Sunday, March 30, 2008

The last few days

Sorry -I haven't got around to updating the blog lately so I will just quickly summarize the last week or so....
Chickens seem to be a big part of our life over here and although Mum's chickens are looking a little worse for wear at the moment we went to a friend's house where there were lots and lots of very cute bantam hens running around. My son managed to feed them by hand, but my daughter was a little more cautious!

With only one week left now in New Zealand the farewells have begun. We drove up to Timaru and had a really nice afternoon with Grandad and Nanna Dawn. Perfect weather and a great playground to play in helped to make the farewell a pleasant experience. They are off to London via Singapore today. I wonder why they didn't try to coordinate it so that we were on the same flight to Singapore???? Perhaps they were put off by the High School Musical microphone.....

On the way home we discovered a great "garden" where the children really enjoyed seeing and feeding a whole range of animals. There were ducks, geese, turkeys, alpacas, highland cows, deers, millions of birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, peacocks, pigs, goats etc. etc. and although my daughter was again too scared to actually let the deer eat out of her hand her brother managed to be slobbered on at close range!

Back to Dunedin and the next excitement was a basketball game with the local Otago team - "The Nuggets". Although they lost the children seemed to enjoy the noisy atmosphere and the few good shots and steals that were made by the players. Of course my daughter also thought the quarter time entertainment by the dancing group was pretty neat too!

The final entertainment over the last few days was "helping out" at a closing down auction. As usual I think the children provided more distractions than help, but they enjoyed seeing Big Kev in action again.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Taieri Gorge Train

Yet another snap decision saw me take the children on the Taieri Gorge Train in the weekend. It is a great train journey that takes you through some great scenery and some pretty amazing tunnels etc. that were all carved by hand over 100 years ago. There is commentary for the entire 4 hours it takes to go to the turn around point and back to the great Dunedin railway station and although the commentary can get a little tedious at times you can escape it by going out onto the platforms of the train for a breath of fresh air. They do tell you some interesting stories too if you can hear it above the noise of the train and the children"s "chatter". The trip was even more enjoyable due to the fact that we had one carriage all to ourselves for the first half of the trip - the children made the most of it by making huts under the seats, running from up and down the carriage etc.
Another nice outing on another beautiful day! And look folks - I was even there too!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter bunny comes hopping along

For anyone who didn't know it is currently the Easter break here. Although Easter is really a religious holiday it has become a very commercialized time of year here now with Easter eggs (made of chocolate of course) being a major focus. The shops are full of them.....
"Traditionally" on Easter Sunday the Easter bunny comes hopping along and delivers Easter eggs to all the children. This morning the Easter Bunny went to great extremes to give the children a good time and actually made an Amazing Race (or a Treasure hunt) where the children had to follow clues to find where the eggs were hiding. They had a great time running around my mother's enormous garden, into the glasshouse, to where the frogs live, into the chicken food (fortunately the dried kind!) etc. and collecting their chocolate eggs in their own hand-made baskets. Thanks Easter Bunny for a fun start to the morning!

Remembering the past

My Grandma died 6 and a half years ago and although I made it over from Japan for her funeral (just...) I wasn't present when her ashes were buried in her hometown of Dunedin. On Friday we all went to visit my Grandma for the first time in her new resting spot and thanks to the wonders of the internet were able to find her grave without getting lost once. As most people are buried individually in New Zealand as opposed to family graves in Japan, the cemeteries are a little larger and therefore a little more difficult to navigate around.
We picked some flowers from the garden and took her a jar of jam - anyone who knew her would know why! She is buried with her late husband (my grandfather) who died when he was only 26 years old - it was my first time to visit his grave too so it was nice to say hello to him for the first time and hello to Grandma again after so long.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Yellow eyed penguins

Today a snap decision was made and after school we packed a picnic tea and headed back to Sandfly bay to see if we could spot a few yellow eyed penguins on their way back home for the night.
On the walk down the beach towards the hides we saw one penguin which was still there when we returned a few hours later... I think it was just enjoying the beautiful weather! We also saw another one while we were at the hide which made its way up the rocks and up a very steep hill to its nest. I wonder if it was as tired as we were by the time we got back to our car! A nice evening out to start the Easter break.

