change of address

for years we kept hearing about this real estate boom and decided it was time to get in on the action – hope it’s not too late?

after 2 1/2 years of looking and countless open houses (probably close to 100 for the jboss) we finally have a signed contract on a house. it will be great to have a place of our own. makes it all seem less temporary.

if you ask the realtor she will say the house is in island bay, when actually it is in southgate – a tiny neighborhood on the ridge overlooking island bay. but we think of it as an extension of island bay – just like the bronx is an extension of manhattan.

we are going to create the story of how southgate broke away from island bay – stay tuned for that.

the details:

  • 14A Buckley Road
    Southgate, 6023
    New Zealand
  • settlement date: 14-JAN
  • moving date: 15-JAN
  • phone (unchanged) 04 971 6426

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nice view from the deck

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mini deck off the main room for coffee in the morning.

one large main room with kitchen, dining room and lounge (living room) combined.
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main room with views out over island bay and the cook straight.

open modern kitchen.

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city to sea – aea ot ytic

today we completed the longest and most challenging of the wellington city walks – the city to sea.

19.8km (12.3 miles) along the western ridge line from parliament to the southern coast.

except we did in reverse starting at our house, heading down to the island bay coast and then heading into the city.

5 1/2 hours after we started we arrived at parliament and caught a bus back to island bay – quite exhausted.

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from the elevation map you can see that there was quite a climb.

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starting our climb to the hills overlooking island bay. looking out at cook straight with taputeranga island in the foreground.

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wildflowers lining the track. the jboss at the top of the ridge. many miles to go…

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the jboss takes in the view of the island bay and the southern coast. in the unexpected category, a buddhist monastery in the hills overlooking island bay.

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cricket and a kite

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looking back to the southern coast – and then north towards the city and inner harbour.

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the ultimate volvo with it’s own garden.

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crime wave

we’ve been notified by the police that there has been a bit of a crime wave in our neighborhood and we should be on the look out for suspicious activity.

details of the heinous crime? “between Monday and Wednesday, the offender entered the garage and stole a skateboard.

jackie’s ready if they decide to come back…

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one year in

today marks the one year mark for me in new zealand.

the highlights

– public transport that works. a 3 block walk to my bus stop in island bay, a wait usually less than 10 minutes and i’m in the cbd 20 minutes later. less than a block from my bus stop in the city to my desk. the buses are clean, the drivers friendly and the riders courteous.

– a 12 minute commute. i hop on my vespa, park in one of the free spots in the cbd for scooters/motorcycles and i’m at my desk after a short walk. 20 minutes from door to desk

– neighborhood shops. from our house in island bay i can walk to the grocery, butcher, bakery (2), dairy (4), movie theater, pharmacy, post office, library, doctor, book shop, cafe (3), bar, fish & chips, chinese (3), malaysian, indian & thai.

– the cafe culture. almost every block has several small, independent cafes with coffee, drinks, light food and outside tables along the sidewalk.

– common courtesy. for example i’ve ridden the bus hundreds of times now and i can’t think of a single time someone was yacking away on their mobile phone. before they get on folks switch their phones to silent mode. my boston experience was the inevitable hummer parked in the fire lane and blocking the entrance outside the whole foods. or the person ahead of you at the check out counter more focused on their mobile phone conversation than paying for their purchases

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– a vibrant city full of small businesses. only one mall way out in the suburbs and no big box stores. jackie went to our local hardware store and asked for a magnetic key box. they didn’t have any in stock but the manager said he would look into getting some. he called the next day to let her know they had been ordered, and then again when they had arrived. more than once i have been in a shop, asked for something it turns out they didn’t have, and had them point me to competitor

– a sense of community. wellington’s not small (500,000), but i feel much more of a part of the community that i did in boston. the city council takes out a full page ad in the paper with the latest community news, events and planned city works. i’ve already participated in two council surveys (public transport & road planning), something i never did (was never asked) before

– the ocean. i lived within an hour of the ocean for 21 years in boston and had no interest in it. since i’ve been here i’ve spent time at the water almost every day. i have no interest in going to the beach to lie down on a blanket and get a tan. but most of the coastline is too rugged for that anyway and is great to walk along. the rock and tides make it a new experience every time.

