Saturday, August 28, 2010

Morgan's Rockin Birthday Cake

My assistant chef and I wanted to make Morgan an awesome cake for his birthday tomorrow. We decided to make a Guitar Cake. For those who know me, this would seem an impossible task. I don't bake. Period. However, I am an ace when it comes to science projects so we thought of it that way. Ewan loves to play with clay...perfect. We found some fantastic icing that you roll out an mold like clay. I think we did an aweome job.

A seal of a day

We had really good intentions of travelling three hours to another bay to see fur seals in the wild. Then we ran out of gas. No worries, we turned around and headed back to Wellington. I had read about a docile male seal community there, just a short bumpy drive to a local bay. When they say you need a 4x4, they aren't kidding. I am an adventurous sort, and having grown up riding motorcycles and dune buggies I figured, how bad could it be? It was pretty bad. I was also seriously underdressed for the windy rain that came out of nowhere. So, after braving the road as far as I could manage, I asked Adrian to park so we could finish the trek on foot. Well, Ewan and I lasted @ 20 yards before we headed back to the car and Adrian and Morgan continued to the mythical bay within Red Rock Park.

They were not dissappointed. They came back cold and soaked but had fantastic pictures. Ewan and I really didn't think that there would be any seals, but there were hundreds and we missed out because we were whimps. We are already planning to return when it is sunny.
visit my husband blog for more photos:

Monday, August 23, 2010

Getting Settled

I must say that I am very grateful to have an English speaking country for my first post. This has made life easier for me and the boys. I had forgotten how many details must be attended to when you move and when you move to another country, double those details.
For those of you who have not yet made it to your first post, get to know all of the rules and regulations. It can be a bit frustrating to learn a new rule the hard way. First lesson...expect the unexpected. We thought we would be moving directly into our new home upon arrival but alas, plans had been changed. Someone graciously decided that our house needed a quick make over before we could move in so we were put into a lovely hotel for a week. Great, I thought! This will give us time to explore the downtown, get acclimated, and avoid cooking for another week. I had read that when you are temporarily housed in your new post you are allowed a per diem for food and laundry, etc. So off we went to our favorite cafe every morning to treat ourselves to breakfast and then lunch. For dinner, we upscaled a bit to a local pub. We were trying to be frugal but not stingy. New Zealand is not cheap. With the exchange rate, you can very easily spend $70 on breakfast at a sit down restaurant ( $50 US). They don't give free refills on coffee here which is really disappointing since I drink @ 3 cups in the morning and at $3.50 a cup, get the picture. Anyway, I learned after our stay that per diem is not given to you if you stay in a hotel with kitchen facilities and we had a small fridge and a tiny stove. Oops. Who knew? Well, now I do. Luckily, it all worked itself out. But, ask about everything.
Enrolling in school is straightforward. It is very expensive for uniforms and school supplies, which the government does not pay for but the education should soften the sting for us. Getting the children to school was an exercise in strategic planning but we managed to work it out. Ewan rides a chartered bus to and from school while Morgan has to rely on public transportation. The school does not have a regular school bus. I have no idea how much Ewan's bus will cost until they bill us at the end of the month but Morgan pays $10.40 per day. Yikes. Luckily, the Embassy will pay for this.
Setting up an internet connection was a bit frustrating. My only advice is to call ahead. It took me almost 2 weeks to get my internet hooked up.
Our cars were amazingly easy to buy and insure. I got myself a cute little minivan that seats 7 so that when we have visitors, we can all ride together. Adrian got himself a Ford Escape. We bought both of them from Max Motors in Lower Hutt. What a great group of people. I have never had a car buying experience like it and I've owned at least a dozen cars over the years. I highly recommend them.
We have been here almost 3 weeks and I just received my UAB this morning and I am waiting for the ministry of Agriculture to come to inspect some of it. The Kiwis are very particular about what organic stuff you bring in. I don't blame them after seeing what Kudzu has done to the South. It will be nice to have something from home in the house.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Buying A Car

