, we are using the borrowed car.
Kimberly was shopping for a coffee pot. Did we mention there is only a small coffee press in our house? A tiny cup of coffee in our world is merely foreplay. It takes 3-4 a day to reach caffeine orgasm. So in looking for the coffee maker, she found a store called Briscoe's and they are having a big Queen's Birthday Sale. Needless to say, the Queen's is quite the VIP in New Zealand and her birthday is bigger than Washington's and Lincoln's put together. There is no school and all govt. offices are closed. I think everyone runs around in tiaras and long royal gowns.
Briscoe's manager, Robyn, offered us a sweet deal. Kimberly felt like Queen for a day. We walked out with a vacuum cleaner and a propane gas room heater with which to solve our morning chill problems.
I still can't start a fire that will stay lit and warm the house. Back in California, we had the kind that would start with a gas flame. Out here they use stuff called "kindling". Anyway, the propane deal is doing the trick quite nicely, thank you.
On Friday, we decided, or to be honest, Kimberly decided that after her yoga class we needed to take a walk around the outskirts. I purchased some walking maps, but on the way back, bumped into another person we have met, Kay.
Kay works at Falafel Gourmet, where we had lunch once. We were drawn in by the Hebrew sign that said "Shalom". Turns out the cook is an Israeli guy.
Of course, I was eager to enter and eat some Middle Eastern food and rub elbows with my kin. The falafel was delicious, as only an Israeli could concoct. It was too big and I will never order a "large" again. And it was certainly not Kosher, which may be a plus. We referred to Kay as the mother of all falafels.
the MOAF, who met me in the street, remembered my name and advised us to walk up to a point on the mountain behind Nelson which is the geographical center of the country.
So off we went.
Within a few hundred yards along the street, we came to a little iron gate which said "Queen's Garden" (there she is again).
In we went, and all I can say is, "Long live the Queen".
The small city block size park was filled with duck ponds, gardens, statues, benches, fountains, and a small cafe. It was ridicuously tidy and neat. I offered to stop the hike right there and rest for the remainder of the day. But some of us reminded the others that our purpose was exercise and we could lie down plenty after we were dead.
Of course, we forgot the camera, so included is somebody else's photo I found on the internet. I promise to go back and get some shots. Not having a camera for this post gets worse as you will see. Or I should say, as you will not see.
Leaving the Queen's Garden, we tramped along and began climbing a well maintained path up a rather steep hill. As usual, I took the lead, jogging all the way through the tree and bush covered trail. At the top was a lovely sitting area with a sort of monument and plaque and 360 degrees of fantastic view with Tasman Bay in front and the remarkable Maitai Valley behind. The ubiquitous sheep grazed lazily on the lush green hillsides.
We decided to wander down the back of the mountain into the Maitai Valley. This place is very safe and you really can't get into much trouble. Also there are no bears.
It was a stunning stroll which needed to be stopped at times to stare at the landscape of the valley. At the bottom is a huge park, Branford Park, with the Maitai River meandering through it as you can observe from somebody else's photo.
We never knew this was right here in Nelson.
Following the park and the river for a few miles we were right back by the cathedral in mid city.
Back in town, we discovered a beautiful music hall where students from all over the world come to study. On entering, we learned that on this very night was a performance of NZ comedians. Since we have decided to try everything, we figured it would be easy to snag a couple of tickets. As it turns out, the show was sold out and we were lucky to get 2 in the back row. TicketMaster, where are you when we need you?
We thought we might not get the humor, but it was funny and dirty just like in the states. There was the prop comic and the guy who mocked GWB and the one who made fun of those in the front row. Needless to say, we were not made fun of where we were sitting.
Saturday came and it was a very chilly day. We went to the Saturday market and I was freezing my head off. I quickly bought a scarf and gloves and a hat of sorts. As anyone who knows me is aware, I do not wear hats. For some reason, they look funny on me and people laugh. The girl who sold me the hat laughed, I think. Or maybe she surpressed it to make the sale. When I walked back to Kimberly, who was buying vegetables, she laughed so hard, she dropped her tomatoes. You be the judge.
That's enough for now. Next post will tell about house hunting, which will include more pictures and self mockery.