Friday, July 31, 2009

A Trip to Te Papa

The weather forecast told of frequent showers this morning so we decided to head into Wellington City and explore Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand. We had been to the museum and Waterfront in Wellington before but it really warrants a second trip. I really like this museum as it always reminds me what a unique place New Zealand is. One of the last places on earth to be populated by man and with a unique set of animal life and natural hazards. A Geography teachers dream location!

The Moa found only in New Zealand and thought to have become extinct in about 1500. They were hunted by the Maori and by the Haasts eagle.

The Weta - found in its largest form in New Zealand can apparently grow up to 90mm. We have only found one about and inch and a half long on our bathroom window. That was big enough. The name derives from the Maori "wetapunga" which roughly translates as "God of Ugly Things". Appropriate I think!

Designing a Squid.

The girls standing in front of some distant relatives.

The girls explore a Whales heart - and yes it is actual size!

I took this photo because the Geographer in me couldn't ignore this amazing visual display of the damage done by human settlement on New Zealand. The green on the maps indicates the forested areas before man, after Maori settlement and subsequent European settlement. There is a stark difference as you can see.

This photo doesn't do this story telling stage justice - the carvings and figurines were amazing.

A house just the right size for the girls.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

"Do you know sheep have bottoms Mummy?"

Following the extremely windy and stormy weather we have been having this week Saturday came as a bit of a surprise. It was bright and sunny and despite the chilly southerly wind it was reasonably warm.

I had to leave the house uncharacteristically early for a weekend morning, as I had volunteered to help out at the fundraising clothing sale at the Kindergarten. I headed down all enthusiastic and brimming over with helpfulness, only to be told that they had enough people and I could go home if I wanted. So I turned up back home, having woken up early on the weekend with nowhere to go. So we decided to head to Plimmerton and take the girls rock pooling on the beach.

The crabs obviously heard us coming but we did find lots of interesting shells.

Battle Hill Farm Forest Park is the site of one of the last battles between Maori and early colonial forces in this area. Its only about 10 minutes drive from us so we decided to go and explore the area this Sunday. The park itself appears to be run partly as a working farm, educational centre and environmental restoration area. It is stunning and we will definitely have to return in the summer although I would imagine that its is significantly more crowded than it was today.
We had to pass through fields of sheep and subsequently sheep poo. It was at this point that my youngest came out with the classic question "Do you know sheep have bottoms Mummy?". "Well yes they do and they tend to be furry!" was my response - not much else you can say to that really.

Its always surprising how green the countryside is even though its mid winter.

A constant supply of chicken nuggets and doughnuts kept the girls going.

The park contains part of the area known as Transmission Gully which is the proposed new route for State Highway 1 (SH1). It has been a very controversial proposal as SH1, which is currently a rather dangerous winding road which at points goes directly next to the sea, desperately needs improvements. However the route through Transmission Gully will be expensive to construct and goes through an area which is extremely beautiful. Having walked in this area I think there must be a way of avoiding destroying all this beauty.

We completed the Wetlands Walk through Swampy Gully Paddock - the name says it all really!

Looking towards Transmission Gully in the distance.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Windy Wellington and Cakes for Kindy

We woke up this morning to the thunder of rain on the roof and the constant knocking of the back garden gate in the wind. We knew it was windy in Wellington before we moved here. Researching the area, we found almost all the videos on You Tube of Wellington are made by people filming the effects of the wind on their back garden or local area. Well sticking with this trend, below is a video of our back garden taken this morning. The weather has been rather rough all day and the drive back from the train station this evening was rather treacherous due to the sea breaking on to the road in places and flash flooding. It was a rather exciting ride.
Kindergarten is having a fundraising clothes sale and in an attempt to help out I rather rashly volunteered to make cakes for their stall. So the girls and I spent the morning baking.

There were plenty of volunteers to lick the bowl.

The cake mixture was very popular so hopefully the cooked cake will taste just as good.

The finished product!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Summer Birthday in Mid Winter.

