The New Place

So I’ve got the entrance code, two keys for the apartment door, plus another one for the mailbox, plus a little laser thingy to open the gate to the parking lot out back. Yay ! Chris & Natasha came into town with me yesterday (Saturday) to eyeball the place and take some measurements. The bed *will* fit in the little bedroom, and still allow clearance for both the bedroom door *and* the closet doors to open. Whole *inches* to spare. Which means the larger bedroom can be used for the computers and bureau and maybe the big leather chair. Now I just need to arrange movers. Want a tour ?:

Here’s the building again — the tall yellow one (our unit is in the back of the building. The domed structure in the foreground, incidentally, used to be a public loo known by the locals as the ‘Taj Mahal’. It houses a bar now) — and a shot of the entry way. Visitors push the apt number and we can see them on a little view screen in the apartment and either tell them to go away or buzz them in.

I didn’t get any shots of the hallways inside the building, or the elevator or anything, sorry ! But here’s the view down the hall when you open the apt door. Immediately to the left inside (not pictured) is the closet/cupboard where the washer & dryer are. The dryer is hung on the wall upside down above the washer. Next on the left is the little bedroom. It doesn’t have any windows except the little vertical bit of glass there onto the hallway. That’s the phone to talk to people who’ve just buzzed from downstairs.

Past the little bedroom, the hallway opens out into the combined living/dining/kitchen area. You can see Chris & Natasha are standing out on the little balcony. The doors to the larger bedroom and the bathroom are to the left there. The second shot is looking back from the balcony doors toward the kitchen area. Chris tells me that “Smeg” is a high-end brand of kitchen appliances, which makes me titter. Next shots are the bathroom, which isn’t big enough for a tub, only a shower, and the larger bedroom, which has its own door onto the little balcony.

Finally, here’s the view (of Mt. Victoria) from the back balcony. (You can just see a teeny weeny little triangle of harbor at the far left. The place faces south and maybe a bit eastish, which means it gets some light in the morning, but that’s pretty much it. Unlike some of the other places I looked at, though, there’s a lot of airspace behind this one, so I don’t think it will be all dark and damp, the way the places in the narrow valleys are. We shall see.

Anyway, for reference, the living area (not including the kitchen) is roughly 10’x13′. The larger bedroom is 12′ x 9’8″, and the smaller one is 9’x7’8″. The bits of furniture in a couple of the photos are two nightstands and a large bureau that the owner left for us to use. If I’d thought about it more, I’d have told him to go ahead and take them out, but I was still unsure at that point which pieces of our furniture I thought I was going to be able to get to and move. There is ventilation, but no actual heat or AC. If I want it warmer, I get myself an electric heater, and if I want it cooler, I open the windows. (As far as I can tell, this is standard — I have yet to see any residential building that has central air/heat, or hot water radiators or anything like that, although I’ve seen new houses advertised with central heat/air.)

It “comes with Sky”, which I think is the four UHF channels (there’s an antenna jack in the wall), and if I want to pay for Sky digital (which has Discover Channel, and Nickelodeon and Rugby and stuff), there’s a separate jack for that already. I’m still pretty fuzzy on exactly what’s available here in what formats — for instance, I think there’s something else that is called ‘cable’ — but it’s all largely moot until I get a TV anyway.

In other news, the All Blacks beat France last night, though France gave them quite a run in the second half. Our guys fumbled the ball a really amazing number of times, and the French were dropping like flies with injuries. The All Blacks captain (whom the ref kept calling “Captain Black” — hee !) got sin binned for taking a swing at one of the French players — tsk ! I had got stuck working remotely (remote access is definitely a double-edged sword), and one of my co-workers who lives just over in Pinehaven came over to help — we took a break to watch the game, though.

Now: I must go through boxes and look for all the stuff I will need when I’m not living off the largesse of Chris & Natasha – things like towels and sheets and cooking utensils… Back into the mountain of boxes go I.

random bits of news

So the cats have arrived safely in Auckland, and seem to be relatively trauma free. Yay !

