Tag Archives: station wagon

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


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