Sunday, December 19, 2010

In defense of Saigon Zoo

We are having a very gentle introduction to Vietnam. 

Today is our fifth day.

On the first day we arrived at night time, and stayed up as late as we could then slept.  The jet lag has been very good.  Most people coming from New Zealand wake up at 3am, but we haven’t been doing that.  We’ve been sleeping a solid 8 hours each night, from 10pm to 6am.  The last couple of nights we managed to stay up a bit later and wake up a bit later, but we’re out of  bed by 7:30 each day.  I have been tired though, and when I wake up I have dark marks under my eyes and generally feel hung over even though I haven’t been drinking at all.  

Tip for anyone flying to Vietnam from NZ – don’t get a Vietnam airlines flight unless you have a lot of time in the changeover in Australia, or not much luggage.  We carefully weighed all our luggage to be sure we were under the 30kg limit that Vietnam airlines has, only to be pinged by Qantas for excess baggage at something like $70 a kilo because they have no agreement with Vietnam airlines, and the weight limit is actually an (unadvertised) 20 kg per passenger.  Very annoying.  Also, there was a very short time between when our Qantas flight arrived in Sydney and when our VA flight left, and our luggage didn’t make the connection.  So on our first day, we had no luggage except our carryon.  

So our second day was spent waiting for luggage to arrive, and swimming in the pool and playing with the kids.

Our third day, (in fresh clothes!) was spent in the city. 

Saigon gardens was once one of the finest botanical gardens in Asia, so the guidebooks say.  The French were interested in collecting rare species and developed these gardens close to the centre of the city. If you know what you’re looking for I’m sure you can spot lots of amazing botanical treats – but we didn’t have a clue.  We enjoyed the tall trees, and the bonsai forest, and the animal shaped topiaries.  I have heard a rumour that the gardens are going to be demolished to make way for a motorway, but I’m not sure if it’s true. 

The garden contains a zoo. So, the thing is:  this is not a Western Zoo.  We adjusted our expectations accordingly, and so we enjoyed our visit. I know that others have not had such a good time at the zoo because they conditions seem barbaric in contrast with the standard in Western countries. To be fair, the Vietnamese government seems to be treating this zoo as a conservation effort, and not as a circus.  I am sure they are doing the best they can with the resources they have.    

Some of the animals were very friendly indeed.

The cages are old and out of date.  It is not particularly clean (there are rats running around), though I have seen worse. With the exception of perhaps the orangutans, the larger cats and the large birds, the animals did not seem to be under any distress and overall the zoo was not smelly.  All the animals appear friendly.  Although there are signs in Vietnamese asking people not to feed the animals, all the animals seem to expect to be fed.  I wouldn’t feed them, but I think on my next visit I might take some toys for the otters.  Their enclosure is old-fashioned though not terrible, but they looked a bit bored. 

In the same grounds there is also a museum and a temple.  The museum is the Vietnam History Museum.  It features antiquities and art objects from pre-historic times until the early 20th century. There is a good textiles collection displaying beautiful handcrafted hilltribe clothing – showcasing the intricate embroidery that they are famous for.  Sadly this section of the museum is not airconditioned or protected from the light, so it is probably very difficult for them to preserve these artifacts as carefully as I am sure they would like to.  

This vase was interesting to me.  Doesn't the pattern around the top remind you the patterns you find on tapa cloth from the pacific islands?
Here's a close-up:
Actually from Vietnam c. 18th century

The rear wing of the museum contains the oldest objects and this section of the building has been modernized.  Somebody has done an excellent job of curating this collection- objects are well labeled, and carefully and artistically displayed – in logical order.  The rooms are airconditioned and smaller objects are protected behind glass and well lit – though thankfully there is no natural light. This section contains lots of religious artifacts from the pre-buddhist era – including an impressive collection of phalluses.  We couldn’t take pictures inside the museum so I can’t show off the row of cocks, sadly!

