© 2020, The McGees

Dogs, Donkeys, Chooks and Trains, Oh My

May 05, 2019

Week 4 in Dunedin is busy!

First and foremost, in regards to our primary objective, animal care 101 continues smoothly.

I am gradually learning what food scraps these chooks prefer - turnips not so much, bread scraps YES! FYI, the one black chook is an Australorp, a breed created in Australia. I suspect the Australorp is the one remaining layer of eggs as we approach winter here in New Zealand.

We take the dogs to the local dog park this week as a shorter alternative to the daily beach walk. It is a huge, lovely park and, just as described by the home owners, Lucy and Whistle each chase a first thrown ball and proceed to keep that ball safely tucked in their strong jaws for the duration of the visit. Whistle runs back and forth after other thrown balls but will not drop the one currently in his mouth. Lucy hides in the bushes until we leave, chewing relentlessly on her ball.

Other days, on the beach, Whistle shows prowess jumping for logs, while lovely Lucy plods along.

Donkey enrichment activities are in full swing. For one such activity, I bind a tight ball of hay in netting and hang it from the peak of the hut. “Bobbing for hay” is great fun.

Travis and Hoti are smart as whips, and I have learned I cannot force them into anything - especially Travis. The homeowners shared that when they first installed a mirror at the back of the hut, Travis walked up to it both excited and surprised and then promptly turned around, walked outside and moved to the back of the hut to find the donkey there.

Monday morning Tim drops me off at a local elementary school. I have the opportunity for the next 8 Mondays to volunteer in a class where English is being taught to refugees. I am volunteering in the place of one of the homeowners. This experience is quite serendipitous as, prior to our trip, I completed a TEFL certificate. I am interested in the possibility of teaching English online or abroad as we continue our nomadic adventures, and this experience will be invaluable.

On this Monday I have the opportunity to work with several adults from Syria who came to New Zealand from a refugee camp in Lebanon. New Zealand has a well developed and generous refugee program. There are myriad services and programs supporting individuals and families for up to 5 years following their arrival. I read in the local news about new settlement locations for refugees. These towns have strong job prospects and low demands on public housing. The attitude here is that good resettlement processes lead to positive net investment rather than cost.

An evening mid-week finds Tim and myself at Couples Book Club. We enjoy hearing the various perspectives on the book about Millicent Baxter. Tim shares that he thoroughly enjoyed the book, both for the subject of pacifism as well as the fact that this is the first book he has finished in quite a while having finally acquiesced to his need for reading glasses. AND he stayed awake through a biography.

The meeting starts at 7:30 pm and we are told that a little later we will have “supper”. “Uh oh” we already ate dinner. But, no worries, “supper” is cake, eclairs, coffee and tea. “Supper” - YES!

We end the week on a train. This local fundraising event takes us from the beautiful Dunedin train station through the Taieri Gorge where we are dropped off to return part way on foot via the tracks. It is a lovely train ride and walk and the locals participating are friendly. We chat with one of the Book Club members who is volunteering as a Lions Club member.

Included in our train trip is a complimentary “sausage sizzle”. We stand in line and are handed a square piece of white bread topped with a sausage-like hot dog. We proceed to a table where tomato sauce (ketchup) is available. This is not our first sausage sizzle, but, once again, I sorely miss a true American bun!

Australorp (near pole) and other chooks

Dog park ball fun

Lucy's idea of ball fun

Whistle executing a log leap

Lucy setting the pace

Tim's "Shackleton" look - rough day on the beach

Donkey enrichment activity

Travis after snuffling for hay

Hoti bobbing for hay

Dunedin train station

Our train for today

All aboard!

It is Fall outside the train windows.

The Taieri Gorge

Our view from one of the last cars on the train

Dropped in the Gorge - the train will be back

Walking through tunnels

Walking across bridges

Happy train guy!

Written by Julie and Tim McGee who live in Sonoma, California, USA and frequently elsewhere...