Year 5 as an Expat

year five as an expat

It’s sinking in now, after five years, that I’ve really made the break with my old life back in the States. I still think back to a night in Costa Rica after I first arrived, asking myself how long I would really be gone for. I know the farthest ahead I thought was five years. At the time, I just shook my head, not being able to comprehend where I’d be. Live in the moment and take it one day at a time. Here I am, over 1,825 days later, staring permanent residency in New Zealand right in the face.

Waipukurau town

This past year saw us moving from the South Island to the North Island to a town much smaller than the previous one. I’ve made quite a few friends and love how there will be freshly picked fruits and veggies left on my doorstep by the neighbour. Another is raising a couple of lambs, who have now become friendly with humans. I even got to scratch one behind the ears and watch that big tail wag back and forth. Little do they know they’ll be ending up as dinner soon. When I make a sad face, she reminds me, “That’s how us Kiwi roll!”

New Zealand lambs
Sniff, sniff.

Thanksgiving is always interesting in New Zealand. This time, I found myself trying to stuff a wild turkey into a very small oven and subsequently overcooking most of it. I’m getting better at remembering what Fahrenheit to Celsius is and I can even rattle off how much a cup of flour or 1/2 a cup of butter weighs in grams! I’m embracing centimetres and millimetres and trying to spell them correctly even though it looks SO wrong.

wild turkey in small oven

I’ve also learned (I haven’t gotten to the point of saying ‘learnt’) that things we say in America such as ‘parking lot’ and ‘rental’ don’t really exist here. It would be more like ‘car park’ and ‘hire.’ A ‘sidewalk’ is a ‘foot path’, ‘calling in’ doesn’t mean picking up the phone…it means ‘coming in.’ If you want something from a restaurant ‘to go,’ you’d have a ‘take away’ instead.  Some things I’m still not budging on, like that one. I’m holding onto some of my roots!

You rarely find a burger joint in a small town but you’ll almost always find an Indian restaurant. You’ll also have a choice of at least two bakeries. In almost all of the places you go to eat, you won’t have a waiter. You order at a counter and pay your bill there when you’re done. Want some water? It’s over there in the corner…help yourself.

Garden before the sunburn hit.

The veggie garden really suffered from the intense sun…making my tomatoes and peppers sustain a sunburn like I’ve never seen before. It literally burned right through them. I was only able to salvage a few tomatoes and had to cover the peppers. I’ve been told that the ozone layer over Hawke’s Bay is minimal and I believe it. I’ve never felt sun as intense as it is here…even when I was close to the equator in Guyana. Next year I’ll have to set up a large shade somehow and plant strategically. The cucumbers did well, finding places to hide under other plants and the strawberries didn’t seem to mind much either. And by the way, a bell pepper is called a capsicum and zucchini’s are courgettes in case you ever find yourself down under.

huge strawberry

The one good thing about living here are the beaches. Unspoiled, not too crowded and more sun than you can handle. You’ll usually find yourself alone after 3pm on any given one. The water is a tad bit warmer up this way and I managed to get in up to my shins recently for the first time EVER. There are a string of them, each with their own feel. It’s nice to have a choice and to be able to walk on sand instead of rock.

Hawke's Bay beach

I have to agree with my mother that the South Island seems to be more beautiful than the North. I don’t see those gorgeous blue rivers here or deep, clear lakes. I know where to go to see gigantic eels and finding newborn lambs is never a problem. Even though it takes 35 minutes to get to the nearest large town, the drive is scenic and makes me glad we didn’t live there after all.

Peka Peka wetlands
Peka Peka wetlands on the way to Hastings

Fall has arrived with cooler nights to prove it and soon the leaves will be changing and I’ll be scouting out places to take photos. I’ll miss seeing all of the vineyards in their endless array of colours, but our community has a lot of spectacular gardens and smaller vineyards aren’t far away. The long stop bank where we ride bikes has fruit orchards, so those hold some promise as well.

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Earthquake map showing the hot spots being along the east coast.

Although we’re still in earthquake prone territory, I think I’ve only felt a handful over the past year. Exciting and scary at the same time, I keep telling myself to prepare my ‘bug out bag’ and have a plan, but I have yet to do so. I’m guessing most people here don’t. Again, maybe that’s just how the Kiwi’s roll.

So another year down and the fascination is wearing off. I’ll get back on a plane in a couple of months and get my fill of travel, clocking well over 21,000 miles in a 4 week period. I would have thought by 2018 we would have the ability to teleport. But then the old saying of “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey” would take on a whole new meaning!

Freaky clouds over Waipukurau
I live in a great place to view the weather!

