A Travellerspoint blog

Packing & Preparing, the countdown is approaching...


There is something very satisfying about a well packed box, when everything fits well and contents are solid; I feel I have accomplished something. The spatial, problem solving part of my brain is in high gear with keen sense for detail to balance function, lightness, desire, and necessity. Will we need this item? Will we want this item? Is it more costly to replace? We have honed it all down but I think we will wonder why we brought so much! The packing list denotes box #, box type/size, detailed contents, and estimated value. Organization is essential.

We are all about the systems. First piles: keep / discard / sell. Labels are placed on the same side of every box. Every box is numbered, (e.g. 3/89) with another label identifying my name, company booking #, mobile # etc. Our shipper was brilliant and suggested sandwiching pictures in mirror boxes between sheets of plywood for extra stability. Incidentally, all wood entering NZ must be treated for bio-security reasons. I estimate up to 10 hands will be in contact with each box before it arrives in our new house: via truck, rail, ship, & truck again in NZ. The sound of packing tape screeching across large boxes is ever present.

Watching the men we hired to crate the antiques was so interesting and fun! I wished I could have stood and really studied them but was too busy packing myself. They measured the items last week then came out with the supplies and built the crates in the driveway. I have never seen such humongous rolls of bubble wrap and packing paper in my life! Clearly, they are experts and highly skilled, it was a joy to watch them move so quickly yet carefully; their craftsmanship was superb! Like many experts secure in their work, they were chatting, never stopping, and were demonstration of a well functioning team. Better yet was the price, excellent, and lower than other companies we checked out. Watching them create these sturdy boxes to cradle our old fragile Chinese furniture reminded me of my English grandmother. When she fled South Africa in the early 1960s she brought only one piece of furniture: her grand piano. That crate was our childhood playhouse for years!

The truck leaves tomorrow. We will see these goods in Auckland mid June.

Posted by Hilary G 09:00 Archived in New Zealand Tagged packing Comments (3)

Waiheke Island

final wrap up before picking up again in May 2010


You have all been such good sports reading my little travel journal as we prepare to move to Auckland! Thank you for the comments and emails.

It is Friday night here; we leave in the AM for a long travel day across the globe. Isn’t it amazing how it takes us a mere 12 hours from LAX to Auckland and it took Captain Cook MONTHS just to sail round NZ! We really miss our sweet little dog, Kenzie, and I keep visualizing her here walking in the parks, along the shore, & sleeping in a shady nook in our new yard; she loves to explore and meet new people. Big surprise huh?!

These last few days have been full of fun and work related activity. I continue to visit local schools to say hello and make connections. One school is only 1.3 km from the house! I can see it from their playground. I know living & teaching in your community can be controversial. Some are very for it, some are very against it, I think it will be a great way to learn more about the community and really be part of it. I would like to work close to home for that reason, and less commute time means more play time too! We went to bunch of furniture stores which is very hard as we disagree on most everything: light wood, no dark wood, round table no rectangle…. One thing that never changes is our petty squabbles!

Within 10 minutes of the house are several large parks, two ferries, both of which go to Auckland. Also a fantastic health club! I have never seen so many classes (spinning, kick boxing, regular boxing, yoga etc) + 2 floors of work out machines and weights, a decent pool, steam and dry sauna. Howard is very excited and maybe I will even work out too. I liked the kick boxing class best, grrrr….!

After storing the car in our new garage (thank you!) & feeling water deprived we set off for the ferry for a purely fun last day. We left the car on the north shore and hopped a bus to the city. We chose to go to Waiheke Island b/c it is so beautiful and is the farthest away - thus the longest ferry ride. It is a wonderful place and full of wineries (will come back later for that!). We walked into town, a steep climb uphill for 15 minutes, and had lunch, wandered around, walked to the beach, and walked back to the ferry. Really nice and relaxing.

Travel Tip: wear a cap identifying your home state. Howard got chatting on the ferry with a woman who turned out to live about 10 minutes from us in Colorado! She and her husband were here for the NZ IRONMAN (ahem…. Julie: are you paying attention?) which is held in NZ every March. We four had a great time talking and comparing notes about our NZ experiences!

