I'm coming up on my 2 year anniversary in New Zealand. Man, it's a been a busy and exciting two that's for sure. The physical beauty of this country continues to take my breath away on an often daily basis. The day this picture was taken, I had just walked to the beach to get some fresh air with Hazel and Thurston and voila - a school of dolphins. They were jumping up, twisting, turning. and bobbing in and out of the water. It was truly magical.
With my anniversary approaching, I've been thinking about all the things I'm use to now, but culturally are really very different than life back home. Take trampolines for instance. When I was growing up, I knew maybe one kid that had a trampoline and that was definitely their claim to fame. Here, it's like every other house has one so it's more like the American equivalent of being divorced or having a butterfly tattoo on the small of your back.
Did you know we don't tip here? You won't see a sign like this, but it sure would be funny if you did:
It took some getting use to but I actually really love it. When you see a price on a menu, at a shop, at the salon, etc. tax and tip are already included. As someone who has made many a rent with tips I always appreciated those who help support my fancy bourbon and massage habit, but it's great having that tipping pressure removed from situations. So now if my hair dresser tells me she broke up with her boyfriend and is going to India to find herself I don't feel the need to make a hefty contribution to her ashram stay and can just give emotional support for her book, "Eat, Pray, Blow Dry- How I Helped Change the World One Haircut at a Time. "
The negative side of this no tipping thing is that customer service can really stink. There are different kinds of bad customer service - there is the general bad attitude kind, the I hate my job and now you must pay for it kind, the no matter what you say I'm going to repeat the few lines I've learned and act like a machine even though I'm human kind, and the I have no idea what's going on, but I do actually work here and at least I'm nice kind. NZ customer service usually falls in the latter from my experience. It can be a little crazy making but I usually have other things to worry about, like this little ladybird:
It's ladybugs to Americans and ladybirds to Kiwis.
And a dog is called a dog. There are so many different words for things that I just pick and choose which ones I like best. Patriotic I know. For instance, Kiwis call flip flops jandals. Jandals doesn't do it for me so I stick with flip flops. Ladybird, that's pretty cute so I'll go with that. On the Halloween front, people do celebrate it here but nothing like the US. They do the trick or treating part but that's about it and it's only been in the past few years that it's really done.
What Kiwis do celebrate is Guy Fawkes Day. It's an old English event celebrated on the night of November 5th with bonfires and fireworks. What this means in New Zealand is that from Nov 2nd- 5th you can buy fireworks, but only on those three days and the rest of the year it is illegal. So during that time you see pop up shops selling fireworks all over the city.
We were in the Coromandel during one of these legal days and got to see quite an impressive fireworks show from the balcony of our bach.
Adam and I just pretended it was the 4th of July and sang our best Lee Greenwood, "God Bless the USA" to each other. When we weren't doing that we were out exploring places like this:
Oh and this:
Cathedral Cove is pretty incredible. It is a very photographed spot so I had seen tons of pictures, but to be there felt really special. Hazel especially enjoyed the water taxi ride to get there. Another highlight of the weekend was a visit to New Chum's beach. You have to cross over a stream and do a little hike to get there, but it was worth it.
It was gorgeous and of course not too many others there to compete with.
I wish I could say I was surprised, but I've gotten use to the lack of people. Auckland is nicknamed "The Big Smoke,"which always makes me laugh as I don't see it this way at all, however the more time I spend in NZ the more I see how truly rural and underpopulated that the rest of the country is that I understand how it could get this reputation.
Speaking of rural, not too long ago we went on a little family outing to the Kiwi Valley Farm Park . I'm not sure if it was more for Hazel or me as ever since moving here I have wanted to give a bottle to a baby sheep, since I learned that is something you can do. I got a baby goat instead, but good enough. We did get to pet the baby sheep, which was pretty sweet.
Awww babies. There was so much cuteness at my friend Michelle's baby shower. It was such a lovely afternoon and I had the honor of being Game Master. Is that a title? I don't know, it is now.
Before she know it she will be spending her days like this:
Working the playground circuit around Auckland, 'cause that's what we do.
We also celebrate birthdays. Adam recently turned another year older. At this point I've just stopped giving him presents and cook for him instead. What did Adam want for his special day? Chicken fingers. Shocking I know. And homemade honey butter yeast rolls. And chocolate cake. I swear we do eat vegetables in this household, apparently just not on Adam's birthday. So I made his birthday heart attack and he loved every last bite. I can say this since he didn't actually have a heart attack. If he had had one I would have to start the Birthdays Against Chicken Fingers Foundation and you would all have to donate and warn others of the perils. But he survived and judging from this picture is working as a bodyguard in his free time.
And Hazel is teaching herself to read:
Maybe at this rate, she'll have her own blog.