Siblings

Looking at their big sister with love and amusement

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Driving Along in My Automobile…

We are the proud owners of a brand new Nissan Elgrand.  Brand new to us, that is.  It is a 2004 model and a Japanese Import.  I have no idea what the Japanese do to their cars but here is what they evidently don’t do to, or in, their cars: wear muddy footwear, drink anything but colourless beverages or eat anything at all.  The only evidence of any damage is very slight: a few irregularities in one bit of fabric which, to me, looks like the remnants of a cigarette improperly ashed.

I always said I hated vans and would never own one but the practicalities of parenthood won the day.  My father-in-law and I combined investigatory efforts before we arrived here and came to the conclusion that the Elgrand was the best and most suitable option for us.  It was also the only one that could easily fit our triple stroller.  Despite it being purchased purely for its utilitarianism, it has some amazing features that I love…

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It fits the triple stroller: we’ve quasi piled the seats on top of each other and by folding a seat up and against the wall (how cool is that!?!), we are able to fit in the base as well).

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Here’s the interior. Notice the wheel is on the right side. Also, if you look close, you will see the world’s coolest keyless feature.

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I can use a key to turn on the ignition OR I can simply turn it on by having the key nearby. Any car I’ve been in before is EITHER with key or keyless but this car lets you do either!

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Just press that button on the left and if your key is nearby (say, in your pocket), the doors unlock.

The Journey: PART III

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If you haven’t read the previous two instalments of The Journey, here’s what you missed: I got barf on and under my shirt, the flights were tiring, Air New Zealand flights have awesome food, we had some snags in immigration and customs which delayed our arrival, my in-laws were there to meet us at the airport and escort us to our new home in Matamata, a small town in the Waikato region of New Zealand.

Now that we’re all caught up…

The Journey: PART III, or What I’ve Been Up To Since Arriving Just Over A Week Ago.

It’s been about ten days since we arrived and so far, so good.  

First, a bit about our house: it’s a three bedroom house that is located just on the outer edge of town on a farm property belonging to James’ family.  It’s convenient enough to get to town as it’s just a few kilometres away but far enough away to feel like you’re properly in the country.  The house is an old and solid structure so when we close the interior doors, we can’t hear the children so we’re sleeping great!  The house is by a major roadway so there is noise from that but it doesn’t bother us; I guess after spending all those years in the inner city, we became accustomed to even more noise than this.  

James’ parents arranged for some renovations of the house prior to our arrival so there’s bright white paint nearly everywhere, new looking windows and the bathroom looks entirely new.  As well, they set up some basic furniture and gave us some groceries so we weren’t left scrambling upon arrival.  

The first few days were spent getting over the jet lag.  We’ve been chipping away at various tasks such as getting IRD cards (which are the New Zealand equivalent to Canadian SIN cards) for me and the kids, and getting NZ driver’s licenses, arranging internet and phone service etc.  We’ve begun the process of finding work because, at least at this stage, we both realize that we need and want to work outside the home.  James is running for the local council which, for the first time in a number of years, finds itself with an overabundance of qualified nominees!   

Before I came here, I reflected that once I find work and friends, I’ll be fine.  Now I don’t have work yet and I don’t really have friends here yet but I’d like to think I’m well on my way.  There is a set-up in New Zealand that we don’t have in Canada which is called Play Centre.  Virtually every community has a Play Centre which is essentially a nursery for children from birth to 6 years old.  Parents and/or guardians must be in attendance but there is also a staff member there to help make sure things run smoothly.  The cost is $15-$25 for around 12 weeks depending on how often you go and how many kids you have.  It runs in the mornings for four days a week.  I imagine not every Play Centre is as incredible as our local one but, honestly, I was floored when I saw how amazing this place is.  It is a huge open-concept interior with every possible type of toy one can imagine and different stations such as play dough, painting, carpentry and so on.  There is a low gate which separates the  children under 2 from the rest of the kids.  There is a huge and rambling outdoor area which features an enormous covered sandbox and several large play structures, tires etc.  This place seriously has everything.  They even have coffee, tea and Milo for parents to help themselves to!   The parents hang around where ever they want to within the interior/exterior complex; there are no set parameters.  There’s a lot of chatting and – to use Manitoba lingo – “visiting”.  The parents there all seem very friendly.  One of them is hosting a DVD night this coming Friday night so my New Zealand social life is fast improving.

Groceries seem more expensive here than in Canada but I have to remind myself that New Zealand is an island nation in the South Pacific so what do I expect?!  That said, we’re lucky to get some groceries free from my in-laws: eggs, milk, beef and some herbs are always available from them and now, in season, we can also get lemons, limes, various types of oranges, rhubarb and swiss chard (which they call Silverbeet here).  

We’ve only been here for 10 days but there’s a lot to cover so here are a few short notes: there is no rabies here (!), no squirrels/beavers/racoons/skunks here, I started driving here on Day Two and am slowly mastering the Art of the Roundabout, taxes are included in quoted prices and tipping is not expected, they drive on the left side of the road, and countries nearby include Fiji, Tahiti, Rarotonga, Samoa, Solomon Island, Niue and Australia among others.

