Archive | September 2005

First day in the green house

30 September 2005

The cheap motel is said goodbye and we have occupied the green house. The manager of the hotel shouted after Frank: “Don’t forget to come to the Topless Waitress Show next week!”

Like agreed; on our first day the new bed is delivered. With exaggerated royal linen because in the next 4 weeks the bed will be our only piece of furniture. We placed it in the living room, because we also need to sit and eat on it.

Today the shopping list only contains some cleaning utensils. Without furniture my household is so incredibly small, that I’m planning to do it very thorough and very slow. I’m even looking forward to it, because until the arrival of the shipping containers, we don’t have anything else to play with.
The summer hasn’t start yet, but we don’t want to do the typical tourist things anyway, because we want to save those trips until the parents come to visit us in a couple of months.

We realized we didn’t think about how to cool our groceries. Actually, a fridge is a bit too expensive to purchase for only 4 weeks. We’ve been told that there is a lively trade in second hand goods, but found out that was a bit disappointing. Indeed there is a lot of junk, but it’s so expensive! You better buy new.
Maybe a tiny new fridge? One of those mini-bar sizes?

Household appliances

29 September 2005

The neighbours in our hotel are laborers who are living somewhere rural in the country. Here, after work, they drink away their evenings in the hotel bar. Last night I was suddenly awakened by a noise, followed by the light turned on in our adjoining front room. I hammered on Frank’s head, but when he woke up the light was already turned off and we heard someone stumble away …
Strange. Probably all motel rooms, for convenience, have the same key. The nocturnal visitor was certainly not interested in our beautiful laptop, glitzy digital camera and the new mobile phone laying around on the dinner table.

The credit card WORKED!!! And it was lovely to buy household appliances. You couldn’t get a girl more happy. Especially in a good end of season sale.

household appliancesAfter we had loaded a full trolley of purchases in the car, we decided to bring it right away to the new house. We can’t move in before Friday, but we were allowed to use the key. It was good to look around on our own and to feel free to check every little corner and to take pictures.

The first parcel with Frank’s name on it, was already put at the front door. The modem! Maybe it works tomorrow! I’m not able to concentrate myself any longer in the internet cafe, because they are playing loud German hard rock.

Those people walking barefoot on the street are actually a completely accepted phenomenon; On the window at the stained-glass shop hangs a sign: Footwear is recommended. Yeah hahaha.

I still have no idea what to reply when someone says: “Hi, how are you ?!” I noticed in the USA it is more or less a kind of greeting if you enter a shop or restaurant, without a real answer is expected. But if I only smile and doing a friendly nod, a New Zealander takes the time to ask the question a second time! Are they really interested in a meaningful answer? In the Netherlands we are not used to such an interest in a complete stranger.
It’s refreshing, but in a strange way it also makes me feel to be ‘too noticed’.

Arranging connection to daily life

28 September 2005

Last week Frank has found coins on the street for already 4 times! He is thinking about to becoming a professional money sweeper. By contrast; to get our money out of the ATM is rather tough though. Our new credit card, which we temporarily have entrusted our entire earthly possessions, suddenly pretends not to know us. Luckily to get the key money for the house, succeeded with our emergency card, so next Friday we can move into the green house.
We still have 3 days to gather some inventory. Well, hopefully … if the new credit card can be hypnotized back into life. Because of the time difference we have to call our Dutch bank late at night. And we are calling them every night!

Connection to electricity was organized in only 5 minutes! We got a real person on the phone, instead of a menu. Conveniently! The receptionist of the help desk made us believe we will have an internet connection right next week!

I got my first job from the Netherlands. I have to create an illustration for an ABC book about cities. I make 50 euros plus royalties, so soon we can buy 12 of those small boxes of expensive cherry tomatoes, whahaha.
arranging connection to daily lifeFurthermore, I got compliments of three different women in different shops chattering about my lovely necklace. Well … if everything fails, I still can order a few kilos of beads and start a lovely-necklace-stall!

To buy a bed we went to Tauranga. That’s a 90 kilometers ride.
Frank forced me to take the wheel, to get me used to the right-hand drive. I hardly dare to exceed 80 kilometers per hour, while all other road users seemed to do 200!
I just got a deep respect for all New Zealanders and British people, who drive the wrong side of the road daily.

