In New Zealand, we were not focused on sight-seeing at all. This would be a quick stop-over on our way to Asia. As you may recall from one of my first blog posts, we had spent a couple of fantastic weeks in New Zealand last year. It was on our way home from that trip that we solidified the idea to take a year to travel. And so we were content with spending just a couple days in this amazing country this time around.
Once again, we were amongst family. One of my closest and oldest friends, Miriam, is married to a Kiwi. Visiting her and getting to know her 2 girls, as well as meeting her family in law was super precious. We got to stay in a shipping-container-turned-bungalow on their property, which was perfect in every way. They live in Silverdale, about an hour north of Auckland, and have secured a large swath of land decades ago. It’s a green oasis, slowly being boxed in by the expanding suburbs of Auckland. It reminded us of Leidsche Rijn, and even Portland, where tens of thousands of homes are being developed, and where the city is crawling in and overtaking the green hills.
Miriam and I go back more than 20 years and in fact, she introduced Steven and I to each other! She’s a transcendental meditation (TM) teacher, and taught us the technique years ago. Our original travel schedule had us stay in Auckland for just a 4 hour lay-over so that we could catch the New Year fireworks over Sydney’s harbor bridge. But during our travels, we decided to prioritize our time in Auckland, so that we could spend time with these dear friends, revamp our own meditation practice, as well as expose our kids to meditation. We feel it’s a critical skill in this hectic world to be able to “turn off” for a moment, to quiet that busy busy mind and to feel deeply connected within yourself and all there is. And so we changed our flights, grateful that Miriam and Damian also adjusted their plans to be able to host us. It made for a profound couple days.
Miriam’s parents in law, Graeme and Raylene took us out to the stunning and remote beach of Big Bay, off of Wenderholm Regional Park. Amazing what came of that boat … cricket set, volleyball net, baseball glove, balls, sand toys, picnic table, body boards, a couple of chairs, … It was like a magic hat!! Graeme ran a bus service to get everyone to the island, and Matthias happily was his co-pilot. We spent the day playing cricket (way harder than it looks!), and enjoyed Raylene’s gourmet picnic. We had the beach to ourselves, apart from the rare oyster catcher with her young. We were careful not to disturb them.
Besides eating and talking (what else is there, really?), we went to the movies, and an acrobatic circus from China. The show was impressive, but I was (very) uncomfortable as some of the performers were not older than my boys…
With 2 girls, Miriam has perfected the art of applying nail-polish. She bonded with our kids, as she patiently applied design over design. Matthias proudly wore his for weeks! We played board games like Survive and Exploding Kittens (don’t ask). The kids again blended seamlessly, despite the age differences, and we did not see or hear them for hours on end. Except when we had to go watch the shows they prepared for us off course. Just like at Villa Bo, we felt perfectly relaxed, happy and content.
We talked a lot about what we should do to hang onto that feeling once we’d be back on our own. The somewhat harsh reality is that parenting 24/7 is demanding for us. Our kids do amazingly well, and we all have grown so close. But without other kids around, there is still quite a bit of “parental entertaining and facilitating” going on. I realized that not only do we sometimes sigh that it’s hard to have your kids with you 24/7, the same is true for our offspring. They have their parents with them 24/7, and their siblings. A blessing most of the time, and sometimes plain and simply, utterly annoying.
We’ve learned for example that homeschooling requires us to be present with our kids. We can’t just put the kids in front of their workbooks. We have to sit down with them, and discuss the materials. At the same time, if we let them carve their own learning path, things go much smoother. Matthias for example has discovered coding on khan academy, and really enjoys it. Recently, he’s started saying he wants to be a scientist when he grows up, and he’ll invent a solution to global warming.
We all had the best time, with interesting and philosophical conversations. Graeme and Raylene offered us straightforward and practical advice. As we talked about our thoughts and doubts on settling down in Portland versus moving back to Europe (both great options in the short and long term) they offered “Sounds like you have it 99% figured out in Portland. Why would you risk that?”. Mmm. Good point. It’s just that it’s so so far away from the people who matter so much to us. We want our kids to have roots in Europe, to know their family; we want to be there when it matters. What a dilemma.
With such great hosts, great care, great conversation, great food and great everything, we were oh so sad to say goodbye once again. We toyed with the idea to go back to New Zealand post Sydney, or even to skip the rest of the trip all together. We thought about putting the kids in school in New Zealand, close to where our friends live. But in the end, we decided against it. Adventure calls! This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we have more of the world to show our children. So, onto Australia!!
Where we stayed: private, with our friends.
Where we ate: at home
Where we played:
- Wenderholm Regional Park – we boated out to the deserted beach of Big Bay. Spectacular!
- Metioning also Transcendental Meditation. Check it out!