 

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Te Angiangi Marine Reserve

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve

From our humble little town of Waipukurau, we are about a 30 minute drive to the coastline. There are quite a few beaches, all very different from each other which makes choosing our favourite a bit difficult. We decided yesterday that this one in particular, would be our go-to beach. It was a bit off the beaten track, having to travel about 6km along a dirt road to get there.

I only just read about this Te Angiangi Marine Reserve in our local paper last week. The story behind it was that there was a massive landslide in 2011 which was caused by 25 inches of rain over a 4 day period. It was then triggered by a 4.5 earthquake nearby. The result: most of that hill in the above picture slid into the ocean, disturbing sea and bird life. However, it has now started to recover and we went to check it out.

With the prospect of seeing octopi searching for food in the shallows, I got pretty excited. There are even sightings of dolphin, seals and orca in this bay in the summer. They call this Stingray Bay, although I didn’t see any or read any reference to them being there. Sometimes bays are named for their shape, so that could be the case here. Although stingrays do inhabit these waters.

As usual, I took quite a few photos so I’ll just talk about them below.

This was the first view of the huge hill from the parking lot. You can see where the part of the slide happened on this side.

The reserve starts about where I was standing to take this photo of the beach in the distance. We got there as the tide was going out, luckily. It was quite shallow but became even more so about 30 minutes later.

We walked the track for a while which led to the reserve and saw a bunch of sheep headed toward us. I couldn’t help but wonder if any had been caught in the slide. It seemed like a pretty scary place to be walking, considering. Then I noticed this bone down near the water, which I assume was from a sheep and wondered if it had been a victim.

Orange signs showing the reserve boundary

I love wind swept trees and I don’t see nearly as many here as I did on the South Island.

Getting down to the beach put me into shiny object syndrome mode. I move pretty slowly once I get immersed in things that have been washed up.

Some of the first things I saw were urchin shells (or Kina in the Maori language). I’m pretty sure I ended up with a spine in my foot, which is still bothering me.

Also washed up were these Neptune’s necklace (sea grapes or bubbleweed), which were in abundance in the shallows as well. They are a type of seaweed. Once the tide went out, they were exposed, creating a field of yellow.

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve neptune's neclace

Washed up on shore were a few of these hairy crabs and even some Portuguese man-o-war jellies. Yikes. I read that immersing the wound, should you get stung, in as hot of water as you can stand for 20 minutes is what you should do. Heated sea water works and even urine, if nothing else is available. But to definitely NOT use fresh water on it and to try and remove the stingers with a dry towel.

Cormorants (or Shags) are common everywhere.

I was able to spot some cute starfish, mostly hidden under rocks. I bet this place is crawling at night with all sorts of neat stuff! For the first time ever, I even saw small shrimp! I wasn’t able to get a good photo, though.

Cuddling starfish, how cute is THAT?

Then we spotted this creepy worm-like thing. I saw one later, much smaller, writhing like it was having a fit while floating in the water. Once it touched bottom, it straightened out and crawled along.

Also under the rocks were these dark, what I dubbed ‘Tarantula Crabs,’ which freaked out looking for cover.

I had been too busy looking down to take notice of these cool rocks that were everywhere. I read that they are called mudstone. Their appearance is due to the expansion and contraction of the material, which causes these geometric shapes and also makes them very fragile. It reminded me of dinosaurs with those hard armour shells.

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve mudstone

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve mudstone

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve mudstone

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve mudstone

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve mudstone

Those are limpets stuck in there. They talk about the golden limpet in this area, which I saw a few of in the water. I’m not sure exactly what they do, but they appear to make some deep marks in the rock and you could see evidence of where some had been before by their oval shapes.

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve golden limpet

It had gotten pretty hot yesterday and at the time of this photo, this was as deep in the ocean as I had ever gotten in New Zealand for the past 4 years I’ve lived here! I’m proud to say I made it up to right below my knees for a few minutes later on in the day.

Andy spotted these tiny snail shells on a rock, but you couldn’t tell just how small they were so I added my finger to the next one to show you.

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve snails

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve snails

The views toward the beach were great as the clouds made a nice reflection on the top of the water. There were patches of eel grass as well. The photo of it looks surreal with the cloud reflection

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve eel grass

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve

We finally hit the sandy beach but after 4 hours of being out there, got to be a bit much with no shade. Dehydration crept up and we came back to town for some cold drinks.

We were then graced with an amazing sunset that night. No Photoshop needed, folks. Summer is FINALLY here. Although with no a/c in the house, I’m feeling almost like I’m back in Central America (minus the monkeys and birds and sloths).

Waipukurau sunset Hawke's Bay

Waipukurau sunset Hawke's Bay

Another post soon once my Cherokee purple tomatoes start to change colour and an update on the garden!

