Tag Archives: New Zealand

A beautiful winter day in Auckland II

4 Aug

From Victoria Park Market we made our way to the impressive 328m high Sky Tower. Just when we walked past a very brave visitor tried  the famous ‘Sky Jump‘.   This is New Zealand’s highest jump and only Base Jump by wire. You’ll plummet 192 metres off the Sky Tower at 85 km an hour!

Sky Tower Auckland

Sky Tower Auckland

Definitely not my next hobby. Just looking at it, turned my stomach round. But the good thing is, it doesn’t  take long to arrive at the bottom.

After a little rest on a bench in Aotea Square (where kids love to feed the birds) I took some pictures of historic Town Hall with modern skyscrapers in the back.  Last time I was in Town Hall I saw Australian pianist David Helfgott (his life and music inspired the movie ‘Shine’) playing Rachmaninov.

I love the contrast between old and new architecture in the City of Sails.  Slowly we made our way down busy Queen Street. It has been a while since I was here. It is not really the shopping mile of the locals.

Town Hall, Auckland

Town Hall, Auckland


But I couldn’t resist to pay a visit to my favourite Tea Shop of all times: T2, Queen Street. This shop really has flair and ambiente, which unfortunately often is lacking from NZ retailers (sorry, but it’s true).  I love this shop. You can smell the scent of tea leaves from little open metal boxes, you can try freshly brewed teas, the lights and the music make you want to relax and the super friendly staff is amazing and very helpful. I have never seen so many beautiful tea pots, cups and accessories in one place. Hey, and the black and orange colour scheme of the brand is really eye-catching. Of course all of that comes with a price tag! Several times I have gifted T2 sample boxes with a gift voucher to friends and family. And the staff takes pride in wrapping it beautifully for you.

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T2 - Auckland, Queen Street

T2 – Auckland, Queen Street

What a beautiful day in the city!

Greetings from New Zealand.  With Love,



2010- Midlife Crisis, Pocahontas and life at the End of the World!

26 Dec


Personal Note: “Finally I have time to reflect on the year 2010.  As English ist not my first language (as you know), I apologize beforehand for any spelling mistakes, for choosing the wrong words or for building complicated sentences. It is not my attention to upset anybody! Maybe you know what I mean. It is complicated, but I try my best to use “understandable English”. So please enjoy my personal highlights of the year.     Beate

In July my world-traveling writer friend Angelika just sent me an interesting letter about hair removal, Brazilian Waxing and other methods used by American women to look good at places where normally nobody sees it.

I laughed my head off and I am very glad, that I am too old, too lazy and too poor for these things. And because of the weather and my apple shaped body type I am not wearing a bikini anymore.  I can’t afford Liposuction and because I am allergic to pain, I will not have Botox (wasn’t that used as neurotoxin during the Vietnam War?) injections or body lifting.  If you have a total body lift, they cut one circle around the waste, pull the skin up (like a pantyhose), cut off the overlapping skin and then stitch it all back together. From that remaining piece of skin, they can design new lips, new ears, or breast enlargements for you. Not for me! From time to time I pluck a hair from my chin, if the weather is nice I shave the hair under my arms and the ones on my legs will only be removed in summer when I wear the comfortable Capri pants with elastics around the waist – and that’s it!


As a good girl -not like Brittney Spears- I always wear underpants, mostly big enough to catch a rabbit, if necessary – you’ll never know! Because of my age I am not wearing miniskirts anymore, for comfort reasons I am not wearing g-strings and it is not my style anymore to wear see-through lace, silk, chiffon or handmade crochet dresses. All of those don’t go well with my love handles and the little “sausage rolls” on my back according to “Triny and Susanna” and “What not to wear”. That reminds me of Blackforrest ham . Everytime, I am really ready to become a Vegetarian, I get a terrible craving for Blackforrest ham and German bread (the one that feels like a brick). Is that normal or is it part of my midlife crises or is it psychotic preparation for hard times to come?


I am also glad, that the Soccer World Cup is over and we can go back to sleep at night. During that time it wasn’t my mortgage that kept me up at night, but the screams coming from the gun- secured Middle Earth area in my living room, where my lovely husband was fighting his personal war against international players and referees. I tried to buy that psychic Octopus on e-bay. It would have made a nice Christmas present for Bernie, so that he knows by Friday night, if his team is winning and if it is worth to get up that early on a Saturday morning.  And if the Octopus loses his magic, we can have him with soup for dinner. Or we could use him as a soap holder or automatic massage machine with a hand-made brush at each arm in the shower.  


My 49. Birthday passed by – very quietly. This year I haven’t invited anybody and I had no stress preapring a big party. Instead I took the opportunity to wash my car and clean up the garage. And the day before my birthday I made a “Kaese-Sahne-Torte” for myself (just like my Mum used to make it 20 years ago). I enjoyed it for breakfast, lunch and dinner and added a few pounds to my hips.


