Travelogue, New Zealand — July 2015

Eketahuna, Palmerston North, Masterton, Greytown, Featherston, Feilding (yes, I spelled that correctly), Levin (pronounced, my friends Mary and Peter were quick to remind me…over and over and over again…”leVINNNNN”), Pahiatua, Carterton, and probably some other places that have slipped through holes in my short term memory.

This is Rollo. He was so earnest and sweet!

This is Rollo. He was so earnest and sweet!

It was in Levin that we decided to splurge and stay at a B&B. I’m glad we only did that once.  It was pleasant. As were the hosts. It was also very expensive, breakfast was HEAVY, and our hostess was as talkative as her husband was taciturn. BUT…their dog, Rollo, stole my heart.

The library in Levin was memorable partly because it’s a new building and a sleek contemporary design, but mostly because it was also the bus station, the post office, the information center, public performance space, public meeting space, and Department of Motor Vehicles. Smack in the middle of the central shopping district. Everybody in town has reason to visit the public library, and for many visitors it’s their first impression of the city.P1110917

Again and again, Jack and I were both impressed at the level at which most of these small towns and cities thrived — the towns that had not yet seen their factories go across the ocean and their small farmers get swallowed by factory farming. We also enjoyed going for days at a time without having to look at a single McDonald’s or Starbuck’s logo.

We took a special shine to the town of Masterton. On a weeknight, the main street was buzzing with activity — people going to movies, restaurants, music venues. It reminded me of the town my parents grew up in — Edmond, Oklahoma — about 50 years ago when my cousins and I would walk from Grandma’s to the Bronco Theater, back when Main Street didn’t have a single empty shop.

Teensy little towns we visited — Eketahuna leaps to mind — did appear to be drying up.

Still, Eketahuna10502258_10202437430523321_3885872627590951822_n (pop. 441) was a little marvel. Not only do they have they world’s coolest giant albino kiwi welcoming visitors at the edge of town, the bare bones little lunch room (Jack and I occupied THE table in this little establishment) served the world’s best curried pumpkin soup. I’m a total soup slut. Especially if it’s pretty and has a kick. This soup was. And it did.  But the library! It was in a little warmed over double storefront; sunny, well-tended, and well-used. The librarian told me public school enrollment for the town and surrounding area had fallen to 96 kids, k-8th grade. Twenty-four of them attended my program that day. We never got that kind of a turnout — 25% — at my library in Virginia.

On the inside it was just as darling as the exterior led me to believe it might be. Featherston Library.

On the inside it was just as darling as the exterior led me to believe it might be. Featherston Library.

Featherstone gets the prize for Cutest Library in the Eastern and Central District.

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The bikers served as Judith and Tony’s security system. Nobody messed with anybody up there on that bluff.

I was starting to get kind of punchy. 24 programs in two weeks. So it was with a sense of relief that we finally headed south, out of the Eastern and Central District, into Wellington, where we were to stay for three nights with people we had never met before. BUT — she’s a storyteller, he’s a glass artist, they’re both museum docents. If that doesn’t make for plenty in common and plenty to talk about… They live on a bluff overlooking the airport on one side and Peter Jackson’s sound stage on the other,  in a building that was once a soap factory (did I just make that up?) and then an auto parts warehouse, situated next to a warehouse that served as a biker club for Harley Davidson enthusiasts.

We spent an absolutely SPLENDID two days/three nights with these strangers.

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Holy cow! It HAS been two months, hasn’t it?

I didn't grow up castrating hogs in Iowa, but I caught on quickly to helping with lambs in New Zealand. Poor babies. They were very sore for about 2 hours. And then they gamboled away and forgot about it. The ones that didn't get castrated that day got butchered a few days later, so really, what I did was help buy them more time.

I didn’t grow up castrating hogs in Iowa, but I caught on quickly to helping with lambs in New Zealand. Poor babies. They were very sore for about 2 hours. And then they gamboled away and forgot about it. The ones that didn’t get castrated that day got butchered a few days later, so really, what I did was help buy them more time.

This is but one of the several guest houses at Te Rangi. It's a portable railroad shed Peter and Mary moved to the farm. It was in this exact location that Jack and I were introduced to the pleasures of hot water bottles (hotties). Mary sneaked in and hid half a dozen of them between the sheets about an hour before we went to bed. Bliss!  Behind the presidential suite, you see the end of Peter's recording studio.

This is but one of the several guest houses at Te Rangi. It’s a portable railroad shed Peter and Mary moved to the farm. It was in this exact location that Jack and I were introduced to the pleasures of hot water bottles (hotties). Mary sneaked in and hid half a dozen of them between the sheets about an hour before we went to bed. Bliss!
Behind the Te Rangi Bridal Suite, you see the end of Peter’s recording studio.

