My three month stint in Hawkes Bay is finally over. I can’t quite believe how quickly the time has gone, and not for one second did I think that I would grow as attached to the family as I have become.
For the most part the last few months have been a wonderful concoction of family fun, wine making and exploration. I’ve climbed up Te Mata peak, strolled along Marine Parade and adventured across the family’s farm, and all with Emma by my side as my own personal tour guide. And when Emma was too busy, I’ve more often than not had her step-dad (Brian) or a child with me so I’ve always had someone to share the adventure with.
Only a few weeks ago Brian took me to a cattle auction after discovering that I’d never been to an auction before. I was very excited, although a little naive as I turned up in white jeans, jandals and a cami top. Met with cow poo, and farmers in their jeans and boots meant that I stood out like a sore thumb. But the auction was fascinating (not that I understood a word) and I think Brian quite enjoyed having a little sidekick for the day.
I’ve certainly felt as though I’ve had a sidekick of my own as of late. I had increasingly spent more time looking after Ralph, and his little laugh is just adorable. When I first arrived he could barely say a few words and now he can hold a full conversation (mostly about trains or ‘avo’, but hey ho). There has been talk of my return to the Easthope’s next January, so I can’t wait to see how much he will have grown in the next year.
The same can be said for both of the other boys too. Baxter has become so good at reading that I would beam with pride whenever he read a big word without flinching. And Stanley, who is such a bright boy anyway, has become so mature and confident. So it’s safe to say that I am going to miss these boys. A lot. And having only left them 24 hours ago, I’ve already emailed the big boys lots and Facetimed the whole family to see their little faces.
A couple of weeks ago Shannon arrived in NZ, and I finally got to see her four days later. I pounced on her the second she jumped off of the bus and we both squealed obnoxiously until the last person had left the bus station. It was amazing to see a familiar face, and to hear a British accent. And of course the first thing we did was to go to Mister D’s for a doughnut (that you inject with whichever filling you like) whilst dribbling over a waiter that had the most gorgeous eyes. I think she knew from then that she was going to like it here. I then dragged her up to the Bluff Hill lookout just to make her fall in love with the place that little bit more before taking her home to meet my NZ family.
And so the last seven days have been a mixture of looking after the boys and exploring whatever I hadn’t yet seen of Hawkes Bay. We went and saw the Gannets – although the tractor ride to see them was far more impressive than the actual birds themselves -, took a visit to the Arataki Honey Centre, spoiled ourselves at Birdswood Sweet Shop and visited the Movies Twice (to see the Jungle Book, and then Zootopia). Oh, and we had a night out. Out out. Which was hilarious, and expensive, and there was vodka, and we didn’t make it home until 3:30 am (which I assure you IS late when you’ve spent the last year fast asleep before 9 pm). And Emma hadn’t been able to sleep properly until she knew we were home (so sweet!) And had thought she’d only heard one set of footsteps when we came in, so she thought that Shannon had found her New Zealand prince charming already… Which she hadn’t. Although Shannon spent the entire night attempting to spoon me so she wasn’t far off.
On Saturday we had a goodbye meal, at which Shannon and I cooked for the five Easthopes. After the kindness and generosity shown to the both of us it was the least we could do to say a little ‘thank you’ back. After the meal I gave the boys their leaving presents (three toy dinosaurs, that went down a treat) and I gave Emma and Rod a card containing a gift voucher for their favourite coffee shop. In return I was presented with a card (that nearly made me shed a tear!) And a beautiful silver fern necklace that I haven’t taken off since.
Then on Sunday, after spending the day at the movies and the Hot Pools with Emma, Shannon and the boys, we went to Emma’s mum’s house for ‘the Last Supper’, before returning home to drink wine and play cards. As we packed up our backpacks, Emma drowned us in goodies (and wine!) To take with us. Safe to say we were completely spoilt.
I can’t quite emphasize enough how eternally grateful I will be to the Easthope family, and the extended family, as they have all made me feel so completely at home. Waving goodbye to them all at the bus station yesterday morning mirrored that of saying goodbye to my own mum at Colchester train station when I was leaving for New Zealand. That feeling of leaving people behind that you love is powerful, and one that I will never forget. But with a date in the diary to see them all again it has made the ‘goodbye’s’ that little bit easier to swallow.
And Shannon and I have so many exciting things planned until then.
Yesterday we arrived at a place called Te Horo, near Wellington, to undertake two weeks of WWOOF-ing (stands for: Word Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). Our hosts breed horses and so our main tasks are to shovel horse poo and care for the horses, however there has also been some gardening work that can be quite physically demanding. In exchange we get accommodation and meals, and so far both have been amazing. Shannon and I have got our own ‘wing’ of the house, and have separate beds so Shannon’s little spooning attempts are no longer an issue. We also have our own bathroom, kitchenette and spa pool, plus a TV with thousands of movies and TV programmes. In. Our. Element.
So our next two weeks will be filled with horses, bike rides and binge watching Game of Thrones, before heading to central Wellington to meet our second WWOOF-ing host. May our luck thus far continue throughout the year…