Saturday, June 30, 2007

My First Day

My first day in the US was almost as tragic as my first day in Auckland.

Begin: getting on my second flight from Tahiti (layover) to LA.

For the first time on an international flight, I have to share my seat with others. Not only am I not good at sharing, but I don't sleep well sitting up. Amount of sleep gotten on combined 14 hour flight: 5 hours.

Arrive in LA.

Turn on my cell phone and realize that it won't work in the US (lesson learned: never trust a friend who tells you your NZ phone will work in the US). Even bigger bummer since I paid $40 for credit right before I left. Now am $40 short AND without a phone. Consider pretending to call people and have imaginary conversations so that it looks like I'm talking into my non-working phone, but think better of it and decide not to.

Am extremely disappointed in how incredibly rude people are. Bypass a shouting match with a lady who thought her ticket issues were more important than everyone else's. Deal with disgruntled airline workers. Am treated badly.

Make first phone call from airport pay phone to Aunt Barb. Was pleased to only pay $.50 for the call. 'Am in America;' I say. She relays the message to Mom.

Make it to the plane on time. Whew. No Cinnabon, though. Gutted.

By the time I reach the ground at Vegas, have decided that if I never step foot on an airplane again, it will be too soon.

Get baggage and get to hotel with very little effort (whew!). Only bummer? My hotel room is three doors from the furthest spot from the elevator. With no exaggerations, I have to turn through 7 corridors to get to it. It's a long walk.

At ticket counter, am asked to pay for the second night's room. Thinking I had already paid it, I was confused. Then I realized that I had only previously paid for one night, and am glad to hand over my debit card.

Debit card denied. Credit card expired. No cash. Can't book second night until Mom comes and does it on her card, which won't be until 11 that night.

Come up to room and try to use internet ($12.95/day), but can't connect as there's no credit card on file to charge it to. As a result, can't check bank balances to find deficit.

Try to call Aunt Barb again from the room, but can't make a long-distance call as there's no credit card on file to charge it to.

Grab $1 and the room key and head downstairs to call Aunt Barb on the hotel pay phone. The pay phone is in the furthest lobby from my hotel room. Figures.

Put my dollar in and dial Auntie. The phone asks for another $2.60. I don't have another $2.60. I try to call collect. The phone won't let me. Don't have my wallet with me to buy a calling card from the gift shop.

Decide to fugeddabouddit, and head back up to the room to take a bath, which I have already drawn the water for (and left to cool). When I reach the hotel room, my key won't work. I try it again and again, and again and again it won't work.

I use the guest phone in the hallway to call the front desk (there's no way I'm walking all the way back down the hall, waiting for the lift, and going to the desk). The lady connects me to the security department.

The security head answers the phone, but tells me that it is shift-change time, and that there are no workers to come let me in my room for another 30 minutes.

I decide it would have been nice to know that in advance, as I would have robbed the damn place if I'd have known that there was no security for 30 full minutes. I decide against this idea, and instead wait for exactly 3o minutes, sitting outside the door of my room, for security to come.

And then I finally got my bath and the day was good again.

Viva, Las Vegas.

(photo: New York New York hotel where we stayed)

Friday, June 29, 2007



My first impressions of America
by Wendy, ex-pat and semi-experienced world traveler
(written in order)

1. I forgot that in some countries, policemen wear guns.

2. What a beautiful flag!

3. Muy bien, gracias. Y tu?

4. Listen, you don't have to be so rude.

5. Oh! A hummer!

6. Everyone is so... American.

7. I'm so... American. I sound just like everyone else here...

8. No Cinnabon in this terminal? Damnit!

9. Everything is seemingly half-price!

10. Oh! Another hummer!

11. That IS a lot of water in the toilet bowl.

12. Oh! USA Today!

13. Peanut butter M&Ms. Mmmmmm...

14. Look. A hummer.

15. A man spanked his young child (very hard) and then said to him 'You don't hit.' (um, hello?)

16. The man next to me smells really bad.

17. I smell really bad.

18. (and last, but not least) The following announcment overhead, spoken in a genuine Bob Barker-type voice:

Katherine Emery! Katherine Emery! Please head back down to Terminal A where you LEFT your LUGGAGE. Katherine Emery! Come on DOWN to collect the luggage that YOU left in Ter-min-al A!!!!

(the second time he called it out, he slipped a couple of 'yo's in it, which put the whole of gate 4B in stitches!)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Goodbye Friends

One last party for my last night.

