Monday, April 28, 2008

Tauranga NZ, April 29

This chapter of our adventure is not about sailing or traveling, it’s about settling into life in another country. Keeping house in Kiwiland, doing business down under, finding community and a sense of meaning in a new place.
Just over a month ago we moved off the boat to a flat by the beach in Mt. Maunganui, a resort area just minutes from the marina. Our landlords are Aucklanders who come down to enjoy their beach “bach” (vacation home) upstairs on very occasional weekends. For those of you who have visited NZ, or received Kiwi baby gifts from us, you will relate to the fact that the landlord has an apparel business with the “All Blacks” license for childrens wear. An American comparison might be made to Disney branding. Our neighbors on the beach side are Judy and Joe. They have been very friendly, giving us local information and produce from their daughter’s farm, loaning us furniture, and introducing Ellen to the church ladies.
The beach is beautiful. Almost always empty. One day after a big storm we counted about 60 surfers; during another run on a perfectly calm national holiday there were about 70 small craft fishing in the bay. Occasionally there is a sea kayaker, a glider, a remote control fisherman, a tightrope walker, or surf lifesavers out practicing…but mostly just a handful of folks, always with a greeting. We have come to the conclusion that this is Southern California without the people or the pollution. The weather is usually beautiful, there are palms and citrus trees around.
The house is a big improvement over living at the marina, especially with the arrival of autumn, which has been characterized by occasional bouts of torrential rain, wind and waves. It is a delight not to have to walk a quarter mile to the bathroom or live amongst “The Birds” (huge throngs of gulls that bear some resemblance to the creatures in the Hitchcock movie). We still get to visit the boat daily for work (it goes on and on, every day, most all day, it is a daily grind with frustrations, decisions, surprises, like most anyone else’s) and see our marina friends.
Speaking of marina friends, one of our favorites, Noelene, the lady who worked the marina café weekdays and dispensed advice on everything, disappeared. One morning she was crying about breaking up with her no-good husband. The next week she stopped showing up to work. Turned out she had embezzled $80,000 from another employer, was convicted and sentenced to jail. We now get to enjoy more of the owner, Cheryl, a petite, flirtatious blonde who wears pink and high heels, and has a Papillon puppy as her constant companion. Cheryl is unable to speak but is a hilarious practical joker. Tom seems to be a favorite object of her jokes. He orders a thick shake (as opposed to a regular one), she ties a knot in the straw and asks is it thick enough for you? He asks what’s in your King Burger and she serves him up six inches with everything including the kitchen sink on it. (So far, Kiwi women make American women seem like shrinking violets. They are intrepid and brave in the physical sense, and seem comfortable being bold, even kind of outrageous. They are not fashionistas and make do with what they have got.)
We know our way around town, are pretty accustomed to driving on the wrong side of the road, have our favorite grocery and video rental stores. In the dark fall nights we are watching lots of movies, eating at home, enjoying the last company of cruisers who are taking off for the tropics this season, and ballroom dancing. We got a good laugh when the instructor told us we turned the wrong way (just like we drive the wrong way too).


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