Tuesday 12 December 2006
8:07 pm NZ/ 2:07am DC
Hello Friends and family,
I’m sitting in Trish and Keith’s quiet kitchen, Michael reading Aidan a bedtime story and everyone else out. The wind is whipping fiercely through the trees, moaning and howling, and the clouds are racing across the sky, seeing who can get to the hills first. The weather in NZ is always interesting. When we were here in April, we discovered that when you ask people what the weather will be like today, they answer in long paragraphs about fronts and southerlies and when the wind turns to the north. We thought this was a quirk, a meteorological love that came from being so far away from any other place. We were wanting a simple answer (“colder than yesterday” or “the rain will stop in the afternoon”). It turns out, though, that there is no simple answer. People answer in these complex ways because the weather here is so complex. The direction of the wind really matters, and the odds are excellent that the direction will turn—and change the whole game—over the course of the day.
This has been the wettest winter on record, followed by the coldest spring. We’re still walking on the beach in two or three layers, although Naomi and Keith went swimming yesterday after a fierce game of soccer, and then large sandcastles were built by all. I have a feeling there are serious numbers of sandcastles in my future. One good weather story: Today, on a field trip (explained below), I was talking to a lovely woman about how cold the weather is (the people here, upon finding that we have just arrived, are universally apologetic about the weather). This woman explained the severity of the cold by recounting that when she went to buy her Christmas tree over the weekend, she actually wore her DOWN jacket to buy the tree—astonishing, isn’t that? I, who have always worn my down jacket to buy a Christmas tree, didn’t quite know how to muster up the proper shock and awe about the chilly December weather.
It has been a busy couple of days since I last wrote, so this may be scattered and confused. Today the children started school. It’s the last full week of school here, so there are lots of extra activities. Aidan had a field trip to the Queen Elizabeth park (http://www.gw.govt.nz/section404.cfm) which I’m looking at right now from the dining table at Trish and Keith’s. I went with them as a chaperone on the field trip, and found myself pretty useless as I don’t have any idea what the norms are (were the children allowed to chase each other with sticks? Were they allowed to climb the trees? I didn’t know). But Aidan seemed utterly normal, as though he had been going to school in NZ for some time. When we arrived at school this morning, a bouncy blonde boy (who claimed to come from Holland “5 or 600 ago”) asked the teacher “Shall I look after him?” and thus Aidan was befriended in seconds. Naomi had a similar experience, deciding that she would, after all, stay for the overnight class campout in the school yard (she’s in a luxurious tent as I write, but boy is it chilly outside). Her only problem was in trying to figure out whose tent to sleep in so as not to offend the others who wanted her. The children, it would seem, are adjusting beautifully.
Michael and I have been mostly doing errands—small things like figuring out about peanut butter (which they have lots of) and unsweetened chocolate (can it be that there is NONE in the whole country?) and big things like test driving cars and signing the papers on the new house. These errands, like errands in the
We saw our house for the first time today. Having never bought a house on the internet (I won’t even buy something so personal—and expensive—as shoes on the internet), we were most concerned. And while the house is in total disarray (after all, the current owners are moving out on Friday), and looks quite smaller than I had thought, there were lovely surprises, too—the deep dark color of the hardwood floors, the soaring high ceilings, the fantastic plantings in the garden (including the lemon tree with a single green lemon off of the back deck). The house is about a 5 minute walk to the school and a 90 second walk to the beach. We’re now arranging to fill it with borrowed furniture for the 2 months before the container arrives with our things. I’m looking forward to painting and renovating and planting.
Michael and I range wildly in our moods. Sometimes, this feels like an amazingly stupid move, and other times it feels like we have just moved to paradise. And often we are in between, awed by the beauty which is everywhere, and overwhelmed by the differences between the life we used to have and the life it looks like we’re having now. We will finish this week of new beginnings—finding a new car on Monday, kids starting school on Tuesday, Michael starting work on Wednesday, closing on the house on Friday—and then we’ll move into a different phase, where we try to celebrate Hanukah and Christmas and have summer vacation (simultaneously) as we begin our new life in our new house.
We are grateful to you all for your company on this journey.