Thursday, July 31, 2014

Lessons in Rugby

i always get excited at the prospect of attending a sporting event that is relatively unknown to me especially in another country.  The more unfamiliar i am with the game and the rules, the better.  Each sporting event has a culture all its own but add cultural differences and it is a whole new game.  Camel racing for example was not particularly my sort of sporting event but the whole process was so foreign and fascinating (See it here) that a boring race suddenly became wildly exciting.

In New Zealand it is all about Rugby, THE past time.  Combine Americans' love for baseball AND football, and you still can't match the passion New Zealanders have for rugby and their team the All Blacks.  Rugby seems to run in their blood.  Regardless of age or sex, Kiwis know rugby.  Grannies toss rugby balls while at the park and diaper wearing toddlers are taught to tackle.  It is serious stuff.  So when some friends of ours invited us to their son's Saturday morning rugby game, we were excited to take in a bit of grass roots New Zealand culture.  We bundled up in multiple layer, heated up mugs of coffee and tea, grabbed our chairs and headed to the local game.  

i won't even get into all the rules, positions and terms of rugby as i would make a fool of myself but i do know one thing... it is TOUGH.  When a game uses terms such as "Maul" and "Choke Tackle" to describe legal moves and a "Blood Bin" is where you go for a quick 15 minute break when your wounds are losing too much blood, you know it is serious.  One could possibly compare it to the game of football only no pads or helmets are worn.  The only compulsory item of protection for young rugby players is a mouth piece.  Helmets are optional for kids.

Pic from

As we drive around the local playing field looking for a parking place, we realize all the spectators are standing around watching the games.  STANDING.  It seems everyone forgot to bring their very comfortable captain chair with the handy cup holder.  Apparently this isn't the soft Saturday morning soccer game where everyone sets up camp on the field.  Riley says nonchalantly, "Mom, just leave my chair in the car, i am not going to need it."  Note taken... do not bring chairs to a rugby game.  If players are bleeding on the field, the audience shouldn't be comfy on the sidelines.

It seems some forgot to bundle up as well.

With hands wrapped cozy around hot coffee, we waddled along in our wintery woolen layers till we located the field of our friends.  (For those of you that may think we are just being wimpy, it was a wet 38 degrees that morning.)

 We learned a new language as we watched a group of 8 year olds ScrumTry, Tackle and Ruck.  
i think my kid may be wearing more head protection from the cold than the little Kiwi has on for rugby. 

i was super impressed with the after game team huddle.  The coach acknowledged every player that had reached their personal goal set for that game.  
"Pete, you beat your goal of 8 tackles!"
"Arnie you made more than 7 passes."
"Liam, good on ya for those 3 trys."
It was like a mini award ceremony but based on their actual achievements for this game.  It was an inspiring team and character building opportunity.  
Standard Kiwi practice/culture after all kid games so i am told.
Suddenly i want nothing more than to bring this profound level of coaching to The States!

And this is what draws me to foreign sporting events i realize.  It is the hour and half recap i get of daily life.  A microcosm of what it is like to live life abroad in a culture different than my own.  In fact maybe even a picture of life in general.   
The constant revolving door of

Got this

Going into a situation and thinking i'm in control as i have a general idea of how things should play out 
i arrive and find i am completely out of place, quite foolish looking and possibly even lost  
i surmise to myself this place must be crazy
This PLACE then proceeds to show me something beautiful i could only learn here and from that i am 


Pretty deep i guess for a game of rugby.
What will i get out of the upcoming game of Netball?!