So we obviously LOVE NZ! Mind you it is very pricey and we will be on a budget. Here are some prices: hotel room close to $100 is a steal! Tank of gas $80.00; one 12” inch subway sandwich w/ Vege patty $9.00; bus ticket $3.30; coke zero (no Pepsi at all ) $2.40 or $3.30; fire wood $90 per cubic meter; an afternoon coffee break with 2 muffins $17.00. Simple pasta entre runs $18.00 w/o salad of course. Shoes and clothes are extremely pricey too. Maybe I need to stock up before I come back?

In May I will pick up the blog again and talk more about actually living in Auckland. Cheers!

Posted by Hilary G 23:36 Archived in New Zealand Tagged living_abroad Comments (2)

Lots of Pics, an Authentic 21st Century School, & Parnell

oh and driving is (almost) a snap!


Not to bore you with endless droning every day, but this morning was amazing! I had set up a school visit in a very poor area via the social networking site for teachers using web tools: classroom 2.0. The educators at the school today are leaders in use of technology and are totally changing the way they teach so students are engaged, excited, & invested in their own learning. Naturally student results are increasing!! After a presentation by students, and a talk, we could tour classrooms, and then had morning tea with the entire staff (customary here), and went back for more conversation. Total time was 3+ hours that they do once a week for visitors. Apparently this is THE #1 place in NZ to see learning using technology in action. I’m impressed with everyone and everything and the commitment to share their knowledge and practices; hosting weekly groups must very time intensive for staff and intrusive for students.

First of all, forget servers, it’s all about cloud technology. Kids make movies, animations, and use wikis, create pod casts and every class/student has a blog. Google docs are one key. The school has had a TV show for 10 years, 10 minutes per day now shown on real TV. The school is wireless; school leaders are working to make the entire community a wifi area as well – they are brilliant, visionary, community organizers and truly changing this historically poor and uneducated community. I learned so much!

Diametrically opposed to this community is Parnell, a privileged bastion of old money and famous part of Auckland - beautiful architecture and very boutiquey. The Prime Minister, John Key, lives in Parnell. It reminds me of Pacific Heights in SF. I took a little walk on the drive back to the beach.

Thank you all for reading my little travel journal; it is really fun for me to share this with you. Like the kids at the school today, we are all just sharing our experiences online for a wider, interactive, audience. Now I can hardly wait to play with the sites they told me about today! Cheers!

Posted by Hilary G 20:38 Archived in New Zealand Tagged educational Comments (6)

Bonhomie and Bungee Jumping

feeling better about everything!


Howard and I are both enjoying how easy people are to talk to; this feels like a friendly chatty place – well we like to chat too! I think it may be b/c there are few people (4 million total) and lots of space so moods are relaxed. Everywhere I see and feel this level of quieter pace. It appears to be a more trusting environment; as a bonus: I notice many people are very polite as well.

The Unitarians are an interesting group & the 100 + y.o. Church was small but with perfect acoustics and intricate carving on the pulpit. The church is located in a now trendy area called Ponsonby really close to downtown. Beetles had a field day fro years so the Kuara wood paneling has numerous microscopic holes. Now you can’t even use the Kuara wood as it is protected. The format was similar to services in the US and minister talked all about time – how surreal it is, well yeah! She told the children a sweet story about a marvelous giant field of daffodils – how each one was planted by hand over 40 years. Nice message of “one step at time”. We had tea and raisin muffins (we travel on our stomachs) and had a chance to talk at length with members. Apparently many Ex Pats come through and one retired botany professor was returning to the US today. Funny they say America and we say US.

Did you know that bungee jumping was invented in NZ? Lord knows why (why not?); it looks terrifying and thrilling. Thankfully it is quite controlled jumping off the sky tower into a sea of concrete and not a lot of bouncing back and swishing side to side.