 

 

Sources: http://www.academia.edu/8625105/Effects_of_catastrophic_coastal_landslides_on_the_Te_Angiangi_Marine_Reserve_Hawkes_Bay_New_Zealand

http://www.doc.govt.nz/Documents/conservation/marine-and-coastal/marine-protected-areas/te-angiangi-marine-reserve-brochure.pdf

A Wild Turkey Thanksgiving

Wild turkey roadside new zealand
Run away! Run away! You’re not safe in late November!

If you know me, you know my plight every year when Thanksgiving rolls around. Scrounging up money to buy a turkey that’s about the size of a large chicken at 4 or 5 times the cost. To a turkey lover, such as myself, it’s a necessary evil. All year round, I think about Thanksgiving…waiting for it to arrive. THAT’S how much I love turkey and the great memories it brings of being with family and friends. I stock up on the jellied cranberry sauce from the American store in Auckland and look forward to turkey sandwiches for a couple of days after the shindig.

We drove to the beach one day, which is a good 35 minute trek through gorgeous rolling hillsides with happy, grass munching sheep and I spotted a flock (or rafter) of turkeys in a field! Our mouths started to water and I kidded how I was going to make a mental note of where they were when November rolled around. As we drove a bit further and rounded a bend, a huge black turkey was perched on a fence post. I’d never wanted to have an animal jump in front of the car as badly as I did right then. I would have gladly taken that piece of roadkill home and saved us $65.

A few days later, I was with a couple of friends and asked if they knew of any turkey farmers in the area so I could get a cheap one for Thanksgiving. Liz said there were wild ones all over the place and to just go out and kill one. HAH! I didn’t actually realize they were wild…I had heard of farmers who had them so it never occurred to me that these were free roamers. I blew off the idea because I couldn’t actually kill an animal and clean it. I recall getting ill in biology class when we had to dissect a worm. I was promptly dismissed from my duties when the teacher saw how white my face had turned.

No more than two days later, there was a knock at my door and Liz stood there, looking quite sporty in her hat and gumboots. She proudly proclaimed that she had a turkey for me! I was like, “Huh?” Her son and husband had shot four of them and asked if I wanted one. I went to the truck and they opened the back of it…lying dead as door nails were four big, black turkeys.

Now I felt guilty. There was no way I could bring myself to plucking and gutting the thing and so I offered to pay them if they did it for me. They were kind enough to oblige and once the shock wore off an hour or two later, I asked her to get pictures for me so I could blog about it.

wild turkey new zealand

plucked wild turkey new zealand

Not for the squeamish, right? Liz’s husband works for the meat packing plant so this is just another day at the office for him. I’m still feeling slightly bad about it, though.

Liz cooked up her turkey soon thereafter and gave me some white and dark meat to try. As an interesting aside, she said that you shouldn’t hunt turkeys in the late spring or summer. Apparently, they eat crickets and that changes the taste of their meat. She let me know that there were no crickets in the gizzards so that was good to hear. I will say that the dark meat was not like the turkey I was used to tasting. It was very ‘gamey,’ as they say (even though I don’t eat wild game, I can see what they mean now). I wouldn’t have thought there to be a difference, but I was wrong! As one local told me, “Keep the breast, toss the rest!”

I took the turkey from them after a week or so…they had kept it in their large freezer for me. It now fits snugly in the bottom section of our freezer and takes up the entire space, unlike any turkey I’ve ever had in New Zealand (and I struggle to remember the last time I cooked one this large in the States). I’ll defrost it a few days in advance and hope it fits ok in the oven. Yes, everything is smaller here…refrigerators AND ovens, alike.

wild turkey new zealand
Wild turkey hiding in the grass.

We’re now spotting turkeys everywhere we go, it seems. The other weekend we took a drive to see a small man-made lake just 10 minutes away. On the way out, there was a turkey on the side of the road looking like he wanted to get on the other side of the fence. We slowed down and stopped…waiting for him to run out in front of us! Hah…ok, not really. He stayed in the grass, possibly noting my American accent and tried to blend in. We laughed it off and kept driving…still feeling badly having one of his relatives in our freezer. This one was safe…from US, at least.

