Saturday, August 30, 2014

Drive Around Christchurch

We got to visit our kitty today! He had sad eyes when he first saw us, and he is still a bit scared, but he purred a lot and rubbed us. We gave him lots of love and brushes since he is shedding up a storm. He still has another week in quarantine.

View of Sumner
Our host drove us around Christchurch. There is a lot of damage in the city center from the earthquake with buildings damaged or missing and construction everywhere. We passed by the summer hotspot of Sumner and the harbor of Lyttelton, and we stopped at a farmer's market and picked up some sourdough bread. It's not San Francisco sourdough, but it was fresh and fluffy and good.

We went to our first garage sale which was a success. I got a dishware set, pillowcases, and a portable heater. The lady threw in a Brita water bottle to prove that Kiwis are a generous people. She and her spouse were a cute old couple. Considering the high prices for retail, garage sales are even more of a good deal here.

Containers are stacked up as retaining walls
We checked out an apartment for rent in the afternoon. There were lots of other people there - it reminded me of the California apartment hunting I did when hordes of people showed up at any decently affordable housing in the area. I filled out an info sheet, but the kitchen was small with a tiny fridge and the bathroom was old and not very nice. The bedrooms were large, but with how much time we'll be spending in the kitchen cooking and baking, I want better.

We came home defeated, but our host was helping us look places up online and found a couple nice places for more money but still close by. I think we'll head downtown on Monday to the realty office to inquire about properties. A realtor is going to be the way to go I think since there's just not that much available. We're competing with students, working people, and people temporarily moving out of their homes for earthquake repairs.

We had Chinese take-out for dinner: lemon chicken for D, beef, bok choy, fried rice, and pork wrapped in Chinese pancakes. Those were pretty tasty. Our host is going out of town for a week tomorrow, so we'll have to fend for ourselves along with the other homestay student from China. She's studying fire engineering and learning English. We tried Afghan cookies which are made out of cornflakes and cocoa. No relation to the country!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Food Around Town

Subway is usually a safe bet because you can pick what goes on it. I got a six-inch beef riblet sub and even splurged to get a chocolate rainbow chip cookie because it looked so good. We went shopping at Pak-n-Save and stocked up on some food: bread, cereal, Mexican food ingredients (tortillas, cheese, salsa), pb, and pasta packets. Carbonera is a pretty common thing here, and they do have alfredo, so we'll see how those flavors taste. Problem with grocery shopping is we have to haul it a fair bit away.

We returned to the university to try to get some things sorted out. Like at home, no one knows much about taxes or what our liability might be, although you'd think these questions would have been asked before. We got our Metro bus cards as well as a free student planner (which I've been hunting for since I got here and considering how much paper costs, is sweet!).

Tomorrow we get to see our cat in quarantine! And go for a drive around the area with our host.
Kids take bicycle-riding lessons as part of school.

Cute name!

Thursday, August 28, 2014


Without a phone, you quickly realize how much you need one to communicate, especially when you're in a new city and trying to contact places for rent and set up accounts that need a phone number. We successfully got new SIMs ($5 each) and the $19 a month plan which has 500 MB of data, 100 minutes to NZ and Australia numbers, and unlimited texts to those numbers, plus free weekend calling to other Vodaphone numbers. We're planning on using the Viber app to call and text U.S. family and friends since it works over wi-fi and is free, so we shouldn't need to pay for international stuff.

Next we went to K-Mart so I could buy a hair dryer. $24! But I desperately need one since it's winter. K-Mart has all of the basic essentials that we'll need to furnish a place (bedding, kitchenware and appliances). It even has cheapily made cat condos for our cat! We went to a third supermarket - Pak-N-Save - which turns out to be more like a Walmart with everyday low prices, and most of their prices did beat the other two grocery stores which is good.

We got lunch at So Yo frozen yogurt: donut-flavor and chocolate with a swizzle stick and two chocolate biscuit bars. The price per ounce is about twice as much as as home. It's $2.99 per 100g which is about 3.2 ounces. They had a cute upstairs seating area. I've noticed the bathrooms here are small, even the sinks. There's hardly enough room to put your hands under the faucet.

Paper is a fortune here. Spiral notebooks are around $4-5. Yikes! I will have to use paper very wisely. Books are also very expensive. A new book by the Dust author was $36.99. I think price will finally end up converting me to e-books.

We chose Pizza Hut for dinner - $8 for a "large" pepperoni lover's. It was not the large size we're used to, but it was almost enough for two people. We ate it in the grass like bums since it was a delivery place only. The crust was pure Pizza Hut; the pepperonis weren't cooked very much but I didn't mind as much as D.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Good news! I have arrived in New Zealand.

Snow-covered mountains on the South Island
We made it past customs (only thing they made me pull out was the Frontline flea and tick medication) and onto our connecting flight from Auckland to Christchurch. Our homestay host - who turns out to be Australian - met us at the airport and drove us home. Thankfully, her SUV was able to fit all of our six pieces of luggage. She has a newly rebuilt (within the past year) house because of the earthquake. It is large and modern with four bedrooms, two bathrooms, two living rooms, a big kitchen, an office, a laundry room, and a big patio and garden area.

We set up bank accounts and then went to Vodaphone to get new SIM cards for our iphones, but T-Mobile  in the U.S. hadn't told us we had to restore the phones to finish the unlocking process. Funnily enough, there was a K-Mart in the mall! Plus a Mexican restaurant with decent-sounding stuff (burrito, beans, quesadillas) and a Pizza Hut. Next we walked to the university and got enrolled. I wasn't up for getting my picture for an ID card taken after having been on a long flight, so we saved that for the next day.

