Wednesday, 14 December 2005

Earthquake hits Wellington

This isn't something new to Wellingtonians or even New Zealanders but it definitely is to me!

Vera and I were sitting by the rumpus downstairs looking at presents to buy for Christmas on the computer. This was about 9 at night. All of a sudden without warning, there was a rumbling noise for a few seconds and then it started again and went on for about 15 to 20 seconds. That is when we realised that it was an earthquake. A picture frame on my table fell. We were literally shaken despite the fact that nothing was damaged.

We went upstairs to take a look at the kids, who were sound asleep and then we went out to see if anyone was awoken. It looked like we were the only ones looking out as everyone else went about their business and no one was outside. While the rest of Wellington went about their lives, we were sitting watching each other.

This morning's newspaper reported that the earthquake hit near Porirua (near where we live) at 9.09pm and it apparently measured 4.5 on the Richter scale. The earthquake was 30km underground and was felt as far as 100km north of the capital.

Geonet has details of earthquakes in New Zealand.

The last earthquake I felt was when I was in Indonesia. I was asleep then and I thought that a truck was passing by until I read about it in the local newspapers the next morning.

This really puts things in a different perspective. All this time I was growing up, earthquakes were something that was far away and only watched on TV. I have never previously known anyone having experienced an earthquake. We have now come to live in a place where earthquakes are part and parcel of life. And the New Zealand fault line is just 10km from where we live and about 1km from where I work. This is real! This is not some National Geographic documentary! Schools teach children what to do in an emergency. Disaster recovery and business continuity are major risk factors in doing business in New Zealand.

Spooky isn't it?

Sunday, 11 December 2005

Rimutaka Forest Park

After the Makara, we drove to the other side of Wellington, east which was about 49km away to the Wainuimata where the Rimutaka Forest Park was located. We wanted to scout this place out for that camping trip we are planning during the Christmas holidays.

The camp sites were really good but the rivers were somewhat drying up. Not sure if there would be any water left in the river in 2 weeks times.

Just as we were leaving, we could not resist another bush walk. This one was made to suit the elderly and disabled. So, I was pretty sure we would make it without breaking a sweat. This track was coincidentally named the "Tawa Grove". And we discovered that Tawa is a tree which is pictured below.

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P.S. Tawa is the suburb we live in.

Makara weekend

The weather was supposed to be cloudy with rain but Metservice was wrong! The wind took a turn and the weather changed for the better yesterday evening and this morning was bright and sunny.

After the bbq last night, we decided to venture into the waters. Makara is on the west of Wellington and the drive there was absolutely stunning passing farmland and miles and miles of pines. The sea was not really one that was suited for swimming as there were lots of rocks but was mild enough to play.

There were about a dozen cars when we got there about 10.30am and a few trampers for 8km of beach.

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The sea was like the rivers we used to go to back in Malaysia. Crystal clear water with fish everywhere, corals, slugs and shells still very much alive.

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Later, after soaking up the sea water and filling up the belly, it was time for some New Zealand bush walking. We went like 500 meters and it was starting to go up hill so we decided, that's it!

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Saturday, 10 December 2005

BBQ Buka Kedai

In case you are wondering what that title is all about, it literally means "open shop" in Malay. The weather was finally warm enough to open our barbeque set that was sitting on the deck. And coincidentally, the bank I work for gave all its employees a set of bbq utensils as a Christmas present.

So with the sun at 23C, bright blue skies and little wind, we were off to the Mad Butcher to get sausages, chicken, lamb and pate for the night.

Barbeque New Zealand style!

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Friday, 9 December 2005

Anil's Christmas Disco

As Christmas is approaching everyone's having Christmas lunches and dinners. Even schools are not spared. Anil tonight was going to attend his very first Christmas Disco.

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Man is he dressed to kill!

Thursday, 8 December 2005

The tree is up

We just had to get a tree! How else would Santa know where to deliver those presents Anil and Ashwini have asked for?

