Go Mid-Northern!

on July 31, 2010

Went to my second rugby game today. Philip's team was playing (he couldn't because he had missed to many games due to work and the family's trip to Finland) against Kamo in the finals. The first half didn't look that good because Kamo led the game after a penalty kick 3:0.

But Mid-Northern (Philip's team from Hukerenui) only needed about three minutes during the second half to turn the game around. They scored twice and won the game 14:3 *woohoo*

I still don't understand all the rules and sometimes when the ref whistles I have no clue what just happened. But in the end rugby is a little similar to football. To score you first have to carry the ball behind the other team's line. That is five points. Once you've accomplished that you get to kick the ball and if you make it between the two posts it's another two points. A penalty kick - which you get for instance if the other team is holding the ball back on purpose or does a shoulder check - will get you three points.

That's the basics - anyone who's reading this feel free to correct me or add more rules.

I also met Raissa today who was another family's au pair until recently. She's German, too, and apparently she loved it here so much that now she is still staying with the family, got herself a job at subway and is trying to get settled at least as long as her visa allows.

There is some bad news, however. After having only been here for a little more than two weeks I am actually sick now. The kids, especially Eliza, have been coughing a lot lately. Yesterday my throat startet hurting too and today it's awful. I'm coughing all the time, my nose is stuffy and I can barely swallow ;-( Been drinking camomile tea with honey and lemon all the time and hope I do have some Chinese mint oil left because that stuff works like a miracle.

Tomorrow I'm taking the kids to the Zion Wildlife Gardens and I hope they'll like that. I've booked us onto a tour through the Gardens - the only way to get in - and we'll hopefully get close to all the lions and tigers *woohoo*

Seal alarm at the Whangarei Town Basin

on July 29, 2010

After having lunch today with one of the Couchsurfers in town I went to have a look around the Town Basin. That's the area by the harbor with the City marina, lots of yachts and nice little restaurants and shops.

Today, however, something else caught my attention. There was something floating in the water. On a closer look it turned out to be a seal! Somehow though that little fellow didn't look to good. He was barely moving, just floating on one side, one fin and the tail up in the air, the other fin stuck under water and it seemed like he was trying to catch his breath.

After a while more and more people came looking and one of the ladies was really worried. She even got another guy to call someone - probably the vet - to come down have a look. It looked like the seal was tangled up in something and therefore couldn't move.

Well - to make a long story short... we watched that poor little guy for about 15mins always worrying and waiting for someone to come down and help him - when all the sudden he turned his head, looked at us - and dived under water. Gone he was. He had tricked us all along, just enjoying the sun - and probably all the attention he got from us.

Well, at least I got some really nice pictures :-)

Walking further along I eventually came to the end of the boardwalk where I found this interesting piece of art:

It's called "Waka and Wave". Waka is Maori and means boat. It's a nice place to chill out and relax because there's barely anybody there.

The Town Basin also houses the New Zealand Fudge Farm Factory & Café, a little shop that has a huge variety of chocolates, fresh made fudge, yummy ice cream and much more. Even found some Lindt Easter bunnies!

Another landmark is the Reyburn House Art Gallery.

According to the brochures it's a "vibrant internationally known gallery" which has changing exhibitions and some nice jewellery, pottery and glass. One of the ladies running the place also told me about its historic significance. The house was built in the 1860s by Scottish settlers, has been expanded over the years and was supposed to be torn down, but saved - and is now the oldest building in Whangarei well-preserved. The Northland Society of Arts has bought it once for only $10 otherwise it would have been demolished to make room for a road.

One more thing that I'm yet to visit though is the Clapham Clock Museum.

"To all clock enthusiasts, time travellers and the plain curious. Never mind the seconds, take a few minutes or maybe some hours and experience the intrigue of a building filled with more than a thousand ticking and chiming clocks and like-gadgets that trace the human development of time keeping, believed to be the largest collection of clocks in the Southern Hemisphere."

The museum advertises itself with having the largest collection of clocks and timepieces in the Southern Hemisphere. More than 1400 exhibits. Entrance fee is $8 for adults, guided tours are available for no extra charge.

More pictures of the Town Basin - and the little seal - are on Facebook.

Short trip to Whangarei Falls

on July 26, 2010

Winter on the North Island of New Zealand - compared to Germany - can be anything from a cloudy, rainy and miserable cold autum day to a bright sunshiny spring day. Luckily today was a lot more like spring and so when Pia's & Philip's plans to go into town were cancelled and I got to use the car I decided to pay a visit to the beautiful waterfalls of Whangarei.

