Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Waterfall Hike

After almost a full year without winter, we can sense that it is approaching. We are experiencing all the classic signs: fiery colored leaves, pumpkins, cool frosty mornings, and darkness arriving earlier each day. The weird part is that these signs are appearing in April, not October. The male Kirkpatricks are doing snow dances and counting the days until ski season. I am not as anxious for cold weather. I just want to be outside hiking or riding every free moment.

The photos are from a recent hike up to the waterfall above our house. At first the boys decided it was too cold to swim. Then, at the last minute, they jumped into the icy pool, screaming and laughing. Doug and I had already tested these glacial waters on my birthday so we watched with amusement remembering the bone aching cold.

Vermin count update:
Mice: 16
Rats: 0
Possum: 3
Hedgehog: 1

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Liam, Grams and Carolyn make the news

Yesterday Liam, Grams and I were interviewed at the Anzac Day service in Queenstown. Today we were in the Otago Daily Times. Despite the fact Liam and I were identified as Texans, seeing ourselves in the paper was fun!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Anzac Day 2008

25 April is Anzac (Australia & New Zealand Army Corps) Day. For you Americans out there, think Memorial Day. It's a day to remember the New Zealand and Australian soldiers who fought in the bloody & protracted battle in Gallipoli, Turkey during WWI. It has also become a day to remember Australian & New Zealand servicemen and women who have been fought in subsequent wars, most recently Afghanistan.

Our New Zealand friend Judi invited the four of us and Doug's parents to attend the morning ANZAC memorial service here in Queenstown with her. It started out with a parade, led by a bagpipe corps, from the waterfront war memorial to the town memorial hall. Military vets, active military, their spouses and widows, a few transport vehicles from WWII and, finally, us civilians, weaved our way through the closed main thoroughfares of Queenstown. In the town hall, the service was led by the head of the local veterans group, the mayor and a chaplain. Although we have no relatives who fought for Australia or New Zealand, the meaning of the memorial was very familiar to us Americans. The ANZACs have fought for many of the same causes as the Americans during the 20th & 21st centuries, including WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam and and Afghanistan. Australia, New Zealand & the US were geographically removed from these conflicts but they all took a stand against what they thought was right. The hymns and prayers were similar. Some of the songs were the same too, except they changed the words to "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" to something about "God Saving the Queen" ;-). After the wreaths and poppies (poppies are a symbol of Gallipoli where poppies flourished) were laid, the ceremony was concluded with the firing of a WWII-era canon.

Seeing the Australian and New Zealand veterans marching with their medals today helped make our emotional visit to Gallipoli seven months ago that more vivid in our memories. It's tough to know what's going on in the heads of kids, but I think Colin and Liam understood most of the messages they heard.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Photos from hike to Sam Summers' Hut

The poem, with unknown author, was on that table in Sam Summers' hut. I took a photo of it because I too always have questions when I explore crumbling ruins. This area of New Zealand is so reminiscent of the gold and silver mining in Colorado. The characters of the mining era fascinate me. I too try to imagine the people and what their daily tasks must have been.

The trail winds through a beech forest along the river. Water falls cascading into deep clear pools. The pools were so deep and clear, they were irresistible. I even convinced Doug to take a plunge. It may have been in honor of my birthday or the fact that I said we would return on his fortieth in the dead of winter for a swim if he didn't join me on mine. Neither of us stayed in long as the water was freezing - barely melted snow! Jolie seemed unphased by the water temperature.

The day was magical. I even discovered my first fairy ring.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Friendly forty-year-old cowgirl looking for ...

This is the first blog entry I’ve dreaded writing, but Doug broke the ice for me and announced to the world that I am 40. So far being 40 is going fine, not half as bad as I have been envisioning the last couple of months. First, I had always envisioned throwing myself a huge bash with all my dearest life long friends. We don’t have many life long friends in Queenstown since we only arrived five months ago. Instead, I spent a magical day hiking with Doug followed by a silly evening celebrating with Doug, Colin and Liam. Just before I fell asleep I listened to a CD made by my cousin Bruce and sent to me by my Auntie Jean. It was a digitized recording from about 39 years ago of my grandparents. They are talking to me. My granny is feeding geese from the boat and describing each goose to me. My grandpa tells me stories, Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs, with his own colorful, less than traditional, descriptions. My grandparents rise early one autumn morning and put the recorder on the deck of the boat so my mom in faraway California can hear them jump into the cold Cape Cod waters. I could hear them splashing into the water, laughing and whooping. I was mesmerized by their voices, ceaseless laughter and commotion. I wondered how my mom felt listening to this same recording long ago and again more recently. Now I am the daughter that has moved far away with the grandchildren. Whoa - that’s more than enough of a trip down memory lane, even for a fortieth.

