Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween at the Marine House

Give it up for the Marines again. We attended our first Halloween party in NZ at the US Marine house. Granted, most of it was organized by our resident cruise director Gina Wyatt, but they supplied the house, music and drinks. We had a blast. I was worried that the kids would be robbed of one of our favorite US traditions but the Embassy Crowd pulled through with flying colors. Even our Ambassador and Spouse showed up to party and they don't have kids! Everyone seemed to have really, really good time. At least I did. Ewan begged for a Dark Knight costume which I started 24 hours ago and Mo was content with being Bob Marley.  Whew, I don't think I had two "from scratch" costumes in me. They looked great, had fun and are out trolling the neighborhood for free candy.
Halloween is new for NZ and I didn't think the boys would have much fun but as I write this, they are out in the neighborhood with some Kiwi friends trick or treating. Though the doorbell only rings every 5 minutes or so, I've had a steady stream of kids. Thank you for NZ for allowing my American kids to hold on to one of their favorite US traditions a bit longer.

Redemption through children

A couple of weeks ago I went on a hike with the embassy crowd to see Glow Worms and was aghast by a fellow American (read blog entry below). I met him again this weekend and then again today at an embassy Halloween party (gate crashing again). I also had the privilege of meeting his lovely children. To say that his 17 year old daughter was delightful would be an understatement. She arrived with a local friend (sans parents) and immediately began helping with the younger kids. She was friendly, articulate and helpful. I liked her. Ok, so perhaps I was a bit harsh on her dad. As it turned out, when he and his French wife arrived later, he too was nice and revealed a wicked sense of humor.  So, though it's tough to recover from a first impression, he had the road to redemption paved by a cute brunette who couldn't be nicer. Viva la France or whatever they say over there-hey, I'm only working on Spanish right now.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Call in the Marines

You can count on the US Marines for just about anything here in NZ. I have them on my emergency contact list at the boys' school and have their phone number in my speed dial. They host parties at their house and organize an elaborate ball once a year for embassy staff and interested locals. However, I really think they went above and beyond when they hosted a haunted Halloween Walk for the embassy children.
Our "cruise director", Gina Wyatt (otherwise known in our circles as the ultimate den mother) organized a Glow Worm/ Halloween Walk for the kids and asked the Marines to join in to scare the kids. It was wonderful. We started out at 9:30 pm and headed into the woods, down dark passageways and creepy bridges. And, when we least expected it, out would jump a goblin with a severed head or a grotesque spider (or maybe it was a bat, I was too scared to look).
I brought along some local boys, my son being ever so social....he was having two classmates sleep over and they are very intrigued about the US Marines. This gave them a good opportunity to see them up close. "Will they have guns?", "Will they accidentally shoot us?" were some of the questions from the back seat of the car on the way there. It is eye opening to hear what these children from the other side of the world think of America. Most of the information they get is spot on but have to wonder where they come up with some stuff. Morgan was asked once if you could buy guns at convenience shops in the US. And, the predominant myth that ALL Americans are rich.
I was also amazed to hear the boys discussing politics on the drive to the hike. Keep in mind that these are 11 year old kids. They discussed George Bush and Hillary Clinton (no mention of Bill) and their hope yet disappointment for Obama. When the conversation drifted to travel they realized that they all have another strong connection.....all are British citizens and have valid British passports. I was amazed. Ewan gets his British citizenship through his father who was born in Glasgow. He can keep his dual citizenship indefinitely. Manrajh, Ewan's British born Indian friend gets his by birth and Tomas Stewart (another very Scottish name) immigrated to London years ago only to return to NZ but kept the citizenship and the passport. It truly is a small world and though the British Empire is not as large as it once was, the sun still never sets on it's citizens.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Magical Glow Worms