When I went to the bank to change my credit card, I was reminded to use the points that I have collected over the years and I didn’t know anything about. When I found out that I you can use the points in an electronic store, I (with my caring nature) choose a new flatscreen tv to make my lovely husband happy and to have a reason to open up the Middle Earth zone in my living room for other family members.  First creature to notice the new TV was big black fat cat Mimi. As usual she jumped on top of it, just to find out (still flying), that there was actually no space anymore for her 8.5 kg womanly body to land on.  


Since we haven’t had any vacation in the past years, I had booked one before last Christmas (2009) to surprise my lovely husband and my even lovelier son under the Christmas tree. Unfortunately and because of Christmas and school holidays related stress, I forgot all about it and I recovered the internet booking voucher during a clean-up session of my office drawers. Luckily the booking was for the weekend 26/27. March 2010 and therefore still valid when I found it a few days earlier. For nearly 10 years Henry tried to convince his boring parents to go camping and at the time of booking, I thought a weekend in an original Indian Tipi-tent would be the perfect alternative solution.   Alright- booked long ago – then forgotten – then re-discovered, I made the very quick decision: We are going! (even though the financial situation didn’t scream: holidays!). And we went. A booking is a booking! Raglan, a tiny little village on the west coast, 50km from Hamilton just takes three hours by car.  


One woman – one decision! Henry was very excited, Bernie was more concerned about the missed Soccer game on Saturday and if his soccer team will have any chance to win without him, and I was stressed with packing. Finally we loaded everything in my old car and off we went, heading down South.


Straight after passing the City of Auckland we had a “Smoko” break for Bernie in a little village, where I will definitely not stop on our way back home and hopefully never have a car break down in that area. But we went on, enjoyed the wonderful scenery, green hills, millions of sheep, inhaled toxic exhausts from the trucks in front of us and finally we reached the hills and bushes, where our Indian Tipi was  hidden. 


Unfortunately during internet booking they forgot to mention, that you could only reach the Tipi by feet and that is was around 1 km away from the reception and the parking place, where you had to leave your car. But real Indians are tough and therefore we started our walk in rather un-suitable shoes. We climbed up the hills, down the hills, over rocks, stumbled over roots, went through the mud and all the way trying to pull or push our  suitcases on wheels, boxes with food, clothing for any weather condition, Henry’s toy collection, his bicycle, my books and of course my art supplies. If we wouldn’t have passed a wooden sign, I thought we were lost in the bush by then. But no – we were still on track and with a final push and the last breath, we reached a flat green area on a hill, where our Tipi was hidden.   


Positively surprised about the freshly made beds inside and the not working Solar lamp, what was the complete interior of the tent, I fell on the bed and tried to breathe for half an hour. Henry was very happy and Bernie lighted his first peace pipe.


Everything looked very romantic. There were some other Tipis, but there was enough distance to have your privacy.  In the middle of it all we found a rustic, open bush kitchen.  And the organic toilet tract a la Friedensreich Hundertwasser was where all the flies circled. That reminded me of the wooden toilet hut we had in our garden in 1965, when my parents lived with three little children, no money and for historical reasons hated by the neighbours in a totally run-down house in a tiny little village in Belgium. And we had to clean our bums with carefully ripped newspaper squares. One of those cold winter evenings on the wooden plank toilet in Belgium I made the decision to do something with my life, so that I would never ever have to freeze my backside on such a “toilet”. And here we are: 45 years later, and I am paying $200 for the experience!

But even the shower with ice cold water can be romantic, if you keep an open mind and if you only stay from Friday till Sunday.

Bernie spent the rest of the day to secure world peace by smoking lots of peace pipes, I was a bit worried, how to survive, once it starts raining and Henry collected stones, sticks and built a BMX race course for his bike, which started at the Eco-toilets and went all the way down to our Tipi entrance. Like real Indians!


In the evening and during cooking and eating under the stars we met some other Indians, which came from all sorts of countries and who were used to not have a shower every day and travel the world just with a backpack and for practical reasons wear dreadlocks on their heads. That makes you think again if you really need all these civilization goods you spent your money on over the years. I am sure, that not one of the fellow Indians had sleepless nights, thinking how to pay their mortgage.  Our fellow Indians also didn’t have to pay for their Tipis and the Eco toilet, because they were volunteers and helped building rustic huts from empty wine bottles, straw and mud, so that these city Indians (like us) have the opportunity to test living a “wild life”.


Maybe we should sell everything and free like a bird travel the world with backpacks and glued hair.


