New Zealand – Weeks 3-6 aka Sweet as bro!

A&G at “The Mount”

As mentioned in the previous post, we intended to be in NZ for two weeks to see the major sites. However, we ended up in NZ a total of 6 weeks due to the progression of coronavirus in China. Remember, during this time, we are doing online teaching via several platforms and communicating with students on a regular basis in hopes of keeping on track with the curriculum. We each had a phone and shared an iPad to complete daily tasks. There was a daily “fight” for the iPad, but the materials we most needed were back on our hard drives/laptops in Qingdao. A “working holiday” simply became “working and living,” but we did our best to try and achieve a healthy work-life balance.

Kerikeri Aroha Island sunset

Week 3 – By this time, Tom-o (Charlotte’s partner-in-crime) had arrived in NZ after hearing the news that we weren’t returning to school for an unknown amount of time. Grant and I rented a car and (by the good graces of Charlotte’s family) borrowed a tent, air mattress, and sleeping bag for some camping up in the Northland. We based ourselves in Kerikeri and took day-trips to epic sights:

Waitangi Day on February 6. This day celebrates the Treaty of Waitangi, and exhibits aspects of traditional Maori culture such as the haka and canoes (waka).

Tane Mahuta and Puketi Forest

Yes… these trees are THIS tall!
Puketi Forest
One of the largest Kauri trees in the world.
In the Waipoua Forest
You must clean your boots going in and out of the Kauri forests to protect the trees from dangerous fungus.

Sand dunes and Cape Reinga

Dune boarding is hella fun!
Getting ready to shred some gnar!
The entrance to 90-mile beach
Cape Reigna: the northern most point in New Zealand

Russell Island

Long Beach on Russell Island
Russell Island looking over to Paihia
Meat pie…it’s as good as it sounds!
Kiwi crossing
The evening view from our tent site in Kerikeri

Week 4 – Whakatane, Marton and Wellington

At the start of this week, Ali completed the Tarawera half-marathon. Here is the finish line:

Again, by the generosity and unfaltering chivalry of Charlotte Morris’ family, we spent the next week primarily in Whakatane and Marton. The Whakatane homestead of Charlotte’s parents is situated on a dairy farm and the Marton home (Charlotte’s older sister and husband) is on a sheep/beef farm. Between online learning work sessions, we were grateful for the tour of the Marton land to learn about sheep farming and see how they are coping with the current drought.

“No ham for you” – Henry
We enjoyed our time on the Morrison Farm, especially the “add it to the queue one-hit wonder music game” that kept us going till the wee hours.
Morrison Farm
Sheep farm tour
Beef cows waiting for the fence to be opened 🙂

Tom, Charlotte, Grant, and I spent a couple additional days in the south of the North Island in Wellington. This is a “sweet-as” city featuring the sites of Weta workshop, Cuba street epic diners, and Te Papa museum.

WETA workshop
WETA workshop front entrance
Giving a little heart to an Uruk Hai on Valentine’s Day
Cuba St in Wellington is amazing!
One of the sculptures from the Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War exhibit in the Te Papa museum. The giant sculptures were made by Weta Workshop and were unbelievably detailed! Te Papa was one of the best museums we’ve ever been to. Very informative and interactive.
“Mistletoe” in Wellington
Wellington Harbor

Week 5 – Grant and I rented another car and over to Raglan for the week. We stayed in a great Airbnb, cooked some awesome dishes with ingredients we’ve been missing in China for the past 1.5 years, and continued online learning. The much-missed routine and schedule were achieved with work in the early morning, a break at lunch to call friends/fam back in VT, and then work again in the late afternoon when our students were awake in China (-5 hours from NZ). We got out to see some of the Raglan highlights – The Wharf, Bridal falls, and Manu Bay, a famous surfing spot.

Surfing Paradise
Sweet as bro!
Raglan downtown
Grant in Raglan Airbnb making a *creation*
Ali @ Raglan Roast
Raglan views (you can’t see the wind farms but, believe us, they are there)
Bridal Falls, Raglan

Week 6 – We worked and lived in Whakatane. We achieved routine and schedule, but still felt the “pull” of our long-lost laptops/hard drives in Qingdao. We were able to do work and maintain baseline requirements for online teaching in NZ, but not to the degree that we expect from ourselves as professionals. After many long talks/debates, Grant and I decided to return to China. We expected that there would be a quarantine/other precautions, but we were willing to accept those in exchange for being *home*. Regardless of the situation in Qingdao, it is still our current home.

Lamb…it’s what’s for dinner

A few parting words to N.Zed.:

We will be back! Thank you for the crystal blue skies, “no way thanks”, red wine dealt by Gary, sweet words from Rosemary, an average AQI of 5, and the best hospitality the world has ever seen. Thank to you all who helped make our trip so memorable. A special thank you to Morris family. You were incredible hosts and we can’t thank you enough for tolerating us for weeks longer than you intended to. We love you and miss you already, but we will see you again soon. Until then….

“How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” -A. A. Milne

“Don’t be dismayed by good-byes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends.”
Richard Bach

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