Saturday, March 31, 2007

In between

It's April.


As of 6:40 am on Wednesday the the 4th (that's 1:40 p.m. Tuesday the 3rd, CST), I will have been in New Zealand for more than 7 months. It'll have been 30 weeks. 210 days. Or, to be MORE exact, 5,040 minutes. Which of course is 302,400 seconds.

Life hasn't changed much since my last update. I am still teaching during the day and working at SP at night. School holidays start next week, which will be nice for a break, but not for funds, as I have to work for three hours at SP to make what I do in one hour at school.

As for what's happening next, I just don't know. Well, actually I do. Kinda.

Last week, I had a phone interview with the American School in Milan. The interview went great, but I am now finding out that the position may no longer be available due to re-structuring of the lower school. For now, I'll keep on waiting for further details regarding that position.

I have also been offered interviews for schools in both India and Liberia, but have passed both up, as neither suits me geographically. I am having a hard time finding the excitement to commit to 2 years of teaching in either of these locations.

I continue to apply, though not as rigorously, at international schools in Europe, but also a few in Egypt, Mexico, and South Africa. Not being at the international recruiting fairs puts me at a gross disadvantage to other candidates, but I am doing the best I can to be thorough and persistent online and via e-mail. I am keeping my options open, trying to be flexible, and hoping for a position, most likely during a last-minute hiring frenzy this summer.

I will wait it out until August or early September, as my visa in New Zealand doesn't expire until then, and I figure that if I'm not teaching internationally somewhere else, I might as well be working and living here as long as I can for the experience that I'll never get again.

My backup plan, if no teaching job opens, is to come home in September and start grad school in the spring. The 5 schools who have a program that suits what I want to study are are at Tufts (MA), Penn, Columbia (NYC), Elliot-Pearson (Chicago), and Iowa. All five programs are very different, and I still need to research which one suits what I want to learn the best. I'm sure Mom wouldn't mind the deferment of my student loans as well... There'd be plenty of perks to being Stateside again, as prompted in my last entry. I'd love to be closer to family again, and would really enjoy having the opportunity to watch my favorite t.v. shows live. For free.

Doing that will mean taking another year off of teaching in order to come home, move, apply, and get started. I have researched US schools online and tried to search out positions in school districts near the institutions that I am looking at, but haven't found anything open. It's also a bit hard to comit to that job when I am waiting on overseas ones as well. I'd kick myself if I took a job in Massachusetts and were then offered a job in Germany. So, I can continue to be a sub, which I like doing, while getting settled.

Now of course, my my publicist requires me to add a disclaimer that any of this can change at any time...

Excitingly, I've just found out that one of my best Waukee teaching friends, Danielle, and her husband Eric, are expecting their first child at the end of this year. Just as exciting was finding out that my longtime friend and one time partner in crime, Jen Farrell, became engaged to her boyfriend Kyle, under the Eiffel Tower, during a trip to Europe in March. (boy - that paragraph had a lot of commas, huh?)

I have great friends and family at home who continue to send me care packages in the mail, which is always welcome and makes me smile. Both my mom and my friend Tera, after reading the horrifying story of the Girl Guide cookies, sent me boxes of Girl Scout cookies, which I am slowly rationing on a daily basis. My auntie sent me $20 this week, which was really neat to open up (and so foreign to look at!). Instead of spending it, I'm saving it - it's tacked to my wall. Coolest item in any package to date? My mom, who had all of the Super Bowl commercials put on a DVD for me (narrowly edging out the bacon that Aunt Barb's tried to send me last October - it was confiscated by customs, which is worth the story in itself).

During this 'in between' time, I am taking every day in New Zealand as it comes, and loving every moment of it. I have become more confident, and more cheeky (much to the dismay and smiles of my flatties), and am very proud to consider myself more worldly and accomplished. Each day I marvel on my coming here, and how effortlessly I have grown into the routine of living and working in a foreign country. It's very empowering, and I'm loving every minute of it.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


If you were able to be a permanent life-long resident and full citizen of New Zealand based on the number of times you'd used the court system in the first six months of your stay, I'd be in.

The Dispute Tribunal court and I are officially best friends (sorry, Nik).

I am in the process of filing my second dispute now for monies owed to me, and I have to say, so far, the legal system in New Zealand has not let me down.


Dispute #1: Wendy J. Foreman v. Joy B. Winkleman

Joy is my former flatmate. You might remember at one time that she was going to sell me her car. Instead, she took $240 of my money to fix it and never paid me back. Or sold me the car. So I took her to court.

After finally securing a court date I showed up to plead my side of the case. She didn't - out of the country or mourning for a dead relative or car wasn't working or something like that. In her absence the court ruled in my favor. Joy B. Winkleman was required to pay Wendy Foreman the sum of $240 immediately. As you can imagine though, being 'out of the country' makes it hard for you to get your mail, so conveniently, Joy still didn't pay.

