Sunday, December 31, 2006

The New Year

Hmm... let's see what it brings.

Do you remember when you were in college and people would ask you 'What are you going to do when you graduate?" And if you were like me, you were really annoyed at that question because you really didn't know for sure.

Sometimes I feel like that here as well. At home, at work, with friends...
"So, how long have you been here?" (Although I do know the answer to that question...)
"How long are you staying?"
"Do you like it here?" (A pretty broad question)
"What are you going go to do next?

And I know that many of you don't know what I am going to do because I haven't told you yet. So, in case you are wondering what my new year will bring, it's a matter of choice.

As I mentioned before, I am not going to stay for whole year of teaching.

In the past three months I have been offered two jobs through my hiring agency and have been informally encouraged to apply for an open position by the principal at Richmond Road for the 2007 year. For me, though, teaching here for a year is something that I have a hard time committing to. It's just not the right fit for me, and especially not right now. Each day I teach makes me excited to teach in a full classroom again. Just not here, and just not right now.

I looked into staying through one term of full-time teaching this year (commencing in February 2007 and lasting 10 weeks) so that I could immerse myself in a full classroom and have the experience of learning the curriculum, but every job I applied for (33) needed long-term relievers for the entire year, not one term.

I have applied (and am continuing to apply) for teaching jobs in Europe which will start next fall. I have registered my name and information with two highly recommended overseas teacher staffing services. I have also directly applied to schools including The American School in London and The American School in Switzerland. And although I haven't yet, I am seriously considering applying at some American schools (in America) for more unique experiences closer to home. Either way, my current overseas experience paired with two years of classroom work and excellent recommendations (thanks Wendy, Tamara, and Randy!) make me feel very qualified and confident for any job I apply for.

Because I'll have about 7 months to continue to apply and prepare for a teaching job, I have the opportunity and time to leave for a few months to try something else abroad. So, just for fun and giggles, I have applied with Imperial Nannies, which is a high-profile company out of England that places nannies with families all over the world. Again, highly qualified and available immediately, and it pays EXTREMELY well. The only downfall is that I'd only be available for about 5-6 months, which might be too short of a time to suit many families.

Now, in the past, I would have called and called and called the nanny service to find out the status of my file, and would be trying to work my way into a family with the utmost urgency. But this time, I'm sitting back. To be honest, completely honest, I LOVE living in Auckland right now. I'm not going to sweat staying in New Zealand for the next few months, and I would actually welcome the opportunity to do that as much as I would to leave and see more of the world. I LOVE relieving, as the money and experiences are GREAT, and I know I'll have plenty of work on a daily basis. I love, love, love my flatties and my house, I'm making incredible friends and connections, and doing the most amazing things that I could have never dreamed of.

I feel very fortunate that EITHER staying or leaving is going to be a win-win, excellent opportunity for me to have amazing personal experiences as well as the chance to learn and grow professionally in educational, child-filled settings. Because don't both support my entire reason for coming this far in the first place?

New year, schmew year. Bring it on.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A Kiwi Christmas

Christmas here is weird. Er, I mean different...

For starters, it's warm.

Nobody puts lights on their houses.

TV programming has NO commercials (on any station - it's not allowed).

They set fire to the christmas pudding.

When you sit down at the table your plate has a Christmas cracker (not an eating cracker, but a toy cracker present). Before eating, everyone joins hands and pops thier Christmas cracker to reveal a surprise inside. Mine had glue, which I traded for Damien's tweezers.

Boxing Day (the 26th) is a 'national statutory holiday', meaning that everyone doesn't work. And if you do, you get paid extra. Because it's a national statutory holiday.

Oh, and I think the queen needs a new stylist. During this year's Christmas message, she was wearing a lime green suit.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Happy Easter.

Merry Christmas to all of my friends and family!

I truly, truly hope you are all enjoying every minute
of the food, festivities, and family.

I am spending the holiday with Mary at her home. We
cooked dinner and caught up last night on Christmas
Eve, and today on Christmas day we're going to treat
ourselves to Season 3 of Grey's Anatomy, which I have
downloaded on my laptop. God bless I-tunes.

When Christmas Eve turned into Christmas in New Zealand, Mary and I were at mass like good little
girls. It was great. Not great in a spiritual way,
but in a way that one can only experience when being
exposed to new cultures.

Let's just say that if you really want to be serious
about the reason for the season, don't go to Christmas
Eve mass in New Zealand with Mary and I. It turns out
that we can't help ourselves when we're in situations
that make us laugh uncontrollably.

Mass was great. Full of memorable moments...

My favorite part wasn't when we walked in as two of
the only 12 white people in the place. It was a
variable Polynesian party with elaborate dress. Note
to self: next year, don't wear jeans to the Polynesian

My favorite part wasn't the odd spelling of the night:
nowell. Which sounds phonetically correct, but looks
odd on the big projector. Nowell, nowell, nowell,
nowell, born is the king of Israel.

My favorite part of the night definitely wasn't when
they sang Away in a Manger, as the words were right,
but the song was wrong. We almost took the mic and
tried on our own, except if you've seen the genetic
size of a Polynesian, you'd understand why we chose

My favorite part of the night wasn't even the priest,
who was at least 137 years old. We had trouble
understanding him, and thought maybe his mouth was
full of cotton or he had drunk too much communion wine
earlier in the day. Nor did we find relevance in most
of what he was saying. This next part was (NO JOKE)
part of the homily, and worth repeating as best as I
can remember (and if you don't believe me, please,
please confirm with Mary...):
"...I know many of you are reminded of the old
American story. [long pause] Once there was a drunk
man and a little boy. They were both at a restaurant.
[pause] The little boy couldn't stop staring at the
man, which was an embarrassment to his parents. He
was drawn to the [pause] flotsam and jetsam of this
[long pause] human existence. [pause] That's what
it's like between us and Jesus, as we are drawn to
And as I turned to Mary and said "did he just compare
Jesus to a drunk?" she was already looking at me with

My FAVORITE part was the at beginning.

After walking in to 'O Come All Ye Faithful' the
priest took a large breath and said (with many
pauses), "May the grace of the Lord be with you. We
welcome you on this glorious Easter morning..."

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The last few days...

As the end of the NZ school year drew to a close this week, I cherished my final moments in the schools. And because each moment is such a fun experience, I want to share it with people who can identify what I am doing, and how I'm doing it.

Tuesday 12 December:
Receive the following text (yes, text, on my cell phone). 'W - can you work for Mareta tomorrow? -D' (where W = Wendy, Mareta = Y1 teacher at Richmond Road, and D = Donal, the deputy principal here). I replied that I would be glad to. This is how Donal and I communicate for EVERY relief job I do. Via text message.

Wednesday 13 December:
Show up at Richmond Road early (like I always do). While resting in the lounge before starting, I speak with Di, the teacher who will be in the room next to me, and I casually say, 'Di! Wanna watch a movie this afternoon?' Di agrees, and it's a plan. Except, just then, Mareta shows up. And I'm supposed to be Mareta. (Flashback to one week earlier when Donal asked me to relieve for Mareta and when I showed up, Mareta was already here). Deja-vu. Fortunately, though, Di isn't feeling well and opts to go home so that I can stay. But before she leaves, she hands me two worksheets to fill the first and second blocks. Cool. A little later I casually say to Mareta that I had mentioned to Di about watching a movie in the afternoon, and Mareta replied (no joke) 'Yeah! Of course! We watch movies every afternoon for the last two weeks of school.' I find out that they have watched The Lion King and The Sound of Music, as well as many Warner Brothers cartoon DVDs. ('Copyright law? What's a copyright law?)

Thursday 14 December:
Di is keen knowing that I need some extra cash, and was willing to stay home sick an extra day, so I was her again. There was supposed to be an assembly for the first block and then the students and I were to play Chritsmas bingo for the second block, followed by a movie (shocker) in the afternoon. (I rented the Grinch). But instead, the assembly took 3 hours instead of 1.5. It was the Year 6 graduation, and all four ropu (sections), French, Maori, Samoan, and Mainstream had dances and songs planned. Luckily, the assembly was broken up in the middle by morning tea, but as you can imagine, the kids (and I) were really bored after the first hour of the first block. So, the assembly was rough, trying to keep kids seated and quiet, and I being one of the only teachers trying to do so (shocker).
To make the morning even, err... more interesting, the third ropu of year 6 students had one student who was so emotional about graduation that she started crying. Not to be overdone, the next student cried, and then every student afterward. The effect was contagious, and within 5 minutes most of the school was in tears. It was dramatic and very over the top, and annoying after about 5 minutes. So, when I got all of my kids back to the room, 63% of them were crying. For no reason. Arrgh.
We never got to Christmas bingo, but we sure as heck watched The Grinch!

Wednesday 20 December:
I head to school on this morning because it's was last day of term. I haven't relieved at all this week, with it being the last three days, but I wanted to thank the kiddos for all of the learning they have allowed me to do while teaching them. Plus, I need to pick up The Grinch to return to the video store. When I arrive, my ropu of kiddos are in an assembly. I didn't realize that it was a half-day, and so coming at 12 I missed my opportunity to speak to the kids all together, as they left immediately after the assembly. I still got plenty of hugs, though, which was nice. I was also able to say goodbye to my favorite teaching friends, who I'll likely see again in February. Plus, the principal, who recently informally asked me to stay around and teach full-time next year, offered me a part-time position for as many months as I want (as she knows I have no intention of staying for a year) in February if I'm still around.

But the shocker was the presents that the parents brought the kids. It was almost seemingly mandatory to bring the teacher something. And the number one gift? Bottles and bottles and bottles of wine. Which was promptly opened once the kids were gone. Maybe even a bit before...

