A Travellerspoint blog

A busy few days - all good!

Lot of news to share


NEWS flashes: We have not seriously hurt each other while arguing about each other’s driving! We rented a house! We had a bit of fun today! We are eating well - and often!

The word “dog” sends shivers down Realtor’s spines; they shake their head and frown, “hmmm, very hard”. Some have been nice and have tried to be helpful, others pretty much slam the door in our face. The reality is that there is an overall shortage of rentals ……we were not to be dismayed. How can we even live without a dog? What would we talk about if we didn’t have a dog? We would find a rental house! (I think I can I think I can I think I can!)

We decided to cross the harbor bridge and go to a hilly area just north of the city with the inspired name of North Shore. We found the real estate office (after loud squabbling in the car how to get there) and found Rob.  After much shaking of head his face lit up, he had a place not yet on the market! Come back later and he would take us!

The house is old (1950s?), dark on the inside but the new owner will paint. It is very solid and has a decent kitchen. They will leave the frig and washer! There are 4 very small bedrooms, 2 lounges (LR), VIEWS! + walk out basement (with laundry, ½ bath, and room for guests, storage, etc.) that opens up to a large yard. Being near the top of the hill allows cooling ocean breezes to circulate. It’s funky and best of all they will accept Kenzie! The rent starts May 1st so they have time to get it cleaned up. After what Howard had seen it was a no brainer. We are excited!

The neighborhood is right between Northcote (Asian) and Hillcrest (tony). I stumbled into a constable’s office and he said it was “right good” except for the “double nut” several doors down but “not to worry he is harmless!” Two minutes from the house is a shopping center with several medium sized Asian markets, bakeries, other Asian stores selling mysterious things I don’t understand, the constable’s office, and a sweet little library with WIFI! The library is really colorful and busy, very welcoming. The abundant mature wisteria all along the front must be beautiful when in bloom.

About 10 minutes due east is Takapuna, a beach town with two large towers which we can see from our new house. Today we found a motel w/ all of a 3 minute walk to the beach and will move there tomorrow so we can learn the North Shore area a bit better (and not drive the bridge). I plan to visit the many schools in the area too. Takapuna is lovely, very fancy, lots of great shops and restaurants. We made a note of the Irish Bar for St Paddy’s Day!

Yesterday had a positive and productive meeting with a professor at the University of Auckland. To learn the “context” I will begin my “journey” (Maoris are really into the concept of a life journey) working with children. Since I have worked with adults for so long it sounds refreshing and FUN to work with kids in a student centered, active learning, and educational atmosphere. Since we talked about NZ so many months ago I had thought I would need to learn the system before I could teach teachers at a university or do something at the tertiary level. Working as a teacher feels right: it will be fun to be with kids again & a great way to learn the community as well as WHY NZ is rated one the best educational systems it the world! Plus it will be easier to make friends working as a teacher! Social constructivism is still the dominant pedagogy since mandated (punitive) tests have not taken over (yet?).

There is a big controversy about national standards all across NZ. People are not worried about standards. Most schools have already developed their own system of accountability; the concern is that this conservative Gov’t - under Prime Minister John Keys and Ed. Minister Anne Tolley – will copy the US and the UK despite proven un-success with national testing and contemporary school reform. Schools in NZ are their own selves, they operate with a Board but not an over arching district so are independent yet public. The national curriculum gets high praises and each school charts their own course to meet student need. In today’s Herald the principal of a school in Christchurch declared they would NOT adopt the standards! Great drama! Also learned that the International Reading Association is hosting their WORLD CONGRESS conference in Auckland this July! Of course I plan to attend!

Walking the beach today was a celebration of all we have accomplished. We are home tonight and it feels good to (finally) relax.

Posted by Hilary G 21:48 Archived in New Zealand Tagged living_abroad Comments (3)

Visiting schools and learning our way


For the past two days we have been running around, learning, exploring and meeting all sorts of people from all over the world. We are getting to know our way around our little pocket of Auckland. Apparently the #1 Chinese take away in the entire city is two blocks away! It is a crazy busy noisy place with a line of guys cooking in woks, tossing in vats of water for a quick scrub before the next order is quickly cooked for hungry patrons.

