30 September 2008

Porirua's Open Market and Titahi Bay in Wellington

We were awakened by the ringing phone last Saturday. We lied still and listened. Oh yeah, our phone had been installed already only the day before! The phone stopped ringing, then belted forth anew. I got up and answered.

It was Debbie. She apologized for calling so early but she got my number from Doc Annie and we were not able to talk much at the bus the day before but we might want to go to Porirua with them that morning? They were supposed to leave by 8, and will drop by our place to pick us up. I glanced at my watch. It was already 7:30. After confirming that we'd love to go with them, we rushed with changing clothes and breakfast.

My wife Tina then recalled that we indeed met her at the bus with two of her kids; I was confused because we met one other Filipino couple, also in the bus, prior to her. They were on their way to the Botanic Gardens, while we were visiting Te Papa Museum.

Wow. We managed a quick conversation of only a few minutes but she was able to locate us. It really is a small, close-knit Filipino community we have here in Wellington!

Soon enough, we were on our way to Porirua with Debbie and husband Bill, Doc Annie with son RA. The weekend market starts at around 8 and ends at 10. It's for just a short period of time. They lent us recyclable bags and off to the market we strolled. It was a fun atmosphere as we saw a couple of street performers giving a rather festive atmosphere. Lots of people were up and about. Most of the merchants, I noticed, were Chinese. And the items on sale? Lots! Vegetables, baskets, fresh fish, flowers (tulips!), sauces in bottles. We didn't actually have plans of buying anything but we ended up with a heavy load just the same. :-) Because the prices are hard to beat!

After the open market, we took a stroll around the mall as Debbie and Bill pointed out some interesting shops.

And then it was off to Titahi Bay.

It's true about what they say in New Zealand being near nature / recreation areas because we were at the mall area one minute, and in 15 minutes or so, we were already at the beach! Titahi Bay is a cove where some people go for the summer. It's a small stretch of sand but it hardly gets filled by people, considering the sparse population. Along the way we also saw large expanses of greens and parks for kids.

We were once more blessed with friends here in New Zealand. Debbie and Bill said that they have received lots of blessings in this country and were helped as well by the local community when they were new here. So they are simply paying it forward. What's so amazing here is that our fellow Pinoys are eager to reach out and help, and though they pointed out that there are also some Pinoys here who like to keep to themselves, there is still a strong bond amongst many Filipinos here.

25 September 2008

First glimpse

Firstly, so sorry for my blog visitors if I have not yet been able to visit your blogs. We are still waiting for our internet connection at home. Here in the Johnsonville area, there are only about three places so far where you can get internet access: this lone internet cafe ($2.00 / 30min, owned by a Korean), at the Library ($1.50/15min), or at the coffee shop (free internet when you buy coffee). I haven't tried the third option yet though. But still, it will be great to have the internet connection up and running at home. Hopefully by tomorrow, things will be ok.

I'm in the cafe to apply online for jobs, so this is just a quick update. Here are a couple of photos I wanted to post:

See the square-ish house at the back? We are renting a unit at the ground floor. This is actually a house with space for rent attached to it. We have our own door and whiteware. When you step out of the house, you are immediately greeted by birds chirping and trees and the lawn photographed below. Nice, isn't it? Winter has just ended though but it still gets pretty cold so we keep the place closed most of the time.

Obviously, we still don't have private transportation so we take brisk walks to Johnsonville. It's a good 20-25 minute walk. Going to the town is ok because it's downhill. But coming back home can sometimes take the breath out of you!

And they weren't kidding when they said Wellington is also known as the windy city. A couple of days ago the winds were so strong it pushed me a couple of times, but not to the point of stumbling, though. Overall, it's a pleasant walk. There are trees all around and flowers too!

23 September 2008

Renting a place in New Zealand

A week in Wellington, New Zealand! I wish we can celebrate our one-week anniversary but we still got lots to do. A lot has happened though in the past week. We stayed with our host for a couple of nights, then moved to our new place.

Apartments here are similar with what we have in the Philippines. You basically get a space, and the rate is directly proportional to proximity to amenities. The good thing here is, apartments and houses available for lease are available on the internet! Visit trademe (www.trademe.co.nz) for example. There are other sites out there but trademe is one of the more popular ones. If sharing facilities is fine with you, you can go through the "flatmates wanted" category as well.

Apartments here usually come with a stove. You are lucky if part of the lease includes washer and dryer, ref, bed, heater. Otherwise you have to buy these.

