Saturday, 29 December 2007

New Zealand - part 3 - The Journey Home

So we left the rainbow gathering; I had 2 days to drive back to Christchurch and get to the flight, the plan was to stay the first night in Takaka (an hour from the rainbow carpark), then drive slowly down the east coast, stay a night in Kaikoura and then get to the airport in the morning.
Saying goodbye to the rainbow was hard,
50 With Emma
but Rapunzel will be back at our place in a month.
We had planned to camp with some of the rainbow people at a spot just out of Takaka, but in town I ran into the beautiful Angel, who was planning to stay in a hostel. it seemed like a great idea, and the hostel had a double room with a sofa for Littletree to sleep on.

There was a beautiful garden full of flowers, where we sat playing with Littletree and her big bag of M&Ms.
She spent the whole day sorting and re-sorting them, into colours, and then mixing the colours in different combinations.

First, Littletree sorted all the M&Ms into their colours, and pushed all the piles together to make what she called a "colour brain". Then she proceeded to pretend to be a kitten and eat them up off the floor.

57 MnMs Seq Eating
We had a great night's sleep in a soft warm bed, and it was, of course, nice to wake up to the beautiful Angel snuggling with me
59 Meta in the Morning
She even made me a fantastic breakfast!
65 Breakfast
We lazed around town for the morning, running into rainbows, before we finally hit the road, after lunch! (so much for an early start and a slow drive!)
We stopped at a supermarket, where I was excited to see this reserved space in the parking lot:
52 NZ Car Park
Seriously! that should be EVERYWHERE!
Littletree and I drove 6 hours, stopping several times on the way to play. At one beachside playground, we fed seagulls by had, they were flying so close! I could literally reach out and touch them! This pic was taken without zoom even:
71 Seagulls
more fantastic scenery later
77 scenery
we arrived in Kaikoura - a famous whale-watching resort town.
It took a bit of convincing to get a hostel that would let us check in for one night only on Christmas Eve, but we got a nice place, and hung out on the beach for a while.
82 Kaikoura
84 Kaikoura Flying
Christmas Morning we woke up early, packed the car and lounged around the kitchen for a leisurely breakfast. On the road again, we had time to spare, stopping a lot in small towns to have a quick play on the playgrounds, and to eat picnics - had to eat up all the fruit before getting back to Australia's quarantine.

We got into Christchurch in good time, but then spent ages driving around to find a petrol station to fill the car - everything was shut, being Xmas morning! We returned the car, but then had to walk the one kilometre to the airport terminal - a tough hike for Littletree.

Christchurch airport is awesome - they had comfy sofas instead of plastic seats, and a kids play area, and videos to watch in a free mini-theatre, as well as a TV for kids. The flight was long and boring, but we arrived safe and sound
87 Plane
With Purple to pick us up at the airport and bring us home :)

Friday, 28 December 2007

New Zealand - part 2 - The Rainbow

We got to the rainbow parking, only there was no one there, no cars, nothing. just a sign. We drove on, till we got to a flooded ford. I though, gosh, I've been here before! LOL Obviously, I couldn't pass the ford in my little car, it was more than knee deep and flowing fast, over a rocky bottom. Talked to the farmer who lived about 1km back, and he said there was nothing to do but wait till the rain stopped. which could be a few days.

I went back to the carpark, and hung out by the side of the road for a while. then a bee stung me. I'm allergic to bees. Last time I was stung was in africa, I had a bad reaction; swollen glands, difficulty breathing, the whole bit. I was rushed to hospital for shots of adrenaline and antihistamines, and told I should carry an EpiPen with me.

So I freaked out a little bit, being all alone with Littletree in the middle of nowhere. I get into the car, and shut the door. Took out the stinger, and took an antihistamine and some homeopathic apis and just sat in the car breathing carefully for a while. I was fine when the antihistamines kicked in, but my arm still swelled up.

