Newsletter – New Zealand Chapter – 2001 -1

February 2001


Note the Kiwi greeting I hope you are all over the festivities and settling down to a prosperous 2001.

As already mentioned in our previous newsletter, (those of you who received it) we have moved into our new house in Torbay, 15minutes north of Auckland (near Albany) and have just about unpacked all our stuff. Only the books and a few odds and ends to still unpack. The houses here are a lot smaller than what we are used to in SA so we battled a little to find space for everything, but now the place is looking more like home.

The weather has been great, with lots of sunshine and at times very humid. In fact the sun is vicious and one does NOT go out without a hat. (Irene’s comment: It is nothing to see a He Man about to launch his Jet Ski, plastering himself with “Water Babies” sun screen).

Yesterday (Sunday) we went to the Auckland Domain, the largest park in Auckland, where they have a concert in the park every Sunday during the summer. This week featured a jazz band (Smooth Sailing) made up of three South Africans and an American. They were very good and we had a great afternoon sipping wine and chilling out to the wonderful music. (Irene’s comment: If one can call sitting in the blazing sun under hats, sun screen and umbrellas chilling!) During the afternoon the leader of the band, the American, asked the audience if anyone was from SA, well to my surprise and his, half the audience raised their hands, he then asked if there was anyone there who was NOT from SA, 🙂 As I said before, this place is like the 10th province of SA in the South Pacific.

On Saturday we took a drive up north to check out the many beaches along the eastern coastline. We came across a little beach called Snell Beach where we decided to stop and picnic. Evan and I went for a swim in the sea and to our delight we found that the water was warm, around the 32 – 34 degree mark, it was wonderful.

Here Irene wrestles the keyboard from Alf and types the following:

Alf tells all the real stuff. I want to share some interesting bits and pieces we have picked up since we’ve been here:

Two South African women who we met since being in Auckland tell us that there are no teaching jobs available here any more. The one teacher works at after school care (and is paid well for that work) and the other does pre-school AND after care. There is a law in this country that states that children under 14years of age cannot be home alone, so parents who work pay $8 per hour to have their kids looked after! Good business.

There are also a few strange things about childcare: You are not allowed to say “No!” to a child and you are not allowed to tell a child he/she is “Naughty”. All these things are supposed to cause the child to lose self-esteem and cultivate a negative vibe, would you believe! One thing I will say is that the children here are not shy. In fact just the opposite – precocious is more like it. I think our children are too shy. The ones with the big mouths get further.

Then there is this “My Partner” thing. I hear people talk about “My Partner” and wonder if everyone is in business for themselves, then I discover that the “Modern Families” unmarried couples, refer to their live-in boy/girl friend as a Pahrd-nah.

So, “Who is fetching you?” Can be answered with, “My mother’s partner.”

In the summer the sun goes down after 9pm

The women here are VERY Large. I battled to find size 38 (size 14, is it) at most shops in SA Well; here the most common size is, like 22!! The choice of food in the supermarket seems to weigh heavily on the lady’s plates. They are built like Sherman tanks but feel nothing about wearing shorts, cossies and prancing around on the beach.

Oh, and they call supermarket trolleys, trundlers.

And they call the speed humps judder bars.

Even the smallest town has a skate park, with half pipes and stuff. Any back yard worth its salt has a trampoline. Ask me, I know. Our neighbour’s kids LOVE to jump at 6:30 on Sunday mornings.

And, those big aunties I was telling you about? Well they all mow their own lawns. When I used to mow the lawn in SA, the ladies in the neighbourhood used to “humph” when they saw me, and trot off down the road in their little pink running shorts and booties, getting good clean exercise…

While Wood slogged and sweated.

AM radio is big here.

We toured the whole country and only saw a stuffed kiwi.

Ditto, ditto. And we did not see a single beggar.

Our local cop-shop only works office hours and closes over Christmas/New Year. Alf still shakes his head at that one!

They keep dropping the price of petrol here. Price wars, would you believe?

They built a bridge over the Auckland Harbour. This had two lanes, either way. They later discovered that the bridge was too narrow so they imported a few Japanese engineers to add on two extra lanes on either side. These are now called the Nippon Clippon’s. So if you hear the term you will know what it is. I must say it is an engineering feat!

We can buy biltong, boerewors, dried worse, – better than most of the stuff we were buying in SA. A butcher from Durban has a shop here and his prices work out even cheaper than in SA.

