Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Lord of the Rings and the Siren

  I  went and rented the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I have never watched it and I knew it was filmed on the South Island and I have read about tour companies that give tours of the actual sites where the movie was filmed. Peter Jackson is an Icon over here so I wanted to familiarize myself with the movie. It is an amazing trilogy and of course the cinematography is breath taking! Watching it on our MacBook Pro did not have the same effect as seeing it on the big screen but we still enjoyed every minute.  I let the kids watch it  and justified it by telling myself they were just learning some more NZ "culture", and hoped that it would not give Skyler and Owen nightmares (my parental skills might of been lacking in this choice). Well one can probably guess where Owen ends up sleeping after watching The Return of the King- YEP, my bed!! He was having a nightmare about Gollum. Brad was working the night shift so I happily let Owen into bed with me. Around 1 am I hear this loud siren going off in the village. I sit up in bed totally panicked not knowing what the siren meant. Was it a Tsunami warning, a tornado warning, a hurricane warning, did Mt.Taranaki erupt??? A women home alone with 3 kids, living abroad might have a tendency to let her mind wander...So I decide to look out the window and watch my neighbors. They are Kiwis and have two young kids. I was going to do whatever they did, thinking I was going to have to pack the kids up and head to the mtns. to escape the Tsunami, well they did not even wake-up!!! Not one light went on in their house, they were just sleeping peacefully. So after spying on my neighbors for about an hour, I felt the world was not coming to an end so I curled up next to Owen and feel back asleep. And found out the next day, it was the fire Alarm that the station sets off whenever there is a fire in town. So I just chuckled to myself and chalked it up to being a paranoid expatriate!!!
  We have had a goodish week here in Oakura. Just when we are getting used to $9 a gallon gas, $15 mayo, $7 a gallon of milk, $33 for a case of coke, we get hit with a $866 electric bill!! Now keep in mind this rental house has no central heat or central air. I have two oil heaters for the kids rooms and a couple of cheap heaters that blow out hot air. At night all I have going is two oil heaters so when we wake up the house is freezing and I have to turn the hot air blowers on to warm us up. We hang our clothes up to dry and we do not have a TV. I often feel like Laura Ingle Wilder, I might have to start churning my own butter!!! No just kidding, but my point is we are living so simply and loving it but then get hit with such an enormous bill. Kinda of a bummer, well get it sorted out! Goodwill dropped off a bag, and it felt good but strange to me not to have ONE item to be able to put in that bag. Less is More has been true for us so far! Even though I am starting to get a little tired of my 5 long sleeved t-shirts, hopefully it will warm up soon so I can wear my 6 short sleeved shirts I brought!!

Here are a few pictures from our week:

Lindsey started horseback riding this week, and I think she smiled the whole time!! She has a true passion for animals, and I think this just might be her thing!!

This is a New Zealand Punga, or a Silver Fern. Many Jewelers use this design  in their jewelery making. 

Cape Egmont Light House

We get some spectacular rainbows here in NZ, this is one I captured from our  living room. 

The kids love to go Starfish hunting at low tide and we have found some cool things. This is a starfish and a Sea Urchin. Lindsey stepped on a Sea Urchin in St. Johns years ago and they can do some real damage to feet if not careful. 

A couple of starfish.

A sweet find by Skyler, an extra large Starfish!!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Last Week

Just a few random pictures from this past week
Even though it is winter we get a little wet now and then.  Owen love his wetsuit

Not me but Oakura Beach is one of the top beaches to learn how to surf in all of
New Zealand so hopefully we can learn how to not get beaten to death by a surfboard.

The Coastal Walkway new bridge over the Waiwakaiho river.  The coastal walkway is about 6 miles long, has won numerous national and international community development awards and is a very, very nice place to go for a walk, run or bike ride.

New Plymouth

A couple of weeks ago we attended our first ruby match in New Zealand, Taranaki versus Auckland.  Rugby is without a doubt the most important sport for the Kiwis and The All Blacks, the national team, are generally regarded as the worlds best.  We are fortunate to be in New Zealand for the upcoming World Cup of Ruby which starts next month.  The country is excited to be hosting the 4th largest world sporting event after the winter and summer olympics and the soccer world cup.  There is also an element of nervousness as there has never before been quite this much scrutiny of the kiwis and the recent earthquakes in Christchurch destroyed one of the main stadiums that was to be used.  As a nation though New Zealand is very practical and resourceful with everyone seeming willing to do what is necessary to put on a good show.  

