Newsletter – New Zealand Chapter – 2003

31st March 2003

Alf writes:

It is amazing how quickly the weeks and months fly by. It seems like it was only yesterday when we sent out our Christmas newsletter and now it is almost the Easter weekend.

By now, we are sure; you have all heard that Irene and I have become grandparents. As can be expected we are thrilled to death. In fact, I am so taken with my new grandson that I have put his photo on my desktop of my computer and whenever I switch it on, I see his beautiful face. Every now and again, I sneak into the computer room and bring up the pictures on my computer screen. I sneak in but the whole family knows what I’m doing because I can’t help OOO-ing and AAH-ing so loud that they can hear me all over the house. In fact, I think the neighbours can hear me too. For those of you who don’t know, his name is Ethan Quested Wood and he was born in London on Thursday 20th March 2003. You can see this angel if you have a mind to go here: http://bradleywood.com/ethan/

Career wise, there has been a huge change in my life. As I may have mentioned before, I am now a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) teacher. I am currently preparing four Korean students for the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exam. Foreign students are required to pass with 6.5-point band score (6.5 out of 9) to gain entry into any NZ university. In addition, it is an Immigration requirement for gaining permanent residence in NZ. South Africans are not exempt. If they have an Afrikaans surname or an accent they have to sit the test – unless they can convince the auntie at the immigration office that English is their first language, (so relax Joe Naudè).

I also teach creative writing to five Korean School children (aged 11 to 15) for 3 hours a week and Business English to a Russian couple for 2 hours a week. I work a total of 30 hours a week and am now earning more than when I worked a 45-hour week as a production manager. And I am enjoying every single minute of it.

The Americas Cup is all over now and the Kiwis lost it to the Swiss. However, the disappointment only lasted about 1 to 2 hours. The Swiss yacht, Alinghi’s crew, was mainly Kiwis, so the Swiss thought they won but in fact, the real winners were the Kiwis. Talking sport, the Super 12 is well underway and all one hears nowadays is Super 12 talk – makes me homesick.

Darren has moved out of the flat under our house and moved into the city where he is closer to his work and to his new girlfriend, Ammy’s house. She is a bubbly, gorgeous, Kiwi girl who we just love to pieces. Darren is mad about her as she is about him and they make such a beautiful couple. We are very pleased that he has found someone to care for and to care for him. His new flat is great and he is really enjoying living in the city.

Now that Darren has left, we are busy renovating the flat so we can let it out. Our original idea of a B&B has been shelved as we believe we can get a better return if we let it out as a fully furnished flat and we do have spare furniture, in spite of the fact that we kitted Darren out. We have finally had to admit that we are hoarders. We are quite close and on the direct bus route to the Albany campus of a very good University (Massey), so hope to rent it out to a student. We are also on the main bus route to Auckland, so that is a huge plus too.

As our house is built on a slope, we have had some problems with storm-water drainage. We had a lot of rain last winter and unfortunately had some seepage into the flat. We have already spent $3,500.00 on trying to remedy the problem and are just about there. We have had to have trenches dug in the back garden and under the house to try to divert the storm water away from the flat. It has been a real pain in the butt. However, we are confident that the problem has now been solved.

Evan is still enjoying his music and continues to excel. Academically he is also thriving and has been pushed up a year. His school has entered him for the GCSE exams at the end of this year. GCSE is a British exam run by Cambridge University and is the equivalent of Std 8 (Grade 10). (Irene’s comment – this is what we believe. We tried asking a few locals the actual structure of school years because they have “grades”, “years” and “forms” as well as names, like “O”/”A” levels and “GCSE’s”. The locals looked a bit vague and admitted that they were not too sure either)

We will be spending the Easter weekend in the Bay Of Islands, which is 3 hours North of Auckland. We spent our first NZ Easter there and enjoyed it immensely. We have booked a holiday cabin in a place called Kerikeri. I can’t wait for Easter, as we are really in need of a good break.

I am now going to hand over to Irene who will give you all her news and usual humour about life down under.