Everybody was really nice. We had lots of fresh air and some wine (to support the wine bottle and mud building industry) and life under the stars made us very tired (especially the older Indians like Bernie and me) and my lovely husband didn’t muck around, he lied down on his bed and a minute later he was in dreamland. 


But to have at least one guardian keeping an eye on the tribe and even though I was extremely, tired, too I tried to talk Henry out of going on a nightly hunt with hand-made spears and on his bicycle.  Henry is a tough boy and the fresh air energizes him even more, so that his first glimpse of tiredness came not before midnight.


Then everything went quick. Two Indians were snoring and I was lying on my bed in the darkness listening to every noise in the bush until I realized, that the Tipi had an 8cm wide gap around the entire floor and I started wondering what kind of wild animal can squeeze through this gap.



New Zealand is famous for its wildlife and the possums (a mixture between cat and gen-manipulated Guinea Pig with a funny nose, brown round button eyes and claws like a Koala bear). That was the official description of my adventurous husband, who is the only one in the family, who came eye to eye with one of these monsters, when we lived in a farmhouse in Dairy Flat. Bernie and the little monster looked at each other in the basement of the house one night and then both ran off screaming in opposite directions. Anyway – at night possums come alive and try to find something to eat. How could I dare to just for one second close my eyes and fall asleep, thinking that a wild, hungry beast runs around our tent and tries to eat my lovely husband and son for dinner?


Hah!  Pocahontas was on a mission. No wild beast would ever get one leg in our Indian Tipi alive. In my mind, I saw us having BBQ Possum leg for breakfast. Then my “happy-end” got harshly interrupted by nasty Mosquitos, giant Wetas and other creepers and crawlers.  In the meantime the snoring went on and on from the large and the small Indian bed and I felt like a sole survivor in the Amazon. As more you think about the danger (if it is pitch dark and the only solar light is on strike), as more your imagination gets carried away with the things, that could actually happen.


What can I say? At the first glimpse of light entered the open top of our Tipi (so that you can see the stars while waiting for predators), I was totally exhausted, but also relieved to have saved the survival of my tribe. And while having an ice cold morning shower in the windy 100% natural wood construction and feeling very constipated, I came to the conclusion again, that I am rather a city girl than an alternative back- to-nature-Indian tribe woman. I prefer my comfortable porcelain toilet than doing my business behind a men-eating bush under the sparkling night sky.


During the second night (and more constipated and heavy like a sack of potato) I couldn’t care less, if a wild Grizzly bear would have eaten my lovely husband and son. By then I was so exhausted and tired, that I just gave up saving my tribe. Even when I woke up the next morning to find a giant Weta crawling along my leg under the sheets, I didn’t mind. Just a short scream and that was it!


Unfortunately we didn’t make it to the Hot air balloon Festival in Hamilton, as my husband Winnitou isn’t so much into cultural happenings. And on top of it he declared the whole three days as a non-driving weekend for him. Because of chronic tiredness and declining eye sight I decided then, not to drive in the darkness either and that way I again ensured the survival of our Indian tribe and also saved some possums from sudden death on the road. 


I am sure, Henry will remember our Indian life-style in the bush forever and I was very happy to sit on my own un-ecological and not bio-degradable toilet, on which you just flush the water instead of throwing small tree chips in there. You really forget sometimes how lucky you are to have hot water, whenever you want it. And my lovely Winnitou-husband found the weekend very relaxing!

Beate (Pocahontas)

Testosterone powered Holidays

13 Sep


In January 2010 we had a French boy living with us. My son always enjoys the international students we host in our family. In a way Henry has a lot of brothers and sisters living all over the world. Once they lived with us for a while, they like to stay in touch and I have a big guest book to keep track.

The French boy, Quentin (13) and Henry (now 11) loved everything that looks dangerous to me and they kept me busy with keeping them busy. To entertain the boys, we visited every skate park and concrete ramp in a circle of 50km and I had to watch all bicycle and skateboard stunts ever invented. After the first day l decided to carry a first aid kit, 20m of plaster and a set of tools in my handbag to be prepared for any accident, vehicle break-down or other emergency. 

I have never seen so much blood in my life. But now I am used to it and I can even eat my sandwich while rinsing another open wound. Humans get used to everything, it seems… The last three holiday weeks I needed more Antiseptic fluid for wound preparation than olive oil for cooking. 

One day I even had to go fishing! The boys made fishing rods and off we went to the beach. To be honest, I really hoped, they didn’t catch anything, because my kind of “personal religion” and my sensitive artist nature plus the admiration for Ghandi and Mother Theresa don’t allow me to hurt or kill any animals and people. I am sure, if I had to kill what I eat, I would definitely be a Vegetarian! I just can’t hit a fish until he dies and then even pull out its inner organs. Just thinking of it kills my appétit for the next two days. But I have no problem to walk into “Fish World” and buy the most beautiful fish filet, killed by somebody else. Maybe because at the end of the day I am just a European city-girl, that normally hunts for bargains, not for living animals.