Poor Doug. He needs lots of support or relief after the last couple of months with me. Two events collided simultaneously in my life. First, I turned forty. Second, I have had a bumpy re-entry into the equine world. Remember a blog entry I wrote over a month ago about my new horse? Remember, how excited I was to have a horse once again? Well, that horse and I had a wild ride to say the least. The first vet visit, my sweet new horse spent most of the time on her hind legs, pawing the air with her forelegs. I gave her the benefit of the doubt and assumed that the alpaca were putting her on edge. But every bush we passed seemed to hide a lurking horse murderer. Okay, I thought I’ve handled many a crazy horse in my day, I can handle this one too. Then, I realized the relationship wasn’t going anywhere after three full-on, hunch-backed bronco bucks out of nowhere sent me flying literally head over heels through the air until I landed flat on my back. I lay in the dust with the wind knocked out of me and realized that I am too old for such a wild ride. I did get back on, but I knew that our relationship was over. The trust had been broken. Several days later, my new bronc returned to her former home. I think it was the first time that I have actually felt TOO OLD for something that at one time had been so natural. Riding during my teens, I never worried about falling off, getting thrown or flying through the air. I just wanted to race down the trail bareback with the wind streaming past. Now, I do worry. I think about my two boys, blah, blah, blah… For some crazy reason, I had assumed I would return to the saddle like I'd never left. Doug had to put up with my morose mood.

My horse left, just before my birthday. I admit that I have been a crazy woman. I think I have just wanted to prove to myself that I have lost the cowgirl in me. I have been looking, with more caution, for that perfect horse and driving all over the countryside to see prospective horses. I feel like I have been serial dating horses.

Just a week ago, my second new horse arrived. Over the winter, I am leasing a thoroughbred mare. She is fourteen years old and a dark bay. Based on our first few rides, she and I seem like a much better match. She could care less about the alpacas. She still has lots of go, but so far (crossing fingers) she has kept her four hooves closer to the ground. I am optimistic, however, I am taking this relationship slower. I'll keep you posted on our progress.

I feel like posting a personal ad: Friendly forty-year-old cowgirl looking for an energetic, but sensible, equine friend for long rides in the hills.

Note on the hedgehog death

Carolyn writing now:  We did not intentionally kill the hedgehog.  It seems to have died of natural causes, not by a run in with cat or dog or trap.  It may have found some poison in the rat bait station.  We like the hedgehogs and didn't mean to cause harm to any of them!


That is the number of days it took US Air & Air New Zealand to get Doug's parents their last bag. And that doesn't include the two day delay caused by American Airlines flight cancelations. Oh, and one of their suitcases was beaten up so badly that it can no longer be used. Air New Zealand did do the right thing by agreeing to replace the suitcase (unfortunately with a bag of Air New Zealand's choice) and by reimbursing Doug's parents for the clothes that had to buy while waiting for their suitcases to be delivered. Note to self: don't check that bag unless you absolutely have to.

Vermin count update:
Mice: 11
Rats: 0
Possum: 2
Hedgehog: 1

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Doug's Parents Arrive...

But half of their luggage doesn't. When they arrived a bit late into Auckland Saturday morning, only two of the four bags came off the conveyor. By the time they cleared immigration, customs, agriculture inspection and then filed the lost baggage claims, their connection to Queenstown was long gone. Luckily, the next flight was only two hours later.

Getting the luggage back has been like pulling teeth. Auckland blames LA, LA doesn't answer their phones, Air New Zealand blames US Air, US Air blames Air New Zealand, etc., etc. One of the two bags did make it to us on Tuesday and we're hopeful the remaining bag gets here today (Wed).