I have a signed tenancy agreement. I’m to pick up the keys tomorrow, and I can take possession Saturday. W00t! I need to figure out if the bed will fit in the little bedroom or if it’ll have to go in the big one (I’d rather it go in the little one, and use the nice big bedroom for something else, you know ?). As I type this, I’m waiting on hold to have the electricity set up (hopefully, I’ll never need customer service after this…). Then I’ll need to find a phone company/plan.

It’s cold out tonight. I wonder if Chris is doing his Lord of the Rings gig indoors or out. This is his third, now, and Natasha and I are forced to cook for ourselves — good thing we have plenty of imported Annie’s Mac & Cheese !

There are now five callers ahead of me…

Oh, and New Zealand legalized prostitution last night !

Flying Kitties

Well, I dropped off four passengers at Logan International Airport this morning. Chris Page, who was visitng for the weekend, got off at terminal D at 6 AM, and then I began the quest for the cargo terminal. The cats had to be checked in by 6:35 in time for their 8:35 flight. Who knew there were North and South cargo terminals? Well, I do now! Thankfully a helpful State Trooper suggested that United was in the South Terminal, and I found it with little difficulty. So now the cats are on their way to LA. Their flight should leave in about an hour.

Now I have four days to organize my stuff, mail some packages to NZ, throw out the trash, sell the remaining appliances, take the rest to Goodwill/the Salvation Army, and then close on the house on Friday. Busy week! I will be emailing out a list of all the for-sale stuff that remains later today, anything not taken by Friday goes off to donation-land.

The fun never stops around here!


Oh, man, the All Blacks just *creamed* Wales 55 to 3. Yeowtch. Much better game this week, though, apart from the steamrollering-the-poor-Welsh-bunnies aspect of it. It actually was kinda shaky at the start, and Wales gave them a tough time of it, but then the All Blacks really got their game on and there were some sweet moves.

The Australian ref they had last week actually made the news for the tremendous number of penalties he called (33 in all), so they replaced him this week with a more laid-back guy who seemed much more interested in keeping the game going (the announcers were all like, “Ah, finally we’re getting to see some *rugby*!). This guy was a hoot, and if he wasn’t reffing rugby games, I think he’d be coaching little league or maybe teaching Sunday school. “Move back, six; eight, stop dropping your head. Now, make some space please, Wales; I’m not going to ask you again.” There was a light rain, and the players were skidding all over the field, and the new kid they put in to replace the guy who injured his hamstring last week acquitted himself very well. So many of the players got to score, it looked almost like they were taking turns there at the end. “Ok, who hasn’t scored a try yet ? Not you, Rokocoko; you’ve had two already. You — Meeuws, you give it a go…”

Next week: France

A Hunting We Will Go

So. Apartment hunting. Let me just say right off that I am enjoying very much living with Chris and Natasha, and I am not looking for a place of my own because they are pitching me out, or I’m tired of them, or their lovely house or anything like that. I’m looking for a place because I really enjoyed Doing the Urban Thang in Philadelphia, and I love Wellington, and want to get to know it better before we get our Place in the Country, which I will also love. Plus, getting up at 5 in the morning sucks Monkey Pox.

So having missed a couple of promising-sounding places last week due to sleeping in like a lazy slob (the To Let listings are in the Wednesday and Saturday editions of the Dominion Post), I resolved this weekend (flu or no flu — fortunately for me, I am mostly in the no-flu end of things by now) to Get An Early Start. Because, you know, early birds and worms and stuff.

Little did I realize that an Early Start would mean hauling my cookies out of bed at 4:20AM, because Chris would let me have the car if I hauled *his* cookies out to Miramar for his Big Day (first of many, with any luck) as an extra doing pick-up shooting for Return of the King. While I am recovering from the lastest of many fits of irrational jealousy, feel free to pop over to *his* blog for the (alas) NDA-constrained account of it.

