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This was not a great year for the Gamble Family.

In January we relocated to Wellington, NZ.  As mentioned last year we came to NZ even though Neil wasn't working.  With a great deal of optimism he thought that would be a temporary situation, but at the end of the year he still is not working – a cause of great concern – and finances have been very tight all year.  Through the year he looked in NZ and when that didn't seem to be working he tried Australia and later SE Asia, but there is no job at the moment even though opportunities go through a cycle.  In the past 6-8 weeks there were three opportunities – which is about average – but they all fell by the wayside due to what are explained as budget problems or hiring freezes.  In a last-minute update, an opportunity in Malaysia for which Neil was told by the recruiter that the company was preparing an offer, was lost in mid-December because of management changes in the company.  So a new cycle will need to start now.

Usa worked for about 6 months of the year in food court jobs; she didn’t do it for the money as the jobs were minimum wage; she did it for the experience as she would like to have a food court business herself.  She learned a lot, worked too hard, had unreasonable bosses, was given lots of extra responsibility but never extra money and after two jobs that lasted 3 months each she decided that she'd had enough for the time being.  In any case, she needed a few weeks off before we return to Thailand for Christmas / New Year. 

Roger had a year where we guess he developed faster than expected.  He started developing a difficult teenager attitude to many things – and this when he was 12.  We are hoping that it means he will get over his teenage years quickly, too – does anyone want to make a bet on that?

He had a reasonably good year at school; it is never easy moving to a new country, new city, new school and a new curriculum.  He found three other good friends in his class who are very similar to him – they're passionate about video games and hate sports!  The good part of this is that he feels he has found his niche in life – he wants to be a video game designer.  We researched US-based colleges and developed an idea of the entry requirements so he has something to shoot for. 

His end of year report card was pretty good and next year he goes to "college" in NZ, which is roughly the equivalent of high school in the US and early- to mid-high school in Australia.  He selected his initial courses with the video game designer goal in mind – his optional subjects will be arts and Japanese [because he wants to work for Nintendo in Japan].  He complained, though, that the NZ Intermediate [Middle] school had a lack of science in the curriculum which is one subject he really enjoys.  And he very clearly made the point that the International school in Bangkok was much better than the public school in NZ.

As mentioned, Roger is not a sports jock.  However, he did agree to play softball for a summer sport.  He fit into the [Under 13] team well and the other boys were very welcoming.  He was happy enough to go to practice but getting up on Saturday mornings was one of his least favorite activities.  Very unfortunately he was injured during his warm up for the last game of 2006 by a ball that deflected off a teammate's glove and hit him on the nose.  He suffered a suspected fractured nose and chipped front tooth.  The swelling went down after 3 days leaving a fair bruise and most people at his school thought he must have been in a fight.  His nose, however, was still pretty straight and the doctor advised against going to the nose clinic to have it straightened because 1) it still looks pretty normal and 2) the process of straightening it sounds like it's only worth it if the nose is "really" crooked!

Rex settled into NZ quite well.  It started when we found out that Rex's birthday is a public holiday celebrating the day that the white men and the Maori signed an agreement long ago respecting each others property, positions and values.  So as long as he is in NZ Rex will always have a day off on his birthday.

Rex also started singing lessons during the year.  He sang a little bit in Thailand, but he took advantage of the English-speaking environment to develop singing this year.  He brought the house down at a Thai festival in August [for the Queen's Birthday] singing an English song.  He was so popular that they virtually insisted on him singing again – this time 2 songs – at the Loy Krathong [water lantern] celebration in November.  Around the same time he was asked to be a standard bearer for the Thai community in the annual Wellington Christmas Day parade, which he was happy to do … but spent the next 3 days with sore arms! 

You will notice in the above photos that Usa was a member of a Thai dance troupe this year, performing at the same festivals as Rex.  She certainly did a great job for the Thai community in Wellington throughout the year.

Rex's singing year ended with "Rock School" exams in December.  This is a British organization that offers globally recognized testing and accreditation system for aspiring rock singers.  Rex did his Grade 1 exam which consisted of technical exercises and 3 songs – Teenage Kicks, Rave On and Swear It Again – passing with a Merit grade [the three levels being Pass, Merit and Distinction].  The examiner was an Englishman who flew out to NZ to examine multiple candidates in multiple locations during a 2 week period. 

Actually, it didn't quite end there ... the Salvation Army puts on a Christmas carol event in Wellington every year called "the Big Carol Sing" and Rex's school choir was invited to perform and Rex is in the choir.  They sang 6 songs through the night and Rex was given one verse to sing as a soloist.  He was also dressed up as a shepherd in a nativity scene at the end of the show. 

Rugby union is a near-religion in NZ and Rex was bitten with the bug.  He played in a local under-10 team.  As he isn't the most mobile guy of his age he was put in the forwards.  [For those unaccustomed to rugby, the forwards have to physically slog it out all game and backs have to run fast.]  Rex played hooker, which is the person in the scrum who has to "hook" the ball back with their feet to gain possession for the team.  The team had two hookers, so Rex and his friend alternated in the position.  It turned out that Rex is a strong guy and a tough tackler; he was probably the best tackler in his team – if you're tackled by Rex you certainly know it!  At the end of the season he received the "Most Improved Player" award, which he was very chuffed about.

For summer sport Rex is also playing softball [in the Under 11s] but without any enthusiasm.  Given that Roger was injured in his last game and Rex isn’t too thrilled about playing, either, there's a fair chance that we will skip this sport for the rest of the summer.

Rex goes to a different school to Roger but has the same feedback.  He didn't enjoy his school a lot and commented many times throughout the year how much poorer it was compared to his school in Bangkok.

In the middle of the year we had a driving holiday in the north part of the South Island in NZ.  It was a good holiday, one we all enjoyed.  Follow this link for those who haven't seen our photos and the scanned postcards.

There isn't a lot more to say about 2006.  It wasn't a great year but we made it through.  Except for a couple of medical hiccups through the year and Roger's injury near the end, we made it through in pretty good health and we are grateful for that.  We are looking forward to a much, much better year in 2007.

Best wishes from the Gamble Family,

Neil, Usa, Roger and Rex

2007 ...