In which I learn the price of wool from one of my patients, and the kids footwear budget drops considerably

It is perhaps unsurprising that we would find ourselves in a bit of the doldrums over the last few weeks.

It’s pretty normal in the world of expat psychology, where at some point you start to miss all that you had at home, like your friends at home, or your kitchen, or having a goddamn garbage disposal. It’s part of the usual adjustment process, but it can leave you with questions about whether or not you did the right thing by moving halfway around the world. Eventually this is followed by another up, then downs, until you reach a homeostasis of expatriation, or just another middle ground.

Even New Zealand seemed to have it out for some of us. One day it was a “mufti day” which meant that the boy could wear whatever he wanted instead of his uniform. Deciding that he loved his uniform, he decided to accessorize only with his Stitch hat with the big flappy ears. He left the house to walk to the bus stop. Eric was drinking a cup of coffee on the balcony overlooking the street.  Suddenly, he noticed a commotion below him. The seagulls had left their usual post on top of the street lights to dive towards our son. The boy was being bombarded by a flock of seagulls who apparently thought that he, in his hat, was some kind of tasty large worm. The boy ran down the sidewalk, frantically waving his hands over his head to ward off the gulls, who squawked in frustration at being blocked from their breakfast. An older man walking along the beach stopped and stared at the scene, while we howled with laughter.

As if to troll us, our new place is decorated with all sorts of seagull paraphernalia that seems to have been put up with a permanent sticking charm. The boy doesn’t wear his hat indoors here, for fear of calling out the avian demons. They’d probably leave their paintings to attack in the middle of the night.

The girl has melted into school, and is having a ball. While she hasn’t made a lot of friends yet, she bounces out of bed every morning so excited about going to class. She loves her teacher, and one thing we’ve seen is that creativity is far more valued here than it is at home. Her homework, or “home learning” as it’s called here, is entirely open. Every two weeks she gets a sheet of paper with a variety of options for home learning – you can choose artistic options, math options, writing – so that every kid can find something to interest them at home, but without the rote tasks that homework seems to be back home.

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Homework for two weeks! You are expected to pick as many as you want to do and share at the end.

The boy is likewise enjoying school, and has a first playdate set up for this weekend. He was initially feeling a bit down about it, as NZ kids are quite sporty, and he’s…not. But he’s found his own little group of nerdlings as he does, playing chess in the school library at lunch and just this week has started introducing Dungeons and Dragons to his crew. His highlight of the last week was when he “accidentally” locked his shoes in the house when he left for the bus (we’d all already left for other destinations) and “had” to go to school barefoot. Upon arrival at school he was given the option of wearing a pair of the extra shoes they have at the office, but he declined.

As for me, the hospital work keeps on. Despite my years of experience back home, learning new medications and new systems leads me to feel like a new resident much of the time, which brings back all the traumatic PTSD I have related to that time and leaves me feeling unconfident.

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These signs are all over the hospital. What sort of zombie apocalype are they expecting?!

So many times I’ll casually ask for something that Americans would see as completely normal, only to have it thrown back at me. I had a patient who had fallen and had a nasty scrape where he’d lost a fair amount of skin. Unthinkingly, I said, “let’s put some polysporin on it and cover it with a nonadhesive bandage.” The resident I was working with looked shocked. Absolutely SHOCKED. “We…shouldn’t do that. It’ll lead to antibiotic resistance.” I paused, knitting my brows, and replied, “so…you can’t just get an antibacterial ointment over the counter here? What do people put on cuts?” “We just tell them to put hydrogen peroxide on,” he replied. He then proceeded to look up antibiotic ointments that were available in the hospital, and after a search of five minutes finally came up with one that they had that used a different mechanism of action less likely to result in resistance.  WHEW. I was kind of left feeling like, “Who’s the attending here?” and wanting to say indignantly “I AM! I’m the attending!”