Monday, March 17, 2008


This weekend we went away again, this time to a small (or should I say tiny) town called Naseby. It is a beautiful little town in the Maniototo region (about 2.5 hours from Dunedin) which has a permanent population of only 100 people. This increases dramatically over the holiday season though to over 3,000 people who enjoy, like we did, wandering through the forest, playing in the water races and ponds and just generally lazing around.
Naseby is also home to the national centre for Curling - which became quite popular after the winter Olympics. We went to have a look one day and the children then had a go the next day - after putting on a few more layers of clothing! They really enjoyed it - and we enjoyed the fact that they wouldn't accept any money at the centre for the experience. Not often that that happens! Apart from the occasional tense moment (I won't go into that in too much detail here, but thanks Mum for putting up with it!) we had a great weekend with great weather!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Birthday party

My son was able to have another great experience in the weekend - a kiwi birthday party! His whole class was invited (fortunately there are only 16 in his class...) and entertained by a wonderful balloon lady who did a balloon puppet show, made balloons for all the children etc.
Of course a party wouldn't be a party without a piniata too - this one was designed to do outside, but the rain made it an indoor activity. Although the children loved smashing it with an ice hockey stick, the parents were a little more wary of the flying stick in a very narrow room!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

More beaches

The weather was perfect on Saturday so I headed out to the peninsula with the children to one of my favourite beaches from my childhood - Sandfly Bay. Fortunately there were no sandflies and very few people to interfere with the races up and down the massive sand dunes and the digging, digging and more digging!
The main problem was that I forgot how difficult it was to get back up the sand dunes to the car when all the fun was over.... I wasn't sure I was going to make it!
We finished off the day with a trip to the Portobello aquarium, which although small has a nice atmosphere and some great touch tanks for the children to explore.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Not all fun

One advantage (?) of coming to New Zealand for a long stretch of time is that the children get to experience a really large range of things. Unfortunately these are not always fun.... This week my daughter had to go and see the "dental therapist" and get her first filling. Fortunately the dental therapist was really nice and fitted her with sunglasses, showed her exactly what he was doing, gave her a mirror to hold (she was in heaven!) and flashed his lovely smile at her while praising her ability to keep her mouth open. Hopefully she is now looking forward to her next visit next week!
Although dental work in Japan is covered for both children and adults by insurance they do not have a dental clinic system like they do in New Zealand. There are sometimes dental checks at school and kindergarten, but if there are any problems then it is up to the parent to decide if they want to follow it up and find their own dentist etc. Despite the dental therapist here not being a fully qualified dentist I was impressed by his enthusiasm and explanations and having the appointment made for us made life easier. I guess both systems have their advantages!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Another week gone

Another week has gone... not so many left now. We had yet another good weekend, despite constant rain. My grand parents and aunt & uncle came down to visit on Saturday so we had 4 generations of females in the same house at the same time again. It was great to see the children being so proud of their reading ability etc. and enjoying reading to their grandparents! Of course it was also really good to have another excuse to go out for dinner again too. It was a shame that we couldn't see them for longer, but it was great to catch up anyway.

Sunday was still raining so we went swimming again at the indoor pool (or the children did) and then went to another museum - this time the Early Settlers Museum in Dunedin. My daughter is now very excited each time we go to a museum to find a big piece of the greenstone at the entrance which she believes will make her into a "good girl" if she touches it. Wouldn't it be nice if it worked for longer than half an hour..... The other thing that seems to be at all the museums here are the old pennyfarthing bikes that the children can ride. I'm sure at this rate we will be able to take the training wheels off and let them loose before we go back to Japan!

Last week I had one nice lazy day where all I really did was go to some beautiful gardens and read my book. There are plenty of great gardens in Dunedin so here's hoping there will be a few more days like that before we leave!