Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Brother in Law has arrived

And, he brought Christmas Cake.  Obviously he did not read my last post. Foiled again.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Summer Break in December & Leaving post early

  For the past couple of weeks I have been trying to get into the Christmas spirit. I have two kids who love Christmas and I always try to adhere to family traditions and make it special for them. Admittedly, I always look to my mother in law to really keep the traditions going but since she's not here it is up to me. So I will keep all but one of the family's Holiday traditions. No cake!
  One good thing about being so far away from the Scottish side of the family is that I don't have to serve Christmas Cake. I'm not exactly sure what it is made out of, we've never actually eaten it but it resembles fruit cake. After dinner we drench it in brandy and light it on fire then oh and ah over it and pretend to be excited about eating it. So, even though we will have Adrian's brother and partner over for the Holidays, I am putting my foot down and not serving cake.
  It is funny though to decorate the Christmas tree while singing carols that include snow, roasting chestnuts, sledding, etc. We were all sweating by the time our tree was done.
  It is also summer break for the boys. They don't go back to school until February! We have plenty of adventures planned for after the holidays but none of them involve sledding, skiing or building snow men. So, while most of our family will be keeping warm by their fires back in the USA, we will be on a gorgeous beach enjoying our last summer break in New Zealand.
  We are beginning to realize that our time here is coming to an end and while we are looking forward to going back to the USA for a bit, the boys seem almost sad to leave here. We've had a few (5) earthquakes this past week, one sent me running from the Embassy while another sent all of us running from the house resulting in  Adrian and I having a serious conversation about the boys and I possibly leaving early. When I asked the boys how they felt about that they looked at me in horror. They didn't want to leave early, they really like it here and don't share our fears of earthquakes (another reason to be grateful that they weren't in Christchurch with us during last Spring's deadly quake). So, basically it is up to me to try to decide if we ( I ) can be brave enough to finish the whole tour. No pressure.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

And the verdict is...Genius

I just got back from another whirlwind trip to the USA to inspect my new old house. It is exactly what I expected and what I was hoping for. It needs work but not too much. The major working parts are functioning and aside from a few nonlevel floors, it is perfect. I love it.

I met with contractors, picked out appliances, tile, flooring, and paint, signed a bunch of checks to leave with my father in law and am now happily home in NZ waiting for the work to begin. Project number one is to take down some old rotten trees that are dangerously close to falling on the house. The tree guy that I hired suspiciously doubled the price as soon as I left town....not a great beginning.

I hope my father in law is honing his negotiating skills or my newly acquired geniusness will be in jeopardy.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Ahem, scratch that, reverse it. We bought a house.

Well, exactly 6 days after blogging about how happy I was to NOT own a house, I bought a house. Off the Internet. Without ever seeing the inside of it. The crazier thing is....I've done this before.

It is hard to believe, especially since my college roommates used to accuse me of being middle aged when I was 19. I never did anything "crazy" or unplanned.  I analyzed everything to death or thought about things for weeks on end before making a decision. I would start searching online for airline tickets months before a vacation just to be sure I didn't miss a good deal. I subscribed to consumer reports as a teenager.  I had to compare every price, option, amenity, feature. I NEEDED to know that the decision I made was the best option. It was frustrating to be me.  There were times I drove myself crazy.

Then I met my husband. I'm not sure that he has ever planned anything in his life. He is very spontaneous and loves adventure, bargains be damned.  We were engaged after knowing each other 4 months and married just one year after our first date. I still managed to over analyze every big purchase and career decision, but then I started to see the benefits of his way.

Flash forward to 2005. Whilst on vacation is Costa Rica, we bought a house near a lake with the most beautiful view we had ever seen. The realtor didn't have the key and we never went inside. We bought it anyway. It was fantastic. We gutted it and made it ours and enjoyed it until our move to NZ.  It turned out ok, right?  Sadly we had to sell it since it was too risky to own a house in a foreign country that still had squatter's rights.

 Now that we were truly homeless (government-provided housing in NZ excluded) we got the itch to own something. We needed a home base,  just for our mental well being. Yeah, it's probably not the wisest financial decision, but we rarely make decisions based on money, so we decided to jump back into home ownership. If you've read my previous post, you know that my house hunting trip tot he USA back in July didn't work out. I dragged my poor Realtor, Jeff Miller of Remax,  to every house in our price range in Polk County, NC.  That poor man.  I knew what I wanted and was not going to settle for anything less than exactly what I wanted for exactly what I could afford. So, I fell in love with a totally inappropriate 2 bedroom cottage that was over priced by roughly $100,000.  We contemplated buying it anyway, but in the end it just too stupid.

