Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A weekend away

This weekend was a busy one (which is why I have only just recovered enough now to write about it!). It started with a late night out to the "Proms" on Friday where the children were introduced to a real mixture of orchestra and singing. Despite being incredibly tired they managed to enjoy it right till the end - even joining in on the arm-swinging in the finale - Auld Lang Syne.
The next day we headed away to Oamaru with a stop at the Moeraki Boulders on the way. These are amazing round rocks that are just lying around on the beach - like rocks generally do. For anyone interested in the formation of these one link is: Moeraki Boulders
The main reason for stopping in Oamaru for a night was to go and see the smallest penguins in the world - the little blue penguins. I have been once before, but we only saw about 3 penguins and it was freezing! This time there were about 75 that came ashore and the children were fascinated by them. They were definitely worth seeing! Again for anyone wanting more information this is the link for the homepage: Blue Penguin Colony

Friday, February 22, 2008


The main reason we are in New Zealand and not rural Japan right now is to give the children a chance to experience some "kiwi" education. Like all weeks so far this week has been full of learning experiences for them. They started swimming lessons on Wednesday and despite the fact that they swallowed half the pool, they seemed to have a great time and the small class sizes (5 children per class rather than the 15 or so they seem to have in Japan....) should mean they learn quickly.
My mother has also been showing the children how to use a natural resource, flax, to weave baskets. There is a reason why the finished product is not featured! I'm glad she has the patience to sit with them to give them this experience.

Today I went and watched the children's assembly at school. I was impressed by the huge number of parents there and also by the confidence the children showed. Both my son and daughter won a "cooperation award" so they were very excited! My daughter has a partially deaf girl in her class and so they are learning a lot of sign language which they took pride in showing us today. It was a nice chance to see the children with their classes and see a little of what they are doing in class.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

School beach day

Today I helped out at the school's beach safety day. I spent the whole day with the year 1-3 students while they learned about keeping safe in the water, keeping covered up out of the water and lots of playing to make it all fun. It was interesting to watch my children interact with the other children and also to get some time out in the sun. Despite the beautiful weather the children were only allowed to go paddling 6 at a time (with adults in between each child holding their hands) due to the big waves. This turned out to be a sensible decision as the first group we took out was almost swept under a huge wave.... so much for just getting wet up to their knees - armpits was a little closer to the truth. Fortunately I had taken a change of clothes!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Dunedin traditions

Dunedin is a city of Scottish origins and is therefore often host to pipeband competitions. Today just happened to be one of those so we stopped to watch for a bit - the real highlight being one piper who wanted to be able to hear his own playing so much (bagpipes are rather loud...) that he shut himself in a phone box!
As I think I mentioned before Dunedin is also home to some amazing buildings - in fact the railway station is the second most photographed building in the Southern Hemisphere (the Sydney Opera House being the most photographed). This is a fact I learned at the most delicious building in the Southern Hemisphere - the Cadbury chocolate factory! Every time we come to Dunedin we seem to go on the factory tour and it is always a delicious experience for all involved. The smell alone is pretty good, but the samples you get along the way fill the stomach a little better! Mind you it is pretty scary to think that the factory produces about 30 million easter eggs every year.... all of which are consumed in one week in New Zealand! That's right an average of just under 10 easter eggs for every single person in New Zealand each year.... no wonder the average body size is increasing each year!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Auction day

I'm sure there is a saying about one person's junk being another person's treasure and that is very much alive and well in Dunedin! My mother and her partner run an auction rooms and Wednesday is auction day so I went and helped them out (or hindered them....) yesterday. I found it really interesting to watch the types of people there - lots of regulars, but also a lot of people who were there for their first time and having a great time bidding on other people's junk.
The previous day I also helped with packing up and labeling a whole house lot of things from a family who had chosen to auction all their family's items and then bid on the goods themselves after their mother was admitted to hospital. This means that there should be no fighting over who gets what and what the value of the individual items are - in theory! I found it quite sad watching the entire house being packed up.... so many treasures to the family that may not be worth much to other people.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Another weekend gone