Thank God fishing turns out to be not as easy as it looks. After 25 lost hooks, 1 kg of wasted bait and 5000m of terribly tangled fishing line we had noodles for dinner.

I really hope, “pig hunting” is not the next big thing…

6.) More Rain and new Stationary!

9 Sep

Our new life in New Zealand – 13. November 1999

My production of souvenirs and Christmas decoration is working well. I just can’t stop these creative phases. If I am not cleaning, cooking, washing with the Washing monster, filling  up Henry’s watery, toothless mouth with food, change his horrible smelling nappies or doing other senseless and underpaid housewife tasks, I am cutting, gluing, stitching, sawing, hammering, and painting. In different shops including the supermarket, I bought everything I need for my creative eruption. I bought a glue gun, picture frames, scissors, hammer, chisel, steamroller, construction crane and a chain saw. I haven’t drunk the brush cleaning water yet, as I used to during enthusiastic paint attacks around midnight, when I was so excited, that I cleaned the brushes in my red wine glass and drank the cleaning water. Even those bacteria can’t kill me!   

Other than that, my days as a housewife are a bit frustrating. It rains and rains and rains like mad and maybe I will have to look up a recipe for seaweed soup. I cook every day, and while I put on weight, my lovely husband is losing weight and little Henry does not understand that you can actually swallow the apple puree.  Each day the washing machine comes up with other mean ideas to trick me and the new curling tongs for $29.95 burned my hair. I am still not able to send e-mails, because I don’t have a proper internet connection, a working modem, matching software or whatever is needed to solve my computer problem. Desperate Housewife!

As soon as my two lovely sleepy heads  will get up I’ll have a new problem.  Now even my coffee machine works against me! What’s the matter with these appliances? Or is it me?  When I made coffee, the paper filter folded down inside, clogged the nozzle, the filter filled up and the water including the coffee powder crawled over the rim. Then the mess ran along the kitchen bench, down the cupboard door onto the kitchen floor and into the gap between fridge and pantry, where I will never be able to get it out again. I think I’ll go in the water… (I just have to open the terrace door and a huge wave will pick me up).

But there is light at the horizon! Soon there will be the Santa Parade in Orewa.  As I was told, people will dress up in costumes and line the streets waiting for Santa Claus to pass in his huge, golden and nicely decorated sledge. He and his helping angels will throw lollies for the kids. Somehow it reminds me very much of Carnival in Cologne, when the prince passes by and throws lollies for the children. Like in Cologne, here they have music groups, dance groups and so on. But at least here it is summer (if it stops raining one day!).  I never understood why in Germany the Carnival  is in February (still winter). They should really change it to a warmer month (like in Brazil). That would solve the problem that 85% of working people in Germany are on sick leave for minimum three days after Carnival. Too much hot drinking and dancing in tiny costumes on a cold winter day….   

 Orewa’s Santa Parade will also be joined by the Harley Davidson club (look more like the Hells Angels), the Vintage Car club (including Marilyn Monroe’s pink Cadillac), an 83-year old Elvis impersonator, a Maori Kapa-Haka group, all local Real Estate agents (who throw business cards instead of lollies) and many children’s sports groups including Judo, Wrestling, Rugby, Soccer, Surfing, Cheerleading and Tae Kwon Do.  The knitting ladies from the retirement village, members of the jam cooking society and the stunt and skateboard survival group from the hospital are also included. Everybody is welcome!    

For my lovely husband, it is time to find a job. He has enough of holiday feeling (he is not that type of holiday person anyway) and I am missing my 174 boxes of stuff, which are still sailing the seven seas. ..

Henry now invents his own language and he starts talking about „Nene“ and „Nengneng“. I guess, these are his new imaginary friends, and therefore we composed a song in German (not translatable!). Every time we change his nappies, we sing our new song, and hairless and toothless Henry laughs out loud. 

To be able to file Bernie’s job applications properly, I decided to buy a punch. Unfortunately I didn’t know the word punch at that time, nor did I know the word for filing or file or binder. The lady in the stationary shop was already hoovering the carpet when I rushed in just before closing time. I took a file from the file shelf and tried to show her, what I want. I need something to make …… (?) into the paper to …… (?) it in this thing.  These are really frustrating moments, when you realize, how important language and communication really is. The lady looked at me like I just fled a mental health institution and then she pretended to have no clue what I am looking for.  I think she was very close to sucking me into her vacuum cleaner. “I want to put little…..(?) into the paper to put it in the …..(?)” and then I showed her the binder again. That can’t be so difficult to understand. Finally that shopping drama had a Happy End and if you know, that the word for the tool is “punch” it is kind of easy!