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The kids had fun decorating the tree. Some of the decoration on the tree was made by them in school. Can you guess which one?

Tuesday, 6 December 2005

Vera's New Zealand driver’s license

Our Malaysian driver’s license is only valid for one year in New Zealand. The one year starts from the first arrival in New Zealand, regardless of when that maybe. If we had arrived in New Zealand as tourists 10 years ago, our license would have been useless by now, but since we came here in March last year for the first time, our licenses are valid until March 2006. After which we can't drive legally. My having an Indonesian driver’s license in addition to a Malaysian one was of no help. How can they not recognise an Indonesian license? If one could drive in Jakarta, anywhere else on earth would be a piece of cake!

I really don't understand the logic behind this at all. If we are allowed to drive here without being supervised for a year, don't see why we need to sit for a practical driving test to convert the license. Well, being a normal person as I am, I will not bring it up until I have my name printed on a New Zealand driver’s license.

Since Vera does most of the driving here she started with the process of converting her Malaysian driver’s license to New Zealand driver’s license. If one holds a drivers license from the UK, Australia, US or South Africa, all one needed to do was to pass a theory paper. But if the license was issued elsewhere, one had to go through a theory paper plus a practical driving test.

She passed her theory paper with flying colours in one go but her first attempt at the practical test failed miserably. She was quite sure it was the tester's fault and not hers. Each test costs $70.80 so to minimise the damage, she went for a "refresher" course and then sat for the practical yesterday.

The result? Passed!!!!!

We had a celebration of sorts yesterday to honour her passing her driving test the second time around, first being in Malaysia many, many moons ago. The celebratory meal included bow tie pasta with "porcupine" meat balls prepared by Anil. Go figure that one out.

Now it’s my turn to start mugging for those dreadful tests! How I hate tests!

Saturday, 3 December 2005

North Pole calling

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Christmas takes a whole new meaning here in New Zealand, especially for Anil and Ashwini. First they received a letter from the North Pole. Next they went for a pajama Party with Santa last week. And then there was the never ending Parades all over the city.

And this morning Vera discovered a new way of getting the Santa experience. There is a website hosted by iHug ( and you could send an email to Santa, write a snail mail letter to Santa and you could even speak to Santa. That last one was something different so we tried that.

Ten minutes later, the phone rang and it was a "long distance" call from the North Pole for Anil and a few minutes later for Ashwini. They were speaking to Santa himself and telling him what they want for Christmas. And they send the wish list to us by email.

Now it's time to get that Christmas tree and gifts! They have heard from friends in school that Santa comes down the chimney after they sleep on Christmas eve. With the size of our chimney, Santa would need to go on a diet! But, we'll see...

Thursday, 1 December 2005

Have wheels will travel

After 6 months in New Zealand and after 6 months of being driven around by Vera, I decided to get my self a set of wheels. I did not want to spend a lot of money on a car and neither did I want a car that will fall apart when I shut the door.

I went on a search for that car all over Wellington. Most were either beyond my reach or would not take my weight! Finally I stumbled upon this 1990 Ford Laser 1.6 Hatch. It looked reasonably tough (Ford Built Tough immediately came to mind) and was not going to burn a hole in my pocket. After test driving it and getting the green light from the local AA and the other half (more important than AA), I decided to get it.

And here is the $650 car!

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The whole process was amazingly simple. Since this is my first purchase from an individual, I wanted to be sure I was not taken for a ride. I called up the Land Transport Department (LTSA) and was given a detailed walk through with what to do.

I was told that the seller would have to inform the LTSA online about the intention to sell and I as buyer would also do the same online. I decided to do it in person just in case something went wrong. It took me all of 5 minutes for the change of ownership, and the cost? $9.20! And all I needed to show was my driver's licence, which by the way has yet to be converted!

That night, the seller drove my new car over to our place and I sent him back.

Next was insurance! For that price did not want to get a comprehensive. So went for the third party cover. All I needed was the details of the car for the cover, no need for proof of registration or anything else. I am now covered.