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– the climate. i haven’t worn a winter coat since i’ve been here. and none of the melting heat in the summer. it feels like spring or fall most of the time.

– renting. my home chore list is empty for the first time since 1991. our weekends are for recreation, exploring and having fun.

– safe & secure. no colour coded national threat level. no tsa hassles at the airport. and yet i feel *much* safer.

– kids being kids. playing in the streets, getting to school on their push scooters, busy playgrounds.

– the simple life. used car, small house, less stuff.

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– public healthcare that works. universally accessible healthcare for primary and acute care, the accident compensation corporation (acc) providing no-fault coverage for all accidents & injuries eliminating lawsuits, and pharmac objectively deciding what medicines will be provided. even though i had great employer provided coverage in boston there was always the fear of losing your job and being bankrupted by a medical expense. you do have to wait your turn for many procedures though.

– social services that work. kiwis may struggle to make ends meet, but no one goes hungry and everyone has a place to sleep. perhaps even a bit too generous at times, but i would rather error in this direction.

– the integration of maori culture into daily kiwi life. i’m struck by both the maori and pakeha (a new zealander of non-maori and non-polynesian heritage) actions here. the pakeha are very respectful of the maori culture – and the maori are comfortable sharing their traditions with the nation. when mahe drysdale wore a traditional maori cloak whilst caring the new zealand flag during the olympic ceremony it felt like a celebration of the maori traditions. the tomahawk chop at a braves game is not quite the same. when the national anthem was played before the all blacks game everyone sang both the english and maori verses.

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what i miss

– cheap books. even taking the exchange rate into account books are almost twice as dear here.

– tivo. once you’ve had it, it is hard to do without.

– affordable home ownership. things have peaked here, but home prices had reached the stratosphere – totally unaffordable (80% of take home pay for example). and we thought boston was expensive.

– good pay. kiwi salaries are quite low relative to the us, the uk or australia.

– going to the ballpark. hard to beat a redsox game at fenway park.

– dunkin donuts. i don’t expect there is anywhere that had more coffee cafes and better coffee, but sometimes i just want my big styrofoam cup of dd, ready for me in 30 seconds. and an occasional donut is a fine guilty pleasure.

– the vermont cabin. actually, the cabin in the first few years we owned it when it was a relaxing place to enjoy the snow and sit in front of the fire. unfortunately in the end it was just a place to do chores.

– the climate. i do miss winter a bit. something about a gentle snowfall, or even the feeling of battling mother nature during a fierce winter storm. and the smells of the flowers in spring and the leaves in fall are hard to beat.

– having a shared history with others – particularly with the few that tolerate my sense of humour and cater to my near constant need for positive feedback.

– turkey day. food, family & football.

– christmas in winter. it should be cold and the ground covered with snow when you are picking out your christmas tree. there are also noticeably few christmas lights and decorations. we may have to set the example this year.

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start the projector, dim the lights, cue the orchestra

going to the cinema here in wellington is quite a different experience than we’re used to at the boston megaplex.

firstly there are several great old classic theatres to choose from – the penthouse in brooklyn, the embassy in the cbd and the empire just 3 blocks from our house here in island bay.

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the embassy has changed little expect it’s name (originally deluxe) since it first opened in 1924. unfortunately i don’t have the best photos but after entering a great italian tiled lobby you head up one of the sweeping marble staircases to the main lounge. on the right you have the jazz lounge with the overstuffed leather chairs and live music. to the left the cafe where you can get a coffee, slice of cake or a nice glass of wine. in the middle the ticket counter where you can also get a beer, juice or ice cream.

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not your typical movie theatre restrooms.