It's vacation time!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Odd facts from abroad

If you're a Pulp Fiction fan, you'll be glad to know, that in spite of the use of the metric system in this country, a quarter pounder with cheese is still called a quarter pounder with cheese. Although, in the famous words of John Travolta, I am not sure many people realize what a quarter pounder really is. Technically they should call it a 'tenth of a kilogramer'

Have you ever received one of those e-mails that has odd facts about the world? Well, in alignment with popular myth, toilets in the southern hemisphere DO flush the opposite direction. I remember checking on that promptly upon arrival in Fiji.
Also, the toilet bowl itself is nearly empty. Not like in the states. Here, there's a cup, maybe two, of water in the bottom. I guess water conservation or something like that? When I mentioned the difference to Diane, she replied, "Yeah, your toilets in the States are like swimming pools!" She's seriously right.
Lastly, the toilet itself has two buttons to flush. One is a continuous flush, and when pushed, will flush as long as you're holding it down. The other is a regular flush. Kiwis are apparently serious about their waste removal choices.

As you've heard me say before, shoes are not required most places around here. I am inferring that it's kind of a trend from Maori culture, in which you are not allowed to enter a Maori residence with your shoes on. But Maori and whites alike tend to walk anywhere and everywhere without shoes. Now, most people wear shoes, this isn't an uncivilized country or anything, but it never fails that when I am at Foodtown, there is ALWAYS someone without shoes just walking around. And many of the kids at school never came with shoes. It's just perfectly acceptable. And perfectly disgusting. Like the other day when I was at the food court at the mall and people weren't wearing shoes. Uh, hello! That's not ok.

Instead of saying 'How are you doing?' people say 'How are you going?', to which I always want to say, 'On foot,' or 'By catching the bus.' Because isn't that really what they're asking?

They don't have Jell-o. Well, they do, but they call it Jelly.
Bacon here is actually ham. Real bacon is labeled 'streaky bacon' at the store (at first, I thought Ian was being a jerk by calling American bacon 'streaky').

Kiwi pronunciation of the year: aluminum
American: uh-LOO-min-um
New Zealand: al-you-MIN-ee-yum

And when someone says gare-aj they are really trying to say garage.

When I want to make the guy at the food shop mad, I say I'll have my food 'to-go' instead of take-away. Or I ask for my coffee with 'skim' instead of 'trim'. They've got no clue what I'm saying, and I laugh secretly to myself as I exit...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Teaching a cultural lesson

I've shared with you how I love doing the 3 comment / 2 question letter with kiddos whenever I can. It's now a staple in my day with kids 9 and older. I've done it 5 times, and I am starting to be able to predict the questions that the kids will have.

it is interesting how the questions and comments vary from the kids aged 9 to the kids aged 11. I had the 11 year olds (Year 6, we'd call the 5th graders) this week, and my lesson went according to plan. Their letters were VERY well written (I only asked for 5 sentences, for God's sake, they better have been written well). They were very interesting to read, more interesting than the younger kids' were. They had good grammar and thoughtful insights. Mostly.

Kids at this age have a natural tendency to want to be funny. Or repeat what they've heard without understanding why. It's how they learn about the world. Often they listen to it from their parents, then try it out their opinions on their friends (or substitute teachers) to cull out what is real and what is not. Unfortunately, though, they can be a bit offensive, insensitive, and opinionated about things in which they have little conceptual understanding.

So today, instead of sharing the lists of comments and questions, I'd instead like to share a few answers I shared to the questions they asked in their letters, and how I was (hopefully) able to change a few opinions.

1. "No. To be honest, I really don't care for President Bush. I did not vote for him, and I wouldn't vote for him. But, I have to respect him as my leader, because he has a really big job to do. It's very much how many of your parents do not agree with Helen Clark or many of the things she does, but they still have to respect her, as she is the Prime Minister. Really, no politician EVER has 100% of public support, and he/she has to do the best job possible, usually against all odds and opinions. So please keep that in mind before you speak poorly of a public official, of any country, in the future."

2. 'John, I know you were trying to be funny when you used the word 'kamakazied' to describe the fall of the Twin Towers, but I want you to really think about that. Many thousands of people died when the Twin Towers fell, and I doubt that any of their families would consider kamakazie to be an appropriate word for the destruction of buildings and lives that took place. I was not personally affected by the event, but as an American, or as a human for that matter, I was hurt that people would ever think taking down two buildings full of innocent people would be the answer to a solution, and I think the event deserves a little more of your respect than using the word 'kamakazie.' Please be more considerate in the future."

3. "Alice, you are very opinionated, and I respect that from you. I think it's interesting that you wrote 'I don't think it's America's fault, I think it's George Bush's fault.' You seem to be very knowledgeable about the world and what is going on. But I would say to you that in every case, when a big country goes in to help a smaller country, their intentions are always the best. But, that role of helper is a complicated one, and your efforts do not always go as planned. Nobody, not even George Bush, wants lives to be lost, but at the cost of winning something greater, and potentially making the world a better place, a good try is necessary. Thank you for your thinking, though, you obviously are a well thought out individual. Nice work."

4. "Yes! I DO love Reese's Pieces!"

5. "Felix, I am barely going to waste my breath on your paper. Your fast food restaurants in New Zealand have picture menus on them. It has NOTHING to do with how stupid people are. It has to do with advertising and marketing, and helps people who speak different languages understand what they might be looking for. And to be honest, I have been in Auckland long enough to see that there are just as many obese people here, probably more. The only reason it seems like Americans are fatter is because there are more of us to fill that role. But I see heaps of children each day after schools at the dairy and chippie shops buying lollies and pies to eat as an after school snack, which is NOT something that happens in America. Please think more carefully about your own environment before you try to be the joker and offend mine." (In response to the following comment: 'In America there are lots of big, fat people and the menus for some fast food places have pictures because heaps of people are stupid and cant read. And George Bush is stupid and will blow up the world...')

6. "No, we don't paint the inside of ketchup bottles red so that people think they're full all of the time (laughing). But we do have 57 varieties of Heinz ketchup. Can you beat that?"

My favorite line of the day:
My sister wants to go to America because she says she wants to meet Avril Lavigne. I think even if she did go there she probably wouldn't know where Avril Lavigne was.

Please tell me I'm making a difference here?

The Gay-mobile

(but don't tell Christian I called it that...)

He (Christian) is one of my favorite friends at work. He's cute, Danish, and gay (obviously, right?). He has the most adorable little accent, and he is a cutie-patootie.

Christian drives a little 'Barbie' car. It's a little red convertible, tiny, cute, gay. Perfect for the likes of Christian. His partner bought it for him, so if you can imagine Christian being the 'trophy wife' for his partner, you can imagine the car. Only, in a tribute to an old friend, I call it the 'Micro Machine' instead. (The car answers to both). It's pretty cool.

Christian headed to London a few weeks ago. As we were working together one night right before he left I said, "Christian, are you going to miss the Barbie car?"

Christian (in his cute, gay, Danish voice) replied,"Oh Wendy, why don't you drive it while I'm gone? Last time I went away for three weeks it wouldn't start when I returned."

So I drove the gay-mobile, Micro Machine, Barbie car for three weeks.

Now, with experience I can FINALLY say that driving on the left side of the road is not only not right... it's wrong. I haven't crashed yet (although I have hit a few curbs), but it's hard to adjust to driving on the wrong side of the car AND road. I always reach to the wrong side for my seatbelt. Plus, the turn signal and windshield wiper switches are switched, so I am always cleaning the windshield when I want to turn left.

My tip for new drivers: just watch the car in front of you and hope they're going to the same place as you want to go.

But it's safe to say that I am now, finally a New Zealand driver.

Thanks, Christian.

Monday, December 04, 2006

A day in the life...

...of an American teacher in New Zealand.

I teach, mostly every day, and I work as a waitress at night. It's nothing new. It's a busy job to do both, and very tiring, but I do get to see and do a lot because of my work. So, all and all, I don't mind.

I LOVE relieving. I mean I LOVE it. I can't think of a better way to be exposed to heaps of different schools, classrooms, and learning styles, all while challenging myself in the effort to find my way through a day full of kids who are completely different than I am. The pay is INCREDIBLE (better than in the States, even after the exchange rate), and the hours are flexible. I can take a day off whenever I want (which I never actually do).

Teaching itself is different here, for sure. After four weeks of relieving on and off on a near-daily basis, here are my initial impressions:

*Schools, and the kids in them, are (surprise!) very laid back. The kids' lack of discipline is a compliment to the parenting style of a laid back society. And for Miss Foreman, control freak extraordinaire, some days get pretty rough (learning, learning learning...).

*Speaking of... I have yet to be called Miss Foreman in any classroom. It's straight up Wendy each day.

*Kids don't have to wear shoes and that's o.k. (shocker, right?).

*Class sizes are far too large (but I guess that's nothing new either).

*The teacher's lounges are all equipped with a 3X2 box of boiling hot water mounted to the wall for morning tea time. Also, mugs, spoons, milk, tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and often biscuits are provided as well. Daily. At all times.

*Kids in some schools are moved around and shifted to different grades during the year. This is part of the domino effect of making room for the new 5 year-olds in the Year 1 rooms who start on the day they turn 5.

*It's o.k. for children to say the following words out loud: damn, damn it, damned, and hell.

*When the bell rings for playtime to end, teachers usually sit for 4 or 5 (sometimes up to 10) more minutes in the lounge while students line up outside.

*Schools don't use textbooks. Teachers have curriculum guides with links for activities, but most of the lessons come from the teacher and other resources (researched by teachers). So it's a much more involved process for teachers, and more work as well, in my opinion.