Sometimes people think I’m a blinking idiot because it seems I can’t grasp a basic idea they’re talking about, when it’s just that I can’t understand their accent. They then go into details of whatever they were describing like I’m a moron, at which point I’m too embarrassed to correct them and say that it was their accent I couldn’t understand since of course, I’m the one with the accent. I had a patient who was telling me that he had “hot tack” a few years ago. Thinking that this was some Kiwi traditional therapy or something, I asked what “hot tack” was, only to get a quizzical look from my resident as she described “Hot tack? Well, it’s when the heart doesn’t get enough blood and then doesn’t work as well, and they get chest pain?” Oh.  A heart attack.  Great, now both patient and my resident think that I don’t know what a heart attack is. There goes any credibility I might have had.

That said, I continue to be amazed by the relative reasonableness of patients regarding their medical conditions. I’ve had far more conversations with ill people about their potential for death, and all of the elderly people I’ve talked with have expressed to me that they don’t want any aggressive measures to be taken and that they understand that this could lead to their death.  These are different than conversations like this I have at home, where usually the question is asked to someone who is not in extremis, and even then limits to “what can be done” is not typically discussed. People will talk about not wanting to be resuscitated, or be put onto a breathing machine, but smaller discussions don’t often take place, and there is a different attitude towards end of life.

I do feel like I can be more relaxed overall with the patients here, chatting with them and able to bring more humor into our interactions. I’ll leave you with a story from last week.

I performed a procedure to remove excess fluid from someone’s belly, and it takes a while to get the fluid out slowly as we don’t have the handy vacuum sealed flasks here that whoosh it out in a matter of minutes.  Over the 30 minutes I sat in the room, I chatted with the patient, a Maori person, and his daughter in the room. They live out in farming country, and I asked what type. “Cows, ship, pigs. All sohts of animuls.”

“Do you raise the sheep for meat or for their wool?”

“Wull. You can do it foh both…but listen to this. Theh was a farmah who hed his whole flock stolen! And thin two wiks latah, the entiah flock was returned to him, but they’d all bin sheahed! I said to myself, ‘theyah’s a man who knows the price of wul!’”

“Wait,” I said, “They brought the sheep back and no one noticed?”

“Oh yeah!” the daughter said, “And that’s when I said you know thet wasn’t no Mowri pehson stealin’ the ship because we would have kept those ship and fed them to our families!”

 

-s

In which a bit of Iceland comes to New Zealand, or…I knit another sweater

Remember back in June, when my real excitement in Iceland was picking up some Plotulopi yarn? It’s found it’s way into a sweater!

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Look like you’re in love, the photographer said…I ended up simpering

It took me a while to find a good pattern. A lot of the traditional Icelandic sweater patterns look, well…old, and not particularly pretty or stylish. The other finalist was the pattern below, but I felt like it wasn’t as modern looking, and I loved the geometric shapes of this one and the details on the bottom and the sleeves.

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Grettir from Brooklyn Tweed, the rejected pattern

 

The yarn is untwisted roving, which means that it breaks apart very easily. Try to imagine using fluffy bolts of cotton candy to sew together a leather jerkin, and you’ll have a decent idea of what it’s like to knit with. As with many things involving knitting, I try to find a metaphor in this, and for this project it was learning exactly how much tension and pressure to hold the yarn with. Too little, and the yarn would loop and sag unattractively in the stitch. Too much and it would simply tear apart. A happy medium existed, though it took a while to find it. Extrapolate that to a life lesson as you will.

 

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Neckline close up

 

The other difficulty was that I the pattern I’d chosen called for this yarn to be held singly, though it’s usually knit double. I swatched both and greatly preferred the double thickness, creating as it did a lofty and cozy fabric. With a sigh, I pulled out a calculator as using a bigger yarn meant that I’d have to do math to figure out the new sizing. I figured out that if I just followed the instructions for the smallest size, it should work out okay.

