Wednesday, September 23, 2009

You say to-may-toe, I say to-mah-toe

By the 16th, after a month of vacation, we were anxious to finally have a place to call home. And, believe it or not, we were ready to work! That morning, our new boss, Helen, picked us up from our hostel and took us about 10 km outside of town to our new home at Canterbury Tomatoes Ltd. Helen and her fiance, Kerry, live on the small farm next to the greenhouse. Upon our arrival, Helen showed us around the tomato plants and introduced us to the family of cows and sheep. We also met Lucy (from the US) and Neall (from England) who live and work with Helen & Kerry, like us.

We started work that afternoon trimming leaves from the bottom of the tomato plants. Each row takes about an hour and a half and there are 15 rows in all. We can choose how many or how few rows we do each day but they all have to be done once a week. We also pick tomatoes 2-3 times a week which can take 2-4 hours. We have to work 20 hours a week (combined! Ha!) and any hour over that we get paid NZ$13/hr (about US$9.40).

Our first weekend on the farm we got to know our new roommates a little better. Friday night we all went out for dinner and then checked out Timaru's nightlife. Helen explained to us that most of the young people from Timaru have moved to other cities for college, so the crowd at the bars was kind of interesting. We had fun anyway. Saturday morning we went snowboarding with Lucy at Mt. Dobson, just an hour and a half away. If our hangovers hadn't already set in, the drive up the mountain certainly did it. It was unlike anything either of us had ever experienced. The gravel road was unbelievably narrow and winded all the way above the clouds. More frighteningly, New Zealand has apparently never heard of guard rails.

But, alas, we made it safely. As spring is approaching, it was one of the last days of the seasons and it was bright and sunny. It was really beautiful. It was Cody's first time snowboarding and he picked it up right away. Jeni on the other hand... Lets just say we were both pretty sore the next day...and the day after that...and the day...

For now we're spending our days working in the greenhouse, getting to know our roommates, and looking for a new car. While we aren't exactly stranded here (we can usually catch rides to the grocery store, library, etc. with our roommates) we were hoping to see as much of this part of the country as we can while we're here. So we're hoping to get a new car so we can take some day trips to nearby cities, parks, etc. We'll keep you updated on our progress but for now you can find us picking tomatoes...or feeding them to the sheep.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Bye bye Bongo...

Oh, the open road! After packing all of our bags (a practice we are nearing perfection), throwing them into the bongo, saying our farewells, we hit the open road to Timaru. We drove for about 20 minutes and about 40 kms singing our own songs to fill the void of a working radio when the engine decided to make a loud bang and refuse to go any further.

After taking a look at the engine and calling a mechanic, we had faith that it was only a small set back. The mechanic arrives to tow us into town with a rope and a SUV. Cody manned the wheel of the Bongo while the mechanic simply tied the rope to the front of the Bongo and started driving. Though nervous, we made it into the shop and fixed a tube and made it back on the road!

Back on the road! It felt so good to have the open window air conditioning, watching the beautiful scenery, and we couldn't fail to notice the 3 cars behind us completely surrounded in... white smoke? The van started to fill with smoke and we pulled over immediately. After calling another new mechanic and getting towed into town (something we're getting really good at) we got the Bongo looked at again and got the bad news. The Bongo is dead.

Since we already customized the van for camping purposes, we used the van for the only thing that it was good for, a place to sleep. In the glorious town of Winchester, the next day we were adopted by the owner of the shop (thanks Neil!). Neil let us sleep at his house (which was conveniently located next door to the shop), gave us a ride to the grocery store and also drove us to Timaru to complete this long complicated leg of our journey.

Now, we have have been just spending our time reading and exploring the town of Timaru until we start our jobs on the 16th. We have also been cooking for ourselves to save some money, playing some frisbee, and yes, taking long walks on the beach. It's a rough life.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Down to business

By Thursday (27th) we had left the Fijian sun and warm breezes behind and arrived in Auckland that afternoon. We took a bus from the airport to our hostel downtown. We didn't have anything to do until the next morning so we decided to walk around the city a bit and get our first taste of New Zealand beer. (Delish!) Turns out, after that evening, we had left rest and relaxation behind in Fiji as well. By Friday afternoon, after a 4 hour orientation with the work abroad organization that had helped us get our work visas, reality had set in. We were unemployed and homeless.

The next few days were spent opening up bank accounts, buying a cell phone, and anxiously scanning a handful of New Zealand's job websites. We found that there really are tons of jobs aimed at backpackers and temporary workers. There were dozens of posts looking for waitresses, hostel cleaners, nannies, farmhands, etc. Truthfully, this only made me more anxious. We'd always said, "Oh we'll do anything! We'll go anywhere!" But now it was time to decide what we wanted to apply for and where in the country we wanted to go. Since Cody had a friend he wanted to visit near the city of Christchurch we narrowed our jobsearch down to the South island. We then caught a cheap flight to Christchurch and met up with Cody's friend, Will and his roommate Jeremy.

We stayed with Will and Jeremy for a week and during the day while he was at work, we worked on our resumes, wrote dozens of cover letters, and applied for about 50 different jobs. It was exhausting and frustrating for both of us. After a few days and a couple disappointing emails and phone calls, we were both beginning to panic. So we began responding to all the posts on the job websites - even those that we weren't all that interested in and ones that didn't specifically say they were looking for more than one person. But it payed off.

A day later, we were offered jobs at a greenhouse in a city named Timaru. We couldn't believe it! Our new employer informed us that we would have to work 20 hours a week (between the two of us! Ha!) for accomodation. we don't get paid but at least we won't be homeless!

Our last few days with Will and Jeremy involved a rowdy night of karaoke for Cody's birthday
and one successful trip to a used-car auction. At this time, we'd like to introduce the newestdition to our family: a 1988 Mazda Bongo. She's a beauty all right. On the way home from the auction, we bought a used mattress to throw in the back along with some dishes and pots and pans. Now that she's all decked out, the Bongo will be our home in between jobs. This is the life.

Next stop: Timaru