At the supermarket I bought an odor spray to fight nasty smells in clothes, furniture and carpets. In our bedroom (in the basement of Noah’s Ark) it smelled permanently like cheese and we suspected each other to be the originator. Finally and to save my marriage, we suspected little Henry created this smell. But now, my new Chemical weapon solved the problem and we can put the gas masks back into the huge wardrobe.  The extreme odor of generations must have lingered in the carpets, and you could easily think that there was a dead body hiding under the house. Too much for my bacteria-phobia tortured plumber Bernie.  One more problem solved! I am very proud, it smells like freshly cut lavender everywhere and I hope the cheese has surrendered forever.

Bernie loves the fire place and every night he burns the drift wood from the beach. It is nice and warm in our little cottage (although it is 20 Grad C outside) and it keeps my lovely husband, who is also a certified gas fitter, busy. It is really time for him to find a proper job.

 9am, time to check on my two sailors, whom I haven’t seen since late last night. I feel a bit like a captain left by his crew. But it is so nice and quite here and the coffee is ready! 

To be continued…

(c) Beate Minderjahn

5.) Floods and Vacuum Cleaners

2 Sep

Our new life in New Zealand – 12. November 1999

At the moment we are not swimming in the sea, but at home. It can’t take long for our little cottage to dance on the waves and actually leave Hatfields Beach. Then me, my lovely husband and baby Henry might start our trip to the open sea, accompanied by the striped cushions, the rusty ironing board and the brand spanking new frying pan, and maybe one day we’ll arrive at the port of HamburgBy then I think, Henry will have grown up and can help to paddle in the right direction. I hope, it will not come to this. What a waste of frying pans… 

Two days ago my Dad rang from Germany and left a message on my answering machine from hell. Because Henry was just having a cry-attack, I wasn’t able to answer. My Dad wouldn’t have understood a word. So I rang him back an hour and 20 baby calming-down-methods later to hear the latest news.  Very proudly my Dad presented me with the information, that he can ring me a lot cheaper now.  I straight away suspected it to be my brother’s idea. He is very clever in all money matters and I wouldn’t be surprised if he found a company who actually pays him for calling New Zealand.   And it wouldn’t surprise me if he cleans the toilet paper in the washing machine or re-uses the coffee powder as Nescafe to save money (sorry, little brother – but you know me!). It doesn’t matter! I am happy about any news from good old Germany, even if  it costs 24 Pfennig or 1.80 DM!


The vacuum cleaner in the house is a nightmare. You can’t really call it vacuum, because it spits out more dust, than the amount it is supposed to suck in. Even Henry sucks in more dust mites, when he crawls on the carpet, than this mean pre-war-model of Hoover.

Therefore my minister of finance, who is also my lovely husband with an advanced bacteria-phobia, and me decided to invest part of our fortune to buy a new model of vacuum cleaner. Then we finally would be able to remove these horrible bacteria, viruses, piles, dust mites, dog-cat-mouse hair and other pathogens (?) from sofas, armchairs, carpets, walls, bookshelves, rubbish bins, bedspreads and native wood decking on the terrace.  My plumber Bernie is also a very practical person and suggested that we go for an Industrial Dry-Wet-Cleaner, which he could also use for his work at a later stage. We could clean the Dinosaur in the garage or suck out the birds from their nest over the BBQ. We couldn’t be in the car quick enough! At Placemakers in Albany (our favourite shopping centre) we bought the Super-Monster Wet&Dry-Vacuum-Blower, the Mercedes of all Vacuums. Bernie could have tested it straight outside Placemaker’s door, because it was raining again like mad, and he could just withhold the temptation.  

That machine is just perfect! It sucks in the pattern of the armchair, the hair from your legs, the books from the shelf and since my first test I can’t find the striped cushions, the little rug from the terrace door and the curtains anymore…  From now on pets and babies are prohibited on the floor! It is too dangerous and they could just disappear in this huge garbage can on wheels. It was a real joy let it inhale everything out of anything. The only problem is you definitely need big ear-muffs, as it sounds like a Boing 707 at lift-off. In a way, it is like my devilish washing machine! I have to be very careful, not to come too close to the collection of ornaments, wall plates and paintings, as it would be very difficult for me to explain my Lady landlord in broken English, where her souvenirs and heirlooms of her great grandmother ended up.  This multi-talented super vacuum is simple amazing. It eats everything and the best is you can reverse the process and it spits everything back out and blows it evenly through the room. You never know – could come in handy one day, if you want to tease somebody with cat allergies or a Philatelist.

If our little cottage is leaking, we now are able to suck up the water and spit it back into the sea.

Next week we will become members of the Orewa library. It doesn’t cost anything and we can borrow interesting books about Plumbing, Christmas crafts, sex and seafaring.