Defeated, I went to my friend Kristen's house to complain about the housing market and let our boys hang out. Kristen has two boys who Ewan adores. They hung out often when we lived in Tryon. As I was bitching, I asked her what was up with the house across the street.  This magnificent house had been under renovations since I'd been visiting Tryon - roughly 15 years! The owners would do a bit of work, rent it out, do a bit more work and then nothing. This seemed to go on forever. The house just was not getting finished. I had wanted to buy it 3 years ago when the last tenant moved out and serious renovations started. A new roof was put on, new windows installed, the beginnings of a nice kitchen.  I would walk past it when I took Ewan to play with Sam and wonder why they just didn't sell it and give someone else the chance to bring it back to its former glory.

The house was built in 1885 and sat majestically on a hill overlooking the foothills. In the 126 years since, a neighborhood has grown around it and blocked most of the view, but it still sits on a slight hill overlooking a quaint tree-lined street. There is one of those old timey stone walls in the front, the kind that you wonder how they ever stayed put with no concrete or mortar to hold the stones in place. I told Kristen many times that if that house ever went on the market, I'd buy it instantly. And that's just what I did.

A few weeks after I returned to NZ, my favorite house in Tryon, NC, went on the market. Unbelievable.  The only drawback was that I found out at 4pm on Friday and bids on the house were due by noon on Monday; and I was on the other side of the world with a major time difference. It was impossible to arrange for inspectors to check it out. My only hope was that my in-laws would be able to walk through it and tell me if it were a lost cause.

Well, the inside needed work. It had been vacant for a while and renovations had been started but not finished. The power was turned off and there was no running water, but the structure looked solid. It had 2 working fireplaces and all of the bedrooms were finished. New roof, new windows, and no termites. We decided to gamble.  Since it was in foreclosure and bank owned, we had only two working days to get our ducks in a row. We had to somehow come up with 10% cash to put down and prove that we could come up with the remaining $$ within 10 days. Let's just say I called in a lot of favors that weekend, even calling my financial planner at home on a Sunday! Miraculously, she answered and offered to help us any way she could. (Raymond James of Landrum, SC-if anyone is looking)

Thank goodness I have a scanner, VOIP, fax and plenty of computer ink here. I didn't get much sleep in those four days, since I had to make my calls when the east coast was awake (midnight to 2pm) but it was worth it. We managed to squeak by with the winning bid.  My dream house is mine!!! I only hope the inside is as beautiful as the outside.

 My new, old house.
 Cute stone wall with stairs leading to front door.
 Almost finished kitchen with granite counters. mmmmmm.
 I LOVE pocket doors. These lead from the formal dining room to the living room. Cool right?

So, I am either a lucky girl or the biggest idiot in the world, but I bought a 126-year-old abandoned house off the Internet without looking at it - and paid cash.  Please stay tuned for an update. I head to NC mid-October to see it and have it inspected!!  Wish me luck.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Happily Homeless

  My youngest and I went on a house hunting trip back in the States. He had a 3 weeks break from school and I had high hopes of finding my dream home at a bargain price. So off we headed to the in-laws for two weeks of warm weather and high hopes.
To say my in-laws house is spectacular would be an understatement. They probably have one of the most magnificent homes I've ever been in not because it is a million dollar mansion or high tech heaven but because it is stately and tasteful. Spacious yet comfortable. It is old for US standards, having been built in the 1800's. Their 13 or so acres of land on the top of a small mountain in NC used to be a vineyard with gently sloping terraces that have been transformed into beautiful English Gardens surrounding a simple, elegant, farmhouse that has been transformed into quite a nice place to call home. My family and I were lucky enough to live there for 9 months while waiting on the PD register. It has been my in-laws vacation home for the past 14 years but after it was loaned out to us and they didn't have access to it on a regular basis, they realized how much they enjoyed it and decided to make it their full time home.