 I welcome questions or suggestions re: what to write about; just send me a PM or reply under this.

Until then, here are some photos…

Freshly picked and still warm eggs…

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It’s not home without a Magic Bullet…

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Apples and pears from a local orchard, the citrus and eggs from next door.  The bananas are from a shop…

 

 

 

 

 

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My father-in-law’s farm worker had the weekend off so James helped out.  Lev couldn’t sleep so he kept James company…

 

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A local honey maker keeps some beehives on my in-laws’ farm.  In exchange they get free honey so now we get free honey!

 

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Some jams, pickles, preserved fruits and chutneys made by my mother-in-law…

 

 

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The view from the backyard…

 

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The Journey: PART II: YVR Airport, the flight from Vancouver to Auckland and our arrival in New Zealand

If you skipped Part I of the Journey, here are the highlights to get you up to speed: we did not get upgraded, I got barfed on two hours in, baby puke smells gross, and I enjoyed a golf cart ride around the Toronto airport.

We arrived in Vancouver at around 6pm local time and the flight to Auckland was set to depart at 8pm.  Thankfully, not too long since we were already getting tired and weary and the vomit smell emanating from my soiled bra was putting me in a foul mood.  We were escorted by golf cart from our Toronto-Vancouver arrival gate to our Vancouver-Auckland departure gate.  This was necessary given the sheer mass of carry-on luggage we had, not to mention the 3 kids we had in tow.  We checked the stroller so we didn’t have the convenience of that to help us along.  Gate to gate must be at least a kilometre so it’s a good thing we got a lift or we’d have had to stop every 20 metres or so.  

We got to the gate: pretty straightforward.  We got our tickets re-issued (a necessary step though I’m not sure why) and was told by a Canadian Air Canada staff member (assisting Air New Zealand) that our kids didn’t have the completed paperwork to enter New Zealand but that, once admitted, we had 3 weeks to submit it.  What. What?!  WHAT?!!!  No, the truth is I didn’t care.  I was too tired to care.  I have nearly 5 month old twins and a nearly 21 month old toddler that has just entered the terrible twos, so I don’t have the energy to care.  I knew we had the certificates of Citizenship by Descent for all three kids which gives them a right to entry and I figured that anything else can be figured out later.  

Leah charmed a few strangers at the gate as we changed her into her long haul gear (ie. footsie pajamas).  James and I got dressed into our sweatpants/loungewear and we boarded the plane as quickly as possible.  I asked how much it cost to upgrade to First Class. Answer: $2500 per seat.  Not bad but too rich for our blood so we joined the plebs in economy class.  

The flight was good, all things considered.  James and I got a bit of sleep and, thankfully, the kids all slept quite a bit.  Leah, when awake, was kept entertained by walking up and down the aisles with us but mainly we all dutifully sat in our seats.  Every minute that passed was a godsend; it meant one less minute in a sardine can with three teething children.  

A few words on the food…I’m always impressed with the food on Air New Zealand flights and this one was no different: dinner was a thai beef curry with spiced rice, a bean salad, fresh bun with NZ butter, a cheesecake for dessert and red and white wines being offered, gratis, repeatedly; breakfast was a yogurt, fruit salad, sausage (good quality), omelette and hash browns.

We landed in Auckland.  There were no golf carts readily available so a lovely man called “Titi” pushed the luggage on a wheelchair while James and I split the kid carrying tasks to the other side of the airport.  We lined up (ed: queued up, for our Kiwi readers) and spoke to Immigration.  Due to the kids not having some sort of visa in the passports, we were asked to wait for someone to speak to us.  If I wasn’t so fatigued, I may have been worried.  Not worried that I’d be kicked out of New Zealand, but worried that I’d have to go right back on the plane for another 14 hour flight!  A lovely lady called Liza assured us that it wasn’t a problem, we could enter to NZ with the children possessing Citizenship by Descent but, to avoid this hassle in future, we ought to submit forms at our leisure.  It seems the strict 3 week period the aforementioned Air Canada staff member told us about was inaccurate by, ummmm, a lot.  After an hour or so at Immigration, we happily moved along to baggage claim.  Luckily, since we’d been stuck at Immigration for so long, all our bags were sitting by the carousel waiting for us.  It was like returning from the washroom at a restaurant and your meal is ready and waiting!  It was wonderful!  

We then made our way to Customs.  NZ Customs in renowned for being very strict.  The only unusual things we brought with us were some sweetgrass braids which, if you aren’t familiar with them, are braids of dried grass that are used for religious/ceremonial purposes.  We declared them but were initially accused of not declaring them since the Newbie Customs worker didn’t ask us about them.  As a side note, other Customs workers referred to the Newbie as being “rude” and having “an attitude”.  They said all this in front of me.  Somehow I don’t think this would happen in Canada.  In any event,  It took an hour with a Customs worker before he was convinced to let me take it.  It seems the fact that it was still green had made him nervous.  I assured him that it was very dry, nothing could be grown from it and that I certainly did not possess the green thumb skills required to bring it back to life.  All told, between Immigration and Customs, we walked through the exit nearly three hours after we landed.