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your seat (assigned – early ticket buyers get the primo spots) is a large overstuffed leather chair or half of a 2 seater couch. there is a small built in table between seats for your wine glass (or whatever else you choose).

for the last 2 weeks the new zealand international film festival has been here in wellington. it travels around the country stopping in all the large and medium sized cities. it is a bit overwhelming with 200+ films to choose from – many that we wanted to see. we settled on just 3 with the highlight tonight – a screening of the 1925 harold lloyd silent classic “the freshman” with live accompaniment by the vector wellington orchestra.

the head of the film festival was on hand to introduce the film and give a bit of background. he noted his pleasure that the oldest movie in the festival by far was the fastest to sell out.

great movie, music and surroundings.

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city safari

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today we participated in the metlink city safari. hard to describe – but combine orienteering, a scavenger hunt and “amazing race” and you’re close.

technically it is called a rogaine and in a fixed duration event where you challenged to visit as many control points as possible. the control points are indicated on a map that is provided just 30 minutes before the event start. each control point has a difference point value based on it’s distance from the start, remoteness and physical challenge level. one 100 point control point was at the top of a peak several kilometers from any road.

the wellington event is special in that is is sponsored by the public transport system (metlink) so you can use the buses, trains and ferries to get around. actually given the distances between control points the only way you can get many points is to use the public transport for all it’s worth.

there were 6 hour and 3 hour events offered. the hard core competitors were in the 6 hour edition with us and most of the amateurs opting for the 3 hour event.

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here we are getting final instructions after receiving our maps.

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a quick speech by the mayor and we’re off. note the stylish bibs.

it had to be quite the site for others in the city that day. hundreds of fools with maps running all around.

our tactic was to grab one quick control point near the start and then take the bus all the way down to the island bay coast. we would then work our way back to the cbd and the finish line.

the photo on the right was this bizarre place we encountered on the way to control point 3A. it looked like a ride a disney. i kept expected to hear the splash mountain music playing. very weird to run into this in the middle of the wellington neighborhoods. still don’t know what it was.

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this is one of the two maps that we were given – this one covering the southern portion of the course. you can see our route with the green line bus journeys and the blue when we’re off on foot.

note that the map has no street names, so you have to use your map reading skills to keep track of where you are and how to get to your next control point. since this event was tied to the public transport system all the bus/train/ferry stops are marked (the little red numbers). they have a nice system here where you can text the stop number to a metlink number and it replies with when the next bus/train/ferry will arrive.

we only made one logistics error (it can been seen on the map as the blue line heading nowhere), but we quickly recovered.

one of the control points was directly across the street from our house on tiber street – a bit small worldish.

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here we are at the finish, still on speaking terms.

after the results were tallied we got 270 points which earned us 39th place. no need to mention that the team below us included a family with 4 kids under the age of 10 and several families with little ones in backpacks.

we figured we covered about 5k on foot and 10k on the bus. fully expecting to be quite sore tomorrow.

after the race the organizers had the full spectrum of snacks. everything from healthy bananas and organic sausages (kiwi oddity here – don’t expect to get a bun with your hotdog or sausage – it will be served on a piece of white bread) to cookies and dominos meat lovers pizza.

we’re looking forward to doing it again next year and expect that we can get several other teams organized from work colleagues and their families.

practice practice practice

every time now i see an athlete performing some amazing maneuver i think of “ronaldo”, one of the kids on our street.

rolando is outside on our street practicing with his skateboard, bike and scooter (the kids kind) for hours *every* day. most days he’s joined by a few of the other homies from the hood, but you can always count on him being there. he has gone over his ramp so many grazzilion times that the sound of zzzzzzzZZZZZZZZZ-clomp-clomp-zzzzzzzz has become quite relaxing.

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and i confess that ronaldo’s real name is owen – but he frequently has a soccer jersey on with ronaldo (european football star) on the back so he’s ronaldo to me.