06 August 2015

Re-Entry into America

So, it has been almost 3 years since we moved to New Zealand. This week, Mike got a new job at Google, and we moved to Sunnyvale, California.
What is like living in California after living abroad in NZ? America seems different than before. I see things in a different way. Moving back is tricky now that I am back in the US. Top ten things International (Kiwi)Americans notice coming back to USA: 10. Portion sizes In NZ, food is beautiful and tiny. In America, a dinner plate is a platter size plate! An American muffin is about 3 times the size of a Muffin in NZ. This will make healthy eating very challenging. 9. Courtesy and Voice Volume In USA, people simply ask you to move out of their way. This would be rude in NZ to say. Cultural change. People talk with loud voices. I am no longer the loudest person in the room. 8. Shoes No more optional footware. No shoes, no service. No more barefoot walks in the mall. Zack has the hardest time with this. He liked going barefoot everywhere before. 7.Drugs Over the counter meds are in supermarkets, not in pharmacies. Antibiotic ointment no longer requires a visit to the doctor. Just pick it up at the pharmacy or supermarket with Doritos and some Diet Coke and you are good to go! 6.Dollar Deals Dollar stores sell heaps of stuff, all for one dollar. In NZ, this would be a 2,4,6 shoppe. Meaning most things are a lot cheaper to buy. Hmm. Being on the larger continent vs surrounded by vast oceans makes shopping easier. 5. Sun The blinding, burning sun of NZ shines less brightly here in "sunny California". I still use sunscreen, but SPF 70 is no longer required for an hour long outing. No giant ozone hole to fry your skin. 4. Store hours Many stores are open until 9 or 10 pm. In NZ, most everything was closed by 5:30 or 6. Shop til you drop.... 3. Security Airport security and school security is intense here. No longer can you have water in your bag or let your kids play outside without supervision. Missing the relaxed nature of things in NZ. 2.Medical care is expensive No insurance means you are screwed in the USA. No socialised free care for kids to teens. A doctor visit will cost you way more if you are not covered. Obamacare is a good start, but things are still super pricey. Miss my cheaper Dr visits in NZ. 1. Paperwork and Bills Moving to the U.S. means filling out paperwork like crazy. Registering for school in California requires a giant pile of identification and forms. There are disclaimers everywhere that you must read and sign. Privacy laws and rules galore. Better bring more than 1 pen to sign all the documents. Take a seat, because you will write a mini novel of paperwork before doing anything. Being a grownup means filling out a lot of paperwork. Taxes and tips not included like in NZ, so things are trickier to sort out with bills.

09 April 2015

Puzzling World in Wanaka

Family activities are a good way to get everyone together and bonding. Puzzling World in Wanaka is just one of those special places.
It has a maze with bridges and four colour towers. This maze was quite challenging, and only my crafty husband made it out successfully without taking an "emergency escape exit".
The kids also really liked the optical illusion room, where you look way taller or way smaller based on where you stand at the back of the room.
The Puzzling World starts off with a series of rooms at an incline of 10-15 degrees. It appears that water flows up, and that you
can "slide up" a slide, instead of sliding down. There are a few Escher window clings which I adored. Optical illusions was a theme throughout the whole place.
Mike loved the leaning tower of Wanaka. You can take pictures on the lawn just so it appears that you are Superstrong and holding the tower up, or are eating the tower, or are pushing it back into place. The key for Mike was getting us to cooperate as we were tired from waiting for him in the cafe and puzzle room while he finished the maze ( 45 more mins). Then crafting the perfect tower shot was another 20 mins, at which point the kids were all puzzled out.