*Kids don't go elsewhere for special classes. There's no art teacher, no PE teacher, no media teacher, and no music teacher. It's all taught in the classroom, by the classroom teacher.

*The school day is only 6 hours long, with only 4 hours of actual teaching. The other 2 hours is spent at lunch, play, morning tea, roll taking, or daily fitness.

*Teachers don't generally leave lesson plans for relievers. One day, my lesson plan said 'Have a great day!'

Each day I take a set of lessons to each classroom. I have books from the library paired with activities for all grades. I am a lesson recycler, and have actually been teaching for the last two months with a recycled set of about 15 lessons. It's amazing what you can do with chalk, m&m's, and the American flag. Again and again and again.

Even trickier still is the fact that Richmond Road has four units of students. One unit speaks and learns in French, one in Maori, one in Samoan, and one in English. I have had a chance to work with all age levels in all of the units. Although I sometimes don't agree with the teaching practices and philosophies in these units, it has been amazing to work so closely with such unique cultures. And I can now say hello in two new languages that most people don't know.

I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to be needed almost daily in the same school as I get to know the kids, the teachers, and the routines (which is nice when nobody tells you what in the world is going on). And, since my school is in my neighborhood, I even get kiddos at the store who are able to say hello and call me by name. Which is almost like being at home at a Warrior game. Except without the football and all.

Now, having said all of that, I have a confession to make...

I have made a decision not to teach for a full year in New Zealand as I had originally expected.

But you'll have to wait until another e-mail for more details on that.

Well, I've gotta go. The bell to end playtime rang 8 minutes ago, and I still need to make a cup of coffee before heading to class. There's a line of teachers at the water box, so I've got to get my place...

Thursday, November 23, 2006


Happy Thanksgiving.

(from the future)

By the time you read this, it will be Friday where I am. Thanksgiving will have come and gone, and Mary and I will be on our way to the Bay of Islands for a weekend trip.

So I am post-scripting this to yesterday (Thursday), when Mary and I slaved away over a hot stove to make a Thanksgiving feast for the New Zealand record books.

Now, since they don't celebrate Thanksgiving in New Zealand (duh for all of you who asked...), we had a bit of a tough time finding the ingredients we needed.

That, my friends, is why it is handy that we have become queens of improvisation. Sometimes, as you'll learn here, you've just gotta make due...

1. First of all, no yams. Mary bought Kumera (a local white sweet potato, though while delicious, isn't tradition on Thanksgiving) instead. I said, 'no yams, no thanks,' and made mashed potatoes instead.

2. We luckily found American-style cranberry sauce. (Labeled: Made in Australia). We added oranges and it tasted almost as good as Marvel's dish. Almost.

3. Evidently, there are very few to no turkey farms in New Zealand, and only during this time (probably for the dumb foreigners) have we finally seen a frozen one at the market. But they're up to $45 for a small/medium-sized one.
Not that Mary nor I know how to cook a turkey if we did buy one. So, instead, we had (stifle your laughter, please) deli turkey sandwiches. Which wasn't actually too much less expensive. Just heaps easier. And no one seemed to mind.

4. No canned pumpkin sauce here ('Why would you want a canned pumpkin?' they say). Instead, Mary bought a REAL pumpkin and cooked and pureed it for the pie (very Betty Crocker, huh?). Then, I added the spices, eggs, and milk, and mixed it all up. So the pie was fresh as fresh. In fact, it was truly, downright incredible, and the highlight of the meal. As good as Jean's (luckily for us).

Also on our menu: homemade applesauce (again, Mary, who will make someone a lucky husband someday), peas, boughten rolls, gravy (from a jar, as no turkey juice = no gravy), and stuffing.

We invited my flat mates and my new Iowan friend, and we had a nicer than nice time drinking wine and explaining the story of Thanksgiving. It was a real treat for them to be treated and a real treat for us to share our traditions.

But, although the meal was fabulously prepared and shared with great friends old and new, Mary and I both understand that the meal isn't about what you're eating.

Having said that... I am incredibly grateful to be having the opportunity to create new lifelong memories with new lifelong friends. I am seeing and doing amazing things, and I have so much to look forward to. I am in a very good place surrounded by very good people (well, mostly, as Julia wasn't actually invited to the feast...).

That, though, doesn't make it any easier to be away from home for the holidays.

So this Thanksgiving Day, please take a minute to be incredibly thankful for all that you have and all that you hold near and dear. Be thankful for your experiences, your friends, your family, and your health. Look forward to new life, and be grateful for old loves.

Please take every opportunity to be thankful for where you are and who you are with.

Then, enjoy the parade. Enjoy the football. Enjoy the company of those you love. Enjoy the carrot and mayonnaise salad (any chance of getting some of that sent here, Jean?).

And hug someone extra today.

From halfway across the world, have a happy, happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Cats and dogs (and snails, oh my!)

They're everywhere. Everywhere. Here a stray, there a stray, everywhere a stray, stray. There are so many cats in this city that I am now convinced that stray cats reproduce like rabbits. Only the difference being that rabbits don't need to be fed or loved or cared for by humans. So we don't mind the rabbits, do we? But the cats? It's too much.

Now, people don't actually own as many cats as there are cats to own. Instead they just feed the strays. Technically, you might think that this makes each cat a belonging of somebody, but no. The cats just go everywhere.

Unfortunately, The Price Is Right is not shown here, and as a consequence, no one is reminded to spay or neuter their cats. But I guess, since no one actually owns the cats, there is nobody to pay for that. If anyone actually speaks to Bob Barker, give him the message that there is dire need for him here when he retires.

Who knows, though? There are probably as many cats here as there are in the States, with the difference being that there isn't very much room for them to spread out like there would be at home with all that land. It's a small island and all. And I don't think cats can swim.

Having been deathly afraid of dogs since I was bitten by one at the age of 13, I am pleased at the nature of canines here. To describe the Kiwi culture as 'laid-back' would be an understatement, and dogs follow the lead of their owners. I have yet to see a single dog on a leash, a dog that misbehaves, or a dog that barks at strangers. They just sniff other dogs' bottoms and follow their owners around like lost puppies (no pun intended). I walk by them and pet them and we're friends. Just like that.

I have often wondered if cats actually like eating snails? And maybe having cats around keeps the snail population down? All I do know about snails is actually quite a lot.

1. Snails come out at night.
2. Snails move V...E...R...Y slowly.
3. When you lift up the rubbish lid at night, there could be as
many as 15 or 20 snails on the inside.
4. The next morning, they're all gone.
5. When you step on a snail, it sounds like glass breaking.

Now, the last fact brings me to my saddest story. It never fails that I don't remember that there are snails all over the ground until after I have stepped on one. I have done it twice now. It gives me the goosebumps and makes me feel horrible, but I can't have expected the snail to move fast enough to get out of my way. Or to hear me coming. But when I do step on them, I instantly stop once I hear the crunch, and then I check to see if it is ok, and then I wonder if the actual slug comes out to find a new shell. And where the heck do the snails get the shells in the first place?

Maybe I don't know as much about snails as I thought.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Holidays with a friend (part deux)

In an effort to see as much of this part of the world as we can, Mary and I have booked our first big trip.


We've booked a three-week holiday at the end of January. We'll be going to Sydney, Melbourne, and then on a travel tour of the upper East Coast including Brisbane, Cairnes, The Great Barrier Reef, and the Whitsunday Islands. You can see an itinerary of the travel tour if you go to:

But, that's not the best part.

We've got tickets to....


We'll be flying into Melbourne to stay for three days and to see one of the world's greatest tennis events.

I am VERY excited.

(Secretly probably more excited for that part than the rest of it. Thanks, Grandpa, for that first tennis racket at age 9 that started my lifelong love of the game...)


But until then, we have three other smaller trips planned. This weekend we're heading to Mt. Maunganui (thermal beaches) and Rotarua (thermal mud spas), with a small stop in Matamata (where Lord of the Rings was filmed). I'll be taking the LOTR tour of Hobbiton by myself, thank you very much. Mary and Mary aren't interested, but I can't pass it up.

Next weekend, over the Thanksgiving holiday, Mary and I have taken time off to head up to the Bay of Islands. This is at the very tip top of New Zealand, where it gets thin and the country becomes a bay of islands (catchy, huh?). Evidently, at the very tippiest-top of the island there is a place where the two opposing seas on each side of New Zealand come together to crash into each other (very Moses-esque) and then fall away. That'll be worth the price of admission right there...

Lastly, during the first weekend of December we're heading to the Coromandel, which is one of the most beautiful spots in the North Island. I have not heard much about this place, or what's there, but hey, who cares!

After that, we're in Auckland for a month to save up more and more moo-lah for our Aussie trip. I'm planning on sparing no expense.


Side note:
I have always tried to be a hard worker and have always enjoyed working two or three jobs at a time. Often, though, I never felt like I had much to show for it, as I don't do a lot of expensive shopping. I always lived on a small weekly budget, and pinched pennies whenever possible. Instead of spending my income, I was, and am still more of a pack-rat with it, saving it all up for when I really need it.

These thrifty ways came in handy as I was paying for this Australian trip... I was able to shell out BIG bucks for the whole thing without batting an eye.

It was a nice realization for me that became very evident for the first time.

And I felt good walking away knowing that all of my hard work does pay off.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

It's a small, small world

(This was the second-most exciting thing that happened to me this week):

Yesterday I was at my local Grey Lynn Foodtown grocery store with Ian and Sheena. We were buying ice cream (we LOVES ice cream) to eat after we had just had a feast of shrimps on the barbie.

On my way to the check out line I saw a girl who had a familiar shirt on.

It said Grinnell Softball.

My first thought: There are probably a million towns in the world called Grinnell.

My second thought: They don't play softball in New Zealand, she must be American.

