Kia Ora!  For our vacation this year, we visited Matt’s mom and her Kiwi dh in New Zealand for Christmas.  They live on a farm of about 10 acres and grow avocados, some oranges, some lemons, and some apples, along within smattering of some other local fruit.  Their main business is a bed and breakfast, so we end up with very nice accommodations :).  Trouble is, they’re selling it, so if and when we visit next, we won’t have gorgeous views of the Tasman Sea, playing on the beach or their grounds . . . sigh.

Anyway, those crazy Kiwis, they do more weird things than just drive on the wrong side of the road and talk funny.  Their cars are different, their road signs are (dare I say?) logical, and child passenger safety laws are abysmal.

First, we had to get there.  A word to the wise for those of you taking a long haul flight: get up and walk.  I did, I did, I assure you.  I even did some of those whaddayacallem—leg dips—to keep the blood flowing, but my feet and legs still swelled to elephantine proportions.  But it was hard to get up and move around given the lovely service we had on Air New Zealand, where they look after your every need and make sure that your dinner tray sits in front of you beginning at midnight, then continuing through dessert, wine, coffee, tea, water, OMG just take the freaking tray already!  LOL!

We sampled the local cuisine; everything from our favorite Toffee Pops (we existed on these when we visited back in ’95 and there was very little American food available) to lamb (shudder, but we weren’t in a position to decline) to cheese Gromit! to Toffee Pops to McDonalds to Toffee Pops . . . you get the idea.  We came home with 18 packages of Toffee Pops–BUT!  We gave away at least 5 of those packages, lol.  I’m, uh, still working off that weight gain.

My mil planned a road trip for us to Lake Taupo and the surrounding area (it’s NZ’s equivalent to Lake Tahoe but with Yellowstone features—and geothermal smells—to go with it.  They rented a ’96 Toyota jellybean for us all to travel in and we didn’t realize what it was called until we checked into the hotel (our rent-a-wreck didn’t have a nameplate).  You see, they import their cars directly from Japan and most of them are named differently than they are here in the US even though they may look similar.  So our “Previa” was actually called an “Emina.”  That’s what my ds called an enema once when he overheard dh and I talking, ROFL!  It really was difficult to ride in our Enema after we knew what it was really called without completely cracking up each time.

As we drove through the gorgeous, wet countryside (it rained from the day we got there to the day we left), we found that New Zealand has a really neat safety campaign of signs along the roadside.  The signs were smaller than a standard billboard, but bright and perched right alongside the road.  Many focused on driver fatigue and drinking and driving, but we saw one about buckling up children.  I wish I had been able to take pictures, but alas, there aren’t shoulders on the 2-lane highways and we were whizzing past at 100 kph.  I did find this blog that has pictures of some signs so you can get the gist of them.  Probably the one sign that had me thinking for a minute was the “Merge Like a Zip” sign.  The one we saw outside of Lake Taupo didn’t have a graphic on it and it took me a minute for me to form the graphic in my head and have the proverbial lightbulb go off.  Ahhhh!  Crazy Kiwis and their signs.  Oh, and yes, we did have to pause our drive a couple of times for cattle or sheep :D.

Speaking of signs, they had very few driver signs in the scheme of things.  Here in the US, there’s a sign for everything.  No wonder we have such bad drivers who ignore them.  Speed limit signs there are easy to spot because they’re a simple red circle.  The red is easy to find.  I noticed there were also relatively few STOP signs.  Not that they don’t stop or have intersections; no, they “Give Way” in New Zealand.  What a concept!  No stop signs to run—just look for cars and go if there aren’t any.  It’s what many do here anyway, even if there are stop signs, so why don’t we just convert over?  It’s much  more logical.  Forget YIELD since most people don’t know how to spell “yield” nor do they know the meaning.  “Give way” is easy and understandable.  There.  I’ve declared it.  Let’s do it!

I did make dh take a few moments of our vacation to look at carseats.  Sorry, folks, it *was* mostly just looking.  We always seemed to stop right when it was lunchtime and I didn’t feel like messing around too much with the seats.  Besides, the saleswomen kept looking sideways at the crazy American who kept taking pictures of carseats.  There were 3 seats that caught my eye: the first was an infant seat with a foot prop.  The second two were highback booster seats.  Can you guess which ones and why they caught my eye?

As any good instructor would, I did spend some money on aftermarket, ahem, non-regulated, products.  Two are locking clips: an Exactus plastic barette-style and a Britax/Safe-n-Sound cupped metal H-style that’s shaped slightly differently than ours here in the US.  I also bought the Autosafe Seat Belt Height Adjuster.  We had a discussion about it on the forums about a year ago and when I saw it in the store, I grabbed it. 

The Exactus plastic locking clip is a winner after I tested it—kind of.  It definitely held the seatbelt tight and was easy to use.  A winner for parents!  But it left a sizable dent on my seatbelt after being on it for about 30 seconds!  The Britax cupped metal locking clip is a FAIL.  It slid along the seatbelt and didn’t hold the belt tight.  And at $7.99 (NZD) for each, I’d rather buy the locking clip that works!  The Seat Belt Height Adjuster is a $29.99 shoulder belt adjuster that attaches to the vehicle seat instead of a backless booster.  That’s it . . . and it costs more than a backless booster (at least here in the US).

The laws for Kiwi littles are rather lax.  Children under age 5 must be in an approved child restraint.  Kids between 5-7 must use a restraint if available.  If not available, they must use a seatbelt (oops, sorry kid, I forgot your carseat today!).  If a seatbelt isn’t available (there are a lot of older vehicles on the road there, I imagine, because cars are so expensive), they must ride in the back seat.  As if that’ll keep ‘em alive.  Kids between 8-14 must use seatbelts or ride in the back seat if seatbelts aren’t available.  Anyone over age 14 must wear seatbelts where they are available.  So, for a country about the size of Colorado, it has laws as weak as one of our larger states, Arizona.

While we had a great—albeit rainy—vacation, I knew I couldn’t come back home and not have a report about CPS life Down Under.  The last time we visited 2 years ago, I didn’t pay much attention, so I’m glad I looked this time.  And so, while we say goodbye to New Zealand, I’d like to leave you with a picture of my favorite sign.  I know you’ll enjoy it too :).

P.S. It does have a sister, which we affectionately nicknamed “The Uniboob.”