08 April 2015

Stewart Island trip

If you live on the South Island and want to see blue penguins, then your best bet is to go south of Christchurch to Oamaru or beyond. If you really want to see native birds and other wildlife at their best, continue past Oamaru to Invercargill and take the ferry to Stewart Island. Stewart Island has many places that are pristine native bush and native birds flourish without any rats or cats or other predators. Ulva Island, a small island that is a Eco tourist destination, provided us with easy bird viewing of many native birds, including the weka, oystercatcher, bellbird, fantail, Stewart Island robin, kaka, yellow crowned parakeet, and red crowned parakeet.
On the same ecotour , we also saw the Albatross in many numbers. They are amazing sea birds. This happened to coincide with the hit song that came out the same month of a similar name. :) Zack thought feeding fish to the Albatross was the best part of the trip.
My only sadness in going to Stewart Island was that we did not stay for a second day. I would have loved to do an overnight tramping tour.
It was definitely a great tourist spot for those of us that love identifying birds and flora in the wild. The kids had fun, and we got back to Invercargill and the Internet by sundown. This made for a happy husband, as he loves his email and web updates.

06 April 2015

Easter and Passover in Christchurch

This is my third Easter and Passover here in Christchurch. I know how to hunt for matzah at the Johnson's International Grocer, how to sing "Dayenu" in a room with tables of Jews from the Canterbury area and Israel. I know how to throw an autumn egg hunt for the American Club of Christchurch.
But more importantly, I have incorporated NZ customs into my holiday celebrations. Zack cut up beetroot to add to my Seder plate on Friday. We got some Waikato chocolate hollow eggs to share, in various themed boxes from the Warehouse. I even got a mould from a department store to make my own hollow chocolate eggs. The kids had three Seders for Passover and three egg hunts this April. More importantly, we all got to enjoy a 4 day weekend as Good Friday and Easter Monday are statutory holidays in NZ. Almost everything is closed except for tourist spots and a few dairies on the corner.
Mandatory family bonding time!
Mike is teaching the kids how to play Poker, and I took everyone swimming at Pioneer Swim centre. The kids and I ended Easter with a walk at Willowbank and we hand fed the emus, sheep, pukekos, and even pet wallabies.
Happy autumn holidays from the NZ Frieds!

25 February 2015

Jews of Christchurch

Being Jewish is something you are born into, although there are a few converts, such as my brother's girlfriend Bernadette. This can be tricky if you are discriminated against by others. Sometimes, a person can be discriminated against in subtle ways. This may be done in passing comments or in running jokes amongst friends. In NZ as well as America, these are often directed at minorities. I have often felt the minority status of being Jewish whilst growing up in central Pennsylvania, a predominately Christian region. Holidays were always complicated because Hanukkah often fell a few weeks before Christmas, and Easter and Passover had one similarity- hard boiled eggs. In Pennsylvania, assimilation into the local culture meant having a Hannukkah bush instead of a Christmas tree. It meant enjoying Spring Plastic Egg Hunts for candy and prizes, and then also celebrating Passover with local Jews at the temple and having matzoh ball soup. Living in Christchurch, we are lucky to have a Canterbury Hebrew Congregation in the city. We can still go to family services on a Friday night and eat matzoh ball soup. Sometimes we even have a Hebrew School teacher to help the kids learn Hebrew and info on the Torah. I value having times where I can be comfortable in my local community as a Jewish person. The Jewish community in Christchurch is unique in that it is a blend of Israelis, Americans, and Kiwis, as well as a handful of Europeans. All come to celebrate holidays and pray for High Holy Days. Purim, a holiday with a carnival theme, is coming up in early March. The kids are having a carnival party at synagogue and the adults are having a drinks and dancing night at Cargo Bar. Most of the Isrealis insist that Purim is a huge holiday in Isreal and that drinking is essential. Mike and I have a friend watching the kids this Friday, so we can go out. A spring Egg hunt will soon be underway at the local park. Then on Sunday, we have the kids' carnival. We will see how that goes. Kids had a great time last year celebrating. I am glad that we have other friends in the minority to hang out with, and some friends in the majority Christian Kiwi society that accept us for who we are. Jews are all a bit different from each other in NZ, but we all have many commonalities that bind us as a community.