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Author Topic: Early days, but we think this is home.  (Read 5639 times)

Offline NicholaM2

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Early days, but we think this is home.
« on: February 07, 2009, 10:31:00 pm »
Exactly two weeks ago we arrived on Qantas at midnight in Auckland dragging 8 cases of luggage and two small sleepy children. We have never been to NZ before, so talk about a blind date! Fortunately, we knew within a few days that this could very well end in marriage….

From the moment I saw the airport, I felt at home. I loved the Maori carved entrance, the huge blown-up photos of nature, the cleanliness, friendliness. We are nature-lovers, and that seems to be a focal point for NZ tourism. Suits us perfectly.

I will never forget the taxi drive to our rental in the bush out West. It was pitch dark outside. We were excited despite our exhaustion after three plane trips across the world; I hung out of the window sucking up the streetlight-lit views, wondering if our Internet-booked rental on 6 acres of bush would indeed even exist. Luckily it did, and the landlord had left the lights on as promised, all the doors unlocked (as promised) with groceries for a midnight snack.

Auckland CBD

We popped in to the famous Lower Queen Street to do our immigrant banking, and I fell in love with inner city Auckland. Ornate old buildings squeezed next to the slick skyscrapers, the beautiful university peeps through huge, leafy oaks, the sculptures and native bush landscaping, the cosmopolitan mix of city workers, dwellers and tourists. It's a very different population: shades of white. (I do miss black faces though, and realise… we're very far from Africa here.)

It feels exciting and vibey, without masses of people. Those friends back home who told me Auckland is small and rural should come see for themselves. For me, it is more like Joburg. The CBD is much bigger than Cape Town, and the suburbs spread out as far as the eye can see. I was a bit upset by that, and there were a few days of homesickness in the first week, where I thought - too many houses and people!

There are no squatter camps in Auckland (or New Zealand), but there are vast numbers of suburbs that are so shabby, they are depressing. No gardens, no trees, flaking paintwork, small, exposed and ugly. The same goes for the shopping streets in these suburbs. They are a mishmash of colours, sizes and styles and haphazard sign-posting. In SA, you have developers who create malls with continuity in colour, tone and style. For the low-income areas here, that has not happened. Believe me, there are areas here that rival the smartness of Camp's Bay. My eyes almost popped out. St Helier's is uber-chic, and I haven't even got to places like Parnell or Hernes Bay yet.

I would say about 50% of the suburbs around the CBD stretching out West are lower-income. The lack of care for the homes is mirrored in the lack of care for personal appearance. My apologies if this comment is offensive, but a few other Saffers have mentioned this to me, and if you are preparing to come, best you know upfront. This was a big culture shock for me, even though I had prepared myself for it. Actually going shopping in an area like that every day started getting me down, so we wondered: How can we make this work for us? I don't want to be stuck with something I don't like. In Cape Town, we lived in Pinelands, surrounded mainly by lower-income, industrial areas, and we didn't go to them. And we don't need to here either. We spent this week finding a shopping area in a lovely suburb, and it immediately changed our view of living here.

Out West

We chose an eco-city, Waitakere City, Titirangi, to live. I know it's an unusual choice for Saffers, but as I said, we are into living in the bush, but within 20 minutes from the city. Walking in Titirangi, you would never guess that there is an urban sprawl just over the Waitakere ridge.

Titirangi is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. The plant growth is so prolific: fig trees are massive; lilies that are knee-height in SA tower over our heads, the sea views are spectacular, the black sand beaches (Cornwallis, Bethell's Bay) are spotless and the water so warm and peaceful: in places it is like lukewarm bathwater. We live on a beach, so we swim almost every day.

This is NZ's top artist community. There are over 200 well known artists and graphic artists here, and community grants for them to participate in local public events. The people are so friendly it is mind-blowing. They giggle with happiness (or is there some special medication here I don't know about?). They are relaxed, open, humble, giving. We have had one tea date (with strangers) and one dinner date (with almost-strangers). Both were divine! There are loads of British immigrants here…and no Saffers apart from us???

