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Monday, June 1st, 2009

by the principle housekeeper
Bingen am Rhein, Germany

We’ve got into a housekeeping groove…every morning the beds are put away, nappy washed, breakfast warmed up (we turn the heat on the porridge the night before and leave it wrapped in a blanket all night to keep cooking and in doing so use less gas, but it still needs a quick blast in the morning), shoe boxes are placed outside the van, water bottles filled….after breakfast, dishes are done, bathroom wiped down and floor swept. Cooking and handwashing-the-clothes-and-hanging-them-up-on-a-clotheshorse-or-in-the-bathrooms happen whenever we can fit them in (depends whether we are static for the day or having a travelling day).

And that’s it. Much easier than living in a house 😉

Although in a house you don’t need to empty the toilet (a job, which tomorrow morning will have to be performed before breakfast, because a little person will fill it up so much it overflows – eeeeew) and in a house you don’t empty grey water or need to collect up fresh water – unless, you live in Mongolia, I suppose.

House or van, we need to shop. Grandpa goes chocolate hunting most days, but now that we are stocked up (not on chocolate – just on essentials), we have a weekly shopping expedition on Mondays, and pick up bread, meat, fruit and veg as needed.
Being Monday today, Rob and Jgirl14 headed off on the bikes with a shopping list, but returned too quickly. Everything was dead, “Vung Tau quiet” they said. Obviously a public holiday. We keep running into these nuisances and so I added to my internet housekeeping list “find and save European public holidays”. At this campground we are fortunate to have internet at a not-too-exorbitant cost, and so we will make the most of it over the next few days, researching onward Stellplatz options, sorting out details for the first leg in the UK (in addition to checking out campgrounds that will all be too pricey, we’ll contact couchsurfers, who will come to the rescue and find a handful of free parks too). We’ll also be so taken with the Dutch camping options that we’ll decide to leave London for the end of the GREAT Britain Adventure, and stay on in these parts for an extra week now. We’ll research ferry options (travelling from Belgium is less than half the cost of travelling from Holland so we’ll add a 15-euros-worth-of-diesel-day’s travelling to our itinerary in order to save 200 euros on ferry fees – that’s two weeks of food, y’know).
Speaking of money, we have a nightly routine too. Obviously we have to make up the beds and dance around each other trying to wash and brush teeth and use the toilet (that’s the time the van feels small, especially when the ladder up to the bed is down) and once the smaller children are lying down, big ones hang out with Grandpa and Dadda in the Glowworm Grotto – not that any of that has anything to do with money. There’s not a huge amount of time between children going to bed and us going to bed, and so we can’t get much done – Rob updates the daily finances (while I put the porridge on and water the garden), then I whack out a blogpost and we contemplate details for the next day’s route.

*tomorrow the shops will be open*

market rates

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

by the main shopper
Berlin, Germany

A far cry from the watch-where-you-step wet markets and touristy colourful night markets of Asia, are the markets of Berlin.

We sampled our second today, will be returning to the first again tomorrow, yet another on Monday and even more by the time we leave, as well as a far less interesting supermarket, where we will be unable to buy cinnamon or cumin, brown rice or buckwheat, peanut butter or baked beans (yes, we were looking for an emergency stash of tinned beans). But we found quark and bottled cherries – a delicious reminder to buy what is available locally (even if not in season <wink>)

Speaking of local….and fresh….let me take you to one of the Turkish Markets. We’ll need to take a tram to the end of the line and then switch to the U-bahn (underground train), which we’ll ride for another twenty minutes or so.
When we emerge from the station we’ll be greeted by cries of, “Lecker lecker lecker” and a frantic hustle as stall-holders try to make last tasty tasty tasty sales of the day. In an hour the market will be all packed away for another week. I spy a row of rounded mounds hunched around a table. Each of the humps covered in Arab-inspired dress, complete with flowing headscarves, is reaching out for a red plastic bag given in exchange for their “ein euro”. I figure if ten Turkish ladies think this is a bargain I’ll be in too, and I hand over my ein euro. So I find myself with a big bursting bag of cucumbers for NZ$2.50. I *could* stuff more in, but it already feels like bargain enough. I pay no more for any of our other purchases – two boxes of grapes (yes, that’s 50 cents a box), a large tray of crunchy sweet red peppers, a tray of cherry tomatoes, a couple of dozen zucchini, half as many eggplants and a fresh ginger root.
We congregate back at the meeting point – you see, we’d gone with others from the house where we’re staying and they all make similar purchases to us. While we wait for the last stragglers to join us, desperate-not-to-waste-anything-vendors start dumping free produce on our pile – 30kg of potatoes, bunches of spring onions, more red peppers, a tray of mangoes, cabbages, lettuces, a box full of mint. In the end we have to refuse, and start giving away excess to passersby. We also have to rationalise, cutting off rotten bits there on the street, sorting out the bad from the good, so that we can manage to stagger home with the haul.

