We’ve now celebrated our first Labour Weekend as Kiwis (and our second of 2012!). We had a great time around the area, seeing more of the new place we now call home. While this post will be a little on the long side, I’m hoping it will be mostly pictures, to make it breezy. Enjoy!
Let’s start the weekend on Friday, since Auric and I had quite a full day. The kids in his preschool, along with kids from a few other preschools, had a field trip on the old steam engine train. Gisborne has sadly lost their rail line after part of the track was washed out after a storm last December. This is sad news for the region, but an issue I’ll save for another post. While they don’t have a rail line–for the moment–they still have a vintage steam engine. So the kids, teachers, and parents were glad to get a field trip to experience the fun of a steam engine train ride before it’s gone.
We all rode on a big, blue school bus (extra bonus!) to the station, where we boarded and ultimately departed.
We rode the line south, between the ocean and Poverty Bay on our left and Route 2 on our right, crossing the airport’s runway (the only place in New Zealand? the world? that has a railway/runway intersection),
passed beautiful, green fields filled with sheep and cows,
and then over the Waipaoa River that drains into the Bay.
Auric and I spent about 20 minutes of the 45 minute ride in between two of the cars, getting a good view of the scenery, and only occasionally getting a face full of black smoke. (Those moments immediately removed the romanticized notion of steam engine trains.)
At some point, the train came to a stop and we all climbed down and found a spot on the grass. The teachers had brought big tarps and blankets, and morning tea (cut fruit and sandwiches and water for the kids, actual tea for the parents). The kids sat down and ate, and then proceeded to stomp around on the grass and fragrant, wild fennel that was growing everywhere. Before long, we boarded the train again and headed back to town.
That afternoon, we had a nice (albeit slightly rainy) walk to and from Thora’s school (I’m finding the scenic ways) and hosted Thora’s friend M, and her mom and baby sister for tea and a play. (Did I sound like a Kiwi just there?)
After dinner, we had a nice evening of Family Movie Night. The kids’ current favorite movie is Iron Giant. It’s a great movie, one that Sean and I saw many years ago (pre-kids) and at some point taped off of a movie channel, and THEN transferred from vhs to dvd, so you get the idea of how much we like that movie. Since we don’t have Netflix anymore, we’ve had to dig into our reserves. Needless to say, we were happy for the chance to introduce the kids to this great movie. (For being an anti-gun movie, there are a lot of guns and shooting, so be forewarned.) The movie takes place in 1950’s New England in the midst of cold war hysteria. It’s been funny to see lines from the movie make their way into Thora and Auric’s vernacular. My absolute favorite was when Sean called home, and I asked Auric if he wanted to talk. I handed him the phone, and in perfect mimicry of Hogarth Hughes to Kent Mansley, Auric said into the phone, his voice dripping with boredom, “I know… you work for the government.” Also, if you ask Auric if he’d like something, (e.g.) milk, he’ll say, “Sure. I’m hip,” (there’s a beatnik character). I’ll get a video of him doing that so you can see what I mean. So… that was Friday.
Saturday morning found us doing a little yard work, mainly (1) using Auric’s new wooden bulldozer to shove the woodchip mulch off of the driveway and back into the flower beds and (2) picking up the dozens of grapefruit that had fallen out of the tree. Now that we have a clean slate (i.e. driveway), it will be much easier to spot the appetizing ones.
We also spent some time admiring the incredible, and frankly kind-of-obscenely-big roses growing near the back of the driveway. It’s surreal. And in just the last couple days, more blooms seem to be on the verge of exploding open. That rose bush is going to be out of this world soon and I can’t wait! We’ve never really lived anywhere that had established, happy, thriving flowers. This is a real treat for us.
Then it was off to the farmer’s market and a nice wander around the rose garden at the nearby Marina Park. Again, this place is going to be off the hook with the roses, and since I probably have never used that phrase, nor did I really want to, perhaps you get the gist.
THEN it was off to Millton Winery, where we were meeting a few people that we’d met (Sean works with the husband, but ironically I met the wife while picking up Thora from her first day of school). It was a beautiful day and the scenery was lovely. Millton Winery is in the very nearby wine country of Gisborne, about a ten minute drive from town. And like a few of the other wineries, they offer family-friendly ambiance on the weekends, including some live music. You can bring a picnic lunch and some lawn toys, and have a nice little excursion. Millton’s was hosting a hoity toity wine/food tasting which had sold out, but they have picnic tables and on this day, a vendor (the same catering company that was providing the food for the tasting event) and so we ate up some yummy pork ribs, a pork belly wrap (the price of pork here is significantly lower than lamb so it seems that you get pork anywhere and everywhere), a mini bacon sandwich (see?), and a felafel wrap, all while sipping on some sophisticated wines and getting to know some interesting people. It was a beautiful and casual afternoon, one I hope to replicate on another weekend.