It is a law here that all cyclists wear a helmet. The E looks very handsome in his.

And finally, as one rides in the street and looks at the houses, one is not surprised to see rows of shoes outside the front doors. It must be those big lawn-mowing aunties who enforce that rule! “Keep the carpets clean.”

Over to Alf to sign off.


Alf again,

Evan has produced his own website, he asks that you all go and visit it. The url is:

Well that says it all, stick around for the next episode of the Woods’ great adventure in the South Pacific. Please acknowledge receipt of this newsletter and state whether you wish to receive further editions.

Love to all

Alf, Irene and Evan (Wood)


Friday 16 February 2001.

Hello from a VERY hot and humid Auckland. Those of you, who imagined New Zealand to be cold and wet, forget it; the weather here right now is reminiscent of Durbs in February.

I just checked the date on the last newsletter and was shocked to see that it has been over a month since we sent it off. Apologies for that but time flies when you are having fun. And we are really having fun. I know I sound as if the NZ department of Immigration is paying me, but I continue to be amazed by this wonderful country. We just have to find work and everything will be perfect.

A lot has happened since last we wrote, so I’ll try and remember and list the happenings.

Evan is well into his school life and enjoying it immensely. He has been put up a year and is now in the equivalent of Grade 8 (Std 6). Also, musically the school reckons he is well advanced for his grade and has said that he will jump a grade and do his 3rd and 4th grade Royal Schools grading this year. And he looks so COOL in his school uniform too.

I now have a work permit and am entitled to work anywhere and for anyone in New Zealand until my residency comes through, so now all I need is a good job. Both Irene and I are going through the unenviable task of job hunting but we are both optimistic and don’t want to rush into the first job that comes along. We are also sussing out various self-employment ideas and will see what happens in the next month or two.

During our first week in the house (before our furniture arrived) we went to a lot of garage sales to see if we could get a few things to make our “camp-out” in the house more comfortable. Well at one of these sales I came across an old broken English Oak writing desk (the one with the flip down front). Anyway I made an offer of $10 and the woman accepted thinking I was mad to pay so much for such junk. Well to cut a long story short, during the long days of waiting for job interviews and waiting for Evan to come home from school, I set about restoring the thing. I had to rid it of borer, strip and sand it down and fix the hinge mechanism. Then it was re-coating and re-polishing and now I have a lovely Antique Oak desk worth around $600. Very rewarding – so much so that I am going to advertise Furniture Restorations and see if I get any response, who knows, maybe this could be the business we will start.

In our last newsletter we told you all about the free concerts that the Auckland council put on at the Auckland Domain (Auckland’s biggest park). A few weeks ago they did it again, but this time in a much grander scale. It was called the “Sky City Starlight Symphony” and was absolutely fantastic. The Auckland Philharmonic (or Philarmonia, as the locals call it) Orchestra with some of New Zealand’s top opera, jazz and musical stars appearing as well as the cast of Auckland’s “Hair” (which was revived last year). The orchestra played a selection of the great classics from Beethoven to Mozart as well as some modern evergreens and jazz. Also appearing was the Auckland mass choir of 1000 voices. The grand finale was something that I will not forget in a hurry. They did the “1812 Overture” by Tschaikowsky, the NZ army supplying the real guns and ending with a fireworks and laser display which, in my opinion, made the London Millennium fireworks look sick. There was a crowd of between 150 and 200 thousand people there with not one single incident or disturbance. And the best part is that it was completely free, they just had official collectors going around collecting donations for charity. It was so well organised that they even had buses running from all over Auckland bringing people into the grounds. Cars were not allowed into the vicinity of the concert, only the buses. Needless to say we caught a bus up the road from our house and took it back after the show – no worries about parking, traffic or drinking and driving. Marvellous!!

We are going away for the weekend to the Coromandel Peninsular, which is, for all you map watchers, the peninsular that lies east of Auckland. It is about a two to three hour drive through, we believe, some of North Island’s most beautiful countryside. I’ll continue this newsletter when we return on Sunday night.

Saturday 17 February 2001.

It is Saturday morning and we have blessed relief from the stifling heat. It has started to rain so we have decided not to risk the wet roads and rather wait and see if it’s going to clear up before we set off to the Coromandel.