Opposite the museum is a temple. I had expected to walk in and see a collection of Buddha’s at the back, but there wasn’t even one – which shows the difference between Vietnamese Buddhism and Thai Buddhism.  The lovely attendant there told us we could take one or two pictures, but they both came out blurry and we didn’t want to abuse the camera privilege!  The steps leading up to the entrance of the temple are guarded by a pair of brilliantly painted dragons.  The photo doesn’t do them justice. 

There are lots and lots of butterflies in Vietnam – even here in the middle of city. I have seen at least 20 different varieties float past either singly or in pairs.  I can’t imagine what a paradise this place must have seemed like in the days before the big smoggy city and Agent Orange must have taken care of a great chunk of the natural biodiversity in the region. 

Oh, and before I forget - last night I saw a bird catch a lizard's tail. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

We're here!

Dreadful flight! 

But it is now the next day and we are well-rested - staying with Martin's boss's family.

We are planning a nice quiet day for today - a short walk and a swim and writing to family.  And hopefully our luggage will arrive this afternoon...

Will post again later with photos - I promise to take some!

Monday, December 13, 2010

One and a half more sleeps

We have two more days left in Godzone. 
It is now very early on Monday morning.  I am awake but no one else is.

The first item on today's agenda is literally herding cats.  They all need to be rounded up and boxed and driven to the cattery.  We are planning on a breakfast time ambush. There are four of us and three of them.  So I figure that it will be one grownup per pussy cat and maybe we can get Oliver to hold the doors of the cages open. William is really good at non-passive resistance when it comes to cat-cages.  He does that thing where three legs are rigidly gripping the perimeter of the opening and the fourth is aiming directly for your eyeball, claws extended.

The afternoon will be dedicated to banking, printing tickets and the Final Pack.

Tomorrow is the drive up to Auckland, dumping the dog on the way and sending everybody off on their flights.  Ours is at 8:30 am on Wednesday. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

O Brother where are thou?

In a book I read just the other day (Notwithstanding, Louis de Bernieres) a man is swindled into buying a black dog.  In the scam, he is told that he is buying a golden labrador, and that they are all black when they're born and they turn yellow when they get older.

Today, Jess attempted a different version of that swindle.  She's a golden lab, but when she came home from the river she was black. Labradors really do love to roll in disgusting stuff.  She's in coventry now.  She won't be allowed back in the house until all the black stuff has dried up and fallen off and she no longer stinks like a corpse.

Blondes have more fun.

Jess put us all in a bit of panic earlier this week - though it's not as if it was her fault.  This is a busy time for our family.  Not only are Martin and I off for our adventures, but my mother is going off for an adventure of her own.  Only a few hours before we leave for Vietnam, Mummy is leaving for 3 weeks to visit Nana in Abu Dhabi.  Of course, this means that all the animals need to find holiday accommodation, too.

Mother rang the kennel to confirm the online booking she had made for Jess, and they said: "What now?  NOPE.   Never heard of Jess.  Sorry.  No room at the inn."


For about 3 hours we were all very worried.  And then we found an alternative kennel. And then Mummy parted with A LOT of money.

The moral of this story, children, is:

Next year Brother Joseph is coming home for the holidays.

The only thing missing
from this picture is a DOGGIE

Saturday, December 4, 2010

10 days till lift-off.

Most people who know me, know that I spent most of 1997 and the early part of 1998 in Thailand. And so most people - and this perhaps most foolishly includes me - might think that I would therefore be prepared for this.

It's true that I've lived in Asia and there are some things that I am prepared for:
  • I know what a rambutan is.
  • I know how to eat noodles with chopsticks.
  • I have ridden on the back of a moped.
  • I know how to be modest with the soles of my feet.
  • I know to beckon with my palm faced down.
  • I know to duck my head.
  • My brain has learned an Asian language once before.
  • I have been vaccinated against TB.
  • I can competently and unsqueamishly use a squat toilet. 