So I walked up to her and said in one quick breath, 'Excuse me, Grinnell where?'

And she said, 'Iowa'.

Sheen and Ian and I all dropped jaws.

I said (excitedly, all in one breath), 'Me too! I'm an Iowan too!'

We chatted for a minute while queued up in line. She's been here a week (a newbie, I called her), she's here on a working holiday (just like me), and she lives right up the street (just like me).

Just think, a new friend from home. Someone who knows who the Nadas are and likes them as much as me.

Finally, someone who speaks my language.

It's like being in Heaven.

Only replace Heaven with Iowa.

We're having coffee later next week, and I can't wait for gossip from the good ol' Hawkeye State...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

From the mouths of babes

On Friday I had the opportunity to teach in a Year 5 (we'd call that 4th grade) classroom.

When I got the call that morning I politely explained to the man on the phone that I was GLAD to teach in this classroom, but that I was not equipped with lessons for students of that age. To prepare, I took stock of my books and quickly thought about what lessons could be adapted for older kids. I chucked a few ideas in my giant bag and headed off.

Although I do not keep lessons for students this age, I did have one advantage. The older kiddos get, the more they notice differences in people. This is adventagous to me because once kiddos here reach 8 or so, they can conceptually understand that I am from very far away in the world. They hugely notice my accent and want to know all about me, which makes for a nice, long learning lesson. And it kills lots of time.

For this particular class, I made them wait until the end of the day to ask the questions. What was even better, though, was that in a last minute brain-surge, I realized that instead of just letting them raise their hands and ask, they could write me a short letter. In this letter I asked them to include three things they knew about America plus two questions they had for me. When they finished, I read the letters out loud, dispelled myths, laughed at what they wrote (with them, not at them), and answered the questions.

I thought I would share some of these responses with you for a good laugh. I was a little disappointed at the grammatical and conventional errors of students this age, but I am hoping it was because their teacher wasn't there to ask for the best work. They seemed very bright otherwise...

I assure you these are WORD FOR WORD (with only spelling and grammar having been corrected).

Facts about America:
*There are 80,000 McDonalds.
*They have snow at Christmastime.
*There are lots of people and a lot of famous actors.
*I think that in some parts of American there are a few bombs that have been let off.
*They spell their words different.
*It is full of different countries.
*I know that if you have been to jail you are not allowed in America.
*George Bush lives there.
*They have Waffle Houses.
*It has 52 continents.
*There are heaps of gangs.
*You used to live there.
*Wal Mart is a grocery/shopping center.
*I think that in NY most people go around on roller skates.
*The twin tower was one of the most tragic events in USA.
*America has lots of candy.
*I know that South Park was banned in America because it was too rude.
*There is a huge street called Tornado Alley.
*America owns an island called Hawaii.
*I know that America has one of the best accents.
*George Bush is the Prime Minister.
*There is a natural world wonder called The Grand Canyon.
*My Uncle Tom lives there.
*The flying time to America from Auck[land] is about 12 hours.

Questions about America:
*Have you been to Disneyworld (was on almost everyone's sheet)?
*Aren't you at war with Pakistan?
*Have you been to a gridiron [American football] game?
*Have you met any famous stars?
*Have you ever seen the White House?
*How many suburbs are there?
*Are labradoodles a popular dog?
*Is America noisier than Auckland or is Auckland noisier than America?
*Who do you vote for? George Bush?
*Have you seen a gang?
*How old are you if you are willing to tell me?
(and lastly)
*Where abouts in London do you live?

It was incredibly interesting and semi-insightful.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Going to HELL...

HELL pizza, that is.

It's my favorite, favorite, favorite-ist pizza in the whole wide world.

Catchy name, huh??

One of the best parts is that it's really fun to speak with your mates and say things like this:
"Wanna go to HELL?"
"You're going to HELL? Yeah, I'll pitch in on that one."

Plus, the ingredients are super great. They mix very interesting stuff together to make it taste really good.

The names of the pizzas are very demonic. Some of them include Gluttony, Wrath, Underworld, Damned, and Morbid. It's really fun to order ('Yes, I'll have a Damned pizza with extra tomatoes, please.').

Now, I bet you can imagine that this pizza company is very popular, right? And I bet you can imagine that they are a little on the edge, and not afraid of crossing the line, right? And I even bet that you know there's a really good story coming about it, right?

(It's a REALLY good story. It goes like this:)

One day, Mary and I were walking home to my house for some relaxing after a day out seeing some sights. Like usual, I grabbed the mail from the letterbox. At the bottom of the letterbox was a small, perfectly square package with HELL advertising on it. It was a bit thick, having something inside of it. It was laying with the back side up, and we could see instantly that it was HELL's advert for their new pizza named Lust.

Mary said, "Look, matches!'

As soon as I picked up the package, we realized instantly that it wasn't matches.

Instead, wrapped perfectly in a little black advertising sleeve, was a condom, which included explicit instructions on use.

(Now don't fool yourself. I mean, who doesn't associate condoms and pizza together, being the same shape and all...)

And honestly, with a name like Lust, Mary and I decided that the condom was a very clever promotional idea.

But not everyone agreed.

You see, HELL pizza made the mistake of handing out the condoms to people's mailboxes on 30 October. The day before Halloween. Which wouldn't have really seemed TOO big a deal, except that many kids who went out to get the mail that day might have noticed the small, shiny package that looked like it could have contained a lolly (but upon opening it found that it wasn't).

Moms and dads were real mad. It was on the news and everything.

I still think it was pretty clever.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

My night at work


I have been in the hospitality business since I was
15. My mom said 'You should really learn to be a
waitress, because you can take that skill anywhere.'
Many years later, she was so right (thanks, Mom!).

I have worked in some great places. When I started at
Garden Cafe, it was a cool, cool cafe in the mall,
always busy, with really good food. Spaghetti Works
was a very cool place in Des Moines, very casual
dining with a fun atmosphere, and very popular for
locals and passers through alike. Mondo's was fine
dining, and at it's peak, was one of the finest
restaurants in Des Moines. The service was very
prime, and excellence was required.

In the last month I have decided that SPQR is one of
the coolest places in Auckland, and that I did well
waiting for them to call instead of settling
elsewhere. It is ALWAYS full, is ALWAYS being
recommended, and is ALWAYS host to Auckland's finest.
I work with the most interesting, eccentric, and nice
people, and am able to give casual service. There
aren't many rules, and the time goes fast. The dining
and service is excellent, and the reviews show that
SPQR has been an Auckland favorite for more then 9
years. While other restaurants come and go, SPQR
stays tried and true.

Last night was like any other.

At first.

During a busy time in the night (8:00-ish), I noticed
a guy standing near the wall in the room off of the
main dining area. Since SPQR is again, casual, people
often stand anywhere waiting for a seat, and the wait
is ALWAYS long, long, long on a Saturday night.

So, I asked him if I could help.

He replied, 'I'm the male dancer for the table in

(Uh... what?)

Thinking he was pulling my leg (in hindsight, I should
have known better), I just said in a very sarcastic
voice 'Ok, go on and dance then.'

I then proceeded to go up to Wendy, the cashier, and
let her know that this gentleman just told me that he
was the male dancer, and, wasn't that weird?

She said, 'Oh, good!'

I said, 'What do you mean, oh good?'

She said, 'You must not have been here three days ago
when the drag queens were here?'

I said, 'Umm, no?'

And then I said, 'You mean to tell me there really IS
a stripper here tonight?'

(Wendy nods)

"For that table?'

(nods again)

'While people are eating?'

And my (gay) manager Andy walks up and says 'There's a
stripper? A male stripper? I don't have a stripper
on the books tonight. But goodie anyway!!'

So, Andy walks over to the stripper and retrieves a
CD, which is PROMPTLY handed to (our utterly fabulous
and totally friendly transvestite bar maid) Betty to
be put in the CD player. Immediately, Michael
Jackson's 'Bad' blares. Andy yells, 'Betty, turn it
up!' It cranks.

Then the stripping began. In the middle of the
restaurant. While people were eating. And it was
perfectly acceptable. In fact, 95% of the patrons got
up and crowded around, cheering and clapping, taking
pictures. And Andy stood between the stripper and the
lone 10-year old boy in the back of the restaurant.

The stripper was a 'police officer', so handcuffs and
a baton were included.

It lasted about 10 minutes. It was actually fabulous,
because the atmosphere in the restaurant was electric.
My face was beat red the entire time, but to everyone
else, this was truly and perfectly acceptable.

Oh, and did I mention that the male stripper had been
hired for another male?

And just when I thought I'd seen it all.

(Guess I should've known better than to think I'd seen
it all...)


Sunday, October 29, 2006

Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland, oh Auckland. My first and newest home. You are lovely and true.

May I please share a few of my thoughts on Auckland with you?

Auckland is very much like home in the States. It's a Westernized, civilized, busy, urban city where everyone is white (or brown - think Asian or Maori) and speaks English. Having said that, it doesn't feel that far away from home. Instead of half-way across the world, I feel like you're all up the street. In fact, it's a nice feeling to know that you're all just a block away. Except replace the word block with e-mail.

The same sun shines on me that shines on you. The clouds above my head are full of the same rain that once fell on you. And we're looking at the same moon each night. It's not so far away.

In many ways it's like being at home, except driving on the left side of the road. And not wearing shoes. And the fact that Aucklanders don't differentiate between Canadians and Americans is of course, offensive.

Some days I feel like Tera when she was in Iowa, as I have yet to see more than 6 black people during my time so far. Now, I know that I shouldn't say 'black person', as it isn't very PC, but I can't very well call them African-Americans now, can I?