We are also fortunate to be living in one of the host cities for the world cup.  The US plays Ireland on september 11th and Russia on the 15th and Wales plays Namibia on the 26th.  Yarrow Stadium where the matches are to be played and is the home field for Taranaki was even ranked by Rugby World Magazine as the 3rd best rugby venue worldwide behind only Cardif in Wales and Suncorp in Brisbane. One of the other ED docs here is the team physician and he generously gave us 5 prime seats for the game against Auckland and we all had a great time.  It really is a great venue with seats close to the action and a rowdy but knowledgeable crowd.  Taranaki plays in the ITM cup and the players really are semi pro with many of them needing to hold down other jobs, the term "for love not money" applies to most of them.  Top players from the ITM cup will also play in the Super Fifteen league which has five teams each form NZ, Australia and South Africa.  The top players here will usually be the ones playing on the national teams.   My first week working here I took care of one of the players from Wellington when they played Taranaki.  He had an open dislocation of one of his fingers but more importantly he was one of the players selected to the All Blacks world cup team.  I had never heard of him but everyone working in the ED was a little excited.  I figured with his world cup status on the line and me just having acquired my Work visas and medical license in New Zealand and fearing deportment I would do what was safest for both of us. I called the orthopedic surgeon.  I am happy to say that even though the papers the next day reported that the player had suffered a devastating season ending injury, two weeks later he played and scored 2 tries for The All Blacks in a game against South Africa.

Auckland was billed as the superior team and the game was tied at halftime before Taranaki turned on the jets in the second half scoring several long magnificent tries (touchdowns) and routed the visitors.  As a spectator rugby is a nice game to attend as the action rarely stops and a full game lasts about an hour and a half as opposed to the 3 to 4 hour slog of an american football game.

The kids enjoyed the game though I think Owen and Skyler got more of a kick rolling down the hill by the endzone for the entire second half.  Owen will likely get a chance to play on a rugby team down here though that season doesn't start till fall (March here)

Cheers from Oakura

Monday, August 15, 2011

Grandma Pat and the Dairy Farm

 There is a sweet lady in the village named Vivian who has been very kind to our family ever since we arrived. She is a GP at the hospital and has a little boy named Timmy who is in Owen's class at school. She invited us over for fish and Chips just two weeks after we had moved into our house. I walked into her house and her Mom is sitting at the kitchen table. She introduces me to her Mom as "Grandma Pat."Oh, boy did that make me smile!! I think I probably sat way to close to "Grandma Pat"  but she just reminded me of my Mom. (For those of you that don't know, my Mom back home is  also a Grandma Pat whom I love dearly, and miss so much.) So after I invaded Grandma Pat's personal space all night long, she invited our family out to visit her on her Dairy Farm. So of course we accept. I was excited about my kids getting to go and visit a true working NZ Dairy Farm. I think it is important for our kids to not only live and play abroad, but to learn about out new environment and understand a little about the country. So the weather was really cold and crummy the day we are scheduled to leave. Vivian calls me in the morning and ask "Do you still want to go, it is going to be cold at the farm", and I reply "Yes, we are still going, raincoats are designed for days like this." And she says"Good on ya mate." Which has become, by the way, my favorite Kiwi saying!!

So here we are walking around and exploring the farm (notice Owen and his stick). Vivian looked at our shoes when we arrived (we all had on our nice Nike running shoes) and kindly gave us all Gumboots to borrow while we explored. The English call them Wellies, and Americans call them rain boots. Our running shoes would of been ruined with all the mud and cow poo!! 178 cows makes for a lot of POO!!

This is the Farm that Vivian grew up on with 8 other sisters (poor Dad). Grandma Pat has lived on this property(178 acres) and in this  house since 1939. It is the same house, with the exception on a small extension they added on. It is a small house with 3 bedrooms and a very small kitchen. I think most of the furniture is original as well. Most Kiwi houses do not have insulation, let alone central heat. So Grandma Pats house was quite chilly, she had an old wood burning stove in a small room off the kitchen. It was a very cold day, somewhere in the low 40's with high winds and hail throughout the day. The Ellington's had on 3-4 layers as well as ski hats and we were still cold. But Grandma Pat wore a long sleeve shirt and a thin merino wool sweater w/o a coat and was never cold!!! The Kiwi's are much heartier than us wimpy Americans. She served us Pumpkin soup and kiwi's for lunch and some delicious scones for Tea time. It was a fun afternoon, and we all learned much about Dairy Farming in NZ.
A Kiwi vine is growing on the top of this shed.

There were many baby calves on the farm. 

Some Milk facts we learned
1. New Zealand's main dairy export is whole milk powder.
2. 1 cow requires 1 acre of land
3. Dairy is NZ largest Export earner
4. NZ largest Company is called Fonterra which is a multinational co-operative owned by over 10,500 dairy farmers.
5. Fonterra is the Worlds leading Exporter of Dairy Products
6. Fonterra is responsible for more than a third of international Dairy Trade
7. A gallon of milk cost around $7
8. Never wear Nike shoes to a Dairy Farm

Friday, August 5, 2011


I must of been more tired last night than I realized because I forgot to add a few pictures that I had taken yesterday.

