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.
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
Sand dunes and Cape Reinga
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”