There are some very significant differences that I'm not sure I am prepared for - but at least I am aware of.  Most importantly:
  • Thailand is not Vietnam
  • 1997 is not 2011
  • Exchange student is not expat wife
  • My mother has Skype

The things that are frightening me now, though - that are keeping me awake at night and making me burst into tears at any time of the day are all of those things that I am not prepared for, and that I know I have no idea about.  I don't know the answers to any of these questions, but I get asked them almost every day:
  • What are you going to do in Vietnam?
    This is the most common question I get, and it is usually served with meaningful emphasis on the 'you'.   I don't know - is the honest answer.  I like to tell people that I am going to "drink during the day!" or "complain about the heat!".  I recognise that I have an opportunity now to find something interesting and inspiring to do with my career.  I am terrified that I won't find anything, to do or anyone who likes me, that I will spend my days in Vietnam chasing geckos off the walls and swearing at CNN, that the pinnacle of my career would have been and gone already, that the most interesting thing I will ever do might be some mundane thing I have already done and the rest of my life will be spent waiting for my husband to get home so that I can have someone to complain to about how the air conditioning wasn't working properly in the last taxi home from the shopping mall. 
  • Where are you going to live?
    The company are going to help us find accommodation. The problem is, that I have so little idea about where we are going, and what kinds of places are good to live in there, that I don't even know what to ask them for.  Should I live in an apartment, or a house.  What do those words even mean in Saigon?
  • Are you going to get a maid?
  • Are you going to ride a motorbike?
  • Is it easy to be gluten-free in Vietnam?
  • Are you going to learn Vietnamese?
  • Can you get good medical care?
  • What about dental?
  • Are you going to wear your hearing aids?
    I'm a bit deaf. Just a bit - not like post-deaf. I don't really understand speech I am not actively concentrating on but I can hear a lot of stuff.  I do have hearing aids. They sit in a little box, usually in a drawer, but now in the lid of my suitcase.  I haven't worn them for at least a year. Currently, they don't even work properly.  My mother frowns at me almost daily at the moment and says unhelpful things like: put your lugs in. Will I be able to cope without them?  This is my greater worry: will I be able to cope with them? A deaf life is quite peaceful. Because I have been deaf my whole life I find the unamplified world much easier to interpret.  I am afraid that I will struggle really badly with communication and making new social connections once I get to Vietnam because of my hearing loss. Hearing aids might help. Hearing aids might make it worse.
  • Will you have enough money?
  • What will you do when this assignment ends?
  • When are you coming home?

A year ago I had sort of an idea of what my life would be like in five or ten years time.  But now I don't. I don't have sort of an idea of what my life will be like in five or ten weeks time.  I have a lot of hope, and I firmly believe that going to Vietnam is a good decision for us, for our careers, for our relationship.

But make no mistake: Vietnam is giving me the shits.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

This is not a sex blog

OK.  So this doesn't have anything to do with Vietnam, or Sweet William or whether or not Spaghetti Schnabel should become our National Dish.

But, another blogger has thrown down the gauntlet by asking: tell me about the most disgusting thing that's ever invaded your home.

And I was telling the story just the other day - at dinner - with this lovely family.

Posh and Becks.  Bubba was there too, but tucked away safely of course.

Don't get excited.  That's not then - note the absence of any bump in this photo.  Facebook is the lazy blogger's saviour.  It was the night of the gig, actually.

To be clear - it wasn't a wonderful dinner-table story.  You might want to put down your lunch.

For three years, because we were poor and quite stupid Martin and I lived in the armpit of Grey Lynn.  The little gully down the back of Chinaman's Hill, between the cliff-face and the motorway.  And the armpit of Grey Lynn is moist and greasy and densely populated with these guys:

That is a leopard slug.

They grow very long.  My grandfather used to have slugs in his vegetable garden.  They'd be burrowed among the lettuce leaves and generally not much more than a couple centimetres long.  You could just wash them down the sink.

These guys get to about NINETEEN centimeters long.  You can't wash them down the sink.  If there was one of these in your kitchen sink and you turned the tap on it, it would just stay there.  Sticking.