                                                           The new patio and fireplace
                                                                     Ahh, the pool
                                                          Porch, and yes, it wraps around

                                                        My father in law enjoying a cigar
                    My handsome brother in law, Jamie, who flew down from NYC just to see us
The spoiled king of the castle, Boris with Ewan in the background

Changes have been made, patios created, bedrooms enlarged, windows updated.....full kitchen renovation, the works.  It is perfect. So, when it came time to house hunt in the same town, I hated everything. Nothing measured  up and I came home empty handed. I fell in love with one house that I would be happy with but the owners were not clued into the fact that the USA is in a recession and house prices are dropping. They are asking well over the appraised value and 20% higher than others in the neighborhood. I hope it sits there for a year with no offers and they lower the price.
For now I will have to be content with my government housing in New Zealand (hey, we all have to make sacrifices) and give up on the USA house idea for now. It's probably a good idea since we don't know yet where our next posting will be and may not be able to live back in the States for quite some time. I will have to also hope that my in-laws enjoy having us as house guests because that was the best "resort" I've ever stayed at even if the help was a bit uppity (those were my father in laws words when describing himself as host).

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Phew, no gold in sight.

It was a good day. The furniture is better than what I had and way better than none :) Thankfully I didn't get the gold furniture.  The majority of the upholstered stuff is brown. I'm ok with brown. The only thing I will complain about is the amount of furniture we received. We have way more than our house can hold but are required to receive all of it so the overflow is taking up the entire guest room.

Way better than the pink southwestern couches

Yeah, this is the new one!

Looks better in person.

This is new too, looks mysteriously like the old stuff but it has tags on it so it must be new!
Sadly, not much of an improvement.

My redecorated guest room

Guess I'm done.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Not going for Gold.

(not acutal couch, just what I am envisioning)

  So, my house is empty of the old pink themed furniture. It is clean and somewhat organized as well. Kind of a forced spring cleaning. I have no idea what kind of new furniture I (we) am getting but I do have an inventory list with descriptions. 
  Apparently I am not the only one getting new furniture as five brand new sets have arrived.  So, tomorrow I will receive either red, blue, green, gold, or cream furniture.  Please, dear God, do not let us get the Gold furniture. The red would look a bit ridiculous with the pink walls but it would be better than gold. Cream would be nice but the kids would ruin it. I have no say and will be happy with whatever shows up but please pray we don't get the Gold.  Photos to follow tomorrow :)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Let me explain

  Those who know me know that I am very sarcastic at times. I make jokes and exaggerate for a laugh and am, at times, self deprecating. So, when I complain about not being prescribed Valium I am half joking. I am also one of those people who doesn't often take medication unless I am half dead. Mother Nature has blessed me with an incredible immune system and even temperament so I haven't had much need for over the counter help in my life.  The February earthquake in Christchurch was an exception.

  While my mind recovered from the shock of it, my body took a bit longer to get back to normal. After the earthquake I broke out in an all over body rash (literally 3/4 of my body was covered in a red rash) that lasted for weeks and still comes and goes during times of stress. For a person who doesn't often suffer from these sorts of things, it is incredibly frustrating. So, when I joke about needing Valium or some other anti-stress medication, I am half serious because that rash is a bitch.  Mentally, I can deal with the stress but I don't think I can deal with 3 new weeks of itchy.

  As I sit here and write this blog, Christchurch is still shaking. Since the first 4.3 shake yesterday, they have had no less than 30 aftershocks the highest at 6.0. I would have passed out from the stress by now if I were there. I really cannot comprehend how people can stay there. When Adrian and I were caught in the February quake, my body pumped adrenaline continuously for 6 hours, then I got to come back to Wellington away from the aftershocks. Though we've had a few rough shakes here, it is nothing compared to what Christchurch is going through, yet, every time I hear a loud noise or a semi drove by, the adrenaline flows again. I could actually feel it releasing into by bloodstream. I suspect that this is what caused the rash in the first place - my body couldn't deal with all the chemicals it was pumping into itself. Now, multiply that by 100.  That is what I suspect these mothers are feeling every time they send their babies to school, send them outside to play or put them to bed. Will it happen now? In an hour? Tomorrow? Will it just shake the house or crumble it? Will my car fall into a liquefaction hole on the way to work or will a boulder roll of the hill and crush us? You can say that I am being over dramatic and a worrywart and quote statistics all day long but until you've been standing in front of a building that is literally crumbling toward you and until you've run through a park with liquefaction spouting up in front of where you are trying to run and until you helplessly look on while people are bleeding and begging for help and there is nothing you can do....don't judge me when I have that 3rd glass of wine or roll your eyes when I need a minute to compose myself every time the news shows pictures of the destruction. We're on the same freaking fault line.
  From The Independet-an Australasia newspaper.