There's lots of malls and lots of people and lots of McDonalds and lots of Burger Kings. Heaps and heaps of all that stuff, just like home. Around every corner is a coffee shop, which I love, as the coffee shops are much more gourmet than home. Yummy pastries and sandwiches around every turn. Which is why you haven't actually seen a picture of me yet - too fat.

It rains ALL THE TIME. You know, the whole tropical environment and all. It didn't rain for the first 26 days I was here. Then, the skies opened up and down came 26 days worth of rain. So when I say it rains all the time, I meant recently, when it rained for two straight days with no breaks, and then proceeded to rain the next two days every hour on the hour. It makes hoofing it (which one does without a car) difficult.

In the part of Auckland I live in, it's very posh. People that patronize SPQR are very rich and snobby. Or gay. And well dressed. Which go hand in hand.

Sometimes my co-workers like to pretend they know how to sing MY National Anthem to me, and I say, "Guys, you've got it all wrong. It goes like this, 'Oh, Canada. My home and native land...'"

Evidently Auckland, as I was immediately informed (by non-Aucklanders) upon my layover in Tahiti, is not like anywhere else in New Zealand. It's very American feeling (but don't tell them that). In fact, all non-Aucklanders refer to Aucklanders as 'Jafas', or 'Just Another F***ing Aucklander.' But of course, people in Auckland think that everyone else in New Zealand must have a jealousy complex. Which is exactly what typifies the 'Jafa' persona.

If I had ever been to Tokyo, I would think that Central Auckland, in the Central Business District, is like that. It's full of underground shops, overhead signs, flashing lights, big buildings, and heaps and heaps of Asians (though I'll be darned that I haven't found a single place to get my nails done or eyebrows waxed, which I find HIGHLY ironic). One day I asked a (white) gentleman for the time. He proceeded to have a 5 minute discussion with me, which ended in him telling me that when I traveled to the southern part of the country (towards Wellington), I would find it 'more white'. Well good thing for me, then. Whew.

I think I am in for a real treat when I leave. I picture a society a little more casual and a little less civilized. People probably wear shoes less than they do here. And I just know I'll see heaps more sheep.

In short, Auckland is nice, but I wouldn't want to live here forever.

Monday, October 23, 2006

A holiday with a friend

Woo Hoo!

Mary is here! She has arrived! She is in the building.

And she isn't going anywhere.



Ah, bliss, to have another American. And the best part is that she is saying things like,

'Look, no shoes!'
"it's funny how you say 'deck'!"
"What's a trolley?"

And she's saying them out loud. You see, I had to say all of these things in my head for 7 weeks, and now I have someone to share it with. Words cannot begin to tell how many funny inside jokes we already have. Especially about the deck.

So, as soon as Mary got here on Friday morning, we gave her no rest. We (I guess I should explain that 'we' means her new housing partner Mary, an amazing older lady who is a friend of her dad's and was looking to let out a spare room in a suburb not far from Auckland Central) got her home and let her brush her teeth, and then we sent her back out again. She rode the train for the first time (me too!), and experienced downtown Auckland at it's finest (and raniest). We explored a good bit before heading home back to the newly dubbed 'house of Mary'. We ate dinner, had a good rest, and headed out the next morning at 8am for Napier, a coastal town on the eastern most shore of the North island.

The five hour drive there and back ended up being the best part of the trip (think amazing scenery), as the weather was crap the whole time we were there. We did a lot of relaxing, though, and a bit of shopping, and (I finally) dipped my tootsies into the South Pacific (brrrr...). So the trip was far from a waste.

Tomorrow is back to the daily grind, but Mary is in good hands. A splendid time (from this day on) is in store.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Confessions of a shopaholic

Today I went to the mall, and guess what store I got
to shop at?


Woo hoo! Woo hoo!


Not that I would actually buy anything from K-Mart,
but it's the only American store they have here.

That's right. No Wal-Mart, Gap, Best Buy, Walgreens,
Panera, Barnes and Noble, Limited, Younkers, Olive
Garden, Von Maur, or (worst of it all) Target.

So walking into the Big-K was like walking into a
little slice of heaven. American heaven. And since
they don't celebrate Halloween here, the Christmas
stuff is already up.

Another reason I don't shop at K-Mart (no joke), it's
too expensive.

In New Zealand there are no one-dollar bills. The
smallest bill is a $5. For less than that, they use
coins. $1 coins, $2 coins, and 10, 20, and 50 cent

I don't miss pennies a bit.

The other day I found a 10 cent piece on the floor,
and thought I would start a trend of using the word
'dime' worldwide. I said, 'Hey! I found a dime!' It
didn't work.

For any of you who haven't heard this next funny money
story (and I think a few of you have, so bear it again
please), it's a doozy:
The first night I was here I went to the supermarket
with Diane and her mom. I was not yet familiar with
the money, and I was checking out all the faces on the
bills. The fiver has Sir Edmond Hillary, a New
Zealander who was the first bloke to climb Mt.
Everest. On the ten-spot is Kate Sheppard, who I am
sure was important for something. The twenty, though,
had me puzzled. It had a familiar looking lady on it,
but I couldn't quite place who she was, her name
wasn't on it (as are on the other bills), and I
couldn't be bothered to think about it too hard. So
instead, I said to Diane, 'Who's this handsome broad
on the twenty?' Diane looked at me and dryly
replied, 'The Queen of England."


Year 0

(Another e-mail just sent to a teacher friend)

That's right. I said Year 0.

Which was the age of the kids I subbed for today.

But before I can let you in on my day, let me explain
how the school system here works.

The NZ school year starts in February. It is made of
4 ten-week terms with two weeks of holiday between
each one. Kindergarten here is what we would consider
preschool at home. So when kiddos enter their first
year of school, they are called Year 1. This is
confusing to me, as Year two kids are first graders,
and Year 5 kids are fourth graders, and this
difference in numbers is very hard to remember.

All children in New Zealand are legally able to enter
Year 1 the day they turn 5. So, if you do the math,
you would understand that a Year 1 teacher would have
far fewer kids at the beginning of the year than at
the end, as more children in the neighborhood are
turning 5 each month, and are added to rosters. In
the middle of the week or whatever.

Now. If a child turns five late in the year (in
August or later), it would be too late for them to do
Year 1 and be expected to go to Year 2. So in some
schools, they'll graduate some really smart Year 1
kids to Year 2 classrooms, shuffle the kids around,
and put all of the 'newbies' into a Year 0 classroom.

Which is where I was today.

As a side note, I think this system is ridiculous.
Obviously noone consulted you or I to ask our opinions
about this set up, because we would have told them it
was silly.

So these kiddos today were like 4 and 14 months.
Babies. Like August Kindergartners to you. I was

We did an activity with the book Ten Black Dots, which was great
except they didn't know what a penny was.

Then we had rest. For 10 minutes.

Then, they walked all over me for the rest of the day.

Stomp, stomp, stomp.

But oh well. It leaves me a great story to tell you!

Tomorrow, I am in the Samoan unit at Richmond Road. In this
Year 1 classroom, the lessons are taught each day in Samoan.

So it's a good thing I've been practicing my Samoan...

Saturday, October 14, 2006


(This was an e-mail only sent to my teacher friends...)

I had to share this with a group of people who I knew
would understand. Maybe, you can think of a way to
relate it to kiddos?

Last week I was sitting in a cafe reading the
newspaper. I came across an article called 'Search
for the Best Pie". This gentleman had gone all over
New Zealand looking for the best pies and had written
a book about it, and this article was getting the good
dish (no pun intended). So, being a traveler and
pie-lover, I thought it might be interesting to read
and find out more about where I can find really good,
fresh, New Zealand pie (because nothing beats a good
old-fashioned piece of homemade pie from a shop on the
side of a country road, right? Are you with me on

So I am reading the article and it's talking about
good fillings and crispy crust, and I'm thinking about
the awesome blueberry pie ala-mode I had in Maine, and
my grandma's killer rhubarb pie. Yum. And it keeps
talking about where these pies are found, and I am
trying to locate the areas in my head (from my
non-extensive knowledge of the island). When I was
about a quarter of the way through the article, the
author referred to the ingredients he loves the best
as meaty, the kind you can stick a fork into and
really pick up. I thought that was a really
interesting way to describe fruit, and my inference
was that he thought of meaty as a good way to describe
a pie with heaps and heaps of filling.

Then, halfway through the article, he described how
the vegetables in the pie had to be cooked a certain
way with the gravy.

Hold that thought!

My schema changed! I then realized that the ENTIRE
article was about savory pies (think chicken pot
pies), which everyone eats here and calls pie without
thinking twice about it.

Yikes! What a learning moment in my brain.

And I knew I had to share it with my favorite schema

Man! I wish I would have kept the article to send!
What a perfect example of what happens to each of us,
and what we try to teach our students to learn, each

Love from Down Under,

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A favor?

Oh My Gosh, ladies.

I miss the cheapness of Scholastic book fairs.

And I miss the selection of American books.

Here's the story (with the favor at the bottom)

I was telling TK and DK both that relief teaching here
is really different (and sort of dumb). Just like at
home, I could get a call any day for a school. Only
Auckland is a lot bigger than Waukee, so I usually
have a long way to go. But that's besides the point.
The real thing that I am having a bit of trouble with
is that any day I walk into a classroom, there's no
guarantee that there will be lesson plans for me. I
guess it's part of that Kiwi relaxed business and all.
But relaxed or not, I now basically have to be
prepared to teach a whole day to a number of age
levels on any given day.

Now, when I expressed this concern to the people at
the Educational Recruiting agency (who places me in
schools each day), they said 'Well, you have three
years experience, right?' To which I wanted to (but
didn't) reply 'Well, yes. But I had a curriculum and
lesson plans to follow each day, and the instruction
followed a certina set of standards that flowed
together for optimal student learning.'