It almost was, until the very end. While I’d been able to change the horizontal measurements of the sweater with fewer stitches and I could simply knit fewer rows to make the length correct, this didn’t translate with the neck of the pattern where you can’t just cut out rows. The first iteration of this did not work well, and I looked like I’d made a sweater for a thick-necked giraffe.

 

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The pic I sent to my phone a friend, thick necked giraffey sweater

After a telephonic and picture consultation with a knitting friend back home, I ripped back to the middle of the yellow diamonds, switched to a smaller needle and began decreases in the black areas between to hide them and maintain the pattern. It worked pretty well! I wish I could tell you that this sweater was 100% perfect to me, and it almost is. Trying to account for vertical gauge and burned by the extra fabric Eric’s sweater had in the shoulders with all the short rows, I knit fewer of them and I wish I hadn’t. I would have preferred the sweater come up a bit higher in the back, and I wish I’d knit the sleeves just a touch longer but overall I’m pretty happy with it! I especially love the shaping in the waist, which is key in such a big bulky sweater to avoid making one look like the Michelin Man.

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Next up, to finally finish all the socks for the kids I’ve promised them and have completely ignored. Of course, now that they run around barefoot like all the other Kiwi kids, I wonder if I should even bother.

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Sweater in action along West End, Ohope Beach

pattern: Telja by Jennifer Steingass

-s

In which I start my job as a doc in New Zealand

I knew I’d have a lot to learn working as a doctor in a new country, but I didn’t think it would start before I entered the hospital.

I walked up to the hospital on my first day of work, held my badge up to the double doors and expectantly waited for them to open for me. They did not. I flashed my badge a few times, looking like a proper idiot, wondering if the doors weren’t working. I then realized that I had to manually open the doors here and walked on in. I had two days of a gentle orientation before beginning to see patients, where I got a tour of the hospital, filled out important paperwork and was introduced to nearly everyone and welcomed warmly.

On Wednesday, it was time to start the real doctoring.

Things run a lot differently here than I’ve been used to. Some of that is simply because I’m working in a small rural hospital instead of the large urban center I was at. Some of it is because I’m working with the New Zealand medical system, and some is because I’m taking care of New Zealanders and not Americans, who seem to approach their healthcare quite differently.

I came into morning report, a gathering of the doctors on for the day, the head nurse, physical and occupational therapists, pharmacists and other members of the care team. We listen to the new patients admitted overnight and then run through our list of patients to see what is needed from members of the care team. I picked up my list of five new patients to start seeing that day and met up with my house officer. The training system in New Zealand is beyond my capacity to understand – from what I can tell, the educational level of the H.O.’s is about that of a 3rd or 4th year medical student, but they function much as interns. It’s also not necessarily linear in a way that’s incomprehensible to me. My house officer, upon later conversation, casually mentioned that he was going to quit to go travel for 6 months and planned on returning. I’d like to find a residency in the States that would let that happen!

I went to see one of my first patients, a man who needed a procedure done to drain fluid out of his body. He was on a blood thinner, though, making it more dangerous. I approached this the way I do with my American patients, carefully explaining to him and his family the risks and benefits of the procedure, the possibility of increased bleeding, what we would do to prevent this from happening, and how we couldn’t do much if bleeding happened. I asked at the end if he would like to think about it and we could return later, which would be pretty typical at home. “Nah, I guess we’ll just go for it.” I blinked a few times, as it seemed a bit too easy. “You’re…sure you don’t have any other questions?” “Nah, if it’ll help me feel better let’s just do it.” We set up the procedure for the next day, and it went swimmingly.

