Thursday, August 22, 2002

Timaru impressed us in the morning with its huge park nestled up against Caroline Bay. There was even a glass elevator to take us from the parking area down to the park. Aidan and I walked across the dunes to the beach – tide was out so it was a very deep beach. Aidan had to pick up the requisite shells and sticks for our walk back. We headed out of town north to Christchurch around noon. I have to say that this stretch of drive was the most unimpressive that I think we have seen in NZ – that includes the north island. It was also interesting approaching CC via route 1 instead of from the airport. Not nearly as nice a first impression! Much more strip centers and the kind of usual city grungy outskirts stuff. We also had had lunch at a place called the Saddlery or some such. It could have been an any small MidAmerican town sort of caferteria style eatery although at the time it did hit the spot. We had a reservation to stay at the Heritage Hotel CC (I had liked my stay in the Auckland one). Our suite was in the Old Government Bldg in what had obviously been a beautiful stately room. They had added a mezzanine for 2 small bedrooms and the 2nd bathroom – they hashed up the remodel a bit unfortunately. We had a nice stay anyway.

After arriving latish afternoon Friday in CC, I went for a quick (and very cold) walk in the Cathedral Squ (right outside our hotel) where we watched some girls performing music and saw some people moving very large chess pieces around. Phyllis and Dave headed off for dinner at DuxLux and a session peering thru the College telescope at the Southern Hemisphere skies. I had Thai take out with the kids who were actually quite well behaved for me back in the room. Q did a good job sitting in the high chair for once. Pete unfortunately was on a delayed flight and didn’t reach us til after 10.
Saturday the clan headed off to the Botanical Gardens after some muffins and caffeine I brought in from the Starbucks across the plaza. A very nice lunch in the Botanic Gardens Café – I continued to be amazed at the high quality and low prices of restaurants in attraction type venues. We all enjoyed poking around in the gardens. Aidan can identify ferns by the way. And daisies (the kind in the grass). Aidan found a fountain that he could “activate” by pulling a lever. It was very hard to pull him away from the fountain… Pete and I headed off alone for an early dinner. Nice place – Azure I think it was named. On restaurant row. Back in time to put the kids down. Nanma & Pop had fed Aidan microwaved mac n’ cheese and had soup themselves if I correctly remember. They had refrigerated soups in plastic bags here that have been very good in all flavors we have tried to date.

Sunday came. I was very aware that our adventure was drawing to a close – including our NZ adventure as a whole. Only one more weekend to go back in Auckland. Phyllis decided to enjoy services at the Cathedral followed by some reflective time in the gardens. Dave was kind enough to join me at the Art Centre open air market for some gift shopping while Pete and Aidan checked out the museum (Dave & Phyllis had spent a little time there the afternoon before). We all had a good time I think. Dave is a good shopping companion! We enjoyed listening to a youngish guy who was selling old (circa 1900) bottles he found in old trash heaps. He was incredibly knowledgeable and clearly loved what he collected. I fell for a couple as they will look great with the old glass pieces I have that used to be used on electrical poles. We also lingered over some art. We missed the cheese van – we were looking forward to some more blue cheese. Oh well. We joined Pete & Aidan for lunch at the museum café. Quincy had his first exposure to being set free in one of the playpens you find so many places here. He was very much enjoying exploring it.

Quincy took this opportunity of his 8th month birthday to start standing up (pulling himself up) and even to take a step or 2 holding onto things. When packing I had left the refrigerator door open – I turned around to see him beelining right for it and then hauling himself up to check out the contents (fortunately few).

In the afternoon we decided to hop into the van and take a scenic drive to Lyttleton Harbor across from the Banks Peninsula. We found a very attractive and very long beach along the way that we enjoyed for ½ hour or so. Long enough for Aidan to collect more sticks and shells… It was a very beautiful drive and well worth doing. The harbor is only 12 km straight (going thru a tunnel) from CC. We did maybe 40 km the way we circled around instead. We stopped off at a couple of lookouts to enjoy the view. Too bad on the way back the view of CC was quite hazy and we didn’t get the amazing vista with the Southern Alps as you sometimes have. We could sort of see the snow capped mountains but I certainly didn’t bother taking a picture. It was a nice way back into town thru attractive suburbs on the downslope until we reached the plain again. We stopped back in the Squ and met up with Phyllis and Pete and I ran in to ogle at the Cathedral at last. Then off to catch our flight back to Auckland.

I have spent much of these past 2 weeks here in Auckland feeling a bit sad about our upcoming departure. We are beautifully situated in a very nice suburb in a nice house with lovely water vistas. I have met some very welcoming people. I love my café lifestyle (and cheap food thanks to US $). I like Aidan’s swimming at the Y and Jumping Beans classes. And in general how EASY life is here. This week I got my teeth cleaned, made (and broke) appt for Q to have vaccines (I got flu shot instead), had haircut. And didn’t have to wait more than 48 hours for any of those. At home a Dr appt with the kids Dr is usually a 10 week wait – sometimes more. My dentist can fit you in 6++ months or else only in cancellations (try getting babysitters for that). The prices for all of the above are great too. I think Dr visits here cost $50. Wow. I have really loved seeing the water in many sorts of moods – it is full moon again and seeing the sandbars cropping up at this time of month at low tide. The water is sometimes a luminescent green, other times brilliant turquoise, other times a subdued deep blue. Sometimes combinations of them all as clouds scud across. I have also enjoyed watching the storms head across the water – something I remember seeing as a kid at the lake in FL we used to go to. There is still a lot of the country – esp this north island – that we didn’t get to visit. I have a lot of mental pictures saved up and off course many many photographs to take home as reminders of our time here. All in all I have had a pretty darned good time. (No small part thanks to having grandparents to help out). Aidan will go through serious withdrawal I am sure when the grandparents go home.