Hello all.

Not too much humour from me, I’m afraid. I had a lousy stint in the hospital – female stuff and a hernia repair. The hernia repair failed and my bowel was blocked off for a few days so I had to go back under the hacksaw to give them a second go at fixing the hernia (umbilical). It has taken me such a long time to snap back. I am getting there, but now fully understand just how Lazarus felt. Having said all that, I must say that the government hospitals here are fantastic. They have the very best of everything and no cost is spared. The whole thing cost me not a cent.

Alf just skimmed the information on his job, but he gets to do all the fun stuff. *sniff.*

The other day he was “forced” to sit with his students and watch “The Patriot”, the movie with Mel Gibson. Then they discussed the movie for a few minutes. The week before it was “Dead Poets Society” (He is paid for this by the way!). And would you believe he spent Friday morning visiting a beach on the west coast checking out the beach and a gannet colony. The bus brought them back later than expected so he was paid extra for that time, too. I am seriously thinking of getting that qualification myself, but I do not have Alf’s commitment. As long as I’ve know him, teaching has always been a dream for him.

The autumn is coming albeit reluctantly. We are having such wonderful late summer weather. Friday it was raining, but we need the water. We had a drought – no rain for four or five days.

I am now heading for the kitchen so will hand back to Alf for his few words of wisdom, but before I go I’ll tell you this: (prudes, please leave the room.)

Lesbians March against the War in Iraq

They all shaved their pubic hair and carried placards:

“Read my lips – NO BUSH”

(Sorry for having sent that to others earlier, but hey, laugh again!)

Later dears!

Irene

Me again.

New Zealand is a very politically correct country; here are some of the terms, which we now have to use:

Pregnant — Parasitically oppressed

Dishonest — Ethically disoriented
Fat — Horizontally challenged
Tall — Vertically inconvenienced
Bald — Follicularly challenged
Alive — Temporarily metabolically able
Dead — Living impaired
Ignorant — Knowledge-base non-possessor
Unattractive — Cosmetically different
Body Odour — No discretionary fragrance
Obese — Alternative body image
Stupid — Cerebrally challenged
Failure — Deficiency achievement
Poor — Economically marginalized
Custodian — Environmental hygienist
Old — Experientially enhanced
Spendthrift — Negative saver

Serial Killer — Person with difficult-to-meet needs

Well, that’s all folks! Please send us some news.

Lots of love

Alf, Irene and Evan


September 2003

Hi

When we sent our last newsletter we were heading into autumn, now we are heading into spring. We have been quite lucky this winter as it has been reasonably mild, very little rain and lovely sunny, crisp days. However, today is a miserable, windy, wet day.

Well, where do I begin? I am still teaching English to foreigners, mainly Korean. Even though it is mentally tiring, I am still enjoying it immensely. I teach at a Korean language school for 28 hours per week and also tutor 3 young high school kids privately for 4 hours per week. On top of that both Irene and I have been appointed invigilators and markers for the IELTS (International English Language System) exams which are held twice a month on a Saturday, for this we are paid quite well. The language industry has, unfortunately, taken a nosedive recently in NZ and many Language institutes have either closed down or downsized. I am extremely lucky to be working as there are a lot of teachers out of work. If things get worse and I am laid off I will consider going to China, Taiwan or Korea to teach. They are crying for teachers there and would rather pay for teachers to come to their countries than travel to NZ. Anyway

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Que sera, sera.

Darren’s work permit has run out and unfortunately the NZ immigration service has, again, moved the goalposts. They will not renew his work permit; they now want some kind of tertiary qualification as well as experience and a firm job offer. We can however, sponsor him under the family category, but only after we have been here for three years of continual residency. So we have to wait for November. In the meantime he has moved back with us and is doing contract work until he has a residence visa and can find full time employment.