Would you believe me if I told you that at dinner last night (which I planned two months in advance) was the first time my flatties and I have ALL eaten together?? Would you believe it? So, it was pretty special to eat with all of them. Doug brought Noriko, his girl, and I brought Christian, my man. We ate at Gina's, where I have enjoyed 6 meals now in Auckland. Fitting that it was the first restaurant I ate at upon arrival, and was the last one I ate at before departing.

After that, I invited all of my awesome, random friends to for one last drink at (fitting, I know...) SPQR. What fun that was. 25 of my greatest friends showed up throughout the night to wish me farewell, and buy me a drink, and take some photos. Olga promised to play my favorite SP song before I went too, which happened near the end of the night. It was my favorite part.

So, to all of my friends, the kindest thanks for being with me on my last night.

It was magic.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Goodbye Richmond Road

My last day at school was the best ever.

First of all, all of the kids showed up. All of them. That's the first time this term that I've had all of my kiddos at once, as there is usually always one or two missing. This allowed me to take GREAT pictures that I printed off and gave to the kids as going-away prezzys.

In the morning, we danced. We danced the Hokey Pokey, did the limbo to The Limbo Rock, and of course, danced the Macarena.

After first block, at morning tea, the teachers and staff had planned a tea shout (a food party) just for me. It was the biggest feast I've ever seen. They all sang to me in Maori, gave speeches and presents, and just made me feel great. It was amazing.

During second block, my kids got to sing Maori songs with the vice-principal. That was neat too.

The best part of my day was the first part of last block during Jump Jams. We do Jump Jams with the kids once or twice a week, but on this day, all of the school (minus one or two classes) showed up. Just imagine 300 kids just jamming away to dance songs - so cool. All of their arms and legs moving at the same time in the same direction... The Jump Jams teacher, Nina, was sick, so I (beings as it was my last day, I love to dance, and was really excited to see the kids all dancing) led the troupe. We danced our rears off, laughing and smiling the whole time. The VERY best part of my day was when Jump Jams was over (after one last Macarena) and the principal Hayley sent all the kids my way, and we had a 200 person hug that lasted about 10 minutes. It started off as everyone, but turned into a mile-long line of kids, queueing up to give me a hug.

It was magic.

I will very, very, very much miss Richmond Road.

Very, very much.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Cuppa

Occam (across from my house)

Sliced (across from school)

One 2 One (across from SPQR)

These are the three places where I generously donate a weekly percentage of my paycheck in return for a good cup of coffee and a scone. Sometimes, the donation happens up to 3 times a day. Sometimes, the donation includes lunch.

My happiest little moments are small, like when I go to Occam and queue up in line behind 5 people, and the barista has my coffee ready for me before I even order. I just pay, and they push it across the counter. They know me that well, which is impressive in a city of over a million.

This sign, though, is a bonus to my coffee fetish. It's on the path between my walk from Occam (for my first cup of morning joe) to Sliced (the second cup before starting school). It was a speed bump sign that someone cleverly painted over.

He he...

Mi Casa

Besides the pictures lining two walls and the sheets on my bed, this is everything I own.

It's my little closet full of stuff.

And I like it.

On the toppest shelf are 5 bottles of wine and three suitcases, two cans of tennis balls and a hat from a friend. On the far right of the second shelf is The White Album, in vinyl. It's my luxury item. Hanging from the rod are both of my tennis rackets, my clothes, and an American flag. My school supplies are in the plastic, and my shoes compile most of the mess.

It's neat to know that I can live off of so little. I bet my parents are glad too, as knowing that I can live off of so little means that I'll come home and throw everything else I own away, thus freeing up heaps of space in their garage.

But soon, when I pack all that you see into three luggage cases, I know that I will miss my little closet...

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Goodbye SPQR

Last night was my last night at SPQR. I had a great night, but was very, very, very sad.

When an employee leaves, it is tradition say goodbye in his/her own words, written in the staff bathroom. I was no exception.

Goodbye, SPQR.


It is so cold here.


Winter has approached.

They like to officially say that winter starts on the first day of June. I hold my tongue and don't say, 'Guys, that's not right, as the solstices are, and have always fallen on the 21st-22nd of seasonal months.'


Be it winter or late fall, it's cold!

