The Sarita Family: Love & Cherries/Christmas & New Years

4 Feb

18 December 2012

As Sascha and I entered the doors of the pack house, still partially asleep, our eyes lit up with excitement for our new adventure, and mostly confusion. Duncan greeted us and introduced us to an older man, named Paul, or as Sascha and I would later name him, Opa. There was a German couple next to us who had been there before us and had already started filling out paperwork. Paul asked Sascha and I for our passports and work visas, and headed into another room to make photocopies of them. It was virtually windowless in this building, and the florescent lighting was nearly blinding. I felt like a kindergartener on my first day of school. Everything was new, confusing, but exciting.

After our paperwork was complete, we walked back to the cars so that I could change into proper work clothing. We met our supervisors in the back of the pack house, where they would give us a lecture on what to do and what not to do. They attempted to instill the fear of getting fired if we picked too slow or did not follow the rules properly. Some of the supervisors were really cool, and some were uptight jerk-wads. I laughed, because it was not so serious to me. I was simply there for the adventure, the learning experience, to make some extra money, and to hang out with Sascha. Life was good.

Sascha and I would be partners on the job, we would work on each tree together, one man on each side. We would begin with our latters from the top of the tree and work our way to the bottom, so that we do not have a full bucket strapped to us at the top of the latter. The buckets would hold 5kgs of cherries when full. Because it was the beginning of the season, not all of the fruit was ripe. This created a bit of a challenge because we had to fill our quota, but we could not pick 100% of the cherries on the trees. If our buckets were full of rubbish, they didn’t count. Luckily Sascha and I were blessed with the nicest supervisor, Allen. Allen didn’t care much about anything. He enforced the rules to an extent, but was mostly laid back.

Later that night Sascha and I had a few beers to celebrate our first day of work. I was entirely full of bruises, bleeding in some places, and my nails were filthy from picking. Of course, Sascha didn’t have a scratch on him because he isn’t a clumsy mess-child like I am.

We finished our cocktails and built up my tent. It would be our new home for the next two months. Luckily Sascha had a blow up bed, and it fit perfectly (and by perfectly I mean barely) inside our new house. It was beautiful, and I was happy.


Our home (= Sarita Orchard, Cromwell Central Otago

The first few days were quite stressful because we couldn’t pick very much very fast. We were still learning. On the morning of the third day I was singled out, as were some others, from the group of pickers because we picked too slow. (I had one bucket less than Sascha the previous day-I think that this particular supervisor just hated women, and life in general). We were warned that if we didn’t pick up the pace, we would be fired. I picked like a ninja on this day, in fear of losing my job and missing out on a great opportunity to earn some much needed cash.


A typical evening on the orchard

By the next day, Sascha and I were getting the swing of things, and picking more than our quota. It was still quite stressful and labor intensive, and I was still bruised and bleeding at least once a day, but it was good. I spent most of the time laughing in the trees until I cried, joking and conversing with Sascha. In fact, I laughed so much and so often, that most of the people knew me as the “Happy worker” or the “laughing girl”. If ever there was a day that I was tired, hung-over, or something wasn’t quite right, and I was not laughing, many people would stop me later in the day and ask if everything was okay because they hadn’t heard my laugh all morning. Many people said that they enjoyed my loud laugh, because it changed the energy in the air from a redundant and boring job to a happy environment. One time in particular when I was laughing at some random thing that Sascha had said, Phil, another supervisor walked by and said, “Hey! Stop laughing so much! We can’t have people knowing that we have happy workers here!” He was obviously kidding, and it made me laugh even more.

Most of the time it was just random little things that would start my laughing spree, such as a minor misunderstanding between Sascha and I. My German was far from perfect, and his English was about the same as my German, and in addition to this he spoke German with an Austrian accent which was not entirely familiar to me. This made things far more interesting and exciting though! Most of the memories that make me laugh the most are stored in my heart, and very special to me, so I will not share them all in my stories. Most likely they wouldn’t be funny to anyone who hadn’t experienced the moment anyhow. (=


Space Ship clouds in Cromwell

After the first few days of work there was no more to pick and the Christmas and Boxing Day holidays were coming up. Because of this, we had four days off in a row! Sascha and I decided to head to Queenstown. I had never been there before but he had, so I was excited to see all of the things that he would show me. Also, we were still getting to know one another, so this would be a nice little retreat from the stressful work environment.