On the way back up the Hutt for another hour-and-a-half of sleep, I picked up a paper. Around 8, armed with Heather’s “aim for 1/3 your income or lower” advice and my pretty specific set of criteria (parking, white-ware — meaning, fridge, washing machine, etc. — walk to work, and cats), I started making calls, setting up appointments, and then finally driving around to see places. As it happens, I said “Yes, please” to the very first place I called and saw, but then I went to look at a bunch of other places anyway, just to confirm for myself that I’d done the right thing (I *did* look at some places last week, so I didn’t just leap in all uneducated and stuff, still, I was in town, it was a nice day, and I was largely plague-free for the first time in a week, so I felt some wandering around was in order).

Since I see I’ve been sparing you the usual deluge of photos in recent days, here are some of the places I looked at (Thanks, BTW, to Lynne and Chris for fixing it so it doesn’t put you back at the top of the page when you click on one of the pics !):

The last little brick house wasn’t one of the places I looked at — it was across the street from the tall apt building — I just wanted to include it to show that in between all of these more-or-less affordable blocks of flats are often some really sweet little houses. That tall apartment building, BTW, had a sign in the lobby that cautioned you to keep your windows closed during the high winds, as they’d already had someone get their glass sucked out.

This one below was too expensive for me, and off a not especially attractive alley, as you can see, but I wanted to include it to show some of the colors Kiwis are liable to paint their interiors. The downstairs (with more of those gorgeous polished wood floors) was a more subdued creamy yellow; the other, larger bedroom was a green not unlike our old living room.

Finally, I’d come away from our vacation here with the mental image of Napier as the big Art Deco town (most of it was flattened by an earthquake in time to be rebuilt all Deco, then it fell into an economic slump long enough to ensure all the lovely Deco buildings weren’t torn down once Deco was out of style), but Wellington has quite a lot of it around as well.

The tall yellow building to the left of that first shot is the building the apartment I’m hoping to get (we sign papers Wednesday — cross your fingers) is in. The second pic is of Embassy Theater, which they are renovating in order to hold the World Premier of RotK there (Chris tells me they have good jazz upstairs). The Strawberry Fare is a cafe a little further up the same street; and the Oasis is a club of some sort on one of the streets off Courtenay Place, about a block away. Scrummy Deco goodness. I’ll blather more about my apartment when I’m sure I’ve got it. I think a verbal agreement may be binding here, but I was burned by a broken verbal when we were moving up to Boston, so I’m not counting any un-popped weasels. If you’ve got spare housing juju, fling it my way (and Judith’s, too).

Oh, and I promised I’d get a picture of the Hutt River. Hard to believe that you’re looking at one of the most densely settled parts of NZ, eh ?

And Happy Solstice ! It’s midwinter here, it’s in the 50s, and the roses are still blooming. Whee !

Adventures in Health Care

Well, not that adventurous, really. So having been out of work sick an *entire week* (wish I could say I enjoyed it. Or even really remembered that much of it), my boss quite reasonably instructed me to pop into a health center and get a note. Yikes ! How do I do that ?! Socialized medicine ! Aiiiee ! Plus, although I’m supposed to get some kind of health plan through work, I haven’t been visited by the rep yet, and therefore don’t have any of those details. Boss suggested I ask C&N where they go, and just go there. So I did, and I did.

Turns out there’s a little health clinic right down in Silverstream village, so I phoned up. They got me an appointment the very next morning (which is, today, Friday), so I schlepped my mostly-recovering self down the hill and had a brief appointment with a pretty young doctor with a soft Irish accent who confirmed for me that yes, I seemed to have some sort of viral thing going, there was a lot of that going around lately, and it’ll last about a full week. Goody. Take some panadol (or paracetomol, or one of those p-names that they call ibuprofin over here) every so often, drink lots of fluids, bed rest, yadda yadda. While I was there, I asked if she could refill the prescription for my BC pills. She couldn’t, for religious reasons (Irish Catholic, I suppose, and I notice she is herself pregnant. Interesting. If I see her again, maybe I’ll ask her if she feels any sort of pressure or prejudice for making the professional decision to uphold her religious convictions. It occurs to me that I don’t know what pressures someone in her position might encounter in the States), but she’d get one of the other doctors to do it. She gave me my note, and that was that. I’m supposed to call back tomorrow (or maybe Monday — I didn’t think to ask if they *have* Saturday hours; maybe they do) to see if they’ve found a NZ equivalent for my scrip.

