Karen’s letter no. 3


Karen has been a lot better at writing than me, in fact I have fallen behind in posting her letters. So I am going to catch in three separate posts all at one time. My next one will be posted very soon. The pictures are not necessarily related to the story – just nice shots which Karen took. Each has a caption which tells the story.


September 2011

Another instalment … this time about NZ driving.

I was reading through a guide-book and it suggests that for long distances one should plan to drive no more than 200-300 km A DAY- with frequent rest and pit stops. Crikey – it would take more than a week to get to Cape Town from Pta like that! In their defence (who ever wrote the book)- you simply can’t drive as far or as fast as you do in SA. The roads are windy and there is probably not more than 1 km of perfectly straight road anywhere in the country. The only highways are in Auckland – there are no highways (as such) joining major centres around the country, although the roads are good- no pot holes (Sue and Riette!!!) and very good signage all over. Steph says there is a toll road up north, it costs about $3.50 and you have 5 days after you have used the road to pay the toll via the website.  There are no toll booths.

Black carrots from the market (you also get yellow ones- and orange beetroot).

Talking about stuff that is missing from the roads – there are no ‘traffic-light shops’- so do not expect to save any time by doing your DVD, hangers, sunglasses and ‘herb’ shopping at the traffic lights. There is also nobody to clean your windscreen at the traffic lights with weak dishwashing liquid and a strong smile. Somehow we cope.

There is no such thing as school kids being killed by taxis – ON THE PAVEMENT –  as far as I am concerned the greatest indictment against the taxi industry in SA. The speed limit outside schools is 40 km/h for about an hour before and after school.  There are very good scholar patrols – always with a teacher present, and quite often there is a police-man watching as the kids leave school for the day  – no doubt watching for taxis on the pavement.

As far as kids getting to school are concerned (here I am talking about primary schools) – lots of kids walk or ride on little push-scooters, some take the bus and some take the ‘walking bus’. The ‘walking bus’ is a parent who walks a certain route and collects kids on his/her way to school, so that a small group walks together – up to about 10 kids (or “kuds”- as they say here).

Traffic rules are obeyed and NOBODY parks in a bus zone or in a ‘wheelchair’ zone – of which there are always plenty in good spots at the shops.

Most of the Macleans college kuds either walk, take the bus or drive themselves to school – the driving age here is now 16 (recently gone up from 15) and there are loads of cars parked along the road next to Macleans (Juliette’s) school and other high schools. Juliette called me the other day at 3:50 to ask if I could collect her from school – I had just arrived home, so I said that if the bus did not arrive by 4 she should call me again and I would fetch her. She walked through the front door at 3:59.

‘Daffs in front of Green Gables art gallery in Picton str, Howick

Because the roads are pretty windy you really can’t travel terribly fast and there are not very many stop signs – mostly traffic circles. Also you will find a main road in a suburb with many crescents off it – and many dead-ends too. If you look at our area on Google maps you will see that Bucklands Beach Road is quite a big one and many little roads meander off it and back – or not. Roads also change name in the middle of a seemingly straight bit of road – so Laings road becomes The Parade, Morrow Ave changes into Devon at the Scout Hall, and Bucklands Beach Rd becomes Hattaway AND Clovelly – not always with any apparent reason. This is no Cape Town where you can keep the mountain to your left, or Margate where you can keep the sea to your right and kind of figure your way around – forget it! If you ever visit – you will need a GPS (don’t let that stop you though – we have one for you). It randomly switches languages into Afrikaans every now and then which startles Steph and amuses all his passengers.

For any driver under the age of 20 the alcohol limit is zero, zip, nothing, nada, niks. There are road fatalities and they make such a fuss that often a fatality (or even an accident) is mentioned on the national news. The National News – now THERE is a great theme for a future newsletter.

Loads of people ride bicycles and walk their dogs, especially along The Parade (the beach road of Bucklands Beach) and in Howick it is quite common to see a dog on a leash at a coffee shop or perhaps waiting outside the library or at a veggie shop or the butchery – this is where they look the happiest.

This morning at the Howick market there were several guide dog puppies going for walks and at one table at the coffee shop (where we met up with Lynne and Aunty May for breakfast) there were 3 dogs.

Which brings us to another thing – it is SOOOOOO quiet at night. Where do these dogs go at night? Where we stay it is so quiet and so dark – you can’t see a thing at night in our bedroom, except for the glow of the bedside clock. There are no automatic garden lights that flash on as the sun fades out – there are no dogs that even whimper, there are no cars zooming past and no gun shots. It is dead quiet – despite the lack of gun shots. The houses are reasonably close together – much closer than in SA – and I am sure all the neighbours whisper at night and can hear everything we say from ‘please pass the salt’ to ‘how many times must I tell you to use your cutlery’.  They all know by now that Juliette leaves her wet towel on my bed and that Etienne never puts his toothbrush back in the right place and that I hate the toilet seat being left up.

Dentistry in NZ

I have been dying to tell you about this – there are 2 dentists that I regularly drive past – the one is called ‘Creative dentistry’ and the other ‘Lumino dentistry’. It makes one wonder – one day I am going to park my car outside for long enough to watch a client go in and come out – just so that I can see what ‘creative’ and ‘luminous’ dentistry looks like (note to self: take sunglasses).

Next edition – security in NZ or maybe architecture – it doesn’t really matter – there is neither of either.

Family news

Jules’ choir tour to Wellington went off well except that she had an awful room mate who did not sleep and left the TV on some murder channel, so poor Jules woke up to screams at 3am. They did reasonably well at the competition – being awarded a silver. She is enjoying school, liking maths, not liking French and is talking about becoming a primary school maths teacher. Its early days, so we will see – she has plenty of time to change her mind, if she wants to. I am very happy to encourage her to do that if she wants to.

Wendy (friend) and I went for a walk from our house past the golf course and to Musick Point - we then walked down the steps (STEEP) to the bottom of the cliff RIGHT on the northernmost tip of the Bucklands Beach peninsula - this must the world’s tiniest beach - just big enough for a family of four with four friends, 8 sandwiches and 2 bottles of champagne, not even space for a beach ball.

Etienne is still inventing stuff and can now say the Periodic Table up to Rhubidium. He has a nice Periodic Table (the one from Scienza) up on the inside of his desk and tried to take it off, but it tore, so now he says he split some atoms. He still likes his Greeks and Romans, esp the gods and myths. He did very well in a general knowledge quiz on NZ – second best in his class, still struggles with spelling and writing, but he has the loveliest teacher and loves his school and being here in NZ in general.

Steph still doing Mandarin on Tuesdays, gym 3x times a week and ironing and cooking and is looking forward to his next trip to ‘Die Verre Ooste’.

Granny Smith  turned 80 on the 31st of August. Thanks so much to everyone who went to see her or phoned her. Margaret organised a party at the clinic and bought an enormous bunch of flowers and several people popped in to see her and made a fuss. Thanks a lot.

I am going to send some pics separately this time, so if your server rejects them you can still see the letter. S may also stick the pics on his blog.

Lots of love to you and yours,

Karen and the Kiwis


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