Many myths about New Zealand are untrue, but their not-so-fashionable furniture is correct. For beds they have a preference for these weird high double granny mattresses. We have chosen the most Ikea-like bed that was available, with the softest mattress in the store. “That’s weird”, said the sales man, “because all Dutchmen always choose hard mattresses.” When we wanted to checkout our new the bed, pillows, duvet and linen … that rotten credit card still didn’t work! While last night the bank clerk emphasize … and he convinced us … and he swore that …
Tonight we will call again. The 3rd time!

Viewing the rental house

26 September 2005

Fortunately, today everyone is back to work and we can continue our live too.
The morning we spent again in various stores. At the outside of Whakatane we found some furniture stores, car dealers and giant stores with clothes and household stuff. It is all much larger than I thought. But for today we have limited ourselves to buy valve caps and a quick orientation walk in a bed store. Our own furniture doesn’t arrive earlier than next month.

In the afternoon we finally can view the inside of the rental house on the mountain. It is painted in a quite ugly bright green colour. The bottom is a double garage and on top are 3 small bedrooms, a very small livingroom, kitchen, bathroom and a large deck. The car can be parked under the deck. The house is located at the end of a short dead-end street with four other houses. Inside it ‘s the kind of house like when you just left your parents. Very simple.
viewing the rental houseWe went to see another house to have the idea that we are making a well through-out choice. The other house is located in a plain and cheaper neighborhood.
To the real estate agent we pretended we need a deep think, but as soon as she is gone we drove straight back to the green house. On top of the dead-end street we called her to say that we wanted the green one.

Before tomorrow 11:00 AM we have to hand over the key money. Only if … we get permission from the landlord. Oh dear, how do we get him in a good favor? Shall I wear that glitter shirt with that deep cleavage? Or do loyal payers just wear pleated grey skirts.

Exploring the supermarket

25 September 2005

After two weeks of living on fast food it starts to turn us off. Our truckers room contains a kitchenette with a few tiny tin pans and a kind of single-person gourmet set. So Saturday afternoon we are doing some regular shoppings at the ‘New World’, a huge supermarket. It takes quite some time, because every item needs to be read and translated. Except the liquorice, Amsterdam onions, chocolate sprinkles, herring, applesauce, stuffed … etc. because that are typical Dutch products. The vegetable department looks exactly the same as in the Netherlands. No surprises here. Picking and weighing the veggies is done just like we are used in the Netherlands and a small box of cherry tomatoes is extremely expensive too, just like home …
exploring the supermarketAnd after all; my imported stock of favourite wrinkle creme wasn’t necessary at all. Furthermore I jaw dropped by bumping on a five meter wide shelf with only king sized sausages for dogs.
And who said that the Netherlands had way too many kinds of desserts?

After finishing the groceries we are going to try out the 4-wheel option of our car. There is a suitable area at the end of the river. A tangle of water streams and land strips connected by sandy paths with deep potholes. If you really are pushing to use your imagination: We looked a bit like the Marlborroman in the sun set.

Our first properly cooked meal is a delicious macaroni with one of those rich desserts. Right after our dinner we settled ourselves in front of the TV, excited to see a documentary about New Zealand’s history. Full of idealism, waiting for our first-class lesson of naturalization … we fell into a deep sleep -as usual- after a few minutes.
Would this new narcolepsy will ever pass?

On Sunday we walk around without any goal. We hiked on the beach, viewed a few small villages and did some shopping at a veggie stall. That didn’t stop us from powerlessly falling asleep again, right after our delicious home-made meal. I’m starting to worry. I even don’t use alcohol!!!
What if ‘normal’ life starts again???

A list with rentals and a tire blowout

24 September 2005

On Friday, just before closing time, we could pick up a list of rental houses at the real estate agency, so we have a job to do this weekend. Of course we couldn’t wait until the next morning and immediately went to see the outside of the leading contender. It’s located on a mountain. Although fully developed with no view, but still … a mountain.
We now know that the houses are unheated (a New Zealander prefers buy an electric blower heater or a sweater), so we are prepared for a life with rheumatic damp moldy beds and wardrobes. There are a lot of houses suitable, but pets are rarely accepted and often the houses are rent out for only a few months.

