As the four month mark passes by on the day that we first stepped foot in New Zealand, I thought it was time that Luke and I reflect on our trip a bit, share some of our favourite memories, and update everyone on what our lives are like now, living in Mount Maunganui. I'd say overall the homesickness has not been an issue for us, if anything, we simply wish we could bring everyone here to experience it with us!! There have been many dreams of "If I had the money, I would fly you here tomorrow". New Zealand is such a beautiful, friendly and exquisite place.. I almost feel guilty enjoying it all to myself instead of sharing it... almost!

  From the Unknown ........... To the Everyday

March 2012 | Vancouver Airport
July 2012 | Mount Maunganui Beach
What is your favourite city that you visited? Why?
Luke: Wellington. It just had such a nice welcoming feel to it, I felt like I was home. Probably had to do with the hippyish type people and that it is very similar to Victoria. 
Deanna:  Wellington. The streets were filled with funky, yet very friendly people. There were heaps of unique cafes and restaurants, a lot of "hole in the wall" type places. It was the kind of place I could see myself living and loving.
What is your favourite photo, where was it taken, and what makes it awesome?
This photo was taken up in the Coromandel Peninsula near New Chums beach. It's my favourite because this beach was amazing, me and Dea had such a great time here, and then this picture was taken and Dea looks like a monkey....and we almost cried laughing so hard.
This photo was taken at 7am on top of Mount Pukawhakataratara at Mana Retreat Centre on the Coromandel Peninsula. It was a challenge to get Luke out of bed to hike up a mountain for 45 minutes in the black of morning - but the beauty of the moment was worth it in the end! I was so worried about the amount of clouds that were present, but it turned into a beautiful, eerie, misty morning.  This photo reminds me of what my time at Mana represents to me - freedom and inspiration.
What is your favourite New Zealand experience story to tell?
Luke: I like sharing our wwoofing experiences at Mana Retreat Centre and Terri's because I think it is just a fantastic way to travel and meet people. 
Deanna: I really like sharing our stranded on 90 Mile Beach story. Its good for a laugh at our stupidity... and is a fun memory!!
Is there anything that you desperately wish you had brought with you and forgot?
My bro and sis
What would be your advice to anyone traveling to New Zealand?
Buy a car, it's just way easier to see everything, plus once getting here you realize you don't really have a home and having a car is just your own little home if you need it.
Keep your plans wide open so you can jump in with someone else's travels when the opportunity presents itself... and ask everyone everything.. the people are friendly!!
What individual, activity or place has impacted you the most in New Zealand?
Individual is tough because Mana retreat is just this amazing place away from the world, once there you forget about everything around you. You become more relaxed and just have more room in your head to think. Then there is Terri who really took care of us when we needed it the most, trying to find a home wasn't the easiest process for us, and to have someone to just let us come back not just once but on plenty of occasions is amazing. So I guess you could say wwoofing again.
Terri - she has such a warm, inviting and real way of living her life. Terri has fed us, taught us, laughed with us, laughed at us, fed us again, taught us about life in New Zealand, embraced us into her family, and even recently helped us find work! She loves her family above everything else in her life, which I respect so much and enjoy being able to be a part of. To allow so many random international travelers into your home on a constant rotating basis... you need to be a unique, open and wonderful type of person. Terri is all of these things!! <3
Would you say that you have changed at all in the past four months?
Yes definitely, I think being here has opened my eyes more on what's out there, I really want to see more of the world now, and meet more people.
I've become happier, more relaxed and laugh more freely. My life has much less drama! :)
Can you describe what its like living in Mount Maunganui?
So far like a dream - living on the beach, surfing, long boarding, and its only the winter, I can't imagine what summer is gonna be like.
Paradise! 4 blocks from the beach, sunshine almost every single day... perfection!
What are you doing now? For work, for fun? 
Well I was doing electrical work which was very interesting to see how different it is from our country, but now I'm just helping in construction which is still interesting meeting different people. As for fun like I said surfing, long boarding, just walking on the beach with dea, and going on little adventures.
Since moving to the Mount I have been working with my roommate at a hotel in downtown Mount Maunganui, cleaning toilets, making beds, scrubbing floors.. all the fun stuff. Also, thanks to Terri, I have had a few shifts with a catering company that I am really enjoying, and I had my first "trial" shift at a coffee shop... which I was ecstatic about!! For fun I've been really enjoying the gym in our apartment building - mainly because its free and always empty! I've been having a GREAT time with my blog (thank you to everyone who reads and comments! you keep me going!) and just writing in general. And of course, my fun day trips to the library or beach!! 
What is the biggest change from living in Victoria?
Not having those familiar faces and friends that we hung out with all the time. 
Agreed! Not being surrounded by a group of friends that are ready and willing to partake in fun adventures on a regular, almost daily basis.. its a big change. And there's no Auntie Sue here.
What is exactly the same?
Hahaha this is the toughest question for me, not very much is exactly the same....I mean even the coffee is different, playing guitar is different because I have more time and feel like I am actually getting better. Driving feels the same now but it's different seeing how I'm on the other side of the road. I would have to say although work is somewhat different, I guess the people are somewhat the same, they interact the same, make the same kind of sick jokes, and overall Kiwis are friendly like Canadians, while you still get the odd jackass, just like in Canada.
I find living in the Mount feels as though I could be living in a part of Canada. There are obvious differences - like tropical trees in every yard - but because there are many pieces that are similar, I often forget that there is a body of water separating me from my home. Many days I find I feel so comfortable here that I forget I'm in a different country. I think being here with Luke really helps.. makes it feel like home.
What is your favourite part about your new living situation?
Well instead of my roomies pretending to have a British accent they actually do, and it's hard not to mock them. Also our apartment is awesome with a pool and hot tub, and the best part: it's cheaper than what I was paying back home.
We live in a b-e-a-uuuutiful apartment!! I love it. I am able to walk to and from work - which I have always wanted! And I don't have any money... I enjoy seeing what I can do without. It feels a bit refreshing and grounding, although at times frustrating. 
Is there anything that you desperately miss from home?
Friends and family.....oh and timmys of course.
Bandit... and all of the above!
Is there anything that you thought you would miss desperately but you've been surprised that you don't?
Not really. I guess just Canada in general, I mean, I miss it but I guess I just know it will be there when I get back and being here makes me appreciate my country more.
There you have it! A reflection of the past four months through the eyes of Dukey and Dea! Anything else you're curious about? Anything you'd like to share?
I hope you've enjoyed reading about our adventures as much as we enjoy sharing them!
Sweet Dea & Dukey
Papamoa Hills Summit - that mountain is the background is "the mount" - Mount Maunganui - our new town

