Aotearoa

So after the fancy London Chess Classic dinner the next morning we started our journey heading towards New Zealand! Tania Sachdev invited us out to Mahiki (the joint where the Royal Princes use to party) but we had to decline as I wanted to get a good night’s rest before starting our 27 hour journey!

We landed in Auckland early in the morning and tried to avoid going straight to sleep as we’d screw up our body clocks. New Zealand is 13 hours ahead of London and flying straight through (with only a few hours in Seoul) meant that my body had no idea what time zone I was in! We headed to my hometown of Otahuhu in South Auckland.

Auckland was so hot. Perhaps too hot for me, as I am now used to the English sun. First thing to do on our list was buy some sunblock and slip,slop & slap. We had fish & chips (fush and chups if you are a kiwi) at the park and then headed afterwards to the bakery for some good kiwi treats! I had a chocolate lamington & Gawain had apple pie.

Fush n chups

Fush n chups

That evening we went to watch the Hobbit 2. I won’t write any spoilers in but I found it really enjoyable but Ga felt it wasn’t true to the book. Obviously if you watch any of the Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit, New Zealand looks like that all the time.

My little brother Andrew (aspiring league player) and Ga.

My little brother Andrew (aspiring league player) and Ga.

One of the evenings, after having dinner at a local-ish Chinese we headed to visit my cousins who lived nearby. In my Cook Island culture, “dropping by” is a very common activity which consists of going to visit some family, eating, drinking, sleeping or generally doing whatever you want at their house! We went to visit the McLeods which is my dad’s eldest half sisters children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. My cousins still live on Manihiki, the island where my dad is from where they are pearl farmers. Life on the island is hard work but everyone chips in! One day Ga & I will visit but like I’ve said in a previous post it’s expensive to get to. From New Zealand it costs about $3800!

At first, I was taken aback by how life is here. Everyone chilled, relaxed and ever so helpful! I also found myself giggling whenever I heard a real Kiwi as accent. Gosh they sound funny sometimes! 🙂 Now I feel myself slipping back and dropping my vowels. I saw something “did” (dead) as Gawain pointed out.

Most days we were lucky to have good weather, we also got to walk my dad’s dog Johnny a very strong pitador. At first I was sort of scared of him but he turns out to be the sweetest dog!

Ga and Jonny

Ga and Jonny

Christmas in New Zealand is very different to your traditional Christmas in the UK. I miss the summertime, the ruby red Pohutakawa trees, the beaches and the bbqs! Someone also said to me that Christmas isn’t a big deal here, more like a holiday and something just for the kids! So once they grow up there’s no point in having it! I tried to prepare Gawain for that, but he didn’t quite understand. I enjoy having a traditional Christmas, it definitely feels more Christmassy but nothing beats being here in NZ.

Christmas by the beach.

Christmas by the beach.

So comes Christmas eve, I ask my parents what we are doing and they say whatever you want. I figured we didn’t have any food so late after dinner we headed to the supermarket to pick up supplies for a picnic. It was a pretty mad dash trying to grab things! But I didn’t need to worry so much, we were definitely not going to starve.

Christmas eve shopping.

Christmas eve shopping.

The weather was awful so I asked Ga whether he wanted to go to the beach or park and he said the beach. We headed to Mission Bay, where we were planning on meeting up with my Aunt and cousins. My Aunty Teiho’s birthday falls on Christmas day so most years I remember celebrating Christmas with her. When we got to the beach, it was sort of busy (by NZ standards) so we asked my dad to call my Aunt. On the way to the beach, I asked him but he said “Sue, every year they are there so don’t worry”. Guess what happened when we got there, yes my Aunt & family wasn’t there. A quick call to ask told us that they were at my cousin Pauline’s house in Glen Innes. So we decided we would have lunch on the beach then head over there. Mission Bay was busy so we dropped up to St Helier’s beach and parked up on the side of the road. With our picnic we sat in between the road and the beach to Gawain’s dismay. When I said we were going to the beach, he thought we would picnic on the sand! I would never picnic on the sand unless there was no grass in which case you kind of have to. When we spoke to his parents and told him about this misunderstanding his Dad said “Yes, it’s part of the seaside experience getting sand in your food”. I think we are very lucky here with all our beaches so a trip to the beach isn’t a special experience, just a part of life. After speaking to our friends about it, most saw my point of view, I mean who wants sand everywhere.

The latest edition to my Aunty's Teiho's Clan.

The latest edition to my Aunty’s Teiho’s Clan.

After our picnic by the beach we headed to my cousin’s house where Gawain met a small part of my family. I had some yummy island food and mudcake from the cheesecake shop while he played rugby with my youngest cousins outside! After that we played poker and a strange variant at that. It was 5 cards in hand plus 4 cards on the table. Trying to figure out what was winning was tricky plus you didn’t have to have all your money on the table! Several times my cousin and aunt raised and grabbed extra money from their purses! I left the table richer as my dad gave me $30 to play with!

After that we headed to see my Mum’s good friend Celine to have a bbq, I asked my mum whether this would be a kiwi bbq and she said yes but when we got there, it was BBQ pork Chinese style! There was also a yappy but beautiful husky at home who did not like the smell of my brother, Gawain, me or my dad!

My mum, Ga and I.

My mum, Ga and me.

The next day we flew to Welly, where Ga feels like home 🙂 More on that in part 2.

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