Kroukam Family Update
Dear Epworth Family
Fourteen months in New Zealand and while we knew our lives were going to change drastically by emigrating; never in a million years did we think it was going to be like this! I am going to try not to mention Covid-19 in this update…
My husband, Eugene, took an engineering job as a Road Corridor Co-ordinator for the Hauraki District Council in a little town called Paeroa on the North Island and this gave us the opportunity to emigrate at the beginning of 2020. It is known as the Antique Town of New Zealand and although it only has one main street of shops, it has no fewer than 13 antique shops! Paeroa’s latest claim to fame is that it has the busiest McDonald’s in the whole of New Zealand and when one looks for our town on the map, one can see why – it is an “hour from everywhere”! Eugene was offered a promotion in September and he is now the Development Engineer, a job well-suited to his skills. He works with a number of Namibians and some South Africans, which has helped him to settle.
Rachel (Class of 2017) has to be nominated for the “Bravest-Daughter-Ever 11 730kms Away” award. Having made the difficult decision to stay in Pretoria to complete her top-class degree in Foundation Phase Education at TUKS, she had two years to complete it and then would join us in New Zealand on our adventure. She was to have visited each July and December. We were to have flown back to South Africa to visit everyone. Then aeroplanes stopped flying. Literally. And borders closed – to this day she has no visa option – dependants of Work visa holders have no right to apply to enter New Zealand and if Eugene and I left to visit South Africa, we would not be allowed back in to New Zealand again, despite holding valid visas. What we feel is unspeakable discrimination against immigrants and our families and it goes completely against the so-called “kindness” Jacinda Ardern’s façade seems to show the rest of the world. Our immigration agent is doing all he can to help us but there is nothing more to be done other than to sit and wait.
Anyway, moving on… Rachel is still loving her degree and is tutoring and au pairing for a super family down the road from her Digs. Just this week, she is a locum at a school in Pretoria teaching Grade One. She has also taught herself to crochet and is selling stunning tops with her little business called “Ray’s Crochet” – find her on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rays_crochet_/ to help save up for the now triple cost of air travel if and when Immigration New Zealand grants her access. We are forever grateful for our regular video chats and not, like the older generation, blue airletters or heaven forbid, letters arriving by ship! We hope to get her here by the end of this year – by any means necessary. To say our hearts are broken by this intolerable situation would be an understatement and unfortunately it has coloured our experience negatively.
Helen (Class of 2019) was accepted for a New Zealand Gap Year with LetzLive and was posted to Woodford School for Girls in Havelock North for 2020. The similarities to Epworth are amazing and if the world ever normalises, Epworth should look at an Exchange Programme with this school. Helen worked exceptionally hard at the school, with a focus on Boarding, PE and Art. She worked as a teacher aide and accompanied the students on exciting camps and outings. The school is five hours away from our house so we hardly saw her last year. Our nest was very empty! Other than a slight hiccup with the unmentionable, where we were locked down for five weeks in March/April together, she had the school holidays with other Gappies and explored New Zealand North and South a lot more than we did in 2020! She has made lifelong friends from all over the world. Unfortunately, new visa restrictions have prevented her from enrolling in university this year so far, even though she was accepted at five institutions and was offered a scholarship at another. So, Helen has come home to Paeroa and is volunteering at various places and housesitting for friends when needed. She is not allowed to work or study. You can imagine our intense frustration about the delays in getting our Residency here because of the New Zealand Immigration Department.
Within six weeks of arriving, I was offered the Librarian and Education Support Administrator position at Te Aroha College, a High School half an hour away from our house. It is a co-educational school about the same size as Epworth. The commute for me is nothing like a half hour trip in SA, and I love driving the long straight roads through the dairy and corn (no one knows what a mealie is!) farmlands, watching the seasons change as the weeks go by. Although the roads are very narrow here, the speed limit is 100km/h and people stick to it. All the cars are roadworthy and there are hardly any trucks other than milk deliveries, so one does not get stuck behind any vehicle. I find it very funny when the New Zealanders complain about the state of the roads and they look at me in sheer horror when I explain to them what a pothole really is! My school has been very welcoming and the staff members are friendly. My boss, Rachel, is Head of English and the Principal’s Nominee for NZQA (IEB Administrator equivalent) so along with running the Library, I help with exams and paperwork for registration of students. I also proofread reports (funny that should be my job!) in a very different way to how we did it at Epworth, and they are very grateful for employing a grammar policewoman! Becoming accustomed to the New Zealand curriculum has been a steep learning curve and the “alternative” way of disciplining the students has been a bit of an eye-opener, I have to admit. Teaching here is not for sissies! Some highlights this year have been swimming the Staff vs Year 13 (Matric) relay race at the gala and participating in the Athletics Sports day. I got house points for my Yellow house called Tainui, for shot put, the 400m, and I somehow won the 100m non-champs sprint – beating all the other staff and pupils! Mrs Peek was shocked but proud when I told her. I am battling to adjust to the colour change after all those years of my blood running Red at Epworth – I am SO sorry that my loyalty has had to change to Yellow!
