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Our housing contract expired. We moved from a furnished house to an unfurnished house–same neighbourhood, same walking distance to buses and school. Now, living on Hillcrest Ave. in Hillcrest suburb, I’ve thoughts of my own elementary alma mater, Hillcrest Elementary. Our home is three bedrooms, one bath, one gazebo, and a nifty motion-sensor alarm. I have no complaint. (Except those contained in the following several paragraphs.)

Did I mention, unfurnished? Usually NZ rentals don’t include “whiteware”—large appliances. We purchased a working refrigerator, as in, it worked when we purchased it. Now, we adjust the placement of food accordingly. The back of the machine seems much cooler than the front. What we once called the freezer, is now a storage for ice bags purchased every few days. When water leaks from the bottom, time to replace the ice. Ice cream quickly turns into a pink viscous material resembling neither liquid nor solid.

The self-inflicted minimalism is, somewhat, voluntary. Purchasing furniture for only a few months is, well, mental. But the kids love the emptiness. The living room, a wrestling ring for Milo, dancing stage for Sophie, and calisthenics room for Brynja, serves us well. Only Susan sprung for a proper bed. The rest of us settled for mattresses and sleeping bags.

We don’t utter requests like, “Please hand me a sharp knife.” It’s, “Please hand me THE sharp knife.” Our salad spinner is a water pitcher, dinner dishes are washed for dessert, and flimsy empty food containers are hoarded. Accusations fly. “You’re not throwing that away, are you?”

Friends are invited to bring a salad, utensils and a chair. We don’t have many friends, hmm. Suitcases are used as chest of drawers, and sleeping bags become duvets. Milo sometimes just sits, staring at his Skylanders console–imagining the characters coming to life if only connected to a television.

Nonetheless, we have good times. No television or couches mean we sit at the dinner table and play cards.

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