So, I have been spending the last week getting books
and lessons prepared for grades 1-4. I'll re-use many
of the lessons at different schools, but it still has
taken awhile (and a bit of money) to get it all
sorted. The Auckland public libraries are REALLY,
REALLY large but unequivically stocked with children's
books that I can use. I have quite a selecton, led by
many of the great lessons I am carrying over from
Waukee, but there is one book I am missing that I
would really, really like. I have not only checked
the libraries, but Whitcouls (like Barnes and Noble),
Borders, and three children's bookstores. I can have
it ordered for $39.95, and wait for 10-14 weeks. OR,
I thought one of my great old first grade friends
might have an extra copy they wouldn't mind parting

So. Having said all of that. Would anybody be
willing to double check if they have an extra copy of
Cloudy WIth A Chance of Meatballs (maybe even with a
copy of the sandwich templates), and send it to me?
If, so, I'll kindly repay the gift with a nice
Christmas gift come December. Or something like that.

Your kindness is appreciated...

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Rules of the road

A few words on cars.

There is nothing, nothing, nothing that can train my
brain away from 24 years of practice looking left,
then right, then left when crossing the road. Not
even the eminent danger of getting hit by a car coming
at you (on the right, mind you) as you cross the
street. I am trying and trying and trying to
remember to look right first, but I just can't do it.

When I got to Auckland, the first thing Diane said to
me once we got out of the airport car park was, 'So,
how's driving on the other side of the road treating
you?' To be honest, it doesn't seem odd at all. The
odd thing is sitting, as a passenger, on the left side
of the car. Or getting into the back seat, looking
forward to the left side of the car, and not seeing a
steering wheel. But the most weirdest thing is seeing
a car drive up the street with only one person in it,
and that person is sitting on the right side. It's
like the twilight zone.

But, I am proud to say that I have officially learned
to cross busy streets by myself, without the help of a
traffic light at an intersection. This has opened up
a world of possibilities, as now I can cross from one
side of the street to a shop on the other without
having to traverse the whole block and back. Oh joy.

A couple of weeks ago, my flat mate Joy was on holiday
to the South Island to spend time with her family.
Because she is kind, she left her car for me to
practice driving. It is a very run-down car, but it
has four wheels, can take you from one place to the
next, and is perfect for Wendy to practice driving on.
I had planned on going out to practice driving with
one of my flat mates during the weekend, but that plan
never panned out. So, Monday morning following that
weekend, I snuck out of the house when everyone had
gone to work, and attempted to take my first road
test, by myself. Then, when I opened the car and
tried to start it, the car was dead. So my driving
lesson had to wait. Damn.

Skip to a week later. Joy is talking about selling
her car. I asked her for how much she would sell it.
She said $500. I said, 'Sold!' Except, that I have
come to find that people around here say they are
going to do things, but they don't. So I won't hold
up my hopes real high. And I will keep you posted...

Licensing and registration here is different as well.
Cars are sold with license plates already on them, and
they stay with the car through all of it's owners. To
change the name on the title, you just re-register the
car to your name. Or something like that. Except I
don't know how that would work with personalized
plates and all. When (if) I get a car here, I am
going to look into getting some nice personalized
Hawkeye license plates. Or, I'll get some regular
personalized plates that say 'American' on them, which
will invite random and violent acts of rear-ending or
vandalization, I am sure.

The license plates are those cute little rectangle and
slim ones, like in Europe, and I am still trying to
think about how I am going to get one to bring home.
I mean, whose car is going to have one go missing.

Insurance is an option, which most Kiwis turn down.
So, most of the drivers on the road (especially
international ones) are uninsured, which is perfectly
acceptable and legal. As a side note to that, all
cars are required to have a fitness update every six
months. It's mandatory, and you can be fined if you
don't. It is similar to Iowa registration, only
instead of just paying to have it registered to you
for another year, you have to have a full check-up,
and fix any problems that would otherwise cause the
car to be unfit for the road. For the warranty, all
cars have these huge stickers in their windows that
say 'Warrant of fitness until 24/1/2007'. Of course,
those numbers translate to 1/24/2007, which is what I
am sure they meant to write in the first place.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

My new (and most favorite-ist) job

*This e-mail not intended for the faint of heart, and
you 've been warned...



I have been at SPQR for a little more than a week.

I now walk, talk, and act like a gay man.

Today, I heard the best gay joke. Except I can't tell
it to you because it would have to involve the use of
my hands.

Most of the guys I work with are so incredibly,
unbelievably (unavailably) hot.

One of the servers, Nathan (Nay-Nay), laughs like the
Wicked Witch of the West out loud and all the time.
It's like his M.O. or something, and it's kinda

I am learning heaps and heaps of new words, and I am
learning not to blush at some of the words that I
already knew, but was embarrassed to hear out loud. I
wouldn't share them with any of my grandmothers.

As I have mentioned before, our main clientele is gay
couples, groups of rich straight girls, or cute and
rich heterosexual couples, young and old. It's a very
high-end but casual dining place, and we're allowed to
talk to the guests pretty casually. That in itself
ads a whole new level of interest.

I REALLY love this job, and the people I work with.
It's a fun, fun place to be.

Unfortunately, though, there is one part of my job
that's getting a little bit old already. It is a
conversation that I have at least 6 times a night (no
exaggeration), and it goes like this:

Wendy: Blah, blah, blah, can I take your order? Blah,
blah, blah.

Guest: Blah, blah, we'll have blah, blah. So, are you
Canadian or American?

(now, the first time I heard this, my immediate
reaction was "What the hell? Of course I'm

Wendy: (deep breaths in, deep breaths out, and
patiently reply:) American.

(So, now, American friends, the question I have is
this: is it just me, or would you be deeply offended
to be considered Canadian? Of course I am American!
Is there anything else to be?)

Guest: Oh, you don't sound American.

Wendy: Hmm. And how is it that an American sounds?

Guest: (saying something really dumb in a horrible
southern accent)

Wendy: I'm sorry! You've confused the entire country
with the state of Texas. Yes, they do talk like that
in some places. But not most places. It's a pretty
civilized country and all.

Guest: (taken aback) So, whereabouts in America are
you from?

Wendy: Iowa. Right in the middle. Midwest.

(now, this next part will probably not come as a
shocker to anyone, but I really, really, really do
hear this 4 out of the 6 times I have this
conversation, no joke at all).

Guest: Potatoes, right?

Wendy: (deep breath in, deep breath out, and patiently
reply) Nope. (one more deep breath, patiently walk

On a more sensitive note, here's another one I have
replied to often:

Wendy: Yes, I am quite aware that you don't believe in
our foreign policies. Do you vote in America? Well
then, don't worry about it. You guys just work on
getting the price of eggs down, and then we'll talk
about foreign policies.

And then I say some profanities. In my new gay voice
(which sounds pretty convincing already...).


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

One Month Later

I love sending e-mails home to all of you. There are
so many things I think about each day that I want to
share, so many experiences that are fun to try to
explain in words. At the same time I am trying not to
make my e-mails only talk about the things I do each
day, as I think that would be really boring.

Having said that, I'd like to mark my four-week
anniversary in New Zealand by sharing a long boring
e-mail that details a little bit more about my new

As I said, it's my one-month anniversary in New
Zealand today. I think. But I am not sure with all
of that day-skipping and all.

My house situation is pretty good. The little villa I
live in is choicely situated directly in the city.
It's a gorgeous little house and I like it very much.

My head flat mate, Julia, is intolerable. She's
Sweedish, and doesn't pronounce the letter J, which I
think I have mentioned before. What I haven't
mentioned is how funny that is when she talks.
Especially when you don't like her. When she's not
around, my flat mates and I talk to each other without
pronouncing the letter J too. Some of our favorite
words are You-lia (Julia), yuh-cousi (jacuzzi), yim
(gym), and yoy (Joy). Also, I'll probably be stricken
down dead for telling you that she has an enormous
mouth and the most unfortunate set of teeth. We joke
that she could wrangle a fish in from the ocean with
those chompers.

The thing about Julia is that she is not a nice human
being to others. I think, deep down, she has some
good qualities that she has yet to show us, but for
now, none of us really can stand her, which is a
position she has earned. She talks and talks with no
point, she tells half-truths all of the time, she
makes excuses against everyone else to explain when
things are going wrong for her, and she talks about
all of us to the others when we're not around. For
example, the other day I headed out to meet Ian for
tennis, and the moment I walked out the door, she
started talking to Sheena about Joy and I (as Sheena
later explained). She didn't say anything too
terrible about me, but that she thought I was pretty

But, that's 'yust You-lia', and I guess it makes it
more interesting for the rest of us.

At first I was sleeping on an air mattress that she
provided, which after a week, went flat. You can
imagine my surprise when I woke up on the floor one
night, but I quickly checked my self for snails (all
clear) and went to sleep on the couch. Then, instead
of blowing it back up the next day, I just decided to
use an extra mattress of Ian's that was about to go in
storage. It's a single mattress that is barely big
enough for me. Luckily, I packed my own bedding, and
I was able to make the little thing feel more cozy.
As a joke to you, I am sending a picture of the it.
It's about 6 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 4 inches

As a stipulation of not getting the room I was
originally offered, Julia told me that she would go
ahead and order a sofa bed that she had always planned
on ordering for my room (which, when un-occupied is
actually a spare room, as this is a flat usually let
out to 4 people, not 5) early so that I could use it.
That process, in itself, was a fiasco of half-truths
and laziness, and took two weeks longer than it should
have. Starting tomorrow, if all goes as planned (but
don't count on it) I should have an off-ground bed. I
will now be able to stretch my legs out of the
toothpick position.

