Saturday, November 26, 2016

Forward We Go

Week 2 has been going through the skilled migrants arrival list; find longer term housing, find a job, register for a doctor (so you get the subsidized cost), get a NZ drivers license (so you have a card with your picture on it), etc...

Warning sign: our Airbnb is at 9C !
Housing: we booked two weeks in an Airbnb to give us time to explore various neighborhoods before picking where we would live the coming months. We are now ready to move out of the Airbnb as the mildew caused by the humid winter is getting to Bill's lungs. The sign by our entry door was a clue to our discomfort. Luckily, the heavy rain has stopped so the place is more livable now. NZ houses are notoriously poorly built and we experienced that first hand. Many apartments we looked at have no AC and no heat. We read about the housing crisis in Auckland but we were not prepared for how quickly apartments are snagged. Once we figured out the neighborhoods we would consider living in (took several days of walking and busing around), securing a place was a bit of a shock. Even when you secure a visit and fill out an application, most often you are told someone beat you to it.  
Nice commute view to work
Fortuitously, the owners of the house next door just put up their newly renovated downstairs for rent. We detected their posting early enough to get ahead of the crowd and secured the place. Phew. We are told we are staying in the most-prized neighborhood of Auckland, some say posh. Downstairs of a two level house owned by a gay couple and their dog Bobby. It even has a small pool for the summer and a hot tub for the winter which are all very rare in rentals. Even better, because they can’t separate their utilities from ours, they include them in the rent! We signed the contract and are moving in next week. This morning, they invited us to watch the All Blacks - France rugby game at their place! How serendipitous! As JimH said, sometimes you look too far for things that are right there.

Jobs: while Bill is getting comfy at Vesper Marine, I accepted an offer to join Nomad8, an international family of agile consultants. I’ll get to work with an Olympian who played for the Austrian handball team in 1992, as well as consultants from NZ, UK, and Nepal. Recently, the NZ immigration reduced the number of migrant applications due to concerns about the load valuable skilled migrants place on the social system, especially later when, perhaps, their skills are not so rare. I am taking this concern to heart, launching into the consulting world to transfer my agile expertise to the NZ market. I will be going to Hamilton (2 hours South of Auckland) for my first business trip next week but I won't get busy quickly as New Zealand is hitting its summer and businesses are taking a major break until January: akin to Paris in August.

Hiking on volcano
Fun: despite trudging through the list of to-do list to establish ourselves here, we are remembering to enjoy life. That's why we came here after all! It is fun to see everyone get excited about the summer (the winter has been quite rainy so kiwis are very ready for sun this year). The New Zealand Christmas trees are turning colors (blooming red). Today, we did our first hike on Rangitoto Island, the youngest of the 48 volcanoes surrounding Auckland. While the South island has earthquakes, the North island has volcanoes (mostly extinct). Rangitoto is a 20 min ferry ride and the only thing to do there is hike!
NZ Christmas tree

Imagine this, you're a Maori living in the what-will-be-Auckland some 600 years go. The ocean starts boiling, steaming, and finally spewing ash and lava. And it does this for some 200 years - generations pass within spitting distance while this beast is belching fire. Finally, the thing settles down and, presto, you have a new island in the bay. No wonder that they never built any villages there. I wouldn't trust it either, except for a short trek.

We are typically not concert-goers but there was so much excitement for Adele's first and only concert in NZ that we decided to give it a try. While dire-hard fans were devastated with their online booking experience, Bill managed to snag tickets and boy was it traumatic to get those boogers. I guess we will be here through March :)

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Auckland First Impressions

We made it to our first weekend! It has been a week of discoveries and enjoyments. Upon landing and the disinfection of our camping and hiking gear by the border authorities (they do it to everyone, we’re not particularly infected), we took a UberXL (which barely fit our 6 bags) to an Airbnb, only to find out that our host thought we were arriving the next day. Oops... Poor soul felt so bad, but we were happy to go walk around for a couple of hours while she tidied up the place. 

Uber seems, uh, uber popular in New Zealand. Apparently the mandatory background checks that forced Uber and Lyft out of Austin did not phase the kiwis.