Just after dusk Frank discovered a huge lump on one of the tires. The tire hissed a bit too – but it is not flat yet. Back to the west side of the mountain will take about 15 minutes. That could be a blowout, but the east side of the mountain is totally deserted now. Maybe the lump is already there for weeks, maybe not. Frank still owns some alter-boy-points, so he dares to keep going.
Back in the village we parked in the window lights of a Quick-Fit store, which is obviously just closed. We found a foldable mini-jack hidden in the floor of the car, but unfortunately a cross wrench is unfindable. We tried if they sell one at the petrol station. THEY DID! It works out and now we have to do a real mature job tommorow. Getting a new tire.
Now it has become late enough to order fries at McDonalds in stead of cooking a real dinner in our truckers room.

Arriving in Whakatane

23 September 2005

arriving in whakataneBecause our car was not ready in the morning, we had some room to visit Pini a third time, before we would leave to Whakatane.
As a surprise, we brought a beautiful cardboard box with us. And a t-shirt from Frank’s own travel collection for an essential home-smell. With one of those tiny foldable travel-scissors I have cut peepholes into the side of the box.
The gift is thoroughly inspected, nosed and tried, followed by the ritual of licking and rubbing our hands. It seems like she’s more confident now we occasionally visiting her broom closet. We didn’t dare to tell her that hereafter we will stay away for at least 1 week …

At 5:00 am the car is finally ready. That’s a little too late to drive to Whakatane, so after 3 hours practise in left-handed steering we stopped at Mount Mounganui.
In bed of our Spanish styled motel room we ate a delicious Indian dinner out of a plastic bag.


Since our plans to live in New Zealand got a certain level of seriousness, we always imagined a swelling sound of a large orchestra would be heard at the entrance of Whakatane as soon as we were arriving. But far after that moment has passed, we realized that we didn’t hear anything. .
However, the weather is beautiful. In despite of the sunny winter day, we are striked by the large number of bare feet people.
Every hotel in Whakatane said ‘no vacancy’, what ultimately drifted us to a very cheap hotel in a nearby village. It is mainly populated by truckers and laborers and it’s a bit noisy and old, but we have to pay only 25% of the prices of the motels on the main road of Whakatane.
We can stay a few days longer and quietly looking for a rental house.

Quality time with Pini

21 September 2005

Yesterday we went by train to another suburb, called Penrose. We planned to buy a second-hand car from one of the dozens car shops over there. We wanted to check them all and then make a well-advised a mature choice. But … soon we made up all kind of reasons why it was better to buy a car at the very first dealer, located at only 10 meters of the train station.
First; The owner had very honest eyes.
Second; It was still raining cats and dogs and it was nice dry and warm inside “Genuine Vehicle Imports”
Third; We were weak and eager.
Fourth: We had bought a one-way train ticket deliberately.
So, we returned with a borrowed car, with the promise our chosen car was dusted, regreased and proven for road fitness in 2 days.

quality time with piniThis morning we visited Pini again. We calculate on 1 hour quality time at least.
To our delight she didn’t look so bristle and scared anymore. Apparently our first visit had given her some self-confidence. Again we got many kisses en were ‘proudly’ guided through her netted cupboard by herself. Alternately one of us could sit on the ground, so the other could sit on the scratching post.

After 45 minutes Pini got bored and went to lie in her bed on her own initiative. All the cat rooms are provided with a little electric blanket, so we fully understood the attraction.
By the time we began to feel rejected, we carefully walked backward through the netted door, but … that was not the intention! Again loudly meowing she followed us with her eyes.
Well, let’s face it … imagine you are lying in a hospital yourself … you probably don’t have the spirit to amuse you visitors for a full hour too. But if you accidentally are nodding off, your visitors shouldn’t have the nasty nerves to try to disappear backwards between the curtain, isn’t it?

Cat in quarantine

19 September 2005

After leaving the Netherlands and before arriving in New Zealand, we spent 1 week in Disney World, like a kind of stop-over. The flight from Orlando to Auckland took 17 hours. I think this is the longest flight possible.

