Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Feeling at home

A weekend drive in the hills behind the house

The kids and Rich freezing it out for a picture

The view across the Port Hills to Lyttleton

Our favourite cafe, Joe's Gararge

The girls are braver than I - swimming at the beach

Amy disappearing into a tidal pool
Is it possible to feel so completely comfortable in a new place and fall in love with your new home so quickly? We have now been here only a week and a half and already I feel like I have found a place for myself in the world.  I sit here writing this looking out across Pegasus Bay to the Pacific Ocean and I feel calm and happy and content.  The wind has come up this afternoon and it has caused big rollers to  storm in towards the beach.  The sun is setting, and the wispy clouds have turned a pale pinky, orange shade. I am sure it is raining over the Kaikoura Mountains  and out over the sea as it has a misty, fuzzy look in the distance.  Even though the weather is less than calm, it soothes me and leaves me feeling that I am in the best place in the world right now.

I have landed in a beautiful part of the world where life is calmer and more relaxed and people are not as skeptical and time-worn as Sydney. It is refreshing to find people who say hello walking down the street in the village and wave to you as they drive past.

Today the girls and I heading down to the beach and spent a couple of hours collecting shells, running up and down the beach and playing is tidal pools left as the tide went out to sea.  It was amazing, the beach was busy with kids playing, dogs barking with sheer joy at being able to run and play in the surf and people wandering along enjoying the day.  What a wonderful way to enjoy the day.

This afternoon we met our first neighbours, thanks to my friendly 4 year old who insisted that we walk to the neighbours below us and say hi.  I am pleased I did because they are lovely.  Zoe has 2 girls and a boy Amy's age. The girls are both older and Mia was in awe of these big girls, following them around like a puppy dog, very cute.  So I feel we are on our way to setting in and meeting the neighbourhood.  I was given the neighbourhood rundown, the information on the school and an introduction on how wonderful life is in Sumner. 

Amy started kindy this week and loved it.  In true Amy form she settled in easily and wasn't fussed when I left 2 minutes after arriving. Her only comment was, "Why are you still here?".  I hope Mia is as easy next week.  Our life is developing a pattern and a rhythm that I am loving.  It is slower and easier without being frustrating.

When we arrived I had in the back of my mind that this was temporary and we would be going back to Sydney in the future.  Maybe this was because of the move to Shanghai which was a disastrous move or maybe because we had made such amazing friends in Sydney.  Whatever the reason, when we left Sydney I was sure we would be returning in a few years, like this was a short term contract.  However, now I know this is where I should be.  I feel connected to this place and I feel like I have come home. 

The next step is finding a permanent home for us - I am working on it, so stayed tuned....

Thanks for reading and for posting comments, it is wonderful to hear from all of you.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A unique experience today

Today I took the girls to see Tangled at the movies.  For convenience we decided to go to the theatre in Sumner.  It is the only suburban cinema in Christchurch still operating after 70 years so this gives you some idea of content of this blog. 

It is very small for a start - approximately the width of a medium sized house and as you enter you are struck by how small it all is on the inside.  A narrow, short hall takes you to the single box office where Dot sits behind her perspex. She and her husband, Harold run the cinema and while she issues the tickets, Harold tries to talk you into a snack from the candy bar.  They are both in their 80's and love their theatre so are more than happy to provide a review of the movie you are planning to see without being asked.  They chatter away about the weather, what is showing and all the while asking us a million questions.  After politely declining the candy bar we head up the hall to the theatre and take our seats.  Mia is amazed by how small the theatre is once inside - no bigger than our lounge room.  The seats are massive and have a tendency to eat you by folding you back up once you have sat down - even worse for small children who don't have the weight to hold them down.  The kids are used to borrowing booster seats at the movies to help them see, so once settled I headed back to the candy bar to ask if they had them.  "Of course" says Harold and off he goes to the room behind the box office.  He returns with 2 purple, silk cushions 20cmx20cm and about 1cm thick and asks if I can kindly return them at the end as they came off their couch. Very sweet, even if they are useless.  The kids loved them.

We were surprised by the number of people who turned out to see the movie - all young kids from about 7-15 years with some older people mixed in.  As it got dark some kids got a bit silly and before I could do a shhh, an adult at the back called out "If that's you Bill Johnson, your mother will hear about it, now be quiet."  To be followed by someone else with "Is that you Wendy, what are you doing out today, I thought you had to work, fancy a cuppa after the movie?" and so the back and forth conversation went in the dark until the movie started.

As we left, and returned the pillows, Dot and Harold bid us farewell and made us promise to return soon.  It was a wonderful experience of stepping back in time to a simpler life in a village where everyone knows you.

The box office at the Hollywood 3 cinema in Sumner.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Settling in

Mia on the Sumner Esplanade with Cave Rock behind

Rich and Amy at Cave Rock

Amy cleaning her shells at the beach

Joes Garage in Sumner - best brekkie and coffee ever!

The view from our lounge room, not bad!
Each minute that I spend here confirms that we have made the right move.  Our first weekend was magic!  No other way to describe it, the weather was stunning, it was friendly and laid back and even the kids were happy the whole time.  You can't ask for better than that!

Richard took time out to garden, something he has been wanting to do ever since we saw the house for the first time.  The girls joined in planting new herbs, vegetables and flowers and watering everything in sight.  We now have a beautiful herb garden by the back door that has all our favorite herbs and the vege patch has potatoes, carrots, chillies, broccoli and lettuce.  We are on our way to eating from our garden and I like the sound of that.  It is very dry here and while there are not water restrictions in place, they are thinking of bringing them in for the first time in 13 years.  Lets hope it rains soon!

