This story is from the first few weeks of our travels around New Zealand, when we were cleaning a hostel in Kerikeri in exchange for our accommodation.
After standing in a wherehouse sorting kiwifruit all day, I was ready to release some energy. James and I, along with a German girl we had just met at the hostel, walked to the park to set up the slackline. I decided to go to the grocery store to buy some vegetables from the reduced bin for dinner. As I walked across the field, I tossed a frisbee to myself. On the way back, I noticed some people playing ultimate frisbee! I was about to ask if I could play when one of the players ran towards me.
"Halo, do you play ultimate frisbee? I saw you with one earlier. Would you like to play?" He asked in a heavy French accent.
"Yeah, I do! I love ultimate!"
A few minutes later, I called James and the German girl over and we started playing seven on seven. I was introduced to Luke, the gray-haired Frenchman who had first approached me, and three of his kids. Guillum was already a great player, especially since he was only 13. Marion, home for the weekend who attends college in Whangerai, had a wicked forehand. Tomas, a handsome sixteen-year-old wearing an earthy orange shirt, was the powerhouse player, always open and skying everyone. Their mother Catherine watched from the sidelines providing water for anyone who needed it.
We had so much fun I asked if they wanted to play again tomorrow. The next day at 5 we met again at the field, this time joined by two Italian boys staying at the hostel.
Again we arranged to meet the following day. Unfortunatly it was raining, and this time James and I couldn't convince anyone in the hostel to come.
We trudged over barefoot in the rain to the field, where the reliable French family had arrived. It looked like the sky might open up at any minute, so instead of getting drenched in the rain (which also probably would have been fun) Luke invited us to visit his farm. We hopped in his manual jeep and the boys raced us on their bikes, their orange florescent vests visibly reflective even in the rain.
We drove about 2k down the main road and turned down a dirt road. Luke stopped at a neighbors house to pick up a huge barrel of rotten tomatoes which he feeds to the pigs.
Luke's family lifestyle is more sustainable than anything I'd ever seen or heard of before. His property is just a strip of land, maybe 2 acres by 8 acres, and in five years he has transformed it into a source of food for his family. The only food they buy at the grocery store is flour, which they use to make their own bread. In addition to their vast gardens and orchard, they have many animals. Their single cow supplies the whole family with milk, cheese, and butter. We met their geese, ducks, chickens, sheep, and we even got to hold a baby goat!
They are a very traditional family, and have very little technology besides electricity - no cell phones or computers. None of the kids have email addresses or facebooks. They mow the lawn with a scythe.
After the tour, James borrowed gumboots and headed with Luke to milk the cow. (He had never milked a cow before, but I remembered doing it as a child on a family trip to Europe). I played ping pong with the boys, who obviously had a lot of practice - I only managed to beat Guillum by a tiny margin after a tiebreaker game, and I had little chance against Tomas. Then I played their dad Luke, and got completely annihilated. Oh well, it was fun!
James returned with a tall glass of fresh raw milk, still warm from the cow. A few minutes later Catherine called us in for dinner - butternut squash soup, homemade bread with rich, delicious butter, and flan for dessert. The food was hearty and filling.
Luke drove us back to town and we thanked him. Maybe we will come back to their farm someday and WOOF - work on the farm in exchange for food and accommodation. That would be fun!
I've never known anyone with this kind of lifestyle. It's comforting to know that there are other ways of living besides the one's that I've grown up seeing. Traveling opens my eyes to new people, new places, new ideas - it is just as educational (if not moreso) than university.
Also, as an amazing coincidence, a few weeks later when we were in Whangerai, we were eating sushi downtown and who is riding her bike by in her flourescant orange vest but Marion! We had a nice visit, she showed us around and we tossed the frisbee.
I hope to come back to New Zealand someday and visit all the friends we made, like the Bourdins, and see how they are doing.