Monday, 30 May 2016

First days exploring

I had spent so long saying to the girls how much I was looking forward to living by the sea, Susannah was rather disappointed to find that our house is not a sea front property with immediate access to a beach.

But, it is only a bus journey away. On our first morning in New Zealand we were keen to start exploring. We bought our 'Snapper' cards for the bus and headed into the centre. After the long flights followed by fitful jet-lagged sleep, it was wonderful to get to the harbour - looking sparkly in the Autumn sun.  It had been a stormy night, but we have had a rapid introduction to the changing weather of Wellington - blowing a gale one minute, and clear blue skies the next. 

Occasionally dolphins and rays can be seen in the waters, but I suspect not all that often and we made do with some little fish darting along the harbour edge. Bruce introduced me to the NZ cafe culture with my first flat white, and we wandered along to the museum Te Papa.

We concentrated on the natural history section, including some hands on activities and even the opportunity to crawl through a life size model of a blue whale heart! 

On the second day we were back down into the centre. We were starting to notice errors in our packing - my waterproof in a shipping container instead of plane luggage.  So we did a mixture of shopping and absorbing the sights and sounds of Wellington.

Looking back, these early days are a bit of a blur. We hit huge waves of tiredness in the late afternoon or early evening. But we also managed to buy groceries and get meals on the table. I obtained an NZ driving licence (a straight forward, friendly process). We unpacked, and the girls tried to work out how to personalise their rooms in the absence of their usual home comforts.

Also, early in our time here we had a lovely treat from our next door neighbours. Their elder daughter (who is a year younger than Pippa) made a fabulous chocolate cake to welcome us. She came in with her parents and sister to chat a bit. It was great to meet some friendly faces nearby and find out more about the local school and amenities from them.

On Sunday, I went to the Quaker meeting. I hadn't necessarily thought I would get there on the first weekend with the need to settle as a family, but in the end it seemed natural to fit it in and I was off again on our number 3 bus that seems to serve us well from suburb to town.

On Sunday afternoon we went for a drive: more views - this time from the top of Mount Victoria, and a 'proper' beach at Scorching Bay.

From Mount Victoria you can see across the harbour to hills beyond. Although Wellington surrounds a harbour it also has peninsulas so you can see sea and mountains in lots of directions. If you lose your bearings, there is a large sculpture pointing due south.

We chose Scorching Bay for our beach visit largely because we liked the name of its cafe Scorch o Rama! Also, on-line recommendations suggested it was one of the best beaches in the area.

We weren't disappointed. It is indeed a lovely spot and I'm sure we'll visit again. It is too cold for bathing this time of year, but bare foot is perfectly acceptable and quite the norm for Kiwis.

The Cafe will also no doubt receive multiple visits. Ice creams, brownies, coffees: all good!

Our first weekend drew to a close, and with Bruce going back to work it felt as though we would need to start moving on from being tourists on holiday to longer term residents of this gem of a city.

More on that anon...


Thursday, 26 May 2016

Welcome to Wellington

We've been here two weeks now and already the journey seems a long time ago.

We were lucky with the flights. Susannah hadn't been in a plane before, and Pippa was a baby last time she flew but they set themselves up with headphones and watched the hours away like seasoned travellers. There was hardly anyone on the first leg - to Singapore - so we could spread out and lie across seats for some sleep (we set off late evening).

We found the recommended roof top pool for a freshen up at Chingi airport, but sadly the butterfly garden was in darkness by the time we got round to that just before boarding to Brisbane, our last stop before New Zealand. If you are going long haul, in my limited experience, Singapore airlines with a stopover in Singapore (even just for a couple of hours or so) is a pretty fine way to do it.

Of course when flying from Brisbane to Wellington most of the journey is over the sea, but it was a beautiful morning and when we reached the dramatic coastline of the South Island we could tell why people love it so much.

Going through the airport in Wellington went smoothly - visas checked and boots declared suitably mud-free. The passport official was the first to welcome us to New Zealand.

The next to welcome us were Bruce's colleague with his teenage daughter who had both helped set up our rented house with some basics. With various items of furniture lent by other colleagues, some hospice shop kitchenware and groceries in the fridge and cupboard we could start to settle in straight away. We even had homemade cookies and cake, and tulips on the table. Thank you to the Wilsons and other university folks who helped make this happen.

So that was us, arriving in Wellington and made to feel welcome. More about our first few days exploring in the next post...

