Monday, February 13, 2012


I've been in New Zealand for a few days now, and things couldn't be better. The kids are having a blast, the weather has been fantastic, and we are enjoying all that New Zealand has to offer...except bungee jumping. (And sheep.) On the other hand, we've yet to see even one single hobbit so I guess not all is well in paradise.

This is my sixth trip here, and there is some part of me that is a little ambivalent about New Zealand. Yes, New Zealand has lovely natural beauty, huge fern forests, and pristine waterfalls. But when I go to New Zealand to visit my father, I spend most of the time in the city. And the cities, or at least the city that my father lives in, have a familiar suburban feel to them. This is in part because New Zealanders seem intent on building really ugly houses.

This is what a New Zealand house should look like, and some of them even do:

But it turns out that many Kiwis are not that excited about in tiny, old houses with balky plumbing, and many of the New Zealanders who can afford to live in more modern houses. As if they don't even see the value of tourists finding their basic living quarters quaint! Whatever.

This is the type of house that many New Zealanders live in today, at least in the area of the country where my father lives. I don't want to use the word "ugly," to describe houses like this, because I recognize that not everybody has the desire or wherewithal to live in a pre-war farmhouse that doubles as a sheep-shearing shed, but let me just say that you would not see a self-respecting hobbit within ten miles of this house:

My father's house here is a whole different ball of wax, as it does not look like New Zealand houses old or new. It's a lovely house, as you can see below. The house has verandas around three sides, a two-story living room, and a basement apartment with a separate entrance, which is where the kids and I are staying. (It's raining in the photos, and I know I said the weather has been "fantastic," but by that I mean "not 8 degrees.")

I'm not going to show any pictures of the inside of the house, because of course as soon as the kids and I showed up, we trashed it. But I'll show some pictures of his garden. His house is on a fairly large lot -- a hectare maybe, or a fortnight, or whatever kind of weird metric units they use here -- and the gardens are great, as you can see:

The irony is that this house, as great as it is, is very poorly suited to my father, who has very significant health problems. He is trying to sell the house, although so far he hasn't had much luck. Maybe you should buy it! Surely you can see that it's a great property. And I can promise that he's a very motivated seller. He's only asking $600,000 New Zealand dollars, which is a real steal. In U.S. dollars, that's less than a hectare.

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