Do you like apples? I have never been a big fan of this fruit, nor my husband was. Occasionally we bought some apples just for the simple act of “doing a good thing for our health”, you know.
But it would never occurred to me, that we haven’t even had idea what a real good apple might taste like…until we started to work on the apple orchard.
But let’s go on the very beginning.
How we actually got this job?
We’ve been driving across the Hawke’s bay visiting apple orchards, asking for work. We pulled it on the left where we’ve seen sign for apple orchard. We drove inside but boss hasn’t been there, it was too late probably. On the way out we noticed a small house or bungalow near the road. I got out of the car and went to knock on the door, maybe the one who’s living here might work here or knows the owner of the orchard. I knocked on the glass doors covered with curtain,.. maybe no one is home….
More Kiwis we met, more we started to realize they really are different
Suddenly some man in his 40´ opens the door, staring at me with the obvious curiosity how did I get there. “Hi, we are looking for work, and would like to ask you if you know the owner of this orchard here. We would like to call him and ask about job.” I said. “Oh yeah, Mark, I will give you his number, wait a second.” He disappeared behind the doors, saying: “Sorry, I just came from Australia, this place is a mess right now”. It was a mess indeed, I was wondering how can he walk there, the floor was covered with the things and it was unable to recognize whether it is rubbish or belongings.
A cute cat came to greet me to the door. He came back with the number, “You’ve got great shirt!” he said to me. I wore shirt Punk is not dead, with the British flag on it. “Oh cool, he is one of us”, I was thinking while leaving with the winning number. It was winning number because we got a job when we called there and that man who gave me that number was called Paul. He became our first kiwi friend. But about it later.
First unique work experience
The day it all started was very nice, sunny day of the spring. We drove into the orchard where some guy was smiling at us yet from the distance. When we parked our car he came to introduce himself as our supervisor Matt. Thanks to his friendly welcome we suddenly felt that a load of stress released from us. There were a lot of people, mix of locals and travelers.
After short explanation everyone got a ladder and took one side of the row of apple trees.
We were going to do apple thinning – the whole point of this job was to thin the amount of the apples on the tree, so the apples which are gonna stay on the tree would have enough energy to grow nice and big. Otherwise there would be too many apples and the tree would be too tired to nurture all of them, so in the result apples wouldn’t grown well.
It seemed easy when we looked how experienced thinners did it, but it wasn’t so easy when we started. It was difficult to do all tree from the bottom to the top. There were lots of apples on every brunch and I had to think constantly whether I’m doing it right or wrong. Should I pull it or leave it? Bit confusing from the beginning, but you got it after a while. Time was running fast as we’ve been talking with our supervisor, he’s been helping to us all the time. All together we’ve been changing our cultural knowledges trying to understand as much as we can of each other. We asked him a lot about his life, habits, how they celebrate particular holidays etc.
Funny thing on kiwis is that when you ask them “Where are you from?” they usually say: “I’m from here…I was born behind that hill over there…” pointing finger to the place in the sight distance. Some New Zealanders have barely ever left their home, some of them haven’t been on the other island. It’s too far though…
“Smok-o”….Matt screamed and suddenly we saw all of them to leave work, apparently this word means a break. Wait a minute, are we still in English-speaking country? Well this question is quite often asked here in NZ. Believe or not, sometimes you’ve got absolutely no chance to understand what they are talking about, not even if you are American or British.
We spread blanket on the grass, sit and pull out our packed lunch. It was midday, the sun was high, very strong but pleasant warming feeling from it. As we’ve been enjoying our lunch a bunch of beautiful peacocks were approaching us. With the distinctive moves of their long necks and sparkling colorful feathers, cautiously coming closer and closer to us. Who would resist?
Of course we shared our lunch with these beautiful yet strange creatures.
Back to work again. Tree behind tree, I started to realize its not so bothering to do this job for a while, but I could never do this as my regular job year by year, as many New Zealanders do.
At the end of the day we stopped roughly in the middle of the row with the help of our supervisor, while our experienced colleagues has finished it all. “Don’t worry, you’ll get it soon.” said Matt trying to calm down our worries.
We went “home” to our small backpacker motel in the Hastings, It wasn’t so bad, actually we quite enjoy it today, who can say it?
However our body felt it differently, mainly from the lifting and climbing up and down on the ladder.
Next days were the same as the first one, except we’ve been getting faster and faster. Some days have been too long, boring, monotonous. I can imagine that I would have gone mad if I wouldn’t allowed to listen my music during work. It is not because the work itself is bad or hard, but mostly because you are doing the same one monotonous thing all the time.
Brighter side of this work has been breaks or so-called “smok-o’s”, when we could meet new people and improve our English skills a bit. We acquainted with the french couple, who also came to travel to New Zealand as we did. We became friends and started to share our lunch together.
After about 2-3 weeks we started to be quite fast, but still not so fast as 60yo kiwi man who has been doing almost twice fast as we did, but he’s been smoking cigarettes during it. 😀 Wow, he’s probably doing it lots of years.
Everything went well except that we paid a horrible amount for the accommodation at the backpacker hostel where we stayed. The reason was that we wanted some privacy and didn’t want to live in a dorm with 8 other people. So we paid 250 NZD per week for the room just for two of us, however with the glass (!) doors. We tried to cover the doors with blanket but it didn’t stop the noise which was coming from the room next to us, where some male pigs has been snoring, talking or yelling till late every night. So just for the record – ear plugs is one of the next must-haves in your backpack during travels.
We left backpacker and asked our boss if we can stay and sleep directly on the orchard. “Yeah, sure, just ask Paul for the shower.” …and that was it. Since then we’ve been living in our Van on the apple orchard.
Can be something more crazy than this?
A dinner with right company…?
And so it went, working hard 6 days a week, 10 hours a day (sometimes more), challenge ourselves day by day, wage has been raising and started to be very good. Sunday, we’ve been killed of though. Barely could get out off a bed and enjoy farmers markets in Hastings.
But didn’t complaint. We’ve got a good job for the month or so, boss was friendly and reliable, supervisor and other stuff as well and our wage was good enough, we’ve been still shocked from the NZ payment conditions in comparison with our country.
Every day after work we went to Paul’s house for a shower and cooked a meal in his kitchen. He didn’t mind, actually it seemed that he is pleased that he’s got some company.
We would be pleased to share our dinner in his house all the time, but unfortunately, once when we’ve been sitting in his lounge, just about to bite a first spoon of our lovely homemade soup, a biggest black cockroach I’ve ever seen in my life has been crawling on the wall behind talking Paul.
You can imagine what happened with that soup afterwards, do you?
And than that funny faces like – we tried to stay calm a pretend we are listening him, while hiding our disgust from the situation..haha
After some time we actually realized that cockroaches are quite common in some areas of North Island, not sure if they are common in homes as well, but in this one they were frequent visitors, I would say almost like “pets”…
This reminds me what I appreciated so much on the South Island – the lack of cockroaches.
And our new friend? We stayed friends, but we decided to enjoy our meals in the comfort of our clean and vermin-free van.
© Independent Couple 2015