I’m Homeschooling Myself: Vol 3; Dec 11 – Jan 26, 2007

“I’m homeschooling myself” is my new clever catch-phrase I’m starting to use to describe to people what it is I am doing. I’ve had some uncomfortable and displeasing encounters with a few people recently in trying to answer their simple question “So, what are you doing in New Zealand” or “Are you working?” The ‘are you working’ is such a hard one because I am indeed working, working hard in fact, it’s just not for the benefit of some third-party; it’s for the benefit of the Kathy & Bruce Co. I’ve been tackling so many different projects this past month, in so many different arenas, that I finally likened to what I’m doing to homeschooling – my days are filled with short one to two hour bursts of energy in different subjects; I’m constantly switching gears, trying to push through all of them. I may as well set up a little alarm bell to go off every so often to indicate that it’s time to move on to the next course. Just like school! Much of what we’ve been doing lately centers on the upcoming Kiwiburn (KB) festival, Burning Man’s regional New Zealand event, of which we are a major contributor, being one of only a handful of theme camps. The Green Fairy Black Light Lounge anyone? The festival is way up on the north island and we’re combining our kiwiburn trip with an additional three-week ‘research’ mission to peruse Taranaki, a region we think may be suitable for our long-term lifestyle block scene. So, we’re in the midst of gearing up for a five-week road trip.

Here’s what’s been going down:

Van.jpgShop: Our latest acquisition to the household is our 1989 Mitsubishi camper van which we bought off of a fellow Convergence attendee over New Years. The van has been fitted out with carpets, storage compartments and sleeping quarters for two, so we can go on the open road and free-camp anywhere. We’re proper kiwis now. It’s diesel run (Jai, are you reading this? Perhaps a trip out to help us convert to bio-diesel? he, he) and we’re learning the ins and outs of operating a diesel powered vehicle (there’s a unique way to start it, and one has to buy diesel credits, a form of road user tax since diesel gas is not taxed at source). Van2.jpgThe van is our answer to the ‘how are we going to get all this stuff for our big installation piece to Kiwiburn?’ question. Also falling under the ‘shop class’ category is the operation of power tools. I love power tools and recently had the opportunity to work the chop saw as part of my arts and crafts class. Hmmm, what I really want for Christmas (birthday, anniversary, etc) some day is a chain saw. Girls like tools too!

Home Ec: In lieu of a chain saw however, I bought myself a new sewing machine for Christmas; one that offers twenty-five different stitches and can do button holes. The machine’s been humming for the last few weeks as I whip out a couple of UV-reactive outfits for Bruce & myself, making vests, halters, Thai wrap-around pants and reconstructed lab coats – these will be part of our bar-tending uniform along with some shimmery cowboy hats.

Phys.Ed.: I didn’t much enjoy phys ed in school, always figuring out a way to cut out and not get caught, but I’m liking it now. I bought a copy of HoopGirl’s beginner instructional hooping DVD and I’ve been practicing a little bit every day. Having a yard to practice in makes all the difference, and after a few short hours of watching and practicing, I’ve elevated my skills ten-fold. As Hoopgirl’s tagline says: “Get Fit, Feel Sexy, Have Fun” and I am!

Maths: One of Bruce’s and my favorite subjects is mathematics or maths for short (and no, that’s not a typo, it’s ‘maths’ with an ‘s’ here in NZ and you will get a tisk tisk if you just say ‘math’). Actually, finance is more up our alley and we’ve been busy little bees dealing with a variety of real estate issues in San Francisco, not the least of which is the impending sale of our 23rd Street flats (and yes that’s with an ‘s’ too since we now own a 50% interest in the middle unit after buying out our very, ahem, unenlightened and misguided former partner). Almost one year later and we’re still riding that ride, having gotten into and fallen out of contract twice, now in contract for the third time. Third time’s a charm they say and with any bit of luck and love from the universe, we will close escrow by the end of February with US dollars in the bank and on to our next maths problem – foreign currency conversion! If only we had sold our flat back in June when the exchange rate was $.60 cents to the NZ dollar; instead, we’ve watched the US dollar tank so now it’ll ‘cost’ us $.70 cents for a NZ dollar. Blah! Another fun maths problem we’ve enjoyed (NOT) dealing with is NZ/US taxes and trying to understand filing requirements and dates, rules and regulations, etc. The NZ government highly encourages you to employ the use of a certified accountant for even the most simplest of returns (not that ours are simple); so we got ourselves one and have spent a considerable amount of time meeting with Bevan discussing tax avoidance/minimization, oh I mean, asset protection and tax structuring strategies.