Why hello, K-Mart!
On the way home, we went to New World supermarket and were unpleasantly surprised to find the high prices we had heard about were true (cereal starting at $5-6 a box, cans of green beans for $2.89, refried beans for $3). We bought cereal, milk, apple juice, rolled oats, and bananas to get us started. Later we found another supermarket, Countdown, and found some cheaper prices. We bought clearance bread for $2.52 - bacon and cheese topped - yummy, hot chocolate, and Head and Shoulders shampoo for $5. It's a tiny bottle. The big ones are $12! Our host had fish and chips for dinner which was good. I crashed around 8, exhausted.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Transporting Your Pet Cat from the US to New Zealand

Transporting your pet cat (or dog) from the United States to New Zealand is a major pain and quite expensive. But if your pet is family, you do it anyway. Although Air New Zealand requires that you contract with a pet transport company anyway, you still end up responsible for a lot of the legwork yourself. I wanted to provide a summary of all the steps I went through in moving my cat plus the costs I paid so you know what you're getting into beforehand.


New Zealand Government Biosecurity - personal pets
Air New Zealand - travelling with pets
USDA APHIS office contacts by state
Kansas State University Rabies Laboratory

1. Get your cat microchipped. (~$75) My cat had been microchipped years earlier with the US standard which is 125 kHz. The New Zealand standard is 134.2 kHz, so I thought I would have to get him a second one. Thankfully, the pet transport company said it was okay to use the US microchip (keeping in mind that vets in NZ will not likely have a reader that can read the US one if your cat gets lost).

2. Get your cat a rabies vaccine 6 months to 12 months before departure. (~$75)
Every vet visit must also include a full regular exam to check the pet's health and see if there are any fleas or ear mites, so you must pay the exam fee plus anything extra that needs to be done.

3. Get your cat an approved travel carrier/crate. ($60)
The cat must be able to stand fully upright and have room to move around. The pet transport company can give you further guidance on how big you need to get for the size of your cat. I ended up buying a small-dog size carrier from PetCo that had the holes for them to be able to zip-tie it to seal it, as well as the appropriate latches along the sides and the door. 

4. Prior to 3 months before departure, get your cat's blood drawn for a rabies titre test. Also get your cat a FCRVP vaccine. ($79)
The other vaccine was required by the quarantine facility I selected.

5. Mail the blood tube to the Kansas laboratory authorized to run rabies tests for international transport. ($64)
It was significantly cheaper for me to package the blood tube myself and give to UPS than to have the vet mail it for me (they quoted me around $150). The people at UPS were confused on whether or not they were allowed to ship it since it's hazardous material and had to consult with managers, but thankfully I had already researched it on their website and as long as it is packaged according to their instructions (inner seal, outer seal, absorbent padding, etc.), it can be shipped just fine. After checking their procedures, they finally agreed with me and accepted it. 

6. Pay the Kansas lab fee for their rabies test ($85).
This fee can be paid online.

7. Mail the results to your nearest Official Vet office to receive an official endorsement/seal of approval. ($127)
After a few weeks, the Kansas lab will send the test results back to your vet's office. Assuming your cat tested in the acceptable range for the rabies antibodies, you now need to mail that paperwork plus some other paperwork to your state's USDA APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) office for their seal. I had to call and email several people to figure out which office was the one that handled pet transport seals.
8. At least 6 weeks before departure, make a reservation for your cat at the quarantine facility in the city in NZ you are moving to. ($500 deposit at my facility)
There are only a few authorized quarantine facilities in the main cities. To pay the deposit, I had to make a wire transfer at my bank. Facilities have limited capacity, so I booked my cat's spot months ahead of time.

9. At least 6 weeks before departure, apply for an import permit from NZ authorities. ($150 [$167 NZ]) 
They now allow this paperwork to be submitted electronically, so you scan and email the required paperwork to them.

10. In the 30 days prior to departure and at least 2 weeks prior to the 2nd treatment, get your cat its 1st external and 1st internal parasite treatment. ($82)
You must use Frontline for this, so make sure your vet carries that. I had to go to Petsmart and buy an expensive 3-pack and bring it to the vet's office since they normally use Advantage. Your cat will have to swallow one or two pills of Dropal for the internal treatment.

11. In the 4 days prior to departure, get your cat its 2nd internal parasite treatment.
This can be done at the same time as the next step.

12. In the 2 days prior to departure - can also be on the day of departure - get your cat its 2nd external parasite treatment and its inspection and official certification by a vet that your cat is ready to fly. ($140)
As I was not flying out of my home city, the pet transport company allowed me to get both parasite treatments done by its vet office. I also had to go with them to the USDA office to have them read my cat's microchip before they would sign off on the paperwork. Fortunately we were one of the first there in the morning so it didn't take too long, but I was told that sometimes there are lots of pets ahead in line and it can take hours. The pet transport company also took care of notifying the NZ authorities at the port of arrival that my cat was on schedule.

13. Pay the myriad other fees associated with transportation. ($1570)
These were all calculated and paid to the pet transport company ahead of time. Customs/USDA ($450), Cargo on Air New Zealand - varies by pet weight and kennel size ($670), and Pet transport company handling fee ($450).

14. After 10 days of quarantine, pick up your cat and pay for the remainder of the quarantine fees. ($700 [$825 NZ])
Since I didn't have a certain type of work visa, the NZ authorities charged a 15% customs tax on my cat!!

Total cost in US dollars to transport my cat from the US to NZ: over $3,700.

Fortunately, my cat made it safe and sound to New Zealand, although I am having to spend even more money on boarding him at a cattery while I look for pet-friendly housing. If you have any questions about the process, feel free to contact me.