Then it was back to town. After a rush into the hospital (they briefly couldn’t get ahold of the on-call doctor!), followed by a not-so-quick trip to the store, and then a visit to the local video store to set up an account in order to rent Star Wars Episode IV (Sean’s been looking forward to introducing war on a cosmic scale, mild incest, and parenticide to the kids apparently*), it was takeout food and then the screening of Star Wars, which has provided us a lot of things to talk about, (Spoiler Alert!) particularly regarding the motivation of (as they call him) Opie One Canopie to sacrifice himself to Darth Vader. Anyway, the kids got to stay up late, and we all had a fun time.
*I’m mostly joking here. Lest you think there’s a rift in our parenting, I’m on board with Star Wars.
Sunday started with runs for both Sean and I. On this morning, inspired by the new route to Thora’s school, I decided to run in a totally different direction, not to the beach but inland, along Riverside Road, which at times borders the Waimata (WHY-ma-ta) River. It feels totally different from the other scenic runs that I do, which are all about the tide and admiring the surfers while watching out for the rogue wave that threatens to drench my shoes. The views on this run are, in a way, much more what I expected our New Zealand life to be: sheep and green hills. I’m happy to say that we get it all! My run on Saturday, a four-mile out and back, wasn’t too exhausting, since I kept stopping to take pictures.
Then, in the late afternoon, we hosted Dennis, our friend, gardener, driving instructor, cheese purveyor, guy-who-knows-where-to-get-what, and who-can-introduce-us-to-the-people-in-the-know (think: cheese again, surf instruction, seedlings, fish, etc.) for a lesson on how to grill mussels on the barbie. Obviously, him teaching us. Fun was had! We learned a lot. I got scolded about how little I water the garden. But overall, it was a fun evening.
Finally, Monday! Another run down the country road, this time with quadruple the car traffic. This means I encountered 8 cars the whole time. (But of course, I remained ever-vigilant about being aware of cars and my visibility to them.) Then Sean and I had two separate Skype calls with best friends back in the states. What fun! That was easily the BEST part of the day. (Shout out to Paul and Tracy, and Summer, Hilary, Lisa, Dana, and the New Babies and Thom!) My call was cut a bit short because we had to meet Sean’s boss at her place for a visit and to pick some of her citrus. (Next time there will be no obligation scheduled after my call!) But we had an amazing experience seeing our city from the top of one of the hills.
This is the view from her place. This was breathtaking and it was all I could do to move myself away from those windows and join in with the conversation. But Sean’s boss is a beautiful lady and a devoted gardener. It was an inspiration to hear her tell of how she created her lush garden from nothing and it was a pleasure to have her guided tour of the dozens of fruit trees, all of which she encouraged us to pick to our hearts’ content. And pick we did.
The kids had a nice jump on her trampoline (this is another thing that goes on my list of — gross generalization about to be uttered– things that Kiwis love), and then we made our way back down the hill to our place. And it was there, when we laid out our haul from her garden, that we saw all the juicing and freezing and zesting and baking we need to do in the coming days.
There are 3 different kinds of lemons, one kind of lime, a ton of oranges, just slightly less mandarins, cherries, and macadamia nuts!
After a quick snack, I had the crazy idea that we should jump in the pool, my first and Thora’s second. The pool is unheated but it’d been warm, nay hot, up there on the hill in the sun, and I thought, well… it’s now or never. While Thora and I were planning this, Auric was doing this:
Awww. We’d had quite the weekend, cramming it in and enjoying life. (I excluded the no less than 5 trips we made to a variety stores in town that were having labour weekend sales. You’re welcome.) And yes, Thora and I went through with it. I cannonballed in and I think I may now have reason to be admitted to the Polar Bear Club. Thora was remarkably brave, given what I must’ve looked like, demanding that she jump in NOW so that we could get out. Labour Weekend is traditionally the start of Summer and with the jump in the pool and everything else we did this weekend, I think we got to a pretty decent start.