I dropped Phyllis & Dave off at the rail station bright and early on a very wet Thursday morning and then dropped Pete off for breakfast with his Australian boss. The kids were great at café Dunk for breakfast with me. I have yet to see Quincy more mellow at a meal. We hooked up with Liza & kids in the p.m. to see Model World. Cool models but somehow disappointing – I think I expected more and somehow thought there would be stuff for Aidan to play with, not just look at. Did see an amazing rainbow over all of downtown as I came off the bridge headed away from downtown into the rain and sun. Pete of course had to work late now that everyone was gone. Actually I guess he had to have dinner or drinks with the boss. Boss had requested that he consider heading to Hong Kong and Korea for 14 weeks starting almost immediately. You can imagine how this threw us a bit. Off went the emails to anyone who might ever have been there. Well that was over a week ago and we still don’t know if we are heading home to SF to stay for a while or to HK. Everyday is a different story and we live an emotional rollercoaster. Pete & I are fed up and he plans to tell them tomorrow – SF please – you took too long making up your minds. But who knows what tomorrow will bring. We have also spent this week in a yoyo of can we get to Whitsunday Islands (Great Barrier Reef) – or make a stopover in Fiji or Hawaii… Finally deciding, no, head to Sydney alone for 8 days and take day trips in area. Pete was also told to leave project early and thus could come with us. Too bad project has headed south and now he will be working this weekend and at least of part of next week – so we will see him ??? in Sydney. We are also trying to figure out how to get out of the house (pay off utilities, get cleaned, get shuttle, etc) and do we need to have dentist, Dr appts etc (changes daily depending on whether or not we think we are heading to SF for 1 week or many months). And do I cancel preschool and YMCA membership etc. Pete gave notice to our landlord at one point in time. And now Quincy caught a cold from one of the kids we went to model world with. I knew her kids were sick but figured it was OK. Too bad I didn’t realize / see til after fact that her boy was taking Quincy’s rice cakes, mouthing them, and then Liza was giving them back to Quincy. Ick. So I have had little sleep the past couple nights. I can’t have a change in venue without being a bit tired going into it though! Again, thank goodness for Phyllis & Dave to help out. Pete has worked very late every night except tonight. Errands are so much faster without 2 kids along. By the way – P & D spent their 4 days and last weekend in Wellington and think very highly of it. Our little family went for a great walk on Saturday (after breakfast at Dunk again as I liked it so much the 1st time). Over across bridge there is a suburb called Takapuna. It has the reputed best urban swimming beach. Rangitoto Island seemed to really shelter the beaches or something and there wasn’t much wave action. The walk leads you over volcanic rocks and past tidepools (although we were there fairly close to high tide) and past expensive homes to another beach along. I think it was supposed to take 1 hour each way – and we started at essentially the end of Takapuna beach (cutting off 15 min according to our book). It took us more like 1 ½ hours to do the part we did. We didn’t walk the whole way home along the beach but cut inland to find a café for late afternoon lunch/dinner. Aidan is a trooper and walked the whole way. Pete is a trooper and carried Quincy the whole way…

Quincy continues to impress us daily with his new abilities. He is getting good at lowering himself down now in addition to getting up. He can transition from holding onto sofa to holding onto the coffee table behind him. He can take small steps and head along a bit. He prefers to walk normally – front wards instead of sideways along things – holding onto the object on one side and your hand on the other allow him to do this. He is such a happy little camper too. Really a delight. The other morning he was in with Dave & Aidan. I was trying to talk on the phone or do dishes or something. I heard him come somewhat near as he crawled along and played with something. Then it got a bit quiet… Dave had assumed he was under our very large coffee table. Wrong. He wasn’t down the stairs as I hadn’t heard any crying. He wasn’t up the stairs (he likes going up the stairs). Then I heard some knocking… He had crawled out of the family room, down the hall, around the corner, into his brother’s room and behind and door and was playing with one of Aidan’s cars. It was clearly deliberate (Aidan’s toys are always SOOO much better than his – and funny enough, if he shows any interest in his own toys then Aidan swoops in and relieves him of them as somehow they must be fun for AIDAN to play with) and I have seen him try to do the same maneuver again. Babyproofing will definitely take a different level with Quincy than with Aidan. Quincy is very attracted to electrical cords too. One of the good things about Aidan moving later (crawling and standing both started at 9 months) was that he also had more sense. He recognized an edge to a stair or landing as being a good place to stop and not fall over. Quincy does the much more typical behavior of heading right over…

Well, enough for now. We are enjoying probably our best Auckland weather ever this week. Mostly balmy & sunny. Lunch at seaside cafes yesterday and today. Where will we be next month? I don’t know…

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