We have settled nicely into our temporary home in Mangere East, a suburban area not too far from the airport in Auckland. It's also known as "cedar lodge," because the long driveway is crowded with skyscraping cedar trees, and as "Faulty Towers," by Graeme.
We are working on the house for a few hours a day in exchange for accommodation and Olive's delicious home cooked meals. Olive almost always says, "Just don't ask for the recipe," not because it's a closely guarded family secret but because she creates her culinary concoctions from throwing together whatever is on hand, adding as she goes when she thinks it needs a little something. Leftover lunch melts into the pot for dinner, transforming into something entirely new. I like her style.
|Preparing for a sunny outdoor lunch on the back porch.|
Their house can best described as eccentric, with high ceilings, lots of stained glass, unfinished projects strewn higgledy-piggledy in the yard, and plenty for us to do. Some areas of the interior remind me of a church. Olive's word for the house is "hard case," which she tells me means amusing, but unusual. I have to admire the way she and Graeme have made the house their own. Her fully customized kitchen has shelves and drawers precisely to suit her needs, and she had to argue with quite a few builders to get it the way she wanted it. Sam would have done it for her in a heartbeat; he's a big fan of shallow shelves that leave everything in view, as he's likely to forget about something if he can't see it.
Our priority at present is a two room flat on the side of the house, which, when finished, will house two Filipino sisters who live here in a small room but who are so quiet I have not yet seen them. Elise & Sylvain, a couple from France, are also staying here and are helping us work on the house. They're on a working holiday as well, and like us they will soon be leaving Auckland to embark on a country-long road trip, once they can acquire a campervan.
The work on the house has been a piecemeal effort from Olive, Graeme, and the many HelpX helpers they have hosted for the past 3 years. Some of the work was done well, and other areas have been problematic. Sam initially stressed about some of the previous work, but Olive told him to do the best he can and don't worry about it; that's the nature of having helpers from all different backgrounds.
Joining us around the house is Karmin, the Bengal (Bengals are domestic cats bred with Asian Leopard Cats), whose loud howl announces she is ready to receive your veneration and affection, or else that she is ready to be let out. And back in again.
Much of the food we eat here is grown in the yard: the mandarins, lemons and spices from trees and fruits and vegetables from the garden, provided they are not first pilfered by the pukekos. Pukekos are cheeky, ungainly birds about the size of chickens, native to New Zealand and "known for their bold scheming and determination," according to Wikipedia.
|The iconic New Zealand Silver Fern, as seen in Olive & Graeme's yard.|
There's a lot of beauty here. It's easy to forget that we're in a suburb, in a huge city like Auckland. This house makes me want to cuddle up and read a good book, which I've finally found time for after months of wanting to. I'm reading Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder, the true story of Dr. Paul Farmer's works in Haiti to heal and educate the Haitian people. Pete, a couchsurfer we hosted in Midland, gave it to me when he passed through on a bicycle to raise awareness for Dr. Farmer's organization. If you haven't read it, you should. I'm not even halfway through, but it's very eye-opening.