Going up the sky tower was AMAZING. It is very high up (60 flights?) and well worth the $28 to see the city. The tower is connected to the convention center which is attached to a big glitzy complex with all sorts of venues. Howard stayed below while I went up and explored. The elevator is sickening as you can look down and see the bottom of the shaft rapidly diminishing…. Likewise all along the rim of the tower is Plexiglas flooring…. Despite signs noting how thick and strong it is I could not help but firmly grip the hand raid and look bravely out at the horizon. It was freaky! My ears popped going up and down the elevator and I felt woozy upon my descent to sea level. What a blast! when I got back to earth I happened to glance up and see a jumper - wow! I can't believe I whipped my camera out in time and got a picture; I felt like a staffer from the National Geographic.

Howard has had the most interesting conversations with serious (mostly men) about the economy. They all seem to agree with each other; that degree of resonance is validating. He is also busy talking with the rental house Realtor, mortgage brokers, bankers, and checking out health clubs. We each have our areas of investigation.

Monday I traveled around to lots to schools to say “HI”. All day I wove around corners, up hills, down hills, round round abouts, around corners, topography is fluid and hilly. The maps are good but a lot is driving by intuition too. It reminds me of northern Marin & northern San Diego counties. Gorgeous! Howard bought frozen pizza and learned it is not meant for the microwave. We were starving and it was delicious! Walking on the beach after dinner was really nice. Cheers!

PS my camera is acting up! wish us luck!

Posted by Hilary G 00:19 Archived in New Zealand Tagged living_abroad Comments (2)

Enjoying our First Week-End!

hard to believe it is Saturday already...

all seasons in one day

Being on the other side of the planet – really! – prompts incredulous wonder about US news items like: “While national curriculum standards were released this week, Texas school board officials held hearings to discuss proposed changes to the state's social-studies curriculum that include an increased focus on Christianity and Republican political philosophy. The board's decision could influence textbooks across the nation because Texas is one of the largest purchasers of textbooks.” New Zealand or Texas? New Zealand or Texas? Hmmm, by George I think we’ve got it!

If you look at the photos you can see a cute little silvery gray car. We decided buying a used car would ultimately be cheaper than renting when I return in May… so we did! Found it on Trade Me (like Craig’s List). After much online analysis for prices and deals we test drove the model close by, then drove way south to a busy little lot to test drive and negotiate. It is a Mazda Axela (same thing as a Mazda 3) with about 42KM (approx 22,000 miles) and good official AA Report. Car insurance in NOT compulsory in NZ! But of course Caption Cautious insisted we have it (a good thing too the way driving is over here & my driving!) so we found a place for that and got insurance. Insurance was quite a bit less $$ than we are used to paying; with $300 deductible + road side assistance. We plan to pick up the car in a few days and park in our garage….. Cross our fingers that the request goes through! Odd that we are not allowed to return the rental early, it is a rule.

Fortunately the annual Auckland Pacifica Festival was today! This is a special event where all the pacific island nations/people come together for a week of celebration and cultural awareness activities. The free “street fair” portion was today, held in hilly sprawling Western Springs Park and comprised of 200+ stalls, all different kinds of food, dances, music, tons of people, and the ubiquitous traffic! We were smart and took a friend’s advice to take public transport there: bus, ferry, bus. The park is fabulous with several lakes and a natural spring. Each nation had an area you could wander around, eat, see the dances, and wares. The crowd felt calm & relaxed, we saw lots of families; fantastic people watching! Weather was more changeable than Colorado: intensely hot, mildly sunny, breezy then super windy, rainy, & then hot again. The sun really feels intense too. We spent about 3 hours wandering and headed back downtown to navigate our way back north.

On our journey today we disembarked the bus for the ferry in an overly adorable town called Devonport. (Our motel is just due north in another beach town called Takapuna.) Devonport is extremely picturesque and we are eager to go back and explore; both setting and architecture look amazing – very old NZ which is British – it looks like something you would see in the movies. Devonport is only 6 minutes by ferry from the CBD (central business district) and I think the average home price is a million dollars! More on all that later…!

Posted by Hilary G 21:03 Archived in New Zealand Tagged living_abroad Comments (3)

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