I don't know why, but they come in the windows.  They'll come in the front door.  They climb up the curtains.  They get between the couch cushions.  Everywhere they go they leave trails. They are so big, and so purposeful in their movements, they look as though they have thoughts.  This isn't just a blind little worm, lost.  The slugs INVADE.

I began to develop a phobia.  I would imagine that they were coming in the window and slugging past my face as I slept.  One night I was home alone, and I woke up to see a fully fifteen centimeter long slug MARCHING across the carpet in the living room.  It had entered through the bedroom window, slugged past my sleeping self, out of the bedroom and was making its way to the couch.  In panic, I grabbed a tupperware bowl and trapped it underneath.  I was so anxious to stop it before it could escape I had dropped tupperware all over the floor, but I didn't want to turn my back on it and clean up.

I sat up and waited for my rescue, and when Martin finally got in I shrieked at him:  THERE'S A SLUG!  IT'S UNDER THE THING!

And when he picked up the first 'thing' he could see and said "It's not there" I nearly died.   (Don't worry, dear Reader - he got right thing and evacuated the slug before anyone was hurt.  Slug evacuation, by the way, generally entails hurling the little buggers over the neighbour's fence.)

So, as I explained to our by now horrified friends, I realised that I needed to do something about this sluggish phobia.  A little aversion therapy and education, I thought, will cure this.

Ask me anything you want about leopard slugs.  I know it all. 

They are fascinating. Someone even found beauty in them once - lookit!

Sadly, for me, aversion therapy and education didn't work. I don't care if you've got a blue penis winding out of your head. You're still not allowed on my windowsills.

Slug sex is very egalitarian.  Ain't no patriarchy amongst the hermaphrodites.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What's grits anyway?

I'm not going to say it was the last one.  Because, as Martin has told me many many time - bands don't break up these days.  The Grits have got a gig booked with a different guitarist some time next year already. And some day we will be coming home.

But Friday night was the last Hot Grits gig Martin will get a chance to play before we go.

I'm a horrible wife, and I used to be a horrible girlfriend.  The last Hot Grits gig I went to was at the Parihaka Festival.  In January. And, oh wow.  Parihaka.  Look at this - the Hot Grits are playing just after 2 minutes in.

I've been to quite a few festivals with the Grits but this was far and away the best.  Really peaceful.  A whole, family atmosphere - kids running around and food smells everywhere. 

The landscape in that area is formed by lahars that have spilled out of the caldera of Taranaki over thousands of years.  It is as if the land is so impressed by its own provenance that it has gooseflesh.  There are little bumpy hillocks rising out of the ground all over the place, and at the area where the Parihaka settlement was the mounds are everywhere and close together. You can't really see the hill bumps, but you can see the volcano (and a comet) in the background of this old postcard.

I'm easily impressed by geology.  If you don't know much about the story of Parihaka, I recommend giving this a read.  We hear a lot about the history of New Zealand's wars, and Parihaka is an inspiring though heart-breaking story about New Zealand's revolutionary thinkers, striving to bring peace in a time of great turmoil.

Anyway - Friday night - Khuja Lounge.   And I'm so glad, also, that it was at Khuja Lounge.  It was the right place.  It's a small place and it was filled with friends. I, who normally avoid parties put on my brave face and DRANK and had a really wonderful time. Even if it was Friday night, and my general stance on Friday night gigs is that they shouldn't be allowed.  Who has the energy to go out at midnight after a week of working?  (People with access to drugs, you say. To which I respond - my drug of choice is SLEEP.  You people are insane!)

Does anybody have a picture of the tap?  Martin was holding my phone at tap presentation time.

Here's the best picture I got of the band with my crummy iPhone camera.

Well.  Half of the band.

Planning's for pansies

So, all those plans, like the flight to Danang and Christmas in the tropical beach huts - they were good for about six hours.

Last night we got offered a house and driver in Saigon for free from Dec 17th to Dec 26th.  In exchange we have to comb a cat every now and then.