These falls, about 26 meters in height, according to my Lonely Planet, are "not the most impressive but reputedly the most photographed" in New Zealand. Or, as the guidebook puts it: "The Paris Hilton of NZ waterfalls"

They are only a few minutes from the city center, there are free parking spots and public toilets at the entrance. A circle walk that takes approx. 30 minutes takes you all around the falls, from top to bottom and back, so you get a spectacular view of the falls from basically any angle.

I spent about two hours there just walking aroung, enjoying the scenery and having a little picnic. There are plenty of picnic tables around or you can just put a blanket on the grass and enjoy.

That is, however, if you are not molested by some "wild" kids running around, asking you tons of questions, touching your water bottle, your bag, your camera or anything and basically crawling into your lap while you're trying to read a book while their mom/aunt is sitting nearby not saying a single word.

"Is that your drink?" - Yes, it is.

"What language do you speak?" - English.

"What is this?" - My camera.

"Can I take a picture?" - No, you can't.

"Can you take my picture?" - No, I won't.

"What is that?" - A book.

"Do you read it?" - Yes, I do.

"How do you read it?" - Can you go back to your mommy I don't think you're supposed to talk to strangers.

"Is that your apple?" - Yes it is. Look, your mommy is calling you.

"That's not my mom."


Do I have to mention that I was slightly getting annoyed?

Anyway... there are a few more walks starting from the Falls. One is the Hatea River Walk which follows the river all the way to the Town Basin (Marina, shopping area and plenty of restaurants). The trip to and back takes about three hours. Haven't done that because I was running out of time but will definitely do so some other day.

More pictures as usual on Facebook.

Where did the power go?

on July 25, 2010

To me, a perfect Sunday includes a long sleep in, a late yummy breakfast and then just chilling out. A perfect Sunday surely does not start at 7.30am with kids running into my room and yelling "Mara, we have a power cut!"

Normally I wouldn't care. Who needs power at 7.30 on a Sunday morning anyway? Well, live is different on this farm. Power is needed for EVERYTHING! Starting with milking the cows - which fortunately Philip and Pia had managed to finish before we rän out of power. The kids, however, were a little disturbed because they had just been watching TV and Eliza was actually on the phone when suddenly everything went "black".

Now that is not even the worst part. What really is bad - if we're out of power that also means that we have no running water because that needs power to be generated AND even worse - we have no heating - because central heating like in Germany is not common over here. Usually there is a little mobile radiator in each room keeping it warm. Those of course need power. No power, no heating ;-/

Luckily we still had the fire going in the lounge so we snuggled up there and had a little picnic breakfast on the floor.

Three hours later the power finally came back. I could brush my teeth, have a quick shower and turn the heating back on. Pia had already told me a few days ago that power cuts happen at least once a year during winter time - usually when it's flooding after days of rain or when there are heavy storms.

The worst they had was three days without power - without heating AND without running water. Not sure if that is an experience I'd like to make...

Helena & Teal Bay

on July 21, 2010

Going to the beach on a rainy winter's day might not sound like the best thing to do. I did it anyway and it was definitely worth it! Pia suggested I went to Helena Bay and Teal Bay which is a little more than half an hour away from our place.

To get there you just hop back on State Highway One and in Whakarapa turn onto Russell Road. That takes you on a scenic drive to the East Coast of the North Island all the way up to historic Russell. That is supposed to be THE oldest settlement in New Zealand (apart from the Maori of course). Unfortunately I didn't have enough time to go all the way up there.

My first stop was Helena Bay. It's quite amazing that most of the time the speed limit on the road is 100 kilometres per hour. In fact the roads are so narrow and winding that most of the time I couldn't go any faster than 50. But then of course I'm just getting used to driving on the left - which by the way isn't so hard to do. It's actually harder to figure out where the traffic might come from first when you get to an intersection.

Anyway... the drive up there is quite neat. It seems the hills are never ending and you wonder when you might actually make it to the coast. And then all the sudden it's there. The sea...

Helena Bay (above) and Teal Bay (below) are small beaches on the East Coast, easy to access, beautiful sand and in the summer time a very popular spot to go swimming. Of course in the winter time it's all deserted and lacks a lot of its natural charme. But it was nice to have the beach all to myself just walking around. Took some shells home for the kids. They loved it :-)

I actually liked Teal Bay a lot better and am soooo looking forward to going there in the summer. It's a really cool beach with a few rocks on one side that you can climb on. Put a few pictures on Facebook again if you want to have a look.

Both beaches can be easily accessed by car, there are free parking spots available. Since it's a rural area with a few houses not far from the beaches there probably won't be a lot of tourists around so it should be nive and quiet even in the summer.

On the way back I stopped at the Gallery & Café on Helena Bay Hill. Unfortunately the café which is run by a German couple was closed because they are on a short holiday. But the gallery was open and I was sooo close to buying something. They have awesome paintings in there, some sculptures by Kiwi artists and nice jewelery. I especially liked the canvas drawings by the Tantrum Gallery. Check it out, they have cool stuff!