"For those charged with the unenviable task of trying to predict where the next major quake would strike it was always Wellington that created the most concern thanks to a prominent fault that is expected to produce a major earthquake in the next few decades and runs directly through the city centre."

  There really is no answer. Nobody can predict if and when an earthquake will hit we can just prepare ourselves as best we can and keep living our lives, charging our cell phones and avoiding tall buildings just in case. I am also avoiding tunnels and bridges.

Monday, June 13, 2011

New Zealand, I don't care how good looking you are, I'm breaking up with you.

  NZ has let me down again, Another 6.0 (the worst of 5 in the last 2 hours) quake to devastate the already mourning residents of Christchurch. Please keep them in your prayers, it looks like a never ending battle with Mother Earth.
  Since my doctor doesn't seem to think that major earthquakes are a cause for alarm to a recent quake survivor and refuses to prescribe me anti-freak out medication, I have prescribed myself a two week vacation back in North Carolina.
  Stay safe Christchurch, I wish I could take you all with me.

NZST: Mon, Jun 13 2011 2:40 pm

Magnitude: 4.9

Depth: 10 km

Details: 10 km east of Christchurch

NZST: Mon, Jun 13 2011 2:20 pm

Magnitude: 6.0

Depth: 9 km

Details: 10 km south-east of Christchurch

NZST: Mon, Jun 13 2011 1:28 pm

Magnitude: 3.4

Depth: 9 km

Details: 10 km south-east of Christchurch

NZST: Mon, Jun 13 2011 1:08 pm

Magnitude: 4.4

Depth: 11 km

Details: 10 km south-east of Christchurch

NZST: Mon, Jun 13 2011 1:00 pm

Magnitude: 5.5

Depth: 11 km

Details: 10 km east of Christchurch

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hell yeah I want new furniture!

Our new furniture has finally arrived (not yet delivered to the house though). Goodbye southwestern pink couches and ridiculously high armed love seats. The cream colored tables and chairs that radiate pinkness from the glow off of the walls are going too.Not much I can do about the curtains other than buy new ones but....I am ok with that for now.
It is no secret that I despise our furniture. I've said from day one that it is beyond ugly and I stand by that exclamation. You may have seen my previous before and after photos.

Our GSO reminded me that we would have to empty all of our personal belongings out of our current furniture which would no doubt cause us a lot of disruption.  I'm ok with that, it's a good excuse to do a bit of clothing culling.

Then, the movers would come and remove everthing one day and not bring the new stuff in until the following day. We would have to find a place to sleep since we'd have no beds. I'm ok with that too. Heck, I will sleep on the floor if it means I get a new bed that doesn't have magic marker all over the mattress not to mention the fact that it sags beyond comprehension.  Now when Ewan opens his dresser drawer in the morning to get dressed for school, the drawer won't fall out onto his feet. Very exciting.

It may seem silly to get so excited about something as simple and unimportant as furniture but unlike some folks here at post who may do one or two foreign assignments during their career then go back home, this IS my home. This is my only home. This is where I live until I am sent somewhere else. I do not have another "real home" to dream of and mentally decorate while I am living in this one. So, yeah, I am willing to put up with 2 days of total disruption for the sake of having a pretty home for the next year.  Lets just hope that the same GSO who chose the last lot of furniture didn't choose this one.  That's the downside, I don't get to see the new furniture before I choose whether or not to swap it out. I could be making a huge mistake but I'm willing to take that chance. My back cannot take another year on that bed.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Running to South America: 20 miles - and he doesn't wanna talk about it

Running to South America: 20 miles - and he doesn't wanna talk about it: "It was a dark and stormy day - no, seriously, it was. See, Morgan, this is the type of awful cliched writing you're going to get if you w..."

Monday, May 30, 2011

Remain homeless or no?