My position at the College is permanent part-time, on an hourly wage, and no holiday pay. That has been another massive adjustment for us, especially with New Zealand’s very high cost of living. The Christmas period was especially difficult for me with no annual bonus (like we used to get at Epworth) and six weeks with zero wages. To supplement my income, in July last year I enrolled for an online Diploma in Proofreading and Editing with the New Zealand Institute of Business Studies, and I finished the year-long course in six months. This has culminated in my starting a business as a qualified editor and proofreader called “PUP – the Pop Up Proofreader”. I am still charging in ZAR for my South African clients but am slowly getting into the New Zealand market too. Please Like and Share my Facebook page and have a look at my links:
Other than working and settling into our new lifestyle, Eugene and I have explored New Zealand North Island quite widely despite the restrictions of 2020. We have even run Parkruns at six different venues so far. The countryside IS beautiful and clean – wow! Security at houses is just a front door lock, mostly left open with a fly screen door when someone is home. We live rurally, and so we have utter privacy at our farmhouse. We have learnt to grow vegetables in our enclosed veggie garden and they are so rewarding. We don’t lock our cars while we drive. No one asks us for stuff – begging is illegal. The government departments and most companies (except Immigration – don’t get me started, oops…) are a pleasure to work with as the staff members all know their stuff and can help you immediately or they call you back in 12.5 minutes (not joking) and apologise for the delay.
Our closest beach is Waihi, 20 minutes away and we often go for walks and then have fish and chips there. It is beautiful and clean with no litter in the sea or on the shores. Bush walking, or tramping as it’s known here, is great and very accessible. The bushes don’t rustle as you walk which is weirdly comforting – there are no snakes in New Zealand and very few other creepy crawlies! We have got used to the weather and don’t rely on the media forecast, we just look at the sky and have every season’s clothing in our car boot. The 2020 winter was apparently mild but of course we found it very cold – one thing no one told us about New Zealand winters where we live on the Plains, is that while it doesn’t get much colder than a South African winter, i.e. 1 or 2 degrees minimum at night during a cold front, it just doesn’t warm up! So, in deep midwinter, it went down to about 10’ at night which is quite manageable but then not above 15’ during the day – for weeks – which makes it seem so much colder than the African winter sun which still warms you a little bit at midday. Even dishes don’t dry when left to drip dry on the rack! And the rainy season is in winter, so we have to run a dehumidifier most of the time and it draws litres of water out of the rooms of the house to help prevent mould and damp. The summer is gorgeous but the sun does bite – it actually prickles if you are not protected. Climate change and the lack of ozone layer are real “down under and over the ditch”!
The Kiwis are an interesting nation (but more about that another day). We have seen the effects of a government that provides “everything” and it is not always pretty, and it is hidden from the rest of the world. There are also parallels with South African Colonial history. So, you may be asking, how we are overall? How would we rank New Zealand? On a sliding scale, probably 8 out of 10 and climbing up. But the unmentionable has added an untenable challenge to our life as parents and a family, and if one more person here says, “it’s horrid for everyone”, I think I will hit them. We KNOW that. Everyone lives their own reality and we empathise with others, we really do. Emigrating from the uMgungundlovu district which is the only place we have ever known for close on 50 years to this little place in New Zealand was always going to be hard; let alone this ridiculous situation in which we are split from our beloved daughter! Without our friends’ support here in New Zealand (new Kiwi mates and other immigrants) and our worldwide close connections, I don’t know where we’d be right now. We are okay – we get up each day and smile and try to find the positives. So please keep in touch, keep the faith and be kind. Things may not always be what they seem. I miss you all very much!
Fida, Humana, Fortis.