We have looked at some rentals and so far have not liked anything; this is Howard’s “job” and he is very analytic (surprise!) in his approach. The one house he was so enamored with was in lovely country side but down a strange alley and hard to get to via neighbors driveway. Weird.

The highlight for me was today. I left @ 6:30 AM to drive with an education consultant (I met her via a social networking site for teachers) 2 hours up the coast to Whangarei (pop 45,000). Gorgeous countryside a bit reminiscent of northern CA, dotted with sheep and cows: small villages lined hilly twisty roads, some of which revealed spectacular views of the coast.

Our first stop was a catholic school; yes a public school, where my new friend, was working for the day. I spent some time listening to the middle mgt team talk about curriculum alignment and mapping. Their work is very sophisticated and deep. Curriculum is organized around concepts – story, challenge, culture, movement, that kind of thing and everything filters though that. It is not skill driven yet students are obviously learning skills, dispositions, principals, values; it is comprehensive and well rounded. The compartmentalization of the US system flabbergasts them. Mid AM the entire staff met for a “tea break” while the children played. I was then given a tour and visited classrooms; it was recommended I go back and really visit several specific rooms and students were excited to take the American lady to each succeeding class.

I had a blast! Students, mostly European (this was a high resource school), were articulate, very excited, happy, outspoken and often cognizant of their learning goals. I saw a number of students from other areas of Oceania (places I have never heard if!), the Philippines, parts of Asia, and Zimbabwe etc. The kids were fun and I enjoyed conversations about America and answering their many questions. Most do not wear shoes. In fact, most of the teachers don’t wear shoes in their classrooms either! Kids were shocked to hear our students get in trouble for taking their shoes off – hence lots of important conversation about shoes and feet! Outside of every classroom is the typical jumble of backpacks surrounded by many regulation black strapped sandals – how they know which pair is theirs I don’t know – maybe they don’t and they wear whatever shoe they find??

My new friend kindly arranged for me to get picked up by a retired teacher friend and visit another school. The setting was magnificent & the principal was so interesting. She gave us a tour and we talked very frankly about similarities and differences of our systems. She is a brilliant woman with her use of space and grouping of students. Multi age classrooms are the norm, e.g. as the year 6 classes can get a bit “stroppy” but when mixed with year five they calm down while the year 5s strive to keep up. Her school is centered on Art Costa’s Habits of Mind.

Then off to the new library - for coffee - and we walked around downtown and looked at her favorite dress shop – 70% off! A long drive home and wonderful conversation – a fantastic day!

Posted by Hilary G 02:33 Archived in New Zealand Tagged educational Comments (4)


Happily ... in Auckland

sunny 22 °C

We made it! Left Denver Friday afternoon and flew to Los Angeles. Having heard horror stories about LAX was a bit dubious but all was well. The Qantas flight was on time and more comfortable than expected. They fed us well, and often, crew was friendly and helpful. Yes 12 hours, a long flight but with movies, books, good company, did I say food (!?!), many blankets and pillows, we were quite snug and slept. Howard and I each had aisle seats so we had space on one side. My seat mates were a newly married couple, Paul and Kirsten, returning to NZ from a CA road trip. Paul was really great to talk with. Howard chatted with his seat mates, a couple from Portland OR and enjoyed them a lot. Luckily some nearby seats were open so we all could move around bit for more space.

Getting bags and through customs in Auckland @ 9:30 Sunday morning was super organized thus easy. We went through several queues, bags were x-rayed and again everyone was friendly and humane. Not once did I have that feeling of being herded by blank eyed automatons. We were so impressed with the number of officials in the passport lanes, they moved really fast. Rental car, ditto, a snap.