My favorite park in Queenstown

We arrived in Queenstown, and booked a couple of days in the Alpine Lodge Backpacker Hostel, where Sascha had previously stayed. We put some beers in Sascha’s backpack and headed to the park, next to the beautiful lake to sit and enjoy the sunshine in peace (and with beer-because in Queenstown it’s okay!).

We sat in the sun and had a few beers for some hours, then headed in town to the famous “Fergburger” in Queenstown. We ordered our massive burgers and chips with epic aioli sauce and enjoyed them in the park with the ducks. It was the greatest burger I have ever eaten. I was, in that moment, a Fergburger junkie. I also noticed how friendly the heaps of ducks were on this lake. Because I had ducks that ate from my hands in Cambrian, I was used to this, and quite excited about it! I bought some bread and soaked it, and they ate right out of my hands. I was overwhelmed with love. I LOVE animals!


Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown NZ

Later on that evening we enjoyed a comedy magic show by a street performer, and then the absolute most amazing piano player I have ever heard. Apparently this man wheels his piano out to the beach every evening and plays beautiful music on the lake. He looked like your average barefoot, dreadlocked hippie, and played epic piano music. It was a beautiful way to end the evening. We wandered back to our hostel and had a few more cocktails, chatted with an incredibly nice French man, and headed to bed. We were excited to sleep in a proper bed as well, so this was quite nice for us.


The Piano Man, Queenstown

[Because I haven’t blogged in sometime, my days are a bit jumbled. I believe Sascha and I may have spent two days in Queenstown before our Xmas holiday, but I have chosen to write about the holidays to shorten my stories a bit. Also, Queenstown is always the same, like Groundhog Day, so I am not forgetting any details, other than some emotional changes and bonding-but that can be assumed.]

In Austria, Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Eve, and gifts are exchanged at midnight. Sascha and I celebrated our Christmas on the Eve as well. It was a beautiful, hot, sunny day outside. We hung out around the beach, enjoyed some Fergburgers, and good beer (for a change) and mostly enjoyed the fact that we were getting a tan on Christmas in the middle of summer.

As the evening crept up on us, we made our way to the beach, where the absolute most incredible, beautiful, and special sunset was occurring. In that moment nothing on Earth mattered. I was entirely in the moment, my soul exploding with love for everything that was happening. I watched the sunset. It was the most special sunset in the world, and I will never forget that moment on Christmas Eve. It was that moment when it was clear that I was in love with life and happy with this beautiful friendship that had developed. Although I knew it was not “it”, and that he was not “the one”, I knew there was a reason or season for this friendship, and I welcomed it with love. Therefore, when i refer to “Love” in this context, I mean a beautiful friendship, rather than romantic love. This was in fact, a non-sexual relationship. This was different. There was a certain level of maturity, respect, adventure, friendship, and humble energy attached to this love. I will never forget this moment. It’s saved in my heart forever.


Epic Christmas Eve Sunset with Sascha-Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu


Epic Xmas Eve Sunset II: Queenstown

After the incredible sunset full of love and epic changes in the universe, we sat down in the grass and waited for the piano man, and enjoyed some beers. We enjoyed his beautiful music, as well as some Christmas music from some friends of his, and then headed to our favorite pub for a $10 liter of beer as a nightcap.

At some random point in the evening, Sascha and I went to the smoke room to share a cigarette. We sat together and talked about what a beautiful and unusual Christmas it had been, and then he stopped and just looked at me. “Kiss me.” he said, with an honest and genuine heart. Afterwards he joked and asked me if I bought him a present for Xmas. I laughed and responded, “No, was I supposed to? Whoops!” and Sascha said, “No, it’s okay. We have each other. That’s all we need.” I know that he was quite intoxicated at this point,  but it was still quite sweet. Sascha is a genuine man. He is like me in the sense that we do not express emotions that are not completely genuine. So, this was very special to me. I will never forget this moment. Even if he was drunk speaking, I do believe the old saying: A drunken mind speaks a sober heart. We finished our cocktails and walked back to the hostel. There were fireworks along the way as well. Because the hostel bed was only a very small bed, I asked Sascha if he wanted me to sleep in the other bed, even though I didn’t want to. He answered and said no, and that he didn’t think he could sleep without me. Again, this was the end of the night and I know that he would not remember it, but I still thought it was beautiful. We curled up and went to sleep, and my heart was full of smiles.

