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August 10, 2001
Impressions from New Zealand (Russell)

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Russell on the TranzAlpine
Lunch on the train: Curry chicken, lasagne, and a frankfurter with American mustard

It was good to spend yesterday on a train excursion across New Zealand, even if the weather and scenery weren't ideal.  Westbound from Christchurch, it was foggy and overcast.  On the return eastbound from Greymouth, it rained.  This is one of NZ's coldest and driest winters, so there was not much snow at all on the Southern Alps.

But the trip gave us one more chance to see the country's expanse.  Between the land, the roads, and the towns, NZ still reminds us of Northern California, at least as the Santa Clara Valley must have been years ago before it was overbuilt (although you must substitute orchards for sheep).  There are the broad valleys surrounded by foothills and mountains.  There are lush meadows and hills covered with green trees.  On the other hand, there aren't annoying billboards all over the place, and you can actually tell when you enter and exit a town.

As we prepare to leave New Zealand, it's a good time to check in on how our world trip is going.  After almost a month on the road, we see patterns and rhythms setting in.

Russell and Gail find themselves generally drifting into their comfort zones -- or at least, those areas where they aare most efficient.  As a rule, Gail does the cooking, the laundry, the packing/unpacking, and the driving.  Russell manages the expenses/budget, maintains the photo library, keeps the Web site updated, and navigates the roads.  We are a good balancing force for each other: Russell is more strict while Gail is more tolerant, and Russell is more adventurous while Gail is more conservative.

Cameron and Joss continue to be themselves.  Cameron devours books at an alarming rate, writes PC stories, draws elaborate pictures, and is happiest when left alone and quiet.  Joss snacks, makes paper airplanes and fortune tellers, climbs the walls, looks for ways to alarm his mother, and gets devastatingly bored when left alone.

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The adventure playground at Christchurch

Together, Cameron and Joss are the best of friends.  At a playground, trampoline, or swimming pool, they invent games and keep themselves entertained for hours.  They share their Lego, coach each other on Game Boy, and stay up at night talking in bed.

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Cooking breakfast... crazy potatoes!

We still try for three square meals a day.  Bedtime can be anywhere from 8:00 to 11:00 pm for both young and old, depending on what we've done that day.  Similarly, our day can start anywhere from 7:00 to 9:00 in the morning.

We are not without our conflicts.  Russell and Gail can get frustrated and too serious with each other.  Cameron and Joss often go out of their way to provoke and annoy each other.  But conflicts are resolved quickly, and generally everyone's stress level is much lower than back at home.  Overall, we are very much enjoying ourselves and each other. 

After yesterday's nine-hour train ride, Gail asked Cameron what he thought.  "It was a very nice plane ride," he said.  "I can hardly wait to be in a motorhome!"  Meaning that everyone is looking forward to being able to travel for a whole month without being strapped into a seat.  Our next port of call, two days and counting, is Australia.

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Best of friends


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