a wwoofer's morning adventure

Wake up at 6:30am to boys yelling at each other in other room, hear mom tell them to stop it, fall back to sleep. Wake up at 7:00am to boys yelling at each other in other room, hear mom tell them to stop it, fall back to sleep. Wake up at 7:30am to boys yelling at each other in other room, hear mom stirring her coffee, think: "Time to get up!" Take a moment to scratch the heck out of my likely to be forever bruised, battered and scarred legs due to a disastrous amount of unrelenting "sand flea" bites. Get up, put on grubby jeans and grubby shirt and grubby sweater (none are actually grubby.. but have deemed them this due to line of current work), join the family in the other room. boys seem very happy to see us, even though in the back of mind I'm thinking "you woke me at 6:30 you mongrels". I smile politely.

Make a cup of coffee, two scoops of instant crystals, one sugar (sometimes two), and a dollop of milk from Licky the cow. Sip coffee while reading a chapter of current book on the beautiful back deck in the crisp sunshine. Finish coffee, realize its much too hot out already for jeans and a sweater, go change into grubby shorts and grubby tank top (same rules as other "grubby" items).

Grab gumboots (there are a few pairs for wwoofers to use) and bucket for chicken feed, wander down towards the chickens. Enter first paddock that is empty, see all chickens at the fence, happily awaiting the arrival of food, pretend they're just excited to see me, try to get them more excited with a few high pitched "chicky chicky chicky" calls, feel happy that they're suddenly jumping on top of each other trying to get closer to me. (clearly it has nothing to do with the food in my swinging white bucket!!) Enter the chicken pen, feel overwhelmed with the amount of clucking chickens surrounding my feet and making it very difficult to walk without stepping on one and feeling bad for the terrible "SQWAK" I'd hear, then thinking "Hey! I'm the boss here, outta my way chickens!" Sadly, the chickens are clever little buggers. They know that white bucket = chicken feed, therefore they try not to let it out of their sight. I try tricking them by throwing a handful of chicken feed over to the left, then I quickly scurry over to the mini chicken-trough and start pouring the chicken feed into it. Usually as soon as I begin to pour the chickens are climbing on top of the trough and bucket and themselves.. so I devised a plan. Now I pour a little into the trough, get them all excited and munching away, then I secretly scurry away to the other chicken pen (which they have full access to, I'm not that tricky!) and pour the rest of the feed into the other trough. Usually over at this trough is my little chicken friend that I call Dementee. (maybe not PC... but hey, I'm on holidays). She had an accident of sorts. Her beak is all wonky and one wing is itsy bisty... kinda like Nemo! Her top beak bit always points West while her bottom beak bit always points North. Don't know why she's like this, but I get a little happy feeling inside when she's the only chicken in the other pen, so she gets full peck at the chicken feed trough while the others are climbing ontop of each other trying to get a few kernels in the other trough. "hah, dumb chickens" we laugh together. (likely just me laughing.. but I like to believe she gets me). Then while the chickens are all happily pecking away at their breakfast, I watch Luke feed the piggies. We got new piggies the other day, after the other much larger and "porky" looking piggies got "sent away". These newbies are much more shy and timid. Luke heaves a bunch of scraps and yuck stuff over the fence into their trough... and almost automatically, a few chickens come racing over to see what's going on with the pigs. There are usually one or two chickens in the piggy trough, pecking away at old vegetable scraps, bread, meat, leftovers, etc, along with the piggies! Silly chickens. Don't they know I gave them plenty of chicken feed?
Chicken Run - "i don't want to be a pie, i don't like gravy"
Piggy Piggy Piggy Piggy Piggy Piggy

Deanna's Random Thoughts

Lately I've been reading a new author, Marian Keyes. One of the books I read is very similar to what I wrote here, very short, basic and to the point. I have found that at night I now dream about my days in this style, so I thought I would try recording it. Quite fun to write!

