Evening rant on rentals

Something just dawned on me.

Lately me and The Man have been talking lots about jobs and houses and where to settle - or given the lack on wanting to settle anywhere specific, at least where to settle for now. Meaning, where to buy or build a house.

And it just dawned on me why there is this "wanting to buy or build" thing to begin with, and the related thing of "earning enough to buy or build".

I want a house not (entirely) because of wanting the house itself, but because I'm done with rentals and landlords, and done with their capricious ways.

When I was living on my own moving was not an issue. A year in a dorm, a summer in Alaska, a year flatting, a summer in Alaska, a year at a boyfriend's place, a winter in Svalbard, a summer flatting, off to New Zealand. I've never counted how many places I've lived at. I think if i did, the number would be somewhere around 15. Maybe even twenty.

Whereas now that I'm living with a husband, a kid and a dog - I want a place where I can't be kicked out of just because. Even the most patient and trustworthy of landlords can be a little funny like that. A change in family circumstances, a medical condition that needs financing - boom, and you're out on the market again.

Because of that, I want a house. There are others reasons as well, of course, with top of the list being how badly built so many Kiwi houses are - and wanting "my house" to be better than that.

But mostly, I think, it's wanting this place where I am not depending on other people.

And that is driving many of my financial decisions, and job decisions, and family planning decisions. If I want my own place, I need to be able to pay for it, as simple as that. If my perfect job is doing this thing that is paying x amount, and I need y amount instead, then I'm simply doing this other thing that is paying enough, and end of story.

I've got that last debt to pay off - my student loan, and I'll probably do it next week, actually, now that I've remembered it - and from then on everything in my bank account is savings.

Whoa, getting off topic again.

Basically, I've had enough of rentals. I can live in a rental if I need to, and right now I do need to, but one day I won't have to anymore. And it'll be awesome.


What having a lab is like

If I put my life with this dog in a few simple words, then these would be:

One. She can be truckloads of fun, but she can also irritate the bejesus out of everyone in this house.

Two. I did hear tales about labs' relationship with food before we got her, but I did not expect that people who told these stories were actually... serious. About everything.

No dog I have ever lived or worked with - even not those sled dogs that pulled sleds through soggy glacial melt at 20 degrees C - come close to this food demolishing machine. Mere 10 minutes after she's had healthy dinner she'll be sitting at The Man's feet, wagging her tail and looking longingly at a cup of... apples and yoghurt.

The damn thing eats carrots. Happily. If I've got food she'll do anything.

(And PS: no, I am not starving her. The dog's healthy weight, gets healthy amounts of exercise and attention (and we're not overdoing it either) and gets good, wholesome food.)

Three. Buying a crate was the next best thing after sliced bread. It is the difference between getting our toes chewed off whilst sitting down for breakfast, and eating a leisurely breakfast and THEN walking the dog.

Four. If I haven't got food, she'll take a moment or two to think if she's interested before doing anything. Cocks her head and looks at me, pondering.

Whereas If I've got food, she's in.

First words

My kid's first words were, "lilo-sich".

As in, Lilo and Stich.

Thanks, Disney. I take it "mommy" and "daddy" are too oldschool then.

A playground overgrown

A friend of mine told me about a children's playground behind Allandale Community Hall. There used to be a playcentre there, but not any more - the building was damaged in earthquakes and so the playcentre's moved.

The playground, however, is still standing. It is overgrown, needs a bit of repairwork, but all in all - it's standing.

How about we organise a working bee amongst ourselves, her and me and our husbands, she asked me. A Saturday morning maybe, us four and the kiddos, a few hours, some gardening tools. How about we clean it up so there's a place for children to play?

I thought about it for a while. Allandale Community Hall isn't really on my way, and I don't think I'd use it much, even if it were tidy. "Is there much point in doing that?" I asked myself and thought of all the other things that need doing. I'm not exactly empty-handed here, as far as my To Do List is concerned.

And then I thought, "Come on, Maria, it's called volunteering." I can pitch in with a thing I don't directly benefit from because this is how volunteering works. I do something and I get to feel good about it.


Today I went down to Allandale to check the playground out. Just me and The Kid and some gardening gloves.