I previously mentioned that houses here are not heated or cooled by standard units. In the summer, you rot with the windows open, hoping that a breeze comes in, and in the winter, you freeze with the space heater on, trying to keep your toes, which are frozen to the wooden floor, warm.

Outside, there's no snow. Just cold temperatures and an often fairly strong (cold) breeze.

I have one large space heater that Ian didn't want, so I keep my room warm at night with that. Walking into the hall in the morning, though, is another story. It's like a refrigerator. And don't even try to keep warm from the hot shower to your room. Ha!

Lately, though, I've taken to putting the heater in the hallway so that our common walking area is warmer. It makes it feel like Christmas. Just without Santa and stuff.

Aunt Barb would probably give me a growling, but I never wear socks. I hate them. I don't wear them at home, and I don't wear them when I go out. I wear slip on shoes, mostly, and of course without socks. I know it's my own fault that I'm cold all of the time, but I really do think I have a permanent set of goose-bumps building into my skin.

To top it all off, I sold my bed, and am back to sleeping on the floor. The cold floor. Which, for a few days, is really ok. Cold, but ok.

For once, I'm looking forward to a hot Iowa summer.

Saturday, June 23, 2007


The tall, quiet one.

I don't have much to say about Ian.

He's just the tall, quiet one.

He sleeps next to me.

He works hard and is very smart at what he does.

He just got a new girlfriend. She cost about $26,000. She's chrome and red, has handle bars, two wheels, and is named Harley. I guess since all of his friends had motorbikes, it would only be fitting that Ian needed one too.

He's not too assertive, which makes him quite kind. He can't be bothered to make decisions, and prefers to just go with the flow.

He'd probably do anything for you if you asked.

He's very polite.

Every once in awhile we eat at the Food Court or catch up for a game of tennis. Ian has become quite good, and has learned to use his strengths on the court (size and speed) to even beat me a couple of times.

Ian and I used to be a lot closer. We'd sit on the couch and spend whole evenings just watching tv and talking and not talking. We'd make dinner together, go to the store together, and just hang out while the rest of the house was busy. But, as time has gone on, we've both become busier, and have had less and less time to just sit. So, Ian and I just don't do that anymore, which is ok. On the rare occasions when we do just sit and watch the telly, I really enjoy it.

Ian is the glue in our house. He's the one that secretly keeps us all calm and in order. And I don't even think he realizes it. But he is pretty great. I am lucky to have been able to live with Ian and now call him a friend. He's a pretty cool guy.

But that's about all I have to say about Ian.

The tall, quiet one.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


M is for Mareta.

We two are the most unlikely people you'd find together, actually.

Mareta is the Year 1 teacher at Richmond Road. Every Thursday, it's her job I take while she has a day of release. Hers is the classroom I share. Hers is a friendship I value very much.

M is actually older than my mom, but she has the youth and vitality of a 30-year old. She is a vibrant Samoan, has two grown children, drives a 1973, grass green Mercedes, and is very intelligent.

When we spend time together we do heaps of things. She'll pick me up on Sunday and take me on tiki-tours of the city. We go out to eat, meet for drinks after school, and have coffee together two or sometimes three times a day.

I appreciate M's uniqueness. I think I first loved her when she told me the story about her marriage. She had Charlotte, her oldest, very young, and married Kris, Charlotte's father, a few years after. They've been together for more than 17 years now, but recently made an interesting change in their relationship. When things were getting a little hairy, they decided to move out and live separately, which they do now. It seems to work great, and they've never gotten along better. She's happier, the kids are happier, and everything is working out well with no intention of changing. Her telling me this story was one of those eye-opening moments (such as with David's moms) that made me realize that life has to be lived the way that works for you, and that sometimes the pre-subscribed norms don't always suit everyone.

But most importantly, M was my rock during a recent hard period. She was able to listen and give me advice about it, from a friend and from a somewhat motherly point of view. She even had some really great bits of advice that included Sunday School verses, and we had a crack-up about that. Funnily enough, she was in a similar situation that I was able to listen to and advise as well. We've learned a lot from each other.