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Packing it in

Well, this is it. This evening we fly to New Zealand via Singapore and Brisbane - too far for a direct flight of course. We arrive on Thursday afternoon local time.

What a full few months it has been. I emptied my handbag as part of the packing last week. Pulling out tickets and receipts I found Fame tickets from when Pippa was in the Rare Productions performance in February, Bounce info for an early, early birthday trampolining outing for Susannah, and Act Out tickets from Susannah's drama performance in April. Bruce missed these, along with so many other events that happened before his return nearly two weeks ago. He was back just in time for the rather stunning ballet show, and then the packing up for the move.

Since February, when he has been busy getting his feet under his desk (or perhaps it should be lab bench?) in Wellington, I've been navigating a hectic family pretty much as a single parent with Facetime as my prop. I am so grateful for the fantastic support from friends and neighbours who helped with practical and emotional needs - from occasional school pick ups to washing tent pegs to be packed in a shipping container to thoughtful discussions with the girls about how they are feeling about the exciting but daunting move ahead.

We've had loads of jobs to get through to prepare the house for new tenants: including installing a new bathroom, boiler replacement, and work on the electrics. We also had to prepare for packing the house - the charity shops in Stony are well stocked, the younger cousins are benefiting from the latest set of hand downs, and the recycling bags have been filled with old university notes and as much paperwork as I have managed to sort out. Unfortunately, although huge progress was made there is lots to get on top of when it reaches us in Wellington, and it was disheartening to have to send so much junk to land fill - we acquire so much that ends up being of no use or pleasure to anyone.

But while all of this has kept us busy (not to mention my trying to continue with actual work work), it has been the hidden job that has taken the most emotional energy. That is giving enough time to tend to the needs of the girls: wiping away tears, recognising when cuddles are needed, creating special moments to treasure, and trying not to get too snippy when we are all tired and have had enough. They missed Bruce enormously (having him back has been so lovely), they are sad about leaving friends, they don't want to say good bye. It's not been easy, but this has given us an opportunity to develop our relationships, to be reminded of what's important (people not possessions), and to keep a sense of being grounded while being uprooted.

This is turning into a rather long blog post now, but for obvious reasons it has been a tad hectic of late!

There are a couple of major episodes from recent weeks that we hadn't anticipated and I am happy to get to today and know that these did not become the straw that broke the camel's back. These both involved hospital visits and so now is a good opportunity to update friends on the latest health news:

Firstly, Susannah's foot. The pain that resulted in a trip to A&E for an X-ray and a week or so on crutches has subsided somewhat and to everyone's relief and her own great enjoyment, she was able to take part in the ballet show. The follow up MRI scan showed a small patch of oedema (swelling) in one joint in the ankle area and so the likely diagnosis is bone bruising. It is still bothering her occasionally, but helped by ibuprofen. If it continues, we'll be testing the New Zealand healthcare system to try and get to the bottom of it.

Secondly, Dad's cracked bones and troublesome heart. He's recovering well in hospital. The fall from his bike was over a month ago and the ribs and shoulder are no longer giving him as much pain. I hesitate to give too much detail in this public space, but he has had an angiogram which thankfully showed no blockage, and he now awaits the fitting of an ICD (implantable cardioverter defibrillator - a bit like a pacemaker but designed to shock the heart back into a regular rhythm when it detects abnormalities). He is no longer requiring the strong drugs that made him very confused, and he is now able to walk around the ward unaided. He has been allowed his laptop as he was starting to get bored! It is good to be boarding the flight knowing that he should be home soon.

The last week has passed in a bit of a blur. We had Pickfords in for three days packing all our belongings, and on the fourth day they loaded it all into a shipping container. It will be July before we see it again. And I don't need to hear your horror stories of containers being dropped in the ocean never to be seen again thank you very much. The house was cleaned professionally and looks great. Lucky tenant!

We partied the weekend away with dear friends.

Bruce has found us somewhere to live in Karori - a large suburb in Wellington - and it was lovely to get an email with a few more details about the house and neighbourhood, including learning there is a family next door with three kids who go to the same local school we hope Pippa and Susannah will go to. We've had so many goodbyes our hearts ache, but it is so exciting to look forward to the fantastic adventure ahead.

Each day is bringing something new. The girls haven't even been on a plane before - what a long journey for their first. Personally, I can't wait to sit down, have my meals brought to me, and to get stuck into a good book!

Here is are a few photos from recent events.

Kia Ora!