My flat mate Sheena is a beautiful Maori chick who
works as a manager at a clothing store. She is 22,
and never went to college. She makes much more than a
teacher, and is allotted $6,000 a year in free clothes
from her store. She also dates a rugby player and is
in the process of landing a modeling gig with
Vodofone. Her face will apparently soon be all over
t.v. She makes me look very plain. Plainer than my
usual plainness.

I am not going to justify to anyone anymore that I do
NOT like Ian in any other way than he is my flat mate.
If you could see this guy, you'd understand why.
Heart of gold, no doubt, but not my type. So stop
asking. We just hang out because we don't like Julia
and nobody else is ever home.

My new job at SPQR is nice. I've done 2 1/2 shifts so
far and really like it. Hospitality here is
different, as Kiwis don't tip. It's not common to do
so. Instead, food costs more, and the server gets
paid more in wages. Instead of making $3 + tips, as a
server would in the States, we make $15 w/ fewer tips.
This is nice because you are paid whether your
restaurant or section is busy or not, plus $20-40 in
tips each night, depending on how busy it is. Also, I
get one free meal and one free drink per shift (well,
the drink comes after the shift...), plus staff pizza
after the meal, none of which is something I never got
in the States.

My money situation has been a bit tricky as well. As
a first time international mover, I made the mistake
of bringing the bulk of my money in a giant (well,
regular-sized) cashier's check, which I unfortunately
waited a week to cash. I didn't realize that it would
take 21 days (not including Saturdays or Sundays) to
process. Therefore, my new NZ bank account is fully
equipped with a large amount of money that I can't
touch. That means, for the first four and the next
one weeks of my new adventure, I have lived off of
US$1,050. This translates to about NZ$1,500. With
that I have done EVERYTHING, including paying three
weeks worth of rent, a $200 deposit on my room,
clothes, transportation, Burger King ice-cream cones,
and groceries, which of course, cost me the most. And
I've bought two lotto tickets which have not yet paid
anything. This week, I had to clear out my American
bank account to pay the rent for the last two weeks.
But, a helpful tip for travelers (if I only would have
known) - leave your money at home and use your credit
card! When I use it, the purchases are AUTOMATICALLY
converted to US dollars, which is cool because I feel
like I am always getting a sale (a NZ$39 shirt
actually only cost me US$26.77 on my Visa!).

My teaching qualifications came back super, and I am
officially able to teach in New Zealand. In fact, on
a 12-step salary scale, I made it to step 7. Just
like that. (Actually, that doesn't mean anything, but
it sounds cool, right?)

School holidays end this week, kids are back on the
11th. Maybe I'll get some relief teaching, as earlier
this week I e-mailed some principals I have spoken
with before about getting in. Also, I have an
interview today with the original Oasis Education
recruiter that I have been back and forth with since
April, so I am excited for that. But, I'm not too
worried as now SPQR will soon start to pay the rent.

I got my first package this week. It was totally
exciting. It was full of candy and goodies, and the
pact I had made with myself to eat less sugar went out
the window. American candy is SO much better than the
candy here. Every calorie is worth it, tenfold.
Also, speaking of home, I learned that I can pay, a
week at a time if I want, to watch live ESPN on my
computer. So last week I watched the Iowa v. Ohio
game live, which was really cool. Even better,
though, was watching the commercials for Ford and
Chevy, and hearing American actors speak.

Mary comes in 2 weeks, and then the adventure begins.
We have plans to take a week vacation upon her
arrival. It will consist of a week by the sea, on
the beach, and at vineyards in a town called Napier,
along with a lot of good old Kiwi hospitality from the
lady who is taking us. We're both super pumped for

So that's what's up. All in all, life is good.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

(Hardly) The Sports Authority

Happy Friday afternoon (where you all are)! It's
Saturday morning here, and I knew I could get one more
New Zealand e-mail off before the weekend.

So, I found an appropriate topic: sports. I have
heard and heard and heard about all of the sports at
home this weekend, so I thought I would share some
information about sports in New Zealand. Just call me
the Sports Authority. (But not really, maybe actually
the furthest thing from it. In fact, the line you are
most likely to hear when I am watching sports here is
'What just happened?').

First, though, I have to say a big 'Let's Go!' to the
Waukee Warriors - homecoming tonight. The good old
boys in purple are 3-1 in their first year in 4-A.
Not too bad... I'll be checking the sports scores
late late late tonight! Woo hoo!

Secondly, 'GO HAWKS!' What a great win for the state
of Iowa that will be! Even cyclone fans have to admit

Lastly, 'Go Panthers!' What a great win for the
northeast part of the state of Iowa that will be!
Even Cyclone fans have to admit it... But really, it
will be a good game either way. And almost EVERYONE I
know at home is going to go to it. So have heaps and
heaps of fun!

Now, to local entertainment:

New Zealand sports leaves a lot to be desired.

A Lot.

No football, no baseball, no basketball.

Instead we have rugby, cricket, and netball. Yuk,
yuk, and yuk.

Rugby is an interesting sport. It's the closest thing
to football, but isn't really at all. The men who
play rugby are as big without pads as the men who play
football are with pads. And they're tough. Like
tough. I think a rugby player could crush my head
with his thighs.

The hardest part of adjusting from football to rugby
is that the players get tackled, and then keep on
playing. They just toss it from the ground to the
next closest player who runs, then gets tackled and
throws it from the ground to the next closest player,
and so on. I still haven't figured out where the
strategy is, or what has to happen to end the darn

But, I guess if you've grown up watching it, it's
normal to you. My friend Tahi (whose name I could
only remember by thinking that it was the first two
syllables in the word Tahiti) said he never understood
'gridiron' football, because the player would get the
ball, and things would get exciting, but then he'd get
tackled and the play would stop. (As if that's weird,

So I just told him not to talk to me anymore.

Cricket sucks. Is this even a sport? Come on! I
have no more words to say about cricket. At all.

I haven't figured out this one yet either. If I am
inferring correctly from what I've seen, netball is
played without a backboard by women, and with a
backboard for men, although that makes no sense.
Also, it's a non-contact sport, which makes it boring.
And the ladies wear skirts, which makes the whole
sport, in general, virtually unwatchable.

Go Cowboys?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The hunt for a job

Yikes. Trying to find a part-time job is a tricky
deal. Especially if you're me and you're really
picky. The wheels I have spun to find a good one
would (I think) be an amusing story, so I thought I'd
share a timeline of it with you. So you could get a
small glimpse of what it's like to be somewhere where
you know nowhere...

- Arrival in New Zealand. At this time I decide to
not look for a job until I have a more permanent idea
of where I'll be living. Diane's mom, Glenys (bless
her soul), is a chief lecturer in the hospitality
college at Auckland University and forwards me job
leads in the hospitality industry.

- Arrive at new house in Grey Lynn. Ask roommates
about local restaurants that would be good, and am
pointed in the direction of two, SPQR and Estacy.
-Call to make an appointment to meet with Nish, the
owner of a handful of restaurants at the Viaduct
Harbour (via an e-mail from Glenys).
-Am told by roommate Joy that her bar, Shanghai Lil's
is hiring as well. She'll take me in to meet her boss
and get started on Friday night.
-Am told by roommate Julia that her work is hiring
telemarketers, that it pays $20 an hour, and she'll
take me there the next day.

-Head to SPQR to fill out an application. Pete, the
bartender, tells me they are always hiring and that
it's a great place to work. Get application and
-Hop on the bus and head down to the Viaduct to meet
with Nish. Fill out an application, am offered a job.
I decide to wait and think about it, hoping something
closer to home will open up. SPQR? Shanghai Lil's?
- Julia does not take me to her work.

-Take application back to SPQR. Am told that they'll
be hiring in a couple of weeks (darn!).
-Decide to walk down to Estacy as well. The manager
Kevin asks me to come in for a trial on Sunday
-Go to Shanghai Lil's with Joy and meet Russell, the
manager. It's a nice place. Then, the American owner
walks in, and without any provocation, announces to
Joy that friends of friends are not allowed to work at
Lil's, and that I have to leave. Immediately. So I

- I try out Estacy. The trial goes fine, but I find
out that Kevin will pay me $2 less than they would
have at the Harbour, and that he can only give me two
shifts per week. He informs me that he'll call me on
Friday or Saturday if they need me.
- I walk away irked, but remember that Julia is taking
me to her telemarketing job on Tuesday to meet her

9/18 (side note)
- The flat gets into a huge fight with Julia (head
tenant) about the bills.

- I go to observe at two local elementary schools. At
the second, I find out that the assessment tools they
use to test readers are the same as the tools I was
trained in at Waukee. So I offer to come back for the
rest of the week and administer assessments. I am
taken up on my offer.
- Go home in the afternoon to have Julia to take me to
her work. She has decided, though, that because of
the big fight (that I was hardly a part of) that she
doesn't want to take me to her work. Finally, she
agrees to take me, after a large debate about her
ethics and character, which I won.
- At Julia's work, I am told that they are not hiring
(big surprise).

-Continue to do work at Elementary schools.
-Have not heard from Kevin for the weekend hours.

- Finally decide that maybe I need to just try the
Harbour out. Upon calling Nish, I find that the
position has been filled.

-Upon walking to the store, I notice a flash new
restaurant called The Living room.

- Go to The Living Room to hand in my CV**. Speak
with a friendly Kiwi bloke called Gervais.

- I call The Living Room to see if my CV was received
by a manager. Gervais (luckily) answers the phone and
asks me to come to meet a manager today, and to bring
another CV. I met with the manager at 5.

- SPQR calls (finally!) and asks me to come in for a
trial on Wednesday.