The visit cost me NZ$43. One of the observations I have about NZ’s brand of socialized medicine is that they haven’t gotten onto the “preventative care” bandwagon. The expensive office visits discourage well-visits and encourage you not to go to the doctor unless you really need to. On the other hand, from what I’ve been able to gather, my prescription should be somewhere between NZ$3 and NZ$17 for three month’s worth — *well* below what my co-pay was in the States.

So anyway, Mom, and anyone else with the nagging thought that I might have SARS (or a brain tumor), I’ve been to see a doctor. And I *am* feeling rather better, if still pretty tired.

Drain the Tank!

So, the final house-sale-prep is ongoing. Yesterday the oil company came and drained the tank. Last Monday I had cancelled the oil service, as there was just enough oil left to get me through the remaining weeks- and the paperwork crossed and they filled the tank the next day. So yesterday a tiny little pump chugged for 2 hours, sucking 150 gallons back out of the tank. At least I did not have to pay for it.

I then went over and had the red cross drain my tank a bit. I made my first gallon at that donation center. Woo! I will need to find a center in NZ that wants to suck my blood. It is plentiful, and yet rare.

Today is the final vet appointment. I will be sad to lose Dr Bradley, as he is a great vet (personally and professionally), and it will be a challenge to find someone who can match him. But with Slow’s various strange medical issues, we will have a good bellwether to see how the vets in NZ react.

If all goes well, and all the test results arrive one time, I will be sticking the three cats on a plane next Monday morning. Boy, will they hate that! After an overnight in LA they head down to Auckland for a 30 day quarantine, then a short hop down to Wellington where they live with Tam for a month before I get down there. It will be interesting to see how they react to the experience.

If all goes well I become homeless in about 10 days. I will make postings here to let people know where they can find me, as every few days I will be shifting houses. (Time in friends house = n-1 days, where n is the number of days a person can stand me before killing me with an ice pick.) This should be very exciting.


Sick sucks. This cold I picked up seems to have mutated into some kind of wretched Kiwi version of the flu, and my immune system is having a hell of a time beating it back.


Stomping is legal

So I have watched my first rugby game. Better — I have watched my first All Blacks game (the All Blacks being the New Zealand team, made up of the cream of the players from the various NZ regional teams. Kiwis have the sort of legendary reverence for the All Blacks that Americans haven’t been able to muster for their sports teams since… well, for a long time, anyway).

So rugby. It’s a little like football (American football, that is) — the general idea is for your team to grab the ball and run it down into the other team’s goal area, while the other team is trying to beat the crap out of your team to prevent it, and vice versa. Rugby has a touchdown, called a “try”, and a field goal, which is called a “penalty” if you get to kick it when the other team has broken the rules, and a “conversion” if you get to kick it because you’ve just scored a try. As in football, scoring a try is more prestigious (and worth more points) than getting points by kicking.

Rugby is different from football in a lot of ways, though. Forward passing is illegal, for instance — you can only pass *back* (forward and back being relative to the direction you ultimately want to ball to go, of course). Similarly, if the ball is bouncing around on the ground, you can ony pick it up from “behind” it, or you’re off-sides. That’s the other big difference, and the one that I personally like best: play doesn’t stop unless the ref calls a penalty (which he will always call too often against your side, and not often enough against the other side), or the ball goes out of bounds. If it’s fumbled, then somebody just picks it up and runs with it. If the guy with it gets tackled, he contrives to pass it to one of his mates and they keep going. There are rules to help with this: if you get tackled, you’re not *allowed* to just lie there clutching the ball; you *have* to pass it out, or your side gets penalized. If you tackle someone, you’re not allowed to just flop across them and pin them to the ground; you have to get your feet under you, so the guy you’re squashing can pass the ball out. This looks really funny from the spectator’s POV, to see this big pile of thrashing bodies and the ball come miraculously spooting out from underneath. Apparently, if the guy at the bottom of the pile *is* hanging onto the ball and not releasing it like he should, it’s perfectly legal to stomp on him with your cleats until he does. This leaves me wondering: if the head honchos at work are holding on to the license for my system monitoring software, and not releasing it, can I put on some cleats and go and stomp on them ?

