“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center.” Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

"The Silly Season"

Here's me, on the left, and Eric, Barb, and Darin at Shakespear Regional Park, north of Auckland. We had a picnic on Christmas day. We brought our snorkel gear, but decided to play Bocce ball instead. Darin and I won the first game, but lost the second and so had to do the dishes after dinner. Dinner was hosted by Barb and Eric, who served a lovely beef rib roast (from one of the Daves- both cows had the same name). The flower is on a Pohutukawa (sp?) tree, also known as the New Zealand Christmas tree. The weather was very nice.

The cats got a kitty "sky tower" for Christmas, as you can see in the photo. The window looks out to the west Waitakere hills, and lot of birds fly around that window. The Mynah birds steal the neigbor dog's food (their dog is named Jazz, too!) on the neigbor's patio, opposite our window. Jazz (our cat) managed to work open the window in the bathroom I had cracked for ventilation the other night, and escaped the house. We called and looked, shining our flashlights (torches) in the dark, under the thick vegitation in our yard and our neighbor's, to no avail. He returned the next morning, fortunately, but I see he has a fine scratch on his nose. He must have met the neighbor's cat. Serves him right. I hope he was cold too.

Monday, December 25, 2006


The Thursday before Christmas, 11 employees from my company went fishing out of Mercury Bay, on the Coromandel peninsula. We had to meet at the office at 4:30 am, drive about 3.5 hours, then slosh around in the boat all day, and ride another 3.5 hours back to Auckland. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous. Too bad the wind blew all day, hard, and it rained, too. But, you know what they say- a bad day fishing is still better than working. I caught only 2 fish, but the captain split the catch between the 5 of us. The snapper are a beautiful fish- pink with blue spots (and delicate and delicious). I look forward to returning to visit the Coromandel again, but I think I can skip fishing again for awhile. I enjoy eating fish (tuna, salmon, bass, snapper, halibut, lincod...), but as a scuba diver, I know the marine environment is under serious pressure. By fishing, I am part of the problem. The issue is a complicated one, and obviously I don't hold recreational fishing responsible for declining fishstocks. By going out to get the fish myself, at least I can remind myself of the sacrifice of the animal, instead of buying a piece of meat in the store. Does this make me less inclined to eat meat? No. But I do feel like I earned that delicious meat, and enjoy it all the more.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Parade in Swanson

Here's a few photos from the Swanson Christmas parade. Barbara and Jim (elf and Santa) are Barb and Eric's neighbors. We discovered why no one here gets excited about dressing up for Halloween. People do it instead for Christmas (the parade anyway). The parade was small, as this is a small town, even with the next town over(Ranui) joining in.
As a Christmas gift from my company, we got to take Friday the 22nd off with pay. I also got a free-range turkey (costs about $35 here!), a bottle of champagne, a jar of cranberry sauce, and little mince tarts. That was very nice, but I am peeved that I, as well as the rest of the staff, was required to take vacation days Dec. 27-29. They wanted to close the office and if you needed to work, you needed your supervisor's permission. I think I should have discretion as to when I take my vacation, instead of having it imposed on me. I can't get too upset about it though, as I can really use the time off now to get moved into the house. We still need to do home improvements (paint, put carpet in) before we can move furniture in, and we need to buy a bedroom set since we don't have anywhere to put our clothes, so we're limited in what we can do. Today, Darin put together the cat "sky tower" and the cats are both sleeping on the top roost, cuddled up together. Awww, so cute!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

moving into our new house

After living with my sister and brother in law for the past 10 weeks, I'm ready for independence. Darin and I got the keys to the house on Friday Dec. 16. We still ate dinner with them on the weekend. Barb cooked up some of her freshly butchered cow, mmmm.
Now that we're in the house, we see all the details we missed before. Darin has been working full time to get the place in order. We picked up our TV, stereo surround sound, dvd player, coffee maker, microwave, dryer, dishwasher, telephone, and some other stuff I'm probably forgetting. The dryer has to be mounted upside-down above the washer- fairly common here, if you even have a dryer. Most everyone hangs laundry on the clothesline. We will do this too but it's good to have the dryer for when it rains, as it does reguarly here, like today. He had to drill a hole in the exterior wall to put the exhaust duct through. He also put a latch on the sliding door from the kitchen to the laundry room, so we can confine the cats in there temporarily. The cats have a couple nice windows with wide ledges to look out into the front and side yard. We are trying to adapt them to the new surroundings slowly in hopes that this will avoid any behavioral problems.
I found the dishes and got groceries. My attempt to use the oven to make our first meal in the house was a frustrating experience. This stove is electronic and has no instruction book, and is not at all user friendly. Darin sat in front of it for 10 min trying to get it to turn on and stay on. He got it to work but is not sure how. We just got internet connection today, so we'll search around to maybe download instructions.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Lure Coursing in New Zealand

