Kirsten & Karsten’s 2017 Christmas and New Year’s letter.
Christmas greetings from our terrace here on Christmas eve’s morning, where a cup of tea, fresh strawberries for breakfast, is inspiring me to finally get down to write a few lines about our year.
While Karsten is in the kitchen making Kransekage for our Christmas dinner, which we will enjoy with good friends later today, I look at the bay, with mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean (next stop Antarctica!) straight ahead, and can’t help but still sigh, smile and realise that we are so blessed to live in such a beautiful place. (view from our house below)
We still love our life here in New Zealand and this Christmas we will stay home and enjoy a lovely summer here, swimming in the ocean and remembering to slap 50+spf sunscreen on regularly.
For us 2017 started in Sydney visiting Kirsten’s brother and family, with a fantastic firework display over Sydney harbour, truly spectacular. Having suffered in the 40 C heat, we returned to a cold Wellington with our niece and nephew who thought they were going to freeze to death the first day!
We enjoyed their visit tremendously, and got to do more kid friendly things, such as watching kid’s movies, visiting a national park with kiwi birds (which was a highlight of the trip), and have fun with games, baking and exploring.
Karsten has continued to excel in his work, and as usual he contributes ideas and innovation to his field. He has particularly enjoyed having more allocated time to focus and delve into research, which he just loves.
Together we started evening classes in te reo Maori, language and culture, and we have loved it. The friendships we have made and the knowledge of the rich Maori culture as well as being able to speak and understand a little has been so rewarding for us both. The course included a weekend stay at a Marae (a Maori meeting house) where we were officially welcomed (you can only enter if you have been welcomed officially on to the marae). This weekend was a highlight of our year, we learnt, talked and laughed as we enjoyed the time together with classmates and teachers.
The course ended with us having to give a 5min speech about a person important to us. Karsten spoke about Alan Turing, the father of Computer Science, and Kirsten chose to speak about her morfar (grandfather on her mother’s side) as he inspired her with his global travels and baking heritage. Karsten’s speech was so intricate with computer knowledge that our teachers were lost for words! Did I say he was a bit of a favourite ?
With Kirsten’s rediscovery of love for baking, the class has been grateful recipients in
consuming various cakes and therefore it was fitting for her to talk about her grandfather – who trained as a dessert and pastry chef ?
Having completed level 1 and 2 of te reo Maori, we are continuing our language journey next year, and it looks like many of our classmates will also continue. The class has given us friends and a connection with New Zealanders that has also contributed to a knowledge and understanding of our new country. We will spend Christmas day with some of these friends and their families.
A side effect for Karsten has been that he has been able to integrate te reo Maori language and culture into his teaching and research. Kirsten is gobsmacked at how good Karsten (who claims he is not a language person) has become, but as he tells her, its just like math!!!
Kirsten has enjoyed using her creativity to bake and cook and explore both old and new recipes this year, as she feels blessed to have a year off from work. With the language studies and her involvement in a local church group, she is planning to start some form of work in 2018.
One of her highlights in 2017 was a trip to see her sister and family in Vancouver Canada, where she really maxed out on auntie time, before flying on to celebrate her dear friend’s 50th in San Francisco, where she was joined by another friend who flew in from Denmark,
so we could celebrate in style. It was truly a wonderful trip filled with hygge. A bonus was catching the “summer of love” 50th year exhibition, making it a legendary San Francisco visit. Adding to SF came the opportunity to also catch up with friends, and have good soulful discussions in the Loma Linda/ La Sierra area before flying back to NZ.
Boardgames evenings, walking, driving trips, and te reo M?ori studies have all filled our time here.
For the first time in years we were able to vote in a national election and we were floored to experience how easily accessible it was to vote, you can vote many places, and if you forgot your voting card, you could show proof of id and vote! Both of us ended up voting at Karsten’s university, and to make it historical, Kirsten voted on 19 September, women’s suffragette day, commemorating the day in 1893 that women got the vote here in NZ.
Our “Summer” holiday saw us driving all the way to the north tip of the North Island. We
thoroughly enjoyed the beauty and diverse nature of this island. We experienced driving on a 100km long beach highway, driving up the mountains, picnicking by rivers and boating out to Russell, which were the first capital of New Zealand. We continue to explore and learn about the beginnings of this great country.
Our winter trip saw us return to Roterua geothermal area, where finally we benefitted from loyalty points Kirsten had accumulated.
Karsten is always very sceptic that such schemes are worth it (ed. they aren’t, this took 12 years of collecting, annoyance and limiting our hotel choices ?), but Kirsten persisted in optimism that one day – and these were the days – we would have free hotel accommodation! While there, we enjoyed some great geothermal spa pools, and saw new sights of the area.
We are happy in our house, continue to enjoy the view, and glad it’s more insulated than your average NZ house. 2017 saw Kirsten exploring a bit of gardening. Karsten calls gardening construction work as everything grows so fast and wild, he has cut down trees and shrubs. Apart from the never ending weeding, Kirsten planted a
strawberry patch, some blueberry bushes, raspberry bushes, lemon tree, and an apple tree, as well as growing tomatoes and herbs, so for now we enjoy some strawberries and look forward to enjoy the rest of the fruit…
As 2017 draws to an end we are thankful for so many things and love living here in Wellington New Zealand, the most southern, and we think coolest little, capital of the world. It is very far away from our friends and family, but we are grateful to live in the age of technology where we can connect across the world. We look forward to 2018 visits from friends and family and hope to visit Northern Europe.
Meri Kirihimete / Merry Christmas / God Jul
Wishes and blessings to you and yours at this time.
Kirsten & Karsten
Ps. If you note above photos seems a bit windblown, you are correct. Wellington is known as windy welly and it proudly lives up to its name and reputation. And we love it