The social lives have certainly stepped up a notch. It's been party central over these last few weeks. It seems that the Kiwis have come out of hibernation and are living it large, just as I've become accustomed to going to bed at 9.30 every night too! We had a 'P Party' which saw us scooting about town dressed as pirates, a huge 'do' at Julie's farm where Ben spent most of the evening in the hot tub (and most of the next day being sick) and a 50th birthday bash. When did I get old enough to have 50 year old friends?!! The hospital ball was a big success but was pretty embarrassing for me as my face appeared far more frequently than most in the official photographs (it's who you know!).
Talking of photography, Ben and Phil have launched their postcards, so have a look at their website and click on 'products' for a preview, they're amazing...
Next come the posters. It's fab to see them finally on sale after all their hard work. They tell me that for each card sold they make 5 cents though, so I won't give up my job quite yet!! Ben has been charging about the place taking photos for a competition he's entering too. He came up with the theme "Dream Land New Zealand" and has as a result been taking photos of Phil pretending to be asleep in a bed, in various iconic Kiwi settings. I think he owes Phil a fair few pints after he lay shivering semi-naked in the rain surrounded by sheep in a field and caused more than a few weird looks doing the same by the main road!!
More big news is that I've been granted residency. I'm allowed to stay - whoop, whoop! But it'll be a few more months until we know if Ben can too. There's a very good chance he'll get it, so we're pretty optimistic that we'll be able to stay for good. When we first planned to visit New Zealand we said we'd give it a couple of years before we made a decision about living here permanently, but we already know we love it and want to stay if we can :0)
So... If Ben gets his residency too and we've decided we're going to stay, do you know what that means? It means we can get a dog! I am very excited. I've become totally preoccupied with the idea and started "torturing myself" (as Ben calls it!) by looking at the dogs on the local animal rescue web sites. We can't get one until after the Summer as we're going away and have a full house with all our visitors, but come March then maybe we can. But, and it's a pretty big BUT, we need to get our landlady to agree first and that may be a major spanner in the works. I made the mistake of sharing my dog excitement with my Dad who is now even more obsessed with the idea than me and didn't take the wait-and-see-what-the-landlady-says news well at all. Sorry Dad, I'll work on it I promise!
The other thing that has been playing on my mind (in a way that it has been suggested may be less than healthy) is planning for a natural disaster. OK I know that sounds ridiculous, and Ben and Erin have both been a little concerned for my sanity, but let me explain before you imagine me digging a bunker in the garden or something! So what happened was, I went to the New Zealand Occupational Therapy Conference (which was very dull but that's another story) and one of the workshops was about natural disaster response and talked about the role of health professionals following some sort of disaster, like a tsunami, earthquake, storm or whatever. Everyone was discussing their "Emergency Response Plans" and I was like "Erm... Sorry... What?!" and that's when I found out! In this part of the world, you're supposed to have everything that you need to survive for three days if services are cut off in the event of a disaster. And the really scary thing is that Kiwis all know this and my very unscientific research suggests that most of them have planned for it! In schools they even have earthquake drills where they all hide under their desks whilst the teachers shake them!! The Civil Defence have this whole promotion called "Be Prepared - Get Through"
and there are adverts on the TV and everything! So you see I'm not totally mental. I'm not like those crazy Americans who have safe-houses filled with supplies and guns ready for the end of the world, it's actually normal here. They do have disasters in New Zealand, there are earthquakes all the time and we are over-due for a volcanic eruption. Only a couple of weeks ago they evacuated the coastal areas for fear of a tsunami! So you see, despite Ben's ridicule of me putting together our "DOOM BOX" (as he calls it) it's not that weird to have some drinking water, tinned food, candles and batteries in a safe place just in case now is it? Is it?!
OK, so apart from obsessing about disasters and dogs, what else have we been up to?! Well Marge is still with us and we've been away on a couple more adventures. We went around the beautifully desolate East Cape. We even travelled 20km each way along unsealed roads to the most easterly point of New Zealand and climbed the 750+ steps to reach the lighthouse there. There was a worrying moment when we got back in Marge and she didn't want to start. I don't think the AA would have been too impressed! But, as always, she came good in the end :0) It's real Maori country round those parts and you can drive for hours without even being able to buy petrol. It's truly like stepping back in time and you see people (when you see them at all) getting around on horseback. It's amazing.
There's been loads of other fun stuff too; the sailing season started this week and we got to sail around the harbour at sunset with dolphins jumping around the boat - amazing! We also had our first unexpectently energetic hula dancing class and played with animals at a little wildlife park. I've been to the theatre, done lots more baking, signed up for a silver jewellery making workshop and walked with 5000 women dressed in pink for breast cancer awareness. Molly's coming to stay again before heading off to Canada with her sexy fireman boyfriend (who can blame her?!). Ben's been photographing the local salsa festival, there's been much hanging out on the beach in the sun, and at our first BBQ we made use of the free gas BBQs by the sea and fortunately had a Kiwi man with us to show us how they work! Next weekend we might learn how to do dragon boat racing - whatever the hell that is! Never a dull moment these days and it's not even Summer yet! It won't be long 'til our visitors arrive too. Can't wait :0)
View the photos on facebook here.