Evan continues with his music. His music GCSE (British exam run by Cambridge University) exam was very tough, apart from a whole lot of questions on music history, theory and musical terms, he had to compose three pieces of music, one for orchestra, one for flute group and one for piano. These were submitted to Cambridge University for assessment. His results were amazing, he got straight A’s and the highest in the school. Evan also has a gift for languages and is currently studying Chinese (Mandarin). Corelli does not offer languages and is a bit limited with subject choices; after all it is a specialist music school. Anyway, Evan has decided that he wants a bigger choice and will be leaving Corelli at the end of the year. We applied for him to go to a government school called Westlake Boys High. They have an excellent music department as well as being one of the best high schools in Auckland. He has been accepted and will start in January next year.

We have been renting out our flat for the last six months which has been a great help with the mortgage. However, our tenants have handed in their notice as they both work in South Auckland and are finding the travelling a bit tedious. We are not too worried as there is a huge demand for decent accommodation in our area.

The country is going through Lotto fever. The local lottery has jackpotted to $17million which has to be won next week (13/09/03) the queues are around the block at most lotto shops. I was pretty lucky this week and for a mere $17.00 I won $75.00. I hope my luck can continue and improve through to next week.

I have taken up the newsletter a week later. (It is now Sunday morning after the lotto draw. (No comment)

We had a wonderful time in June when Brad, Maxine and our lovely grandson Ethan came out and spent two weeks with us. Irene, Darren and I took some leave and Evan was on school holidays so we went down to the ski fields for a week. We had a great time, the youngsters went snow-boarding and skiing every day and Granny and Grandpa were left to spoil little Ethan. Of course it was heart wrenching when the time came for them to return to the UK. We miss them so much.

Anthony (Irene’s brother) and his girlfriend Ingrid will be spending Christmas with us. They will be here for about ten days and will also be spending some time in Aussie. We are looking forward to seeing them.

Well, I have just about run out of news, so I’ll hand over to Irene for her usual humorous stories and anecdotes.

Love to all

Alf

Hello All!

I have really impressive flu and don’t feel too funny this morning – unless we are referring to appearances.

The men in my life have taken up tennis on Sunday mornings. Well, that is if you can call what they do, tennis. They go “bat out of hell” bashing the ball for a good three minutes, then Alf stops for a breather, and spends the next half hour running down the hill retrieving Evan’s golf shots. I sit on the side. I’m the coach, you understand. We found a really lovely tennis court on the side of Mt Victoria – another of Auckland’s hopefully dormant, volcanoes. The view is stunning – Auckland city in the background to the right and the entrance to the harbour and various islands everywhere else.

The cooking style has changed so much in the Wood household since we’ve been in NZ. We make our own sushi, cook Thai meals and generally lean to the “klein oogies’” (what the local South Africans call the Chinese and Koreans) recipes. It seems to be the only way I can get Evan to eat vegetables. He’ll eat a hokkien noodle stir-fry loaded with broccoli, carrots, beans, peas, bell peppers etc if it is drowned in oyster sauce and accompanied by a few strips of chicken.

South Africans in Auckland can fall in at the local library for a little “Afrkiaans Storie-tyd” session. Some auntie from die Vrystaat has volunteered her services and will read in Afrikaans for an hour, if you can stand it.

A couple of translations for you: You need to know this stuff, so that you can understand our newsletters in future. Yeah right!

Kieviete; Kiwis in Afrikaans

KIWINGLISH:

dunny: toilet

Arse over tit: head over heels

Bite your bum: go away, get lost

Boy-racer: young man who drives fast in a car with a loud stereo.

Chilly bin: polystyrene insulated box for keeping food and drinks cold, cooler.

Couldn’t see the road to the dunny if it had red flags on it: said of somebody blind drunk or slow witted.

Crikey dick: expression of surprise

Doodackie: variant of thingummybob or doodad, for an object that you can’t think of a name for.

Fart sack: bed

Fuckwit: idiot

Full tit: as much power as possible or very fast, as in ‘I gave her full tit and we were still only doing 70’

Well folks, I’m going to start my day; haul out the vacuum cleaner…

Kisses all round!

Irene