So the day has finally arrived and even after 4 days in the fridge, the turkey was still frozen the night before Thanksgiving. I woke up early today and took it out to unwrap and thaw some more and to test the size in the oven. Uh oh…

turkey doesn't fit in the oven

I tried to bend the legs back, to no avail. The neck was pretty much still on there (covered by foil). I stood there at 6:30 a.m. wondering if I should try to hack it off and said, “Nahhhh.” I couldn’t stomach it, regardless of the time. I’m not entirely sure how to shove the butter under the skin but I’ll tackle that later.

wild turkey thanksgiving
Looking mighty uncomfortable in its own skin

Heck, I even made a butter pie crust for the first time in ages last night!

butter pie crust

chocolate pudding pie

As the time grew closer to stuffing this bird in the oven, I figured I’d better hack off the neck. Two knives later (and fingers still intact), it was off! I moved it to a sturdier roasting pan and then tried to put it in the oven. Didn’t work. I tried tying the legs together and pushing them in but this was the best I could do. Tin foil will be my friend today.

wild turkey in the oven
I hate small ovens.

Thanks to the small oven, it cooked in about half the time it should have and the legs were a bit, shall we say, overdone. However, the breast was still semi-juicy and only slightly tougher than the plastic wrapped counterpart I’m used to. It wasn’t the most attractive turkey I’ve come across, but hey…whatever works, right?

Didn’t like the dark meat, anyway!

The turkey was too big to fit on the table, plus I had nothing to even put it on. The breast was smaller than I would have expected for such a large turkey, but there was still plenty leftover. Liz brought over a pumpkin cake and a bottle of bubbles and she cleaned her plate on her very first Thanksgiving dinner. Thanks for the turkey, Liz and hope to do it next year too!

 

 

 

Ducks, Eels & a Parade

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We took a ride outside of our bubble to Norsewood one weekend. I was told they had some sort of wool outlet store with good sales, so that was enough of a reason for me! The shop was ok, certainly no bargains to be had…where I really scored was around the corner! If I’ve learned anything, it’s when there’s an eel on a sign, that means they’re close by! It sounded like it was a paid entry to a park, but as we approached, it was free to walk around.

IMG_3456Nicely landscaped and a small stream running through it, Andy spotted eels right away…..BIG ONES! They all huddled in a deep area before a small waterfall, somehow managing not to get swept over it.

The longest one was at least 4 1/2 feet and they appeared to be wanting food. A sign said ‘no unauthorized feeding’ and besides, I didn’t have anything with me to be tempted.

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We walked around Norsewood for a bit, finding the old jail the most interesting thing there.

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The jail cells were like large, dark saunas. I’m not sure which would have been worse…being in the cell or sitting in that chair all day!

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Captivating reading

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We headed back through Waipuk to Waipawa for the duck races! Yep, this is what I get excited about now. Let me tell ya, it was hoppin’ in that little town! Lots of stalls and I even picked up more duck eggs. If you ever have the chance to buy these, do it. I had them once in Texas and they were great! Cook up nice and fluffy and they have more protein than chicken eggs. There are quite a few duck egg “dealers” around here so I’m happy about that. I paid $3.50 for half a dozen.

duck eggs
Duck egg on the left, chicken egg on the right

We headed down to the river to watch the duck race. People were able to buy a ticket for their duck but unfortunately, I couldn’t tell you what the prize was. Proceeds went to the Ronald McDonald House which was about $1200.

A tractor had dug out the area for the ducks and a man stood behind the finishing line, waiting for them to arrive.

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Two ducks were head and tails above the rest and once the others arrived, the mad rush to net and stuff them in bags was on!

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Last weekend was the Waipukurau parade, celebrating 150 years on the map. I’d never seen so many people here! It consisted of vintage fire trucks, cars and dress. Even a tiny (fat) pony!

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Over the same long weekend, we visited a winery nearby which is on a property that was originally a retreat for WWI soldiers, then became a sanitorium and then in the 50’s, a care facility. It was abandoned in 1998. Pukeora estate is now up for sale after being occupied by a couple for the past 17 years if anyone’s interested!

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We were able to walk through one of the buildings which was a bit creepy. A bird was trapped in one of the rooms so I opened the windows and door and he eventually flew out…PHEW!

The wine was very good and we left with a couple of bottles. Another couple who lives on site has an art gallery which was terrific. The vineyard is perched on limestone and we saw some small fossils in the hills leading up to the place. Kinda reminded me of home.

Finally, we went back to a memorial park for a longer walk to see what was blooming.

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This interesting park is full of plaques memorializing family members. They planted flowers, trees and bushes around each one. Each area is different and there’s a small stream running through the park as well.

IMG_3658Some of these folks were close to or over 100. Although some were younger than us, which made us feel lucky to be alive.

I found out that these hard, bumpy fruits were from the strawberry tree! You can eat them when they turn red and I haven’t figured out if they’re delicious or otherwise, as I picked a couple that were yellow. I’m giving it another couple of days before opening them up.

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Thanksgiving is around the corner and it’s going to be a little different this year! You won’t believe the story.

Tonight, the clouds were in rare form and I’m waiting for something to happen!

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