That was it!

Saturday, 26 November 2005

Pot of gold

If only the saying was true... but the rainbow surely is.

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It rained all day and just as the sun was setting and the clouds clearing, a beautiful rainbow emerged across the sky and the view from our home was stunning.

Monday, 21 November 2005

Ride of my life

This morning's wind in Wellington must be the left over from yesterday. I was scheduled to be in Auckland this morning so it was an early morning taxi ride to the airport. It was starting to get cloudy by 7am this morning and as we approached the airport which faces open sea, the wind got gustier. And it started to rain as well. The forecast this morning was 65kmph but I am sure it was a lot stronger than that.

I got the window seat by the wing on the flight to Auckland this morning and as the Boeing 737 was taxing to the run way, I could see the tip of the wing fluttering due to the strong winds. The plane came to a halt just before turning to the runway to take off, waiting for more flights to land. From the window at my seat, I could see flights landing with the wings not parallel to the ground. It was shaking to the left and the right as one wheel touches the ground and the other barely. It was a bit like an amateur trying to land an aircraft for the first time.

Shortly after that NZ410 was ready for take off. The engine roared and it taxied to the runway to take off and then stopped, as if trying to muster all its might for the take off. As it was stationery on the runway, I could feel the aircraft violently shaking from the wind outside. Then the captain turned the throttle full and was moving ahead. Just as the aircraft left the ground, must be about 100 meters above ground when it suddenly dropped without warning. There were screams from passengers in the aircraft. Then another few seconds later, another dip. After this second dip, the aircraft was quiet except for the sound of the engines. Several seconds later, the jet was above the clouds and was stable and the fasten seat belts signs were off.

What a relief. It took all of one minute to be airborne but an eventful one minute. It was a ride on my life. After travelling all over the world, I thought landing in the old Kai Tak Airport in Hong Kong took nerves but after today, Wellington Airport is definitely a close second.

Sunday, 20 November 2005

Santa Parade in Wellington

We braved the wind and the sun and went to see the Santa Parade in the city this afternoon.

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There were thousands waiting along Lambton Quay by 1.30pm half an hour before the parade starts. And despite the crowd, we met several people we know! That's how small Wellington is.

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The Kiwi version of Rudolf!
Meet Rudolf the Red Nose Kiwi...

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And Santa himself...

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Windy Wellington

The wind here in Wellington is really strong. Something out of this world if you ask me. This morning as I was reading the morning papers, the wind was so strong I saw the clothes line move past me and before we could run out, it fell over the deck and on the ground below. The clothes got dirty and the clothes dryer broke apart.

Just when I when back to reading my papers, a bird, as it flew across the deck went spalt on the window due to the strong wind and fell on the deck. It was totally dazed. We took it and put it in the bush and after about half an hour, went off flying again.

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This evening as Ashwini was riding a bicycle and was struggling to move the wind came from behind and moved her along without even the need to paddle.

Friday, 18 November 2005

Anil turns 7

It is the big seven, the age that seperates the kids from the boys, according to Anil. At least it has been for the last few birthdays.

This birthday he wanted it to be a speacial birthday with no girls. Just his closest friends, Leo and Patrick.

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After the birthday at home they all adjourned to their favourite restaurant for dinner. Guess where? McDonald's of course!

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Wednesday, 16 November 2005

Letter from the North Pole

Since moving into this place, we often find in our letter box, letters addressed to the "New Owners" and sometimes letters addressed to us welcoming us to our new home! It is amazing how these people find us! A few days ago, a letter from Dominion Post (local newspaper) welcoming us to the neighbourhood and as a gesture giving us newspaper subscription for 13 weeks at half price!

So far, the letters have been addressed to the adults in the family . This afternoon in our mail box two letters of a different kind were there, to the kids. Anil and Ashwini received letters from Santa Clause and post marked North Pole!

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Wonder how they found their names. Perhaps, Santa has connections in high places!