We were invited to join a group of sighthound owners to come lure coursing on Sunday. The weather could not have been nicer, and the scenery was of cows ("beefies") and red deer grazing in the paddocks. Wendy, our host, is a Borzoi breeder we met at a dog show a few weeks ago, and has a lot of property south of Auckland. She is just getting started in lure coursing. She took this photo of Cerebus, shown on the right, and I took one of her Borzoi, on the left. Barb, Darin, and I brought Fargo and Cerebus out for fun with the other dogs: a young Norwegian Elkhound, several Whippets, and several Borzoi. Fargo, the Rottie, is not fast but demonstrated for all watching the enormous "drive" that motivates him to chase the lure. He had such a great time, as did Cerebus. Afterwards we had a BBQ at Wendy's house.
Barb and Eric got 3 new calves on Saturday. One of them will be for Darin and me. They are Angus x Fresian.
The turkeys had taken up residence across the road a ways, and on Saturday we went down to try to herd them back. A neighbor managed to catch one after it ran up his driveway, and Darin caught another, and they are now back on Barb and Eric's property. We hope they'll stay this time, but really have no way to keep them here. The third hen was not in sight when we caught the other two, but she's still around- probably sitting on eggs.
The cicadas hatched today in the Auckland Domain. I walk through there almost daily, between buildings for work, and yesterday it was quiet. Today, the trees were buzzing loudly. None out in Swanson, yet. Soon I'm sure.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

New Zealand Residence

We got our NZ Residence Visas this week, yay! Now Darin can get a job if he wants, and we can come and go from the country as we please. The process went surprisingly fast. I submitted the Skilled Migrant application October 19, added a few documents to complete the application in early November, and we had a letter from the Immigration office at the end of Nov. We gave them our US passports, and they sent them back about 10 days later with the residence visa and returning resident's permit stamps.
The whole process has taken less than a year. I began applying for a Work Permit back in April 2006, and had it by the end of May. We later (June I think) applied for residence by first submitting an Expression of Interest. I had already completed the chest xray, medical review, and police certificate for my work permit, but Darin was not included in the work permit- he had to enter the country with a return flight and visitor's permit, only good for a few months. He would have applied for an extension if the residence app. were not approved so fast.

The photos are of Fargo and me at Bethell's Beach, a 20 min drive from our home. Isn't he handsome? Too bad his movement is such a mess. Still he loves to run, and got a real workout chasing the ball. He needs to be ready to run lure coursing this weekend! The borzoi breeder we met at the dog show invited us to come out this Sunday.

I've taken the train to work 3 days in the past week, and it's very comfortable. The train station in Swanson is kept very clean and nice, and I get on near the end of the line so there's always free seats to choose. By the time we get another 2 stops along the line, the train is full at commute time. It's $5 each way, but it's more affordable if you buy a pass. It takes about an hour to get to work on the train, which is about what the drive takes in commuter traffic.

In other news, our shipping container was delivered on Monday. Darin and the movers put it into the garage at our new house (we don't move in until Dec 15). MAF inspected 28 boxes, but approved everything! "Sweet as" is how they would express pleasure in NZ. I retrieved the dog toenail clippers last night, but not much else is accessable.

In animal updates, the cows got sacrificed today. They've gone to the butcher for processing. Darin saved the liver and hearts for dog and cat food. Fargo barely chewed the big chunk of boiled liver I fed him for dinner. The cats are doing ok. Darin made them a great toy with some feathers we saved from the turkeys. We saw the turkeys crossing the road on Monday- they are still preferring to hang around the neighbor's lifestyle block.