OMG a teenager in the house... 
Rachael's party was last night. We had a UV bulb, about 150 glowsticks, fluorescent face paint and a variety of other decorations and streamers. I brought out some magic fairy dust from the laundry to sprinkle on the floor. It glows well in UV. And more fun than washing clothes with it. The girls were still up at midnight! Spent most of Saturday preparing the lounge, so we're tired today.

Sarah had a party (one of her friends) too. And she got to ride a pony. Very nervous at first, but she got used to it, and has been invited back to try again after school sometime.

I drove a tank!

OK, an armoured personnel carrier. But it came complete with catarpillar tracks and poison gas defences. Took a little time getting used to steering by applying one brake, and the gyroscopic clutch.

Erica has been sampling a few language schools, and has chosen one to start next week. I've been getting up really early to put her on the 7:15am bus. Then Rachael goes on the 7:40, and Sarah at 7:50. At least Sarah's bus goes past our house so we just have to send her down the drive in time!

It was quiet at work this week. Daniel's gone to Romania for several months, Kyle's in Melbourne and Ben's been busy back at the old office since he's still technically working for them. And the Australians are back at home. Think I'll work from home tomorrow.

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Bronwyn's parents are off touring Great Britain, and Allan, Stephen and Bronwyn have been looking after the farm. Allan is married to a diesel engine, and has been tending the paddocks with smelly fish fertiliser and trying to get the grass growing again. Stephen has been keeping an eye on the stock, and Bronwyn's just returned from feeding out some hay. With Erica. She's back.

Nana returned to us last weekend for a farewell tour. She's been in the country for 8 months, and was sad to leave. But she's off for seven days in Fiji, then over to Melbourne for a quick trip up the east coast of Australia. Celia was going to join her, but for various reasons, not all which are ready for publication, decided to stay in New Zealand for another couple of months...

On Thursday, I realised I'd left my laptop power supply at work. So I drove in to fetch it. Part way down the motorway, my engine died. Fortunately, a random person stopped and gave me a lift to a garage. Unfortunately it seems to have been the most expensive garage in town. But at least the car is fixed now (the ignition amplifier thingy had lost its spark).

Meanwhile, somehow, we collected Erica from the airport. She's coming back to fulfil her dream of becoming a pre-school teacher, but first she has to do some language lessons to improve her English. It's been a long road for her, and she's really excited that it's all coming together. And we're more than happy to have her back.

Meanwhile, Bronwyn smelled a rat. Or something similarly unpleasant. And under her bed. It's the season when the local rodents come looking for shelter, and obviously this one decided to spend its final hours with us. Bronwyn's tipped the whole bed up, cleaned, deodourized and repainted the wall. No sign of the rodent, but now our bedroom smells of forest glade and paint.

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What are the chances? 
Spent the week touring the north. One night in Dargaville (I was amazed. People do live there. Rough looking bikers. Aging women in miniskirts with tatoos up their legs. And one or two others.) Two nights in Kaitaia, and two nights in Paihia.

Saw the Big Tree at Pahi, and the Big Tree in the Waipoua Forest. While on the way to the second tree, we saw a car stopped, with a flat tyre. They couldn't get their jack to unwind, so we lent them ours. Turned out it was the nephew of one of our friends from the Catholic church. It was the first of several chance meetings.

Did a coach trip up to Cape Reinga, along with an old Maori named Robin. He had a few tales to tell, mostly involving marijuana and nipping over the fence to pinch some dinner. Very entertaining. And enlightening. Went up the beach on the way up. Looks like the other buses waited for him to go through the difficult bit first, then quickly followed.

Got to Paihia and spent some time at Waitangi, learning all about the treaty and the ensuing wars from another Maori. Also very enlightening. Some American woman was playing a Native Americal flute in the big marae building. Went out for a pizza.

Next day, we did the obligatory hole-in-the-rock cruise, and met up with two pods of dolphins, a big swarm of pilchards, two flying fish, the same woman who played the flute the day before, and a flock of surfing seagulls who rode the air currents over the boat and pecked crisps out of our fingers. As well as our fingers. The photographer was the same girl who was the waitress at the pizza restaurant. She's called Crystal. We learnt this when she sat on a button in the cockpit and the captain told us not to worry, it was just Crystal blowing the horn.

Decided to go for another pizza. During this time, the family that we'd helped fix their tyre came past the restaurant. Sat next to a mother and a daughter who lived near where I work, and used the same system that I program. I offered her information; boys phone numbers, that sort of thing. No, she wanted me to stop her getting homework instead. Ah, priorities. Said goodbye to Crystal and told her to go careful with the horn.

The rain came over as we set off next day. Got to Kawakawa and nearly went on thre steam train, but by then it was hissing down so we set off. Didn't even bother paying homage to the toilet (you really must Google for the Kawakawa toilet). Managed to get ahead of the rain again and unloaded before it hit us a second time.

Went out this afternoon and brought home a sofa bed to replace the old one that several generations of cats have claimed as a toilet. So now we've got enough beds for four, not including camp beds!

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Always in threes 
I now have three company gmail accounts. I don't know the password to the old one, but fortunately, Firefox does. Unfortunately it doesn't like having multiple accounts open, so I have the other two in Google Chrome while I juggle all the emails and documents.

Cait (or was it Anna) enjoyed her three days here, and wants to come back some time to see the other 97% of New Zealand. We made the best of it, and avoided most of the rain. She had wanted to do an eight hour walk, but settled on a three hour stroll on the beach. We took her on the obligatory tour of the bush, and had to run down the hill in record time to miss another thunderstorm. All part of the adventure...

We'll have three to stay next month. Bronwyn was going to buy another sofa-bed.

Off north next week. The girls have never been to the far north of New Zealand. Well, not since they've been out of nappies, anyway.

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I've resigned. And signed a new short term contract with the Australians. And my old boss has gone solo and wants me to work with him instead. I've had a lot of thinking and praying to do. I've only ever had two full time jobs in my life, so this is a big step.

Last week was a saga. Indeed, I ought to chronicle it all down and sell it to Hodder & Stoughton. Covert meetings, suprise phone calls, conversations between random parties, I think we've had the lot. But I'm now on a two month contract, and I've got a few weeks to think about it and see how things pan out.

Bronwyn's finished her census work (again) and it looks like she's the star of the show. She'll probably be on the short list for District Supervisor next time.

Had a wonderful afternoon celebrating our friend Chelle's birthday yesterday. We had a tour of a tea plantation and a tea ceremony. I've never heard much about Oolong tea; apparently it's half way between green tea and black. I used to think they just dried the leaves and powdered them. Maybe that works for PG Tips, but not Oolong. There's a complicated 36 hour process of drying, oxidation, steaming and rolling. The moisture content ends up between 2.9 and 3.1%, so it's a really precise process.

And I was actually suprised. Being next to a vineyard, I'm used to descriptions such as "hint of walnut", "subtle pallette of strawberry" and "lingering aroma of creosote". And not being able to detect anything of it. But these teas were definitely what they wrote on the box. Hint of charcoal? Yup. Definite smoky barbecue there...

Claire's son Cooper has a birthday party today, so Sarah's over there now for the children's party, followed by us later for the barbie. Quite a full weekend.

Anna (or is it Cait) arrives this week for a four day New Zealand experience before heading back to the States. Then we're planning a week up north to tour up to Cape Reinga and back. Next month, Celia and Nana are back for a fortnight before leaving after their year in NZ. And Erica, after a long journey of the heart, has resigned from her job in business and plans to return to NZ to study English and then childcare.

It's certainly not going to be boring in the next few months....

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