25 February 2015

Jews of Christchurch

Being Jewish is something you are born into, although there are a few converts, such as my brother's girlfriend Bernadette. This can be tricky if you are discriminated against by others. Sometimes, a person can be discriminated against in subtle ways. This may be done in passing comments or in running jokes amongst friends. In NZ as well as America, these are often directed at minorities. I have often felt the minority status of being Jewish whilst growing up in central Pennsylvania, a predominately Christian region. Holidays were always complicated because Hanukkah often fell a few weeks before Christmas, and Easter and Passover had one similarity- hard boiled eggs. In Pennsylvania, assimilation into the local culture meant having a Hannukkah bush instead of a Christmas tree. It meant enjoying Spring Plastic Egg Hunts for candy and prizes, and then also celebrating Passover with local Jews at the temple and having matzoh ball soup. Living in Christchurch, we are lucky to have a Canterbury Hebrew Congregation in the city. We can still go to family services on a Friday night and eat matzoh ball soup. Sometimes we even have a Hebrew School teacher to help the kids learn Hebrew and info on the Torah. I value having times where I can be comfortable in my local community as a Jewish person. The Jewish community in Christchurch is unique in that it is a blend of Israelis, Americans, and Kiwis, as well as a handful of Europeans. All come to celebrate holidays and pray for High Holy Days. Purim, a holiday with a carnival theme, is coming up in early March. The kids are having a carnival party at synagogue and the adults are having a drinks and dancing night at Cargo Bar. Most of the Isrealis insist that Purim is a huge holiday in Isreal and that drinking is essential. Mike and I have a friend watching the kids this Friday, so we can go out. A spring Egg hunt will soon be underway at the local park. Then on Sunday, we have the kids' carnival. We will see how that goes. Kids had a great time last year celebrating. I am glad that we have other friends in the minority to hang out with, and some friends in the majority Christian Kiwi society that accept us for who we are. Jews are all a bit different from each other in NZ, but we all have many commonalities that bind us as a community.

23 February 2015

2.5 year update in NZ!

Sometimes I get the occasional blog response to my expat blog that I wrote mostly from September 2012- Feb 2014. It is from one of my 18,000 readers. The latest asked, "How are things in NZ now for your family?" My family has mostly adjusted to life in NZ. Ben is in year 4 ( 3rd grade) and Zack is in Year 1 ( kindergarten) at Waimairi School. They just celebrated their 9th and 6th birthday at Inflatable World in Redwood. Both enjoy bringing their scooters to school daily,going to Scouts, and swimming. I have passed all my housing inspections this year, so we are tidy enough for the housing manager. My lease was just renewed last week for another 6 months, so we are happy to be living in this house for a while longer. So over packing and moving! Zack loves Marmite and butter on toast. He has a bit of a Kiwi accent when he says, "school", "as well", "mum", etc. Zack's best friend David has lived here for 2 years and is originally from South Africa. The boys get along because they are boisterous and loud together, and they both love playing Skylanders Trap Team. Ben still has an American accent and his best friend Harry , who was born here in Christchurch, has a mostly Kiwi accent, since his mum Analyn is from the Phillipines and moved here over 15 years ago. She and I are great friends. Mike just celebrated his two year anniversary at Telogis, a GPS software company in Christchurch. I worked last year at Burnside HS, and got a one year job working full time at Lincoln HS. NZ is still sometimes different, but mostly it seems like home. I can navigate the roads and roundabouts driving 100 km/ hr on the open country roads with ease. The mountain passes are still crazy and dangerous to drive, so I usually make Mike drive the windy parts, like when we drove from Queenstown to Wanaka. Last year was a crazy and busy year for our family back in the US. My grandma Portia rapidly became ill and passed away at age 79, and I Skyped in to the funeral, so I could be part of the memorial service. During term 1 holidays, my brother sent me And the kids tickets to go visit with family and we had a reunion of sorts in March. Mike's dad needed a kidney as his diabetes was progressing and he was experiencing renal failure. It turned out that Mike was a perfect match ( blood type O negative) and flew home several times for tissue screenings and CT scans. He was finally approved for kidney donation as a live donor in May, and the surgery was scheduled for late June. We made plans for Mike to go on leave from his job for 6 weeks and I went on leave from my teaching job at the end of June until July 4. Then the school was in winter holiday break for two weeks. Mike flew ahead of us and did his final kidney blood checks in mid June. The surgery went successfully. The kids and I lived for a week in a hotel opposite Tufts Medical Center while Mike was recovering on the same hospital wing as his dad Stephen. The kids grew restless at the hospital, so we went on day outings to the Science Center, the Aquarium, and the movies ( How to train your dragon 2). Once Mike was on the mend, he got to go rest at his family's home in Kingston, MA for two more weeks. During that time, I took my kids up to New Hampshire to see their cousins at Treetops, our family summer cottage on Newfound Lake. The kids loved having an extra summer and we spent our days swimming, rock collecting,and hiking Mt. Cardigan. Mike got the good health check and we all flew home together at the end of July for the beginning of term 3 at school. I was given more responsibility at work and took on a 4th class when a teacher needed more time in her role as dean. I was teaching two year 11 science classes, one applied science class for year 11, and one year 9 maths class. This kept me super busy! My brother Mike got tickets to come visit us during term 3 break. The highlights were going jet boating in Hanmer Springs and hiking near Lake Tekapo.It was good to be around in NZ for term break and not flying internationally. NCEA tests are mostly these end of the year final exams in all of your classes in high school in NZ. Sometimes you get internal exams that the school puts on during the year, but a lot of credits and weight are placed on the end of the year exams, which run for 3 weeks, starting mid November. All of my year 11 science students studied for their exams in adid/ base chemistry, physics/ mechanics, and genetics. Then, after the senior exams, all senior students in years 11,12, 13 were gone, leaving me with only one year 9 maths class to teach until Dec 4. They had their final at the end of November, and then we soon left school. On my last day at school, I wore a university robe and attended the awards / prize giving ceremony. Then I drove out to my interview at Lincoln HS. Later that night, I was offered a full time job for this year as a science teacher. Hooray! I accepted the job and relaxed for the summer with the kids and husband. I learned to crab off New Brighton Pier. We went on a week long roadtrip( roadie) to Invercargill and Stewart Island in Jan. We have been to a few places in NZ now, including Timaru, Dunedin, and Greymouth. Now, I have been at my new job for 4 weeks. My students are awesome and my coworkers are fun and friendly. Here's to an awesome 2015!

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.