Oh baby!

Damn!

I believe I’ve previously touted the amazing health system in New Zealand, focusing in particular on maternity and after-birth care. I’ve experienced the most amazing support from the time I realised at 8 weeks that perhaps I should actually go to a doctor and get checked out since I seemed to be ‘still pregnant’ (usually we’d make it to 7 weeks tops before miscarrying).

Australians are uniquely blessed to be considered ‘honorary kiwis’ if they decide to move to NZ and plan on staying more than two years. This includes cheap doctor visits; free antenatal care from a registered midwife up until six weeks after baby is born; free ongoing support from Plunket after baby arrives and being able to get prescription medication for only $5 a pop.

Now, before I go on, perhaps I should do a shout-out to my older kids …

Hey guys!  Mummy is about to tell all about something that could be construed as embarrassing so feel free to look away! Look away now!

I’m going to talk about contraception … and in particular, the prescription I picked up from the chemist yesterday. You may have noticed the photo. That’s the ACTUAL BOX … or should I say “boxes” – all 12 of them.

Yep, 144 stolen moments of Confident Pleasure right there. And I say ‘stolen’ because that’s what happens when you have a small child that may wake up at any time and demand attention.

To be honest, when the midwife first brought up the topic of contraception post-baby, I scoffed. Firstly, the baby in question was only two weeks old and I was currently undergoing a stark reminder of the consequences of sex. Secondly, did she not realise how much of a miracle this little bundle was? The idea that we (and by that I mean ME) could actually conceive another child seemed ludicrous. And yet … lightning has been known to strike twice.

I don’t like chemical contraception (and all versions of it certainly doesn’t like me) so to alleviate their concern and show that I was moderately responsible, I opted for the good ol’ Love Glove.

Yep, I got a prescription from the midwife for 144 Frangers. One gross of Frenchies. French letters. Dingers. Rubbers. Sheaths. Raincoats. (Oh yes, I am loving googling all the slang terms for condoms but in the interests of my mum have kept it to the clean ones!).  And I got them all for the bargain price of $5.

Since life has settled down somewhat and the baby is now nine weeks and showing signs of sleeping longer through the night, sex may be a topic of conversation again. Even though I’m not sure we’ll even use them, I decided that perhaps I should get that prescription filled yesterday, if only to see what a years’ worth of condoms looks like.

I don’t know who was more flustered – the chemist handing over the ‘package’ or me trying to stuff the damn thing in the tray underneath the pram.

When I got them home, I took a photo and sent it to NIH at work with the caption “DAMN!”.  He was suitably impressed.

The instructions on the label say “USE when required”. I’ve checked the Use By date and fortunately we have until September 2021.

Thank god for that.

Holy cleaned out sinuses, Batman!

First waterfallRemember how I was saying I have a bit of a competitive streak?  Sometimes … ok, most of the time … that streak gets me into all sorts of trouble. My first whitewater rafting experience is definitely one of those times.

HOLY SHIZZLE!

HOLY COMPLETE IMMERSION BATMAN!

You see, NIH and I celebrate our birthdays only a few days’ (and just over a decade) apart so we try to take time off and do something amazing for ‘birthday week’. In the past six years, we’ve celebrated our birthdays in Canada and Europe; patted a tiger at Dreamworld and walked the Brisbane Story Bridge (albeit belatedly). There’s only one birthday week where we didn’t do anything spectacular – pretty good record, I’d say.

So this year, we were lucky enough to already be in New Zealand so tick box for ‘away from home’. And NIH often talked about the couple of occasions he’d done whitewater rafting so I knew he was keen to try it out again here in the land that is king for such adventures.

Now, I had never previously experienced such pleasures, being a mother with three children who depended on me to not drown on some escapade such as rocketing down the face of a waterfall with a life jacket, helmet and obvious death wish. In short, I was a newbie and therefore terrified of trying a Level 5 course with a 7 metre drop – the largest drop in New Zealand apparently.

A summary of the conversation NIH and I had one afternoon when contemplating such an adventure went something like this:

Me: There’s a great one here that is a Level 3 – includes picnic lunch and lovely sites. Doesn’t that sound great? Honey?

