Friday, February 27, 2009

Back to Michigan

Six weeks.  It sounds like such a long time, yet goes by so very quickly.  We are aboard our flight from Auckland to LA as this is being written.  It was a great vacation and mission trip, and I have a mix of feelings about coming home.  I will miss my New Zealand family and friends we leave behind.  There is always a sense of loss and grief with our departure.  Yet, there is an anticipation of seeing our family and friends in the US and getting back to “normal” life.  While it is impossible to be in more than one place at a time, it is very possible to have your heart in more than one, or in this case two places.  I am leaving some of my heart in New Zealand and Bougainville as I return home.  

If you have been following along with my adventures in B-ville, you haven’t heard much about life in New Zealand, so I’ll take this day to catch you up.  To the shock of many, I didn’t get much bike riding in.  There were several reasons: I wasn’t in great shape for the hills they have around here; There were lots of projects that needed attention around the house and also giving time to help Marcia with the kids so she could do some projects as well; but the reason I haven’t told Marcia yet was that the first Saturday I rode, there was a car-bicycle accident that I came upon shortly after it happened.  The rider was laying in front of the car with a broken collar bone and the bike was midway under the car.  The group of riders were going through a round about and the car didn’t give way.  The rider should be alright, but it affected me more than I expected.  I don’t think it will slow me down back home, but it will make me cautious.  

The projects around the house kept me busy as well.  It seemed like there was something to do almost everyday.  Brett and Kristen have bought a really nice home that is about 20 years old.  It’s probably about 1,800 square foot three bedroom ranch.  However, it hasn’t had anything done to it since it was built, so a lot is out of date and seriously needing maintenance: enter Marcia and Chris.  

Marcia had a nearly daily project of “clean kitchen - do laundry - help Rhys pick up toys.”   She also did quite a bit of painting.  The lounge (living room) is quite large (18 x 24) with a nice crown molding that was painted a silver grey and the walls were done blue gray with a dark taupe grey accent wall.  She painted that room while I was in Bougainville and then did the dining room with the same theme the last full week we were in NZ.  It was a challenge to paint while the two children were either having naps, in bed for the night or otherwise distracted (where I came in from time to time.)

My first project was removing a really 80's chandelier over the dining room table and replacing it with something much more contemporary.  We made the mistake of letting Rhys seeing the project in progress.  Rhys doesn’t handle change well, in fact, he originally was not planning to move with the rest of the family from the apartment to the new house.  While I had the fixture down and bare wires hanging out of the ceiling, Rhys came out, observed the damage and said, “I don’t appreciate it when people destroy my roof!” to accent his displeasure, he later came out and said, “This makes me very angry!”   I expected it to be a very long six weeks.  Fortunately, other projects were more warmly received.

Before leaving for Bougainville I put two more light fixtures up in the lounge which really updated the look in there.  Then we began work on the guest bath and toilet (two separate rooms) - very common in NZ.  The wall paper was a yellow vinyl that was curling up on the edges.  The idea was to remove the wall paper and paint.  Unfortunately, the builder had wall papered over raw drywall board, so removing wall paper also removed layers of the underlying board as well.  We tried our best to do as little damage as possible, but even after patching as best one could, the walls are still rough, but not too bad.  I also had to replace and repair trim around the base of the shower.  Building is really different in New Zealand.  They make great use of MDF (multi-density fiberboard - aka dense paper) in the trim.  After being exposed to water for 20 years, the trim was swollen and really nasty looking.  It has been replaced with real wood that should last a bit longer.  

Another part of the project was replacing aged flooring.  We went to the lumber yard and found a really nice looking self adhesive vinyl tiles.  They look like dark granite tiles with lighter grey grouting and really are pretty convincing.  The best part was they were on closeout and so we did the floors of both rooms for about $70 NZD (or about $35 US).  It took me a full day’s work to get them in, but the effect was so dramatic it was really fun.

After the paint and flooring were in, both rooms looked so much better, but we also wanted to update some of the fixtures with a more modern, nickle plated or chrome.  They found a nice towel bar on line and had sharp looking handles for the cabinet.  The big surprise was trying to find nickel or chrome hinges for the cabinet doors.  We looked literally everywhere.  They are not to be found in New Zealand.  We will buy some - probably at Lowes or even Meijer and have them ready to take back with them on the next trip.  It was unbelievable how much time and energy went into searching for something so simple.

After I returned from Bougainville, the next big project was repairing the deck.  They have a very nice deck that is 15 x 18.  However, it too, showed many signs of neglect.  Some boards had broken down so much that there were holes right through them.  I spent a day in the sunshine powerwashing the deck.  Several more weak boards showed up.  When all was said and done, 36 linear meters of new boards were required.  Brett and I went to the lumber yard to get the boards and found out that the deck was made of an Australian wood called kwillia.  It is very beautiful with a tight grain and costs $7.50 a meter.  Pine was $1.50 per meter and won out.  Bringing the 6 meter long boards on top of the Honda van was quite a process but after they were stained and installed the deck looks much better and is certainly safer.  Rhys helped me with the deck and it was a lot of fun.  To remove the old boards, we had to pry them up bit by bit using a claw hammer and a couple large screwdrivers.  As I would lift the board with the hammer, Rhys would put the screwdriver in the gap so I could move the hammer and begin the process again.  He also collected nails for me and helped me so much.  We had fun and later walked down to the market to buy an ice block (aka popsicle) as a reward.  

There were several other smaller projects, but we sure kept busy - going home to rest?

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