Our Kiwi Adventure: Part I

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A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

A journey to the other side of the world begins with a flight to Atlanta.

Greetings from Coromandel

Well, we made it. We arrived in New Zealand last Friday via Atlanta, San Francisco, and Auckland. Unfortunately, the Auckland airport was closed due to fog so we spent our first day in Christchurch. Personally, I found Christchurch rather unimpressive. Perhaps it’s because we spent eight hours in the International Transit Lounge trying to stay awake so as not to miss our boarding call. However, we did eventually make it to Auckland where we collected our luggage, picked up our rental car and made way for the hotel. (Maybe it’s because I was exhausted but it seemed to me that New Zealand motorists have a penchant for driving on the wrong side of the road.

For those of you who have just heard (or haven’t yet heard) about our move to New Zealand, a little background would seem to be in order

In early August, Yassi and I began talking about moving out of Amherst to some place new and different. At first we considered relocating up the road to Northfield. Later, we actually thought about moving to the Lake George area. Eventually, we found our discussions trending toward a more radical move, perhaps to the Southeast or the desert Southwest.

After three days of Googling around the States, we started exploring the notion of going back to school to become internationally certified teachers of English as a Foreign Language. This would allow us to take our training overseas and then teach in one of scores of different countries. We looked seriously at programs in Mexico, Spain, and Greece–and then in New Zealand.

Now, I’m not quite sure just how it happened, but one Saturday morning we woke up and realized we were moving to New Zealand. It was as simple as that.

During the next four weeks there were a zillion things to do. We had decided to sell all our belongings except for a few suitcases worth of clothing.  We got visas; put an add in the paper to rent out our house; arranged with our neighbors to manage the property; turned in our cars; gave Kitty to Zack, Charlie, and Jeanie; and spent eighteen hours a day on the internet making contacts in New Zealand.

We set up job interviews; arranged for a house to live in; a car to drive; and studied all things New Zealand. We learned about the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman who is credited with discovering and naming the islands for the Dutch city of Zeeland; and the Western Sea, which he named for himself. We read about the voyages of Captain Cook who perfected his quirky, man-about-the-globe ways, introducing non-indigenous animals to wreak havoc on the ecosystem, brought disease to a native population that had no defense, and played with his guns which he used first to subdue the Maori people, then gave to them as presents so they more efficiently kill one another. (That zany Cookie.)

We also familiarized ourselves with New Zealand Immigration Policy; the job market; the value of their currency; the current political situation; their history and culture; and the state religion . . .  Rugby.

Which brings us back to Auckland

While circling the airport, we got into a conversation with a flight steward, who we ploughed for information about the country we were about to call home. He gave us some sage advice which we’ve since come to regard as gospel. “Just root for the All Blacks,” he said with a sly grin before removing the All Blacks pin with the gold Koru leaf from the lapel of his uniform and handing it to me. “These are hard to come by, mate, so take good care,” he added, his sly grin turning to a very broad smile. I accepted the pin with gratitude, having no idea what All Blacks might be.

Anyway, having made it to the hotel without a head-on collision with a Mini-Cooper, we settled into our room and turned on the television to get the latest on Hurricane Katrina. Instead, we got wall to wall coverage of the impending match between the Australian National rugby team, the Wallabies, and the New Zealand National team, the All Blacks. (Cool!) Apparently, the following day would see the final match of the Tri-Nations Tournament, and with the South African Springboks having already been eliminated by the ALL Blacks, only the Wallabies stood in the way of Kiwi Glory.

The next day we had a business meeting in the morning which had been prearranged during one of our all-night internet sessions. Proudly did I sit there with my All Blacks pin displayed prominently upon my chest. It proved to be an excellent conversation starter. The meeting went very well, and it looks like both Yassi and I will be doing some contract work for this start-up company called Pocket Media.

The rest of the day went just as well as we toured the city, did some shopping, and got back in time to watch the Tri-Nations Final over dinner. It was a great game (I think). We played extremely well (I guess). The All Blacks defense was incredible (the announcer told us). And when all was said and done, the All Blacks held off the hard charging Wallabies to emerge victorious by the score of 34-24. (I think the numbers refer to goals or something, but I’m not sure.)

It’s a curious rivalry that the Aussies have with the Kiwis. The Australians poke constant fun at the New Zealanders, usually making jokes about sheep and Kiwi sexual preference. The Kiwi’s have an Aussie put-down which exemplifies their opinion of the Aussies. I read it in an off beat travel book on the flight over:

What’s the difference between Australia and Yogurt?

Yogurt has a living Culture.

The following day was the day we’d been looking forward to for weeks. It began with a three-hour drive along the scariest coast road I’ve ever encountered. Yassi is still waiting for the feeling to return to her fingers having spent the entire three hours bracing herself for our inevitable plummet into the sea. The perilous journey finally ended in the village of Coromandel, the township in which we’ve decided to settle for the time being. We quickly got our bearings, and met the local real estate agent with whom we’ve been corresponding for about three weeks. Though we’d already selected a little cottage to rent based on pictures I’d gotten off the net, our agent, Susan, wanted to show us a selection of properties from beachfront houses, to homes on hilltops with the most amazing views of the ocean and mountains. In the end, we settled on Koru Cottage, our original choice. (Yes, it is named for the same Koru leaf that the All Blacks sport on their Jerseys and my pin.)

The cottage is possibly the most charming place I’ve ever seen. I spotted it several weeks ago while checking out holiday homes (vacation rentals) with no particular purpose in mind. The website I was on showcases upscale properties that rent for hundreds of dollars per night, and I was just there to enjoy the pictures. And then I saw Koru Cottage and I went a little nuts. It’s located about seven minutes southwest of Coromandel in an isolated grotto that cannot be seen from the road. (I think the Hobbits used to live in this shire.) It’s surrounded by lush hills and mountains covered with assorted sub-tropical native flora and no other homes in view. But the thing that got me was the water feature. At the rear edge of the terraced garden there’s a creek with a deep swimming hole the length of an Olympic pool. I absolutely flipped when I saw the pictures so I wrote a letter to the Holiday Homes website asking them to enquire of the owner whether he might consider a long-term rental. It was a stretch, to be sure, but after dozens of e-mails exchanged between me, the agent, the property manager, and the man who owns the property, a deal was struck and here we are.

And so we send greetings to you from Coromandel and Koru Cottage. Our Kiwi adventure is underway, and to all of you we say, Tena Koe.

(I don’t know what it means but everyone keeps saying it.)


Alan and Yassi


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