Feels like being on Drover's

on July 18, 2010

McLeod's Daughters is one of my favorite TV shows. It's all about living on a cattle farm somewhere in the Australian Outback. Far from civilization as town people know it. That's kinda how I felt today when I took a walk along the farm I am currently living on. Only that New Zealand is a lot greener than the Australian Outback and your nearest neighbors aren't hundreds of miles away.

Yet the size of this place is also tremendous! I have forgotten how many hectars all the paddocks make up but let me say you could easily fit a few small villages in. The landscape is breathtaking and I could walk around for hours taking pictures. Put a few online on Facebook, here's a few impressions to get you started:

You'll find more pictures here...

Speaking of TV shows... today I was also reminded of another one of my favorite series The Gilmore Girls. Rory and Lorelai have (to have) dinner at Lorelai's parents' house every Friday. Well, the Rockells have a big dinner get-together every Sunday. Luckily - unlike in the series - these dinners here are held in a very pleasant atmosphere. All the kids get to watch TV and play and run around, then there's plenty of food, talk and laughter. I am so stuffed from all the delicious chicken, veggies and ice-cream *yummy*

Tomorrow Lukas starts kindergarten again and Eliza goes back to school. Getting back to routine after a six week break might not be easy so we'll see how things go in the morning. I need to go to town to get an IRD (tax number) and open a bank account. Unfortunately the car kind of broke down today so we don't know yet how we're getting into town.

Welcome to Whangarei!

on July 16, 2010

After a scenic flight over the Northern Island of New Zealand yesterday I finally arrived in Whangarei where I'll be living the next few months. Still on the plane - a small propeller one that fit 20 people in - I was already amazed by the beauty of this country. Even though it's winter there is green everywhere! Most trees don't lose their leaves, the meadows are in wonderful shape and the mountains - OMG the sight was just breathtaking!

Too bad I couldn't grab my camera. My handluggage was stored somewhere on an empty seat up front as the plane was so small it didn't even have overhead compartments to put your luggage in.

But anyway... finally arriving in Whangarei around noon the sun was shining, there was a clear blue sky and it was nice and warm. The Rockells, my host family, picked me up and we drove all the way up to their farm which is situated on a hill about half an hour north of Whangarei.

An hour later I found myself in "farmies" and rubberboots - can't remember the last time I've worn these things - making a mudpie with the kids Lukas and Eliza, watching how calves not even a day old are being fed and older ones getting eartagged.

When their grandpa (another Paul :-) came by and asked me if I was a country girl I simply said "not yet" - and told him the story of how when I was little I ran my uncle's tractor into the creek and after that wasn't allowed to drive it anymore...

I've also met Philip's brother with wife and kids. All very nice and welcoming. Their son Matthew will turn seven tomorrow and there is a huge birthday party all about transformers with 16 or more kids and a whole bunch of adults attending. That's going to be very interesting ;-)

The kids are going back to school/kindergarten on Monday we'll see how it goes once there is a routine. Hopefully the weather will be better. Today we had heaps of rain and Pia told me that once a year at least they get all flooded and might even be isolated and cut off from electricity.

One thing I long for already is my daily cup of chocolate cappuccino. Have to tell my mom to send me some otherwise there is no way I'm getting up at 6.30 am. Don't drink coffee and tea certainly doesn't help...

I want my luggage!!!

on July 14, 2010


Good morning, Auckland! Just woke up after a good night's sleep and guess what - my luggage has found me *hooray* Getting ready now to leave for Whangarei where I'll arrive around 1pm. Hopefully with all my luggage...


It is now 7pm and my luggage still isn't here... just called the airport - at least it seems to have arrived there about half an hour ago. Now the aircraft needs to be cleared and my backpack needs to go through customs, security and god knows what... probably could deliver it by midnight - which makes a lot of sense considering I'm back at the airport tomorrow morning...

So I'll just have to endure, sleep once again in my clothes, smell like a pig tomorrow and leave for the airport early to go luggage-hunting. Wish me luck!!! I am soooooo wasted. All I want to do is sleep *sigh*

Auckland, 3pm

I've made it! After approx 30 hours of travelling - 4 hours on a train from Leipzig to Frankfurt, 5 hours waiting at Frankfurt airport, 11.5 hours on a plane from Frankfurt to Singapore, 1.5 hours waiting at Singapore airport (free internet!), 7 hours on a plane from Singapore to Sydney, 15mins rushing from one gate to other and then 2.5 hours on a plane from Sydney to Auckland - I have finally arrived at the other side of the world. Maerchen is now officially in New Zealand =D

That is the good news. The bad is - my luggage got lost ;-/ Probably happened somewhere in Sydney when one flight was delayed and I had to rush to get the next one (never been checkin in on final call). When I got into Auckland I waited forever at the conveyer belt but my shiny orange backpack just wouldn't appear.