I saw another patient who was in for a heart issue for which ultimate diagnosis would require an echocardiogram, or an ultrasound of the heart. The only problem was that it was Wednesday, and echoes are only done on Tuesdays and Fridays, and even then only four on a single day. If you’re the fifth patient, too bad, you’re going to have to wait. If you need a more urgent echo, you’ll have to be driven an hour away to Tauranga to a larger hospital. This is utterly unheard of in urban centers, where I would roll my eyes at an echo taking more than a few hours to obtain. Feeling sheepish, I went into discuss this with the patient, expecting anger and incredulity at the inefficiency of the system. “Oh, no problem,” was the reply, “If we can’t get it on Friday my daughters can just drive me up to Tauranga to get one.”  I was forced to use actual clinical skills to diagnose and treat her without the technological test, which ultimately did get done on Friday.

Another thing we don’t have available that I’m used to : consultants. There’s a surgical team and an orthopedic team, but other than that, there are no medical subspecialties here at all. If someone really needs to be seen by a cardiologist (heart) or a nephrologist (kidney) we ship them to Tauranga hospital for evaluation. Once the patient has been seen and recommendations given, they’ll be shipped back for us to continue the remainder of their hospital stay.

At home, I’m used to doing all the primary work of doctoring myself by which I mean writing notes, ordering medications and tests, following up, and taking calls from nurses if something goes wrong. Here, my house officer does all of that for me. I look up pertinent information before seeing the patient, and then we see the patient together, and then I just tell him what needs to be done and written and…it gets done. It leaves me feeling a little unmoored to be honest, and without me sitting down and looking through all the details of the chart as I write, I keep feeling like I’m missing something. Somewhere along the way I’m supposed to be teaching them something, but I’m okay with letting that slide for a couple weeks while I figure out the system myself.

Being in a nationalized health care system means that there are stricter limitations on what medications you can use in the hospital, especially antibiotics. A patient who comes in with pneumonia in the U.S. would reflexively be prescribed ceftriaxone and azithromycin or levofloxacin for treatment. There are infection nurses who look over more unusual antibiotic choices to regulate those, but no one would stop you from prescribing ceftriaxone. I had to call an Infectious Disease doctor to order it as part of a combination treatment for a patient of mine who came in with pneumonia and got worse with outpatient Augmentin pill therapy. The doctor paused for a second before she said, “I don’t think that’s necessary yet, let’s try IV Augmentin first.” I was denied. (The patient did, though, get better with the IV Augmentin, I must admit.)

There are at least a few patients daily who hear my accent and take the time to tell me what an unhinged lunatic Trump is. One guy, hardly able to breathe with a lung problem, still took time to squeak out that he thought Trump would be the last president of the United States as we know it. It’s a common feeling here, where the U.S. is currently regarded as something of a laughingstock.

All in all I’m enjoying the new gig, though I feel I’ve got a lot of learning to do before I get a handle on how things really work.

-s

In which we make our way to New Zealand for the year

As most people reading this blog know, last year we decided to extend our time out of the US for another year and I took a job in New Zealand!

Packing for a year of settled life on an island where things are reputed to be quite pricy is a different story than last year, where we left with carryon backpacks and a minimalist attitude. This time, we asked ourselves how much we could cram into 300 pounds of luggage. Sports equipment and clothing are expensive here, so into the bags went our ski clothes, goggles, bike helmets and sleeping bags. Eric tossed in some basic tools, I brought my flatiron. The kids took along a box of legos and some card games, as well as favorite books and some art supplies. The tent didn’t make it, nor did our bikes, blender, printer, two burner griddle, waffle maker, kitchen scale, rock collection, entire library (for the boy) or guitars, though all of these were considered at some point and some people (cough the kids cough) tried to stuff them into the sacks when no one was looking. I didn’t check closely enough and the miniature amp made it, despite us not having a guitar to plug into it!

 

We initially flew to California to visit my parents, and got a few looks as we lumbered along the Southwest baggage check-in line, where despite their generous baggage allowance most people seem to travel with little more than a roller bag. “Going camping?” the check-in guy asked, fishing for an answer. “We’re moving to New Zealand,” we replied. “Oh, I didn’t know Southwest was running an international moving service now,” he said with a smile. In California we had a lovely time with family and running around the Park where I used to play as a kid.