It's a ragdoll cat. No - this isn't the actual cat - but I suppose it looks something like this.  Martin will be in heaven. 

A driver, people!  Just call me Miss Daisy.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Take the blue pill

Even though most things are now organised, I still feel anxious a lot of the time. I know what you will suggest:

[I was going to insert an image of some charming little pharmaceuticals here - but Blogger's being difficult so you'll just have to imagine them].

We have done:
  • Passports
  • Visas - visitor visa is sorted.  Work Visa can't be sorted until after we arrive.
  • Notarising (but not authenticating)
  • Moving
  • Poor little William
  • A Budget
We still need to do:
  • Banking
  • Medical things
  • The Accountant
  • Wills?
  • Sell the car
  • Sell the TV
  • Finish work
  • Plan the rest of the holiday
  • The Family Party on Nov 27th
We have sorted some holiday things out.  We are going to stay here for Christmas

And  I have purchased flights from Saigon to Danang on Dec 18th - which is the holiday kick-start. So it's real!

Anyway, as part of the coping strategy Martin and I have decided to have Family Meeting Time after work each day.  Tonight's agenda item is banking.  We'll try not to kill each other. Sortof.

Friday, November 12, 2010

If they feed us like that in Vietnam we won't be wanting to leave

We have hardly been at home this week.  Last night we had dinner with Damon and Lynne, who are on a whistle-stop visit from the States. 

We haven't seen Damon since his last visit home 4 years ago - and if it weren't for Facebook, we'd probably have lost touch.  Thank God for Facebook.  But Facebook is not entirely reliable - we had to tell the whole story, about the job, the wedding and the move - Damon had heard none of it.

However, Facebook does have some uses.  Here's the lovely couple:

Fittingly, we decided to go to the new Vietnamese restaurant that has just opened in Downtown Auckland.  Cafe Hanoi is just behind the back entrance of Britomart, and has enjoyed several great reviews already.

I didn't take any photos of the food, or anything else.  It has only just occured to me now that it might have been a good idea to do so.  The restaurant's website is currently only very basic - contact details and the menu - so I can't crib any pictures from there, either.  BUT - the food was wonderful and I recommend my fellow Aucklanders to give it a go.

Go!  Eat!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Offencive [sic] Behaviour

Beautiful, isn't it?

Mt Maunganui is a popular spot with New Zealand's Disaffected Yoof, and at no time is it more popular than on New Year's Eve.   For example, this is a typical news report in early January. 

So, flashback to 1990. Or maybe 1991.  It would seem that it was such a great year that we can't exactly remember what year it was. 

And imagine this guy:

But maybe 21 years younger, and quite possibly trying hard to look like this guy:

And now, imagine him doing this:

And you will see that we had a little problem on our hands.  Because New Year's Eve at the Mount is teeming with cops, and apparently was even back in the olden days, when Martin got caught with his pants down.

Dear Reader - we have spent the last 3 weeks nervously waiting to see whether this whole thing would be off because Martin wasn't actually sure whether he got a conviction or not - though he definitely remembers the fine.

But tonight I will be opening a bottle of wine with dinner because we're clear! 

For those of you who are wondering - fining drunk teenagers for peeing on fences does NOTHING AT ALL to deter them from the practice as drunk adult men.  Perhaps he really should have been served a conviction after all...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Bella was so pleased with herself.

Last night I called my mother to give her an update on progress.

"How are you?" I asked.

"Not good." Was her reply. William had been missing since Sunday night.

William is not a cat who has ever shown any tendency to run away much before. He's a hider. I thought I had lost him as a kitten - certain he'd run away - to eventually find him rolled into a tight little ball on a shelf in my wardrobe. When I finally found him, and tearfully reached out to him - he hissed at me with all the venom his little milk-teeth could muster.

His tactic with dogs, vacuum-cleaners, the ironing-board, visitors, amplifiers and all other scary things has always been to dive for under the bed and stay there until either the coast is clear or he has been forcibly evicted.