I'll sure miss the kids at Richmond Road, but mostly, I'll miss the atmosphere that included Mareta and her beautiful smile. Her love of life is contagious, and anyone else who wanders into her path in the future will surely be as lucky as I was.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Slanguage, part two

I just know that when I come home I'm going to use all of these new words that people don't understand and everyone is going to look at me and say 'huh?' Fitting, I reckon, as I did the same upon my arrival. At the end of my stay, though (and as a forewarning to my trip home) I provide you with one more look at a few more of my favorite kiwi words.

choice - cool
I reckon - I agree, I think
keen - up for, would like to
hottie - hot water bottle
sunnies - sunglasses
sook - cry baby
my shout - I'll pay
togs/swimmers - bathing suits
bach - vacation home (I won't be using that one so much, but still like it!)
sprogs - children
chocka - full or overflowing
ice block - popsicle
jumper/jersey - sweater or coat
pudding - dessert
tea - snack or a meal
tuck/tucker - food/eating

and my personal favorite...

as - very something (sweet-as, tired-as, hot-as, quiet-as, white-as, etc...)

check out this website for more authentic kiwi slang:

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Japan Facts

Things I've learned about Japan since deciding to go there. Must-know information if you ask me...

Did you know that according to the Japanese Health MInistry, the Japanese are among the world's longest-lived people, with 28,395 people over the age of 100, as of September 2006.

There are no 24-hour ATMs in Japan.

Japanese people die on the fourth of the month more than any other dates.

30 million residents makes Tokyo the most-populated city in the world.

Over 90% of the population buy a comic book daily.

In Tokyo, they sell toupees for dogs.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Mark, Andy, and the rest of the bloody crew...

I work with heaps of cool, cool cats at SP. I really think that most of them deserve a quick mention, as they have been a huge part of my life for the last 10 months. So, let me introduce the rest of the bloody crew to you. In small doses...

If you could imagine a really handsome Pee Wee Herman, that's Mark. People in New Zealand love to kiss on the cheek when they greet, but I've become accustomed to greeting Mark by kissing him smack on the lips, which, at one time, would have been way outside my comfort zone. His favorite words are 'lady!' and 'mongrel!' or 'minge!' or 'minger!' He'll say 'Hurry up, Lady,' or 'Watch it, you mongrel,' to just about anyone. But he says it in the most fun voice. He's never cross, and is a brilliant manager.He and his partner Phil have been together for a couple of years, and are really, really cute. Mark is one of my favorite people to work with because he's so clever, funny, simple, and easy to get along with. Whenever I'm at a table taking an order or carrying drinks, he comes up from behind and unties my apron so that it falls off mid-stride. Real funny stuff.
(photo: coming soon)

Andy is special. He calls me Wendy Forearm, he says 'You're aMAYZEing' to everyone, and he gets finicky over the smallest things. When I started at SP, people warned me about Andy, but he has always been one of my FAVORITE managers. He's really handsome and quite kind. Like Mark, he is one of my favorites to work with because he just gets it. Plus, the stuff he says is SO hilarious. He's almost as funny as Pene (see bottom). He and his (very hot) partner Clinton have also been together for awhile. Today I was at work having lunch with Christian and I was telling Andy how much I was really, really going to miss SP when I left. Andy's reply? 'Yes, babe. Nowhere in the world will you recieve such severe sexual harassment as this. Well, no, wait. I have a lot of friends all over the world.' To which I smiled and said, 'Thank God.'
(photo: Clinton (Andy's partner), Andy, myself, Jade, Christian)

An exceptional human being and brilliant manager, Jade is a midwife in real life. SP financed her time in midwife , which worked out well for her. We try to catch up for a beer now and then, and one time even had a 'beer lunch' where we drank a lot of beer before going to work and having to do a shift. Made the night go really, really quickly. Funny enough, for the person I worked with the least, she knows more about my goings-on at work than most people. We share a couple of secrets worth keeping. She is really great, really nice, and an exceptionally hard worker. Jade is someone you could learn a lot from.
(see previous photo)

We have three guys named James at our restaurant. Betty is a James, our bar manager Olga is a James, and Burge is a James. He's Burge because his last name is Burgess. He missed out on a female nickname, but I'm not sure why. He has a son named (of all things) Detroit. The name is Burges' ex-partner's boyfriend's drag queen name, which, of course, seems reasonable (??). I reckon Burge is a bit bi- as although he has a partner of a year, he tends to be a bit of a ladies man as well. Of all of the people I've met in New Zealand, I've never had anyone speak to me as explicitly as he does, but I LOVE it. To be honest, it's very liberating to work in an environment where things like that are said and accepted, and it's all part of the fun. Burge is one of my favorites.
(photo: Burge giving me the bird)