  I (we) have been struggling with whether or not to buy a house back in the US.  We are currently on our first assignment in NZ and gearing up to bid for our second post. Of course, we have no idea where our second post will be but we do know it will involve consular training in DC. Thus, home leave plus training and possible language training following. So, we could be looking at up to a year in the States before our next post.

  Is this long enough to justify buying a house? Oh, yeah, and we want to buy one in North Carolina-where we lived last. It is a scary prospect. The boys and I will live away from Dad for the duration so that they boys can go back to their old school in NC and have a sense of belonging to a community.

  As most State Department families know, it is nice to think of having your own place to go back to for R&R and home leave instead of cramming the family into a hotel or grandma's couches. But is the expense and worry worth it? Can it be justified when you are going to leave it vacant for most of the time? The town we are from doesn't exactly have a thriving rental climate plus, I don't like the idea of people being in "my" house when I am not there.

  We have always been nomads even before the State Department and have bought and sold 5 homes in 5 communities over 15 years and never thought of them as investments, they were simply our home.  I cannot believe how conflicted I am about this decision. Most spouses I have asked thought it was a no brainer. Of course I should buy a house back in the States if my husband was on board.  Many spouses I speak to long to go back to the States and have a sense of "normalcy" for their kids. Maybe it's because I am new at this, but I look at it differently. Yes, I do miss things about the States and I love it there but this is the life we chose. When we decided to leave corporate America and all the material things associated with it, we knew it would be difficult and different. We knew we just signed ourselves up to disrupting our children's lives every 2 to 3 years until they left for college. We knew we would live wherever the State Department decided we would live and have ugly curtains if that was what was in the cards for us (just had to get that in).  Now, we are talking about trying to recapture a little bit of what we had back in the States. A safe, comforting place to go back to if there is trouble where we are posted.

  I dunno, I really don't. Surely renting a place can be a better decision during these uncertain economic times? But, then, we wouldn't have a home that we could go back to every time. If we bought a house now, it would be paid for by the time we retired - a bonus. I guess I need to think about it a little more.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

My kid is running to South America

When Morgan first told me that he wanted to go to South America with his school's Rugby Team I was a bit confused. First of all, he wasn't on the Rugby Team.  In fact, he had never even played rugby before in his life. Second of all, what the heck would a high school rugby team from New Zealand be doing in South America?  "Um hm.  Alright honey, sounds like fun".  Then he brought home the flyer.

  As it turns out, his school's team does in fact go to South America in July for a tournament. They play in Chile, Uruguay and Argentina. It did not even warrant contemplating. There was no way I was going to send my little boy (he's 14 and 6'2" tall) to the other side of the world and play the roughest sport I've ever seen. The fact that it was going to cost $6,000 was another deal breaker. No way.
  Then the lobbying started.  From Dad. I thought he was insane. He actually thought this was a great idea. I think he was more excited than Morgan. I was not going to be swayed. Then the earthquake happened and I checked out for a bit. Everyone in the house knew not to upset Mom so they kept things from me. When the permission slips came home from school they were diverted to Dad. The deal was done. However, they forgot one crucial element, I have control of the checkbook.

  Ha! "Well, I understand why you want to go and I can see your point but there is no way I am paying for it", I said. "Ok, we will pay for half if you can earn enough money to pay for the other half".  Yes, I know I am the ultimate push over but he still had to make the team and earn $3,000 so I wasn't worried.  As it turns out he's not a bad rugby player. In fact, he's good. Crap.  Well, there's no way a 14 year old can earn $3000 in 4 months. He doesn't have a work visa and there aren't really any lawns to mow.

  My next lesson was to never underestimate the cleverness of a teenager on a mission. Morgan decided he was going to run the Wellington Marathon in June and ask for sponsorships. Very clever. He wrote up his pitch letter and raided our email contacts. We know quite a few runners and good friends who would be willing to sponsor a gutsy kid who promised to run 26.2 miles during the windiest and wettest month in New Zealand. But, could he get enough people to believe in him and want to give him money for it? I mean, he wasn't exactly asking for money for a charity. He was asking for money for a once in a lifetime trip for a KID.

  So far he has $2100 in pledges. I can't believe it. Granted, grandparents chipped in heavily but I was amazed at the response. He even started a blog of his journey, set up a donation site and promised to send postcards to each and every sponsor. You can view his blog here.  I am still an over-worried Mom but I cannot help but be proud. Now he just has to finish!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Can your kids have a normal life in the Foreign Service?

