Posted by: Vallere | February 4, 2011

Hello, New Zealand!

The North Island, near Auckland, from the air.

 

We set down in Auckland at about 9:30am local time on Wednesday, January 26. Customs was a breeze, and we quickly had our bags with us and headed to the counter to go ahead and check them on to Wanganui. We found out that the plane from Auckland to Wanganui was VERY small, only about 12 or 14 seats, and that our bags would be more than half of the weight allotment for the whole flight! So we were asked to pick the 5 or 6 items we NEEDED, and the rest would be flown in over the next couple of days on subsequent flights. We chose the car seats, the stroller, the bag with our Fiji clothes and our backpacks. Everything else could wait. It took quite a while to get things sorted, but the woman helping us was very nice, and apologetic about how long it was taking, and soon enough we were set and ready.

The Doc had an appointment at 3:30pm to meet with a Ministry of Health agent about a 45 min ride from the airport, so once we got all of the bags sorted, he had half an hour or so to grab a bite to eat and then grab a cab.

The boys begged for McDonald’s, so I obliged, and learned just how expensive fast food is in New Zealand! We ate and then settled into a lobby area near an arcade so that the boys could play a bit while we waited for The Doc to return. He ended up getting back before we expected him to, and so we had some time to bum around the airport before our flight left, which ended up being a good thing, as one of our carry-ons was over the weight limit and needed to be checked.

While waiting for the boarding call, the boys met a couple of other boys who live in Wanganui. The four of them had a ball playing, and we told them we were looking forward to playing at Kowhai (pronounced Koh-fye) Park. They assured us that they played there all the time, and so Ian was sure he’d see them the very first time we visited the park. (For the record, we still haven’t met them, even though we’ve been to the park about 3 or 4 times now…and Ian still looks for them every time!)

The plane was tiny…just one row of seats on each side of the aisle. The cockpit was open (gasp!) and Ian enjoyed watching the pilot and co-pilot pushing buttons and pulling levers as we took off. It was a quick, one hour flight, and we got to see some of the volcanoes as we flew over. Mount Ruapahu (roo-ah-pay-hoo), which we can actually see from the top of our road on a clear day, and Mount Taranaki (pronounced as you’d expect) which is right on the coast. Both are only about 1-1.5 hours drive from Wanganui. Majestic doesn’t begin to describe them!

We touched down and unloaded the plane, and walked across the tarmac to the terminal. We were met inside by a whole gaggle of folks! Firstly was Mr. Wayne Thompson, sent from the hospital to pick us up. I think he was a bit surprised that others had come to welcome us – Neil and Lisa (the coordinators from the local homeschool group) and their six kids, who jumped in to help carry our bags to the van. Wayne informed us that the house wasn’t quite ready, so they had set us up in a hotel for the next 2 days. Neil and Lisa followed us to the hotel, helped us unpack, and then brought in a TON of food! Homemade lasagna and salad, cereal (Weet-bix…more on that later), granola bars, milk (straight from the cow that morning!), a jar of peaches, some boysenberry jam, a couple of loaves of bread…we were overwhelmed with the kindness of these complete strangers!

Wayne assured us he would have our car to us in the morning and bid us farewell. Neil and Lisa said to call if we needed anything, and that another family would be bringing us dinner the next day. What a welcome!

We unpacked the food, changed clothes, and freshened up…and then pretty much fell into bed. The next morning, Wayne brought the car and had The Doc drive him back to the hospital. He made it back to the hotel in one piece…score one for driving on the wrong left side of the road! The boys and I spent the next couple of days playing with other kids at the hotel playground, walking downtown to check out the grocery stores (more on those later, as well), and trying to nurse Ceirdwyn and Zollie back to health. By the second day, their fevers were gone, and we were down to just a cough and nasty nose. Kathy, another woman from the homeschool group, did in deed bring us supper the next night – a pan of roasted root veggies and some sausages!

I’ll end on our trip to ANZ, the bank, which I think will give you a pretty good picture of how things work in New Zealand compared to the States. We walked downtown to the post office (to get a tax ID number for the Doc…you can do pretty much everything at the PO in NZ…pay bills, get your tax info, etc) and then on to ANZ to set up our banking accounts. When you walk in, you are greeted by a big, open room with cathedral ceilings. On the left side are about 3 cubicles where individualized services and private business can take place. These have no doors. Straight ahead of you are 3 bar-height tables. Each has 2 computers on it, and 2 tellers standing behind them. No closed off counters like in US banks, just welcoming little tables to stand at. But most amazing of all is the right hand wall. About a foot off the ground is a 42in flat screen TV. In front of it are 2 huge bean-bag chairs. Playing on the TV is Kung Fu Panda. This is where your kids hang out while you do your banking.

I’ll give you a moment to pick your jaw up off the floor.

(waits)

I really love New Zealand!

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