Time is racing by here with yet another weekend finished and another school week looming. One of the things I enjoy about New Zealand is the number of things that you can do for free. There are usually enough things happening to keep the children interested and this weekend was no exception - Saturday was spent at the morning farmers market, the library and then the museum, where the children spent hours finding all the birds and animals that are unique to New Zealand that they have been reading about in their books - Takahe, pukeko, kakapo, moa, etc. etc. Their language is developing very fast!
Today we went to two different festivals around town - both that had a lot of different music and dance items as well as face painting, jumpy airplanes, mini fire engines to ride in etc. Lots of free entertainment to fill in the day.
Back to school tomorrow for more great experiences!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Starting school

Today was my children's first day at a New Zealand school. In fact, it was my son's first day at any school. They seemed to have a pretty good day, although they came home exhausted... my daughter falling into bed for an afternoon sleep with a slight fever. Hopefully it is just exhaustion and not the onset of something worse! It was an interesting experience for us all - everything is just so much more casual here compared to Japan - no entrance ceremonies - in fact we weren't even really enrolled properly to begin with - just turn up and we'll work it out kind of attitude! Other differences (I'll let you decide whether you think they are positive or negative!)
  • So much grass to play on (no big dirt fields called playgrounds)
  • Bright classrooms
  • School lunches taken from home.... maybe Japan is not all bad!
  • No textbooks
  • No set times for each subject
  • Individual teaching of each student for reading/maths subjects
  • All parents arriving at the gate to pick up their children at 3pm
Of course the list goes on and on, but that is enough for tonight. It will be interesting to see if the children continue to enjoy their time there and then how they will cope with going back to the more rigid Japanese system. The best news for today.... my daughter's teacher is more than happy for her to do her Japanese homework (kanji) as part of her school work in NZ. At least this way I don't have to keep pestering her at home!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Every time we come back to New Zealand there are places that the children remember going to and want to go back to again and again. One of them is the park at St. Kilda. To be honest it is not an amazing park, but the children feel at home there and never get sick of running up and down the stairs to the top of the dinosaur slide. A great way to tire them out for an early night.....
This year we increased the activities done at the park and played a round of mini golf. I think the children's scores were only about 75 over par.... a good test of patience for all involved!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Otago Peninsula

Yesterday we spent the day out on the Otago peninsula which, apart from being known as the place where I lived for quite a few years in my earlier days, is also home to some wonderful wildlife and some beautiful gardens - not to mention the only castle in New Zealand. We started the day out there with a leisurely drive right out to the heads where we had some morning tea with the seals - that's right folks we sat directly on the sand and rocks without our picnic sheet.... only my husband seemed a little worried by this!
After that we went to the albatross colony where I was really impressed by their helpfulness. Unlike our experiences in Christchurch there was plenty of information in Japanese and they also provided an electric cart and a helper for my mother-in-law to help her up the steep hill. Although there were no albatross flying we did see a couple of glimpses of some chicks that the parents were sitting on.
A trip to Larnach Castle finished off the day - well for the old folks anyway. My husband and I then took the children for a hike down to a wonderful place called Tunnel Beach. It is very close to the city (if you don't count the long hike down and the even longer hike up....) and the scenery is great. A really nice way to finish off the Japanese side of the trip.
My husband and his parents headed back to Christchurch today for their flight home tomorrow. We will now try to settle into some routines here.... school starts on Thursday!

Central Dunedin

Dunedin has a relatively long history compared to some of the other cities in New Zealand (although compared to Japan it is just a spring chicken... ). Due to its Scottish heritage there are many impressive buildings - the three most famous (and photographed...) perhaps being First Church, the railway station and the university.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Banks Peninsula

Sorry - the order of these entries is a little wrong, but.... we had another wonderful trip out to my uncle and aunty's last week. Everything for my husband's parents has been completely new to them so a trip out on a yacht etc. meant they came away thinking they were living in a dream. Even the drive there and back kept them awake with sheep on every side of the road! And of course the hospitality they were shown was out of this world. Thank you everyone!

Christchurch to Dunedin

The last few days seem to be filled with eating and traveling. We separated from my husband and his parents after a wonderful time in Christchurch (thank you everyone!) and we took the easy road to Dunedin (1 hour in a plane...) and the others took the long route via Mt. Cook with a night in Twizel.
Here in Dunedin the weather has turned cold, but there are still enough interesting things to keep us busy. Ducks to feed, cars to feed, the steepest street in the world to wander up, the university, the station etc. etc. Here's hoping it warms up a little more for our trip down the Otago Peninsula tomorrow!