The recent round of earthquakes in New Zealand, just outside of Christchurch, have had me thinking, reminiscing, and worrying for our friends way over on the other side of the world. My husband, son, and I moved to New Zealand when Tyler was just one year old, and lived there, near and in, Christchurch, for a few years. My daughter was born there. And we have a whole lot of friends there, with their lives turned upside down, yet again, having only recently begun recovering from the last round of earthquakes in September, 2010.
The photos I've seen of the city in which I lived, and played, and wandered lost through the endless one-way streets, show a completely unrecognizable place. A place that looks absolutely devastated with its now broken up streets, tumbled down buildings, and rivers flowing through homes and roads. People are displaced, injured or dead. Homes, places of work, and schools are ruined. It could be a pretty justifiable reason to give up, and give in.
And yet I've heard comments from these friends of mine that show an undeniable zest for humor, and the rugged, dauntless spirit that sums up Kiwis. Where they could throw their hands up in despair, these awesome folks are cracking jokes about the liquefaction around their homes. Where they could just be grateful that their families fared well, they are helping each other out, offering a place to stay, food to eat, the comfort of friends. Where they should be living on the edge of terror, after having their world rocked, literally, they are able to smile, make a joke, and continue on. One friend, after my husband jokingly warned him to stay away from tall buildings (he lives at the beach, outside of Christchurch), replied that he'd be surfing, because there aren't any tall buildings in the sea.
That kiwi spirit is a very impressive thing.
So, since I've learned so much from my time living in New Zealand, lucky to be surrounded by all these wonderful, generous, and often hilarious kiwis, I thought I'd share a few reminiscences with you, some of my lessons, and loves of that place, and perhaps even a wee recipe.
I love that upon arriving in this country, people opened their homes to us, Stuart was offered a job, and therefore residency, and where we had moved there as a bit of a lark, on a wing and a prayer, it WORKED.
I love that I learned about Ina May Gaskin here, so very far from Tennessee, where she lives. It was here that I discovered a whole new (to me) philosophy surrounding birthing women, and here where I was able to birth my own daughter. Pretty freaking powerful ladies they've got there in NZ. Thanks, gals. I owe you, big time.
I love that because Devin was born there, not only is she English, and American, she's also a little bit Kiwi. And I do believe this makes her that much cooler.
I also love that we bought her a baby hammock there, which she slept in soundly, through the night, from day one. I'm telling you, they know what they're doing in NZ.
I love that I learned about seasonal food, while living there. Here, in the US, it's so easy to get cucumbers and tomatoes cheaply, and out of season (even if they are tasteless). We take things like that for granted sometimes. In New Zealand, while you can certainly go into the supermarket and buy tomatoes out of season, most people don't. Not just because they're ridiculously expensive, but because they're...get this...out of season. You eat roots and squash in the winter, silly. Tomatoes and peppers (capsicums, they're called there) are bought, in summer, down the road, at the farm with the honor box. Same with eggs, freshly laid and picked up from around the garden this morning, don't even need to refrigerate them. Just leave your money and take what you need. We trust you.
Honor boxes? Oh my, I freaking LOVE honor boxes! You just don't see that around these parts.
I love that there are veg stands where you go for your veggies, and my favorite was the Funky Pumpkin. Funky Pumpkin?! That is awesome. How I wish I'd bought Tyler one of those Tshirts. In many sizes.
I love that pretty much anywhere in New Zealand, you're only about an hour from the beach. And the mountains. I loved that my husband could go surfing daily, satisfy his soul, and he'd only be gone for a short while, not the whole day...like here.
Oh, I loved that we lived walking distance from the beach, in a very cool wee village, with very cool, neighborly people. I loved that someone would just pop over for a cuppa, which just might turn into dinner, and several bottles of wine, beer, and maybe even some pavlova. And all the kids get tucked up in bed somewhere, while the grownup kids play. No plans, all impromptu. Easy.
I love that I had my first pavlova here. Oh, yum.
I love that I learned what a feijoa is, and that a lovely wine is made from it here. Oh, serious yum.
I love that when Stuart's aunt, in Auckland, asked if we liked kumara, I replied that I'd never had it. She looked at me in horror, how could I bring a child into the world and not feed him kumara?! Right then she began to prepare some for my son, to right this terrible wrong before he turned out, I don't know, weird...oh, it's sweet potato? Okay, I have definitely had that. Kumara is serious soul food in NZ, people. Feed it to your kids, I'm sure they'll grow up better for it.
I love that they make this thing called fairy cakes at kids' birthday parties. Slice of white bread, wonder style, slathered in butter, and covered in rainbow sprinkles. I do not love fairy cakes, however, but I do love how ridiculous they are.
I love that I learned to drive on the left side of the road there, and it's not scary at all, like in the UK, with it's narrow, speedy roads. (I must confess to being a total coward about driving, when we lived in England.)
I love that when a Kiwi says "wicked," it sounds like "wucked." As in wicked good.
I love Friday night jaunts to the local fish and chip shop. Feed the whole family for $10. And it's fosh and chops, by the way, get it right.
I love that I had to have the "as" phenomenon explained to me there. "Sweet as..." As what?, I must have asked, bewildered. I must have looked simple as.
I love that I learned there that wool is far superior to fleece. Of course, in a land where sheep outnumber the 4 million human inhabitants something like 12 to one (or so I heard), you'd better believe wool is where it's at.
I love that I learned to build a damn good fire there. Central heat? Double glazed windows? Insulation? Pah! That's for sissies!
I love that New Zealand gave us Brett, Jemaine, and Murray, in Flight of the Conchords. Netflix it, it's brilliant.
I also love that Jemaine was the voice in the L&P ads. Ah, so funny.
I love that kids are allowed to be kids in New Zealand. Your kid wants to run around the beach naked? Of course, he's a kid! Do it! (I have a fabulous photo of Tyler, age 2, running naked through the water on Golden Beach, but decided, as he's now 9, he might never forgive me for sharing it.) A giant, and I mean giant, metal slide at the park? Why the hell not? They'll learn, won't they? I love that our park had a seriously cool zip line, which kids had to climb up a platform to ride, screaming, crashing into the tires at the (way, far) other end. (Also good fun for adults. And maybe it was just me screaming.) Trampoline at the campground, with maybe a few springs sticking out? Whatever. Survival of the fittest, baby. School age kids get to roam the park and forest, unsupervised, exploring, doing what kids should be doing. Having fun, and learning how to be just a little bit tough. Like we used to do when we were kids.
I love those Kiwis, who are so funny, and kind, and real. Who manage to be a complete conundrum: combining an admirable amount of cynicism with a genuinely optimistic view of life. These people know how to have fun, and to live. My heart goes out to them, right now. Oh, New Zealand. Thank you, for everything.
If you'd like to give something to help out the communities in the Canterbury region who've lost so much because of these earthquakes, please click Here, to go to the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal.
And as for that recipe I promised, it's coming. I've spent so much time reminiscing and going through old photos, that this post will have to do for now. But, never fear, my friends, it will be posted in the next day or two, after some testing and tweaking, and it will, of course, include pumpkin and kumara. Because it's winter here, and we're talking Kiwiana, after all.