Imagine my surprise when a week after my court date, I went to a concert (in Auckland) at the theatre she was formerly employed at to find out that she was currently an employee, and was working that night (she's a clever one, huh?). Although I avoided her that night, I promptly went back down to the court on Monday morning to turn her in. She was summoned by a court official, and required to either pay or show up in court, with the consequence of being arrested for failing to do so. She paid the monies to me one day before the court date, although she still wasn't very happy about it.

As if I care how happy or unhappy she is.


Dispute #2: Ian Bellew, Sheena Papuni, Doug Tauronga, and Wendy Foreman v. Julia Gibson (pending)

Julia is my (our) former flatmate. While living here she charged us each $160 per week for rent and bills.

Since those numbers mean nothing to you, follow me through some math:

$160 x 4 (just for fun we'll exclude Julia from paying rent...) = $640 / week for rent at 126 Williamson.

Imagine our surprise when we found out that rent on our property has only ever been $550 a week.

That's a surplus of $360 a month (let's also remember, just for fun, that Julia wasn't paying rent in that equation).

For fairness, we have to take out the bills too: $360 (what we've been paying) - 250 (bills) = $110 extra each month that we have never seen. (Still without Julia paying rent).

In essence, we figure that if Julia had been paying rent each month that the surplus in our flat account (only for the last 5 months that I have been living here and there's been 5 people in the house) would be significant, as demonstrated in the following equation:

$3600 (5 people paying rent for the entire month)
-2450 (actual cost of house rent + bills per month)
$1150 x 5 (months) = $5,750.

But the truth is that Julia hadn't been paying rent. Our rent had subsidized hers. AND she thinks we owe her money. Around $400, to be exact.

So, we're still considering sending a dispute to the tenancy tribunal, but haven't decided yet. Noone in the flat can come to a reasonable decision about it (shocking, I know...), but I'm still pulling for court. It worked for me once, right...?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Future...

A couple of weeks ago after catching up on my blog, my friend Tera wrote "I loved reading your blog about Mary leaving, but what will you miss when you leave New Zealand?"

So, I thought it would be fun to make a list. A predictive list of what I think I'll miss (and what I won't)...

I'll miss:
*Nay Nay
*eating foccacia and aioli with Nay Nay at SPQR
*pineapple lumps
*the scenery
*wooden floors
*not wearing shoes at school (never thought I'd admit to that one...)
*the weather
*dollar coins
*hanging my clothes out to dry
*kids calling band-aids 'plasters'
*not seeing SUVs
*flavored canned tuna
*Richmond Road Primary School
*the Auckland skyline
*rounding all payments to the nearest $0.10
*public transportation

I will NOT miss:
*the non-existant shelf-life of bread
*non-refrigerated eggs
*paying $13 for People magazine
*drama (Kiwis LOVE drama)
*not having heat or a/c
*the cost of toiletries
*Auckland drivers
*the cost of living and the price of the dollar

I'll look forward to coming home to:
*fountain pop
*calling pop 'pop'
*The Gap
*diet cola
*cinnamon rolls in a can
*grocery shelves LINED with choices
*Old Navy
*seeing baby Corbin

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Wide Wide World

Did you know that the Philippines are an American colony?

I didn't.

Imagine my embarrassment during the following conversation, which took place in front of my whole dance class, between Joel (my instructor) and myself:

Joel (taking roll): Wendy?
Wendy: Here.
J: Have I asked you yet where you're from?
W: I'm American.
J: From which part?
W: The midwest. Which is why I can't dance.
J: Not LA?
W: No. How about you? You have a great American accent.
J: I'm Philippino. It's an American colony, so we learned American english.
W: Oh, cool. (which is code for 'The Philippines is an American colony?)

Nonetheless, I checked it out on Wikipedia, my favorite online source of information, and checked that it does have ties to America. I wouldn't go so far as to say that the information made me think it had a strong tie to America, but America is mentioned once or twice. If you want more information about this, you can visit the website to see for yourself:

I won't lie, though, that Americans are not well-renound for their traveling or knowledge of the world, especially from our part of the country. We're about as smart about the world as New Zealanders are about parts of the States other than LA or New York. Which isn't very smart.

This Monday at SPQR I waited on heaps of Americans, which put me in a great mood. I was chatting it up, being cheeky, having fun with all of them. I found one table of two California boys especially nice. Now, I never really try to guess where people are from, or even if they aren't from here, until they start asking me what things on the menu are ('What's capsicum? Rocket? Aioli?). These boys fit that bill, so I struck up the conversation with them about America. I told them where I was from, and found out the same from them. Then, one asked me, 'Tell me again roughly where in the States is Iowa?'

