Christmas in the South

Trip Start Sep 21, 2009
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Trip End Jul 23, 2010


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Where I stayed
Volco Farmhouse

Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas, first off. A few things have changed, both in company and scenery.

I finished at Jack an Debbie's without ceremony. It turned out to be a good place to spend some time Jack was a kind of strange guy, but was nice enough. Debbie was really kind and helpful. But in summary, I learned a bit, worked a bit, and played a bit, so I approve.

I have since landed myself at the Volco (stands for volunteer cooperation) community outside of Dunedin, near Waitati. It is an intentional community that, according to my host Ara, is failing. The house is perched up on a hill overlooking a nice bay, but the land stretches out over 250 acres, most of which is part of a land covenant, preventing any development. 

I stopped on my way here yesterday to climb up to the peak of Mt. Cargill. I remembered doing the walk the last time through and discovered that the trailhead was right on the side of the road, so I thought it was rather appropriate. The view was eliminated completely by dense fog that surround the peak and filled the valley, so I could see nothing of what I remembered. On the way back I stopped off at the volcanic stacks of rocks called the organ pipes because of their resemblance. And by that point, the valley below had cleared enough to give me a pleasant view.

I came upon an empty home, which I had been expecting, but found a friendly dog named Pip who was excellent at catch to play with. She can leap up and snatch the call out of thin air and then runs back and, with a flick of her head, tosses it back to you.

Ara eventually returned from work and gave me a little tour. The property is quite amazing. There is one large farmhouse in which I will be staying with Ara, 3 of her children, and another lady named Fi. Besides that, there is a bus used as a home and several other shacks scattered about that I did not see, but was told about. There are gardens on all parts of the property mixed in with other vegetation, hen houses, beehives, greenhouses, and sheep paddocks.

Ara shoed me some jobs to be done and then had to take off for town. As I was digging up old garden beds I was contemplating looking for a different place to spend the next week. Ara had come across as a bit standoffish and cynical about her living situation and the other people around. It made me slightly uncomfortable. But later in the day, I went in for dinner and another member of the community named Jamie was there and he, Ara, and I had some fun conversation. It made me feel a little better about this place, so I think I'll give it a shot.

Late in the evening, I retreated to my room upstairs, spread out on a real bed and had a restful sleep.

I awoke Christmas morning to find that it felt nothing like Christmas. It was warm, I had no loved ones near, and no "Merry Christmas" greetings cam from Ara (I think she is pagan or atheist or something and doesn't like xmas too much). I had breakfast and helped Ara empty and clean a hallway where some feral kittens she had adopted had mad a big mess. We then cleaned out a freezer in which she had been storing a rancid sheep skin. And of course, the freezer hadn't been on, so it was just rotting in there. It was pretty putrid and I had the pleasure of diving right in and scrubbing it clean! We did a few other jobs before lunch, which was eaten out on the deck, where we took in good food and an even better view.

Ara left a bit later to meet up with her partner for a holiday dinner/party. I felt very fortunate to be able to video chat with some loved ones back at home. I had a wonderful conversation with Elsa and her whole family and then with my own. It made it feel a little more like Christmas and was nice seeing their beautiful faces in addition to hearing their voices. It really made my day.

To do Christmas in real kiwi style, I went down to the beach. Pip and I found a pine cone and played catch amongst all the other holiday makers and beachcombers. I've never spent December 25th in such a warm place. I think I still prefer the wintery Christmases, despite the pleasant weather I had here; it just doesn't feel right.

The dog Pip has been a great companion for me. She always follows me around when I am working and tosses me the ball hoping to play. When she gives up after I've made it clear I am busy, she is content to lay there and watch me. She just walked in and laid down on my feet as I am writing this. I want a dog like Pip.

Tomorrow is boxing day. I'm wondering if that is big news here at Volco Farmhouse...
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