- The Living room calls and asks me to come in for a
trail on Friday (when it rains, it pours, right?).
Even though I am going to SPQR, I decide to do agree
to a trial.
- I do trial at SPQR. The place rocks and I love it.
At the end of the night, I find out that there are
four other servers I am up against. I become VERY
glad that I didn't turn down the trial offer at The
Living Room.

I'll find out about my job at SPQR tomorrow. If it
doesn't work out, I have a back-up plan. Finally, all
of this waiting just may have worked out, as SPQR was
my first choice. The Living Room would be second.

Check out the SPQR website: It's a
pretty impressive place. And really, really, really
gay. The workers and the clientele. Some of the best
dressed and most unavailable men I have EVER seen.

More good news - my qualifications passed. I was told
this on the phone by my caseworker at the New Zealand
Qualifications Authority. Although I have not
actually seen the paper, as far as I know I am now
officially able to teach in New Zealand.

Monday, September 25, 2006


tupid metric system.

Diane would always chide me by saing 'it's easily
divisible units of 10.' But, had I the courage, I
would have told her to 'shove her divisions of ten

So, for now:

I am getting used to driving 50 in a school zone.

I don't mind anymore when I see that the weather will
only be 20 degrees.

And I am quite happy to only weigh 55.

(in kilometers per hour, degrees Celsius, and
kilograms, respectfully).


On another note, I think (and you would probably
agree) that it would seem very reasonable for today's
date (September 28th, 2006) to be written as
9/28/2006. But to a Kiwi, it would be reasonable for
today to be 28 September 2006, or 28/9/2006. I really
have to remember that when I am checking the dates on
the milk carton, that 5/10/2006 really means that my
milk is good until October 5th.

(Dear Mary, I hope you don't hate me for telling the
next story...) As a result of this confusion, my
friend Mary (who will be starting her own adventure
here in three weeks) and I recently had a good
laugh... When she applied for her work visa, she
wrote her birthdate down 'wrong'. She wrote 8/12 for
August 12, and when she got her forms back, they had
written her date of birth as December 8. But because
Mary is such a creative thinker, she realized that
this is an opportunity for us to have 'New Zealand
birthdays' this year as well. We'll be celebrating
hers in December, and you are welcome to send me lots
of presents on November 5th.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The cost of living

First of all... good luck Waukee Warriors - it's
homecoming week! To our Waukee we'll loyal be...

I have had a lot of people ask me about adjusting to
New Zealand from the US. I am quite honest to say
that there are not many big differences between here
and there. On a day-to-day basis, the city, and the
people in it, look just the same as you could find
anywhere in the US. I would, though, like to begin to
share some of the little differences, that trick me up
each day, starting with the cost of living.

When I came to NZ, I was prepared for things to be
more expensive. Most of the country's products are
imported from elsewhere. That, along with the
exchange rate (1 US dollar = 1.6 NZ dollars), makes
the cost of everything automatically higher. When I
want to really think about the cost of something, I
subtract a third of it to get the US equivalent, but
it doesn't seem to help the price actually go down...

I am speechless at the cost of groceries. My three
favorite examples are eggs, milk, and Coke.
I have been bragging about, how at home, a dozen eggs
will run you roughly $.78. Here, a dozen eggs will
run you $3 and up, depending on the size, and whether
the eggs are free range, at which point they will cost
$7 and up. For 12 eggs. At first, I was really dumb,
and thought, oh, yeah, all of that stuff comes from
somewhere else (which was my automatic reaction to the
price of everything here). Then, I realized that this
country is full of farms that have chickens that
produce eggs. So I just don't understand. Even
converted to US dollars, that's still $2 for the
cheapest dozen eggs. And even more weird - they don't
refrigerate eggs. In the stores or at home. Unless
you're Wendy, who refuses to leave the eggs out.
Milk is no better. 2 litres of fat-free milk runs me
NZ$4 each time at the store. Now, a gallon ( for you
math fans), is about 3.3 litres, and will cost about
US$2.50 at HyVee. So, if I convert the litres to
gallons, a gallon of fat-free milk in NZ would cost
about NZ$6. I am pretty sure there are plenty of
dairy farms around here as well, probably next to all
of the chicken farms, and I hope the farmers and their
families are living well. And at least New Zealanders
agree that milk is best when refrigerated.
Lastly, you'll all be happy to know that I no longer
drink pop. Because a 12-pack costs NZ$11 or more.
And that's not 3 for $11, like at Fareway. Oh,
blessed Fareway.

I didn't bring sneakers with me when I came, as I
didn't want to waste the space in my suitcase, and
just thought I'd buy them here. Shoes ARE imported,
and I haven't found a good pair for less than NZ$250.
Luckily, my WONDERFUL mother has offered to send mine
from home. Which should only cost about ten bucks.

Lastly, gas is going down here as well, and at first
glance to the American eye, the price would SEEM
reasonable, at NZ$1.50. Except that instead of getting
that deal for a gallon, that's the price per litre.
So, as an example to the cost, my VW Beetle had a 13
gallon tank. This would roughly translate to 43
litres. You do the math for a full fill up at the
petrol station. I have seen very few SUVs, and I
haven't wondered why.

In short, send cash soon.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

More vocabulary lessons

The shock to me still seems to come at the strange
words used, and the naughtiness of the television.
There is no holding back to what they'll show or say,
and I never cease to be shocked by a new commercial
each week...

This one isn't quite as graphic as the shower one
previously mentioned, but is appalling in it's own
way. It begins with a lady sitting in a chair,
talking to the television viewers. She says, 'I am
about to give myself a vaginal thrush. Right here in
front of all of these men.' (Pan in to all of the
camera and film crew, who have suddenly become very
interested). She proceeds to take a Diflucan pill
(for you men, that's a yeast infection pill), drinks a
bit of water, and says, 'See how easy that was?'


I have been volunteering at Richmond Road primary this
week, as I realized after observing on Tuesday, that
they use the same assessment tools as we used in
Waukee, and I became of some help administering them.
I stayed around each day after the tests to observe
and work with the kiddos, so I've been there full days
all through the week. One fun sentence I heard was
"Miss Wendy, can I please have a plaster?" which
sounded like this: "Miss When-dee, con I plies hov a
ploster?" and which meant: "Miss Wendy, can I please
have a band-aid?"

But my favorite memory from this week happened today.
It was the end of term assembly, and the principal was
calling out names of students who had received
playground awards. One final winner was called up to
draw a prize out of the bag. Upon retrieving the
package, the young lad opened it up, and Hayley the
principal, was describing the items to the children
who couldn't see them. It went like this, "Oh,
there's a pen, and a pad of paper, and a pink rubber."

(After I picked up my jaw from the floor, I was
assured by the lady next to me that a rubber means an

It's the little things I like the best...

Animal Magnetism

A true story. (As if I could actually make this
stuff up...):

On Saturday (later in the evening), I went into y room
to have some alone time. I noticed, climbing up the
wall (very slowly) a snail (I know, weird, right?), a
bit bigger than one of those big marbles that you use
to hit smaller marbles. So, I fetched Ian to get it
off the wall for me. He happily obliged.

apparently, snails run RAMPID around this part of the
world, and I am lucky to have only seen one. Even
though I live in a very nice house, it is old, as are
all of the houses in this city, and holes are bound to
be found. If I were a snail, I'd want to be inside
too (although it isn't actually much warmer than
outside). I've seen three since then (obviously
because now I am looking for them!).

Last night, while filling up my water bottle(s) with
boiling hot water, and having a(nother) cup of tea, I
saw another snail (same size, maybe the same one?)
climbing up the wall in the kitchen. This time, I
decided to let it go (secretly, though, Ian was
already sleeping, so I knew he couldn't come and get
it for me).

But then, just when I thought I had seen it all, the
cat batted it off the wall. And ate it.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

My first day at school

Well, not really.

Yesterday, when visiting the school, I had mentioned
that I would be glad to come and administer the tests
so that the teacher wouldn't have to have relief
workers in her classroom. She was so excited, and
wanted me to come. But, not really knowing if that
would be alright with confidentiality and things that,
in Waukee, we'd red flag, I went today with hesitation
that I would actually be helping, but instead would
likely just be observing.

When I got there today, though, she had actually made
a list of the kiddos that she wanted me to read with -
more than half of the class! If I really thought
about the situation, I secretly laughed inside, that
here I am, a total stranger, administering tests to
kids I don't know in a school that I had never been
to. :)

On top of that, it was Grandparents Day today as well.
I offered to stay around and lend a hand, which was
accepted. When the grandparents started arriving, the
kids were out playing on the playground. So Di, the
teacher, invited me to tea, which is where many of the
grandparents and teachers were heading. When we got
to the lounge, I about fell over when I saw how tea
was served. Now, before I explain this, remember that
it is a British and Kiwi culture to have tea many
times a day and with most meals, but even after two
weeks of drinking tea non-stop, I was still shocked to
see a GIANT white box, about 4 cubic square feet, full
of hot boiling water, mounted on the wall. It's kept
full and hot all day. The thing looks like a HUGE
first-aid box that would be mounted on a wall! And
the huge canisters of tea bags, sugar, milk, etc.! It
was a HOOT!

Anywho - the kiddos, this term, have been studying
immigration (as all New Zealanders, like Americans,
really descend from somewhere else), so it was an
opportunity for the grandparents to share their
stories and pictures with the kids. Unknown to me,
though, Di decided to introduce me, in front of all
the kids, grandparents, parents, and assistant
principal, as an immigrant too (which is so true) and
I got to speak as well. It was pretty neat.

Then, after lunch, Diane had a meeting, so she left me
in charge. Without proof that I am even a teacher,
mind you. We read a book, played a math game, and
drew. The school day ends at three, so I was done

What a day.

Talk to you soon!