It was my birthday this week and in all the thirty-ish years before this, it has occurred at the height of summer. I would normally have spent my birthday going for a picnic and lunch sitting in the sun by the sea. However being on the other side of the world and the fact that it is mid winter here meant that we had to change our plans this year. My girls, with a little help from my husband made the amazing cake shown above. It was delicious and subsequently didn't last very long.

Luckily for the first time in a couple of weeks the sun decided to come out this weekend and we headed out for a walk in the sunshine with the "elves" at Rivendale in Kaitoke.

According to my daughters the elves use the picnic benches for their lunches and dinners!

Even in mid winter the river looks magical.

The girls insisted on doing a bit of paddling before we left.

Lots of interesting stones!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Dropped off the edge of the world...

Wellington is 1378 miles from Sydney and 11'713 miles from London. It will take you 3 hours to get to Fiji our nearest neighbour and a whopping 26 hours to get from Wellington to London. That's a long way from home and sometimes it feels like we live in a very different world. However at other times we might just be living in a quiet seaside town on the south coast of England as things are so familiar. It is very difficult to explain to people who haven't been to New Zealand how some things are so like home whilst others can be quite alien.

People over here do apparently speak English but sometimes I wonder. I can at times get a bit stuck when people ask me things in shops and it takes me a few seconds to work out what it is they are saying. Its the vowels that cause the problem. A sounds like E and E becomes I. Also, like the Welsh, all the sentences tend to end as if a question is being asked with an upward inflexion. There was a brilliant article by David Killick on the New Zealand accent in the Dominion Post. He quotes Arch Acker's 1996 book "New Zild and How to Speak It".

"It includes such classics as "Air mice poster" ("Air mice poster sleep while you keep making all that noise?") And the answer to the question "Do you speak English?" "Ear sick horse!" (Yes, of course.)"

My eldest daughter is already picking up the accent from Kindy. She has been heard to say "I wuw" for "I will" and "dress" is now "driss". I think its rather cute and I am rather pleased that my daughters will hopefully become proper little kiwis one day!

I was driving back across the hills between Lower Hutt and Porirua where the you pass golf courses and fields of sheep and I had a moment of confusion when I suddenly thought I was back driving across the Somerset countryside and the Mendips. The countryside was so familiar looking. The radio was playing the Eagles and I could have been listening to Radio 2. Its very bizarre how you can be 12'000 miles away and things are so very similar.

However I then got home and began adding the remaining items to our emergency pack before putting it back in the garage. This is something you just don't have to think about back in England. There is a distinct lack of Natural Hazards in the UK - many other unnatural hazards, but not many earthquakes or volcanoes!

Watching the latest episodes of "Torchwood" over the Internet and seeing all the familiar landmarks in Cardiff and London made us both rather homesick. We have both worked in London where you can't help but feel at the centre of things. Out here on an Island on the edge of the Pacific (where even U2 don't come on tour!) you can feel somewhat out of touch with the rest of the world. We still keep in touch with world events via the BBC news website where our part of the world is rarely mentioned. Its like we have fallen off the edge of the world.

However I still don't want to move back. The population of the UK is estimated to be about 61 million, 11 million living in London alone. New Zealand, which is a similar size to the UK, in total has a population of just over 4.1 million. It feels like a country that is just beginning its journey and is full of possibilities. People are generally optimistic and are looking outward for opportunities. The great "overseas experience" is part of the culture. Almost everyone you meet has spent time abroad and brought that experience and world outlook back with them. It is not an insular country and welcomes the diversity of its population. It obviously has its problems as all countries do but after 4 and a bit months here I don't want to return to the UK yet and hope that we can all eventually become Kiwis. "Uzza toe kay"?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Mid Winter Health Scares!

It has been the first week of the mid winter holidays and we have certainly been missing the sun this week. My eldest daughter has been desperately missing Kindy and my husband has been suffering from a bad dose of flu. This meant that the first half of this week has been spent trying to convince him he should be staying in bed and cancelling various play dates we had arranged just in case it was Swine Flu.