Near Auckland the lightning hit the plane. Yes really! It was an enormous sound, but furthermore nothing weird was noticeable inside.
We entered the plane at Saturday night and we stepped out on Monday morning … I like to imagine that lightning was the physical effect of the dateline.
We could not sleep in the plane, but after landing we tried to directly join in the new daily routne. In stead of taking a nap we went to the quarantine cattery by train, somewhere in a suburb called Takanini.
It was raining and hailing, we lost our borrowed umbrella and after arriving at the station in Takanini, it turned out to be another 45 minutes walk.

cat in quaratineActually we were not allowed to see Pini. There were special hours for visitors. But because it was our first time, we were granted to see our own furry child for 10 minutes.
We had to go through 3 steel fences and clean our shoes in soap. Then we were permitted in Pini’s cage of about 2 square meters and 2 meters high. The poor thing had upright hair of fear and was sitting in the farest corner of the cage. Still, after 9 days!
The first 30 seconds she stared at us with big, round eyes, but then she started to purr and licked out hands. She almost climbed on us. It was great!
After exactly 10 minutes we were called we had to walk back the route to the lobby. It was terrible to close her cage again. We heard her meowing all the way through the 3 steel fences and she pressed herself against the side of her cage to see us as long as possible. It was heart breaking.
The day after tomorrow we will go again.
However, I’m wondering what is better? Maybe it is very traumatising for her if we have to leave her again. Or is it a good thing to see that her parents are coming back over and over again.

Two American cars shipped overseas

8 September 2005

After the traffic jam debacle of yesterday, we decided we better should leave home to drive to the harbour at 6:30 AM. But before that, we had to call the quarantine cattery in Auckland in the middle of the night. The time difference is 12 hours, so we put the alarm clock at 1:00 AM
Unfortunately, they did not pick up the phone.
We put the alarm clock on 2:00 AM … then the number was engaged.
2:15 AM … still engaged.

2:30 AM … Hurray !!! We got somebody at the phone!
It was no problem to receive the cat on Saturday. Of course not! Why did we think that???
We both didn’t fall asleep for the rest of the night. The alarm clock sounded again at 5:00 am

On our way to the Rotterdam harbour, I called the animals transporter at 6:00 AM. He had allowed me to call him that early, but he didn’t sound he was really conscious. I hoped he wouldn’t fall back asleep again, but would run to his office to try to arrange Pini’s departure.

At 7:00 AM we arrived half an hour too early at the office of the harbour and we were invited to wait in the workshop until someone could find some time for us. The workshop for the staff is very enjoyable. Completed with calendars of naked girls.

At 8:00 AM I couldn’t keep controlling my curiosity any longer and I called the animal transporter again. The officer of the RVV just finished checking Pini and was sealing the travel cage. The last-minute booking had succeeded !!! It made my day.
The sun was quite warm again and we moved our chairs to outside the workshop. We poured in our 4th cup of coffee …

At 13:00 PM (about the same time as the initial appointment, before the endlessly stupid … well, don’t start me) the leashing guys popped in!

(arrows in the enlarged pictures)

The busiest day

7 September 2005

As long as you are on the road before 6:45 AM, you are ahead of the traffic jams. A rule I knew.
But that -in the meantime of a couple of years- proved to be obsolete data. Far before I entered the always troubling tunnels, I was trapped already.

The sun rose. The weather forecast was 28 degrees Celsius and it was quite hot right away.
The radiator of our old VW Golf had been broken for a while and the hot weather in combination with the slowly moving traffic is a terrific way to produce an engine overheating.
A proven way to prevent this -or at least reduce the chance, is to put the heater on full power, so the engine can lose somewhat of his heat. So I did. And I was sweating like a pig, but worse was that poor Pini in her cage; she was panting like a dog.

The traffic had now totally stopped moving and I realized I never could meet the arrival time I agreed with the animal transporter. I phoned him to warn him. And half an hour later I phoned him again to report that I was finally freed from the traffic jam. I could be there in 10 minutes. He was very pleased by this news, but unfortunately he also had to tell me that The Big Check to get animals through customs, was now closed …
It was not his idea, but the decision of the RVV (the umbrella organization of Cattle Overseas). Anyway, he said it would be nice if I still came as well, but there was no need to hurry anymore.

In the meanwhile Pini was in a state of utter despair, but it didn’t make sense to return her home, because after all she had to be at the airport at some point anyway. Also, the house would be emptied today, so that would be a stressful place to be for her too.
The animal transporter and I agreed that Pini would stay overnight at his company and that she would be checked in just 24 hours later. Furthermore, everything would remain the same.
I took a picture of her, sneakily wiped away a tear and rapidly drove back in my half-boiling car.