On the topic of reading.. since coming to New Zealand I have managed to read five books! Quite a lot for me, as I never read very often in Victoria. Must be all this free time and free space in my brain :)

is it bad that i'm really really excited for my birthday in 5 days? turning 25 doesn't mean I'm now too old to get excited about it right?
Have you ever taken the time to notice how your brain receptors adapt? I have been in one place for over two weeks now..the longest in one place since arriving in New Zealand.. and just today I was reflecting on the things that I noticed when I first arrived here, and how they now slip past my radar. I often imagine that as a "newbie" to an area (to a country, a region, a situation, etc) the things that your brain records as observations can often be completely different to what it records after some time. Once seeing something a few times, it just becomes normal, not worthy of consciously recognizing. So then it led me to wonder, am I still recognizing it, and my brain has simply decided that I have already given myself time to think about it, so there is no longer a need to do this again? Or do I just no longer recognize it?

.... these are the random thoughts that I have to hold myself back from waking Luke up in the middle of the night to discuss with him... he doesn't seem to find life quite so interesting and mysterious as I do at 2am. Hmmmm

Music for your ears :-)

today I wwoofed...

The car came to a halt on a gravelled incline driveway as Luke and I climbed out. We stole a brief, confused, and a wee bit worried, glance at each other and then wandered around what we hoped to be the back of the house. The entire time I was really hoping that we were wandering on the "correct" proprety, in hopes to avoid an angry yell from a local unhappy farmer. I didn't even know if New Zealand farmers were in fact "yellers", but really, I had no need to find out now did I? Around the corner and across the grass we tentatively walked up to a beautiful setting. A stunning view of the rolling hills landscape, chickens, pigs and cows and a backyard bbq with the entire family! Terri, her kids, Terri's sister, her kids, all the kids' friends, the baby nicknamed "fatty" and of course, the roley poley dog named Pudge. Immediately we were welcomed to table just as everyone sat down. Child after child stared at us as though were were foreigners as we ate. Although, I suppose we were foreigners weren't we? Luke immediately became Luke Skywalker which all the boys took to very quickly! As we finished up dinner with this massive new family, Luke and I stole another look at each other as if to say, "Here we go! Our first wwoofing experience."

After the intial overwhelming moment of meeting the whole family and all their friends at once over dinner, wwoofing became a very enjoyable arrangement. To wwoof is to engage in world wide opportunities on organic farms. It is an online organization developed primarily to provide support to organic farmers by means of eager-to-work travellers in exchange for a clean, quiet bed and three meals a day. BINGO! All travellers are focused on food and looking for new and exciting experiences, so this is a fool-proof concept. Wwoof hosts give the wwoofers a list of duties or projects they hope to have completed in the 2+ weeks of their visit. Wwoofers aim to complete approximately four hours of good solid work per day, depending on the requirements of the wwoof host of course. Completeing physical labour while having the joy of being outside is very satisfying after weeks of simply "touring around".

I have learned things about animals, organic growth and natural eating habits that I had never thought were necessary before. The experience of milking a cow, eating freshly lain chicken eggs, picking out piglettes to raise and then eat, planting an entire vegetable garden and learning just how many food items can be created purely from ingredients found around the yard has been truly astonishing! And being welcomed into their home as a part of the family has taught me more about New Zealand culture than I ever would have learned in a museum. It also feels good to provide those helping hands in order to give mom a few more minutes each day to spend with her kids - essential in any and all cultures!

The kids warmed up to us very quickly, as they are used to new wwoofers entering their family every few weeks or so. The house, the cats, the kids and the dog all feel like home now. Terri has told us that she has hosted many different wwoofers from all over the world - Europe, Peru, Malaysia, Canada and the USA, ...What an amazing opportunity for her children to hear different accents and learn about other parts of the world from their own living room. They have a world map with pegs in the city and country that each wwoofer is from. Wwoofing is a fantastic way to save money and have richer experiences while travelling, and eat much better too! (no more beans & white rice for two whole weeks! woohoo!) It also is a great way for organic farmers to open their doors to willing helping hands who are usually eager to learn. The opportunity to experience different cultures without leaving your land; sounds like a win-win if you ask me.
My first time milking a cow. This lady's name is "Licky"
Luke's first time playing on a sit-down lawn mower. He enjoyed himself!