Buying a car in New Zealand turned out to be easier than I thought. We were told to go to Max Motors in Lower Hutt for our search. I had heard of them before in my research before getting here and they seem fairly priced. The car lot is tiny and only holds @ 40 used cars but almost everyone from the Embassy buys from them, so we figured they had to be good.
We needed a good, reliable cheap-ish car to get us started until we were comfortable driving on the left side. And it also had to be big enough to accommodate Morgan's extra long legs. We settled on an adorable Honda Minivan (sorry, Adrian but it's functinal) with 7 seats and all wheel drive. Perfect. And it was cheap enough to buy with our credit card, since we didn't have enough Kiwi money yet to buy it. It takes a few days to get money transferred to our new account and we didn't want to wait. Plus we get the airline miles. The whole process was incredibly easy and we were even able to get an insurance policy set up on the spot until we could get our own permanent one. Max Motors is awesome. They even filled up the tank for free before we left.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Food in Wellington

We are still onour hotel which limits the meals I can actually cook (I'm totally heartbroken) but, since we are in the middle of a big city, the options are limitless. We were given the impression that the food here was bland and tasteless but I've found that to be totally false. The food here is fantastic.
They have these little cafes all over the city that serve take out sandwiches and gourmet pastas and cakes. Yummy. I've pretty much been going there every day. I have yet to go to an actual restaurant here since we all fall asleep @ 7pm Kiwi time. Maybe tonight we will stay awake long enough to venture out of the hotel for a nice sit down dinner.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

G'Day Wellington

We finally arrived in Wellington after a straight 24 hours of travelling. We thought it would be better to travel straight through and avoid dragging our 8 bags around LA. The flights were smooth and I have to say that Air New Zealand has some of the cleanest aircraft I've ever seen. they were friendly and professional and served you real food at no extra cost and at dinner time, they walked up and down the aisles with bottles of wine-also free. Lovely. Unfortunately I was unable to sleep a wink on any of the flights (3). One poor toddler was not having a good time and screamed the entire 12 hours. I am not exaggerating. He screamed, passed out for 1/2 hour, woke up and screamed some more. Poor baby. I felt so bad for the Mom who did everything in her power to calm him.

Anyway, New Zealand is beautiful. Wellington, in particular, is very pretty with great architecture, culture and the feel of a modern city without all of the garbage that usaully accompanies larger cities.

We have great sponsors here ( folks frm the Embassy who make us feel welcome and help us transition) who picked us up, shleped all of our luggage and stocked our hotel fridge with homemade goodies. What a lifesaver. I think we hit the jackpot with them.

We've been in a hotel since arriving since our house is unexpectedly undergoing some improvements and though my two boys are about to kill each other, it is nice to have a lull before all the hard work begins. Adrian has had to jump right into his new position. We arrived at 9am and he was at the embassy by 1pm and back to work bright and early the next day. Luckily he got a bit of sleep on the plane.

We have been tryong our best to adjust to the 16 hour time difference, staying up until almost 8pm and waking @ 3 or 4. Every day we shave off another hour which is about average. The boys will start school next week. Morgan will take public transportation and Ewan gets to ride a school bus.

The cost of groceries is shocking to say the least. As govt employees, we are allowed a small cost of living adjustment to offset some of the price differences. How that works is, whatever you receive after taxes and deductions on your pay check, the govt will give us an additional percentage of "discretionary" income to buy food, etc. I think they need to revisit the COLA. It is currently at 35%. Well, I just got cell phone servie and am paying 89 cents per minute for all calls (that was the cheapest I could find-no texting, no internet, just good old fashioned phone calls). A medium sized tube of Colgate was $6.97 NZ ( $5.11 US). 4 AA Lithium Energizer batteries were $25.99 Kiwi ( $19.05 US). I was at the local grocery store, not a 7 Eleven where everything is marked up. So, we will have to shop smarter.

On the upside, there is very little crime, the people are incredibly nice and very fit and the weather, while dismal at the moment, (it's winter here) isn't as bad as in South Dakota which still ranks # 1 in quality of life for me.

More to come as I explore this wonderful country and I promise to post more photos shortly.