A very nice (and definitely gay) guy from Baggage Services finally told me that my luggage was not on the same plane as I was. They didn't have a message yet, he said, but it definitely didn't go through screening. He was so friendly - and I so exhausted - I couldn't even get angry, mad or worried. I just sat there quietly, gave him my contact details and listened to him saying "we're going to find it, hon" over and over again.

At least they let me use the phone so I could call the couchsurfer I'm staying with tonight. Thanks to Evan I am now no longer smelling like a pig *lol* How amazing a shower feels after such a long journey... Luckily I had a clean set of underwear in my hand luggage and some toothpaste left from the plane.

But now I have to change my original plan... That was to go out, explore the city, take tons of pictures, buy a bunch of postcards to send home, maybe meet with other couchsurfers. But first of all I am way to exhausted to do anything and second I am now sitting here impatiently waiting for a phone call that tells me my luggage is arriving soon. I am soooo happy I have my laptop with me...

Goodbye, Herbie

on July 09, 2010

It's always weird to be just a passenger in the front seat of your own car while someone else is driving it. However, it is even weirder if someone else is driving your car with you in the front seat knowing it no longer is your car.

Yes, it is true. I finally said goodbye to Herbie today. After two prospective buyers cancelled on me last minute the third one saved my bank account *lol* I had one last ride with Herbie, then had to take the golden boxing gloves off (ironically a farewell present after I left my last job) and turn in the keys. I know it's only a car - but it was my first and Herbie served me well. I will miss him...

There are so many goodbyes to say these days. Some people wonder why I do this - as if I was never to come back or going on a lifelong journey. Well, I think in some way I am. I know that many of the people I'm saying godbye to these days I will probably never see again. Not because I or they don't want to. But it's just the way life goes. People come, people go. You can't stay in touch with everybody.

Yet there always are some that you feel it extremely hard to say your farewells to.

Also, saying goodbye makes things final. I am leaving this country in four days. And even though I am very much looking forward to this next stage of life, being a thoughtful person, I do wonder these days whether I should have done this or that differently.

What about you? Looking back upon your life - is there anything you would have done differently if you had a chance to?

The Book Of Questions

on July 02, 2010

As a journalist it has been my job for years to ask questions. Boring ones, stupid ones, intimate ones, delicate ones. Mostly to strangers, but since curiosity is my second name I sometimes also prompt friends or relatives with questions they might not want to hear.

Now that I'm about to leave for New Zealand to start a new adventure a friend of mine got me a farewell present - "THE BOOK OF QUESTIONS". Here is what the back says:

Ask yourself! Ask your friends. Ask your parents. Ask someone you hardly know. THE BOOK OF QUESTIONS gives you permission to ask those things that are too bold, too embarassing, or just too difficult to ask by yourself. You will find questions of integrity; of sex; of what you would do for money; even things too personal to talk about out loud. Whether you use it as a tool for self-discovery or as a provocative way to stimulate conversation, this book constantly challenges attitudes, morals, beliefs - and it challenges you.

Sounds like the perfect gift for me! The author is Gregory Strock, a biophysicist, best-selling author, biotech entrepreneur and more. He's written many different "Books of Question" - one for kids, a special one on love and sex, ... he's a "New York Times" bestseller author.

Anyway... the book I got contains 217 "main" questions plus another 200 extra ones. So there would be a different question every single day for more than a year. I had a look at the first one today which is:

For a person you loved deeply, would you be willing to move to a distant country knowing there would be little chance of seeing your friends or family again?

Kind of funny this being the first question thinking that I'm leaving my home, my family and my friends in a little more than a week not knowing exactly when I will see them again. So what would I answer to this one?

I think the answer would be a yes. I don't think there is a whole lot I wouldn't do for love. Humans are not meant to be alone and once you have found your "soulmate" why let him/her go? Of course there is always a risk. What if it doesn't work out? Well - then you always have the option of going back home. Or maybe you'll find someone else?

You will definitely find new friends - and just because you leave your old ones doesn't mean you'll never talk to them or see them again. Nowadays it's not too hard to stay in touch - you have email, phone, Skype, Facebook and many other ways of communication. Not to forget the traditional letter. And even though flight tickets to the other end of the world can be very pricy - if you really want to see someone again there shouldn't be a problem of saving some money and maybe after a few years have that big reunion.

So I would definitely answer this question with a yes. How about you? I'd like to know your thoughts and feelings on this...