Please ?

Anyway, I enjoyed the heck out of the game, which we watched at my boss’ house in Seatoun (you walk out of his front door, across the street, and down the beach into the surf), despite the fact that the All Blacks lost, it was apparently a terrible game, and I seem to have come out of it with a nasty throat cold. Almost all the scoring was penalties, and the English guy kept making his kicks, while our guy missed most of his, plus the Australian ref “needed to be smacked” (according to my boss’ boss, a generally mild fellow otherwise). Plus, it’s always a hoot to see your co-workers in their cups. One of them kept trying to convince a couple of the women to bet on the game, with the loser swimming naked in the (very cold) bay across the street (they didn’t take the bet, but he swam anyway). I had to keep asking people what was going on, and toward the end of the second half (the only commercials were at half-time, BTW), it was practically a chorus:

*ref whistle*

“Wait, wait, what does that mean ?”

“It means the ref needs to be smacked !”

“If you run the ball forward, but you don’t have control, like you’re kinda fumbling it, it doesn’t count.”


“…and if they lose, I’ll swim naked !”

*ref whistle*

“*Now* what’s he complaining about ?”

“I didn’t catch that one.”

“Smack ‘im !”

“Swim naked !”

*fweet !*

… and so on.

Chris and Natasha were invited to the party, but didn’t make it, ironically, because Chris had bought a $2 raffle ticket from some school kids and won tickets to see the game live. (Tickets which had been sold out for weeks, of course. This is sort of comparable to a bemused English immigrant winning All-Stars tickets.)

Yesterday, I did some half-hearted apartment hunting in the morning, but was sick enough by the afternoon that I just gave up and read. Today, I’m doing much the same — napping and reading. Bleah.

Chapter One

Once upon a time there was a woman. Let’s call her…. Aramat. She worked as an… engineer in a… power plant. Yes, a power plant. Then she moved to a different city, and found herself a job with a different power plant.

There were new people at the new power plant, which was much bigger than the old one. Ta– Aramat was excited to start the new job. She took the train to work and presented herself to her new employers.

“Here is the power plant !” they said, pointing to a jumble of buildings of uncertain architectural pedigree crisscrossed by heavy power lines, one of which may have been a power plant.

Aramat nodded sagely, and asked sage, relevant questions.

“It runs on coal !” they told her.

Aramat raised an eyebrow (see, this couldn’t be a thinly veiled story about *me*, because I’m in no way clever enough to raise only one eyebrow at a time), thinking this was not a terribly modern sort of power plant, for all it was large and apparently prosperous. But she was new on the job, so she simply nodded and smiled. “I see.”

“There is the coal mine,” they said brightly, pointing to a dark hole in the ground from which issued noxious fumes and the bitter laughter of coal miners, accompanied by faint, repetitive scraping sounds. “The power plant is new, and I suppose it’s not very efficient, because it needs a lot of coal. Lugar’s already down there — he can show you where the seam is.”

“What ?” Aramat began, perplexed. “I don’t under–“

“I think there’s an extra spoon down there.”

“A what ?”

“To dig the coal with. But it belongs to another miner who’s gone off to a course in Australia to learn all about the different kinds of coal, so you’ll have to give it back in a couple weeks. Oh, and we’ve put in a order to get you a torch so you’ll have a bit of light to dig by — diggings easier with a bit of light, isn’t it ? — but the order’s gone Upstairs, so it’ll be a few months, or maybe forever –” they wave a hand airly “– before it comes in.”

Aramat simply smiled, stupidly, too jetlagged and bemused to do much more. “A… spoon ?”

“In you go. Have fun !”

And they pushed her into the hole.