09 February 2014

New Year, New Job

Exciting news for me! A new job at Burnside High School is starting for me tomorrow teaching Year 11 Science and Year 9 Maths.
This comes as a big changing time for my family, because this week is Zack's 5th birthday and Ben's 8th birthday. That means that Zack starts Year 1 at Waimairi School in Christchurch. Ben began last week with his Year 3 studies. In New Zealand, they have a rolling enrolment for new entrants to elementary school. Whenever they turn 5, they go to school then.
So, Zack had a pirate party at his Montessori last Wednesday and he has his last day of school on his 5th bday this Wednesday. Burnside High School seems cool, and I get to meet my students this week. I wonder how the school will compare to the US schools. Anyhow, off on a new adventure- working mum.

21 January 2014

Cicadas at Hagley Park

In the US, there is a species of cicada that lives for 17 years underground, and then mates for two weeks and goes back underground. NZ does have cicadas, and the ones that are singing in the trees tonight were all living underground lives in the 2011 earthquake. How time flies when you live in the dirt! The most common lifespan of Species in NZ is 3-5 years. Still, it is always awesome to collect their exoskeletons off trees. Zack discovered some exoskeletons on the tree trunks of several trees in the botanical garden. With joy, Ben and Zack collected some for preschool. Then Ben discovered an adult cicada emerging from its exoskeleton on the tree as we watched. Very beautiful. Amazing to imagine these creatures living their whole lives underground except for a brief mating season as a winged cicada. A wonderful memory made at the Christchurch botanical garden. Just think- where will you be in 3-5 years when the offspring of these cicadas emerge once again from the dirt?

18 January 2014

The Winding Road to Akaroa

We were invited to an event for the American Club of Christchurch. A picnic in Akaroa. Sounds like fun! I look at the map, and it seems close enough to Christchurch. I guess it will be a 45 minute drive. We pile into the car and head out for the event at 11:15 am. Once we start off, Google Maps insists that it will be 1 hr 37 minutes to Akaroa. What?!? Pretty much true to form, the Kiwi road got narrow and bendy over the mountain pass. We tried not to fall off the road to our doom, as it is a road known for car fatalities. Safely, we make it into the valley and the beautiful scene of Akaroa is revealed to us. Wonderful view! We made it to the beach house of a member of the American Club and have a fun time chatting about weather, fantasy football, and glider planes as well as other various topics. The kids play on the manicured lawns with nerd guns and squirt guns. A relaxed affair! On the way back into town, Mike drives home behind a slow Juicy campervan through the mountains and remarks on how hard it is to concentrate on the road with all the changing horizons and hairpin turns. So happy to be back on the flat land of downtown Christchurch! We all have a bit of road head from our adventure.

24 December 2013

Top 10 Things I miss about NZ

A week into my American holiday, and I am missing NZ. Here is a list of things I miss: 1. Sunshine- Turns out that all the sun and brightness is like a happy lamp that shines on me. Boston with its snow and rain and winter with thick atmosphere is quite dark. Summer vs winter solstice. 2. Foamy tiny lattes with fancy decorations made in the foam. 3. Flowers- NZ has lots of them in every season. 4. Gym- miss my NZ gym, and don't have time or $ or membership to get guest pass to my old MA gym. I have been doing smaller home workouts and squats with a 23 kg (50 lb) son Ben on my back in the meantime. Not quite the same. Looking forward to getting back to triathlon training. 5. Health food- Turns out that America is the land of sugar, carbs, and huge portions. I miss my Burgen toast and yoghurt and leafy salads. They have those healthy things here in USA, but there are so many more convenience foods that are bad for you. It makes it harder to eat well. 6. Safety- living in NZ I always feel safe, and kids run free. 7. NZ friends- missing my gal pals in Canterbury and wishing you happy holidays. It has been great catching up with my American gal pals and their kiddos have grown up so big. 8. Mr. Purrsalot- my cat is being lovingly taken care of by Natasha, so I am sure he is awesome. 9. Relaxed atmosphere- NZ is a bit slower paced with tea times and holidays. Christmas is ramped up stressful mode in US, with crazy shopping and baking. I bet my NZ friends are kicking back and having a BBQ with Santa. 10. My home abroad- I have begun to think of my life in NZ as my home, so my American holiday in some ways feels a bit foreign to me. Not to mention that I say, "aye "and "no worries " a lot. People must think I am Canadian. As a expat, you come back a bit different, so you see your own country and your current home as a bit of both worlds you belong in.

