Return to Kiwiland, Part III: Why New Zealand? Memmmmorieeees….

I know I haven’t give Reason #2 for our Return to Kiwiland, but I’m saving that one for right before we leave. Turns out there’s a third reason I hadn’t even considered: Nostalgia. Looking through photos from our year in Dunedin 20 years ago, I was ambushed by memories. Thought I’d share.

First of all, some perspective. Here’s Dunedin:

Fun fact: same latitude (south) as our then-home, Tacoma (north). But climate's more than latitude.

Fun fact: same latitude (south) as our then-home, Tacoma (north). But climate’s more than latitude.

And here’s a view of the town and its harbor (or “harbour”), looking down from Flagstaff Hill:

See those clouds? Yeah, we did too. A LOT. Only had six FULLY sunny days in 8 months.

See those clouds? Yeah, we did too. A LOT. Only had six FULLY sunny days in 8 months.

Think I showed our house already, but here’s a look from the front:

I know. We couldn't believe it either. The whole third floor was locked up for our stay, and we still felt lost in that house. Great for hide & seek, though!

I know. We couldn’t believe it either. The whole third floor was locked up for our stay, and we still felt lost in that house. Great for hide & seek, though!

Any stay in another country requires getting used to what one thinks as “weirdness,” which the locals call “normal life.” Here are a few examples.

1. “Burn time.” That was something they’d announce on the weather report, as in “this is how many minutes you can be out in the sun without getting bright red.” NZ sits directly under the hole in the ozone layer, we learned. (I’m assuming that hole hasn’t gotten any smaller, 20 years on.) So KIDS WORE HATS. Always.

Son One on a beach field trip with his First Form class.

Son One on a beach field trip with his First Form class.

2. Kiwis–the namesake of not only New Zealanders themselves, but also their money–are not only ridiculously rare, they’re also nocturnal. I got to see one on a tour on Stewart Island, at midnight, but our kids couldn’t stay up that long.

The only kiwi the boys got to see. (Wellington Zoo)

The only kiwi the boys got to see. (Wellington Zoo)

3. Aside from 70 billion sheep–OK, it was “only” 45 million, but then there weren’t quite 4 million PEOPLE in NZ at that time–Kiwis also raised elk for, of all things, the velvet from their antlers, which apparently fetched (still fetches? don’t know) a high price in some Asian countries. So weird to see elk penned up like cattle! Even weirder: they called them “Wapiti,” which is a northwestern Native American word.

Wapiti! Up in Marlborough Sound. The meat is sold too, of course.

Wapiti! Up in Marlborough Sound. The meat is sold too, of course.

4. Christmas falls in summer. At that latitude, it doesn’t get dark till around 10. So why bother with Christmas lights? They’d barely show. This might have changed, but back then, we saw hardly any. Took me a long time to notice what was missing.

But who needs lights when you have the Pohutakawa--the "New Zealand Christmas Tree"?

But who needs lights when you have the Pohutakawa–the “New Zealand Christmas Tree”?

5. New Zealand is officially bilingual. Here are signs from Otago University, in English and Maori:

"Wh" is pronounced like "f."

“Wh” is pronounced like “f.”

…and speaking of language…oh boy. Language. Don’t get me started. That’ll have to wait till next post. Till then, haere ra!

Return to Kiwiland, Part I: Why New Zealand?

No, that’s not the title of my next book. But this post does have something to do with my next book. And New Zealand. And returning.

See, in a few weeks, Wing’s World will morph back to its occasional Travel Blog form. But only after I’ve returned from New Zealand; I won’t be blogging from Godzone.* So I thought I’d better use a few posts to explain the journey. There are TWO REASONS we’re going back.

*Godzone = God’s Own Country (Kiwis are rarely boastful, but this boast makes sense once you’ve been there)

Twenty years ago, the Mate had a sabbatical and we four Wings spent nine months in New Zealand. Specifically, in the college town of Dunedin—way down at the south end of the South Island. Sons One and Two were six and four. The idea was to go somewhere

a) safe

b) gorgeous

c) with a law school to host the Mate

d) English-speaking (although, in retrospect, that southern Kiwi accent was a pretty good linguistic challenge)

Plus– New Zealand?! Who DOESN’T want to go? And this was even BEFORE the Lord of the Rings movies.

The law school at University of Otago could not have been more accommodating. Here’s the mansion they found for us to house-sit during our stay:

[Disclaimer: these are uploaded from 20 year-old digitized slides. Sorry about the quality.]

Large house, wee son. (Boy, was that house COLD! No central heating.)

Large house, wee son. (Boy, was that house COLD! No central heating.)

The scenery could not have been more stunning. If you’ve seen the LOTR movies, you know. But just in case…

Near Arthur's Pass

Near Arthur’s Pass

The wild west coast, near Greymouth

The wild west coast, near Greymouth

One of the western glaciers--Fox or Franz-Joseph, don't remember

One of the western glaciers–Fox or Franz-Joseph, don’t remember

Near Haas (giant trout in there!)

Near Haas (giant trout in there!)

Along the Routeburn Track

Along the Routeburn Track

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

OK, OK, we get it, Gretchen–New Zealand’s gorgeous. What’s your point? 

Well–remember when I said we’re going back to New Zealand for two reasons?  That last photo is Clue #1. I’ll hint annoyingly about Clue #2 in my next post.

Till then–enjoy the changing of the year, and I’ll see you in 2017!