Driving was another story! Of course this is our first time driving on the left side. The steering wheel is on the right, and gear shift on driver’s left, foot pedals are the same as ours…. It was a bit hairy at times as there was no shoulder on some roads, so as Howard sped along I was looking with terror at the deep pavement and sheer drop off to dirt 6 inches below, ouch! Of course he was concerned about turning into oncoming traffic & head on collisions!

First stop was the quarantine kennel south of Auckland (not far from the airport). Teejay showed us around; he loves huskies! Orinia, works the desk on weekends, was so welcoming. She answered many questions; both she and Teejay were extremely patient with us as by that point we were suddenly exhausted. Kenzie will have to be quarantined for 30 days without contact from other dogs but we can visit daily. She will have a shady kennel with outside access; the play yard is also available to her. Interesting that the governing body, MAF (Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry), owns that part of the facility not the kennel owners. MAF - Te Manatū Ahuwhenua, Ngāherehere reports: “Our mission is to enhance New Zealand's natural advantage. We do this by: encouraging high-performing sectors; developing safe and freer trade; ensuring healthy New Zealanders; and by protecting our natural resources for the benefit of future generations.” Kenzie is part of something bigger than herself!

Next, back north on the motor way to Auckland and to our motel. The Oak Tree Motel. The tree itself is gorgeous and melon sized, smooth black river rocks border foot paths and flower beds. The motel was easy to find and we pulled right in. Our room is immaculate! It is all freshly done with a small kitchen and modern “en suite” bathroom. We have TV, internet, and 5 minute drive to the trendy Newmarket area.

We arrived in Newmarket around 3:30 PM and wandered around looking for FOOD! We were simply out of gas and not in the mood for a fancy place and dainty portions. After a bit, I spied people eating above us in what turned out to be a 3 story glitzy mall with over 70 shops – including a gianormous grocery store! We ate well in the food court: pumpkin vege cranberry wrap, 2x baked potato with extra yummy things inside, chick pea masala, & nan. The market was well stocked, brand new, and was everything a modern grocery store could be – even a small Starbucks lounge adjacent to the entrance - and inside mall parking. Speaking of brands, didn’t see any I recognized so it took a while to find a box of cereal. Now we are hunkered in for the night, all stocked up with fruit, snacks, breakfast stuff, and vino. Tomorrow is another big day.

A word of caution: since my learning curve is sky high, I am learning about this blog thingamajig. I will try to get photos on the same page & you notified that I blogged. Isn’t that a funny new verb? …. Bear with me! Cheers!

Posted by Hilary G 23:42 Archived in New Zealand Tagged living_abroad Comments (4)

Pre-packing, packing, weighing, and packing again

packing as symbolism

When I was pre-packing this morning I remembered that right before our honeymoon I took pictures of our open suitcases. Mine was immaculate, all tidy and organized. Howard's... well... can you guess? As a young bride I wondered what this meant for our life together. Now, 23+ years later I can answer that question!

Since that first trip together, I have graduated to jumbo zip lock backs so everything is organized in "packets". Heaven (!!!) or as my grandmother, Gammey, would say, "very satisfying". Howard took about 30 minutes today and I have spent hours thinking, planning, & making lists. So I guess the secret to a happy marriage is to each his/her own! We are ready for our adventure and thank you all for your support and encouragement.

Posted by Hilary G 12:43 Tagged packing Comments (2)

Getting Ready!

8 days and counting.....

We leave in just over one week! This is hard to believe after all the thought, talk, research, preparation, etc. We are getting very excited! It is still quite warm in Auckland, while this instant it is snowing here in Littleton. Have to wrap our minds around packing late summer/early fall gear + hats, sunscreen, and all the "travel accoutrement" like chargers, cords, adapters, and non-perishable snacks ~ hooray for wheat thins!

This blog is an attempt to record impressions and share pictures with friends and family. Hopefully, with a bit of luck, I can learn how to do all this. This first post is "only a test" of broadcast systems...repeat, only a test. :)

Posted by Hilary G 14:36 Archived in New Zealand Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

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