Sunday, February 22, 2009

From the Warm Place...

Hi, yes there are still signs of life down here in New Zealand, where the weather is warm, the surf is high and rush hour means there is a queue of five cars at the traffic lights instead of one. Seriously.

At the moment I'm camped out in Tauranga where practically all of my family has settled. Mum turned 70 on Saturday, so my sister and I treated her out to a fab dinner at the Mount Bistro at Mount Maunganui. For those non-Kiwis out there, the Mount is very close to Tauranga, just a short drive over the bridge, and hanging out on the beach here is as much a part of life as visitng the supermarket. Quite frankly, not a bad place to be! It's not hard to see what the family has decided to cluster themselves in the sunny Bay of Plenty region. It's a great walk around the base of this little hill, which would no doubt qualify as a mountain in the Netherlands. We would all highly recommend the bistro which is snuggled up to the base of the hill, serving up fabulously fresh seafood caught locally.
Other than eating this trip has been a chance to catch up with my sick grandmother who turned 94 the other day, and my sisters, one of whom also had a birthday! So many candles, so little puff left to blow them out...
I'll be back in touch in a few days.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

On the Eve of Departure

Today Carl went into hospital and had new grommets (buisjes) fitted in his ears. It's the third time he's had them and he takes the whole experience in his stride. The operation is over in a few minutes, he doesn't react badly to the light anaesthetic, and generally he sees it as a great opportunity to milk his mother for sympathy, sweets, and a trip to the toy store for being such as good boy. Not a bad deal in exchange for going into a hospital filled with friendly staff and having "a little sleep" which would allow him to hear better.
Tonight at dinner he and Niels were arguing about something they had just seen on t.v.
Niels was insisting Lucky Luke had said one thing, Carl insisted he's said something else, both adament they'd heard it correctly. This went back and forwards a few times until Carl seemed to lose interest. He returned his attention to his dinner, scooped up some rice with his spoon then quietly murmured in a voice I only just picked up "Maybe you need to go to the hospital for a little sleep too".

Score 1:0 to Carl for witty humour! Pretty good considering he hasn't even turned five yet.

Niels' comments are altogether more brutal. What he lacks in subtlety he makes up for in delivery. This afternoon he was singing away at the top of his voice, so I started dancing along, thinking he'd be pleased to have me join in the fun. Instead he stopped dead mid-word, rolled his eyes and said "You crazy old lady".

Gee thanks.

Tomorrow I'm off the New Zealand for a couple of weeks, leaving the boys in the capable hands of their grandparents and, by the end of the week, their father. For the first time in years I'll be able to watch the end ofa movie on the plane, eat my meal without ending up wearing half of the kids, and not have my hand luggage monopolised by changes of little undies and t-shirts, new toys designed to distract small minds from the monotony of flight and favourite stuffed toys that don't fit in the kids bags. With a day's stopover in Singapore to catch up with the girls (we're talking coffee, lunch, pedicure, shopping and dinner all meticulously planned beforehand!) then 11 hours of uninterruped sleep (hopefully) on the leg to Auckland, I'm thinking, to hell with the holiday, I'll just be happy to have the journey! Wasn't it Hemmingway who said the point of travel was not the destination but the journey itself? That's how it's starting to feel to me.

I'll be back in touch from sunny kiwi-land. Eventually.


Sunday, February 08, 2009

First hints of a thaw...

Just three more days and I will be heading off to New Zealand to see the family. My Mum, my grandmother, and one of my sisters will all be having a birthday while I'm there, so that's more than enough good reasons to make the long journey. Plus I'll get to spend a day in Singapore on the way through, where I've arranged to meet friends for coffee, lunch, and pedicures! Just what every weary traveller needs.

Ironically, they are in the middle of a heat wave. My sister told me this morning that temperatures reached 34 C today, which is exceptionally hot for that part of New Zealand (Tauranga). Thank goodness I'm not going to Australia where they are suffering temps in the 40s. I have to admit I'm looking forward to the warmth though. Winter has lasted long enough and I am so sick of being buried in clothes whenever I venture outside. The kids seem to have adapted well enough and it's certainly no where near as cold as it was, but still...

However it pays to look on the bright side of course, and it's heartening to see the first signs of spring starting to emerge. It was warm enough to risk a short recon-trip to the garden yesterday and I tried to tame some of the wilderness which has taken grip of the front garden. Clearing the long dead tufts of grass I discovered some crocus flowers poking up above the soil - signs that things are picking up after all. Hope blooms...

Monday, February 02, 2009

On Not Being The Only One

When we moved to Singapore it struck me that I immediately felt very relaxed about being there. I hadn't expected to feel like I fitted in there so quickly, but from the start I never felt like I didn't belong. Eventually it dawned on me that it came from being just one of a huge group of ex-pats who live in the country. There are something like half a million ex-pats on the island, plus the number of tourists passing through there each year much at least equal that, so no-one batted an eyelid at pale-skinned me prowling around the city, whether it was in a hindu temple, a Chinese fish market, or a Malay hawkers stall. This is a huge contrast to the little Dutch town which we call home, where ironically I look like all the natives, yet stick out like the proverbial dogs balls being one of the few foreigners here.
As long as I don't open my mouth it's ok, of course (how often does a woman admit that?). However as soon as I start speaking my own particular brand of Dutch I've grown accustomed to seeing that spark of curiosity in the other person's eyes, and inevitably the questions starts. I was braced for that when we returned again last month, that feeling of not belonging. So it was a huge surprise during the first week of school when I walked into school and lots of the other mum's whom I hadn't seen for 2.5 years gave me a smile and said "hi, we heard you were back. How was Singapore?"
Suddenly the place feels a lot more like home afterall.