Sunday, 13 November 2005

Summertime at the beach

The day was great and we just had to explore the many beaches around the city. We drove to a few only to find the sea too rough for our liking, until we came across this, just out of town in a place called Island Bay. Really pretty and nice litlle beach which is about 7 minutes from the city. From the pictures below you know how crowded it can get!

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This is Anil getting ready for a spectacular dive!

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We drove a little further to the end of the road and was stopped by this sign "4WD Vehicles Only". The rest of the track is along the sea against high cliffs and amazingly deserted beaches.

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I need that Landrover Discovery now!

Saturday, 12 November 2005

Vera's rose garden

Now that I have made my mark in the kitchen, it is time to show off Vera's ceration in the garden.

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This is just part of it! There are still white and blue roses yet to bloom.

Cooking for dummies

Experiments from the book I borrowed from the library titled "Cooking for dummies". It looks better than it tastes, I think! But it is my creation!

This is a Pot Roast

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And this is Baked Fish

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Bon Appetit

Friday, 11 November 2005

Things that can cause a delay

As you would have known from my earlier threads, I take the train to work daily or at least when I am working in Wellington. The company that runs the trains in Wellington lets commuters know of delays by sending text messages to mobile phones.

I often get messages of delays stating reasons such as "a derailment somewhere", "technical fault on the line" or "mechanical fault". This morning (fortunately after I arrived in the office) I got this message which I thought was really funny - "The 0740 btwn Paraparaumu & Wellington is running up to 30 minutes late due to 2 staff members falling ill".

Thursday, 10 November 2005

The close encounter with the Malaysian High Commission

We finally sold our property in Malaysia but that's not what this thread is about. Due to the sale, we needed to get our sale and purchase documents attested by the Malaysian High Commission in New Zealand. So we called the High Commission and made an appointment to see someone of authority to get the documents attested.

This was not the first Malaysian foreign mission I am dealing with but will be one I would remember for a while. I hope this thread does not end up like my other thread "5 Malaysians I met in Wellington". Am not sure why I am sometimes so critical but there are people who don't like it! Anyway, back to this incident.

Before I write about what I thought of the High Commission, let me say what it is like in New Zealand in general. It is so common for a cashier at the supermarket to say "Hi, how are you?" or a taxi driver to ask you "How was your day?". I travel quite a bit and each time I take a taxi and get dropped off, the driver will without fail say "Hope you have a good day" or "Have a good weekend". This is what the last 6 months have been. Was kinda taken aback initially but am enjoying the politeness and hospitality in general.

Now this morning, we went to the Malaysian High Commission and met this lady whom I was very sure is a Malaysian. Not a smile not a greeting, nothing. It reminded me so much of going into a Malaysian government office to get something done. My daughter being herself was so chatty but nope, not a smile, not a frown not a single word! She charged us NZ$56 for attesting the documents when there was no mention of a charge anywhere. She said she could not give me a receipt but promised to mail me one and took down my address. I said "Thank you" but she just walked away.

On the contrary, we were talking to the driver who was sitting in for the receptionist, whom I believe is a Kiwi, and he was real polite and we actually had a conversation! We found out when the High Commission was opened and why he was sitting as a receptionist and if we were there for another hour, probably where he lived!

When I visited the Malaysian Embassy in Indonesia, I thought they were friendly and warm but then I realised today that what I felt was perhaps in relation to the surrounding. Indonesia is quite similar to Malaysia in a lot of ways and worse in some, so I felt I was being treated well. But here in New Zealand everyone is extremely polite and because of that I felt the High Commission staff was so cold!

While driving back, I was telling Vera that I still can't get over the fact that she can be so cold!

Wonder what it will be like, if and when we return to Malaysia!

Sunday, 6 November 2005

Circus in town

The Weber Brothers Circus is in town. They are currently performing at Paraparaumu which is about an hour away from where we live. They are scheduled to be in Wellington next week but we were not sure what our schedules are going to be like next week, so we decided to drive to Paraparaumu to see the circus.