And now some personal acknowledgements:

Thank you to all the following for your most welcome responses: Bill & Bev Roberts, Mike & Martha Hammond, Graham Shuttleworth, Lyn Roux, Terry & Roni Watson, Nick & Joan Brummer, Don Jones, Carl & Wendy Stagg (Congrats on your forthcoming wedding, wish we could be there), John & Lindy Willmers, Dayle, John, Desire and Jason, Tracey Brown, Barney Hutton and a special thanks to Fran Watts who never forgets to e-mail us. We also chat regularly to Margie, Tony, and Gillian and of course our boys in London, some times by phone and sometimes by MSN or ICQ. If I have forgotten to thank anyone, sorry and thanks. To those of you who have not responded, we apologise. This will be the last time we force you to read one of our newsletters.

I’m now going to hand over to Irene who will entertain you with all her news.

Irene says,

Alf has covered all the news but I, as always have a few observations.

When one arrives here with a South African driver’s licence one can drive the roads of NZ for one year. Thereafter one has to write a test and get a NZ licence. One cannot help but wonder if the driving deteriorates or improves during the first twelve months? Alf and I battle to find the logic in this…

Also, the chicks here are not so very beautiful. (I always mention the ladies, don’t I?). I just thought it would be worth mentioning that Miss Auckland is a South African! (Irene licks her thumb and plonks it on her shoulder!)

Let me now tell you about the wonderful phenomenon that occurs in the parks here. The other day we were motoring down the coast and saw a sign to a park. The park has an old abandoned radio-ham shack on it and well-manicured lawns. Nothing else. I think people bring their dogs there to exercise them. There was also what looked like a large plastic box on the one corner. Upon investigation, we discovered this truly awe-inspiring thing called an “Exceloo” You got to see this to believe it! The box is a sealed plastic box with electronic sensors. A light will tell you if the loo is vacant or not. When you enter the loo the light comes on and soothing, piped music issues forth from hidden speakers. Paper is dispensed via a button, which activates the paper giver, which shoots out a measured amount of paper. When you rise from the seat and place your hands under the soap dispenser the sensor drops a few drops of liquid soap out. Then rub a bit and move a few inches to the right, place hands under the tap and the water flows out, AT THE SAME TIME flushing the loo. So you have not touched a single thing except the paper button.

Just in case one becomes too comfortable there is a sign warning:


And finally, there are little drain slots along the base of the walls and sprinkler valves in the ceiling, which kick in every so many hours and give the whole interior a good shower.

Every so often they have “Inorganic Day”. What happens is, whatever you have that has been collecting dust in the garage can be dumped on the pavement and a council truck will collect. Alf and I are constantly amazed at the stuff people toss out; beds, mattresses, dishwashers, lounge suites, lawnmowers, wardrobes, bookshelves, shoes – hell you name it. I wish I could, just for a moment, bring in some of the poor people in Africa and let them pavement-shop. First world country stuff – gotta get used to it.

Just a last point about unruly pre-schoolers. Our friend, Pat, who is a schoolteacher and can only find work as a “care giver” and after school minder tells us about the badly disciplined, kids here. I did mention before that one cannot chastise a child here. However, there is a way to get a kid to stand quite still for about 5 mins, hands at sides and mouth and eyes shut. She just says, “Ooooh, your sun screen has worn off!”

The kid comes and stands to attention in front of her and allows the sunscreen gunge to be applied. There is a VERY strong awareness of skin cancer here.

One can buy potted cosmos here – very popular in the gardens.

And finally, let me tell you about the big South African Dodge.

This happens to members of the South African Club in New Zealand. Most South Africans, especially the Afrikaans ones, join this club from South Africa (prior to immigration) and immediately fall into the familiar world of Braai, Kerk and the like when they arrive in NZ. (Err; Alf and I have not joined, by the way.)

Back to the Dodge. Pat was telling me about how they try to avoid mentioning when their “Container Is Arriving”. Apparently when it slips out that one or another member’s container is arriving they all swarm along to “help”. What they are actually doing is trying to discover if any South African stuff has been smuggled in, like aromat, spices, mealiemeal, etc. All these things are available here, but of course at a price.

Well, the rain still falls, so it looks like we shall have to shelve the Coromandel trip for another time. Movies it is. We have subscribed to Sky Digital, which is the equivalent to DSTV so we have a very wide choice of TV on days like this.