The Filipino community here in Wellington is quite solid, and some give things they don't already need to the newcomers. So it pays to be sociable. :-)

The rent here though is paid either by the week or fortnightly! And it's quite expensive too, if you consider having no work yet and relying on your savings. But when you enter the work force and start earning, I guess it pretty much equalizes things.

You also have to post a bond which will be refunded to you when your contract with your landlord ends and you no longer want to renew and move on. It's usually two-week's worth of the rent.

The tenant and the landlord enter into an agreement with the tenancy and the council is notified of the contract. The council also gets hold of the bond. This is to protect the rights of the tenant and the landlord. There is a checklist as well of the things included with the rent, as well as some probihitions such as pets and smoking which both parties will agree to.

Some new words I learned for my first week:
Kindie - kindergarten, start of school for kids 5 years and below

Wag - a verb, meaning to cut classes. Kids' attendance here are monitored, and it is the parent's responsibility to alert the school if their kid will be absent. So kids who wag usually get caught. Kids not in school but wandering about are also asked what they are doing out.

Whiteware - basically refers to the appliance included in the place you are renting. In our place, all the appliances are colored white; must be why they're called whiteware.

18 September 2008

Our second day in Wellington

Just dropping a quick note to say we're on our second night in Wellington! Winter has just ended but it's still cold.

It was a fortunate turn of circumstances that brought us to the home of our host family. We are temporarily staying with a Filipino family here who I met online as I was looking for a place to rent. Unfortunately, it wasn't that easy. Online advertisements require that you need to be a member to access contact information of the advertisers (they rarely give away contact information publicly). I will no longer divulge their names but he advertised an apartment for rent and I said we wanted the place. But we were arriving a month later still and so the place cannot be guaranteed vacant when we arrive. He still said he will help in sourcing out a place for us if ever.

His apartment was rented out two weeks after we arrived, but he fetched as at the airport, graciously opened their home to us (it is our second night tonight with them), helped us with our groceries, look for furniture, open a bank account, get local mobile numbers, do occular for the apartments, and all the while driving us around. His family was very generous with their time and resources. To think that we just met online!

Other Filipinos also pitched in. One asked me to send her a list of places we see online and she would do the scouting for us. Another also asked around for vacancies. This is how we were able to get our place, which we are now populating with some furniture and food before we move in, hopefully by tomorrow.

I am still simply astounded by the outpouring of support by our fellow Filipinos here.

Right now I am using the internet connection of my host. When we get our connection in the place we are transferring to and have some photos, I will be updating my blogs again.

Winter has just ended here but it's still cold. They said summers here can be quite hot though.

Here's a surprise: we were the only Filipinos in our trip from Manila to Wellington! I guess that says a lot about the number of Filipinos here. But we have meet quite a number too in the two days of stay here.

Until then...

04 September 2008

The kindness of friends and strangers

This post is supposed to be about a turning-point in my life, or in my family's life for that matter. My wife and I both have resigned from work, and last Saturday was our last day on the job. It's kind of sad, really, to be leaving friends and the place where I have spent most of my waking hours for the past 8 years. But it is to be so, because we are leaving the country and starting anew in New Zealand (we are moving mid-September).

We have been given Work to Residence Visas, which means that I, as the principal applicant, need to find a skilled job particularly in the IT Industry and stick with one job for three months. I will consequently be evaluated and hopefully our family will then be given Permanent Residence Visas.

I only have nine months to make this work actually, so if you know anybody in the Wellington, New Zealand area who can help me land a job, do inform me. I will deeply appreciate it.

But in the transition phase of moving, I was really touched by people who gave their time and effort to make my last few days in Manila memorable. There's Team Marketing who festooned my office space with balloons and they had a scrapbook circulated to friends who wrote messages for me; Pauline gave me a camera because she knew I wanted even just a small one and I haven't bought one because I have other priorities now;

Some office friends treated me out to lunch at Teriyaki Boy because I have been wanting to try their menu for the longest time;

Ms. Alyssa Raval of TwinTrade Enterprises, our supplier of giveaways for the longest time, treated me out to lunch at GreenBelt 5 and she even took the time to look extra gorgeous for this moment;

My good friends Yoyo and Roger took time out and drove the rented van from Manila to Baguio so I can transport my things in safety, and they left for Manila the very next day;

I found my pair of eyeglasses but the nosepad was missing a screw. I dropped by Ideal Vision at the ground floor of Walter Mart Makati to have it fixed. The lady at the counter fixed it for me at no charge;

Ms. Dessa of our HR Department made me feel real important as she listened to my stories in my exit interview.

It is a happy, sad, exciting, scary time for us right now. I know that everything is ultimately up to me to make it work, but with friends and even kind strangers trying to make a difference, I know that I can, too.

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