I had a Glow Worm toy when I was a kid. It kept me company at night. It lit up and everything. I had no idea these things were real!
They Embassy organized a private tour for us through the wilds of New Zealand to see these mythical creatures. There were about 20 of us with a few scattered children thrown in for good measure. I brought an extra child with me since Ewan was having his first Kiwi friend sleep over. I was looking forward to some adult conversation but instead I spent most of the hike trying to keep the kids from falling over the edge of the trail and into the Abyss. There was a 15 foot drop to a raging stream below the trail. One false step and you'd be a gonner. Since we were travelling at night, I was over protective.
Anyway, we started cheerfully walking down the very steep trail. The whole time I was thinking "I'm going to have to get back up this thing". The boys were so excited. I had my two and another teenager and another 11 year old. Truth be told, we were having a really good time. We told stories, joked and giggled along the way. It was quite a long walk to the Glow Worms so we had to amuse ourselves somehow. We couldn't see anything because it was so dark. Just then someone yelled at us for making too much noise. He said this was a once in a lifetime experience-implying that we should shut up and pay attention. Duh, we can't see anything and we aren't anywhere near the worms and these are CHILDREN ...... And, did he seriously just yell at me? Just then one of the boys said "well, we're coming back again tomorrow". That was funny.
When we finally arrived at where the Glow Worms lived, we were awe struck. The Glow worms are not actually worms at all but insect larvae that cling together in little strands. The glow is actually bioluminescence which is a very scientific way in which the chemicals in their tiny bodies interacting with oxygen.  There are dozens of tour companies that will take you on a "Glow Worm Tour", usually through dark caves but this one was free and kid friendly. They are most prevalent in dark, moist areas where insects breed such as creek beds and dense, damp foliage. These little creatures were amazing. Crabby Guy kept telling us to turn our flash lights off or they wouldn't glow for us (did he see the 15 foot drop inches away from my kid's feet?) when our Kiwi friend (11 year old Thomas) corrected him and told us that Glow Worms did not have the capability to turn themselves on and off and are actually attracted to sound so if you make noise, they glow brighter because they are expelling more oxygen or something. Hey, he may be 11 but he's all we had for information. He did win the Scots College Science award 3 years in a row so I was ok with giving him the benefit of the doubt. Take that smarty pants. He wasn't our tour guide and didn't know squat about glow worms.
I'm not a total ignoramous. I realize that even though I am not a diplomat and not on any official diplomatic mission, it is still my responsibility to show the rest of the world that Americans, as well as their children, are courteous, well mannered and charming. Plus, the Ambassador's spouse was with us and I didn't want to be put on the "naughty" list and left out of state dinners and stuff. So, I swallowed by instinct to act all smug and apologized to the French guy for the children's over excitement and hoped that it didn't spoil the experience for him. As it turns out, he wans't even French. His spouse is French and works in the French Embassy. He is American!!
Then we had the long slog back up the hill. We walked down for @ 45 minutes so I was dreading how long it would take us to get back up. The kids left me in the dust. It was so dark and everyone went past me as I was trying to get Ewan and Thomas to a wider path. I could hear them but I couldn't see them. I shimmied past a few people on a bridge and started hauling butt up the path to catch the boys. I was convinced that they were going to lose me and I would be stuck in the Glow Worm forest forever. I was really trying very hard to go as fast as I could but I'm not exactly in shape anymore. My running days are long behind me. I was alone for most of the journey upwards, the only sound I heard now was my heart trying to come out of my chest. When I finally made it to the parking lot, Morgan and Josh were sitting on a park bench playing a game and I didn't see anybody else there. Oh well, they left me, I thought. I asked Morgan where everyone was and he said that they were still on the trail, I was the first one up. What? I guess I'm not as unfit as I thought.
So if you'd like to see Glow Worms and don't want to be in a boat or spend humdreds of dollars for a family of four, take a walk along the creek in Wilton Bush (public nature area & trails near Wellington) or a similar nature area and do it with friends-for free. There is also a shorter less difficult trail to the Glow Worms that you can take at teh bottom of the park which we discover months later.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Our stuff has arrived

It's almost like Christmas. I haven't seen my belongings in over a year. Our stuff arrived in Wellington this week and I couldn't be happier. Adrian being out of town didn't even upset me. This way I could do it at my pace, rearranging and displaying things as I like them without being rushed.
I have to say that the movers did a pretty good job. The major hiccup was the broken big screen Plasma TV. Bummer. Luckily we bought private insurance so we should be able to have it replaced. I've never had an insurance claim for a move before so we will have to see how it is handled.
NZ bio security didn't like the ornaments I brought in from our days of living in South Dakota so all of my Pheasant Feathered Christmas balls were confiscated as well as some tokens from Costa Rica that may harbor unwanted insects and an artificial tree with real bark. Unfortunately, the tree wasn't even supposed to come. I had requested the kid's growth tree (fake) and instead the shippers packed an ornamental tree. Some boxes were mislabeled so we got some stuff we didn't want out of storage like the 1000 framed photos of various races and activities that we've participated in over the years. We knew that we wouldn't be allowed to fill our walls here with holes so we wanted to leave them behind. However, the packers labeled these enormously heavy boxes as "camping equipment" which we did want. Just another example of how you really need to watch those packers! Unfortunately the thousands of dollars of beautiful fabric that I was waiting for did not come. Even though it was filled with fabric and clearly labeled as such, it was listed on our inventory sheet as "books" and was not sent. GRRRRR.
I didn't get my linens- no sheets, blankets, dish towels, pot holders, napkins, etc. I guess they were labeled as books too because I said ship everything but the books and couches. Darn it. Now I have to buy new ones and they aren't cheap or of high quality here. 
All in all, the move went smoothly. There's not much I can't live without though I am really bummed about the fabric and blankets. The folks in Haegerstown did an excellent job. They sent everything we asked for without one mistake. The mistakes were on the packers side of things when they came into the house like locusts and seemed offended whenever I asked to checks their notes to make sure I knew what was where. all of you getting ready to pack out, organize some friends to come over and watch over every single packer and label the boxes yourself. I had one box clearly marked as kitchenware and they put it into the inventory list as "Christmas Ornaments" so I couldn't open it until the bio hazard team checked it out to make sure I didn't have any pine cones in it.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

