I can't remember if it were they or my dad's company who'd found us a place to live, but the family whose house we'd be renting weren't actually moving (they were going to Japan for a year) for another month, so the first month we stayed at a motel that had a separate house for rent as well. It wasn't big - only 4 rooms - but a gloriously large garden to roam around in, a trampoline in the back yard and the city's best ice cream place just cross the street! We got VERY fond of Blue Moon's orange-choc-chip ice cream :)
The first couple of weeks were spent getting settled. We visited the family whose house we'd be renting (friends of the Martises) and the two schools in the neighbourhood. One immediately appealed to us kids because of the huge pool and because the daughters of the Betteridge family went to that school. However, as Mum wisely pointed out to us, that would only be for a month, so it was a bad reason to base our school choice on. After we got to see the other school, we realized she was right. I can't explain it, but this one just had a friendlier atmosphere. One of the teachers took us three oldest girls for a swim in their pool (in NZ every respectable school has a pool apparently ;) ) while Mum and Dad talked to the principal. They were very taken in by him, as he was extremely friendly and open and caring. Michala (who's a bit shy and would rather sit on Mum's lap playing with her dolls than go swimming with the rest of us and an adult she didn't know) accidentally left one of her dolls behind in the principal's office, and we were in the car, just about to leave when he came running out to us, calling out that she'd forgotten her doll. I know it seems like a small thing, but it was just the kind of person he was. Extremely kind and generous with his time and affection. He ended up being Nina's teacher and took very good care of her :)
Anyway, my parents ended up deciding to send us to that school. A wonderful decision and I think it's probably the best school we'd ever been to. That's not to say it wasn't difficult at first - not knowing the language that well it was really only maths I stayed ahead in (thank goodness for maths being an international language!), but when forced to learn a different language, it's amazing how quickly you pick it up.
Random memories from the motel
It'll get too complicated trying to write these chronologically as my memory really isn't that great, but some of our experiences while living in the motel deserves to be written down:
* Right next to the trampoline was a tree wonderful for climbing... wonderful for climbing up anyway. You had to stand on the tramp to get to the lowest branches, but after that it was smooth climbing. One day I climbed almost to the top enjoying the view, but when I was about to climb back down again, I froze. I no longer remember what happened to make me freeze as I've never suffered from vertigo and would climb on just about anything as a kid. I called out to dad that I couldn't get down, and he had to stand underneath the tree and guide me, promising to catch me, should I fall. Of course I didn't, but that was the last time I ever climbed that tree.
* The tramp was lots of fun, and while I never became an expert, like my sisters I'd jump at any available minute. One time I almost jumped myself off the tramp, but caught on to a twig of the aforementioned tree at the last minute. It was enough to give me my balance back, but the twig broke off. I remember feeling absolutely terrible about 'hurting' the tree, after it had just saved my fall. I was a very weird child at times ;-)
* Like I said, my sisters loved the tramp as well. One day Rebekka and Mixi were jumping on it at the same time and Rebekka got too close to Mixi and accidentally bounced her off it. She felt awful about it. I remember Mum and Dad comforting Mixi and making sure she wasn't hurt, and I sat comforting Rebekka because she was crying harder than Mixi. After that Mum and Dad made the rule that only one person was allowed on the tramp at a time.
* The grounds of the motel were right next to a forest. Funnily enough I don't remember us spending too much time in that forest - probably because we only stayed there for a month - but one day Nina and I ventured out there and discovered that the grounds were COVERED with clover. They looked so soft and inviting that we rolled around in them and started talking about how neat it would be to sleep on a bed of clover. This was January and thus summer, so the nights were warm enough, and we soon received permission from our parents to pick clover and make a 'bed' with them in our garden. We got Rebekka and Mixi involved in the picking, and eventually got enough for a nice, soft mattress. However, either due to the excitement of sleeping outside, or simply because it got too hard after awhile, we never actually fell asleep, but moved back inside.
* One day we were playing outside, when suddenly we noticed that all the birds had gone strangely silent. We heard a rumble sounding as if it came from far away, slowly moving towards us, until the entire ground underneath us shook - very weird experience to see the car shake back and forth with nobody touching it. It was over too quickly for us to be scared by it, and Nina (who was running around in the forest, playing tag with Mixi) never even noticed it. I've experienced a few, smaller earthquakes, but this was the only really major one. It measured 6 or 7 on the Richter scale if I recall correctly.
* A less pleasant experience: it turned out that our living room had FLEAS (or something similar). Funnily enough only the living room - the rest of the house was clean - but obviously it was unacceptable, and we got some very itchy bites, so the motel-owners sent us away for the weekend and had exterminators over.