Saturday, 29 August 2015

Houses, Cars, Parks and Schools - oh my

WHEW - What a week!  This week was filled with house hunting, car shopping and school decisions.  As many of you know, I was pretty set on homeschooling.  I had made contact with a private christian school prior to our move.  Once we arrived we thought we would give it a try.  The kids were in desperate need of making friends.  The social structure here is very much around the schools.  The private school was extremely reasonable and the older couple who run it are quite intelligent.  After the boys attended their first day, I found out about another christian school in the area.  I visited it and I was blown away!  This is what they call an integrated school.  The government provides everything except for the building.  Each family pays a small yearly fee to cover the building costs.  For the 2 boys, the cost is $2000 per year!!  So cheap!!  The school is allowed to teach from a christian perspective and can reject any curriculum that goes against their beliefs.  The state has no say in what they teach.  It is a very interesting setup.  Jeremy's co-worker had sent his kids to that school and highly recommended it.  After speaking with the principal we were told they were over their enrollment size by 4 students. She said she would speak with the board and see what they could do.  I was expecting to be told they could not take the boys till December when their older students graduate (school year starts mid Feb and ends in mid Dec.).  The principal called me today (Saturday) and said she reviewed the classes and they had room for the boys and would love for them to start Monday.  I spoke with the boys and they wanted to start on Monday.  I was shocked, I thought they would at least want to go back to the old school and say goodbye.  This is very out of character for them but made my decision for them to start at the new school on Monday much easier.

This city is filled with awesome parks for the kids.  There are all kinds of cool playground equipment.  One park has a huge zip line that they love.  Another park has a octopus "swing" that is made out of tires.  They use recycled tires in all their playgrounds.  They have a composite they make out of tires that is used as cushioning under all their playground material.  It is extremely soft and cushy.  We are all enjoying time at the parks.

One interesting thing Jeremy noticed at work is that they have tea time at 10 and 2:45.  They do this also in the schools.  Jeremy started his job this week and he likes it.  He says the people there are extremely intelligent and he knows he will be challenged in a new good way.

Car shopping is interesting.  They import the cars from Japan so some of them actually only have Japanese displays and voices.  It is quite funny.  We think we found a van we want.  Car size is difficult here as the minivans are exactly that mini.  We will barely fit in a minivan.  We will figure it out but it has been interesting.

We are definitely ready to get settled in our own place.  Hoping we find the perfect place soon.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Stepping Back In Time

New Zealand (Dunedin) is quite different in some ways than I expected.  They are more up to "speed" than people led me to believe.  Their internet is not slower, they have mobile coverage almost everywhere and it is a very modern city in many aspects.  However, there are some things that are "behind" the times.  The first thing we noticed were all the "honesty" boxes as you drive through the countryside.  People selling honey, manure, organic veggies, etc will put a box outside by the product that says "honesty box".  This is where you put your money.  We have seen some of these quite close to the city too.  Nice that people would be so honest in this day in age.  Another thing that is a thing of the past in urban America is pumping gas before paying.  I also spotted an actual telephone booth today with a phone inside!

We went to church this morning and then headed to the Botanical Gardens with an elderly couple who were so kind to invite us to their church.  The lady is the head master of a christian school we are considering for the boys.  We went to the gardens and got "fish & chips" and ate on the lawn.  The kids played soccer and ran on the playground.  It was a really great time.

We also took a drive today and found an area that we absolutely fell in love with.  It was rolling green hills and on one side you could see the ocean and on the other side you could see the Southern Alps covered in snow.  It was breathtakingly beautiful.

It was another fun filled day with little TV and lots of outdoor activity!  Just the way we want to spend our lives in NZ.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Peninsula Drive and hike

Today was another gorgeous day.  We took the kids to the end of the peninsula.  There is a huge group of Royal Albatross that breed there.  This is also where you can see the penguins.  However, we found out you have to make reservations for the penguins and pay to see them.  We had  a great day with the kids hiking and enjoying the coast line.  We have come to LOVE our BOB stroller.  It can take on any terrain and is a great way to keep Annabeth out of the cool wind.  Jaden asked me to pull out his tooth while we were there.  He waits till they are hanging on by a thread.  I have been worried he was going to swallow it in his sleep.  We met a sweet Indian couple from Baroda (the place we visited last year) and exchanged numbers.   They are also new to Dunedin.  One of the many things I love about NZ is the food that is available for “fast food”.  So many healthy choices for us and the kids.  It is so tasty too.  Today I did something I would never have done in the U.S.  We had hiked down to the beach and Jaden had to use the bathroom.  I let him and Tucker go up together ahead of us.  I feel quite safe here in NZ and have noticed that people are extremely kind and helpful.  I know it is not perfect here but there definitely is a different level of safety that I feel here.  Our life here is very different than it was in the states.  We have spent hours just hiking around and playing outside.  They have some really cool playgrounds.  I am hoping that we can live a much healthier life here in NZ.