  When we were contemplating this life change, one of our biggest worries was that we wouldn't be able to give our kids a traditional American upbringing. They had become accustomed to playing outside, walking to their friends' houses and enjoying the freedom that comes along with living in a sleepy little suburban village. They walked to elementary school, their soccer games were essentially in our back yard (the fields were that close) and I never had to drive anyone to a play date since there were @ 20 kids in our cul de sac, half of which were near the same age as my own boys. Bliss.

  Looking back to my own childhood I realized I didn't always have that. My parents were divorced and we moved often. By the time I was 17 I had had 23 "homes" and 8 different schools. I turned out ok, right? My husband also lived a somewhat nomadic life as a child. Born in Scotland, moved to Germany, shipped back to Scotland for boarding school, then India, then back to Scotland. So, our sense of normal was a bit different.

Rather than go into the details of how it is possible to raise great kids and give them a "normal" childhood, I threw together some pictures.  After all, they are worth a thousand words right?

They get new school clothes
Go to the airport

Try new shops

Have birthday parties with new friends

Play Monopoly Kiwi Style

Check out the web

Go to school

Make new friends from different cultures

Have a track and field day with their mates (this boy is a class mate of Ewan's and our neighbor)

Win the long jump (ok, 2nd place) 

Go to the beach

Go on hikes

Endure their parent's boring cook outs 

Play soccer

Take Guitar lessons

Play in their school band

So, yeah, it is possible to have a "normal childhood", only better.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Love/Hate relationship with NZ.

  Most of the time I love New Zealand. It's a pretty sweet first posting for a family with middle and high school aged children.  At Flag Day, when I found out that we were being sent here, I cried tears of relief.  Then, the earthquake hit and I cried tears of frustration. My feelings toward my new temporary home can only be described now as bipolar.

Yesterday I marvelled looking at Lake Rotorua where we had rented a Bach (cabin) for a few days of R & R over the Easter Holiday.  After digesting the tranquil beauty of the place it took me half a second to remind myself that it was crated by a super volcano that erupted 240,000 years ago. You could say I am a glass is half empty kind of person right now when it comes to Mother Nature and New Zealand. Reminding myself that 240,000 years was a very long time ago, I was determined to put that thought in the back of my mind and enjoy the week. We scored the best view on the lake after all.

  Not to be deterred by the terrible weather that followed us, we ventured out to discover all that Rotorua had to offer. Our first stop was the spectacular Rotorua Museum which was once a healing center offering mineral and mud baths to optimistic visitors.

  Since it was Easter, they devised a clever game to make sure the younger visitors saw every exhibit on display.  Each child was given a clip board with clues on it. Each clue could be found somewhere in the museum. Once you found the clue, you got to check it off of your list. If you spotted the "Easter Bunny" in your search, you would be entered int o a special drawing for a spectacular prize. I have no idea what that prize is, but Ewan and I had fun running around the entire museum looking for the clues. I especially enjoyed the exhibit about Tarawera. Tarawera was "one of the worst recorded natural disasters in New Zealand history. Over 150 people died under the ash and mud that rained down on the district on that fateful night, and entire villages disappeared forever" according to the placard.  This happened on June 10, 1886. Uh, that's not that long ago. Tarawera was just one of the many volcanoes that dotted area.

  The next day we went to the site which is now a tourist attraction. The Buried Village of Te Wairoa was a thriving town back then thanks to the tourist industry fueled by the nearby pink and white terraces.  Sadly, they were buried in lava and mud as well. I would have liked to have seen them. While walking through the village you really can imagine what life was like back then. It certainly was a spectacular place to build a village, except for the massive volcano disguised as a peaceful mountain lurking in the background. Then, unexpectedly, we were treated to a magnificent waterfall that took my breath away. There she goes, reeling me back in.

  Our last night in Rotorua was for me. I had been dying to go to a Maori Hangi (dinner) since arriving and would not be denied. Nobody really wanted to go and balked about the 3 hour time requirement but it was well worth it. For a thorough explanation of the evening you can read about it on Adrian's blog. I will just tell you that the entertainment was brilliant, the costumes, very convincing and the food...not as bad as I expected. Besides, where else can you see an authentic Haka?