Friday, April 25, 2008

Traveling in Cars with Girls

Nina and Sara have been mixing Enid Blyton with JK Rowling over the trip (with an assortment of other good books that we find along the way - Nina is currently reading Maori legends - thanks Ian!). They are reading Famous Five and Secret Seven from Blyton - she still manages to win young readers all this time later. And it does have some entertaining results:

As we march them up yet another bleedin' hill somewhere, just to see what it looks like from the top, they can imagine themselves on Kirrin Island, dealing with some combination of smugglers or spies.

The discovery of Ginger Beer first in print and then in reality (Bundaberg Ginger Beer is readily available all over Queensland) was a big hit. They loved the idea of being able to taste what fuelled the adventures of Julian, Dick, Anne, George - and presumably Timmy the Dog. Unfortunately the novelty couldn't mask the sad fact that they just didn't like the taste so much. Another few months on 'Kirrin Island' should sort that out.

Sara has always had very clear speech - at least we have always been able to clearly make out her words even if, when assembled, they don't always make a lot of sense. Now in addition to precise diction, under the influence of the Famous Five she regularly talks about things being 'quite astonishing' or 'rather exciting'. This sounds odd from a 7-year-old with an Italian mother and an Irish accent.

We've clocked up 1600 km in the last week - it'll be 2000km when we return to Christchurch tomorrow. That's a lot of time for two young girls to stay in a car, so I'll explain how they manage to keep sane. The basic tools of the trade are books and Nintendos DSs. The latter can be overdone (Nina has been seen in the back with a fleece over her head to prevent reflections on her screen - while we drive past some of the most spectacular scenery NZ has to offer), but thankfully batteries tend to wear out so they are forced into a bit of variety. Every now and then we have to intervene and get the girls to engage with their surroundings. No magic going on here - just the usual combination of cajoling and bossing, trying to help them make something personal out of what they are seeing. Nina, for example, loves to get her hands on the camera. Thank goodness for digital photography - she can snap away as much as she wants (ish) and often sees things that we miss.

All of this requires regular stops of course, and that's an important factor. Except for rare occasions when we really have to make point B by a specific time, we take most photo opportunities that present themselves. And here, there is one around each corner. We also use a technique that has been known for a generation in one family (as it is now in ours) as an 'Irene's Safari' (thanks Ludi!). More often than not we take at least one packed lunch - or the ingredients thereof - in the car with us. The weather here has been very kind, and we've had more than one lunch out of the boot of the car. Somehow it's just more fun (and saves a lot of money over even a short amount of time) than stopping in one cafe after another.

When all else fails - and only when all else fails - we resort to singing. Sara specializes in tear-jerkers from Annie the Musical. Nina gives vent to her attitude by belting out Skaterboy by Avril Lavigne. I join in both, in an exaggerated operatic voice. But only in order to bring proceedings to a close. Works every time.

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