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Rotisserie, after all these years

16 years ago, just before the Mosaic web browser was starting to take off, Doug played a season of fantasy baseball with a bunch of friends from Rice. Don't recall who won it but I do remember it being a huge amount of work for Larry. Somehow poor Larry was appointed league manager, so everyone called him weekly with their starting lineups. Then on Sundays, he took a good part of his whole day inputing all of the stats from the Sunday sports section into a spreadsheet to track the scores. Funny, we didn't play it the next year...

Fast forward to 2008. The Internet and ESPN has automated everything. The Rice boys of summer are back and playing fantasy baseball again. My team, the New Zealand Kiwis (like my insignia?), is imploding and it's only the second week of the season. My 8th round pick lost his starting job, my 13th pick got sent to the minors, I accidently picked the wrong guy for my 20th pick and my 21st pick was suspended for failing a few steroids tests. They're all gone but the troubles aren't. Over the last few days, four of my players went in for x-rays/MRIs. Even though I'm having a tough time putting nine healthy guys on the field and those that are healthy are hitting a measly .240, I'm still in contention. I'm tied for 3rd out of the field of 10.

You can follow my suffering here.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Something Special in the Air

We're getting our first visitors from the US this week - Doug's parents. The last time they visited us which was while we were in Denver during Christmas 2006. After several days of cancelled flights, the result of a huge multi-day snow storm in Colorado, they finally decided to make the two day drive. All in all they were four days late, just barely beating Santa to our house.

Well, wouldn't you know that they were going to have bad luck again. They were scheduled to fly from Austin to Los Angeles on Tuesday with American Airlines, before catching an Air New Zealand flight across the pond. Instead, American had to ground all of its MD-80s to re-inspect wheel well wiring. Of course my parents were booked on an MD-80. Two days later, they we're able to get out of Austin on a US Air flight to LA via Phoenix. If all goes right, they'll get here on Saturday morning.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Player of the Day!

The boys had a big soccer day last Sunday. Both had games against the top of the league tables and both came away with records of 1-1. OK, the games scores were like kissing your sister, but they, individually, came away with great performances. Liam played an awesome defense, clearing the ball left & right. Colin played goalie for his first time & was all over the ball like a cat on catnip. Colin also put up his first Kiwi goal by sprinting half of the field with the ball & putting it in past the goalie up close. Colin walked away from the day with the trophy for player of the day for his team!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Carolyn Turns 40!

I can't believe that my lovely Carolyn recently turned 40. It just seems like yesterday that we met for the first time. It's been a few years since she was last carded at a bar, but she's still looks like that teenager I met 25 years ago.

Without any longtime friends within 7,000 miles, we didn't throw Carolyn a big bash, over the hill party. Instead, Carolyn & I took a wonderful hike up a canyon near our home (the picture is from the hike) while the boys were at school. When the boys got home, we all drove into Queenstown for dinner (or tea as they say here). Then it was back home for homemade blueberry pie and presents. The following night we celebrated again, this time with another couple with whom we've become friends.

Happy Birthday Carolyn!

Friday, April 4, 2008

It's autumn, so it must be time for...


Cricket is now a distant memory.

For the next couple of months, our Sundays will be spent at the weekly Central Otago soccer fest. All soccer-playing kids in the region converge on one town to play two games each Sunday. We're now in week 3 of the season and the games will take place in our very own Queenstown this weekend.

Colin is playing on the Queenstown Villans and Liam is on the Queenstown Rainbows. After years of coaching Colin's teams, Doug has moved to coaching Liam's team. Colin's Villans are 2-1-1 and you can track their progress this season here. Liam's Rainbows are 3-1 and you can track their progress this season here.

Vermin count update:
Mice: 8
Rats: 0
Possum: 2

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Liam and Colin answer immigration questions from Logan Classmates

A recent photo of Colin and Liam at the Wanaka Airshow. Colin is still wears his Logan School fleece everywhere.

Kyla and Lindsey’s class at the Logan School is studying human migration and immigration. Because Colin and Liam are former Logan students that have recently immigrated, Kyla and Lindsey asked if the boys could answer some questions developed by students in the class. We read the questions that Lindsey emailed and I typed as Colin and Liam answered the questions verbally. We had hoped to video-conference with class, but there were technical difficulties and bad weather in Denver. I found the boys' thoughts and observations interesting. Maybe, you will too.