I think I must have gotten stuck at Mary and Peter’s place. They’ve named their home Te Rangi — “The Sky.” Since my last post, I have had my head in the clouds. At least as far as writing goes. I’ve done a lot of knitting. With the gorgeous stash of merino/possum yarn I brought home. And I’ve rolled our July trip over in my mind, as if it were a smooth pebble I pick up off the beach and just had to taste.

Re-calling and re-membering — healthy and necessary, in proportion. But it’s a slippery slope into nostalgia, and from there you’re already ankle deep in a sentimental swamp. I hope someone stops me if I start wallowing. Please.

I just this minute got back from Jack’s side of the computer, where he has all his travel photos in organized folders on his grid-like desktop. (My computer screen desktop looks like somebody dumped confetti all over it.) Jack does so much more than document with his photos. He captures essences. Today’s post will be mostly visual (Thank you, sweetie). But I know I can’t resist comments along the way.

A little backtrack to Napier, the city that got leveled by an earthquake and rebuilt in the style of the day, which was then Art Deco. This was one of dozens of similar storefronts.

A little backtrack to Napier, the city that got leveled by an earthquake and rebuilt in the style of the day, which was then Art Deco. This was one of dozens of similar storefronts.

 

new zealand--slurp & chew--jab

Madison Avenue never quite made it to the antipodes. For which we can all give thanks. Jack never told me about his discovery of Slurp & Chew. I’ll probably go to my grave not knowing what sort of confection it is.

Waipukurau library. After the preschoolers toddled off, a bunch of the older kids wanted to do some extra folding. So we did.

Waipukurau library. After the preschoolers toddled off, a bunch of the older kids wanted to do some extra folding. So we did.

Woodville library and service center. Every little town has an i-site, where visitors can pop in and find out what's what and where it's happening. Woodville is TINY. And it had one of the most creative lunchrooms I've ever patronized. As well as a replica Gottfried Lindauer's studio (about whom, more later).

Woodville library and service center. Every little town has an i-site, where visitors can pop in and find out what’s what and where it’s happening. Woodville is TINY. And it had one of the most creative lunchrooms I’ve ever patronized. As well as a replica of Gottfried Lindauer’s studio (about whom, more later). That little blackboard on the sidewalk…sorry…”footpath”…says “Come Listen to Megan Hicks.” What I’ve been trying to get my family to do all my life.

There was all this glorious small scale deco architecture! I think it's considered low-rent by many New Zealanders, but I was charmed. This place looked derelict...until we saw someone parting the curtains in a back window and give us a good long glare. This is right behind the Woodville library. Right across the street from the park, the playground, the skateboard ramp, the public restrooms, and the municipal pool. Tax dollars doing what they're supposed to do. And kids were playing outdoors!

There was all this glorious small scale deco architecture! I think it’s considered low-rent by many New Zealanders, but I was charmed. This place looked derelict…until we saw someone part the curtains in a back window and give us a good long glare. This is right behind the Woodville library. Right across the street from the park, the playground, the skateboard ramp, the public restrooms, and the municipal pool. Tax dollars doing what they’re supposed to do. And kids were playing outdoors!

Old store front in Foxton. Now a consignment shop. I wonder who Mr. Chung was. Or if it was a partnership between Mssrs. Chung and Wah. I wonder when (t)he(y) immigrated. And why.

Old store front in Foxton. Now a consignment shop. I wonder who Mr. Chung was. Or if it was a partnership between Mssrs. Chung and Wah. I wonder when (t)he(y) immigrated. And why.  Foxton also had an authentic replica of a Dutch Windmill, which ground flour. It’s also the home of the soda “Foxton Fizz.” And it is no longer the home of a huge carpet factory, which once employed 80% of the populace, and that’s why Foxton is now looking pretty down at the heels.

This was the smallest, saddest library I visited. There were maybe half a dozen kids, ranging from 17 down to 3. It was one of those gigs where you think the kids had a good time, but you know if there had been anything else to do in town that day, they would not have been at the library. Shannon also turned out to be one of my most rewarding visits. About a week and a half later.

This was the smallest, saddest library I visited. There were maybe half a dozen kids, ranging from 17 down to 3. It was one of those gigs where you think the kids had a good time, but you know if there had been anything else to do in town that day, they would not have been at the library. Shannon also turned out to be one of my most rewarding visits. About a week and a half later.

Okay. That’s it for today. I’m about half way through the working part of this working vacation. Coming up — Palmerston North and the hotel from “Barton Fink,” Dorothy & Derick’s B&B and their dog Rollo, Masterton, Eketahuna, and some other place names I can’t for the life of me recall.

 

 

 

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