The next day was our Christmas. Apparently everything is closed on Xmas in New Zealand, so we purchased some things for a BBQ the night before, and the hostel had hosted a BBQ for everyone. Sascha grilled some chicken and made some rice for us, and then we all got together and played some bean bags with the hostel staff. We teamed up with a really sweet German couple, and shared some laughs and beers. It was a mellow but wonderful day.


Christmas in Summer

In between were days of work, laughter, cherries, hot sunshine, daily trips to New World (the local supermarket in Cromwell), lots of beer, wine, more laughter, beautiful friendships with people from all over the world, and love. Sascha and I also decided to move. We left the tent and moved into the back of his van, where it would be a bit warmer at night. Also, all of the orchards have “shooters” to shoot birds (yeah, disgusting, I know), so from 5:30am until 5:30pm there were loud shotgun shots. It’s basically like a war. In the van it was a bit quieter, so that was another plus. We kept the tent next to the van as our closet, and slept peacefully in our new home.

Our next adventure was over New Years. We decided to stay at a holiday park because there were no accommodations anywhere, and most places make you book for a week in order to stay over New Years. Sleeping in the van at a holiday park was no big deal for us, we were used to it. Sascha also had a friend, Simon who would be in Queenstown during this time. I always enjoy meeting Sascha’s friends, because then I could practice my German.

We arrived at the holiday park in QT late morning, parked our house in our spot, and enjoyed a New Years Eve beer together. After sometime, Sascha had a headache, so we took a wee nap until the afternoon. Shortly after we awoke from our slumber, Simon had arrived.


New Year’s Eve: Hobo Style/Simon’s tent

Simon was a 19 year old from Frankfurt, Germany. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that he was quite mature for his age. He was a good kid. He was funny, strong-willed, and bright. Also, I could understand his German. Thank God!

Since he didn’t have much money (like every traveler), we let him pitch his tent next to our van. He was quite happy to join us for two days, and have a proper shower. We had some mimosas and beers in the beautiful sunshine until it began to rain. We hung out inside Simon’s tent, but that didn’t last too long, because unfortunately his tent was not waterproof. We headed to town to find a pub to do the countdown. In the meantime, poor Simon’s tent was drenched. We went to our usual pub for the $10 liters of beer, sank one down and counted down the New Year. Not to undermine the epic New Year’s Eve in Korea-Anna! xoxo)

Because Sascha and I are old, we headed back to the holiday park, in the pouring rain, to go to sleep. Simon stayed at the pub, in hopes to drink away his cares of sleeping in a cold and wet tent all night.

The next day was also extremely rainy. It was a total bummer, since everything we wanted to do was outside. We hung out in the kitchen, cooked, and chilled out. I was lucky to call my mother and talk to the whole family, as well as count down their New Year with them, so this made my whole night.


This is how Sascha & I entertain ourselves while we wait for Fish n’ Chips (=
(We grow older, but we never grow up!) 😉

The next morning we packed our things. Simon wanted to find a place to work or wwoof, so I gave him some contacts. Within one hour, Anni had called him. This was the lady that Sascha and I were going to wwoof for in Hawea Flat before we got the job at Sarita. As Sascha and I headed back to Cromwell, Simon set out to hitchhike to Hawea.


This is Ollie. He lives at Sarita, and I LOVE him (=

The following weeks were a bit of a blur, and quite redundant. I don’t mean this in a negative context, it was simply the same all the time. We would wake up at 5:45, work between 9 hours or so with breaks and smokos (smoko is a New Zealand term for a ten minute break, it refers to a smoke break as well), sit in the hot sun, go to New World, cook something epic, have some cocktails with all of our friends we have made on the orchard (which were more like a family!), laugh a lot, and go to bed. In between these things a few things began to occur. My hair started to dread itself, since it is naturally curly. I would only wash it and not brush it-because there was no point, and it just happened one day. I had wanted to dread it up anyway, so this made me get off my lazy bum and do it, otherwise I would have massive clumps of knots underneath my hair. I started the process at Sarita.