19 December 2013

First impressions

As an expat, you see your home country a bit different on return. These are some big differences: 1. Loud and extroverted people- strangers come up to you and tell you their whole life story at blasting volume. This is in comparison to quiet and keeping to themselves NZ folk.
2. Fast paced- if NZ is regular speed, then Americans are in turbo mode. The cashier thought I was taking all day to put away my wallet and leave the coffee counter. 3. Cheap dining- We have eaten out at places this week for $6 a person, which is so affordable! 4. Huge food-A donut the size of a dinner plate? A pancake the size of a platter? Huge food is everywhere. 5. Awesome shopping- Walmart was huge and amazing to go shopping at after 15 months abroad. Thanks to Grandma Portia and John Thompson, the kids and I had some gift cards to spend getting stuff. An Angry birds set was $39 US, but goes for 86 NZ dollars back in Canterbury. Vitamin water was $1, and is $5 in NZ. Socks and undies are cheap too, so we stocked up. Character T-shirts, $6.80 US, back in NZ they are $39 at Farmers department store. Wow!
6. Climate- We froze getting off the plane, and used grandma's 1980 hats and earwarmers for a while until we could get to Walmart for gloves. Snow flurries blanketed ground last night. 7. Family- Great to see everyone! Our parents ( kids' grandparents) are in their golden years. That seems neat to see them as senior citizens out and about. How did we all grow up and get so old? Lol! Obamacare is on everyone's mind. Here Grandpa John reads to the kids.
8. Exercise- hard to get time to do this on the road, so I am sticking to push ups and squats and crunches and some running on the treadmill. Doing my best for triathlon training as designed by Josh Paurini back at Cityfitness. 9. Driving- super scary to go back to driving on the right! I have yet to go on the highway in Ann's Audi, but managed to do some right turns and drive on back roads of 3 A to grandma's house and back to the hotel. 35 mpg seems super fast! The snow and ice don't help road conditions, either. Slow and safe is my motto.
A great trip, even though we are in jet lag limbo. We will see more family and friends soon.

14 December 2013

Coming Home after a year abroad!

We are super excited to go on holiday for two weeks back to USA. What will it be like returning to the Boston area after 15 months away? Expats living far away all wonder the same thing. How will it feel when you are home? Is your home away from the USA more of a home now than where you used to be? Here are my top 10 things to adjust to in coming back to the USA. 1. Driving NZ driving has roundabouts more than stop signs. Plus, we drive with the left side of the road, so coming back to driving on the right will be hard. Wish me luck! 2. Sizes of food When I moved to NZ, all the food looked gourmet in its appearance and tiny. So will USA food seem huge and super sized and more basic? 3. Weather We are leaving NZ summer in December for a winter wonderland in Boston and Vermont. So hard to pack for a season change that extreme. My kids don't own any snowboots or warm gloves anymore. We will freeze to death in the switchover. 4. Walmart and Target Big box stores that carry everything from groceries, pharmacy, toys, tools, and clothes. Having so many choices for shopping in one place will be awesome, but also weird. I am now used to going to four places to get groceries, tools, clothing, and toys. How strange will it be to be in a superstore? The Warehouse in NZ pales in comparison. 5. Loudness NZ is quiet and filled with gardens and quiet peaceful folk. I am super loud and opinionated for NZ. Will I find Americans too loud and opinionated on return? Or will I blend more into the sea of loud and proud Americans? 6. Food Supermarkets in USA have so many choices. Will it be easy to go back to chicken nuggets and Poptarts? Will I miss NZ cheese and yoghurt ( yogurt) and multigrain Burgen bread? How about chicken flavour ( flavor) chips? Onions in all dishes including quiche and macaroni salad? 7. Exercise My gym in NZ ( Cityfitness) has become a regular part of my day in NZ. Will Plymouth Fitness seem strange now that I am returning on holiday, with its dark spin room, smoothie bar, and Espresso video game bikes? Or will it be awesome? 8. Family Being away from loved ones is hard. However, it can also be a readjustment to family time mode if you are used to doing your own independent thing. It will be great to see everyone again and give them a proper hug, not just a Skype one. 9. Friends Reconnecting with old friends is great. Will they have changed since I have been away? Will their kids seem super tall and smarter now that they are older? Catching up will hopefully be like old times. 10. Atmosphere- Ozone Will it be strange going back to where the ozone layer is thick? I wear 50 SPF sunblock daily in NZ to avoid getting burned. Will it be cool to walk outside and not be radiated by the sun? Will I miss the brightness of NZ? Will it seem normal or strange? Check out this super bright sunny day at our afternoon Christmas concert. Bright light! Excited to return for a visit to the USA after all this time. I will post some impressions of life in US now that I am an expat.

05 December 2013

Clean enough for the Queen

My housing re inspection went off well on Monday. My landlord was impressed with our Hanukkah cookie house and our hedged lawn and the steam cleaned carpet. She exclaimed that my shower "was now even cleaner than hers at home." She liked that all the kids toys were tidy and put into bins in the corner of each room.
She did manage to find a small back corner of the garden with a few weeds that were still there, but she passed the house as tidy and well kept.
"Good on ya. Keep up the good work!" Stamp of approval- the Queen herself could have come over for afternoon tea that day.
Now it is back to normal- dishes in the sink, laundry pile to fold, and scattered toys about. Relaxing that we don't have to move again.