The flight from SFO to Auckland takes 12 hours and 50 minutes, and normally I’d be too excited to sleep much at the prospect of being able to squeeze in 4, possibly 5 movies during that time. Alas, it was not to be as we were planning to drive directly to Whakatane on the day of arrival, and I’m more likely to sleep on a plane than Eric is. I ate the relatively tasty Hindu Vegetarian meal I always order (too much cumin this time) and slept somewhat fitfully for most of the ride.

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Even the currency exchange shows shade at Trump – make your USD great by making them NZ dollars!

Off we went on the 4 hour drive to Whakatane, stopping off for tasty fish and chips just outside Tauranga and rolling into our our beachfront apartment around 2 pm. By coincidence, my longtime friend Judy and her son had been traveling in New Zealand and drove over to Whakatane to see us for a few days before they flew home. We got in some fun beach walks, hot spring time and tasty food. 

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Sunrise from our window

The first few days here could be characterized by a jet lag fog. Barely able to stay awake after 7 pm and then awakening at 3 am, I was dysfunctional for a few days, not even noticing the beautiful beach sunrises through our windows. We managed to get the kids enrolled in school and had them start on Friday, with good reports from both! The boy is in middle school here, which is 6th and 7th grades.  Different from school at home, however, the classes are mixed 6th and 7th grades and most learning takes place in one classroom with the exception of specials. It’s a lot more low key than middle school in the States, which is like a pre-High school with lockers and different classrooms and the like. The boy is especially excited about the wood and sewing shop! The girl’s school is a more typical Elementary school, with the change that her class is combined with the one next door much of the time. One little quirk of Kiwi people everywhere is that they are often seen barefoot, and even on this rainy morning I spied a little boy scampering into school shoeless, splashing through puddles.

 

After the jet lag improved, a feeling of panic set in. Where were we going to live for the year? An online search of listings yielded exactly NO properties. Perhaps people don’t list online? Eric and I then went to several realty offices to ask for long term furnished rentals, and as soon as we uttered the word “rental,” the realtors’ lower lips would stretch away and downwards with a sucking in of air, making the universal expression for “you are screwed, my friends.” Housing is always tight in New Zealand, and compounding matters is that a large flood earlier this year displaced many families who are now renting the houses that we might want to rent ourselves. The other problem is that many places are only rented long term during winter, and from December through April are rented short term for the holiday season (seasons are flipped here, so that’s summertime). Eric thought it was heee-larious to keep making jokes about perhaps renting a shipping container, or just living in tents, or getting two camper units. I failed to find this amusing. We went to visit one possible rental, only available through the end of November, which was split into two separate floors, both dingy and dark, with about two feet of aluminum countertop for a kitchen. Things seemed dim, and I bought a pack of Tums out of necessity.

It’s a different culture here in that you have a better shot at things if you actually go in person to meet people, rather than the internet focused world of the US. We began to stalk our real estate agent with this in mind. Eric went in one day to find out that the rental agent was on vacation but would be back on Monday. On Monday morning, we wondered if it would help or our hurt our chances if we simply waited in front of the doors, staring through the glass until opening time like curious kittens. We decided instead to visit in the early afternoon, only find that she had gone out. We tried our luck a few hours later, and still, she wasn’t in. We were beginning to doubt her existence at this point. Tuesday morning we popped on over again, and voila, there she was. We considered shackling her to a chair lest she scurry off again, but she sat us down and told us of two places that were coming up on the market just that morning. Perhaps she was being friendly and helpful, but I think that she’d heard of our frequent visits and decided that getting us a house was the most efficient way to get rid of us, else we would take to haunting her office like wayward ghosts.  We drove by one of the houses, another dismally dark rental with a tiny aluminum countered kitchen. Our spirits drooped yet again. I popped a few more Tums and wondered if it was acceptable to start drinking at noon in New Zealand, considering the circumstances.