So I was pretty certain that he wouldn't be lost, but that he would have been hiding, and watching everyone call for him like the big ol' scaredy-cat he is.

I arrived in Hamilton at about 10pm. We had a cup of coffee, armed ourselves with torches and headed out for the bushes. Mum and Oliver had already scoured the neighbourhood every night and morning for 3 days, so they weren't hopeful. Mum had knocked on all the neighbour's doors and distributed fliers and nobody had seen him. One neighbour had said that he had seen William chasing off a big burmese, and then run off himself - on Sunday.

It took all of 5 minutes, really. As soon as he heard my voice calling for him he came yowling behind me, with Bella in hot pursuit. Bella, my Grandmother's cat, considers herself the rightful owner of the Hamilton house. Bella was NOT HAPPY about William having emerged again, when she had been working so hard these last 3 days to keep him OUT of her house.

She saw us coming and started dancing on the street - as if to say - "Look, I chased that horrible other cat away. Aren't I good?"

I scooped William up and carried him the 3 doors down the street back to the house. Jess, the dreaded Doggie gave us a bit of a rush at the gate, and William in his panic scraped my decolletage (to put it politely) to pieces.

Once he was back inside Bingle was perfectly happy again. And hungry. Smoke is of course delighted to have his playmate back.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Halt! Who goes there?

The passport has finally arrived! 

Now the only documentation we are still waiting for is:
  • University transcripts (mine)
  • Criminal record info (Martin's - the first copy never arrived, second copy ordered, should arrive this week)
  • Marriage certificate (ordered, should arrive tomorrow)
Once we have EVERYTHING, we can send the packet off to be notarised and authenticated.

All this so that we can try and avoid a scene like this one on arrival in Vietnam:

Monday, November 1, 2010

Art(-ichoke)ful Dodger

How to decide what to take to Vietnam

So, if you're trying to move to Vietnam, this might help you decide what to take (click on the picture to see a bigger version):

Friday, October 29, 2010

But it's just culture...

After much deliberation we have decided to leave all books, magazines, CDs, records and DVDs behind.

This is because once they arrive in the country, they will be screened by Vietnamese customs for any 'culturally offensive' material.  They will charge us to do this, and we risk losing the whole container if they find anything they disapprove of.  So, in the interests of keeping things simple, we're not going to risk it.

Just a little reminder that Vietnam is still a communist country.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Who needs sleep anyway?

It has been a week without William.  Martin says he is sleeping MUCH better. That will be because every night for the last three years he has been woken up in one way or another by the cat.  Either because the cat wants out, or because the cat wants to play, or to have something to eat, or just because the cat was lonely. 

Before we moved to Pt Chev we used to often get early morning deliveries from William - of little animals, or parts of little animals.  Dead or alive.  But the hunting grounds at the beach have not been so fertile, for some reason - lucky for us.  I wonder how he'll get on in Hamilton - there are lots of birdies in that big old oak tree.

I am sleeping badly, though.  It is, I suppose, the anxiety of moving.  I'm very grouchy all the time when I'm awake, and when I sleep I have anxious dreams.  Silly really - because it's all going quite well, actually.

We have flight bookings almost confirmed - Dec 15th.  We have the packers organised - they are coming next Friday, Nov 5th.  The new tenants in the flat actually WANT us to leave stuff behind for them, and have even given us some money for it.  Bless them.  I have paid all the bills - including the FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS of parking tickets I didn't even know I had until I got the Court Fines the other day in the post.  That'll be the last time I'm ever tardy about getting my registration renewed. William is rehoused. We have LOTS of undies (hooray for Bendon sales!). Most of the major worries are taken care of.