For dinner I prepared mouth-watering chicken legs. They looked and smelled sooooo good, when they were crisped in olive oil. We couldn’t wait to have them on our plates, but when we finally sat at the table and I poked the chicken leg with my fork to try it, I must have hit the Aorta. Blood spurted into my face and in the moment I couldn’t find the first aid kit fast enough in the huge wardrobe.  First aid was necessary, but at least the leg didn’t scream, but it definitely deprived me of my appetite. As a punishment I let it bleed on its plate. And then my lovely husband refused to eat his two chicken legs and now they are all lying drowned in blood on the kitchen sink. Their last journey will end in the rubbish bin for the rats and mice to fight about. That’s life! Three is not a good number for chicken legs anyway. It’s somehow mean!

The rain goes on and on, Henry is riding on a seahorse, Bernie is looking for his yellow gumboots in the huge wardrobe and I keep the monster-vacuum handy, just in case. When will it ever stop raining?

To be continued…

(c) Beate Minderjahn

4.) Noah’s Ark!

1 Sep

Our new life in New Zealand – 10. November 1999

Our little cottage feels like an old barge dancing on the waves. Noah’s ark would be exactly what I need now. But it has to be water tight from the outside and the inside! It is still raining and raining and this little island seems to go down in a big flood. When we board the Ark I have to remember to take the Dinosaur from the garage, so that, at least, one important species survives (besides cockroaches, spiders, mosquitoes and the common house fly).  The water inside the house comes from little Henry though, who dribbles so much now that I decided to spend some money on proper goggles and snorkels. I really hope that his habit stops before his eighteenth birthday.  It gets even more dangerous when on top of it all, Henry sneezes and the gluey stuff spreads first through my face and then through the whole room like an explosion.  Not a healthy situation for my bacteria-phobia tortured plumber husband. Nothing here is safe of moisture and even the paper in my printer has curled already.   

Little Henry-baby just had his last bottle for today and now he cries again, because I want him to lie down. He hates it and prefers to watch TV sitting upright. I think this little sailor is sick of the rain, too. We haven’t been able to go to the beach to collect driftwood, nor have any other interesting discoveries. For a few days I tried to feed Henry solid baby food. He sits in his pram (we haven’t got a highchair yet) and I try to push a plastic spoon with baby apple puree into his mouth. He must have remembered the medicine I had to give him this way, weeks ago, for his stomach pain.  In a second he changed his little baby face into a grotesque mask, his eyes popped out a few centimeters and then straight away he pushed back the expensive puree with his gluey tongue. It is time for him to get some teeth to block the way back. Then he laughed like mad, while I desperately tried to recover that apple stuff from his chin, before it lands on his monster-washed and turbo-spun bodysuit. We need six to eight a day! Is it normal? As a first-time mum you have no idea what is normal! Anyway… while Henry works successfully against me, our goals seem to have opposite directions, but in teamwork we spread the apple puree round his little Buddha face and even into his nostrils.  Henry loves it, has a lot of fun and from time to time he sucks the puree deep down into his lungs. Mum and Dad are not amused! We try making smacking noises and improvised movements to make him understand where the puree has to go. Then he really starts to enjoy the entertainment and he squeaks like a little piglet. After all, a baby needs clever in-put for proper development.    

My lovely plumber husband spent the whole afternoon writing job applications and his CV, which of course turns out to be very difficult in a language which you can’t speak or understand properly. So he was determined to translate all his qualifications into nice and tidy English, while I hand-crafted tiny Christmas angels from the nut collection I bought at the supermarket. At least Henry was interested in the nuts and he was happy for me, when another golden angel was born and hung on the wall for drying next to the landlady’s golden plate from her grandmother. 

Bernie was writing and writing and nearly forgot his coffee and cigarette addiction with this challenging task. It looked to me like he was working on his memoirs. By dinner time he very proudly presented me with two pages for assessing. After dinner I and Henry started checking Bernie’s writing in the good old German manner (a bit too fussy, maybe!). We marked and corrected every single sentence. Unfortunately my lovely Masterplumber husband felt offended in his honour and in two minutes the discussion totally got out of hand.  Henry again enjoyed the entertainment and happily joined in for a while until he preferred to watch TV and let his parents go ahead by themselves.  Half an hour later Bernie and me sat peacefully at the computer and reviewed the text again. At that time the dictionary looked like it is 100 years old already and the first pages had started to come out. Finally we printed two pages out, which hopefully are good enough to let someone imagine that my lovely husband is looking for a plumbing job. I had no idea how difficult it was. Every time we had a good idea for a sentence in our own language, we couldn’t translate it, because we didn’t know the most important word. When we then tried a substitute, but couldn’t find that new word in the dictionary either.  And if we found a matching word, it had around 37 different meanings and not one of them made any sense to us. Hour by hour went by and the rain outside went on and on flooding our new home country…

After all, only success counts and I am sure, in 124 years we will laugh about it (with no hair and no teeth – exactly like Henry).