Piha and Karekare black sand beaches were a spiritual revelation to me. I have rarely seen a sight so beautiful and untouched. The beaches were pristine. We were there on a perfect, hot day, and I've heard it's usually overcast there with massive, moody, pounding waves. The day we were there, the water was crystal clear, the ocean turquoise, towering volcanic rocks, ferns and Kauri bush. The beach is so vast that the few families out walking on the main beach (there are many beach sections) were little stick figures in the distance.

Jobs

This has been an area of stress. If you don't mind seeing your rand-dollars disappearing before your eyes, then you'd be fine waiting for an opening in a company. But we are quite anxious about finances (it's our house deposit!) and my business here has gone dead quiet. Maybe it's the time of year, but personally I think the recession here has hit harder and faster than in SA, and people are skittish about spending.

Also, we were hoping that bank interest would bring in a small income to help us not whittle away our savings, but the rates have been slashed by 1.5 % in a week, with another cut imminent, and 2% interest is a far cry from the 10.5% interest we were getting in SA with Nedbank. Makes you think!

We have PR, so that is a comfort, but a job would be great too! Anyway, it is early days, and my heart has gone out to those who are here, want to be here, and have struggled to find work in the past few months. That's probably going to be us in a few months' time. Eek.

Cost of Living

There is no doubt that the general cost of living here is 20 - 30 % more expensive than home. Services are exceptionally pricey, and some food items are far more than in SA. Brown bread here costs $4.00 per loaf on average, which is about R20.00. Now tell me that isn't expensive? White bread is much cheaper, but we don't eat it. We found a Budget brown loaf for $1.49, and we're freezing a bunch of those. Titirangi has only one expensive supermarket, so we go to Henderson's Pack 'n Save once a week and buy a ton of stuff there.

At Pack 'n Save, we are amazed that we spend the same as we did in SA, except for wine, but, well, we can't go without that! Cereal bars, cereals, lamb, butter, milk are the same if not cheaper here. Vegetables at the farmers markets are the same as SA. (Vegetables and fruit are HUGE here and taste like vegetables.) Toiletries are very expensive. I even saw baby wipes in a pharmacy for $20. Imagine spending R100 on some baby bum wipes! Scary.

The Weather

Titirangi has a rainfall of 2300 mm per annum; Cape Town is 540 mm, and other parts of Auckland around 1300 mm. That is our only concern about our suburb choice: will we survive the winter?

The weather so far has, almost every day, been exquisite. We had a few grey days in our first week, and I wondered: will this be like the UK? Have we made a big mistake? But my cousins here assured me that they welcome those grey days, and I soon got to see why. A hot day here (which is almost every day) is VERY hot, and I love it. The trees grow up straight and there is no blasting, freezing South Easter. If the wind blows, it is a gentle breeze compared to what we were used to in Cape Town.

Childcare

My 7-year-old daughter cried all the way from Cape Town to Joburg about leaving Table Mountain and her friends. And then… she never looked back.

She was enrolled in our school of choice within minutes, and started on 3 Feb. She LOVES it, and made a few friends immediately. My 2-year-old is a different story, and childcare here is tricky and expensive. It costs between $33 and $52 per day fulltime in daycare (which is not my choice). You do the maths! We are looking for a small home-based educator, and luckily there are quite a few companies who train and look after home-based educators. All a bit foreign to me, but I will happily share what I have learnt if you PM me. PORSE and Home Grown Kids charge around $7.00 per hour, and you must go for a minimum of 12 hours per week. When my son turns three, 20 hours of weekly childcare fees can be reclaimed.

NZ seems to be a society that supports children and families. The resources available here make me feel a bit weepy, and angry that SA cannot realistically offer the same (you experience lots of mixed emotions being here.) At the library, we can take out 140 books per month. I'm still not over the shock of that.

The parks here are out of this world. I will post photos so you can see them. There are also free events like Music In the Park in every big suburb almost every weekend. We get a weekly community newsletter full of events for the family, and many of them are free.

