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.

nz earthquake map
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

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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Lambs and Dragons

meanee new zealand lambs

Ohhhh yeah…it’s Spring finally. Daffodils and lambs, what’s not to love!? The place we lived when we arrived on the North Island had a herd of sheep and almost all of them had lambs on the way. It seemed to take forever, but after we moved from there, the lambs finally came into the world and I made sure to go cuddle some.

meanee new zealand lambs
Following their mom!

Sandra had to hand rear a few of them and asked if I wanted to give them a small early feed. Of course I jumped on that and she warned me that they would probably mob me and that made me even more excited! Mobbed by lambs…who wouldn’t want that?

They were busy in the corner of the paddock and when Sandra hollered for them, three bottles in hand, they came running! My voice raised a few octaves as I greeted them and fed two of them while Sandra took a video of it. She held a bottle between her knees for one of the lambs…a pretty funny sight. After a couple of minutes, the milk was gone and they were looking for more. They followed Sandra around the yard for a while and then finally went off to do whatever lambs do all day!

I went for a drive closer to home a week or so later to see some other lambs and found a lot of twins playing together during one of the warmer days of the season.

waipukurau new zealand lambs

waipukurau lambs

waipukurau new zealand lambs

This wee one had gotten separated from its mom and tried to get a feed off of a different one. It was pushed away and both looked on as the baby bleated for its family.

We took a drive to Blackhead beach and saw some llamas (actually probably alpacas) along the way. I figured babies would be super adorable, but only saw what appeared to be adolescent ones.

new zealand llamas
That one looks a bit old to be feeding (and where’s the head exactly?)!

new zealand llamas

The beach was pretty and I was able to catch some rays before some clouds came and made it too chilly to stay.

blackhead beach new zealand

Blackhead beach new zealand

baby mussels

baby mussels new zealand

I noticed these baby mussels stuck to a rock. I can’t imagine these are the same kind as the really large ones I’d find on the beaches like the green lipped mussels.

If you’ve grown tired of hearing about lambs, you’d better stop reading here. My friend has a small lifestyle block and one of her sheep had twins, so I went over as soon as humanly possible to see the babies.

waipukurau new zealand lambs

These precious girls were only a few days old and were very patient with me. One had been pretty weak after she was born and Liz took care of her for a day or two, but was glad to see she was doing better. I’ll go back in a week to check in on them and see if we can catch them for a couple more hugs.

My aunt dug up a photo of my grandmother holding some lambs too, so here we are side by side.

megrandmalambs

waipukurau new zealand lambs
Wee girl going back to fat mama after being accosted by me

waipukurau new zealand lamb

I’m betting the adults even think they’re adorable. I often see sheep staring at the babies…I wonder what goes through their minds?

Liz found out I was a reptile nut and told me she had some friends with a bearded dragon. Of course I wanted to see him so we went over to meet Boz and his humans.

bearded dragon new zealand
Boz the dragon

He was a beauty, sporting a lovely orange colour and calm as could be. Christine showed us how she raises some of his food. I had no idea that meal worms were anything other than just worms! She showed us the top drawer of the container which had black beetles in it, then the second that had the meal worms and the third which had the larvae. Boz looked on without diving in, remaining cool and collected.

mealworms new zealand

mealworms new zealand

mealworms new zealand

Boz also eats greens and is super healthy and happy since he also has a playpen outside! Complete with some stacked rocks warmed by the sun and a concrete turtle, he can soak up vitamin D and get some fresh air.

bearded dragon new zealand

bearded dragon new zealand

bearded dragon new zealand

It’s pretty rare to see lizards here and now you must have a license to own one. I also didn’t realize that bearded dragons hail from Oz! I offered up my pet sitting services if they ever needed someone, so I hope to meet up with them again soon.

Finally, a some closing shots of a Tui which visited the patio briefly and the ranges. Still loving the views here and my veggie seeds are sprouting, with some strawberries, garlic, celery and rhubarb already in the garden. I think it’s going to be a good season!

waipukurau new zealand tui bird

waipukurau tb hospital Ruahine Range