Then another car came down the road, a Mexican guy looking for the rainbow. He thought maybe we could get through the ford in his car, so we transferred all our stuff and drove over. Only he couldnt drive through it.
17 Flood
We decided to camp in the parking meadow.

When we got back there, 3 vans full of hippies had arrived, and they were going to pile into a van to drive through the fords. So we drove out there again, packed into a red van. only they couldnt get through the ford either.

Then the farmer's son drove up in his 4WD ute. he agreed to drive all our packs in, and a couple of us who would fit in his cab. So Littletree and I got a lift in, crossing 3 fords, to the end of the road.

Then it was a 20 minute walk (which became 40 mins with all the luggage and Littletree) through driving rain and tall grass. We arrived to the rainbow soaked. Everyone at the gathering was huddled in one Yurt, where I left Littletree in the hands of Rapunzel (!) and dropped the backpack in a tipi before running back to get our other bags - I could carry all my bags in one go, but not while carrying Littletree at the same time.

By the time I got back, it was too late and too wet to set up our tent, and someone offered us to sleep in a big tent. One warm and dry night :)

The next morning, it was still raining
19 Tipis
Pretty much the whole gathering (about 30 people) stayed in the Yurt, which had room for about 20. We sat in there the whole day, it was very crowded, but fun. Though Littletree found it boring and miserable.
25 Yurt
I decided to bail out a bit; took Littletree and a lot of wet stuff back to the start of the track into the gathering, where there was a little NZ trampers hut. We started a fire in the fireplace and strung up everyone's wet clothes to dry. We had a really nice warm cosy night's sleep too :)
20 Hut
I thought long and hard about leaving. It didn't look like it would ever stop raining. And staying at the rainbow was pretty miserable for Littletree - being cooped up in a crowded yurt for hours, being unable to walk around (what was for me thigh high wet grass was face-high wet grass for her), no other kids...

Well, in the end I took us back into the gathering, and did a few trips to bring all our stuff (now dry) back in too. I set up our tent right next to the yurt and hoped for the best, thinking that I would leave if the weather didn't improve. The next day, the sun came out! :D
28 Yurt
39 The Gathering
We got out of our tents and basked in the burning sun. I did capoeira workshops and went down to swim in the freezing cold river
33 River
48 River
We had some clouds, but it didn't rain again; the gathering became fun and happy. Some kids arrived for Littletree to play with, we had long talking circles and fun workshops.
38 Circling
I fell for a sweet girl, we had sister circle, I got stung by another bee and had another reaction, we made wreaths out of grasses and wildflowers, and generally had a great time.
We did a lot of singing - the kiwi family is good like that :)
And learned some new songs; even some Maori rainbow songs.
Te aroha, te vaka pono, te maui a maui eh tatu tatu weh.
(forgive me if I transcribed that wrong ;) )

Then it was time to leave. :(
A group of people were all going out together, and it included a ride from the hut to my car, so I left with them. It was a hot sunny day and a couple of people came along to help me carry my stuff.
44 Bridge Out
We got to our car and off we drove...

Thursday, 27 December 2007

New Zealand - part 1; the way there

Our fantabulous trip to New Zealand started with the beautiful Rapunzel, who was staying with us for a while, deciding to go there herself. I saw how cheap the tickets were, I realised that there's very little chance of me getting to the Australian rainbow gathering in April, I hinted to Purple that maybe I could go with Littletree for just a short time...
and BANG! I got online and booked a ticket.

I started searching for bus timetables and prices, maps, hitchhiking options. Purple mentioned that when he had been in NZ, it was really cheap to hire a car, and since we would only be there for 10 days... well, it turned out to be only a little more expensive than taking buses, and much less hassle. Not to mention that it would save us hitchhiking. A search with my good buddy Google found me a car with Jucy, and a hostel booking in Christchurch. I just now realise that I never took a photo of the car. Oh well. It was a gold Daihatsu Sirion. Note to car buyers; this car was fine to rent, but don't buy one. It's got no guts whatsoever. Like driving a fridge on wheels.