This is Okato Methodist Church. Okato is a town about 5 miles W of us. They have service here on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of every month. The 1st and 3rd Sundays service is held in our town of Oakura. We went to service last Sunday. There were only about 11 other people at the service and they were all quite a bit older than our family. They were overjoyed with having some new folks and welcomed us with open arms. It was a very simple and short service which we both enjoyed. At the end of the service we all stood in a circle and held hands and sang a song. After the service we were invited to the  adjacent cottage  for a cup of Tea. Not only did they serve Traditional black English Tea but they also had a table full of the most delicious homemade treats. They had scones (cut in half with butter on them), corn fritters, brownies and ginger cookies with cream. It was a great morning, one we will always remember. The kindness of people in this country is overwhelming, we continue to be amazed at their generosity.

This is Ahu Ahu Beach Villas. It is only 1 mile from our house but one of the most beautiful Villas I have ever seen. It sits up high on a cliff and overlooks the Tasman Sea. The Villas are made out of all recycled products, and the views are simply amazing. We are hoping friends and family stay with us during their visit, but if they ditched us for this place I would understand!!! Fodor's ranks it as the top place to stay in Taranaki. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011


The last few days we have had some beautiful blue sky days and so in between running and riding bikes I wanted to take some pictures of town in which we get to call home for the next year. The population of Oakura is 1,400 and we have our own newsletter called the "Oakura Messenger" which is a monthly publication. We are well known for our beach-Oakura Beach. One of only 3 beaches on the West coast of NZ which is north facing. I just read that there was a tornado here in July 2007 that damaged 60 houses, and we thought we were moving AWAY from Tornado Alley. Yikes...

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This is the local coffee shop that has the most delicious coffee. The beans are imported, and then they roast their own beans here in NZ. I know that is also how we do coffee in good ole USA. I don't know why it taste so much better, it just does. Maybe it has something to do with the location, location , location!! We usually order a "flat white", which is basically a latte. A single shot and microfoam milk. They do not serve a typical American coffee, most of the coffee has milk added. It comes in an 8 oz. cup and cost $4.50. Good morning buzz!!
                                                              This is our Fast Food. 

The surf shop. The owner has two huge Newfoundlands named "Ralph", and "CoCo" that lay on the front porch. Lindsey stops on her way home from school everyday to love on the dogs. The little camper on the right serves coffee in the summer, and there is a little half pipe in the front that Owen like to ride his bike on. We plan on getting some surfboards from here for the summer, so we can all try surfing. Brad and I went to a "Surf Camp" in Costa Rica a few years ago but we are still very much beginners. The kids have only boogie boarded and so we all have lots to learn. 

                                                    The grocery store called "Four Squares". We only live a quarter mile from here so I let the kids ride their bikes up here by themselves and get a treat. They call candy here "lollies" so Skyler thinks it super cool to come here sans Mom and get a lollie. 

This is an adorable gift shop and behind it is an old Caboose that a Mom and daughter have turned into a little Cafe. Sorry about the lighting in those picture, I am trying to learn how to use our Super nice camera but I still have a WAYS to go. 

            The Spa and Yep I have already been to visit! Even though it was just for an eyebrow wax. I cannot write about services I do not know about so I NEED to get a massage and facial so I can write about it on the blog :) The eyebrow wax was actually very painful!! She gave me no warning of ripping off the wax nor did she apply any soothing pressure or gel after the "ripping action". I definitely missed Pam's and Scott's gentle touch. Maybe I am just getting more wimpy as I approach 40! It was fun though to get to ride my bike up to the Spa and not have to drive.  

                                                 This is Butler's Reef the local pub.

                                                           The nicer cafe in town. 

This is the Oakura river which is located on the North end of town. It is a safe river for the kids to kayak and swim and it flows right into the Tasman Sea. We live just to the left of the river and on the right is a Rugby Field and some great places to picnic. We have already logged in hrs. exploring the mouth of the river as this is where we walk to everyday from our house. Skyler's goal is to go to the beach everyday while we are living in NZ. 

The playground which is right across the street from the beach. To the left is a skate board park. There is a group of about 6-7 boys (age 10) that bring their scooters to the park and can do some pretty cool tricks. Owen loves to go and watch and try and copy the older boys. I am betting he learns a trick or two this year. 
I am not sure what all the Boardriders Club has to offer, but we hope to real soon. 

I love the benches down by the Boardriders Club they are all shaped like surfboards. 

Stand up Paddle Surfing is an emerging water sport. There were about 5 or 6 guys doing it today @ Oakura Beach. It originated in Hawaii. Unlike surfing it is very easy to learn and it allows for a better view of incoming waves. It is supposedly more popular with women because of their lower center of gravity. Mmmm, maybe a sport I could pick up faster than Brad and get better than him-Yea Right, wishful thinking on my part!!!!

Just another picture I took today of Mt.Taranaki because it looked so awesome without any clouds nearby.