Tuesday, July 28, 2009

1. Hamilton

Kevin with mum at Garden Place
Christine, Eugene and I, first landed in Auckland, New Zealand on 19th October 1995. It was a condition for permanent residents to land in the country to satisfy immigration requirements for all applicants. Pearl did not come until 1996. She was sitting for her form 5 exams in Miri. Rose was staying at our house for 2 weeks to keep her company.

Kevin first arrived alone in NZ as an overseas student. As soon as he finished his form 5 exams in November 1994, I put him on a plane for Christchurch. He was enrolled at the polytechnic doing an intensive course in English. Keith Yong, an immigration consultant in Miri helped me to make all the arrangements for this  short English course and also the enrolment at Cambridge High for Kevin to study form 7 in January 1995.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

2. Rotorua

Kevin, Eugene & mum at Rotorua
By the time we made our first landing in NZ, Kevin has been studying here for almost a year. He was on a student visa. We paid 7k for school fees and 6k for his homestay with a Kiwi family. Pearl and Eugene as permanent residents, do not need to pay any school fees. Uni fees are also much cheaper for PR.
Christine at Rotorua
After we stamped our passports for the landing requirement, I went to a travel agent in Hamilton to arrange for a short one week tour of the South Island. Kevin was sitting for his final exams and was unable to join us. So we took him with us on a short tour to Taupo and Rotorua. We stayed at the Twin Peaks motel. The view from the motel was impressive. Lake Taupo was so big that it looked like the sea. After the two day trip, we left Kevin with his home stay in Cambridge. The next day we checked out of the Kingscourt motel and left the rental car at Hamilton airport and boarded a plane for Christchurch.

Friday, July 24, 2009


Eugene and mum
Christine, Eugene and I landed at Christchurch in the evening. By the time we checked into a hotel it was getting dark. It was still a little too cold for the new arrivals from the tropics. We went to a store, Canterbury, to buy woollen jumpers for the trip to Queenstown. A tourist coach will be picking us up from the hotel the next day.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

4. Queenstown

The Remarkables
We arrived at Queenstown after a very long ride in a tourist coach. Eugene wanted to try horse riding and that was what we did. We were saving the bungy jump and jet boating for future trips.

horse tracking at Queenstown

From Queenstown it was another long bus ride to Milford Sound the next day. This tour of the South Island was organized for me by a travel agent in Hamilton. It was not cheap. In later years we toured the South Island again in our own car and staying in backpackers. The cost was a small fraction of this first tour.
However, this first exploratory tour was necessary because I needed more information about New Zealand to make a decision on where exactly the family and I would live in NZ.

The following March, Kevin was accepted by Waikato University. I bought a house in Hamilton so that he could stay at home with me and I could save some money on hall of residence (students' residential college). The decision to pick a place to stay was not mine to make, after all.

Monday, July 20, 2009

5. Milford Sound

Milford Sound

Milford Sound is one of the must-see tourist attractions in NZ. I don't have any regrets now because it is such a long way to drive there from Hamilton in my own car. Coach tours  targeted for tourists are very expensive. For these reasons, I have not been back since this first visit. I remember that it was very cold, even though it was October. I put on all my woollens and I was still shivering on the boat and could not stay on the deck outside for too long.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

6. Greymouth/Dunedin scenic railway

From Greymouth we went on a scenic train ride to Dunedin. It was quite a memorable journey. We saw mountain sides covered with nice yellow flowers (Gorse). In later years we discovered that Gorse was an agressive noxious weed which was introduced into NZ by early settlers from Scotland. Kiwis have been trying to get rid of this weed ever since, without much success.

scenic train ride

Thursday, July 16, 2009

7. Dunedin

We arrived in Dunedin by train. It has been an interesting tour of the South Island. We would be taking a plane to Auckland the next day. Christine and Eugene would be flying back to Miri and I would stay on for another 12 days to look for a school for Pearl in Auckland. I went to Howick to see a friend of Rose who would help me to enrol Pearl at Howick High the following January. I was not successful because the principal asked for proof of residency in Howick. He asked me for a telephone bill and a power bill to show that I was staying in Howick. I did not have any of those; but I now got a good idea how to enrol Pearl into a school in Hamilton!

I was staying at the YMCA, Auckland while I explored enrolment possibilities for Pearl for the 1996 school year. Every night I walked down Queen Street looking for my dinner. There was this caravan parked at a small side road, near Custom Street, selling hamburgers at night. I tried one. It was the real thing (not McDonald) and it was very juicy and delicious. I also tried the Chinese food in Auckland. It was not very good; but the portions were large.

I checked out of the YMCA after a few days, rented a car and drove to Hamilton where I checked into a backpacker, near the top end of Victoria Street. First thing I did was to rent a three bedroom house. Then I bought a car and some furniture, connected the power and telephone for the house. I now had utility bills which I can use for enrolling Pearl into Hilcrest High next year. The house was just 5 minutes walk from both the uni and Pearl's school. I invited Kevin to join me for dinner in the house. He was not so happy because it meant that he would be expected to stay at "home" and not at the university residential colleges as he has planned earlier.

