Notes from New Zealand 1
It must have been about two months ago that Mountain Dad and I placed a long distance call to a stranger in New Zealand. The call was answered by a broad New Zealand accent telling us, "Russell here." My heart sang to hear the familiar drawl and so began our relationship with Russell, his partner Mitch and the Workaway program. Though we'd only spoken on the phone, we agreed to live together for a couple of weeks come November. We'd move onto his property, children in tow (though we were only then at the 'child' stage, still awaiting the Number Two) and in exchange for a few hours work a day, we'd receive a free place to stay and a few meals thrown in for good measure.
Ours is not the usual Workaway exchange (you can read more about it on the website) and we received a lot of polite denials for our requests to visit hosts in NZ. In fact the only two hosts who agreed are the ones that we will be spending our entire November adventure with. I guess showing up on someone's doorstep with two children, nay babies, in tow, was a little daunting for the countless others we approached. Guiding all of my enquiries to hosts was the fact that these offered self-contained and separate accommodation for their Workaway-ers.
Russell recently told me that when he heard me say that we would be showing up with two kids but didn't actually have the second yet, he thought that if we were that game, he just had to say yes. Our next hosts wrote to me that they have three children of their own. It sounds like a "crazy idea," they emailed, "but why not?"
And so here we are. In Northland. A part of NZ we didn't get to fully explore on our last Babymoon. Staying in a one room, vine-enshrouded cottage on a hill in the NZ bush. When I leave our cottage to cross the verandah for a quick midnight loo-trip, I peek at the stars and hear the Moreporks and Tui's call to one another. During the day Shea works for a few hours in the morning while I play with the wee ones. We do a spot of 'house-work' (the dishes and make the beds) and then some 'school-work' (some Montessori inspired activities I brought for Adelaide). After lunch we family-up and go for a drive to explore the area. Right now it's the Bay of Islands.
During these drives around the curvy, hilly, narrow roads of the region, Mountain Dad offers a stream of suggestions for writing on this blog. Quirky titles, amusing anecdotes (according to him at least) and his daily adventures with Russell, are all proffered as excellent writing fodder for this author. These suggestions come as respite to his usual tirade against NZ roads. "Look at THAT Camille!" he'll shriek with indignation, "There's no shoulder - it's just cliff! No wonder no-one rides bikes here. It's terrifying!"
Mountain Dad's latest offer is yarns of the 'Slapdashery of Russell.' Given less stringent censorship, this author would have respectfully offered 'Tales of a Noble Mariner' who has thrown away the anchor here in Opua. Instead I am being urged to regale you with visions of a property carved out of the thick bush, and then what precious space has been created, is filled to confusion with tools, rescued train carriages (you heard me; that's carriages plural), old cars, caravans and even a plane. Mountain Dad has become Organising-Labourer-Dad who has helped move one of the aforementioned train carriages to a less steep spot (though he wonders at it's usefulness even now as it has no floor). He has cleared superfluous stuff from around the plane. He spent a morning grinding the rust and old paint off a table salvaged from the dump that is one part of our verandah dining set. And just today he finished sanding and anti-fouling the hull of Russell's boat. I'll leave the driveway debacle for another day.
Mountain Dad thinks he's met his match in terms of one who seeks a bargain; even he wouldn't buy a rain-water tank with a hole in it and hope to fix it(even if that means storing it on it's rounded side) and so put it to use.
This Mama know's she's met her match in terms of tolerant wives; even she wouldn't allow the purchase of thousands of litres of used cooking oil in the hopes that one-day a processor would be purchased (second hand) and thus fuel could be produced for home consumption.
Russell, retiring early tonight, called out a thank-you from his glass sliding door that overlooks our cottage (there's no deck for him to overlook as he hasn't got around to building it - he's waiting for some good salvaged lumber). He stood there proudly in his dressing gown and asked us to listen to that bush. "Isn't it wonderful," he urged, "the light, the mist, the rainbows, the birds?" We nodded sagely and quietly turned our observation to the gorgeous surroundings. We watched his back as he turned into his house, calling out one last thing for the evening, "TV's also pretty good."
And he was gone. And we were alone on our verandah having dinner with our kids. Thankful to be having such an economic holiday, an interesting experience, an adventure.
We're also expanding our vocabulary every day thanks to Russell's colourful language. Mountain Dad is rapt to now be able to describe himself as 'parsimonious' to all those friends and family who rib him about his frugality. It seems Russell and he share a few things in common.