Finally Henry is sleeping happily and we are totally exhausted from another busy and exciting day. A few minutes of watching TV before calling it a day, and what’s on TV? A documentary on the sinking of the Titanic! (How suitable!). I can’t watch it! 

Did I just see a Hammerhead shark and a huge Snapper passing by my terrace door? I think, I’ll go to the amazing wardrobe and try to find the inflatable lifebelt and some rubber Duckies for Henry…. I am also not sure if the toilet flush in the basement still works with these high water levels outside. Hopefully no octopus will come up the pipe…  

Time for bed!

To be continued…

(c) Beate Minderjahn

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

2.) Housekeeping!

30 Aug

Our new life in New Zealand – 6.November 1999

Using the washing machine in New Zealand becomes a real adventure. You have to open the top lid of the machine, and first, throw the washing powder into the drum followed by the clothing. Next you pour fabric softener into a pipe in the middle. After closing the lid, you can choose between cold, warm and hot and low, medium and high water level. With a hell of a noise the machine starts and after half an hour everything is done! That is exactly how it seems.

My first washing in hot water turned all of Bernie’s sweatshirts pink (not his favorite colour!); my first washing in warm water covered all dark clothes with white pills (no, there was not a tissue in one of the pockets!). Today I’ll try the cold washing. If that doesn’t work, I can always go back to the Pioneer women method of washing the clothes in the river, hoping that no hammerhead shark bites into Bernies underpants and later lands in his professionally labeled German toolbox.

I can’t wait for my good old electronic washing machine to arrive in our sea freight container from Germany one day. I already gave her away for 50.-DM (yes, the good old Deutsch Mark!) and then at the last minute, when I realized I still have some space in the container, I kept it (and didn’t care that the buyer thought that I was a mean, disloyal, greedy beast – I don’t care, because I am far away…)

My sister has to listen to these comments now, as it was to her best friend that I sold the washing machine. I also took the couch back that I had offered to my sister so generously, thinking I had not enough space in the container. The washing machine and couch are obviously still sailing around Cape Horn in stormy waters.

That reminds me of an old German Pirate song, which my Dad used to play on his record player in the Seventies on a Sunday morning at 6am, while preparing fried potatoes and smoked Mackerel for breakfast.

At least I haven’t had any problems with the dishwasher, dryer and iron yet. Even the toaster, the coffee machine, the kitchen radio, toilet flush and the never seen before extremely noisy In-Sink-Erator that crushes bones, stones, shells and wood before sending it through the waste pipe, they all work perfectly fine.

In New Zealand Coke tastes like Coke, McDonalds tastes like McDonalds and yesterday for the first time I tried driving with the new “old” car on the left side of the road. (And that was an adventure, too!) I hit the pavement three times, bumped in one road sign and the neighbour’s cat (she is still alive, but in a wheelchair now), her tail is still attached to Bernie’s car bumper (just kidding!). My neighbour quickly collected her seven children and the rubbish bin and hid them in her garage. It felt good to drive again (something other than Henry’s pram), but I couldn’t get rid of the guilty feeling of driving on the “wrong” side of the street. I just don’t understand why Bernie and Henry refuse to drive with me…. What’s their problem?

Every morning I take little Henry and go to Hatfields Beach to collect fire wood for the fire place in our living room. Each night the waves bring more drift wood, shells and other interesting items, which I pile in the basket under Henry’s pram. Then I bring my treasures home under the approving eyes of the lady next door (behind the curtain). I have no idea, where my native neighbours get the fire wood from. Maybe I have to send Bernie into the forest one night to cut some trees…

This afternoon Henry and I went to Orewa (the tiny centre of our new home town) and in a small café we had a break. New Zealanders are really clever and inventive. You have no idea what they put on a sandwich. I wouldn’t be surprised to find dog, cat, mouse, jellyfish, Penguin, possum, old car tires, empty printer cartridges, used tape or cut grass on a sandwich one day. Today I saw spaghetti with cheese and baked beans on it. The girl in the café was very, very friendly, patient and helpful. But strangely enough the café closed at 3.30pm – very strange!

To be continued…

(c) Beate Minderjahn

1.) Seaside Living – finally!

