The Big Move- 1995
Emigrating to a land at the bottom of the world was exciting if not different.
There were many things other than acclimatising to the cold to get used to, but also trying to understand the quick speech and odd sayings of my new country was a challenge some days.
It was a land of such beauty and simplicity really, but I did find that there were some people who had never been out of their city let alone country and for them they might have found me quite strange.
They would look at me quizzically as I spoke, and often say “ Ooh -I love your accent ….where are you from?”
And when I told them I could see the look of sheer puzzlement on their faces as they had no idea where my land of birth in Central Africa was, and often would ask, why I had a white skin?
I soon just let people believe what they wanted to believe, some thought I was British, and some thought I was Irish, there were some who said I spoke like the Queen, and this used to make me laugh heartily as I was certain that I did not speak like the Queen.
I remember flying back to Africa in the early 2000’s and missing my new home with such an intensity. Africa felt foreign after only a few years absence.
It was only when I landed back home again in NZ and when I heard the Customs lady speak with her nice rising intonation where it sounded like she was asking a question even though she was just saying “Hello” -it was only then that I felt safe again.
The First NZ office meeting.
I looked around the room at the people who had become my new work mates. They were a varied bunch.
They spoke quickly and I had to listen carefully as they spoke about the different properties. Some of the comments were puzzling…..
Jeanette was describing a buyer “ he was full of grog but a grafter”.
I was imagining an ugly man with a big belly and made a note to myself to look it up in my little book of “kiwi isms” when I got home that day.
She carried on describing others from her open home…” he was troppo, and she was a tyre kicker “- my head was spinning.
Pete remarked that a certain document we had to complete as part of compliance was “ a piece of piss” – I wasn’t looking forward to that one for sure – it sounded awful.
Gabby was describing her vendors who would not meet the market.
“ She was all done up like a sore toe” and he looked at me like I was a “smart fart”
“ All throughout the meeting he couldn’t take his eyes off my puppies” she said, so I mused “ why on earth would you take 2 little pups with you to a meeting?”
Real Estate in my new country was utterly confusing.
Pete walked out of the office in front of me when the meeting was finished – I was shocked that he did not hold the door open for me as I was accustomed to so tapped him on the shoulder to remind him of his manners.
He seemed not to understand that lady’s go first through a door and a gentleman will always hold it open for them – well that was what happened in Africa anyway.
It took several weeks before he got the hang of it and even better than that he would then offer to make me a cuppa – which I learnt was a nice cup of strongly brewed tea.
Pete told me that he would knock up a good feed next time he had an arvo off.
Alison from the opposite desk yelled out to Pete “ get us a cuppa too will ya?” Pete retorted in a most ungentlemanly way “ Get off your arse and get it yourself – bloody libber”
I was shocked. Such disrespect for a lady, and told him so. “ he told me “ she’s no lady” and laughed.
All these funny expressions made my head spin and I often had to write them down to remember to look them up later.
For me though, when I said “ I will be there “just now”” that also seemed to confuse people.
What is “just now?” They would ask- I would explain it is “now now”.
I knew precisely what that meant and so did others who used the same expression in Africa.
It meant “I will be there when I am there, early now now or not not now but a little later, but not too late”.
Rose and Ted and the cows
One of my first listings in my new country of residence was an older home with a large lounge and 3 small bedrooms and a separate double garage which was at the rear of the property.
It was not a particularly big block of land but the garden was neat and tidy.
Rose and Ted were a nice couple. They arrived on time to view the property. They drove a big noisy Ford and took great care when parking it.
They had 2 children they told me, who were at the school close by. They said that they were renting till they could find a place big enough for them all.
They quickly assessed the space inside the house. The bedrooms were tiny, but that did not seem to bother them. They were anxious to get outside to inspect the garage.
We were standing in the cold garage with it’s cracked concrete floor and unfinished timber walls and aged iron roof, when Ted asked me suddenly
“ How many cows can this place hold?”
I told him that unfortunately as it was a residential area, I doubted that he could bring his cows into the garden, let alone the garage.
He scratched his chin and asked the same question again.
I wondered if he was a bit daft.
Rose asked another question of me “ Can we park two of our cows in here?”
I thought about this for a bit and then replied – “ This garage is for cars, but I suppose if you wanted a cow in here then you would need to check with the council first – they might let you have a dog or a cat or even a chicken but I think cows and horses are a bit too big”.
Rose and Ted looked at each other and started to laugh.
C A R – they spelt it out- “ oh I said, silly me I thought you said C O W”.
Ted pointed to the ceiling and said “its half pie”.
I did not go there – I was still coming to terms with the cows in the garage.
At the open home that Saturday Rose and Ted came back a second time, bringing with them an older couple. They introduced me to them as their “fam dam”.
Shirley, who I assumed was Ted’s mother remarked to Ted that he would need to run like a hairy goat if he wanted it.
She was pointing to the many people at the open home.
Later that day I got a call from them to ask if they could make an offer, so I assumed that they had run like their hairy goat to get sorted in order not to dip out.
I was getting the hang of it already!
Ted told me he had been “working off a dead horse” so now had a sizeable deposit to put down.
I wondered about these hairy goats and dead horses in the fam dam.
He told me it was hard to earn a crust but he stuck at it as he did not want to be sent down the road.
I translated this to mean that he was a baker, a competitive one, who wanted to stay put in his job.
Ted had a bit of a tummy going on so I thought he must be a darn good baker.
Rose was a hairdresser- she said she worked at a “tonky” place in the city. I wondered if it played a lot of loud honky tonk music and thought it could be quite zany. Later I looked up the word and it said “fashionable”.
When I called them later that day to congratulate them on their successful purchase there was much noise and celebration at the end of the phone so I guessed they were pleased.
Ted said “ lets whack into the grog then” I agreed that it was a good plan having no idea what he meant and ended the call.
Later that month, I met them at their new home. They introduced me to their 2 children.
Their son apparently was “packing a sad”.
He had been told off about swearing it seemed.
The 2 children wandered into the garden while we talked on the patio. Jason, the eldest, was looking at his boots and kicking stones at his sister, Melanie.
All of a sudden, Rose yelled at her son “Ooiy you will get a boot up the gunga if you say that word again!”
She turned to me and said “ Golly he makes me go maggoty!”
I think I learnt more “kiwi-isims from Ted and Rose than anyone else in such a short time, whenever I was with them.
Ted was actually a mechanic not a Baker and he had a love of old cars, so when they moved in, and I visited with a Welcome gift, I was introduced to all his old cars.
There were such a variety in different states of repair, but the old Ford Zephyr was one I remember as he had made it look as good as new and it reminded me of the older cars of my youth in Central Africa.
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