Thursday, December 2, 2010

Waipawa and WWOOFing, the Adventure Begins

It has always fascinated me how many things can happen in the course of the day; this time last night I had no idea what today would be like, and yet I knew it would be an important day, one that would determine the course of the next month of my life.

I left the hostel this morning at 7:45am, walking down the street with my hiking backpack and school backpack (and sleeping bag tucked under my arm) to catch the bus from Napier enroute to Wellington. My destination? Waipawa, a small town about 63km southwest of Napier. My more specific destination? The home of Skye and her son, Finn, at 8 Rose Street. They met me at the bus stop in Waipawa just after 9am, and drove me up to their home, a beautiful one-level building nearing one hundred years old; the floors are hardwood, there are stained glass detailing on the larger windows, and the toilet is accessed from a door outside!

Skye is warm and friendly; she is a painter and writer and one who embraces ethical consumption and an organic way of life. Her grown son, Finn, is on the autistic spectrum, and doesn't talk much. He also disappeared twice today, as I figure my presence has stressed him out somewhat. Skye says that he should be fine after a few days, however. I completely understand what it is like to have one's routine disrupted, and how much worse it must be when the disrupter is a slightly odd Canadian girl.

I have my own room to sleep in here! It is simply glorious, with the aforementioned wood floors and stained glass detailing, but I am most looking forward to curling up on that double mattress on the futon and revelling in the only other audible sounds coming from the birds and other animals outside... no music, no snoring roommates, no obnoxious conversations carrying on in stage whispers until 3am. I also have a bedside table, a bookcase, and a desk and chair. Having so much personal space feels like a positive luxury after over two months of sleeping in dorm rooms.

When I arrived Skye gave me a whirlwind tour of the house and gardens, including the work studio in the backyard, where she and Finn piece together artistic projects like Finn's knitted squares (he knits as a stress release, and then stitches the squares together to make rough blankets or rugs, some of which are donated to charity), and her art studio retreat in the far back corner. The backyard consists mainly of tiered vegetable gardens (built where once a tennis court was situated for the previous owners of the house), and a few fruit trees at the back. The front of the house has a flower garden and birdbath surrounded by decorative gravel and stones. It's a calm, peaceful property, which reminds me of parts of Oak Bay or Fairfield in Victoria.

Skye and I headed back downtown to purchase a desk for my room (the old one is currently situated in the work studio); we found one in an antique/used furniture store on the main street for $125 (which seemed a bit steep to me considering the state it was in, with a few nicks and dents, but then again that is about $95 CDN, and I don't know what furniture normally costs here). Then it was back up to the house, where we unloaded the desk, I unpacked my things, and the three of us sat down to a lunch of bread, veggies, and hummus.

After lunch it was raining, so Skye said I was free to do what I wanted; she would show me my work in the garden when the weather cleared up somewhat. I headed out to the work studio, where I spent three hours listening to the radio and piecing together some of Skye's squares into a blanket (I have very limited sewing skills. I have a feeling I am going to rapidly develop some living here!).  I listened to Radio New Zealand, FM 101.5 (the Kiwi version of CBC Radio One), which featured a live broadcast of the Pike River Mine Memorial Service, marking the coal mining disaster that killed 29 men in late November. The disaster has hit New Zealand hard, particularly in Greymouth, the close-knit community most affected by the blast, and where the memorial service was held at the Omoto Racecourse to a crowd of thousands. It was eerie for me to listen, as I have been to Greymouth three times now, and clearly remember driving past the racecourse on the Stray Bus. The eeriest part of all, however, was remembering driving past the mining sites, and having Natalie, the driver, point out the window, saying, "Oh, yes, we still have active coal mining up in those mountains." Little did we know the tragedy that would befall those hills a mere nine days later.

In the late afternoon the weather had let up somewhat, and Skye showed me my first task in the front garden: operation grass removal. She bought some ornamental grass two years ago, and it has run wild, starting to choke out other plants. As such, it is my task to uproot it all, which is proving formidable, as the garden bed consists of clay soil, and the roots are firmly seated in it, stubbornly refusing to budge. It's going to take me days, but that's alright... I am to work in the garden from 8am to 12pm each day, so four hours every day isn't so bad.

For dinner tonight we had rice, a ginger curry chickpea dish, and fresh beans from the garden that Finn picked and shelled. Then Skye was off to a study group, and a neighbour named Bev came over to keep Finn company, and the three of us watched The Tribal Eye DVD on Bali (which made me think of my old landlords), and then the first two episodes of Civilization (I love old documentaries).

In short, I think I am going to like being here; while I need to go down to the Church Thrift Store and pick up a long-sleeved shirt and pants to garden in (I didn't bring anything I feel like totally destroying with dirt and stains and sunscreen), life here with Skye and Finn in Waipawa appears to be very peaceful, almost Quaker-like. After a crazy month of touring all over New Zealand with Stray, this could be just the thing I need to relax.

After all, it's amazing the little things that one misses; today was the first time I have brushed my teeth in over a month where I had a water glass to drink out of! Simple mind, simple pleasures, I guess. :-P Night!


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