Different again are the flea markets and there are plenty of them across town. Kiwi Readers, take note. These are not the grotty markets that focus more on the flea part of their name like in NZ. These ones have crafty stalls full of refashioned clothing, homemade organic jams, handmade wooden toys, freshly squeezed orange juice, clothing imported from the markets of Asia (we know – we saw it there!), secondhand bicycles, antiques….and hundreds of garage sale type stalls with pre-loved items. OK so these stalls were a bit FLEA-market-ish, but it’s here that we found our treasures. A carved wooden chopping board, the best bread knife we’ve ever used with a lovely wooden handle, a bundle of four glasses with a cow pattern, a white handled ladle with blue flowers adorning it – each of these for fifty euro cents. In the big spending category (that would be the handsome sum of six euros each) we found a cast iron wok-cum-pot with wooden handles and a stand so you can light a fire under it if you want to, as well as the biggest pot you ever set your eyes on (unless you remember these ones from Kampot).  It has a super-super thick base and would be ideal for stewing twenty kilos of apples or making commercial batches of chutney. I know our family is big, but it’s not *that* big, which means this pot is actually too big for everyday use (you shoulda seen Rob’s face when I came home with it!!), BUT it was such a bargain, I entertained visions of taking it back to NZ with me, and practically speaking, it was the only pot that even approached “big enough for us”. So I carried it home on my head, Cambodian-style. We have used – and I suspect we will use – it every day so far.

Another permanent flea market, a tidily arranged (but full of junk) place, provided us with a few more luxuries – a big woollen blanket for picnics and for keeping our cooking pot hot, a spanner, pliers, a wicker basket, a pepper grinder, a no-longer-loved naked doll and an embroidered tablecloth for Jgirl14 to turn into a dolly dress and blanket for her baby sister’s birthday.
This market even had a camping toilet…and it just so happens that we are in the market for one…..especially one that only costs 20 euros, but based on my highly non-specific dimension recall (“It’s about *this* big,” said whilst waving hands indiscriminately around) consensus was that it would not be big enough. Too bad.

It’s not that I’m against buying new per se, it’s just that I like to reuse if at all possible. Or support little old ladies who crochet dischcloths. And we’ve been able to, with great satisfaction.
Now I just have to decide whether to try to bring home the big amazing pot or the long-dreamed-for-cast-iron. <wink>

One Big Wall (and not the great one)

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009
by Superwoman Xi’an, China As well as being the most complete city wall that has survived in China, Xi’an’s wall is one of the largest ancient military defensive systems in the world. And today after one cold false start we set ... [Continue reading this entry]

* vibrant * pulsating * electric *

Monday, March 16th, 2009
By Speedygonzales from Hong Kong to China on overnight train, heading north “Vibrant, pulsating and electric.” So said a family member of Hong Kong. Weaving through the evening crowd to the Night Market last night, it was all of the above. Fairy ... [Continue reading this entry]

travelling in the twenty-first century

Thursday, February 26th, 2009
by a tired Mama Yangshuo to Guangzhou, China Take a red plastic bag that's hanging beside the door to put your shoes in before you creep along to the end where you are going to spend the rest of the night. ... [Continue reading this entry]


Sunday, February 22nd, 2009
by the lady, who has known the birthday boy for over half his life so far Yangshuo, China


Not many men would be satisfied with a pair of handmade socks and a made-in-China t-shirt with ... [Continue reading this entry]

Cambodia Quiz

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009
by one who can't help but teach Phnom Penh, Cambodia You want to buy bread rolls. You look for:


Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007
We went to the doctor today to find out what vaccinations we need! "What don't we need?" is more like it!! But that's not what this post is about. On the way home the children were chanting in turn one - two - ... [Continue reading this entry]

not that we’re counting

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007
Yesterday's little number crunching exercise made me think I could have linked to the *not that we're counting* page....but I didn't, so now we need more numbers. Did you know you will sometimes find us on the Boots-n-all blog page? ... [Continue reading this entry]


Monday, September 3rd, 2007
Just doing a little blog spring clean (virtual spring cleaning is so much more interesting than the bucket-of-water-and-old-rag-real-life sort!) I've discovered I cannot put categories on the pages listed in my sidebar. Well, actually you CAN put them on, but they ... [Continue reading this entry]