Oh boys. Really? DId you not have to learn the physical proximity of each and every state (spelled correctly) and it's capital (spelled correctly) in fourth grade, or was that just me?

For shame...

In another recent conversation with someone from home who needed some information about where I live, I got the following question:

'Is New Zealand part of the UK?'

Now, for anyone who might have wondered the same, but was too embarrassed to ask... New Zealand and the UK aren't even in the same hemisphere. So no, it is not part of the UK.

I still also have a couple of friends asking me how living Australia is going.

Again, two completely separate places.


Moral of the story - get out and read some geography if you can. We live in a very, very wide world, and I've learned the more you know, the better off you are. It's all helpful information to know, for sure...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Girl Guide

(Girl Guide? Nice try, guys...)


So, I walk into school one day and there's a note on the board in the staff lounge:

'Girl Guide cookies - see Sharanee.'

And I thought, 'Girl Guide?'


And THEN I thought, 'OH! Like Girl SCOUT!'

(only not really)

Because after internally I laughed my rear off at the name 'Girl Guide' I went straight to Sharanee to get some 'Girl Guide' cookies. Because who could refuse?

But besides the fact that they're only NZ$2.80 a box (that's about US$1.80), they don't actually come in boxes. And there's only two flavors. Plain and chocolate-covered.

No wonder they only cost $2.80.

I got my packages today. I was not impressed.

They only come in two flavors. Plain and chocolate-covered. And they don't come in boxes. And the packaging isn't colorful.

So I put them in the lounge for the teachers to eat.

At least it was for a good cause. Guiding girls, I guess.

Then, I went home and laughed again, for a different reason, and this is why:
In New Zealand, joking names for islanders (Samoans, Tongans, Fijians, Nueans, etc..) are 'coconut' or 'darky'. My flatmate Doug, a Tongan, is a coconut. And a darky. But that's irrelevant. What is relevant is that Girl Scouts make a (really yummy) cookie called Samoas made with chocolate and coconut. And I think that's really funny.

Not as funny as Girl Guide cookies.

They only come in two flavors. Plain and chocolate-covered.

(nice try, guys...)

Sunday, March 11, 2007


I might move to New Zealand just so I don't have to do taxes.

My poor mother probably would think that's alright. She's been the one in the middle between my tax agent (Marlys) and myself, calling and e-mailing a few times a week with new questions back and forth between the two of us. Bless her soul...

In New Zealand, ALL pay is electronic. EVERY business is tracked by a general sales tax number through the Inland Revenue Department (IRD). EACH employee's weekly pay is credited directly to a bank account and is tracked by the IRD. Thus, the IRD is completely aware of how much you've made and if you're being over or under taxed. If you are, they'll replace or debit your personal bank account to compensate the gain/loss.

It's all connected, and it's a pretty impressive system.

Because of it, New Zealanders don't have to file tax returns. (nice, huh?)

I, though, will file one, as I believe I have been overtaxed throughout the year and am hoping for a refund. As a double employee and non-resident, it has been advised to me that over-taxation happens to people in my work bracket, so hopefully a big refund will ensue. We'll see how we go...

Tess and I were just remarking yesterday also how people don't write checks in New Zealand. I'm not even sure if a checkbook is something you can even get. I've NEVER had anyone pay at SPQR with a check. Ever.

Between that and the absence of 1 and 5 cent pieces (which is so, so great), this country has money figured out...

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Pretty fly for a white girl?

Have you ever seen one of those movies where the main character really wants to do something that she's no good at? When she first starts she is really, really bad. Then, she works really hard and practices and practices, and by the end of the movie she's the hero? And the champion at whatever she didn't do well before?

I hate those movies.

But, I thought maybe I could be my own little butt-kicking hero with a happy ending when I started taking hip-hop classes.

Now I've decided otherwise. Not by choice, but by default.

My friend Aaron turned me on to the idea of dance class when he did it last term. He said 'It's a great way to break a sweat, meet cool people, and learn some moves.'

Break a sweat? Check.
Meet cool people? Check.
Learn some moves? Um....

I can Macarana like you wouldn't believe, and I love to go for a boogie on a floor of people, but this white girl can't dance hip-hop to save her life.

There are 20 people in this class with me. None are amazing at hip-hop. About 15 of them are former dancers, though, and have lots of grace in their movements. The other 5 have great memories and can remember each move through a routine.

I have neither grace nor memory.

I am just plain awful.

Do you see that girl in the middle who is standing when everyone else has shifted into a squat for the next move? Or the one who's going right when everyone else is going left? OR the strange, rigid, arthritic-looking one who is gracelessly meandering on the floor, one beat behind?

That girl? It's me.

I have no hope of bringing sexy back.

My poor instructor... he probably agrees.