Yes, the place is pretty overgrown. Yes, the trees need trimming. Yes, the wooden bits are showing signs of rot and need painting. But all in all, the playground's sweet.

There's a slide. A sandpit. A playhouse. Two swings.

I shut the gate behind us and let The Kid roam around whilst keeping an eye on him and pulling out weeds. Many, many, many weeds. Weeds upon weeds, and then a few more weeds.

I had a blast. It really did feel awesome!

Even The Kid enjoyed himself. He found an old bucket in the sandpit and a plastic spoon which provided for some hardcore concentration over a hole dug in the sand, all whilst I was going around him pulling out weeds.

Yes, I think I will say to my friend next week. Let's do it. Let's spend a Saturday morning tidying it up and then maybe gather at my place for some barbecue. Let's make a morning of it and let's have fun.

You think you're good in the gym?

Think again.


Morning walk on Packhorse

Why do I bother trying to get photos of this dog... Why.

Looking back towards home

On Packhorse itself

Almost back home, looking towards Lyttelton

And looking back over the shoulder towards Packhorse

Good morning!

And that same place the very same afternoon...

About cultural differences

I could start this off by listing all sorts of disclaimers, like,

* yes, I understand the importance of cultural customs and practices,
* no, I am not a racist pig,
* yes, as long as you're not outright harmful you can do as you please when it comes to ceremonies and rituals and whatever. I really don't mind. Really.

But, having said that: this thing that I'm about to describe provided me with ample amusement and, well, bemusement today.

And, yes, I'm gonna talk about Maori customs here.

So here goes.

A formal Maori greeting took place at my workplace today. Our entire staff - front office, back office, accounts, maintenance, everyone - got lined up in a meeting hall. We sang a few songs, listened to a few speeches, observed a few customary... shout-outs, for lack of a better word. Basically, we gave a warm welcome to a group of visitors to whom the Maori-sort-of-welcome was important.

(For those that are familiar with New Zealand, you probably know what it is that I'm talking about.)

But as the men then talked away in Te Reo Maori (which I don't understand, unfortunately) waving their fingers one way and another, I counted our staff and quickly calculated that by vacating our entire offices for three quarters of an hour, in order to welcome these people in, we effectively spent several hundred dollars of payroll on doing... I'd like to say nothing, but I know that it sounds disrespectful, so I'll say that we spent it on sitting there, listening to men speak Te Reo.

I know that welcoming is important. But I'm also wondering: how was it a good thing to let go of that many work hours, collectively, when there were so many things that needed doing? Like, things I was actually employed for?

I will walk into our office tomorrow and I will start doing things that needed doing today - because today, instead of doing them, I sat in the meeting hall listening to men speak Te Reo Maori.

And another thing. As the greeting ceremony drew to a close, it was time for some traditional Maori nose-and-forehead touching - between seventy people.


Over seventy people lined up in a queue to touch each others noses and foreheads, and as I was rubbing my nose against other people's noses what I was really thinking was:

it is frickin' autumn, people. Like, it is the season for headcolds.

Anywhere I go I'm asked to use disposable tissues for blowing my nose and to make sure I disinfect my hands, and here I am rubbing noses with all these people.

Like... really?

That's some cultural thought right here.

On being young and alive

This is Saturday morning blog bombing right here.

I'm going through my early New Zealand blog posts and memories and as I do that, I look through old videos - grainy, compressed to a point of want-to-vomit videos and... man am I glad to have still got them all, no matter how grainy.

My first four months in New Zealand:

And it's so endearing to see, this... almost triumphant joy of being alive.

I've got to write these things down before I forget. I am already forgetting.

Marriage equality passed!

And because I simply could've not said it any better, here's a link to Whitney's blog and a wonderful, wonderful speech made in New Zealand parliament.


Oh for crying out loud, dog!

Taking photos of this lab is like... trying to... something.

Basically, ain't happening. She's effin' all over the place!

Camera looks for a focus, finds the dog (zzzt - focus!), starts to take a picture and by the time it goes 'Click!' - the dog's already elsewhere. Focus is constantly either in front of the dog, or behind the dog, or wherever, but the point is - the frickin' dog's out of focus.

