Sunday, September 24, 2006

My own house!

September 24, 2006
I moved into my new place on Thursday. See the photos below of my house, garden and views from the house. You can even see a satellite photo of my street on Google Earth. It was so nice to sleep in a cozy bed with a warm comforter! No sleeping bag anymore. But I have to say that it seemed very quiet not being able to hear the surf.

I went for a run Friday morning and next time I'll take my camera. I ran up the hill near my street and the views were great - not to mention the bellbird that sang to me the whole time. There weren't any bellbirds on the seashore when I was living there. I do miss my morning magpies but everyone tells me I shouldn't as they are terrible pests and even attack people! But they're still fun to listen to.

I've had another wonderful week and met more great people. Work has been a little too busy, which is a drag when there are so many other distractions! I had a great bike ride yeaterday with 4 other people so I worked harder than usual and definitely couldn't stop and take photos. Then I went to a party last night where I met more Kiwis and we played this crazy homemade gambling game where you each had a toy racing car. You put chips down for your car and whoever won got all the chips. It was kind of like Milles Bornes if any of you have ever played that - minus the puncture-proof tires and Coup Fouree etc. I only lost $6! :o)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

World's most efficient swim carnival (aka swim meet)

Ssptember 17, 2006
I went to a 4-team masters swim meet at Jelley Park today and these Kiwis really know how to run a swim meet. Each team had one lane. There was one person per ten-tear age group per event (male/female separate) so you just lined up in the right age group order and went when it was your turn. It was so efficient you wouldn't believe it. And no stopwatches - just 4 points for 1st, 3 for 2md, 2 for 3rd, 1 for 4th. I swam 3 events (50 free, 50 and 100 back) and it was so nice not having to think about what my times were! And then we ended it all with a 10-person 500m freestyle relay! Then we all had barbecued sausages and bacon outside and I was home before noon. How's that for fun?!

Last night I went to a party at my soon-to-be-landlords' house and met the neighbours and some of their friends. They were a lovely group of people and, guess what? Trevor had been out fishing whitebait that day and I had my first whitebait fritter. He mixed them up in an egg batter, fried them up and then you eat them like liitle pancakes on a piece of bread. They were quite yummy. And I couldn't even see their eyeballs! Check out the picture below to see why I've beed focusing on the eyeballs. I also had smoked salmon that had been caught and smoked by one of the people at the party. Quite a feast!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Circuit of Christchurch

September 16, 2006
I did a 50-mile bike ride today that was half on city streets (most of which have bike lanes) and half out in the country. There was a huge (but warm) wind from the northwest, which meant that I had to work hard heading out but then I just sailed on the way home. I've put in a map of my route (who knows if you can read it!) and the X is where I'm moving to next week. Note the lack of streets just south of the X. It's farmland and the port hills. I took a few pictures today not far from there so you can see what the countryside is like (see bottom of page).

I did learn today that not every Kiwi is a lovely person. While I was biking along one of the roads with no other bikers in site and only an occasional car, someone decided to cut directly in front of me and turn left. Good thing I was biking into the wind and wasn't going very fast so I could stop without hitting the car. I'm sure he did it on purpose as there was no one else around. The other evidence from my ride that everyone here isn't perfect is that I passed the Christchurch Women's Prison. Hopefully I will never see the inside of that place! Although I bet it's nicer than most prisons.

When I was about 5 minutes from home, what sounded like an air raid siren went off. It was 12:40 so it wasn't the noon whistle from somewhere. Maybe it was the 12:40 whistle? But after the meteor last week, I'm a little suspicious of weird noises. Although I haven't figured out what that was, I have found out what everyone is fishing for in the Avon River (see post from about a week ago). And no, I'm afraid that it's not the rare giant bully. In fact, it's just the opposite. It's white bait - a little fish (maybe like smelt?) that I thought was only on the west coast but I guess not. It's so small that they don't gut them or anything. They just cook them whole and eat them up - body, tail, head and eyeballs!! Yummy! I wonder if I'll get to try them sometime?!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Played hooky today

September 14, 2006
After working from my 6am telecon til 1pm, I decided to head off on a bike ride as it was a beautiful sunny day and about 55F out. First I biked over to Ferrymead by the Port Hills and then I biked past Cashmere where I will be living in a week. A ten minute bike ride from past my new place, I was riding alongside pastures and the Port Hills and in the distance to the west I could see the snow-covered Southern Alps! Can you imagine having views like that 10 minutes bike ride from your house and still live only a ten minute drive from downtown? I wish that I had brought my camera so I could show you all the views. But I promise to take it next time.

I ended up doing a 30-mile circuit around the city with one small detour into town when I took the wrong road. But it took me past a bike shop where I went in because I couldn't shift into my big chain ring, which of course is better than not being able to shift into the small chainring, but still a nuisance. I couldn't resist going in because the shop was called Chain Reaction and I bought my bike at a Chain Reaction in Redwood City, CA (just a coincidence, not a chain - no pun intended). They fixed it immediately and charged me nothing!