On my way back, I suddenly realised the Wednesday/Thursday issue and the problem about arriving in the weekend. Two days ago the animal transporter emphasized that the cat wasn’t allowed to leave on Thursday because then she would arrive on Saturday. If she leaves tomorrow … she will arrive on Saturday! Just like we started this whole thing!

Back at home the truck with the container for the furniture had shown up and the back was parked against the doors of my former gallery. My dad and a friend were helping to fix the heavy job, but it still took four hours before we could close the container.

During the morning my fears about Pini’s departure became reality. It is not possible indeed. “What about next Monday?” asks the animals transporter. My brain worked overtime, because the validity of an important blood test (which process I had started 8 months ago) would expire. What means: no new stamp in Pini’s animal passport. And that stamp is her permission to move to New Zealand.
However, a departure on Monday would yield many more problems than just that stamp. She had to wait another five days at the airport in a room that is not designed for longer stays.
We, her parents … had already left the country by Monday.

At lunch time Frank accompanied the chauffeur of the trailer to guide the cars at the harbor. Early in the evening he returned home by train and reported that … he needs to come back the next morning because the guys for receiving and to leashing the cars … were not present.
Again just like we started this whole thing!
Oh, and there was no sign of the endlessly stupid girl of course.

Now there were three options for Pini’s problem:

  • A renewed blood test. Which results usually takes a month.
  • I could call the quarantine cattery in Auckland, to ask if they are willing, in exceptional case, to receive a cat on Saturday.
  • Or … ask them please-please-please to accept a blood test that has expired only a very little time.

Logistics of car transport

6 September 2005

The gal at the desk of the container company, is endlessly stupid.
That’s no problem if you are prepared to deal with such people, but sometimes we forget to mentally protect ourselves against those potholes on our way.

Everything is arranged to transport our two cars to the harbour on Thursday September 8th (keep that date in mind!). There is no warrant of fitness (APK) and no insurance on the cars anymore, so they are transported on a trailer and Frank will chaperone them.
A 12 meter long container is waiting in the harbour, guided by a couple of guys with the knowledge and materials to steadily fix the cars on their ‘feet’.
Everybody is informed and everyone is alert.

Today the endlessly silly gal decreed that the cars needed to be present at the harbour already on … Wednesday September 7th!!! Remember … that was the overloaded day I had to bring Pini to the airport AND our entire household should be packed into the container …
And now all the things we had planned for 3 days, should be done in 1 day???

Of course the endlessly silly gal ensured that the guys would be present for the ‘lashing’ of the cars. Definitely! What did we think?! We were not their first clients, right?
Thank goodness, the driver of the trailer hadn’t a too full agenda and was willing to reschedule us for 1 day earlier.

So … tomorrow before the traffic jams are starting I’ll bring Pini to the airport. Returning back home to help stuffing the container. Then Frank left at noon to the Rotterdam harbour to escort the cars and I’ll handle the rest …

I hope I can get some sleep tonight.

Important stamp in animal passport

5 September 2005

A long time ago -at the beginning of 2005- I pinned Tuesday 8 September as flight departure day for my cat.
At that time I needed a fixed point in future to start a uncompromising preliminary stage of injections and blood tests, ticked in her animal passport, to get her through customs.

Today -8 months later- we were granted to get an important stamp of approval in Pini’s passport. This stamp is valid only a few days, so it couldn’t hardly obtained earlier or later.
On our way home we stopped at the airport to pick up a special travel cage. This cage will be ‘sealed’ during the 36 hours trip, so in advance I wanted to try to create some comfort inside.
The animal transporter told me that I had to arrange an earlier flight, because otherwise the cat would arrive in the weekend. And that was forbidden.

WHAAAT??? That was forbidden???

Important stamp in animal passportWell, what a luck that I popped in by by surprise. How the hell would I have known if I didn’t plan that little comfort project?
The suggested Wednesday 7 September for Pini’s new departure, was the worst day we could imagine. Because that day the container would be delivered. We had to stuff it with our furniture as fast as possible, to get it back on the road to the harbor on the same day. There was no time left to drive Pini to the airport.
But I had to …
So I planned to drive Pini to the office of the animal transporter before 7:00 AM