(And just in case anyone's wondering: the first person to suggest switching to manual focus instead then, I'm gonna rip your fuckin' head off.) (Only joking.) (Sort of.)

And then the case of getting her in frame to begin with. Oh jolly me.

So, yeah, pictures of Mocha look mostly like this:

Occasionally - occasionally! - I get a photo where she's mostly in focus and mostly in frame. Sort of. Nothing to dance enthusiastically about, sure, but - still. I mean, look at that. She's mostly in focus! Yay!

So, yeah, that's how we roll.

And going off-topic: I love when these rolling clouds build up above Port Hills. Love, love, love it.

The case of ginger tea

The Man, whilst looking through boxes of tea, "What tea would I like to have this morning? Oh, I know! Ginger!"

Me, "Oh, please don't put in ginger."

The Man, "Why not?"

Me, "Because you always put in ginger and I don't particularly like ginger... Lately I've even been making an effort to get to the teapot first so you don't get to do it before me and put in ginger."

The Man, "Oh, is that why? Because lately I've noticed that I so rarely get to make tea that - every time I get to the teapot first I make ginger."

At which point Maria proceeds to curse under breath.

What having a lab is like

The Man says to me this morning, "I'm not sure I gave her the right type of food. I don't think she ate it - she inhaled it. One moment her head was in her bowl, the next she was licking my legs."

On time, and happiness, and letting go

There is so little time. Baby goes to sleep, then by the time the dishes are done, food for the next morning is ready and kitchen's tidy there's an hour, maybe an hour and a half of me-time, and then it's bedtime. And any time of bedtime spent on being awake is time robbed of sleep.

Attending a craft night is time robbed of sleep, but it's a choice I make (almost) every week. Knowingly.
Sewing a blanket is time robbed of sleep, but that, too, I do knowingly.
Writing several long e-mail to friends I haven't been in touch with is time robbed of sleep - if I e-mail them in the evening anyway - but that, too, I do knowingly.

I knowingly spend time my body needs for resting on things that bring me joy because, well, I bloody well need joy. Every day. Most days.

And then in the morning it starts again: baby, dog, stuff, car, work, car, baby, dog, stuff and when the baby's gone to sleep, another hour or an hour and a half of doing... something. An hour and a half of rest. An hour and a half of breathing space.

Thank heavens for weekends. It's been a very long time since me and The Man have done something together, like, alone together - with not having any family here, or friends who are in a babysitting age, if you know what I mean ;) - but at least it is a respite from weekdays which, with a puppy and The Kid together, are pretty bloody full on.

And with this "bloody full on" with a puppy and The Kid I've come to understand that, well... I really don't think I should have another child. Not in this time and space. Not here. Not like that. A child deserves a happy mother.

But, oh, did I not appreciate how much of a struggle it was going to be stitching it together with The Man.

One wanting a child, the other one not wanting.
One wanting to keep the baby clothes and the other one wanting to make a quilt out of them, so that they get at least some use and some joy squeezed out of them, rather than sitting in a dark box in a dark cupboard waiting for that future-something-time when I come around to having-another-one idea.

And writing about it on a blog. How classy.

But the thing is, I need to have it out there. Once I've written something down and internet's captured it and it's gone off living its own life, there is absolutely no fucking point in me fussing about it anymore because it's, well, out there. It's done. Get over it.

And so I write about it, though it's not singularily my story to tell. I write about it though I'm not entirely comfortable with it. I write because I need to have it out there, and to let it go.

I want the stuff to go. Breast pumps, feeding tops, baby cutlery, the works - I want it gone somewhere where it is actually used and got joy out of. And making a quilt out of all these beautiful baby clothes was that brilliant idea of keeping them at the same time as letting go of them.

And how bloody, bloody, bloody hard it is, with two people on either end of a stick here. So bloody, bloody difficult.

About kids, and paperwork, and parents

Sometimes my job involves processing paperwork that's got to do with kids that are, for various reasons, in other people's care.