Outstanding worries:
  • We need to get confirmation of no criminal records from the Ministry of Justice, and then get them authenticated by the Ministry of Internal Affairs.  
  • We have to get academic records notarised and authenticated.  A lawyer friend says she can do the notarising. Problem is, a couple of years ago, Martin accidentally disposed of my degrees, which were in a poster roll. So I am in the process of requesting letters from the universities confirming that I am, in fact educated.
  • Martin's Passport - Martin accidentally disposed of his passport about a month ago.  (Notice a pattern here? Also, this morning I was mad at him because I think he accidentally threw away my shoe.) So we are waiting for the new one to arrive. Martin's passport is needed for EVERYTHING - flight bookings, visa, shipping - EVERYTHING.  Hopefully it will arrive in the next few days.
  • Medical - we need to go and get vaccinated for, probably, every disgusting thing on the earth.  Despite being told several times by everyone to do this, we still have not begun the process.
  • Sell the car. I have never sold a car. Am counting on Martin's extensive car-worldly family to help with this one.
  • Work.  I'm really hating being a Dead Woman Walking.  There's not much longer to go, I keep telling myself. 26 Nov = last day. Martin finishes a week ahead of that on Nov 19th.
But, hey.  Look at this:

Neat, huh?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

We got Married on Oct 7th

It was a good day, in the end, and I’m glad it’s over now.  Even with only a week or so of fussing around, it still got quite stressful – I simply cannot understand why people have long engagements and women talk about arranging their weddings as if it was an opportunity to broker world peace, or holiday in Paris for a month. 
There were many temptations to expand the programme – talk of new dresses and hats and celebrants and music and flowers and so on.  But we managed to quash almost all of them. 
We did get a cake.  A friend made us a very impressive chocolate layer cake – made with no less than one and a half blocks of Whittaker’s Dark Ghana and a whole lot more love than Eve’s Pantry could have mustered up.  Unfortunately we never got a chance to serve the cake to our guests on the day - there were some logistical challenges!
The earliest in time I could get a booking for the ceremony at the Registry Office was 2:30 pm.  Which meant that we had 3 hours to fill between the end of the ceremony at 3, and the dinner reservation at 6. The wedding party consisted of:
·         Bride and Groom (30 somethings)
·         Grooms Parents (late 70s)
·         Mother of the Bride (50)
·         Teenage Goons (14, x2)
The Groom’s Fathe is not all that mobile - he uses a walker - which ruled out any demanding physical activities.  Mother of the Bride has no sense of direction and doesn't know Auckland roads, but was required to drive...  And the Teenage Goons were professionally bored, but surprisingly well-behaved and helpful - we put them in charge of cameras. Which, pretty much everybody’s camera batteries had run out by the time we got to the ceremony (see earlier reference re Naughty MoB – did we really need to take 500 photos of everyone waiting to be called into the ceremony room, or video footage of us all getting into the lift?), so we really put them in charge of cell phones.
We decided that we would take everyone up to the top of North Head for a picnic of champagne and wedding cake, and some photos with guns and tunnels. Of course, our optimism got the better of us, and the weather was really not that conducive to a picnic. Plus, even though we drove up as far as we could, it was still going to be too much of an off-road walk for Martin’s parents to get to the gun emplacements.  We did all pile out and get some photos at the top of the hill, though.
The registry office is truly not the world’s most romantic wedding venue – though there were some things about it that I really liked.  Like, the picture of the Queen on the wall in the ceremony room.  And the charming young woman who was our allocated celebrant.  And the fact that it was all over in about 10 minutes.

We went for dinner at a Japanese restaurant in Ponsonby called Soto.  It was expensive, but beautiful food.   I don’t have any pictures of their food, but they have images on the website which if you click through you will get the idea:
Gene who is on a somewhat restricted diet because of his stroke medication worked methodically and determinedly through a crayfish, and I ordered a massive pile of sashimi which was wonderful.
And then finally all that was left to do was to try and get everybody home.  It didn’t quite go without a hitch – I confidently drove mother and the boys to the WRONG hotel.  Then Mum accidentally backed into a pole and put a little ding in the bumper of her new car (not serious, hardly noticeable).  And at 3 am I got a txt from the security guard at Selwyn Retirement Village telling me that she had found my wallet in the carpark.  I hadn’t even realised I’d dropped it...  But no harm done! 
So – as I mentioned earlier – it was a good day, and I’m glad it’s over!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Wedding vows

I didn't have to say much:

"I solemnly declare that I do not know of any impediment to this marriage between me (full name) and (full name).   I call upon these persons here present to witness that I (full name), take you (full name) to be my legal husband."