What did you have to do to immigrate?

Colin: We had to pack up all our stuff and say our last good-byes to Jolie our dog and take one last look at our house.

Liam: We had to pack up everything we had except for a couple books and three pairs of clothes. We had to say good-byes and we had to get a visa.

And what did you have to do with your dog?

Colin: We said good-bye to Jolie, and then we left her with our grandparents for a long time. When she arrived in New Zealand she was all calm until she saw us then she jumped up and down.

Liam: Jolie, our dog, spent three months we us having shots and tests. After we left, she stayed with our grandparents for another three months. Then she spent a month at a quarantine kennel where we could not see her. She had to take three plane trips: one plane from Texas to California, then to the north island to the quarantine kennel and finally to us on the south island. It was helpful to get a cat, which made us less homesick for Jolie.

What did you take with you on your moving process to New Zealand and why?

Colin: When we were traveling we brought some books and a few toys and games (the Rubik’s cube, Battleship, playing cards, journals, camera, and coloring pens and pencils).

Liam: On our way to NZ we took a trip through Turkey, Greece and Thailand. On that trip, we brought some books to entertain us, three pairs of clothes, and our camera. The rest of our stuff, likes toys and furniture, came on a slow boat to NZ. We did not see our stuff for five months.

What are the main changes about your life in New Zealand? What is the same?

Colin: I have different friends. I live a longer distance away from school. My school is different. My work is very different. I do worksheets, not like Logan. We have a much bigger playground. People don’t behave as well and there are more people per class. My house is a lot bigger. I live on a sheep station, not like in Denver. I take a school bus to school and walk to the bus stop. I play different sports like cricket.

People are very nice here like in Denver. I have my dog here. I have many of the same things here, but they aren’t in the same place, like my bed and toys.

Liam: School is the biggest change. The classes are bigger and not many students concentrate. Another change the town is a lot smaller which means we see our friends every day and it is a lot safer. Also, we have to take the bus, which is forty-five minutes. Life in NZ is outdoorsy, which I like. We live by a huge lake.

Here are some words and phrases that I have noticed that are different:

NZ word............................US word
togs..................................bathing suits
cuppa................................Cup of tea
good on ya.........................way to go (great job)
good as gold......................good idea
good as.............................great
autumn (never use fall)........fall
morning tea.......................snack time
funny as............................really funny
fast as...............................really fast

Things that are the same as Denver are that people are quite nice. There’s a supermarket. A lot of people ski.

Is there anything you miss about the USA like leaving friend and family?

Colin: I miss Logan school and how few people there were in class and how behaved they were. And I just miss having my old house and my family so close by. I miss my teachers and my friends at Logan.

Liam: Yes, I miss my family and friends. To see family we will now have to travel about sixteen hours on a plane. For the first two months in school, everyone made fun of me and I did not have anyone to play with. Still people make fun of my accent. People say American accents are squeaky.

Were you nervous about moving? What were you nervous about?

Colin: Yes, I was nervous about moving. I thought it would be hard making friends in my new school when I enter in the middle of the year. I was nervous we wouldn’t find a good house or that we wouldn’t find a house that I like. I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to see my family and old friends that much.

Liam: I was nervous about having no friends. I was nervous about school and being bullied. Everyone said in America there are bullies, not NZ. I was worried about not having family around and getting homesick. The time I was most nervous was driving to the airport. That was one of the scariest times of my life because I was leaving my home.

What is your new school like? Do you have new friends? Is it big?

Colin: I have lots of new friends. The school is very big because there are so many students. Recess is very wild with so many kids playing outside. There is Pet Day where everyone brings their pets to school on the same day. Also, my class has a blog that can see (

Liam: Yes my school is very big! There are six hundred kids and my class has thirty kids. Two to four classrooms are in each building spread around the school. We are allowed to play in between them and on the field during playtime (recess). The play space is a big as at least four of the Logan big fields. A lot of people know the Maori language and we are learning a little Maori too. I have a lot of new friends. At school we have P.E. (or what you call MYG). We have music and bible class. We will get to ski every Friday for eight weeks in the winter. Yeah!

What is it like in New Zealand? Weather? Landscape? People?