We have had our first experience of the health care system in New Zealand this week due to daughter Number 1s ear ache. Luckily we are now registered with our local GPs surgery as we have been on the waiting list for three months. I rang them up in the morning and explained that my daughter had been in tears with ear ache for the last hour and they gave me an appointment at 12 o'clock. Something that would never have happened in the UK - we always had to wait at least a day or two to get to see our last UK GP.

So I gave my daughter some Ibuprofen and we headed down there at twelve. Parked the car and hopped out and my daughter announced that her ear was no longer hurting. She skipped all the way to the Surgery and chatted to the receptionist looking the picture of health. I found myself sounding very unconvincing when the Doctor could see nothing wrong with her ear and I was saying "honestly she was in tears earlier from the pain"! Typical four year old behaviour!

The Doctor was very nice and I certainly felt we had more time to see him than in the UK - it was less of a conveyor belt service. But then we do have to pay for it here. I still feel somewhat uncomfortable handing over money to someone who has your, or your child's health in their hands. I feel (unreasonably I know) that people should provide your health care out of the goodness of their hearts, rather than charging money. I guess that's the result of growing up with National Health Service!

The Doctor asked if we had any health insurance and I had to be honest and say that no, we hadn't thought about that yet. I suddenly felt like a very poor parent, moving to a foreign country with no kind of health cover for my children. We had researched it briefly before we moved and knew that we were covered for emergencies and we had come across the statistic that 70% of people in New Zealand do not have health insurance. This reassured us somewhat and thought we would organise it when we got over here. Of course life overtakes you and its something we haven't got round to doing yet - but clearly according to this Doctor we should do something about it now!

So obviously the first thing I do is have a chat with my neighbour about it. Her summing up of the health service in New Zealand is not great - she thinks the service is shoddy and the waiting lists huge. She has spent time living in the UK and thinks the NHS is great compared to the services in New Zealand. Oh great - is my immediate reaction. I have never thought that much of the NHS, its overstretched and under resourced in my experience - so what must it be like in New Zealand!

Well luckily we are all reasonably healthy at the moment and hopefully we will stay that way - but just in case we will be researching Health Insurance Policies this weekend!

The biggest news in the Brunt household this week is the arrival of the much awaited new mattress for our bed. We have been sleeping on inflatable mattresses and a futon for the last 4 months - so our first night in a proper bed was bliss! So yes Mum and Dad - you will have a very comfy bed to sleep on when you come to visit - we won't be giving you the futon, no matter how much my husband protests!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Bugs n Bugs

I think either flu or the dreaded "Swine flu" has hit the Brunt household this week. My poor husband has spent most of Sunday feeling very sorry for himself and wrapped up in a duvet on the sofa. Last time I looked at the news there have been over 229 confirmed cases of Swine Flu in Wellington. I would imagine that there are a lot more cases were people have just been looking after themselves at home without bothering the medical services. The symptoms appear to be fairly mild in most cases and the Department of Health advises people to not worry unless they have an underlying medical problem.

The girls have both had cold/flu symptoms over the last couple of weeks but are obviously feeling better today as they have been dancing around the living room to Abba hits all morning. They have spent the last week examining bugs and insects in the back garden and attempting to identify them in the "Big Book of Bugs" that we've borrowed from our local library. We have a slightly more interesting array of insects in New Zealand than in the UK. At least things seem to be made rather larger over here. Luckily there are only two poisonous spiders in New Zealand and they are both very shy and rarely seen (the Katipo and Redback Spider). There has not been a confirmed death from one in the last 100 years. I still told the girls not to touch any spiders in our back garden just in case!

We found some rather spectacular stick insects and what I think is some sort of Mantis on our front door.

The girls would also like to say a big thank you to Great Nan and Grandad who sent the teddy, doll and sweeties all the way from the UK. They were both really pleased to discover the parcel in the post box yesterday, and as you can tell from the pictures they were very happy with the toys. Thanks Nan and Grandad. XX