But that didn't stop me from blubbing all the way through it.


We are going through the rigamarole of trying to get the shipping organised, with only 10 days left until we need to get all the stuff OUT of the house.

We have a realistic quote now from one company, and are waiting on the second company to send a quote through. We are hopeful that we will just scrape through under budget on the shipping for the company to pay the full bill, even though we're only taking 3 cubic metres of stuff.  Most of that stuff is Martin's music gear - guitars, amps, pedals, records.

I can think of at least one person who wouldn't be upset if we can't fit it all in.

Just because it has a KFC, doesn't mean it's good.

As we were driving through Huntly Martin said: "It's sounds like he's saying 'no'".


Ten minutes before Huntly, the cries had suddenly gotten a lot louder.  Martin turned around to check - and: "Oh my god!  He's out! Stop the car! He's out!".

So I pulled over.

We had originally wedged the cage on the floor between the passenger seat and the back seat - which seemed like the safest place. When I turned around to look, William was three quarters of hte way out of the box, with the front grill gaping open, and screaming at us. 

2 minutes later he had escaped a second time, so we had to rethink.  For the remainder of the journey Martin balanced the cage on his lap, while I drove as slowly as I dared in the holiday weekend traffic.

Apart from the vehement protests at the misery which is the drive through Huntly, William did actually calm down quite a bit after that. 

At Grandma's house, he quickly found himself a hidey-hole and calmed down.  I forgot to take any pictures, of course, so maybe my mother can send some through and I'll upload them (hint).  Grandma's kitten Smoke desperately wanted to play with William, Bella was pissed off about the whole thing, and Jess was excited about having a new baby and on her best submissive behaviour. 

When I called after the second night to see how he'd coped, Grandma said: "You never told me William was so good at playing ping pong at 3 o'clock in the morning."  And then this text the next day:

Bella is watching tv jess and smoke are curled up at my feet and William is on my knee they have me trapped

I think he'll be fine.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sweet William (Wees Bum)

He knows.

The worst part about that is, even though he knows, he doesn't really know how bad it actually is.

William has been Mister Snuggles all week. He is glued to us. He has always had this endearing character trait, of preferring to be equidistant between us at all times. For the last three nights he has planted himself firmly in the middle of the bed between us, and stayed there all night. He gets up to go to the kitchen for a snack when one of us gets up. And then he comes back to bed.

Occasionally he forgets, and plays with his ball for a bit, or chews Martin's shoelaces. But then he comes back. He sits on the pillows. He claws the couch. And he looks at us with this mournful little face.

And then this morning - he hid. Under the bed, not even making eye contact when we shoved our heads down there to find him. And brutally yank him out, and turf him onto the street with a strong admonishment to POO.

Because tonight is the night of worst drive to Hamilton I have ever had to make. We will be prepared: wet wipes, rubber gloves, plastic bags, old towels. The litter box, the toys, a cushion, the carpet squares, a tshirt his Daddy has worn to snuggle into when the dreaded DOGGIE is looking at him.

Poor little Bungle.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Xe Om, Pho

These are the two Vietnamese words I know.

Xe Om - Motorbike taxi. Literally - Motorbike hug. The idea is that you jump on the back of a motorbike, hug the driver, and get him to take you and your live chicken to wherever you need to go.

But doesn't this fellow look like he needs a cuddle?

Pho - Vietnamese noodle soup. Using a kiwi accent, it's pronounced something like a cross between 'fa' as in 'father' and 'fu' as in 'fur'.

Yes, we are going for the food...