It's impressive how nice everyone is here and they aren't being nice with a purpose to get something from you, sell you something etc. They are just nice for the sake of being nice. When I was looking for a house, a couple picked me up from the bus stop, drove me to the house and showed me around and, even though I didn't take the house, they then drove me over to Turner's Auctions where I was going to look for a car!

Well, I got my IRD number and my GST number today so now I can be officially in business. An IRD number is like the US Social Security Number that everyone has to have to work here. The GST number is so I can collect GST (goods and services tax - 12.5%) from my clients and then give it to the NZ government. You Americans may not be familiar with it but all my Canadian friends and family certainly are.

Last night after swim practice, the team went to the local pub for a pint (or steamed milk and a cookie in my case so I could drive home!). They do it twice a month and they are a great bunch of people. So it's nice to be able to create a bit of a social life.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Meteor Attack!!

September 12, 2006
I was sitting at my desk at about 2:55pm today when there was a very loud sound that shook the whole house and vibrated in my chest. It lasted quite a long time - maybe 20 seconds or more. I ran outside thinking that jets must be going along the shore breaking the sound barrier or something but couldn't see anything. Then I turned on the radio to see if there was some kind of alert going on. And I thought that I had put enough distance between me and George Bush and all his "fallout"!

Well it turns out that they think it was a meteor, probably not any bigger than a basketball. Hard to believe something that small could make such a racket! I haven't heard that they found any remains of it. So all I could find was a photo someone got of the vapor trail. Not very exciting but here it is. And here's a link to a previous NZ meteor that was thought to be the size of a car! I'm glad I didn't hear that one! (the spelling is correct. I guess they can't spell at CNN.)

I just had tea with an interesting woman I met at the pool a couple of weeks ago who was actually at the Stanford World Masters Swimming Championships in August (didn't meet her then though - there were 7000 people there). She spent the first 20 years of her life as a sheep shearer and after having a back injury about 5-10 years ago, she went to law school. So now she's an attorney for the largest union in the country and does workmen's comp cases. How's that for a major career switch?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Canterbury wins!

September 10, 2006
Post #2 for today!

Just got back from the rugby match at Jade Stadium and the Canterbury Crusaders defeated the Counties Manukau (from South Auckland, I think). A big group of us from move2nz went including a bunch of kids (check out their face paint in my photo). I passed on the face paint myself but I did wear red socks.

I still don't have much of a clue about the game but I am starting to learn enough to know where to look for the ball when they get into one of their pileups (scrums, mauls or rucks - don't ask me which is which!). They aren't supposed to hang onto the ball in that situation so it usually gets popped out the back and then they pass it (only allowed to pass backwards though!) or kick it (they can kick forwards) or run with it (forwards also). Another thing that is different from North American sports - when the half or the whole game is over on the clock, they keep playing until the ball goes out of bounds or they score a try (aka a goal).

This morning I had breakfast with the local masters swim team at the all-you-can-eat buffet at the Casino. What a feast! And for any of you with gluten intolerance, this is the place to eat breakfast. Everything is labeled as to whether it contains gluten. Maybe gamblers are susceptible to celiac disease?

After breakfast I went over some judder bars to get somewhere, used my eftpos while I was there and when I was done I had to stop at the trundler park. Can you guess what I did?

And the winner is...

September 10, 2006
Last night my team was the proud winner of the Green Party Quiz Night!! The people who own the house I'm staying in are members of the Green Party and I got a phone call inviting me to the Quiz Night. So I bravely went and clearly I chose the right team to join. I can't say that I contributed all that much to answering the quiz questions though: What was the score when the Silver Ferns beat Australia last year? I did know what sport it was though (bet you guys don't!). It's women's netball (see photo), which is something like basketball except that you can't move once you catch the ball - no dribbling allowed. I did know whose gingham dress sold for some huge amount of money though. I won a bar of Green and Black's Organic Bittersweet Dark Chocolate with Oranges and Spices! Yum!

I took another little tour of Christchurch bike ride again on Friday - this time to meet with my soon to be landlords to find out how to operate the washing machine etc (sorry, forgot to take a picture again). I then biked downtown (only 20 minutes by bike from my new place) and then biked along the Avon River all the way out to my current place on the coast - a nice winding road that most of the time wasn't too busy. There were a lot of people fishing with big nets along the river. I have no idea what they were fishing for though - maybe the giant bully! All along the river there were Canada Geese, of all things! And I came to NZ to enjoy the native birds. One non-native I am really enjoying though is a group of Australian Magpies that come by my house every morning. They are quite pretty and they are wonderful to listen to - like a bunch of women gabbing while they have their morning coffee.