View along lower road driving out the peninsula

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Arrived in Dunedin

Today we woke to a beautiful view.  It was dark when we arrived yesterday so we didn’t see the full extent of the view we had from our temporary housing.  It is absolutely breathtaking.  I don’t feel pictures do it justice.  The kids and us were up at 5:30am due to the time change and us still adjusting.  Hope our neighbors didn't hear us.  We had to go to the bank today to setup our accounts.  One thing I truly have enjoyed is the level of customer service in NZ.  It is how the US use to be.  True quality customer service is a rare breed, in my experience, the last few years in the US.  I noticed it straight away when we got on the Air NZ to here.  Kiwis tend to be very friendly and helpful.  When we were getting on our flight to NZ, a guy saw how much Jeremy was having to carry (they don’t allow gate check ins so we had to check our strollers)  he quickly stepped over grabbed a bag and asked which row we were sitting in.  It was a very kind gesture.  Over and over we heard people say how great Dunedin is for raising a family.  We are currently staying in the city and it is beautiful but we agree we want to live out a bit.  Even living out a bit is only a 20 minute commute for Jeremy.  Big improvement from the 90 minute commute he was doing in GA.  The kids seem to be doing fine.  They are excited to see the penguins.  There are lots of playgrounds in this town so we took them to one today.  It is cold here but I am actually enjoying it.  Jeremy was told today that he dressed like a true kiwi; shorts and long sleeve top.  Dunedin downtown reminded me a lot of European downtowns.  One great thing is there are a lot of diverse restaurants here J  I even saw fresh flowers being sold on the street.  Jaden’s big excitement for the day was seeing his “first street performer”.  It was a girl singing with her guitar.  She was quite good.  We bought a few groceries and the groceries are definitely a lot more expensive here.  However, we saw a BOB stroller for cheaper than what we paid in the U.S.  We will begin to search for a permanent home soon.  The biggest hurdle for us right now is adjusting to the left side driving. 

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Going to New Zealand

I need to make a very clear disclaimer.  I am NOT a writer.  This blog will have tons of grammatical errors that I will not catch while editing.  My major in college was Mathematics.  Please overlook the grammatical errors and try to get to the heart of the message.  This blog is meant to share my family's journey moving to New Zealand and our life in New Zealand.  I will start with some background information.

In 2015, Jeremy and I decided that we wanted to start pursuing our desire to live abroad with the kids.  There were multiple reasons for deciding to pursue the desire.  It would be an injustice to my readers to say it was not partially due to the political climate that was in the US at the time.  We have very strong beliefs about rights for families and parents to make decisions based on personal beliefs.  We saw rights being taken and threatened each day in the US and thought it would be a good time to live abroad and see what would happen in the following years.  With these thoughts, we started to research countries we would be interested in moving to and living in.  We wanted the freedom to home school, if we chose to continue doing so, and we wanted the freedom to make medical decisions for ourselves and kids, specifically regarding vaccines.  We came up with a few countries and decided to look for a job in New Zealand first.  No rhyme or reason to our choice, we just thought it would a place that would make an easy transition for the kids.  Having worked overseas, I thought it would take years for Jeremy to find a job and consequently us move.  Jeremy started updating his resume and looking for jobs late February/early March.  By April, he had 2 interviews lined up with 2 different companies in NZ.  Even with this, I thought there was no way he would get a job quickly.  After interviewing with both companies, Jeremy was offered the positions in June.  I was in shock.  I just had a baby June 3rd and the thought of moving overseas seemed insurmountable.  Thank goodness God had given me such great friends with great organizational skills and drive.  I couldn't have accomplished this move without them.  We sold our rental property the first week it was on the market.  Our residence sold the first day it was listed.  We sold both cars, no issue.  We sold most of our household items.  We packed up two 5x5x5 crates and shipped them to NZ.  Our visas processed in record time.  Our visa adviser told us it would take 4-6 weeks to process visas.  Jeremy’s was applied for first and it came back approved in 2 weeks.  The visa adviser was in shock it happened so quickly.  The rest of our visa applications were then sent in.  They were approved in ONE DAY!  This was unheard of!  It truly was amazing.  A process that our visa adviser had never seen processed faster than 4 weeks was completed in 2 weeks and 2 days.  The move became really "real", quick.  I spent weeks preparing for the move but not processing the move emotionally.  The week before the move, the emotions came on strong.  The thought of leaving the friends that God had put in my life was overwhelming and I began to grieve as if someone had died.  How could God want me to move my young family across the world so far away from my mom, my sisters and my friends!  God made it very clear that this was his plan for our family.  EVERYTHING fell into place with no pushing from our end.  All the doors were wide open even to the smallest details. 

Today as we arrive in NZ, I am in awe of God’s provision and calling.  He had prepared the way.  We had too much weight in our carry on luggage and we would have had to pay hundreds of dollars to take it but God provided an agent who waived the fee.  The kids were wonderful on the 12 hour flight from LAX to Auckland.  We had great seats with room for them to move. 

I don’t know what God has in store for us.  I do know it hurts more than I can express to leave the ones I love and I am so close to.  I am excited for the adventure but pray God brings me close friends soon.  Some one asked me what I was worried about the most in moving my family to NZ.  It is not about the house, schooling for the kids, climate, culture etc but I worry about finding friends that can help fill the expansive chasm in my heart right now.  I feel so much pain and agony in the thought of never living with those same friends surrounding me again.  It hurts to my very core.  Today I truly realized how blessed I am to have such a hurt.  Because this hurt means one thing, I have been blessed to have been so close to so many beautiful, encouraging, loving women.  Many long for this type of friendship and I have been given many.  I will treasure those friendships forever.  I will rest in the knowledge that I will once again live with those woman when we enter eternity.
Annabeth was not happy in the carrier so we held her A LOT during our travels.

The boys managing the luggage (each bag was 50lbs and each carry on  15lbs).  They each pushed a cart

Johanna tired of the traveling