Surreal Time…… Christchurch, April 25 – May 9, 2006

Ah, another interesting two weeks. Bruce’s recent post talks about being marooned in realtime; I’ve come to experience it as surrealtime.

The days whiz by; I have a hard time remembering what I’ve done the day before. Lots of energy and focus directed to the ‘old’ life in San Francisco – the SF flat sale, while making progress, chugs along at what feels to be a snails pace; a lot of time dedicated to finalizing our June Iceland trip with nine friends – and the ‘new’ life – settling in, finding our way around, getting into a routine, making new friends. I feel a bit like Dr. Doolittle’s pushme-pullyou — pushing to establish a new life; being pulled into the old. A bit surreal. Unanchored. A bit homeless. Searching. Waiting.

EmptyHouse1 EmptyHouse2EmptyHouse3

We are now into Week #4 in our empty house. As Bruce mentioned, the container did manage to be ‘found’ and had actually landed not to far away in Lyttleton right around the time it was supposed to, but we have yet to see our things. Ten days have passed. Last week we got the phone call from the packing company saying that MAF (Ministry of Agriculture and Finance) wanted to see our tent which Bruce & I had declared along with a bunch of other ‘sporting goods’ on the customs form we had to fill out. Unfortunately, our 15 page ‘detailed’ (and I use that word very loosely) inventory that the SF packing company put together DOES NOT identify which of the 700+ boxes and packages they put the tent into. Great. MAF wanted to see about eight items before they’d give the ok to deliver and the packing company, Allied, managed to locate all but the tent. Apparently our 40’ container filled with our household has been emptied into a large warehouse, only some few kilometers from our house, and has been dug through to locate these specific items for which we’ve now been charged an additional ‘inspection fee’. They have not been able to locate the tent. So….after a lot of back and forth, I think we’ve got MAF to agree to let Allied deliver the goods and when we dig out the tent, we’ll have to take it back to MAF for ‘inspecting’. Today we were able to ‘schedule’ the delivery – eight days from now. So, by the time our stuff comes next week, we’ll have been without it for 12 weeks, with it for 4, and then without it for another 12 while we head back to the States for a couple of months. Surreal.

I’ve definitely adjusted to life in the house without stuff, although we did manage to add to our eclectic mix of folding chairs, microwave boxes, inflatable mattresses, and portable heaters, a very fine and brand-spanking new coffee table. There are actually a few things we did not have in San Francisco that we need to acquire for life in our house in NZ: coffee table and a washer & dryer. Yup, after ten years of happily going without and cheerfully meandering to the corner laundromat once every three weeks and making use of the big uber washers, we will now become domestic drones, enslaved to the tiny household machines, requiring us to wash clothes on a weekly basis (gasp, or maybe even twice a week!) else face the unfulfilling task of spending a whole day doing load after load on some sunny weekend day. I know, I know, this is what folks do all the time. I’ll get over it. The real reason we’re getting a washer/dryer is because we are planning to rent out the house while we’re gone for the three months and we’ve been told that we have to provide such things. Additionally, the concept of the corner laudromat has not made its way to New Zealand. There are only a handful of establishments here in Christchurch of which Ken & I have visited two; they don’t have the uber big washers and they don’t come cheap! It’s costing me 2 – 3 times more to do laundry here than what it cost in SF. So a washer and dryer I shall have. But I digress……

Oh, I have also won my first TradeMe auction. TradeMe is an Ebay knockoff, developed by a Kiwi guy a few years ago and recently sold for $700+ million. The Kiwi guy made a fortune, the Kiwi’s said ‘good on ya mate’; the Americans said he sold it for too little. Go figure. One fourth of the population is on TradeMe. So….. looking for a little action, I managed to score (from the same seller) a really big giant wheelbarrow, a pitch fork, two hoes (a three pronged thingy and a little thingy), and some clippers. Whoo-hoo, I was sooooooooooooooooo excited. All for $65 NZD! And the seller lived just a few miles away. Off I went and dragged Ken with me to pick up my treasures. Doh! Wheelbarrow too big for the cars’ boot. No worries. The seller said he’d run it by the house in the morning. Do I need to say again how nice the Kiwis are?

So, I’ve spent a little time in the garden. Been pitching, hoeing, clipping, and wheeling things around. Feels good. As I was weeding the patch that I hope to make into our vegetable garden, I hit a hard surface about four inches into the ground which I thought was a big rock. To my surprise, the ‘rock’ turned out to be a big concrete slab, about 3’ x 4’ and 5 inches thick. Scratching my head as to its unusual placement on the property, I could only surmise that it must be a door to a crypt or a secret treasure. I mean, what else could it be? I couldn’t budge it myself, so I needed the help of Bruce & Ken. One fine dark & cold evening, after we had had our evening meal and a few bottles of wine, we decided we were ready to find out, so we donned our headlamps and workgloves and crept out into the yard prepared to meet our fate. Heave, ho, heave ho……… Eeekk! Lift! What’s underneath? Nothin but dirt. It’s just a concrete slab. To nowhere. Surreal.

Secret Slab to Nowhere

Two days ago I started a three week course on Small Business Start-Ups which is being given for FREE to new migrants by the Small Business Enterprise of Christchurch. Me and our American friend Scott are attending and are the only Americans in a class of 14; most are Chinese, and there’s a Thai, Indian, and Uruguayan in the mix. The class is from 9 – 3 and covers such things as how to start a business, how to buy a small business, taxation, insurance, & legal laws for NZ small businesses, import/export, and much, much more. I’m really digging it. Lot’s of good insight on the marketplace here; lots of food for thought for our future endeavors.

And, we’ve been managing to socialize too. Had another game night with the Kiwi game-night-hosting-couple, Ali & Jake. Learned a few more games; played a bunch of familiar. Fun. Most recently, we met an awesome woman by the name of Briar. Briar found Bruce via Tribe; she’s an artist, a Canadian migrant, here 18 years and attending Uni across the way from us. We met her for coffee on campus last week and instantly liked her. Excellent energy, bright, seemed full of contacts in the ‘artsy/interesting/eclectic’ community we are seeking to find, and just generally an all-around neat person. Last night she invited us to her place over in Brighton (right by the sea, on the East side of the city, 20 min drive) for pizza and a game. She’s an avid lover of a 1970s’ish game called Careers. We played. Ken won. She invited her neighbor, Genny, to join us. Genny turns out to be an accomplished singer and gardener. She offered up her assistance to come over and check out our yard and give us some advice on what to plant. We chatted for hours on all sorts of subject. I really liked them and I think we just found two new friends to add to our mix. It’s getting real good…..

And now, I’m off to school. Surreal……………………………….