We packed, I managed to stuff the backpack with way too much, but it all fit in anyway, weighing in at 22kg getting on the plane. Arriving into Chch at midnight, we hung around the airport a bit hoping to see J, who was flying in the same night, but in the end, tired and bored, we got a taxi to the hostel. It was freakishly expensive for a taxi ($46NZ!). The hostel was nice, and had hot showers and internet and comfy beds.

In the morning, the rental company came and picked us up and brought us to their office (back at the airport) to get the car. Then we hit the road.

First stop was a supermarket to get sandwich stuff, granola bars, juice... kid snacks. Littletree saw a pair of plastic princess shoes. awful things, but just her style. I ummed and ahhed for a bit, bit they were only $4.50NZ, and she knew the whole bit about how high-heels are bad for the body and dangerous to walk on. She promised that they'd be just for dress-ups. I figured; hey! she wants them, she'll soon see that she can't walk in them.
62 Princess Shoes
On the way we picked up a couple of Dutch Hitchhikers, who entertained Littletree and even played hide-and-seek with her when we stopped for a break.

My main impression of New Zealand was that its freakin beautiful. Lots of fantastic scenery.
14 scenery
02 scenery
04 scenery
Here's a shot of some of the very friendly locals
12 Sheep
These guys were pretty much everywhere.

The first night we got to Nelson, found a hostel, that was painted in funky shades of purple and blue, and took a room. We hung out in the roof patio chatting with the drunken backpackers. Littletree wowed them all, and not just because she'd travelled more than the rest of them :)

We hit the road again, stopped for lunch in Takaka, which seems like the Mullumbimby of NZ. Then we drove the last hour out to the rainbow.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Respecting Choices

My latest natural parenting article came up on Essence of Life today, It's about respecting children's choices, basically, how I came to buy Littletree Barbie dolls, which I already wrote about on the blog.
You can read the article here.
I really hope that someone reads it and gets the idea. Maybe one child will grow with respect.

Littletree just came home from the next-door neighbours' place crying. She said that N, her friend's mother, said that she's a naughty girl. Littletree told me that N doesn't know that girls aren't naughty and that she's a good girl all the time.

Well, of course, I agree with her, and of course she has to understand that different people do things in different ways. But I had to get to the bottom of it. After much querying, it transpires that the story is that N asked Littletree to put some rubbish in the bin. Littletree didn't do it, and after demanding several times that she do it, N proclaimed Littletree to be a "naughty girl" and sent her home.

On the surface, it seems like a perfectly reasonable request, and a perfectly reasonable expectation that the request be carried out, and perfectly reasonable to send the "naughty" kid home when she refuses.

When I probed deeper, I found out that there are two sides to this:
Littletree didn't know where the bin is in their kitchen, so when N told her to throw some rubbish away, she didn't know what to do, and was too shy to ask. When N kept demanding, getting angrier each time, Littletree got more and more upset, feeling bad that she didn't do "the right thing" in the first place, feeling worse that N was getting angry with her and then feeling awful when N denounced her as "Naughty".

Being only four years old, Littletree doesn't have the necessary experience or confidence to identify these cause and effect patterns, not to articulate herself in her defence. The more N told her off, the more she got on the defensive; just denying the request and getting upset. The more upset she got, the less articulate. The more she is told that she is "naughty" the more she will act that way.

In the end, I talked about it with Littletree, and all is well. If only N would understand this concept. But that seems doubtful :/

Meanwhile, I uploaded all our photos from New Zealand - 88 of them!!! Mostly its just pictures of beautiful scenery, but they can be found on my flickr page, a link to which is in the sidebar. Tomorrow I shall endeavour to write a long blog post about the trip.
Here's one to tide you over ;)
38 Circling

I'm Baaaaa-aaaaak

Greetings and Salutations!
Littletree and I got back from our wonderful NewZealand odyssey last night; which was wonderful and amazing!
I'm starting to upload photos now, and I will, of course, write a nice long post about the trip. But first I have a lot of unpacking to do, and about 100 new emails to dredge through.
Just wanted to say hi :)

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Leaving the Land of Oz

Just for a little while.
Littletree and I are getting on a plane to New Zealand today :)
Short notice, I know, but it was somewhat spontaneous.
I decided to go to the rainbow gathering over there, even if just for a little bit.
I'm just chalking it up to an educational experience for Littletree; the ultimate kindergarten field trip. See, if I put her in school, she'd be missing out on a trip to the local saw mill, or museum of cattle farming, or something.