This is Henry. My supervisor, Allen, picked him for me. I gave him a name and kept him….until he decomposed that is…

I had heaps of extra time to do things at Sarita, because we would always finish work at 15:30 because the sun would become too hot to work in, and the sun wouldn’t set until 23:00, so the days were quite long. Too much time is never a bad thing, especially when life is so short! I figured I would utilize this time to nourish my creative soul and make some of the homemade things I had been wanting to. I made some shampoos with all of the lavender growing everywhere, researched many things, as well as making beer! Some of the items, like the 20 liter poly pail were a wee bit expensive (like $20), but it was okay, I would get more than my money’s worth out of it. To make beer from a kit, it was $13.50, which makes 20 liters. To buy one box of 24 beers in NZ, it costs an average of $40. It’s impossible to afford beer in this country, plus, making beer is fun! It tastes that much better anyway! My first batch was bottled and labeled, and would not be ready to drink until the 25th of January, which happened to be Sascha’s birthday. I began a second batch in my bucket.


Sascha wearing my sunglasses (= This is what we did all day, everyday. (=

Speaking of Sascha’s birthday, as time went by I knew that he and I would have to part ways soon. He had some friends coming to visit him from Austria on the 23rd of January. They would make a five week road trip of both islands, and do all of the things that I would also do when my friend, Achim comes to visit me on the 5th of Feb. Therefore, it made sense to part ways on the 22nd, and I would continue my journey wwoofing on the East Coast and waiting for Achim near Christchurch. It didn’t sit well in my heart, but I always have to stay open and look at the bigger picture. Timing is everything, and I trust the universe, even if I have a broken heart.

I don’t know the date of this particular scorching hot summer day, but it was a profound day. Sascha and I had enough of the bullshit from work. They were screwing us with bad trees and making us pick only the half because we were too fast and they wanted to make money as well (the more you pick, the more you get paid), and this day in particular was the worst. It was hot, and the trees were rubbish. Sascha and I joked around most of the day, because we knew it was impossible to pick quota. It was so hot that at one point I looked over at Sascha and he was picking with the bucket strapped to him but no shirt. I laughed until I cried because we had always joked about the weather in NZ, that in the morning it is freezing and we have 7 layers on, but by 10am we are nearly naked under the trees, but with our buckets and shoes on.

The day ended early because there was nothing more to pick. We were relieved, yet frustrated. We sat down and sorted out our frustrations. We decided we were through. The season was almost finished, and I had exactly the feeling I always have when something is no longer meant to be, and something greater awaits us. We decided to see if Anni wanted help, and then we could join Simon in his endeavor. All it took was a ten minute phone call and we were set. We would leave Sarita, and all of our wonderful friends in the morning. I immediately let our supervisor know. Everyone was surprisingly sad to hear that we were leaving. Other people had left as well, but no one ever made a big deal about it. It was very sweet and quite flattering.


Packing up our lives and houses and heading to Wanaka. #AdventureStatus!

In order to quit properly, one must give a four hour notice or he loses 8 hours of pay (it’s in the contract). What that meant to us was, we had to give our official notice first thing in the morning, and work four hours before heading out. This was no problem for us.


Matt’s truck, last day at Sarita/Sascha & me (=

The last morning was basically a joke. Sascha and I had a lot of fun because it wasn’t a serious workday. The amount of cherries we would pick was irrelevant. We ate cherries, laughed, and laughed some more until our time was up. Our other supervisor, Matt, gave us a ride in the back of his truck to the camping area to pack our things.



Matt’s truck, last day at Sarita




He hadn’t expressed much emotion, but even he was sad to see us go, and gave me a hug and shook Sascha’s hand. It was so bitter sweet. There were two wonderful German couples we had become acquainted with, two great Malaysian guys that we shared so many laughs with, a Kiwi hippie, and dozens of really nice Chinese people. They were like a family. We were excited to go wwoofing and have a proper room/bed/etc, but sad to say goodbye to our Sarita family.


Our last cruise through the orchard. Bitter sweet & beautiful.

We packed our things and headed to Hawea Flat-the very place we first met.


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