NIH: Meh. That’s ok. I’ll wait until someone comes to visit and wants to go on the Level 5 with me.

Now, my brain heard that last sentence and translated it to “When someone who isn’t a COMPLETE AND UTTER PUSSY wants to go on the Level 5 with me”.

Challenge accepted.  So basically what ensued over the next two days was me talking HIM into doing it. Crazy, right?

Still ALIVE

STILL ALIVE!

Meet my close acquaintances, everybody – Fear and Losing Control. They have governed my decision making since a wee small kiddie and until a few years ago, they made me a timid-on-the-outside-fair-boiling-mad-on-the-inside passive-aggressive crazy person.

Then my life went to hell and I discovered that despite all the shit, I actually could survive – thrive, in fact.

So when the unwitting gauntlet was laid down by NIH, I picked that bastard up. And even though my sinuses had a fair cleaning out during our rafting experience, it was an absolutely magical adventure. I totally loved it and will definitely do it again … when it gets warmer.

Looks like Im having fun

THE INSTRUCTOR SAID “STAND UP AND SMILE”

If you’re ever near Rotorua, I totally recommend Rotorua Rafting. The guides were fabulous and really knew the river. They were also great at making complete novices like me feel relatively safe! The river itself was just beautiful – no words can really describe it.

I’m so glad I took the plunge.

Yep, pun intended.

Hobbiton!

Hobbiton signBeing the supreme geeks we are, one of the great bonuses to moving to Hamilton was the prospect of being only 40 mins away from Hobbiton, the amazing little piece of New Zealand farmland out in the middle of nowhere transformed (twice!) into a magical film set for two epic trilogies.

Ok, one epic trilogy and one fair-to-middling trilogy that gave you something to do every Boxing Day for three years in a row. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which one is which …

The set is beautiful, surrounded by lush green hills about 12 ks from Matamata, literally in the middle of nowhere. But for me, it is the stories told as part of the two hour tour that are really intriguing.

For instance, every hobbit hole is built to a predetermined scale so that they could achieve what they in the movie business call ‘forced perspective’. The hobbit hole below was a smaller scaled model, with the top lintel only reaching to your shoulders. An adult standing in front would look like a giant – or a normal human in a hobbit world.

Hobbiton blue door

The larger hobbit holes were for filming the hobbits in front of so they appeared child-like.  Sadly, any interior shots were done in a studio so there was no climbing in to see what Bilbo’s house at Bag End really looked like inside. But there was no denying the exterior views were pretty special.

Hobbiton yellowThe New Zealand Army actually had a lot to do with the creation of the original set. Peter Jackson was still an up-and-comer and the budget was tight. Legend has it he approached the NZ government for assistance and they volunteered the Army to lend a hand, building a road into the site (still used today) and digging out sections of the hills to install the facades. It was arguably the worst-kept secret ever that filming of  LOTR was happening in the area, especially when the army dudes knocked off for the week, went into the local Matamata pub, got drunk and spilled the beans. Fortunately, Kiwis are very similar to Aussies with their blase attitude and didn’t get in the way.

Hobbiton fake treeBy far the best story of all revolves around the large oak tree atop Bag End. Do the leaves look a bit funny to you? They should – they’re fake. They have done a marvelous job of making it look so realistic but it was a long and difficult process for some poor sap (yes, pun definitely intended!). If you’ve read LOTR and The Hobbit you know the tree is an important part of Bag End and whilst they could have done CGI, Peter Jackson was quite adamant about using realism as much as possible.

They first scoured the area for a suitable oak tree: found one near Matamata; carefully carved it into a giant jigsaw of branches; numbered them; trucked them all back to the set and reassembled the tree. Of course, trees aren’t much for moving so … the leaves fell off.

Ah. Ok.

So they arranged for something like 30,000 silken oak leaves from Taiwan to be delivered and some poor sucker had to manually attach them with wire to the tree. Dear sweet lord.

But then … it took a while to get around to actually filming on the exterior set and thanks to the New Zealand weather, the leaves had all faded. What to do? Spraypaint. Every. Single. One. I bet someone was muttering swear words under their breath while they did it.

