PART 15: PALMY 31
We arrived in Palmerston North ready for our new adventure, but not really knowing how that was going to unfold or how long we would stay. Mum and I spent the first three months sharing a room at Baxters, a student accommodation / hostel. We were very happy with the simple living and I went off to the studio each day, while mum amused herself.
Then Russell, the manager of the hostel informed us that their other accommodation place across town was in need of a manager and he thought we would be perfect for the job. How funny, I hadn't had a real job since my first born son and he is now 28. I have always pursued my art, (inbetween raising four kids), selling paintings, running workshops and mounting exhibitions. To apply for the role, I would need to google tips for writing a great CV and what the heck is a cover sheet?!
So armed with my newly written CV and years of life experience, I applied for the managerial role. My son Chaylon had previously teased me that I was unemployable, because I didn't like 9 - 5 and I had to be the boss! Well, this job was perfect then, as the onsite manager for an 84 room student accommodation. I talked my way into the position and it was an immediate start.
When we went to look at the facility, I think Maz (my boss), thought we were joking when we said that we couldn't live with the current colour scheme! It was of course first on our agenda, right along with mum's cleaning frenzy. It took three months to turn the facility around. We cleaned it up, gave it a make over and moved out the unsavoury tenants. It was quite a mission, such a huge exhausting task and mum almost quit!
One morning, around 2am, I awoke to the sound of rushing water. One of the main water pipes in the boiler room had burst and it had flooded the TV room, kitchen and dinning. We had only been onsite two weeks, so not only did we not have a clue who to call, we didn't even know where to turn off the water mains. The burst pipe had also saturated the electrical panel in the boiler room, so we had no electricity, no water and OMG no internet for three days! There was almost a riot, and this was only averted by the free pizza party.
Now six months on we have the place running like a well oiled machine. Everyday there is something new to deal with and we have been on such a steep learning curve, so much procedure, so many people. At age 75, mum has found herself in a new job as the assistant manager and when she is too bossy, I like to remind her, who the actual boss is! My favourite line is, 'I'll get my assistant onto that!". She is everybody's Nana and it is so cute to hear a group of young people heading off to uni calling out, 'bye Nana'. Although she is not such a sweet old lady when someone has made a mess and not cleaned it up. She hunts them down, like Sherlock, she has to know 'who did it'.
There was a young man one night caught climbing over the fence. He had lost his swipe key and as he balanced tiltering on the top of the fence, Nana gave him a serve, standing in her Nana nightie yelling, 'What do you think you are doing?' A frightful experience indeed! There was another young man who obviously had been first time out of home. He was using the biggest, sharpest kitchen knife to cut onions in the brand new non stick fry pan. Nana caught him and almost threw him into the fry pan! Then there was the poor young man who had put so much washing into one machine, the agitator couldn't move and the powder was sitting on top of the clothes. Nana caught him and after she scolded him, she gave him $2 to use a second machine. I thought I may have to start a therapy group for all the young men that got told off by Nana.
It is now the beginning of the new academic year and we have our biggest intake of students. The university is a 5 minute walk, so it is a great place to live while studying there. Our vision is to create a peaceful and secure accommodation, a community. One that is clean, friendly and safe. I know when my kids left home, I wanted them to live somewhere safe, so here we are providing that for other people's little treasures. We still find ourselves in the people business. Not quite the same as sending out scarfs and Colours of Hope ministry, but definitely still showing kindness, love and extending grace.
It has been a sharp learning curve to be faced with people that lie, cheat and take advantage of kindness. They quickly reveal themselves, the ones who aren't what they projected themselves to be when they were applying for accommodation. It is a challenge to not get cynical about the disappointment of humanity, it is a challenge to keep believing the best about people when they stab you in the back. But I feel both mum and I are made for this role. We see the humour in everything, if it's not fun, we don't want to play! And we genuinely want these young ones to succeed in life.
We have made ourselves at home now. When we were at the exhibition opening at Whangnui, we realised how much we are enjoying what we are doing. We kind of fell into the job, then we ran like crazy to keep up, now we have it sorted and we realised that we are well suited for this role, we could be in Palmy for some time! The facility has become our own art gallery, as we have hung beautiful original paintings on the walls and covered the couches with art cushions. Running Palmy 31 enables me to do the thing I really want to do the most, and that is a Bachelor of Māori Visual Arts at Massey University.