Law: This now brings us to NZ Law101 as a good asset protection/tax structuring strategy generally means setting up a family trust and we are now the proud owners/beneficiaries/trustees of the Guidi Scanlon Family Trust. Not the most creatively named, but very, very clear! We’ve done a lot of reading up on trust law and felt it was a good way to go. Only a week old and we already ran into a little problem – we want to put the house into the trust, but the house is only in Bruce’s name, and in order to optimize the tax structuring we need to have the house in both of our names before we ‘convey’ it into the trust – so, we went to see a solicitor about this today and on top of the $1200 – $1400 fee to prepare some of the trust paperwork was an additional $1000 to prepare paperwork to get me on title. Hmm, my maths skills tell me that $2200 seems like a lot of money to do all this, so we said ‘we’d have a think’ and get back to him.

Sciences: Ah, a big category here………
We had a little astronomy session last week as we ventured one night at sunset (9:15 pm) to take a peek at Comet McNaught which reached perihelion recently and became visible in the southern hemisphere. On one of the only fine evenings this past week, we strolled over to the Uni track field which offered a great view of the western sky, and along with one other stranger, we sat and squinted for a bit until our new stranger-friend shouted ‘there it is’. And a big fella too (Lemon Jelly song reference) with a long tail and a big fiery, glowing center, easily discernable with the naked eye and even more enjoyable viewing it with binoculars.

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Physics was a week-long focus with a dome building lesson here in the yard. Bruce spent the last few months designing and then fashioning an elliptical dome, something he’d not done before but had been pondering for a long time. The dome was going to be home to the Green Fairy Lounge at KB, and being the smart festival-goers we are (and having been caught with our pants down before), we thought it’d be a good idea to do a test build PRIOR to lugging it up to KB. With San Francisco-visiting-friend Aram and a few other pals, we spent the better part of the day attempting to put together the 180 piece, twenty-different-sized dome struts using a multi-paged 3-d illustration with handwritten strut sizes on it – no simple task. After five hours, we were 80% finished and quite tired and confused, so we left it till the next morning to complete. Another two hours and Bruce, Aram, and I had it all together, but alas, the structure could not support itself and would not fully stay erect. With only three weeks to go till KB and many more tasks to accomplish, we felt it prudent to bail on the dome and buy a carport instead. Onward ho!

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Horticulture and apiary continue to be high priority items. It was time to move the bees from the temporary house to the new house. Bruce donned his bee suit and I photographed the process from the safety of the windowed glass of the back house. The small bee starter colony had grown from maybe 75 bees to well over 300 happy little things, although they didn’t seem that happy on this particular day suddenly evicted from their small home. Within hours though, they calmed down and figured out how to get into their new spacious abode. The bees are totally loving the blossoming garden which has been growing at breakneck speeds lately. We harvested 50 bulbs of beautiful garlic which I cured and braided and have hanging in the shed, and we’re now regularly harvesting lettuce, zucchini and swiss chard. We had a little bout with aphids which decimated 80% of our broccoli but we’re told that can often be the case. The cauliflower and beets should be ready this week; the carrots and celery are slowly coming along, and our ten tomato plants are close to four feet tall and sporting some beautiful green tomatoes. Now it’s time to start thinking about the next round of planting for fall and winter harvest.