Joe A.:
Sweet, short, bald, handsome, tattooed, and gay. We all know him as American Joe, but secretly is a New Zealand citizen with an American green card. His marm and pa are both lawyers, so Joe grew up a rich boy in a nice part of NYC and has been all over the world. He's a photographer by trade, and a brilliant one at that. I really enjoy Joe's company, and he is very, very intelligent. Recently, we went and saw Shrek 3 together, which was a blast. Afterwards, we went shopping together, and we saw some shirts at one of my favorite stores (female clothing stores, mind you), that we liked. So we both headed to the dressing room to try them on. The lady looked at us like we were CRAZY, but it was hilarious.
(photo: Joe and I trying on clothes at Supre)

What a doll Aroha is. Well, at least I think so.
At first I had a tough time getting to know her. Since then, though, I find that she's quite charming. Very smart, very talented, and a very good waitress, Aroha is the girl that everyone loves to hate. I have become quite fond of her, though, and here's why. No matter what people say to Aroha, to her face or behind her back, or no matter what people do, Aroha moves forward happily without being to bothered by it. I really respect that about her. She is picked on for the sake of being picked on, and she is disliked because it's easy to dislike her (and easy to follow the crowd). But really, she's lovely, and has become one of my favorite people at SP.
(photo: Aroha and Betty)

Nathan (Nay Nay):
Have I told you yet about Nathan? He IS SPQR. He is the local peformer, and we all love him for it. He is WILD. But not only is he a performer, but a great waiter too. He has drive and initiative, and one of the most outrageous mouths I've ever heard. Customers come just to be waited on by Nay, and he does them proud each time. Nay Nay is an SP god and legend, and always will be.
(photo: Nathan telling me hello)

Pene is by far the most incredibly funny person I have ever met. I think his first language from birth was sarcasm. Blatent, crude sarcasm. He says THE MOST offensive things, and his humor and his wit are unmatche. I am usually in a FIT of laughs when he is near. He has a smart-ass comment about EVERYTHING. And it's usually derogatory...
Quotes from Pene:

"They're not people. They're Asians.' (describing the two new customers on table 12, to whom I was taking water and menus)

'That's what happens when you tickle a bottle of wine. Treat it like a lady and open it.' (when one of our bartenders broke the cork while trying to open a bottle of wine for a table).

'Someone put her next to the fireplace so her hair goes up in flames.'

'A table of Americans? It's an invasion! Wasn't Iraq enough?'

(in a text to me a few weeks ago) 'Don't go changing. you and your hilarious company are always welcome at my table. Just don't bring anyone ugly. xx'
(photo: coming soon)

Just an honest, hardworking guy. He's another manager, but is also a server too. He picked up the crap manager shifts when Andy and Burge didn't want them any more, but he's a real trooper about it. One of the nicest guys I know, he's easy to wokr with and get along with. I've always enjoyed Pete.
(photo: Aroha, myself, and Pete)

American, pretty, hispanic, very popular, quite loud, talks all the time, but a genuinely nice person with a great big heart. She gives Americans a good name. But back to her heart - she's been known to pick up strangers and take them places, she'll talk to anyone who will listen, and she always makes sure people feel welcome, no matter who they are and where they're from. We recently spent time together bowling, playing pool, and drinking beers over quiz night at the local pub. She and her Kiwi boyfriend Ollie are super cute. I reckon on sheer personality alone (her degree wouldn't even matter), Claudia will go far in life. Word... to yo' motha'.
(photo: Boopsie and I with our friends Brian and Adrian)

Last but not least, there's Olga. She's another James, actually. She's an older, balder, bartender/manager/head person at SP. For the first two months, I thought we all called her Ogre. Luckily, the two sound similar enough that I don't think my mistake was ever noticed. I don't have a lot to say about Olga, she can be quite hard to get to know, and it takes awhile to get into her good graces. But, nearer to my time at the end, I felt like I reached this point, which was a relief. We have a standing agreement that this Thursday, when I come in for ONE final drink with all of my random friends, she'll play my favorite song for me on the way out the door. I can't wait...
(photo: Olga, Jeff, and Betty)

Lesson Number 1

'Ohayo' (o-hi-o) means 'good morning'.

'Ohayo goziamusu' (o-hi-o goya-zia-mus) means 'good morning' (formal).

'Konnichi wa' (koe-nee-chee-wa) means 'hello'.

'Konban wa' (kone-ban wah) means 'good evening'.

