KIWI BIRD CALLING – COLUMN #2 FROM NEW ZEALAND

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One minute you’re sitting on a plane eating complimentary nuts, the next you’re translating Maori words and abseiling down a steep mountain using a rather suspect rusty chain (and no harness). Time flies when when you’re thrown in at the deep end doesn’t it?

New Zealand has been my home for almost two months now and time has flown by in a haze of exploration, new faces, hiking up mountains, finding my feet at work and tasting as many New World wines as I can get my mits on. When in Rome.

My accent is quite the conversation starter. At the moment, it often instigates a bout of sporting banter for those kiwis engrossed in the world cup – ‘Ya Brits just don’t know what ya’r doing on the rugby pitch do ya?!’.‘No, it appears we don’t,’ I say, ‘But fear not. I am from Guernsey’. Such a great get out clause for the more-often-than not occasions when England falls short of the mark, eh?

Whenever someone from NZ makes me a cup of tea, they wait with baited breath for the nod of approval. I like this. We Brits don’t have the mighty All Blacks but we do have English Breakfast tea and I’ll take that – with a spoonful of sugar if I may.

I have found a temporary replacement for my two cats GiGi and Blossom. We’ve named him Sebby. He turned up at our door one day and adopted us it seems – not the other way around as is the way with felines. He’s a gorgeous brown, black and white tabby who demands strokes, frequent naps and snacks at all hours of the day and night. You’d think this was 1950 and I his ‘chained to the sink wife’. But he is so handsome; we let him get away with it – just.

I’m working for the Waikato Regional Council at the moment, in the communications department, and while it doesn’t have the same rush and buzz of the newsroom, I’m really enjoying the new experience. I’m currently co-ordinating 12 videos so it’s full on, but I am working with a whole range of people from biodiversity experts and coastal scientists to engineers and civil defence staff. I had to throw myself straight in. I found the job through a recruitment agency called ‘Asset’, and for anyone thinking of coming out to New Zealand on a working holiday, I would definitely recommend going down this route. It will save you traipsing around cities handing out CVs and probably mean you find you something that is better paid and more ‘up your street’.

A few weeks ago my fiancé David and I went up to Auckland for our five year anniversary to see Maroon 5. The last big concert I went to I was 12 – Justin Timberlake gliding his way across the Earls Court arena stage. So, as you can imagine, I was as excited as a kid on Christmas morning. When in Auckland, a trip up the Sky Tower (kind of like Auckland’s answer to The Shard) is a must. We went to the 53rd floor to have a drink in the Sugar Club. Sipping my cosmopolitan, looking out over the twinkling city skyline, things weren’t looking too shabby my friend.

In other news -I had my first earthquake drill the other day. Ducking under my desk, with the siren blaring, it definitely didn’t feel like your average Tuesday. After the earthquake in Christchurch in 2011, these kinds of drills are becoming more commonplace and given that Guernsey has experienced a few earthquakes recently, maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to try on ‘the rock’?

Speaking of life on the rock, while I loved the occasional meander to the Fairy Ring and out to Lihou, I’m really getting into hiking here – like serious hiking. Stereotypical expat in NZ? Probably. Maybe it’s ‘something in the water’, but if I’m not working (or drinking newly discovered wines), I’m planning our next excursion. Move aside Bear Grylls!

We recently climbed up the 1,500 steps at Hakarimata and my god, we nearly died. Dave’s muscles recovered fairly quickly, but I was left waddling like a penguin for the next week. I think my body needs time to catch up to my new found passion. Still, the view from the top was incredible. The horizon went on for miles and the green hills seemed to roll on into eternity.

Another recent excursion was Pirongia mountain with a group of Dave’s pilot friends. We knew it would be a challenge and we were game, but we were not expecting quite such a test. Think Duke of Edinburgh pain x 100. You know those chains I mentioned? Yeah… that’s where these come in. What started off as a slightly muddy track, quickly transformed into the wild version of ‘Tough Mudder’. I felt like a contestant on Takeshi’s Castle. We were traversing steep rocky passes, fighting our way through thick bush trails and climbing steep rock faces. The rusty chains were there to help us along but there was definitely no set path. Insert thumbs up sign.

Actually, it was bloody terrifying, but again, the view from the top was beautiful and as the philosopher John Muir famously said: ‘Break clear away once in a while and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean’. We came back caked in mud, but our spirits were definitely a little fresher for our test in the wild.

Because after all, there’s plenty of time to relax when you’re old, relaxing on your porch and gazing at the stars.

For now, carpe diem. Until next time!

Love,

The Kiwi Bird

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

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