Love to all

The Wood Family

6th March 2001

Hi All,

I realise that these newsletters are a little impersonal but with 32 people (and growing) to write to, it is a bit difficult, so I will try to include something personal to all those who took the trouble to send us a response.

It is exactly four months since we left SA – how time flies when you are having fun. The weather here in Auckland has been amazing to say the least. Every day we have had lovely sunny, warm days, in fact at times it has been too warm and humid. I’m not complaining mind, as I believe that the winters can be quite depressing with all the rain. So we are making the most of the sunshine and enjoying every minute of it.

Evan is making good progress at school and his teachers and principal are very pleased with him. We had to buy him a new flute, as his old one was just that, old.

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The new flute was quite expensive but since he is doing so well and enjoying his music we thought that it was money well spent. He has paid half so he will appreciate it more. The principal tells us that he has made such remarkable progress that he can now move into his third instrument (Clarinet) if he so wishes. He will cope easily, although we think he should wait until next year. Well, it will have to be Evan’s decision.

Irene is now working two days a week looking after little kids at a Crèche. She is enjoying it immensely. At least it pays the grocery bill. (Irene’s comment: Most times will find me with a baby in tow standing beside someone who is frowning at the computer screen. Reckon all the years of computing still bubbles to the surface. They are only too pleased to hand over, though. They have a computer room where posters, reports, schedules, and portfolios, etc are prepared. They are very organised here. Cutting edge, type of stuff. The government allows only a certain number of kids per minder. The Pre School receives a government subsidy for each child. One shudders to hear from some South African mums of how their kid was one of fifty being minded by two Nannies and one white woman. We have a lot of South African children at the pre-school and one feels so sorry for them. They have been taken from their nannies or Grannies and now have these strange faces all around them but they soon settle, especially when someone sings Willie Wallie to them.)

We are still busily scanning the want ads and Internet job-finders. I have put out posters advertising my furniture restoration techniques, so am hoping for some work from that quarter. Anyway we are both still very optimistic. (Irene’s comment: There is always the “Benefit” ;-))

We have met some really nice people and are socialising quite a lot on weekends. They are South African, our age with a daughter of 22 who is also here. They also have a son in SA and another son in the UK, so we have a lot in common. One week we have a “braai” at our place and then the next week at theirs. We also do a lot of weekend sightseeing so we are getting to know the area quite well.

I have received my police clearance from SA so after my medical exam, I can finally put in my permanent residence application. They say that residency approval takes about 6 months so I’ll have to be patient. Anyway I have a work permit for two years so there is no hurry.

I will now hand over to Irene for her input.


Alf has finally broken down and decided to try the Kiwi way of barbecuing – he bought a three-burner gas Barbie. It is tog te wonderlik. Clean, fast, and easy. One buys special volcanic rocks which sit on a rack above the burner and the whole lot tastes of Africa – especially if you consider that one can buy boerewors at the local butcher – even if he pronounces is bewer-wurst. The other day Alf asked me to please not cook pap again. I hardly ate the stuff in SA but here… probably because of ancient roots, I kinda like it.

Last weekend, whilst out sightseeing, we noticed a message-bearing helicopter circling the beaches, (all 27 of them on the North Shore). The banner read “Slip Slop Slap it on – UV HIGH!” The health powers here really want the people to wear sunscreen. Gawd, I think I should work for Coppertone or something. I always mention the Sun Screen, don’t I?

When they resurface the road here they call it resealing. We received a circular in the mail the other day telling us that they were doing just that in our area. In the circular, they gave detailed instruction on how to remove tar from cars and shoes. They also asked nicely that we do not park our cars in the road during that time. There was a toll-free number to call if we needed help. They are so polite here… We can’t help remembering the number of times we had to work on the tar spattered on our cars. – Don’t know if that happens anymore. Do they resurface, still?

Did you know that margarine (called table spread, here) costs twice as much as butter?

All hold collective thumbs. I have two interviews tomorrow. The agency tested me from all angles on the computer and then finally seemed to acknowledge that I actually have heard of Microsoft. And can you believe that I mustered a typing speed of 59wpm? Hell, I can’t.

Ok all, I say bye for now. I am off to clean the fish tank.

And we’ll end off with a couple of little quotes with complements from Fran.

Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.

And yet another, which I like even more….

“Friends are angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly.”

Lots of love

Alf, Irene and E.