Thursday, October 7, 2010

Of Ducklings and Details

I've had a few questions about the work that Matt and I are doing and why we are where we are, so I thought I'd give some more information about that, and then write about a few fun New Zealand quirks and cultural differences, rather than the narrative format I've been doing recently.

Matt and I are in New Zealand on Working Holiday Visas, which are good for 12 months and allow us to take any kind of legal work in NZ. We are actually only staying just over 8 months, because we want to go home to Portland for a third summer before I start graduate school and we head into a Portland winter. We came here hoping to work primarily in farming and similar pursuits, and I am happy to say that we are getting exactly what we came for! Before we left the US, we realized we didn't want to show up in New Zealand without direction or work, as that would cause us to burn through our savings as we searched for something. So we got connected with, which connects those in search of work experience with hosts who will provide room and board in exchange for a certain amount of work. It is similar to the Willing Workers on Organic Farms (WWOOF) program, except that Workaway is not specific to organic farms or even farming- the site includes work at hostels, in homes, doing childcare, etc. Most hosts take workawayers for 2 weeks or so. We found Lyn & Kate through Workaway, and consider ourselves blessed. We would like to get paid work at some point in the next few months, but with room and board taken care of, all we are spending on right now is petrol for the van, and a few smaller costs like personal items and postcards and things. We will be staying here in Opotiki for 3-4 weeks total, then moving on to a stay at an organic farm on the Coromandel Peninsula, around the beginning of November. After that we will be looking for paid work, probably in fruit picking or other farm work.

(Click on photos to enlarge)
Looking north from the top of Lyn & Kate's driveway. Yes, that's the ocean! The town of Opotiki is just off to the right, maybe 6 or 8 kilometres from the house. 

The loving but cowardly sheepdog Binky. Sweetest canine in existence.

Matt and I with just a few of our animal companions here.

We're doing all kinds of work here. Weeding, gardening, planting, repairing, building, etc. We've been over to Lyn's family's farm several times, most recently to grub out thistles in some cow paddocks yesterday morning, and move the cattle to new pasture. ( Lyn and Kate own 15 head of cattle that graze on land Lyn's family leases). Matt has been over there another time to help Lyn's dad separate out a couple of cattle to be taken away for butchering. Matt is also doing a lot of work to help prepare the house here for painting.

M powerwashing the back of the house. 

Me pruning the largest rosemary bush in existence.

We are both thrilled to be getting lots of experience with poultry and livestock. Most recently, we have met some brand new ducklings! Two of the hens have been sitting on duck eggs (domestic ducks make good layers but terrible mums, it turns out), and they started pipping yesterday, and this morning we had two little ducklets!
This is what the eggs looked like last night. Before this stage, Lyn gave me one to listen to- I could feel it moving around and hear it pecking away the the shell.

Brand new duck!

Matt and the fluffier duckling.

Now on to a few cultural notes! While we are still in a western, English-speaking (well, mostly) culture, we are definitely far removed from Oregon and the United States. While we're managing ok with the Kiwi accent now (time is measured in munnets and we drive on the lift), and are getting used to the strength of the sun due to the hole in ozone layer right overhead (wide brimmed hats are worn constantly and we re-apply sunscreen every two hours at least. The burn time -with sunscreen on- can get as low as 7 minutes in midsummer. After just two weeks here I have more freckles and am more tan than I've ever been, and my hair is bleaching on top...), there is still plenty to get used to- most of which we find very refreshing. For example:

- in New Zealand the business day is generally from 9:30 AM to 4:30 or 5:00 PM. Not that different from the US, except that ALL businesses close around 5 PM. In the US, supermarkets and corner stores and even clothing stores tend to stay open much later, even 10 or 11 PM, but no such thing here. If you want to run a certain errand, you have to make sure you make it in before 4 or so. Many businesses close around 2 or 3 PM, and on Saturdays most businesses in Opotiki and other small towns close at 12:30. 

- Earthquakes! I experienced my first ever earthquake just a couple days after arriving in Opotiki. I was on the phone with my parents at the time, and I hope they weren't too freaked out when I told them what was going on! I couldn't feel anything, but we could hear the windows rattling and the walls of the house shifting. It turns out the actual magnitude was 6.2, quite big, but it happened very deep in the earth, offshore under White Island. Shakes and rattles are not uncommon here, and we've been told to expect to experience several more small quakes before leaving New Zealand. 

-Power usage here is at a much lower degree than in the states, and I have to say I love it. Hardly anyone in New Zealand owns a drier, and we see laundry hung out to dry in almost every yard we drive by. I think it is appalling that in the US it is seen as primitive or troublesome to air-dry laundry, when if everyone turned off their dryer and just used the sun and wind, we could make a huge impact on the current energy crisis, especially in large cities. Also, almost all electrical outlets in New Zealand have an on/off switch so the current can be turned off when the outlet is not being used- brilliant! 

-On the utilities note, all toilets here are flushed by pushing a button- I have yet to see one with a flusher handle. Most toilets are also dual-flush.

I think that's enough for today, I am sure I will come up with loads more New Zealand trivia for you as time goes on, but for now here's just one more example of something you would never find in Oregon...
A dead puffer fish on the beach!


FlowerLady said...

Thank you for taking the time to tell how your adventure came about. I think it sounds like a great, fun, learning experience. It is something you will never forget, and you can take what you learn and use it back home, or some of it anyway.

We do not have a dryer either, we only had one we found (curbside) for a short time, but I only used it once of twice. I really enjoy hanging up the laundry to dry, the fresh scent of it all after being line dried is wonderful too.

What sweet little ducklings and I love the pic of you and Matt with the animal friends you have made.

Thanks again for sharing this adventure.


Wendy said...

That was so interesting. Great post. Love what you are both doing. As for the power outlet having on/off switch I would never have thought it would be any other way. Does that mean no one ever turns of their power in the US? And I love the smell of fresh laundry being folded when it comes of the cloths line. I use a dryer occasionaly when it rains for weeks on end and I can't get things dry. Cheers, Wendy