30 Aug

Our new life in New Zealand – 4.November 1999

We are very happy to live in New Zealand now, after two years of paperwork, English tests, hundreds of translated documents and a long, long flight with three month old baby Henry in a bassinette. After two weeks it still seems like a dream. I feel a bit like an adventurer, stranded on a lonely island. Everything is new, we don’t understand a lot or it doesn’t make any sense to us (because we are foreigners, I guess). You just have to be open to different habits and ways of thinking. I thought my English was good, especially after succeeding the necessary IELTS Test, but now I have the feeling I don’t understand anything, not the news on TV and not the people either. They talk so fast and with a strong accent, that my brain is just not working fast and flexible enough. While I still think about the first three words, the speaker has finishing his third sentence. But we try our best and persevere and every day we learn new words and sayings. Yesterday I learned that power steer is not a raging bull, but part of a vehicle. I am optimistic and I think in 20 to 30 years I will definitely be able to have a proper conversation with a real person again.

Unfortunately I still can’t send e-mails to my friends in Germany, because we have a modem now, but still no software to use it. The software is on a CD, but the computer doesn’t have a CD drive and therefore we have to go on using the mysterious fax machine, which not only sends faxes, but works as a phone, answering machine, cash register, steam iron and electric tooth brush at the same time. If somebody sends me a fax, the voice on the answering machine asks them to wait until it has finished to clean two dentures, to iron 37 shirts and to finalize the GST report, before it can receive their fax! But the most annoying point is that I have no idea in which sequence this machine from hell works, and every 5 minutes it starts beeping like mad and I don’t know why and how to stop it.

Yesterday morning I took a deep breath and at 7.30 in the morning, I put on my brand new sneakers and ran to the beach, which is only 2 minutes away from the cottage we rented. It was wonderfully warm, lonely and quiet there. I got a lot of fresh air! But unfortunately I didn’t make it very far, because my condition suits more an old kitchen trolley than an enthusiastic pioneer woman on a mission to discover new continents. Here in New Zealand you find many wonderful and lonely beaches. It is very romantic. If only I were young, beautiful, rich, desired and freshly in love… My last walk to the beach with little Henry in his pram was not so romantic, because as soon as we reached the beach, he started screaming like mad. Luckily we were the only people at the beach. The moment we came back home, he laughed his head off. He must have learned that behavior from his dad, who also wants to go home as fast as he can, if anything doesn’t work for him or he feels like there is too much bacteria at one place!

Last night Henry invented lots of new noises, after which Bernie and me put together a one-hour-life show to keep the baby in a good mood. Henry had lots of fun, sticky water came running out of his mouth and he enjoyed spitting and laughing at us. And then finally I smelled that very strong smell and we had to change his nappy. Henry also likes TV and he seems to be the only one in the family who understands anything. He tries to talk to the people on the screen and at least he sees some faces other than Mum and Dad, as we still don’t know anybody in New Zealand.

Little Henry is constipated again and he produces small balls, you could easily use to play table tennis or in a slingshot to get sparrows off the tree. That reminds me of the birds nesting and raising young ones in our gutter. They look like sparrows to me (having no clue about wildlife and plants), they are big, black and have a yellow beak. (later I learned that these are Blackbirds, not sparrows) If Bernie is outside on the deck smoking a cigarette, the birds sit on the TV aerial to watch him and then they scream so loud, that you could hear it in Auckland City. Our terrace must be exactly in their starting and landing zone and the bird poo starts to pile up on the wooden deck. Maybe we have to wait until their young ones leave the nest, before we can sit on the peacefully on the deck, otherwise the droppings will land on our heads or on our BBQ sausages or the Blackbirds’ worms land on my plate.

Bernie is now proud owner of an old Nissan station wagon, and it took him the whole day in gleaming sunlight to clean the car. He cleaned from back to front, from top to bottom, inside and outside (there is nearly no white paint left…). He polished the rims and scrubbed the windows, so that it looks like the glass is missing. Well done! My neighbour had some fun behind the curtains, too. I am sure, she is wondering about the strange habits in our home country. Here in New Zealand a car seems only to be used as a tool to get from one place to another. I haven’t seen anybody else cleaning their cars yet. Maybe it is prohibited and we didn’t know, and maybe next time Bernie will land up in jail, or will be send back to Germany, or he will be sentenced to work in a quarry for the rest of his life…

Henry wants to sit on his own now, but unfortunately his back muscles are not strong enough yet and so he still falls down every time he tries. If I help him, he looks like a little Buddha observing his surroundings, (the world must look very different sitting upright) and he loves it. He smiles from ear to ear with no hair and no teeth. If we have dinner, he lies in his pram next to the table and shows off his wind problems. As soon as I change his nappy, he pees in it to mark his territory. I really seem to have a problem with these New Zealand nappies, as everything comes out at the back after a few minutes. Or maybe it is Henry’s personal sprinkler technique, which extensively increases the un-ecological and un-economical usage of these civilization materials. I remember and I start missing the good old German air, gas and water tight nappies from the supermarket.

To be continued…

 (c) Beate Minderjahn