If we're not careful, we'll turn into Kiwis
We are settling in and receive sad news
Here we are, living as landlubbers in Pukekohe (pronounced as Poekekauwi). We are slowly settling in and we are getting used to a normal work rhythm. Well, Dory is, but Hans hasn't yet. Dory goes to work every day and Hans stays at home as a househusband and he does a programming job every now and then. During this time, we receive news from the Netherlands that Dory's mother has passed away. It is difficult to believe, because we are so far away. Fortunately, the video which Eric made of the funeral helps us to cope with this loss; even though it is still very detached, it does make things more tangible. Our mother(-in-law) was 87 years old and has had a good life.
Hans regularly applies for jobs as a PHP and website developer, but unfortunately without any success. Last year, it wouldn't have been any problem at all to find a job in IT, but right now it's hopeless. It does, however, give him the opportunity to catch up with the latest developments in website building.
During the first few weeks in our house we have to spend a lot of money, which means we have to live on a tight budget. Dory's salary is not enough to pay for everything; our biggest monthly expense is the marina where Happy is anchored.
Happy goes inland
To save a lot of money every month, we decide to try and find another anchorage for Happy. After having asked around a bit and after a lot of patience, we finally get in touch with the owners of a marina with pole moorings in the Wairoa River, near Clevedon, closer to Pukekohe than were Happy is now. Communication is difficult and for weeks the owner promises to call us back. And then he finally does.
It's a bright but freezing morning when we leave the expensive marina to take Happy to its new home. We have had to plan the trip very carefully, because in some places the water is so shallow that we can only reach the Wairoa River at high water. There's a good wind and we can sail most of the trip. When we approach the river and the water becomes shallow, we can see the poles in the water which indicate the channel. That's easy, but at the same time, we realise we are not making any progress at all. We are stuck in the mud! All the poles had a red line and now we see that the last pole has a faint green line. In other words: we should have passed it on the other side. Fortunately, it is only mud and we manage to get out without any damage. We continue to sail inland for quite a while and once we reach the boating club, we neatly manoeuvre Happy between the poles. During low tide, the keel will often be stuck in the mud, but that's okay: it's safe and cheap.
In an attempt to feel at home we enrol in an oriental cooking course. The next eight weeks we'll be going to the Pukekohe Highschool every Wednesday evening, loaded with various ingredients, to learn all the tricks of oriental cooking. One of the highlights is making sushi and it turns out to be surprisingly easy to make this popular Japanese dish. Steamed bapao buns and Vietnamese spring rolls are also easy to make and very tasty. All in all we learn to make seven different dishes which we all enjoy twice: the first time while making them during the course and the second time while we eat them the next evening. Nokiro, our Japanese teacher, tells us that many of the dishes can easily be kept in the fridge for a few days, but since we have only just moved in we don't have a fridge yet!! Robert, one of our fellow cooking students, has an extra fridge in his garage which is just standing there and we can come and pick it up for free. One evening we go and pick it up and we're surprised at its good condition. This way, our home is becoming more and more complete.
Hans plays the bass
We already feel quite at home, but something is still missing. Back in the Netherlands, Hans used to play the bass guitar in a blues and rock band for years and he really should start doing that here as well. But we don't have a bass guitar and it's not easy to find fellow musicians. We go and watch some live music and try to make contact with the musicians. Just when we start considering putting an ad in the newspaper, a man comes into Dory's shop for a free hearing test. It turns out he plays in a band and their bass guitarist recently left. What a coincidence! After his first practice session, Hans has passed the test and he is now a member of the band "Catfish Rita". They practise every Monday evening at Henrik's place, the guitarist, who is originally from Denmark. He and his English wife Ali recently bought a huge piece of land with a beautiful farm.
Cows, pigs, piglets, horses and of course sheep
We are invited for a party at Henrik's and we leave early in the afternoon. Now we can finally see the enormous estate by daylight, because so far we have only visited it at night. The weather is gorgeous, the sun is shining and from the house's terrace we have a fantastic view of the green hilly landscape dotted with groups of trees and fences which divide the land into several fields with horses and cows. We walk to the stables where eight piglets were born a couple of days ago. Alex, Ali and Henrik's son, is busy feeding the pigs so we can pick up and hug the tiny pink squealers. We will spend the night at the farm, so we will finish our walk tomorrow.
The party is very enjoyable and we are complimented on our home-made sushi which we knocked together for the occasion. There is plenty of food and there is of course guitar-playing.
The next morning we finish our walk and Henrik and Ali join us for a bit of the way. Since they don't have a lot of time, we continue on our own. We walk across the fields, climb over fences and the cows keep running ahead of us. Horses are a lot cleverer, they just step aside and don't make a fuss. We walk all the way to a little river which forms the boundary of Henrik's land. It's hard to believe that Henrik and Ali have only been here a few times, that's how large their land is.
The New Zealand winter isn't usually very cold, at least not here on the North Island. It rarely freezes and they tell us it's the abundance of rain that can make winter very unpleasant. But then the houses here are not as well insulated as in the Netherlands; most houses are not insulated at all. The weather was fine until May, not too cold and not too wet. Then we had a period of night frost and every morning we had to scrape the windscreen. The fact that you can't buy any window scrapers here proofs that this is very rare. There is often a strong wind and we are frequently cold in our little house without insulation and with only a hearth (the wind can even be felt in the house!). A small heater someone gave us is often working overtime. By now, we have had a cold night frost at least twenty times, something which hasn't happened here in thirty years. We will be glad when it's summer again.
Even though we are looking forward to sailing again next year, we are settling in fast, we are having a good time and we have to be careful not to turn into Kiwis.
(Translated from dutch to english by Percy Balemans)