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?

Monday, April 18, 2011

One step forward, two steps back.

                           Me and Morgan enjoying the Sun           Boat houses along Evan's Bay

  Yesterday was a beautiful day in Wellington. We enjoyed a nice brunch on the waterfront, took a walk to take some photographs along the bay and enjoyed the glorious sunshine.  Little did we know that the Cantabrians were again reeling from a horrendous aftershock.  It seems you really can never let your guard down in New Zealand.

  Needless to say, last night I repacked the emergency bag, checked batteries, assessed the water and portable food situation and make sure coats and shoes were waiting by the front door. I have packed all the things I wish I had with me in Christchurch and have planned today to mail our irreplaceable photographs back to the States. Unfortunately, that means back to either North Carolina (tornadoes) or Florida (hurricane season approaching). The earth seems really angry right now.

  It has been almost two months since the big earthquake and I have been able to spend some time with a few fellow survivors that are here in Wellington, most work at the Embassy. We talk about where we were, how we got to the Antarctic Center and how we are coping now. They are not all coping well. Some still jump when they hear loud noises. We all feel tremors when there is a quake on the North Island, we dream about earthquakes and some unlucky ones have physical manifestations of the stress. I spoke to one woman who said she sometimes just sits and cries. I understand.

  One revelation that some of us shared is how insignificant we are. Not to our families, of course, but in general.  We are ants in a massive anthill.  We are all refocused on what really and truly matters. Personally, I unfriended a boatload of Facebook friends. I have friends on there that I've never even met but are a distant relative or the mom of one of Ewan's soccer buddies from South Dakota that I don't remember but didn't want to be rude to by not friending. Well. I don't really have time for them anymore. I have real friends to love and talk to.

  In today's newspaper there was a story about a Christchurch woman who tried to kill herself and her two children by gassing them in the car. All survived.  Can you imagine the grief that led her to that? If you would have asked me two months ago, I would have said no. The constant vigilance is exhausting. Just leaving the house to take a child to school is an ordeal. I need my cellphone (fully charged), flashlight, pocket knife, matches, candles, water, granola bars, sturdy shoes, warm clothes, rain coat, passport, external hard drive for laptop ( All of the things we took to Christchurch two months ago are still in the hotel there including Adrian's computer with 1000s of photos and documents on it), cash (ATMs will not work in a quake), first aid kit, etc. The list can go on forever. When you run from your house or work or wherever, you leave with what you have on your back or what you can manage to grab on your way out. You may never be allowed into your house again. I regret bringing so much stuff with me.

  Perhaps most disappointing was the lack of support I felt from the medical community.  You really are on your own sometimes. Nobody is going to hold your hand and make sure you are ok. Nobody is going to make appointments for you when you are trying to get through a day without having a panic attack and nobody, I mean nobody who wasn't in the same situation, is going to understand why you just aren't over it yet or why you absolutely cannot go to a restaurant downtown.

  How can you get over it when you have 17 more major and minor quakes and aftershocks within a 48 hour period ( ? I dunno but it really makes my latest attempt at weight loss and healthy lifestyle a bit insignificant.  There was something strangely comforting about spaghetti for breakfast today.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Losing weight one measly pound at a time.

  Well, I didn't exactly break any records with the exercise bit but I did manage to lose 2 lbs by giving up alcohol and Doritos.  I have decided that Saturday nights are not applicable. That is the one day a week I don't have to feel guilty.

  Today I plan on biking 12 miles. Not because I want to but because Morgan has to run 12 as part of his marathon training and needs a coach today (Dad is working- yes, on a Sunday. He worked yesterday too) and I can't run that far so I am going to bike it with him.

  If I can sustain 2lbs a week, I think I am in good shape to be fit for winter (summer in the USA).

  It is really hard to stay on track when you have a teen aged boy in the house who requires large amounts of food.  It is just too easy to fill the cupboards with chewy bars and chips instead of chopping up carrot sticks and fruit.  Plus, eating healthy is really expensive.  I am saving @ $50 a week though by cutting out the red wine.

  It would have been easier if I were one of those women who lost weight when they were stressed out. I could be a waif by now but instead the earthquake stress just gave me a rash and 5 extra pounds.  Not cool.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Getting strong and fit.

  It is no secret that I am unfit. This is not acceptable.  I used to be an athlete.  I've run two half marathons and countless 5ks and 10ks.  Somewhere along the line in the chaos of the last 2 years, I have given myself permission to become my worst nightmare, unfit and middle aged. Frumpy.  While I cannot control my age, I can control my fitness level. 

  When I was waiting in the Botanical Gardens in Christchurch, after the earthquake, I was facing a night sleeping on the ground with no pillow, blanket or red wine.  It seemed impossible.  Luckily, I was able to get our before nightfall so sleeping on the ground was not necessary but I was surprised by what my reaction was. I was thinking about how my back was going to hurt, how my feet were hurting, stomach (acid), _____fill in the blank.  I am a mess and it is my own fault.

  My husband and I decided to make this life change and knew it would be challenging but I was very naive about it. Not only do you have to be mentally prepared to live in a foreign country, you should also be physically prepared.  Along with new languages, you are exposed to new allergens, bugs, germs and terrain (HILLS EVERYWHERE !)  Luckily, I have a good immune system so have been spared most of the ailments afflicting many of the Americans at post but the hills in Wellington are kicking my butt.  I love walking and hiking but am not fit enough to keep up with even the old and infirm.  This has to change. 

  My husband and I have vowed (again) to get in shape starting yesterday. So, you may want to avoid this blog for a bit, it is going to get boring.  The next 3 months of posts will be for me, as an online account of my progress or lack of.  I am not going to post my weight or how much I intend to lose but will post if I lose or gain any.  And, if I reach my goal weight, I will confess my starting weight.

 Day one: (yesterday)- Quit sneaking cigarettes. We're not fooling anyone anyway.  Limit myself to a glass of wine with dinner only when dining out.  No chocolate or potato chips (I ate Doritos)

Day two:  (today) No Doritos.  Go for long walk. 

See you  tomorrow.