It's -1C outside this morning but clear blue sky. There was no heat on in the house all night as usual so my fingers are starting to get numb! Plus I'm leaving in a few minutes for breakfast at the casino with the masters swim team followed this afternoon by a rugby match at Jade Stadium. Quite the social life I lead, eh?! So I think I'll sign off.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Knitters' Knook (sic)

September 5, 2006
I am now the proud owner of a Kiwi drivers licence! I started the day by going to the NZ Automobile Association and passing my drivers test. I only got one question wrong - in case you don't all already know, if you leave broken glass on the road after an accident, you don't have 24 hours to clean it up - you must sweep it up right away. So be sure to keep a whisk in your car if you ever come to NZ!

It's still Sept 4 (Labor Day) in North America so I decided to take the day off today in honour of all of you. I went to the local knit shop where a group of women get together to knit and gab for 2 hours every Tuesday and Thursday morning. It was really fun. The women ranged from about 30 to 65 years old and they were very outspoken and full of laughs. There was even a young man with Down's Syndrome who came and was working on knitting a blanket. And he brought us pancakes that he had made for our snack. Several of the women also brought homemade goodies so it was definitely not my usual triathlon-style workout!

After my knitting session, I went to Fed Ex to send some work documents to the US. This afternoon turned out to be a test of whether I have given up the frantic rat race of the USA and adapted to the more easy-going Kiwi environment. And I passed the test!

I walked to the bus terminal from the wool shop and missed the bus by 2 minutes. This bus comes every half hour so I sat down and waited for it and then managed to miss it again because I was on the wrong side of the street! So 1 hour after getting to the bus terminal, I did actually catch my bus. Half an hour later I arrived at the stop for Fed Ex (near the airport). It was about a half mile walk to Fed Ex so I decided to walk quickly in hopes that I could catch the same bus after its turnaround at the airport. I just about made it but a couple stopped me for directions to the Antarctica Center and as they drove off, so did the bus! So I waited another 30 minutes, rode the bus for 30 minutes back to the bus terminal, transferred to the bus that takes me home (but got off half way to go to the grocery store and so had to wait for the next bus ) and finally rode the last 30 minutes home. All in all I figured it took me nearly 5 hours to do my Fed Ex packet! It should only take a little over twice that long for the packet to fly to California! But I did get caught up on reading all my medical journals, which hasn't happened once in the last 3 years I'm sure! And even then I wasn't home yet so I listened to Brooke Fraser (sort of a Kiwi version of Norah Jones) on my IPod the rest of the way. And the whole thing was completely relaxing - much nice than driving in my car - plus I saw another whole section of Christchurch that I'd never gone through before.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Weird Kiwi Sports!

September 1, 2006
As I was leaving the pool yesterday I noticed some kayakers in the diving well. I thought - "Well that's a good spot to learn to paddle, roll etc before hitting the white water. But boy they sure crowd them in!" Turns out it was a water polo game with everyone in a kayak! The miracle was that they weren't all crashing into each other or whacking each other on the head with paddles!

Today I went for my first official bike ride with the guy who started Adventure South, the bike tour company I've used twice in the past. We biked up into the port hills (I am definitely out of biking shape!!) and the views were great (see photo from last year). There were a group of people paragliding up there (I've attached a picture of that too in case some of you don't know what that is). One of the guys was gliding fairly close to the ground and we actually managed to keep up a conversation with him as we rode and he glided along!

Then on my way back home I saw another person paragliding but he was doing it in the ocean on a surfboard or something - kind of like water skiing using the wind instead of a power boat!

So that's it for Kiwi sports today.

Forgot to mention that it has warmed up enough that I slept without any hot water bottles last night! It was up to 46F this morning when I biked to the pool - almost hot ;o)

House hunting

August 31, 2006
I've been spending a little time each day looking for that perfect place to live - which is hard to do when you don't really know the neighbourhoods. But I've decided that I don't want to live on the beach because it's too cold! I don't want to live downtown because it's less safe. The port hills are supposed to be great to live on because they are warmer but the only places I found looked like they would fall off their foundations in an earthquake - even a small earthquake, of which there are apparently many! Plus I wanted a furnished place so that eliminated about 90% of the rentals.

But good luck has struck! I found a place in Cashmere - a lovely neighbourhood near the port hills (even sounds warmer than North Beach where I'm living now!) - owned by a couple who are going to live in France for a year. So it isn't a typical rental property, it's on a little cul-de-sac and it has 2 bedrooms plus a little study (or a wee study I should say, seeing as I'm living in NZ). So start making your plane reservations to visit me! I move in September 21. And I've even been invited over to a party to meet the neighbours!

I went to the masters swimming workout last night instead of the triathlon team one and the coach put me in the fast lane! Fortunately it's a 50m pool so it took longer to get lapped. But it was sure a good workout. Short course nationals are in October in Wellington so if I get brave I can even do a swim meet!

Sorry, no good pictures today. I should have taken one of the house!