We were happily greeted by my in-laws who are, without exaggeration, two of the nicest people I know.  Nice as in kind not as in bland.  They didn’t seem to mind that they’d been waiting for three hours.  They looked beautifully dressed (despite the early hour) and they hugged me even though I smelt like now-stale baby vomit.  

Leah, James’ mum and I went in her car; James, his dad and Lev and Philippa went in our new car — the Nissan Elgrand!, a car not even available in Canada.  I’ll save the Elgrand for another post but I will say this: I effing LOVE this car.  

We stopped en route at James’ sister’s place for breakfast which was, in short, a feast.  After spending the last 30 hours in air-conditioned spaces, it was great to be getting some fresh country air.  We said our goodbyes and then headed to our new home in Matamata.  We are staying in a cottage that is nearby my in-laws on their farm property.  The views are beautiful and I am surrounded by citrus trees.  I could get used to this.

Stay tuned — PART III of The Journey will feature what I’ve been up to since I arrived six days ago!

For now, enjoy the photos below…

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Leah at the Vancouver airport, attempting to enter a secured zone…[NB: HSBC clearly spends a ton on advertising!]

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One kid is missing in this photo…

 

 

 

 

 

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From left: Philippa, Lev and Leah enjoying a brief moment on the plane…

 

 

 

 

 

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See you next time!

Until then, you can find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CanadianMumAbroad

xx

The Journey: PART I: The Departure, YYZ, Flight to Vancouver

We’ve arrived in our new home in Matamata, New Zealand.  We survived the flights, immigration, customs, extreme fatigue, and three teething children.  Now we are busy settling in to our new lives.

But first things first: the departure. 

My brother arranged for two cars to take us to the airport which, as was the case when we arrived in Toronto seven weeks earlier, a great help.  We split up into two cars.  Two kids with me in one car, and James and the bulk of the luggage in the other.  During the teary goodbye with my parents, I told them to think of all the things they don’t like about me and all the foolish things I say and that will make them feel better.  Fast forward a few minutes to the car ride: the driver tells me that his bi-polar daughter says things that upset him but he still loves her.  I’m not bi-polar but I let it slide.  

We arrive at the airport and everything is going well.  No one gives us preferential treatment though; we have to stand in line like everyone else.  I somehow imagined that people would see how overwhelmed we are with children and usher us through immediately and offer, nay insist!, to upgrade our seats.  My husband was in line with the bags and I tried to entertain the kids nearby.  Some of the entertaining involved pretending to throw my elder daughter at my son; both laughed and passerby seemed entertained so 1 Point for Mum.  Once James got to the front of the line, our elder daughter was getting more and more excited by the airport.  From her point of view, it had everything she loves – room to run around and tons of people with whom she could interact.  Her favourite part of the airport was lying, face down, on the ground which, I repeatedly tell myself, is good for her immune system and to be honest, is infinitely cleaner than the floor of our place.

Security was a breeze. They ushered us through pretty quickly, no questions asked.

James took a baby and some luggage on to the gate.  I took two babies and the balance of the luggage in A GOLF CART. Those buggies that elderly people enjoy at the airport was enjoyed by us.  I use the word “enjoy” deliberately; it was awesome.  Fake an injury when you’re next at a major airport; whizzing around in that thing will be worth you going to hell for faking infirmity.

The wait was interesting: I introduced my elder daughter to the wonders of moving sidewalks, a standard feature of modern airports.  We went in a loop for about 15 minutes which is impressive given my propensity for motion sickness.  We met a Kiwi couple who were visiting Canada with their TWIN boys who were born a day after our daughter which, given the time difference, means they were all likely born on the same day.  Eerie coincidence that we would have cared about if we weren’t so tired.  

There were a lot of seats available near us at the airport.  An older French Canadian woman asked if the seat near me was taken.  I said no.  She then proceeded to sit right beside me.  The equivalent is having someone sit beside you in an otherwise empty theatre.  What the fuck.  

The flight was, in short, fucking brutal.  They didn’t dim the lights, no bassinets were available and my daughter barfed on me two hours into a five hour flight.  And don’t be fooled, baby vomit still smells like vomit.  Wait, let me be clear, she didn’t just barf on me, she barfed down my shirt.  Here’s a tip, ladies: when you travel with your kids, pack an extra bra not just an extra shirt.  Ah, and as luck would have it, the creepy French Canadian woman sat right beside me which, I found out later, was not actually her seat at all.  

On the upside, our plane was on time and didn’t crash.  Two points for us and Air Canada!

Stay tuned —

The Journey: PART II will feature the Vancouver Airport, the flight from Vancouver to Auckland and our arrival in New Zealand.

The Journey: PART III will feature what we’ve been up to since we’ve arrived.

 

xx

 

Leah in the car en route to the airport…

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Random half-naked sun-worshipper beside our triple stroller at the Toronto airport…

 

 

 

 

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Just some of our bags…

 

 

 

 

 

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Front view of Father of the Year…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Leah befriending a random family in the security line…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Eating crackers…

 

 

 

 

 

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A peaceful moment amidst the chaos…

 

 

 

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Truly, the greatest father and husband in the world.

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