So for those still on their way, here's what could make your transition easier:

If you are a nature-lover, if you are concerned about eco and future environmental issues, if you are creative, if you are fine with a youth culture more like that of the UK and Europe(lots of hippy dressing, dreadlocks and surfer gear out in Titirangi; emo hairstyles rule; gangster gear in other areas), are looking to meet people who are humble and not really interested in competing with your looks, your income, your SUV, or your anything for that matter, you MIGHT just love it here. So far we have been gob-smacked by the natural environment, the bird life, the thick and diverse native bush, the heavy, sweet smell in the air, the overwhelming friendliness and helpfulness of the Kiwis, the incredible sea vistas.

The overwhelming feeling I have here is one from my childhood in the 1970's. Peaceful, innocent, communal, convivial. We went to the Chinese Lantern Festival on Waitangi Day in the inner city, and we were pressed up against thousands and thousands of people; it reminded me of something from my childhood, some lost memory of a time when people were people, and not angry "monsters" capable of shocking human atrocities.

For me, the two weeks of remembering that happy, warm childhood feeling, being in touch with human beings predominantly concerned with the NORMAL daily grind of being alive, far outweighs the stress of living in SA. Money cannot buy what we have found here.

Offline Feather

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Re: Early days, but we think this is home.
« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2009, 11:18:08 pm »
Thank you for the very informative post  O0
 :gl: with the next stage of your adventure

SA Going to NZ Advice Forum

Re: Early days, but we think this is home.
« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2009, 11:18:08 pm »

Offline Saturn_Moon

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Re: Early days, but we think this is home.
« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2009, 11:38:01 pm »
Thanks for that amazing post.  O0

 :gl: with everything else.




Offline noodles mom

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Re: Early days, but we think this is home.
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2009, 11:45:55 pm »
WOW !  I cannot believe how absolutely incredible it has been reading your post - you have a wonderful way with words and you have made your experiences come alive with those words - i really hope your honesty and perceptions of simple everyday things will help people understand the priviledge we have of being allowed to live here in the beautiful country !
well done - enjoy your lives here - you deserve it !



EOI submitted 14 Jan 2009
EOI selected 14 Jan 2009
ITA received 27 Mar 2009
ITA submitted 20 Jul 2009
PR APPROVED 2 Feb 2010

Offline Werner

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Re: Early days, but we think this is home.
« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2009, 02:24:15 am »
Welcome and  :gl: with everything else
Job Offer Rec 17/11/08
EOI Selected 19/11/08
ITA Rec 13/12/08
ITA Submitted 06/01/09
PR Granted 05/03/09




Offline Bevmac

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Re: Early days, but we think this is home.
« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2009, 07:17:27 am »
 :o What an absolutely amazing post NicholaM2, gosh it was like reading something out of a novel, it was amazing - THANKS!!!!!  :D

You have an amazing way of expressing how your feel about everthing and made your experiences come alive with your words I felt like i was right there experiencing everything with you!!

I soooo hope everything in the future is wonderful for you but saying that i have no doubt it will you just have that positiveness eeping out of you!!!  :gl: i truly mean that!!!

You have made me feel like NZ will definately be the place for us and i hope i feel even just a pinch of how you feel about all the things you have seen and experienced and boy will we be happy!

THANKYOU!!!

Please post again i'll love to hear your journey further  O0

Offline tmprince

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Re: Early days, but we think this is home.
« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2009, 03:41:04 pm »
 :smitten: Thank you - you have helped me put my mind at ease with our decision to immigrate to New Zealand. Please feel free to keep posting such amazing insights good and bad.
Lovies
Marcia
EOI submitted   13-01-09
EOI selected     28-01-09
ITA recieved     09-02-09
ITA submitted   24-06-09
ITA lodged       26-06-09
CO assigned     28-09-09
WTR approved  14-05-2010
Arrived 01-07-2010
PR March 2011
5 YEARS TODAY 01-07-2015

SA Going to NZ Advice Forum

Re: Early days, but we think this is home.
« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2009, 03:41:04 pm »

Offline ANTONK

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Re: Early days, but we think this is home.
« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2009, 04:16:04 pm »
Thanks Nicola for that long post and all the info  O0