So we fly into Christchurch, get to the gathering as fast as we can, stay for a week or so, and then back to Chch, we fly home again on christmas day.
Since the flights were amazingly discounted on that day, and I personally don't have any fondness for the holiday.
So! I won't post till the end of the month, but I will definitely have a lot of photos when I get back :)

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Chappy Channukah!

We just lit the candles for the eighth day of Channukah.
Channukah 3
Littletree loves lighting the candles, of course.
Note the shiny new silver Channukiah (candelabra), which was sent to us by Purple's mother.
Perhaps in response to the first Channukiah we had as a family when we first moved to Tel Aviv; We stuck the candles on an old Commodore 64. According to Jewish law, the Channukiah can be anything, as long as the 8 candles all stand at a uniform height. The most common makeshift Channukiah being 8 beer bottle tops nailed to a board, or something preschoolers make with tinfoil.

Of course, we knew that having candles lit on a plastic surface is dangerous, and we took extra care to make sure the candles were put out when they got low. Until we didn't.

I came into the room to find flames leaping high. Thankfully, Jewish law also requires one to keep the Channukiah in the window, and it is generally raining in Israel in December. I just poured water over it and stuck it out on the window sill.
Naturally the whole apartment was filled with a thick black toxic smoke in seconds.

I was, however, clear-headed enough to quickly throw some sheets over all the furniture, shut the doors, open the windows and get myself and Littletree outside for a while.

Sadly, I don't have a picture of that happy event (probably because then I didn't have the wonderful teeny tiny digital camera that I have now) So you'll just have to make do with another nice shot of our new Channukiah, complete with rainbow pride candles :)
Channukah 5

Monday, 10 December 2007

Estrella the Hermit Crab

Littletree has been hassling for a pet for a while now. We've been getting books about animals out of the library, looking in the pet shop, and watching endless animal videos on youtube.
She really really really wants a pet. Of course, she wants a kitten most of all, and a bunny, and a puppy, and a fish, a mouse and a kitten...

We talked with her a lot about why we aren't getting a cat - because we live in a very small cottage in the bush, and there's a lot of birds and wildlife around that the cat would kill. Likewise a dog. there are wallabies and poterroos and koalas on our property. Not to mention that we often go travelling so we can't really make a commitment to a pet.

We talked about all the responsibility of having a pet; feeding grooming, litter/ cage maintenance, exercise, etc. And still she wanted one.

Since Dogs and Cats are out, and I don't want any mice, since we have enough trouble with rodents in the house as it is, we decided to get her a fish. Something small and low-maintenance. We figured; if it doesn't work out with a goldfish, then we can always put it into the pond by the pool.

So off to the Pet Shop we went, to check out how much a small tank and a couple of goldfish would cost. Lalala... We decided on the smallest tank they had; it was about 25cm x 12cm, and 2 goldfish and a little catfish to help keep the tank clean.


The phone rang, and the petshop woman went off for a few minutes. That's when we found the Hermit Crabs. Of course, it was Littletree's choice; we talked with her a bit about how to take care of it and what it will involve. But she was sold in the first second she saw the crabs.

