20 December 2006

Last day of school

Wednesday 20 December 2006

8:35 pm

Today was the last day of school for the kids. It was a half day, and it ended in an assembly meant to say goodbye to the graduating year 8 students. I caught only the last 45 minutes of the assembly, but I was so impressed with the school. The tone was lovely—small performances of students (songs, instrumentals, etc., in English and in Maori), sweet short speeches from the faculty, quick tributes to music teachers and beloved classroom teachers. It ended with a short goodbye from Naomi’s teacher Mr. Te Maro (who seemed to be master of ceremonies) and a rousing rendition of “jingle bell rock” sung by children in shorts and tee shirts singing, “Dancing and prancing in Jingle Bell Square/In the frosty air,” and then saying goodbye for summer vacation. As people were filing out, a father from the back row got the children to say hip hip hooray for the teachers. It was like every parent’s dream of a small, tight knit school community, with each of the teachers (there might be 12 teachers in the school) smiling with pure pleasure, and each of the students clapping wildly for their classmates. I was moved by the spirit and the love in the room.

It’s evening now, and the kids are eating their hot bread at the table next to me, where I can see the rough sea through the side window and watch the pohutuka (po-hoot-a-cow-Ah) trees (www.opotiki.com/data/pohutuka.htm) blow in the stiff wind. It’s a snug and homey scene. It’s been a wild weather day. In the morning, I watched from my study as the rain moved in horizontal sheets through the trees up the hills behind the house. Then the rain blew away and we had bright blue skies and fierce winds and huge waves (for the last several days, the sea has seemed so quiet that it looked more like a lake than an ocean). Now there’s a front moving through that’s supposed to bring driving cold rain from the south. A vigorous weather system here in this little island in the middle of the pacific.

We had the last of the appliances finished off today, highlighting one of the central differences of life in New Zealand (the other main differences being the cost of living, the fact that it’s a little island nation, and the taste of the butter). We ordered the new appliances on Sunday, and they were all installed on Monday—20 minutes earlier than promised. When the guy couldn’t finish installing the dryer (because they hang them upside down from the walls here), he made a call and found someone to do it before even telling me about it. I knew they couldn’t install the new hob, so on Monday I called the number recommended by the appliance store. No they couldn’t install our hob, the nice lady told me. But when I told her just what we needed, she thought maybe they oculd do it after all, she’d call the fellow who’d do it. She called me back. Yes, they’d do it, but this was a busy week—how was Tuesday afternoon? I couldn’t do it Tuesday but could do it any other day. Ok, well, how about this afternoon? He’d be there in an hour. And so he was, Rudi, a delightful bloke who installed the hob and then helped Michael switch around the fridge and then took down a picture I hated which was screwed into the wall. Then he gave us a number for the electrician (which we promptly lost). We called Rudi back, he gave us the number, and the electrician was there in two hours, finished in two and a half. Each of these people came just when promised, was incredibly kind and warm, and did his job with skill and flair. Astonishing.

So, it’s been that kind of day, a stay-at-home-and-make-bread kind of day. A day when I met Raima, who came over to talk about helping with the house a little and stayed for 1.5 hours, telling me about the village and life in New Zealand and offering to give me phone numbers for the variety of folks it’d be good for us to know. A day when the kids and I took two outings to the beach (can you call it an outing when it’s just crossing the street?) and climbed on rocks and dug in the sand in the roaring waves. A day which will be followed by a seriously bad storm, we think, which will (according to reports) blow out to sea and then be fine again.

Christmas presents from my father and Jamie came yesterday, and they shine merrily under the tree reminding us of family and friends across the ocean who love us. (Dad and Jamie, I haven’t been so good as you, and your presents are not yet mailed. Think of how they’ll extend the Christmas celebration…). Love to all of you on the eve of winter, from us about to celebrate the summer solstice.



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