Offline Nolan

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Re: Early days, but we think this is home.
« Reply #8 on: February 09, 2009, 01:32:02 am »
great post, thanks Nichola  :clap:

If I ever need to do a descriptive write-up, I will knocking on your door. You have a natural writing talent  O0

Offline Mongrel Mobster

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Re: Early days, but we think this is home.
« Reply #9 on: February 09, 2009, 04:41:14 am »
+1

Good post and when I need a report writer I know on whose door I will be knocking.
Kind regards,

Edwin



Offline tmprince

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Re: Early days, but we think this is home.
« Reply #10 on: February 09, 2009, 11:05:23 am »
P S : Do you do kids homework ? (please)  :2funny:
Lovies
Marcia
EOI submitted   13-01-09
EOI selected     28-01-09
ITA recieved     09-02-09
ITA submitted   24-06-09
ITA lodged       26-06-09
CO assigned     28-09-09
WTR approved  14-05-2010
Arrived 01-07-2010
PR March 2011
5 YEARS TODAY 01-07-2015

Offline Awa

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Re: Early days, but we think this is home.
« Reply #11 on: February 09, 2009, 11:09:45 pm »
I think you should write a book.   :clap:  It will be the must read for all SA immigrants and should be given out at all the immigration seminars.   You should record your journey from here on - all the emotions opened up by the visual, physical and other experiences you encounter on your journey.  I think it will be invaluable to others.  We all experience these things but not all of us have the nack of putting it in writing like you do.   O0
Arrive in NZ in August 2008
WP received October 2008
EOI submitted April 2010
ITA received April 2010
PR Application Submitted 07 July 2010
PR Approved 18 February 2011

SA Going to NZ Advice Forum

Re: Early days, but we think this is home.
« Reply #11 on: February 09, 2009, 11:09:45 pm »

Offline NicholaM2

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Re: Early days, but we think this is home.
« Reply #12 on: March 14, 2009, 10:59:52 am »
Well, we're heading towards the two-month mark in New Zealand and we've been very busy.

We bought a house (crazy - I know, but we are pretty sure this is where we will be spending many, many years)) and moved in last weekend. As our container hasn't arrived yet, we have no furniture, no cutlery, crockery, tin-opener - NOTHING - we spent a week bidding on TradeMe. We managed to upgrade our bed to a Queen, something we've wanted to do for a while. We bought almost everything off TradeMe and spent last weekend driving around Auckland doing pick-ups. We now have an almost new Sealy bed for a ridiculous bargain price. Most of our kitchenware we picked up for R20.00 (including a box of fifty very old mugs, much to my husband's disgust). Next we are buying a handmower for about $30 (R150) - they are popular here. It's great fun, and for Saffers arriving in the next few months, if you need bedding and crockery to get started, I have some for you, if you’re OK with old stuff!

The house itself is out in the bush. We see a liquid gold sunrise each morning over the sea from one entire wall of our glass house; a pink sunset from the other glass wall over the Waitakere ranges, and a huge creek. Our bathroom looks onto a native forest, and the entire wall of bathroom windows can open. That's as close to heaven as it gets for me.

The weather has been gorgeous for the past month. Exceptionally still. The 38 species of noisy cicadas are all wrapped up snug in their cocoons (thank heavens for small mercies). Some mornings we sit staring at the ferns and palms, waiting for the tiniest of movements to show it isn't a painting we are ogling.

And it rains. It rains and rains and rains. Most days it rains at least three times where we live. The showers are very heavy and last a few minutes, and the rest of the day is sunny and cloudy all mixed up. It is a wet, moody climate - never a dull moment. Very often, the rain won't even bother to wait for some grey clouds or even a semblance of a rainy setting. It will tip bucket-loads from a sunny blue sky, like millions of golden diamonds being flung from the heavens.

Last week we went to the Auckland botanical gardens. It is so huge we couldn't get to see everything. They recommend four visits a year, because each season brings its own beautiful displays. There is a huge South African section. We gobbled our picnic lunch in a Zulu hut, under an Acacia, staring at succulents. Felt a few pangs of home-sickness.