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Central heating doesn’t exist here, so we hang out with sweaters, warm hats, and space heaters.

That afternoon, she took us out to the other house and were happily surprised!  It’s a 3 bedroom house with a wraparound porch, no yard to speak of, but that’s okay because the yard is the beach which is one street over. Most importantly, the kitchen is nice with good counter space, made from some variety of laminate and a good step up from prison decor.

We called a few people we know here to ask their opinion, and everyone told us that we should lunge at the opportunity and take the place, and so we did. We’ve also managed to find a good car to buy here, so all in all things are looking better for now, given that we’re up to step one on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Next week, I start work, we move in, and I’ll post some pictures of the new house, our car, and the hospital!

-s

In which we go mountain biking in a California redwood forest…in New Zealand

One of the big things Eric and I were really looking forward to was mountain biking in Rotorua. California redwoods were imported there in 1901 to support the logging industry and while they didn’t really take off as a new source of timber, some part of the forest remains. The upshot is that in the middle of New Zealand is a gorgeous California Redwood forest just begging to be ridden through. 
We asked to stay at the farmstay an additional day since we figured we wouldn’t want to bike and get muddy and then have to pack up and go somewhere, and man, were we grateful for that decision later! It made me even happier that we had been able to add some flexibility into our schedule and not have everything booked solid before we left. 
We called the lovely people at Planet Bike in the morning and made sure they had rental bikes for us. They were so nice, even to switch the brakes so we wouldn’t have to brake backwards with the back wheel brakes on the left! I was so glad of this at many times in the ride. The kids were fitted on fat tire bikes, a first for them! And we were off on the muddy trails. Both kids tried to hit all the mud puddles as fast as they could so that by the end of the day they resembled little else than mini mud monsters. We had them strip before they got back in the car.


Riding through the forest was so, so beautiful. The entire time I was riding I just couldn’t believe how happy I felt. We ran into maybe another 3 people along the way and the feeling of cruising through a dappled forest with birds and animals chirping about you is unparalleled. The girl got a bit nervous at times with the isolated feeling, and I told her assuredly that it was impossible to get lost in this forest. 


About 5 minutes later we got lost in the forest. We had taken a bit of a wrong turn and found ourselves off trail. We used my phone to figure out the compass directions and headed that way, only to find ourselves in denser forest and the clear disappearance of the trail. Under his breath, Eric asked “you sure this is right?” And I replied quietly so the kids wouldn’t hear, “ummm, not really.” Out loud we acted like grown ups and kept saying that we were going the right way. 
After we came back out to where we had made the wrong turn, we simply turned around and saw the right road about, oh, 5 yards from where we had been. Eesh. We were able to make it back to the trail and then, the fun part after all the hard uphill riding we had done! Going downhill on a muddy trail with bumps over tree roots was exhilarating! 
We had initially intended to go to the Waikiti hot spring before going home, but instead decided to head back to the farmstay to make lunch and de-mud first. After this we didn’t feel like the long drive to Waikiti and instead went to the Polynesian Spa hot spring in town and loved it. There was a pool for the kids to frolic in and they made some friends with two local Kiwi kids who gave their opinion on US politics (Summary: Trump is bad, Clinton is okay but not as good as Obama). Given that I couldn’t tell you anything about who runs New Zealand, I’m amazed at the overall cultural dominance of the States in this regard. 
Back home for a peaceful night in, having made some pesto pasta at home for a simpler night of food comfort. 

-s

In which we commune with the Hobbits.

The rainy day in Rotorua continued for much of the morning. This was a blessing in that we needed some downtime to just relax and not do anything for a bit. It was going to clear in the afternoon, so the kids and I thought this would be a great time to visit the hobbits! Eric’s interest in people is directly proportional to their relation to him or how much shorter they are then him, and given that hobbits are on the low end of both, hold little fascination for him. He chose to stay in town and go for a swim at the aquatic center.