It's taught me a great deal. Things like, a kid not saying 'Thank you' is not a big deal. Not finishing his porridge in the morning is not a big deal. Throwing a tantrum in a supermarket - not a big deal.

Just reading some of that paperwork has taught me that I as a parent am doing alright, and that many other parents who get told off by other people for various reasons are, also, doing alright. Sending a kid to school with a packet of noodles is not a big deal. Leaving my kid in a car whilst I get my shopping done is not a bid deal, because, mostly, loving my kid is a big deal. A very big deal.

It has taught me a lot about respect towards respite care givers, and gratitude.

Good night

You ever tried taking photos of a black-coloured puppy at dusk?

Good luck with that.

I do enjoy her getting to a stage where I can actually start taking her to places. Parvo vaccines should be kicking in this week. She's bigger. Stronger. A little smarter. Cheekier, too.

A future search and rescue dog, possibly. We'll see how we go.

Good morning

Attachments to places

On our morning walk through town a thought somewhat connected to Christchurch earthquake creeped up in my head. I tried expressing it to one of the fellow bloggers, though not very eloquently.

So let's try again.

When I listen to people tell their earthquake stories, I listen with excitement. I have no negative feelings whatsoever connected to Christchurch earthquake. I did not lose anything, or anyone. I know people - and of people - who did, but their loss has gone by me.

I look down a street that's now barricaded and dusty - a street I walked on back in 2009 when there were people and signs and plants and takeaway dishes and rubbish bins - and there's no hangup, mentally. I have no sad stories attached to these places, to me Christchurch simply is what it is.

But as I was listening to other people's stories I thought back to one place I have a hangup about. A valley down in Otago.

Again, I did not lose anyone in that valley. My friend is walking the earth today. He's around.

But I have a... uhm, for a lack of a better word, a mental attachment to that valley there.

I think back to that spring day when I was talking to Search and Rescue on the phone, for the third time that day, whilst teams of men were out in the mountains, helicopter had already returned, empty, and she told me that for our next phone conversation - scheduled for 2 pm - I need to get his family on the phone.

Family. As in, the people who can make legally binding decisions on behalf of a person that's missing.

I think back to that moment I put down the phone and thought, "Shit." Okay, actually my thought was a bit longer than that, along the lines of, "Is this how people lose their loved ones in the mountains? Is this how Search and Rescue operations become Retrieving Operations? Is this really it? Like that?" but in short in can be described by simply, "Oh shit."

The feeling that hit me that moment didn't last long. I spent maybe a quarter of an hour processing these kinds of thoughts, maybe less, and Search and Rescue called back exclaiming, "We've found him! They can't get to him yet, but they've seen him. He's alright!"

It was such a short time, but what an effect it's had.

I said it a while ago in Estonian already that one day I'll be returning to that valley because I want to walk that path. I want to visit that place and process some of that feeling I felt between putting down the phone and then hearing it ring again.

It's the sort of a feeling, I think, some people have about Christchurch CBD.

A morning walk through town

For the bloggers that shared this weekend with me there is probably nothing exciting about the photos I'm about to post. But for the rest of you - and especially you the European and American bunch - this is what my morning looked like today.

I went for a walk around Christchurch central city alongside two dozen or so New Zealand bloggers. I'd never been to (post-earthquake) downtown before, and especially not on foot.

I enjoyed it - if not to say immensely so, then at least a great deal so.

We went up on the roof of C1...

PS. Miriam, I just had to put it up here =)

...then around the CBD, central business district, or what's left of it anyway....

...where almost everywhere the fences were lined with women doing this (probably about to be shared on their blogs, just as I am doing now)...

...and finished by dancing at the Re:Start mall.

Thank you, guys, for organising and participating. I'm glad I came.

Question of the day

When someone talks about Christian values, 'for example honesty and integrity', why is it Christian values? Why not just... oh, I don't know, nice person values?

A sense of community

There's a sense of community out where I live in Banks peninsula that I never felt in Wanaka.

Don't get me wrong, Wanaka is a beautiful place to be - it is diverse, challenging and especially in autumn, colorful. I have folders upon folders of photos of Wanaka. Hundreds, thousands of photos. And even more moments stored away in my memory of things that I did and saw and felt.