After a frantic day of stocking the house on Saturday, we gave Sunday over to the girls so they could plan the day.  And what a great job they did!  Sumner has possibly one of the best cafes I have been to called Joes Garage.  It is a place for locals to drop by, passing cyclists to stop for a big brekkie and families to catch up.  We stopped by for a late breakfast on the deck in the sun before strolling down to the beach. 

Sumner beach is broken in two by Cave Rock, a volcanic rocky outcrop in the middle of the beach.  It is a light grey sand beach which was so different from what we were used to, the kids thought it was very special. I didn't when they walked it through my new car a short while later.  We spent the rest of the morning walking along the beach and collecting shells and driftwood for a wooden vegetable basket that Richard wants to make.  It was lovely!

So our first weekend was fantastic and made me wish we could have this and have brought our friends with us!  It would have made it complete.

To top that off, Richard started his new job today and I don't know which one of us was more excited!  It has been wonderful for the girls and me to have him around but it was time for him to return to work and so I was pleased that he had a great first day.

I have Amy starting Kindy next Monday and Mia starting school the Monday after and then I will start to explore this beautiful city and the surrounding areas.  Stay tuned for more...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

How to all started...

My life had a rhythm and a flow. It was predictable but it was a good life.  All that changed when my husband Richard lost his job last October.  They say most people can last on their savings for 1-2 paychecks and they are probably right.  It was incredibly stressful and a time that tested our relationship in so many ways.  After countless job interviews and almosts and then thanks but no thanks, we had to question what we were doing.  One night after a very small bottle of wine, I threw a stupid question out there - "Why are doing this to ourselves, maybe someone out there is trying to tell us something." Now I am not one of those "the universe is talking to me" kind of people, but it seemed like this was an us as a family at a cross roads in our life where we had an opportunity to make a change. 

That comment made by a very tipsy woman was taken literally by Richard and before I knew it he was looking at jobs, houses, schools, commutes ect.  It started to sound good - a life slower, relaxed and in a stunning environment.  Why not, I'd be stupid to turn it down and before I knew it I was getting excited about a life in New Zealand. 

We researched Auckland and realised that was just moving from one large city to another (I know it is smaller).  If we were going to make this change - why not make it a big one.  We chose the South Island and Christchurch for its' beauty and location to everything in the South Island, it is small and friendly and seemed like a complete change to what we were used to. 

Without either or us ever having been to Christchurch, we applied for jobs, looked at schools and made appointments to view houses and flew over at the start of December not knowing if we would love it or hate it.  Of course, like most people we loved it - it is a beautiful city with friendly people and so much to offer.  We secured a house and school and decided we would move - the only thing we didn't have was a job. 

Luckily, that was our new year's present.  Richard had applied for a job with Christchurch City Council and after completing a very long online application knew he had no chance of success.  A week later, he was informed he had made it through to the second stage and had to complete an online test.  Even more convinced of failure after completing this mammoth exam, he made it through to the final stage and was offered the job.  What a surprise and a great one at that.  This amazing city is aiming at zero landfill and the job is to work with the company that gives new life to the masses of rubbish that plague any city.  Turning glass, plastic and other waste into something useable again and educating companies on how they can follow suit. It is so nice to get paid to do something you are passionate about and it good for our planet.

Now was the hard part, to leave an amazing group of friends, an incredible school that the kids and I loved and my family.  We moved to Lane Cove at the start of 2010 thinking it would mean being closer to the school but never believing it would be a life changing move.  I don't think it would have been if we had moved anywhere but Cogan Place, quite simply the best street on earth!  Even writing this makes me sad thinking of the street.  It was one of those streets where your neighbours turn out to be great friends and a Saturday afternoon can end up with everyone sitting on your front lawn, having a wine and nibbles and playing street cricket.  It was incredible and the best 11 months I have ever had living anywhere!  So leaving was very, very hard and I haven't even touched on Currambena or my parents!

Saying that, we did get on the plane of the 14th January and fly 3 short hours to start our new life.  And here we are.  All this rambling bought me to this point. We arrived yesterday and knew instantly that we had made a move for the better.  I bought a car on the internet (stupid I know except this is Christchurch we are talking about) and was sure my deposit had ended up in Nigeria or we would be driving away in a wreck, instead we were met by the most wonderful, honest and generous used car salesman you could ever meet and were given the keys to a fantastic, almost new Subaru Forester (pronounced Su-baar-ru).  Amazing, it restored my trust in humanity! 

The house we rented sits above the small, seaside village of Sumner.  A stunning town that looks out over the ocean with quaint little cafes (serving the best coffee Rich has ever tasted) and has a perpetual holiday atmosphere.  From every room in the house we have a view down the valley to the village and the ocean beyond.  Even the kids have not missed the beauty with Mia commenting that going to the toilet is so special because of the view you get when sitting on the toilet. 

Today was spent running around getting all the necessary ingredients to set up an empty house.  You know it's going well, when after 5 hours of trudging around the city and different shops with the kids in tow, they aren't whinging "When are we finished, I'm bored".  We are all set up and now all we need is the furniture.

So I am sitting here writing the first of many blogs, watching the sun setting over the ocean.  The light is touching the water and highlighting the mountains, the clouds are swirling in, forming amazing images and I have a glass of Marlborough Sav Blanc in my hand.  My life has taken a massive turn and I am, right now, loving it!  I will let you know how it goes....