After a bit of a drive we found our way on the Hobbiton set. One of the things that’s amazed me about NZ is how little things are commercialized to the way they are in the States. I mean, if this set was in the US, there’d be some sort of big theme park around it and multiple ways for them to sell you things. Here, there’s a small car park, little cabin like building, smallish gift shop and … That’s it. You board a bus to take you to the set and the gate to enter isn’t even mechanized. The tour guide has to hop out of the bus, open it, wait for the bus to pass, then close it and hop in! A stupid bit of detail but it’s things like that which fascinate me sometimes.

Onto the hobbits! 

The set is really lovely, I have to say, and you feel like you’ve been dropped into the Shire from all angles. Given that it had just rained, everything was green and misty. They take care to keep everything as it was and real – the gardens are actually growing vegetables. I could see Frodo and Sam walking through the space, and Gandalf riding in, and the big party under the magnificent tree. 


The set is just the exterior fronts – you can’t actually see into Bag End as that was all filmed on a set. The only Americanized thing I would have liked for them to do would be to pipe in some of the soundtrack music as you walk around. As it was, some of the other people on the tour whistled and hummed it the entire way for us. 
After that it was home and some tasty Indian takeaway. TV here is a bit limited where we’ve been staying so the kids are getting a new education in prime time offerings. They’re loving the Australian version of The Voice, and are hoping to catch the next episode to follow along!

In which we make our own hot pool and chill with the sheep

It’s about 8:30 in the morning and the weather outside is foggy with a constant downpour of rain. We’re in a farm cottage where we’re staying for two nights, having rolled in yesterday. Most of my morning with the boy was spent in trying to figure out how to operate the wood burning fireplace so that it heats up these chilly rooms, and I think we’ve just gotten it figured out. The chill and wet don’t seem to bother the animals much, and we awoke to a concertina of birds, roosters and sheep.
I suppose it will surprise no one, including myself, that there will be times of friction among the four of us in such close quarters for so long. I know it’s only been a few days but the mentality is different than a week away where you know you’re going home soon. Yesterday morning was one of the first, where the boy was mad at me about having to write his blog post, the girl was mad at me for god knows what, I was annoyed at both of them and Eric had taken off for a peaceful sunrise stroll in all of this which annoyed me too. After a bit of a tearful breakdown, we managed to pull ourselves together and all cheer up again. 
Our day yesterday then turned into a lovely one, starting with hot water beach in the morning. This is a unique place on the Coromandel peninsula’s East Coast, where a hot spring that feeds to the beach runs under the sand to the ocean. If you bring a shovel at low tide and dig a little pool, it fills with hot water and you’ve got yourself a little hot tub (sans jets)! The boy had great fun trying to figure out the hottest spot to dig and how to make sure we had a nice warm pool to relax in. The weather was cooperating thankfully, and we had several hours of sunshine and low 60s weather to enjoy the hot water in. Low tide was at 9ish and we spent the next hour and a half relaxing in the warmth while the girl ran up and down the coast in a state of bliss at being on the beach. 


After this we drove down the east coast on our way to Rotorua,stopping for a nice lunch at the Sands cafe in Whangamata before heading a bit further inland to the Karaheke Gorge. Here, there was a mining facility and mining railway that are now ruins, with signs marking the way. We went for a little walk through one of the old mining trails, which was damp and verdant. I am wowed by how quickly nature reasserts itself when manmade places are left to ruin. 

We walked through one of the old mining tunnels which at one point became pitch black – I began to feel a sense of closed in panic, and the girl began to whimper as well. We had our iPhone flashlight to help, though it didn’t entirely light up the tunnel. At one point we couldn’t see an end to the darkness and all began to get scared, until a large group of Chinese tourists came through the other way and, well, I felt a bit silly for being scared. 
After this we made our way to Rotorua from where I write this post, staying at a farmstay a little way out of town, and trying to decide what to do with ourselves on this rainy day. 

-s