'Oyasami Nasai' (oh-yah-so-me nas-sie) means 'good night'.

'Watashi wa Kanada-jin de wa arimasen' means 'I am not Canadian' (dammit!)...

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Macarena

On May 4th, I woke up before school and realized that the next day was Cinco De Mayo. It popped into my head that on that day I should make simple pinatas with the kids, teach them some basic words in Spanish, and treat them to chips and salsa.

All were fine activities and went over great with the kiddos, but none went as smashingly as teaching the Macarena.

Now, it was my intention to only teach the dance to my little classroom of cherubs, but by some unforseen circumstances, I ended up teaching it to my whole ropu, all of the Kiwi kids aged 5-11.

It became an international sensation overnight. And by international sensation, I mean that the Kiwi kids were teaching it to the French, Maori, and Samoan kids the next Monday.

Now, the dance is done as many times as the kids can possibly scream for it, which is between 2 and 5 times a week. It's played every time the kids gather, which sends arms and bottoms shaking and flying in all directions.

It's an ABSOLUTE riot.

Even he parents join in when they come on Friday afternoons to pick up the kids.

The best part, though, is a mistake I made when teaching it...

If you know the dance, you know that it is a 16-beat dance that repeats over and over again. During the last four beats, the dancer has his/her hands on his/her bottom and shakes his/her bottom back and forth three times before jumping to the side and repeating the dance over and over again.

The mistake? I couldn't get the kids to shake their bottoms hard enough when they were supposed to, so while teaching, (and because I'm not shy), I would yell, 'SHAKE IT! SHAKE IT! SHAKE IT! JUMP!.' during those last four counts of the dance.

Now, whenever the kids do the dance, they all yell, 'SHAKE IT! SHAKE IT! SHAKE IT! OUUU!' during those four counts.

It's an ABSOLUTE riot. I have it on video and can't WAIT to show you all!

I reckon that someday, when I'm long gone, the children will say, 'Miss Wendy? Hmmmm. Oh yeah! She's the one who taught us the Macarena.'

(Secretly, I won't tell them that the song translates roughly into a story about a girl who is fairly promiscuous. That'll be between me and the teachers...)

Monday, June 11, 2007


This is Joe.

(Well, this is Joe and I playing waiter and waitress at SPQR about three weeks ago...)

Joe is tall and handsome (and straight). He has a beautiful smile and big blue eyes, and he looks great in skinny jeans. He's usually pretty kind and generous and could be trusted with your life. He has great taste in music and a really cool middle name.

Joe and I were just-friends for a long time. Probably since the day I started working with him at SPQR. And then, for one short time, Joe and I tried to be more-than-friends. It was great, and we had a damn good time of it. While it lasted...

Unfortunately, though, we turned into those people who fail at being more-than-friends-with-a-friend. Even more unfortunate (but probably foreseeable) is that we aren't really even just-friends any more.

Nevertheless, I have learned a few valuable lessons from Joe, which I am grateful for. In the end, I like to think what goes around comes around, and that giving to others is usually the right thing to do, even if giving, or giving up, isn't what you really want.

Although it's taken me more than a month to be able to write considerate things about him, Joe's contribution to my time in New Zealand makes him a worthy person to mention. Plus, I'm almost positive our paths will cross again soon. And secretly, I'll possibly, potentially, most likely look forward to it.

So that's Joe.


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Richmond Road Primary School

Quite possibly one of the best and most unique school in the Southern Hemisphere.

But I might be a bit partial.

Richmond Road is unique in that it is made up of four different learning units (ropus). Each ropu teaches children in a different language, either French, Maori, Samoan, and English.

I remember coming to Richmond Road and at first being shocked that students were learning three days a week in Maori and Samoan and only two days a week in English. It was my (somewhat obtuse?) view that English should be the primary language taught in an English-speaking country, and that the ratio should be three days English and two days Maori or Samoan (French, I reckoned, is a more worldly language, and could be taught three days a week).

My views have changed.

For the most part, most students speak to each other in English at most times (with the exception of a few little Frenchies who don't speak any English). Useful for the playground especially, as every playtime is the whole school together. I soon realized that students are everyday getting so much exposure to English, that the more they speak in their native tongues the better off they'll be.

It truly is unique and amazing.

I have had the fortunate opportunity to teach in EVERY classroom in the school. My main classrooms are in the Kiwi Connection ropu, which are the English-speaking Kiwi/Euorpean kiddos. When I do go into the other ropus, I teach in English. Always.