I am an addict. There, I've said it.

I realized I had a problem when I was casually dropping it into conversation, asking without asking if anyone actually had any. Once in a while someone would slip me a small sealed packet with a whisper,"it's all I've got. Sorry". I would think about that small packet in my pocket all night until I could get home and open it, pour it into a pitcher, mix it up and drink it. I think my eyes would actually roll back into my head when I had my first sip.
I don't know exactly when I became addicted to Raspberry Chrystal Light (that's light, not meth). I think it was in South Dakota when I was training for a half marathon and was tired of having water in my water bottle and didn't want the calories of Gatorade. CL only has 5 calories a glass! I love it. It is my FAVORITE thing to drink in the universe. I'm not a soda drinker and I don't like Kool Aid, Gatorade, Powerade or any other high sugar drink so when I arrived in NZ and realized that they did not have Raspberry CL, I started to panic. I sent out pleas to everyone I knew to please send Crystal Light. My first package arrived 6 weeks later from my sweet grandmother in Florida. They only lasted a week ( I drink 2 quarts a day of this stuff).
Then, I hit the mother load. I had two care packages arrive simultaneously. One was from my mother and grandmother (yes, I still have both grandmas, it's super cool) and the other was from my step mother, Diane. Both contained Crystal Light in large quantities. I was so happy. I actually opened every container and counted out how much "supply" I had. If I didn't offer any to anyone else, I could make it last 3 months.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Kid friendly Shushi

What do you bring to a dinner party full of children? Candy Sushi of course. Morgan, Ewan and I had a great time making this fun candy sushi but for some reason the marshmallows here have a strawberry flavor. Next time I send off to Net Grocer for supplies some Jet Puffed are going on the list.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Not so diplomatic soccer camp

I finally found a soccer camp for the boys to participate in during their 2 week school holiday.  I think I was more excited than them. I LOVE watching my kids play soccer. Morgan can kick the ball from one end of the field to the other with little effort and Ewan moves like a mini Ronaldo, swerving and dribbling around the competition. It is just one of those things that makes them really happy and me insanely happy. When we arrived here it was the middle of winter so we missed soccer altogether so when the opportunity presented itself for even just a week of soccer, we pounced. The $160.00 fee was a bit steep but they supposedly had a Brazilian coach lined up so it was well worth it.
Lets just say that the boys got a bit more than they bargained for. I got a call from Morgan (14) during the lunch break just 2 hours into the training asking to be picked up. I could hear Ewan in the background saying "me too". What? I've seen Ewan play soccer in the rain, snow, lightening, while bleeding, and while repeatedly being pummeled by a bigger team and he NEVER quits. Ever. I had to know what horrible situation could persuade them to throw in the towel. "Mom, the kids are being very  inappropriate and the coach barely speaks English so he has no idea what they are saying". Ok, Morgan is a teenager, he hears questionable language every day at school, and these kids made even him blush. Plus, he is very tall for his age, hovering just shy of 6 feet tall and for some reason, the smaller kids thought they had to prove something to each other by attempting to punch him in the face. Of course they didn't succeed and Morgan would never retaliate when smaller kids (smaller but not younger) are involved but it was really annoying. I don't know if it was because he was American or just larger or perhaps both but whatever the reason doesn't matter, it spoiled the experience.
As we were leaving the soccer field I could hear the cursing in kiwi accents and when the coach turned his back to pick up the 100th ball to be "accidentally" kicked into the woods, I saw  a boy who couldn't have been older than 11 pick up a big orange cone, hold it up to his groin, and........well, you can imagine the rest.
Bummer, I was really looking forward to watching some soccer.