When Kevin has finished his form 7 exams at the end of November 1995, I travelled home with him to Miri on the same flight. I still have a car (Isuzu Trooper) to sell before I come back to NZ. I could not get rid of all my sailing dinghies. It would have to wait for a few more years. In 1999, Eugene went back to Miri for holidays. The cheque I sent to him bounced for some reason. He was quite desperate for money then. He managed to sell all my boats for $1,200. That was enough money for him and a win-win.

looking for Albatross
steepest road in the world

In Dunedin, Baldwin Street is reputed to be the steepest road in the world at 19 degrees (1:2.86)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

8. Hamilton East

1, Scotland Place
The first car I bought in Hamilton was a 12 year old Honda Accord for 6.8K from a used car yard. My condition of purchase was free storage by the car yard when I left Hamilton for a month and the car dealer must also arrange to send my car to Auckland airport carpark and leave the key at the Air-NZ counter for me to collect on 12th January 1996. When Pearl and I arrived at Auckland airport. I picked up my car, loaded all our bags (11 pieces) into the back seat, drove to Hamilton and parked my car in the garage of a fully furnished rented house, with electricity and telephone all connected. You just cannot imagine the nice feeling to be able to do that; no more living out of a suit case in hotels, YMCA or backpackers.

There was a reason why I chose a Honda Accord. In Shell Lutong, all JG2 were given a company car, a Honda Accord. It was every Shell employee's dream to drive a Honda Accord. It was mine too, because at JG6 (senior buyer) my chances of ever driving a Honda Accord was very small. When I landed in NZ, I finally made my dream come true by going to the nearest used car yard and bought one. I used this car for 3 years. It was very economical because it ran on CNG (compressed Natural gas).

Sunday, July 12, 2009

9. My first house in NZ

15, Sheridan Street
This was my first house in NZ. It had 4 bedrooms and a small garage for one car. It was located near Silverdale Road and less than 10 minutes walk to the Waikato University for Kevin and just around the corner from Hilcrest High where Pearl and Eugene attended form 7.
The best feature about this house was the rear where it backed onto the Ruakura Research Centre. Quite often we saw cows grazing behind the back fence. Some of these cows had a small plastic window installed in their side. Research scientists came regualrly to take samples from the cow's stomach for testing and analysis.

Mercedes 280SE
I had always dreamt of driving a Mercedes Benz in Miri. Many rich timber tycoons owned Mercedes in Miri but none of them would let me drive his Bensi. With 3 teenagers to educate, there was just no chance for me at that time to buy such an expensive luxury car. I went to a car auction in Hamilton in 1998 and bought a 1983 model 280SE for 8k. Finally in NZ, I was able to fulfill my dream. At one stage I owned two dream cars!

2 dream cars!
I still remembered towing my Kestrel, a 17 ft trailer yacht one day to Lake Karapiro and saying this prayer out loud inside the car: I thank thee Lord for this Mercedes and this Kestrel. I was all alone in the car! That was one of the happiest moments of my life. The other happiest moment of my life was when I shot an eagle (2 under) at the 17th, par 4 hole, at the Narrows Golf course.

Friday, July 10, 2009

10. New house, car and boat

8, Ben Lomond Place
As soon as Kevin finished his management degree, I sold the house at Hamilton East and bought another one at Nawton. We have visited at least 20 open homes all over Hamilton before we decided on this one. It has a double garage and space on the front lawn for my boat. The back lawn is huge (836 square meters) and has room for Christine's roses, fruit trees and vegetables.

This house has 2 bathrooms, 4 bed rooms and 3 electric storage heaters. The most attractive feature is the open-plan kitchen which looks large due to the attached family room and dining area. The western side is almost completely glass and so the house is very bright.

back garden
Most of the land scaping has been done by the previous owner. He planted Kawhai, Manuka and Flakes. Christine added a Rose garden and planted a few fruit trees over the years. We added a deck behind the house for use in the summer months. There is also space for practising my pitching wedge, chipping.

Soon after moving into the new house, I sold the 17 ft. Kestrel, bought a Noelex 22, traded the Mercedes for a 1988 model Volvo 760GLE. I quit my full time job at Inghams and started playing golf full time. I was finally taking time off to smell the flowers. Life has never been better.  Since then, I spent so much time on the golf course that my golf handicap came down to 14 at one time. Now I am playing off a handicap index of 14.8  (course h'cap 16).

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

11. A new deck

new deck
In the summer months this deck is fully utilised. I hung a hammock from the beams and Christine bought some wooden furniture from a home show at Claudelands. Very often we had our lunch outside the house and used it for entertaining our guests from home.
One year all my guests from home decided to come visiting, almost all at the same time. There were Christine's second sister, her daughter, Pei Suan and nieces, Shou Shan and Mei Shan. My sister Cecilia and brother in-law, Jeffrey Chow arrived the same week from Brunei. Ai Hua came from Auckland where she was staying with her son, George. Kevin, my eldest son also came home for a visit that week end. All in all, I had 11 guests in the house and it was strictly standing room only!

Monday, July 6, 2009

12. Challenger

The Honda being fueled by CNG was not really a suitable towing vehicle for the 17 ft. Kestrel. I was soon looking for a more powerful car to tow my trailer yacht to distant lakes in the North Island.

I switch to a 2.8 litre Mercedes. It had plenty of power to tow my boat but the maintenance cost was too high. It was too expensive for me pretending to be a timber tycoon. After two years I traded the Merc for a 2.6 litre Volvo.

This car was slightly newer than the Mercedes; but it lacked the oomph for towing my Noelex 22 over the mountains to Tauranga harbour. I was soon looking for a 4x4.

I traded the Volvo for a 2.8 litre, diesel turbo Mitsibishi Challenger. It was the ideal car for towing the larger trailer yacht which weighs 730 kg. I have used it to tow my boat over the Kaimais to Tauranga harbour, many times, without any trouble. The furthest I have towed my boat was to the Bay of Islands (368 km).

Russel, the Bay of islands