3.) Washing Machines!

31 Aug

Our new life in New Zealand – 8. November 1999

Last weekend we met a German couple from Berlin, who have lived in New Zealand for 15 years. Karl (like my lovely husband Bernie) is a plumber, and his wife Marianne, runs a small souvenir shop in Warkworth, a small town 20 km north of Orewa .

Plumbers are special types of people, and right from the beginning Bernie and Karl got along very well. As Karl calls himself “Euro-Plumber”, therefore he seems to be the self-announced specialist for European toilets, pipe blockages and water cisterns in this area. Karl and Marianne gave us lots of tips and they tried very hard to make us understand the cultural differences, even though there are certain things, even they don’t understand after 15 years.

Now, after three weeks, and especially after talking from plumber to plumber, my lovely husband has had enough of pioneer life and adventure, of housekeeping, collecting firewood at the beach and entertaining his four month old baby son. He can’t wait to write job applications and to go back to work in his shiny car. His plan is to work and spy for a while, to see how everything is done in our new home country and where to buy the materials, so that he can then start his own company as soon as possible. After all he is a German Masterplumber and specialized in beautiful bathroom design and renovation and he had his own company in Germany for many years…..

Every morning, when I take Henry to the beach in his pram, I need around 20 minutes to cross the main road. If that road, (the only one that goes up north) wasn’t there, it would take me only two minutes from the little cottage to the beach. I think I’ll buy a dinosaur on my next shopping trip. At my side of the road the Dino could stretch his long neck right across and I could let Henry in his pram slide down onto the other side, without being run over by a car.

In the evenings the dinosaur could sleep in the garage next to Bernie’s hand-polished and shiny station wagon. Maybe the garage needs a little extension or we have to lift up the roof a few meters (to the astonishment of my neighbour behind the curtain). During the day the Dino could stay in the garden and for dinner I would feed it seaweed. Since the storm last night there is enough seaweed at the beach to feed a Tyrannosaurus Rex for two weeks. I love the scent of seaweed and it always reminds me of smelly fishermen and the novel “Salt on our skin” by Benoite Groult.

Last night I laid little Henry on the bed to remove his pants and “install” a new nappy. Somehow he liked it and when I held up both his legs with my left hand and removed the yellow, gluey stuff from his backside (with a tissue of course!) with the right hand, he laughed like mad and obviously had a lot of fun.

Only when he started smacking and gobbling, I realised there was something else going on. Because of the way I hold his little legs, he was able to exactly point his water gun to his mouth and sprayed the yellow stuff right into it. Then he seemed to be surprised where that lovely juice comes from. Anyway, some people believe urine has healing power and I like to think that way, too. In the Eighties I read that some people drink it for breakfast and well… my son has it for dinner… Mahlzeit! (means enjoy your meal!)

In New Zealand the moon rises from the other side and the old German school rule with A and Z can’t be used anymore. Even the water in the bath tub leaves the drain in the opposite direction to what we were used to. Not that it is a problem, it is just curious. Must be the gravity…

Washing machine Part II:

According to Euro-plumber’s wife Marianne, the white pill on my dark washing comes from the lint filter, which I have to remove and clean from time to time. Straight away before my next washing I ran and crawled around the machine, determined to find that thing – in vain. Tomorrow I will rip that monster machine out of the wardrobe, take it apart if necessary and examine the parts until I find it. I get the impression that New Zealanders love huge in-built wardrobes, where you can hide anything from washing machines, driers, car spare parts, gumboots, used fishing clothes, suitcases from the Fifties, smoked ham and inflatable swimming pools.

Washing machine part III:

Even more interesting is that block of Polystyrene that I found in the wardrobe behind the washing machine, and it might even solve my washing problem number 3. Each time the machine started spinning, the upper lid flew open and the machine stopped automatically. It didn’t make any sense to me, but as an immigrant I am willing to learn and I am open to all sorts of technical inventions, even if I can’t understand them. Thanks to Euro-Plumber’s wife Marianne (pioneer women have to stick together in these rough times) I now know, that I must put this especially formed polystyrene block onto the fabric softener pipe before closing the lid and starting the actual washing process. This amazing technique avoids the washing spinning up-wards to open the lid in a ghostly manner by itself. Otherwise the amazing security sensor of the machine kicks in, stops the spinning and my clothes are still soaked in water. If they had gone a bit further with this invention (or if a woman would have created it), the washing could spin itself out, straight away into the neighbouring clothes dryer, and which would be switched on automatically. By the time it had finished, the washing would fly into a remote controlled basket, which then transports dry washing to the ironing board… But, as I learned the hard way, most household appliances are not thought through properly to make your life as a housewife easier (or they are just created by men).

That makes it worse. The more appliances you have, the more you have to work and organize for them to fulfil their purpose. Do we housewives have more time now than our mothers had without all these gadgets? What do I understand about foreign and traditional washing methods? As a sensor technology spoilt and anti-creasing accustomed career woman, from a well organized Industrial European country, I am not used to interpret machines that have a life of their own. I am used to push a button and it works…

And this Polystyrene block! I thought it was part of the original packaging (25 years ago), which the thoughtful New Zealand homeowner couldn’t bare to throw away.

To be continued…

Beate Minderjahn

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