Bill reported to work the day after we landed, right on time to attend Vesper’s Christmas party. Why wait for December when you can have a party in November! The party involved taking a ferry to Waiheke Island, drinking beer at a winery, and competing in archery and team building contests. While Bill was frolicking, yours truly walked and walked and walked around town apartment hunting for longer term lodging. 

The housing market is crazy: so hot, sellers auction their houses to the highest bidder. Everyone relies on the NZ eBay equivalent and apartments rent like hot cakes. Apartments are small and we question whether kiwis actually cook in them given the diminutive size of the kitchens and the conspicuous absence of dining tables. Maybe because the local food scene, while expensive, is outstanding?

Auckland feels like a city bursting at the seams with construction everywhere and snarly traffic. We had no intention of buying a vehicle, but it has been made clear to us that a car will be a necessity as Auckland is spread out and public transportation is not keeping up with the growing population. Cars have right of way over pedestrians. Jaywalking is not legal and not common, no wonder why! Crossing the road is a bit scary, especially as we get used to looking right first, then left, then right again. To add to the confusion, at first take it looks like no one is driving around here since the driver is in the right seat where we expect the passenger to be. Having to actually think about this makes us a little uneasy and we do silly things like walking into each other when one looks left while the other looks right. Geesh.

It has been raining quite a bit, and raining funny with sheets of water coming down out of nowhere but folks seem to just deal with it, momentarily dunking under an arcade for the short duration. It always blows over in short order and on we go. Similar to Boulder, Auckland’s sun is strong but the kiwi sunscreen label makes it abundantly clear that this is serious business down here under the ozone hole.

We are learning kiwi vocabulary along the way. Here you:
  • Flick an email (send)
  • Use a footpath (sidewalk)
  • Press the hash key (#)
  • Reply to “thank you” with “no worries
  • Order a short black (espresso) or a long black (americano)
  • List whiteware (kitchen appliances) on apartment rentals
  • Park your car at the carpark (parking)
  • Get paid fortnightly (every 2 weeks)
Although there is a strong Asian flair to Auckland (39% are native kiwis, with a large majority of immigrants from China, and the Philippines), I have been surprised by the French presence, from bakeries to restaurants to the way women dress in the CBD (City Business District, aka downtown). It has made the transition so unexpectedly enjoyable.  Food-wise, we are finding pretty much the same items as in the US, some reasonably priced and others less so. We’ll pass on pancakes as maple syrup costs NZ$20 a small bottle, and we’ll do without grapes at NZ$9 a bag. We ventured to bake lemon fish, which is really lemon shark. It was yummy.

We are getting up early tomorrow to watch the All Blacks- Ireland rugby game so Bill does not look too ignorant at work Monday :) Neither of us can get excited about cricket, although it is fun to see the parks filled with players.

While Bill is at work, I spend my days walking around visiting apartments and meeting prospective employers. By next weekend, we should have selected our longer term housing arrangement, my new employer, and maybe be lucky enough to secure tickets to Adele’s first ever and only NZ concert

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! No holiday for us here!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Time to Skedaddle...

Time has come to leave the US. Talk about timing, huh? The election results make it both easier and harder. Easier as we feel lucky to be able to escape the aftermath of this historic election, and avoid drowning in the surge of US applications to NZ. Harder because we leave behind friends and family who will deal with the aftermath.  When we visited New Zealand last year, right after the Paris massacre, we got so much sympathy from kiwis. This time, I am not sure if we’ll get sympathy or plain WTF looks.

Bill and I were prepared to travel separately, should the US citizenship process keep me in Denver longer than expected but I received notice to show up for fingerprints the day before Bill’s flight so we are getting outta here together on Armistice Day. Everything fits in two checked bags and two carryons, including camping and hiking gear, which have been properly cleaned to pass the “sediment” inspection upon landing in Auckland. 

We’ll spend the weekend in California to hug our daughter Shelby and son-in-law David goodbye, and pet their newly adopted dog Lucy.  

We’ll be staying in an Airbnb for the first 2 weeks with a mission to locate a more permanent apartment by Dec 1 so we can settle rather earlier than later. 

Bill migrated his phone to Google Fi, the new wireless service from Google, to keep his current number, while I’ll do the usual SIM card swapping, picking up a NZ phone number along the way. 

Let the kiwi blogging start!