It is a treat to teach in the Maori and Samoan ropus when the opportunity comes about. Both cultures are very tribe and family oriented, and each day begins and ends with prayers, with prayers before every meal as well. To hear the children pray and sing in another language is such a joy. It's one of my favorite parts of the day. In fact, when Salu calls to see if I can relieve in a Maori or Samoan classroom, the first thing I think is, 'Ooh! I get to hear prayers!' It's also fun to listen to the other teachers speak to the whole group or discipline a small group in Maori or Samoan. It's interesting to me to try to infer what they're saying based on the (VERY) few words I know. And as a future resident in a non-English speaking country, I better get used to this.

Each week the students have assemblies where rooms take turn sharing their work. Community singing and dancing follows, and there are quite often special treats such as tribal groups who come to perform. Last week, the French ambassador to New Zealand came. He was greeted in four languages, including a Maori call and answer greeting done by two of our Maori teachers. I had such goosebumps!

The kids have 20 minutes of morning tea/play time and an hour for lunch/play each day. All students play together, from year 1 to year 6. Sometimes teachers just don't show up for duty, and that's ok, because the kids are very self-reliant. There are very few issues to deal with. The kids play and work hard together, but the school keeps a very casual atmosphere that is calm and welcoming. A little disorganized, yes, but that itself has helped me grow a little as well.

In all my life, I'll never forget my time at Richmond Road. I have learned and experienced and seen so, so, so much.

Saturday, June 09, 2007


My favorite recent story is a short but touching one that makes me smile on a lot of levels.

I have a little cherub, David, in my class.

When his moms (yes, moms) found out that I was leaving, they invited me to dinner. Having learned in New Zealand that you never say no to an offer like that, I of course accepted. David and his very successful moms have a full house which also includes two little girls, 3, and 6 months. Fiona, a pediatrician, and Brenda, a midwife, are both older and have been a couple for more than 10 years.

As I sat at David's dinner table with him, his two moms and his two sisters, eating roast chicken and vegetables, I had a fleeting moment where I stepped back to look at the picture I was a part of. I thought back to a time not so long ago when I thought seeing myself in that situation would be weird. Me, dining at a table with two lesbians and their three kids?

At that moment, though, it seemed natural and just right.

It was an incredible night of wine and good food, followed by tea and adult conversation. I even sat for a little while and watched Dancing With The Stars with Brenda (one her favorite shows), while Fiona cleaned up the kitchen.

I will never be able to thank David's family enough for dinner that night and their constant kindness each day at school.

But without them even knowing, I'll be eternally grateful for the opportunity they gave me to step back and realize how much my view of the world has changed. For the better.

Monday, June 04, 2007


Christian is my cute, gay, Danish friend. He's the one on the right (not to be mistaken for Betty the tranny on the left).

Spending time with him is and has been one of the greatest pleasures during my time here. I love him in a way I can't explain. In fact, you'll find that of all my friends, his blog entry is the shortest, as words can't really explain what he means to me.

He's one of my best girlfriends, if I do say so myself.

He is the one who drives the little red barbie car which, I won't lie, looks great when we're both in it together. We'd make a cute couple. Except for that he really isn't quite my type...

We have a lot in common. We both like to gossip and talk about clothes. We both have GREAT shoes. And we both have an knack for finding the best-looking guys in any room (Even more fun? Deciding who gets to hit on him!)

I recently won a trip to Hawke's Bay for myself and a friend. Naturally, Christian was my first choice. We spent the whole weekend drinking and laying around, discussing Harry Potter and The Devil Wears Prada. Our only complaint was that we didn't get to spend more time alone, but instead were with the wine rep, Misha, who is nice, but just not our type. Oh woe.

He really, really, really listens to me and my problems, when I have them. Unfortunately, I find that many people here just don't know how to listen, so he is a rare treasure for that. And because he's feminine (by choice) and masculine (by nature), he can give me the advice from both points of view (a fabulous perk when you need advice about men and stuff).

If you want some really good gossip, let it be known that in a few years, Christian and I have considered getting married. That way, he gets an American green card and I get a European green card. I mean, he figures that he'll never legally be able to wed anyway, so why not? I figure because it's a good story to tell, why not? And oh, and how cute our little surrogate children would be!

Thank you, Christian. In the words of Andy, you're aMAZEing...