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And no science class would be complete without chemistry, here in our household known as distilling. I never took chemistry and I know why – I really don’t have much of an aptitude for it and I don’t like all those codes (you know, that periodic table). All I can say is my mad scientist husband looks very smart pouring whatever ingredient one needs to have poured into a big bucket with a percolating thermometer-thingy sticking out the top. And then after a while it goes through a percolating big shiny stainless steel still which needs to be kept to a certain temperature or else the science project fails and that’s exactly what happened. Bad temperature control on the hotplate which Bruce has since had to reorder from the USofA and has had nothing but trouble getting them to ship it here because of credit card/address misalignments. The success of this project is important cuz we are running an absinthe BAR at Kiwiburn and here we are ten days before the event with no home-made brew. We are not afraid……. By the way, since I don’t really like absinthe, I’ve decided I’ll be serving champagne/midori cocktails, the latter of which I sourced quite cheaply from a fellow ex-pat advanced home brewer.

Kathy & Aram - Port HillsHospitality: I was in the midst of a conversation with Briar recently trying to articulate to her what our ‘country dream scene’ would look like and I realized we’re kind of already doing it right here in Christchurch. We talk about having a place big enough to have guests, grow food, and do interesting art projects. Well, we’ve had no lack of visitors – kicked off with Sebastian who stayed with us for a week in December and is due back for a few nights next week; friend Aram from San Francisco who popped in for five nights a few weeks back after a trip to Oz; Parisian expat Jean Fabien, whom we met this past July06 in Paris when he was thinking about moving to NZ, has now done so, and stayed with us for a few nights as he was passing through Christchurch on a south island tour; Aussie friend Cass, due in on Tuesday and will be staying with us for five nights before the three of us head up to KB; and DG’s parents, who will be coming to NZ in March and will stay with us for a few nights. We recently hosted Briar’s birthday party with 15 adults and 5 children, culminating with a giant pillow fight held in the upstairs lounge. Seems like we’re poised to run the NZ international burner hostel!

Music: I sang in choir in the fifth and sixth grades and then stopped for some reason which I cannot recall. I’ve been thinking about taking singing lessons for years, but never getting around to it, always dreaming about getting up and being able to sing in front of people (those of you who know me know that I can hardly work up enough courage to sing karaoke). The universe always knows best. Our good friend Gen is a professionally-trained-kind-of-retired singer and Bruce & I recently asked her if she would consider giving us some lessons, something she’d not offered in years. Much to our delight, she said yes, and we’ve now started with our weekly lessons. Just maybe, I’ll be able to belt out an Amy Ray tune in it’s entirety some day!

Art: No black light green fairy lounge would be complete without proper décor so we’ve been working away making decorations to hang in the bar. Equipped with a box of empty vitamin and soda bottles, black light paints, UV-reactive paper cutouts, beads, string, glue, staplers, and whatever else we can find, we’re crafting up a storm. Looks like the vitamin bottles are turning into Japanese lanterns and the soda bottles are becoming beautiful flowers. We’re also creating a few UV sock puppets which will come in handy as in order for folks to get a drink at the Green Fairy Lounge, they have to offer up something in return, either by making some art, doing a skit, singing a song, etc.

Mysticism/Spirituality: We’re making some progress on the spirituality path, hooking up with the local Oneness Deeksha folks whom we met at Convergence and who offer a weekly satsang at their house. We also noticed a big energy shift last week; after encountering stumbling block after stumbling block with trying to push forward on our projects, something opened up and things started suddenly falling into place. In talking to a friend about our experience, she said that a light-worker friend of hers had just texted her a message saying that there’d been a big universal energy change recently. Hmmmmm……… anyone else feel it?

Project Management: And none of the above would be achievable without some good project management skills, keeping us on track, benchmarking us to our target delivery date. Nurture or nature? I dunno where it came from but I seem to do well in this category and by my reckoning we are tracking just fine!

Whew! If you made it to the very end, good on ya! You may’ve been able to glean that I’m feeling quite punchy and giddy today – I’m fired up and in awe of what we’ve been able to accomplish in just a short period of time. I finally feel like I’m making progress on my path and am feeling very happy and positive about our future. I’ve also had an opportunity to talk to a lot of you recently and it seems like everyone is progressing forward – and that can only be a good thing. It is indeed going to be our year, a year for the light to shine on through!