The native plant section for New Zealand itself is tiny and colourless; they admit this, and are so respectful towards all the countries whose plants they have adopted. The garden, to some extent, is categorised by country, to pay homage to the "roots" of each plant.

Tonight we go to a laser art air show at Piha beach; tomorrow is the opening of the Titirangi Music Festival, one of New Zealand's most important annual music festivals, right here in our tiny village. I am also a reading tutor at my daughter's school and have been working there for the past three weeks. I am keen to get involved in an adult literacy project (also as a volunteer) and maybe even run some courses at the library, and at a college. We have also started having play dates for my daughter; I can see that is the most important way to start connecting with the community here. I tend to clam up at school meetings etc, and have hardly spoken a word to anyone in weeks, apart from my family. Quite a weird feeling, and working from home doesn't help.

We have settled almost entirely now, and we feel this place was tailor-made for us. Each week brings its own challenges, though, and some days I feel quite overwhelmed and depressed by all the work. It is very scary for me that we are not earning dollars yet. My college here is very quiet at the moment, and my OH hasn't managed to find work. Rands mean nothing here and we have started dipping into our reserves. Things continue to be exceptionally expensive. I bought some winter clothing for my kids last week at a 70% off T&T sale for Chinese imports (like Ackermans); even so, at 70% off, it was more expensive than in SA. The cheapest toilet brush set (a flimsy, small white plastic one) is R50.00. I'll rather wait for mine to arrive.

Another thing, which I found quite interesting. I went to a school meeting one night last week (out in the bundu!), and the guest speaker spoke about concerns that affect our parenting today. Here's what concern kiwi parents: violent crime, not feeling safe letting kids go to public spaces on their own anymore, increased traffic on the roads, long working hours and increasing materialism, advertising and lack of "truth" out there, 3 - 4 hours of "screen time" for kids on computers or TV, lack of spirituality. I thought, mmm, I could be sitting in SA hearing this. Common concerns the world over. But...

... being here is no-where near the stress of living in SA. We still feel blessed and exceptionally proud that we made the move, if I can use that word. My little bit of experience here has been that people are investing energy in being kind and happy, in coping with normal problems in a normalish society. We have slept with our doors open a few times by mistake, plus we sometimes go out and leave the windows wide open. That would NEVER have happened in SA.

But being an immigrant is really, really tough. There's no way around it. Everything in the shops may as well be written in gobblygook - that's how unfamiliar things are. The more I find out where to buy things, the more settled I have felt. Then, there's the lack of an instant sense of belonging here that you automatically have in your birth country. As I wrote to a friend a while back, I know at least one of the reasons why people head back to SA. Because after the novelty of good service, toy libraries, fancy parks, no litter, little crime has worn off, well, then you look around for... love. They head back for love, because love takes time; it cannot be bought or controlled. It is amazing that it constantly ends up being one of the most vital ingredients for mental health and well being. People do crazy things for love.

But no, not the biggest love on earth, not even ten million bucks, would drag me back. I never thought I'd ever say that, but that is how I/we feel. Coming here was the very best thing we could have done, even if we have to eat beans.

The best of luck to all of you looking for work. We're holding thumbs and checking the support group thread every day.

Offline tmprince

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Re: Early days, but we think this is home.
« Reply #13 on: March 14, 2009, 05:23:59 pm »
Nice to hear the follow up  and congrats on the house it sounds dreamy.
what does your OH do?
how is your daughter doing in school?
what havn't you found on your shopping trips that you miss ?
where are the pics you said you would post?

Gees talk about the third degree! sorry but its nice to hear all the news.  :)
Lovies
Marcia
EOI submitted   13-01-09
EOI selected     28-01-09
ITA recieved     09-02-09
ITA submitted   24-06-09
ITA lodged       26-06-09
CO assigned     28-09-09
WTR approved  14-05-2010
Arrived 01-07-2010
PR March 2011
5 YEARS TODAY 01-07-2015

Offline Clarikdeens

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Re: Early days, but we think this is home.
« Reply #14 on: March 14, 2009, 05:41:13 pm »
Thank you for your very candid and very interesting report  8)