Admittedly, it seems a little funny to be buying a crab from the pet shop when we can just go to the beach and catch one, but it was definately a lot cheaper than buying fish, what with the tank and accessories and whatnot. And much cooler ;)

Littletree named her Estrella
Estrella 5

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Smashing M & Ms

I was working on my computer yesterday, and overheard Littletree having a conversation with herself. She does that a lot; takes a bunch of objects, and roll-plays with them. So I turned around to see what she was playing with, and saw this:

Of course, by the time I got the camera out, she'd stopped talking with the M&Ms, but it was still a great unschooling moment.
I learned something; I didn't know that M&Ms taste better if you first crush them with a hammer.
I'm usre Littletree worked it out by experimentation all on her own; something I never would have thought of doing LOL

Sunday, 2 December 2007

The Real Reason We Don't Live in Israel

Littletree has been asking to go visit her grandparents and cousins in Israel. Sometimes she gets a bit homesick and wants to go back there.
She started asking why we don't stay in Israel, especially when she overheard Purple and I discussing the Osem debacle, I wrote about recently.

Well, there's lots of reasons;

I really need to live somewhere there's a lot of lush green, forests, water, trees. Now, there are some forests in Israel, but what they call "forest" in Israel, I'd call a "grove" or "stand of trees" or "pine plantation". Its a bit like sucking on old teabags when what you need is a strong coffee.

Also, I find the general attitude of the people to be infuriating at best. Now, don't get me wrong, there are many great Israelis, heck, I'm married to one, my daughter is one, I am one... and I'm generalising wildly, but there is a very prevalent attitude of "Klum lo kara" - nothing happened. There could be a suicide bomber just outside my home, killing six people, but the general response is 'nothing happened'. It's no big deal. Don't make a fuss.

And the attitude of "Ain mah laasot" nothing to do. Basically, the bureaucracy is nightmarish, one gets ripped off left, right and centre, taxi drivers are required by law to be homicidal (I have to assume), and oh so many annoying day-to-day little things. And the Israeli's answer: 'nothing you can do about it'. I can go into a supermarket, take an item that is marked 2 shekels, get to the checkout, be charged 3 sheckles. This should be no big deal; I should be able to say to the cashier, 'sorry, that's the wrong amount', and she'll say sorry and correct it, end of story. But no! She will first ignore me. Then argue with me about it. If I'm feeling strong, I can argue back. If I argue long enough, I might get the honour of arguing with the manager. If I argue with the manager long enough, I might be humoured in dragging the manager over to the service counter and debating it there, and maybe, eventually getting the item for the marked price. Israelis say "Ain mah laasot" and shrug.

I could go on for hours about the crappiness of living in Israel (relative to myself, of course; many fine people really love Israel).

But mostly, the REAL reason:

I personally can't handle living in a war zone. and not just any old war zone; one where the people are in total denial that there is a war going on. There are at least 27 armed soldiers on any street corner at any given time, there are pretty much constant conflicts, constant shelling and missiles, constant oppression, anger and bloodshed. And the Israelis just shrug.

They try to convince me that I'm more likely to be run over by a car than killed by a bomb. er, the terrible traffic is another reason not to live in Israel, but why stay somewhere that its likely at all?
They say "oh, there's bombs in other places! There was a terrorist attack in New York, one in London, in Madrid!" er, those were one-offs. they are rare and the whole nation, even the whole world was in shock afterward. In Israel, such things are daily occurences.
I say, they can never ever understand how it feels when one hasn't grown up being desensitised to that, and I would be deeply sad to think I had raised my daughter to be desensitised to war.

The final straw was this image which I saw in the news. I saw this and broke down.
I simply could not go on raising my daughter in a country where children are writing messages on missiles, to be sent to kill other children.
A country that doesn't have a problem with allowing children to be anywhere near missiles in the first place.

I can't do it. I can't live in a place where I can hear bombs going off from my own living room, where most of our nearest neighbours are vocally hating us and plotting to kill us all; to rain nuclear weapons down on us, where there is a sickening "fence" cutting the city, supposedly to keep people to "their own side", yet there are massive holes in it, so it's clearly just a tool of oppression, where almost every child goes into the army and learns to use a gun, a place where people are raised to hate.