Colin: In New Zealand it is usually sunny and sometimes rainy and cold. It rarely has thunder and lightening. People are very nice. They pretty much always want to play with you. It is very beautiful. You can see the lake from my house and there are many mountains. And we can see an island called Hidden Island from my house. There are lots of lakes. There are lots of birds and sheep. There aren’t any stoplights or big buildings.

Liam: NZ is a lot like Colorado. There are a lot of giant lakes. Instead of forests there is bush, which is as tall as me and as dense as a wall. People are extremely nice. Most kids are a little tougher, but I fit in. The highways are two-laned and very curvy, which equals carsickness. The steering wheel is on the opposite side of the car and we drive on the opposite side of the road. The weather has been a lot like Colorado except it doesn’t get as hot in the summer and not quite as much snow in the winter. It is fall here right now. There are a lot of tourist things like jetboats, steamboats, gondolas, paragliding, bungy jumping. Paragliders land on the school field every day. The gondola starts a hundred meters from school and goes up the hill above the school to the Luge.

Why did you immigrate to New Zealand? Why did you move so far away?

Colin: We moved because we liked it so much in New Zealand. We liked all the lakes, the farms, sheep and birds that sing sweet songs. We are learning Maori culture and about a new place to explore. I’m getting to see many things that I didn’t think existed, like lots of different kinds of birds like the kiwi bird.

Liam: We moved because we liked it here and it is a lot like Colorado except the towns are smaller, which is nice. We moved so far because NZ was the place we wanted to be and my parents wanted me to live outside the US. Here we are near skiing, the beach, farms and school.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Kirkpatricks on the Lam(b)

April Fools. Sorry if you believed we were moving on before you had a chance to spend your next vacation visiting us here in paradise. Rest assured, guano covered islands are not in our future...

You may remember when we wrote several months ago that we had come across a Lake Kirkpatrick near to where we live here in Queenstown. We didn't know much about how it got its name but one thing we were pretty sure of was that we were not the first Kirkpatricks to live in the area.

Well, now we know a little bit more about the Kirkpatricks who proceeded us here in Queenstown. We learned from our new neighbors that the area we're living in was first settled by the Kirkpatricks back in the mid-1800s. They used the land to raise sheep and named it Closeburn Station after a village and castle back in Scotland that that was associated with the Kirkpatrick clan. The Kirkpatricks lived in a house next to Lake Kirkpatrick that no longer stands. Evidently the Kirkpatricks sold the station over a century ago.

Last week some relatives of the Closeburn Kirkpatricks made an unannounced visit to our house. They were on vacation down from Auckland to see the Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow and decided to drive around the land that used to be owned by their long lost ancestors. The wife, who has no Kirkpatrick blood, is an avid genealogist and just had to see the area. They were shocked to see the name "Kirkpatrick" on one of the mailboxes so of course they had to meet what had to be some distant relatives. They got their second shock, and a bit of disappointment I'm sure, when they heard our American accents. Nevertheless, we invited them in for coffee and tea.

We learned from them that Closeburn Station was settled by the brothers Kirkpatrick back in the 1850s. We also learned why they immigrated to New Zealand - one of the brothers was on the run after killing someone back home in Scotland. I imagine he was pretty safe from Scotland Yard down here! Then, of course, came the question from our new friends about the reason for our family's migration to New Zealand.

We still don't know if we're related to these New Zealand Kirkpatricks. But if we are, we learned from our new friends/relatives? that we would also be related to the most famous New Zealand Kirkpatrick - Ian Kirkpatrick.

Vermin count update:
Mice: 5
Rats: 0
Possum: 2

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Kirkpatricks Move On

While we've really enjoyed Queenstown, we realize that it's a little too crowded and touristy for us. We want our boys to experience what it feels like to truly live on the edge of the world. We haven't told anyone yet, but we've been exploring some of the outer New Zealand islands. The Bounty Islands look the most promising option, especially since we heard back from the New Zealand Immigration Service that they are trying to repopulate the islands with humans and would help sponsor our relocation and distance learning for the boys. Doug boats out next weekend to test his new satellite Internet service and diesel generator. Another option is Campbell Island, where the New Zealand Meteorological Service is looking to sponsor someone to maintain their weather equipment. We still hope to have lots of friends and family visit wherever we ultimately land.