We paid $65 for a family pass and got us seated on an elevated platform and had real good views for the arena. The circus was packed to the brim. It was worth every cent as the show was spectacular. Unlike the circus we are used to back home, the only real animals here were dogs. The unreal ones included a mermaid, a lobster, a shark and some alien looking Jabba the Hut look a like.

The second half of the show was really good with lots of UV lights and fountains that give the circus a different feel to it.

Saturday, 5 November 2005

Fireworks galore

Today is Guy Fawkes's day in New Zealand. This is I came to understand is celebrated throughout New Zealand, Canada and the UK. Every year for one week fireworks are legally sold here in New Zealand to anyone over 14 years of age.

In theory the event is to remember Britain's infamous traitor - Guy Fawkes, the Gunpowder Plot conspirator. He was caught red-handed in Britain's House of Lords cellar in 1605, in an attempt to blow up Parliament and the king in order to rid the country of its Protestant rulers and restore the Catholic faith. I have no idea why the country is celebrating the failure of a terrorist act, as it seems to be. Over the last 400 years, this celebration has evolved into signalling the coming of summer.

As tonight was the last night and the actual Guy Fawkes's Day, the sky around where we lived, lighted up in brilliant sparks. It was really beautiful especially since the sun sets at about 8.30pm and the sky was somewhat bright in the background of not a dark night yet.

There were firework displays at the harbour here in Wellington but we gave it a miss this time around.

I hope we are not starting to take this country for granted. I seem to notice that I take less pictures of places we go to because it is there and we can visit it anytime. And now we are missing events because there is always another one around the corner.

Friday, 4 November 2005

It happens to all of us...

It seems so surreal to think about it now, that about six months ago, we went through this! Starting a new life in a new country. This week we had two families starting theirs.

Vincent, Joo Bee and Junius from Singapore arrived last week and are now settled Palmerston North about 2 hours north of Wellington. And this week, we had Andrew Edwards from the UK doing his reccee of the North Island. He stayed with us the 2 days he was in Wellington. At the end of the two days, I just saw myself in him. He was so close to getting a job and was all confused because it just happened too fast.

I think we are so used to taking our time in getting things organised, regardless of where we come from, and when things start to happen, we panic! I remember in March this year, I was sitting on a couch in Wendy's B&B in Eastbourne, just returning from an interview, being told I have to be in Wellington by June. At that point, I had not even mentioned to my previous employer that I might be leaving. Actually, I haven't even mentioned to my parents that we were migrating. At that moment, everything was just happening too fast! Wendy was saying that a few months earlier, another couple Sarah and Ian went through this same feeling at her place!

Now, here we are all settled and enjoying life.

Anil and his friends

Vera sneaked in her camera to Anil's school this morning to capture what goes on behind the scenes.

This is Anil and his bestest best friend, Leo...

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And here is one of his many girlfriends....

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Hmmmm.... do I need to start worrying?

Wednesday, 2 November 2005

Work offsite in Taupo

This weekend, the bank I work with had an offsite in Taupo, about 400km north of Wellington.

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Taupo is a major tourist destination and it has everything one could ask for from fresh air to snow, volcanoes, rivers, lakes to fishing!

Lake Taupo itself was created by the largest known eruption of the past 5,000 years, it was so big the sun went hazy in China. Today, what remains is a lake the size of Singapore and the largest fresh water lake in Australasia.

Trying to squeeze work in between a delightful break was indeed a challenge as the great lake and the awe inspiring Ruapehu mountains was just outside the window.

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After the "gruelling" one and a half day, it was time to let the hair down, at least for those who still had some! I did things I never would have done elsewhere and it was tiring, exhausting, and even torturous but great fun! I played golf for the very first time and actually hit the ball, caught a trout, got myself a fishing license and mountain biked.

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Due to the nature of this country there is so much that can be done in the outdoors. What's next? Need to get myself a boat or a kayak as the sea is just 5 minutes away!