But Wanaka is also so... transient. People are coming and going, coming and going, all the time. Underneath the bustle of seasonal workers there's a close-knit 'local' community, I hear, but I was never part of that. I was in that middle land of nowhere where I didn't belong with the locals, but I didn't belong with the 'seasonals', either. I was a 'all-year seasonal', if there's such a thing, never knowing whether I was going to be refused a work permit next time I applied or allowed to stay for years; then a 'pregant seasonal' - so not much physical activity; then a 'seasonal with a baby' - so not much happening at all. Whenever I got familiar with my neighbors, I moved - five times. And when I finally started to forge honest, straightforward relationships with people I 'got' and people that 'got' me - I moved away to Christchurch.

And now in Banks peninsula...

We spent our morning at a cafe down the hill from us, Blue Duck Cafe. Maybe you've heard? A little, warm, cozy place to be.

There was a lady in gumboots that looked like she might be a local so I approached and, indeed - she lives in the next valley over and so we sat on the couch sipping our cocoa's and coffees, talking. The owner of the cafe, Glen, joined us for a little bit. A little while later another couple came in - they were from out Motukarara way so they joined in also.

There's an old couple on a farm down the hill from us. (Sorry, I should actually stop adding 'down the hill from us' because living up here pretty much everything is 'down the hill from us') I've dubbed them our foster-grandparents: their children and grandchildren all live further away, some even abroad, and we don't have any of our family here, so we make up for each other's missing family.

I guess what I'm saying is, there is a sense of community here that I have never come across before. Houses are scattered around the hillsides and valleys, but I know the people living in those houses. They make me laugh, they enjoy our company. A lot of them are old and I find old, fascinating. I see a sheep with a coil of wire around its neck and so I call into our neighbors' place to find out whose paddock it is.

I like it here.

Yesterday morning I went out with a real estate salesman, looking at a piece of land for sale a little down the road from us, up on the plateau. I was honest with him - we are in no position to be buying land at the moment, but I am toying with the idea of one day staying here and so I want to see what's out there and to dream a little.

The land is massive, 90-something acres or 35-something hectares, whichever unit you find easier to comprehend. Like, if I showed you what it looks like on Google Earth it's along the lines of this:

Massive. Rolling sheep country, with a sheltered building platform and a resource consent for a home.

"I know it's price by negotiation, but ballpark figure, what are we talking about here?" I asked the real estate salesman, really expecting an answer that ends with something-million, but, instead, he said, "Ballpark figure, six hundred thousand."

Which is still a LOT of money, but at the same time it is almost on the upper reaches of what I think is possible. The Man who hasn't even seen it yet is calling it 'our land'.

And then I remembered a house in Anchorage, Alaska.

It was early autumn 2006. We were walking just off the shoreline where we'd camped that night, in the general direction of the airport and a lady stopped her car to offer us a lift. We ended up not only hitching a ride but spending the evening at her house, eating dinner with her family. We had a wonderful time.

Her house sits high up the hillside overlooking the sound and Anchorage, lit in the setting sun. The views from there are... I held my breath, looking out those windows. The view - and the house itself - are ah-may-zing.

She told us how the first time she saw this patch of land there was no way, really, that she and her husband could afford it. She was a teacher, he did... something, and though feeling very passionately about it they just didn't have the finances. But the old lady selling the land told her to have faith and keep hold of that dream.

Fast forward some (I don't remember how many she said) years: our lift-giving friend had children, a slightly better-paying job and was thinking of buying a home when suddenly... this same plot of land came up for sale. The guy who bought it all those years ago didn't end up doing anything to it, and he was desperate to sell it off, quick.

She and her husband drove up the hill, met the owner, offered to buy the land and it was... done. The plot of land they'd seen all those years ago, the one that the old lady said to have faith in, was theirs.

They've built their dream home on it, little by little, and the place just oozes love.

And I thought about it today as we drove past those hillsides, past the land that The Man calls 'our land'. I have no idea how I am going settle in a place I call my own, but today I simply have trust that one day it'll happen.

Meanwhile, The Man is asking me to Google "How to get 600 000 dollars" =)