But wait … there’s more.

After LOTR filming wrapped up, they took away a fair percentage of the set, including the oak tree. In 2011, when they decided to film The Hobbit, they had to go through the whole process again! But this time, the set would stay.

The owners of the property signed a contract that gave them permission to keep the set intact after filming and use it to conduct tours. The first tour was apparently six people taken in a jeep – nowadays they have 55 seater buses going three-four times a day, every day apart from Christmas.

If you ever get a chance, take a tour through Hobbiton. It’s not just the beauty of the set but stories of the sheer determination and ingenuity of people passionate about creating something amazing that will inspire you.

Can't even see I photo shopped the photo bomber out

Can’t even see I photo shopped the photo bomber out

Moving out

Wellington Airport

Wellington Airport

So. Here we are. Setting ourselves up for a life in New Zealand. How long for? Not too sure – could be as little as three years or for the ‘term of our natural lives’. The future is too hard to guess at so let’s just go with “for now” and move on.

I’m fairly experienced with the practice of moving. From the time I left home at 18, I’ve lived just about all over Australia. Born in Dubbo, I’ve lived in (in chronological order) Ballina, Canberra, Brisbane, Sydney, Darwin, Ballina, Bunbury, Carnarvon (WA town, not Central Queensland Gorge), Emerald, Yeppoon, Emerald. And now Hamilton, New Zealand.

But wait – there’s more! I’ve also moved houses within some of those towns, bringing the total number of times I’ve packed up and cleaned a house a grand total of 14.

NIH and I had discussed the possibility of moving overseas to work and experience the adventure of another culture but it was along the same lines as “What would we do if we won Lotto?”. It’s something you speculate about but deep down never imagine actually happening.

Funny how things come about though. It started with yet another explosively hot summer in Central Queensland – a terribly common occurrence and the older I get, the less patience I have dealing with it. I was looking to get away from the heat and NIH’s free spirit was feeling a little hemmed in, even though he loves his job and all his family are in the area.

I started looking at ways to get us out of town i.e. a ‘regular’ job back in libraries in another location. Of course, library jobs are like hen’s teeth so pickings were slim and I’ve been out of the game for a few years. Then one day I get a text from NIH – a job was being advertised in New Zealand. Basically, the same job he was already doing. Should he go for it? Hell, yes! It ticked both boxes – it was cooler and not where we were.

Kia Ora!

Sunrise over Hamilton, NZ

Sunrise over Hamilton, NZ

It’s been just over two months since we left Central Queensland, Australia and landed in Hamilton, New Zealand.

It hasn’t all been action-packed – there’s been days when I’ve wanted to poke my own eyes out with boredom – but looking back, I realise we’ve achieved a lot in a short amount of time.  Like:

  • buy a car
  • find a unit to rent
  • get all the financial/identity s**t you need to be a functioning part of society
  • scope out your surroundings
  • play the tourist (why else would you move away from friends and family, if not to experience a big adventure?)
  • look for jobs
  • wait for  your furniture to arrive
  • and wait …
  • and wait …

Most of this stuff I’ve done on my own. My NIH is quite comfortable on his own, which is kinda strange for a Gemini but then he’s right on the cusp with Taurus so I just blame that. On the other hand, I am a true Gemini in the sense that I love people so being on my own has been a test for me – but one I rather think I’m getting the hang of.

I started this blog to journalise my step away from the safety of ‘regular’ work in libraries – something I’ve done for years – into the freelance world of graphic design. If someone had told me a year ago I’d actually be living in New Zealand in the not-too-distant future, I would have laughed and said “Well, at least it would be cooler than here!” and promptly dismissed it. Yet – here we are. Setting ourselves up for a life in another country.

I thought about changing the title of my blog but realised that it still fit the subject matter. How much more creative can you get in midlife than immersing yourself in a new culture?

I’ve been keeping a journal using the good ol’ pen and paper, although I haven’t been as consistent with my entries as I used to be. Now that I have my computer back (and getting that sorted is a story in itself!), it’s onward and upward with keeping track of our ‘Adventures in Middle Earth’.

Yes. I went there.