Monday, July 14, 2014

For the Birds

As of this week i decided this Southern Hemisphere thing is for the birds.  Literally, think about it.  Birds fly South for the winter from the North because in the Southern Hemisphere our summers (your winters) are glorious!  But as far as our winters go they are dreary and dreadfully COLD.  Prior to living here, i thought i could handle cold.  And to be honest, it isn't THAT cold here compared to other places.  We don't have snow and the cold temps dip only around 32 degrees.  It was colder than that at times in CA.  (Which is why it is interesting that both a Russian and native Minnesotian living in Auckland say they feel colder here than in their respective countries)  The difference is that other countries have HEAT.  You know, things like central heating, fire places, insulation and windows that keep the draft out.  Central heating apparently hasn't been invented here yet and starting a fire is frowned upon, so our best heat solutions are small space heaters for each room, electric blankets, blowing into our hands and multiple layers of clothing.  i am NOT exaggerating when i say some of us can be found at any given time of day wearing 2 pairs of socks plus slippers, leg warmers, a beanie and gloves while IN the house.  The kids were amusing themselves this morning during breakfast as they could see their breath the entire time.  (i am of the opinion the only time you should see your breath in the morning while making breakfast is because you are camping!)  

i had a brilliant revelation the other day as to why this cold weather was pulling me into such a funk.  In the past i've never dreaded winter, i've always looked forward to the change in seasons.  In the past, cold frosty weather typically meant one thing NESTING for the HOLIDAYS!  Winter and rainy days meant staying indoors for cozy time by the fire, preparing upcoming holiday meals for friends and family, decorating for Thanksgiving or Christmas, and wrapping presents.  BUT, its JULY here... JULY!!!  i am currently on a mission to convince my family that we should celebrate Christmas in JULY and put this "Let's-bundle-up-weather" to good use.  Who knows we may generate extra heat with Christmas lights.  They all laughed at me originally but based on the calendar Riley came up with today, i am thinking they will come around...

But until they do, i will warm my fingers by typing up all the reasons i love NZ and reminisce of warm sunny beach BBQ's of December past. 
New Zealand is beautiful and we are so blessed to live here.

Our local beaches come in all styles and colors.   

Are you in the mood for Black Sand and massive waves? 

Or is it a White Sandy Beach you are after?

A ten minute jog in one direction takes us to the appropriately named Red Beach 

A ten minute walk in the opposite direction lands us on a sand and lava beach.

A 2 minute steep walk down the stairs finds us in a hidden fishing spot

where fish are so accessible Kyle can catch 'em with his bare hands

The starfish also vary in their colour and size 

itty bitty


There was no question as to why New Zealand was chosen as the location to bring Tolkein's books to life.  It is a magical wonderland filled with things only thought to exist in fairytales and children's imagination.
Black Swans

Spotted Red Toadstools that must be homes to fairies and gnomes

Steaming and hissing earth that is hot to the touch

Bubbling gurgling mud pools

Hidden Maori Carvings

Common sightings of double and full rainbows

Hibiscus the size of our head

Pods of dolphins having a swim by our window

Sheep having a graze... everywhere

The well loved NZ silver fern which hides its silver on its back

Diners where graffiti is encouraged

Sacred Volcanos that we hope stay dormant

Playgrounds on beaches with equipment that would be banned in the States.  Parks filled with parents and kids playing side by side.  None of this parental observing from a distant bench.  Kiwi dads are climbing play structures and teaching 2 year olds how to take down another toddler in a game of diaper rugby.  

Abundance of trails and islands beckoning us to explore

  Night time is just as amazing.  Stars are brilliantly bright and the milky way is always on display. 

The truth is it is beautiful, magical AND very cold here.  i CAN'T wait till the sun starts showing us her sweet self again on a regular basis.  Local Kiwis keep assuring me this is a more dreary winter than normal.  i am still trying to wrap my head around the fact that i'm freezing here in JULY while just last week i was snorkelling in warm waters.   

There is much we have to be thankful for... one of them being my bathroom.  
Did i happen to mention to you the most wonderful room in the house?!  It's a small room with a sink and a shower, hardly enough room for 2 people to get ready at the same time.  i lock myself in there sometimes during the day and not because i want to clean up or hide from my kids.  It's WARM in there!  It has HEATERS...  MULTIPLE heaters!!  A heated towel rack that i can warm my fingers on!  A floor heater under the tile that i can actually feel through my slippers!  A defogger for the mirror to keep the steam off!  It is so cozy in there sometimes it is difficult to leave.  Why homes here have these features but not central heating or double pane windows, i'll never know.

But when my kitchen is howling and the socks i stuffed in the window isn't keeping the wind and dirt out, you'll know where to find me.