Sunday, 26 February 2012
Thursday, 23 February 2012
Sunday, 19 February 2012
Catching up on the picture sharing. Stopped caring about conserving internet allowance, bah. Here's a few from earlier in the month. One evening, our fellow Englishman housemate Martin, offered to take us for a ride down the River Avon, as he works as a Punter. The local theatre was staging a play about the history of Christchurch (condensed, obviously) in the Daffodil Woodland at 7pm. So we floated down, and parked the punts under the bridge while we disembarked to watch the play.
That same weekend, there was a Chinese lantern festival in the park. After a few beers at home, Martin, Andy and I walked up to Hagley to have a look around. I seriously underestimated the word 'lantern'. It's amazing what these lantern makers are capable of. I remember my Mum teaching me how to weave wicker into lanterns, but I never would have imagined making a tiger! The moonrakers of Slaithwaite would have had a field day.
It is Monday afternoon here, and since I feel so tired after a busy weekend of seeing places, I thought I’d sit down to write a brief update on our time here in Sydenham, ChCh, NZ.
Since Valentine’s Day landed on a week night this year, we decided to grab a pizza from Domino’s ‘Cheaper Tuesdays’ range and postpone our ‘day of love’ til the weekend. Andy, our housemate who works for Apollo Campers, managed to get a used BBQ from a customer returning their van on Thursday so the boys spent Friday evening fanning the flames whilst I made a Kumara Potato Salad and Italian Dressed Tomatoes (damn, wish I’d taken pictures). We traded sausages for salads, which the guys didn’t think was very fair...until they were on their third helping of potatoes! What can I say, I take pride in my garnishes!
Martin suggested we take the bus from the city centre through the mountain tunnel to Lyteltton, Christchurch’s port, the next day. The weather was glorious so we took our time strolling along the deep slanting streets, taking in the improvised container drinking holes and local built community areas that hold ‘Bring and Share’ evenings every Wednesday afternoon, to share food, music and tales from the week. We ended up for an hour or so on a bench overlooking the harbour, where we started to think about everyone back home...
After a 15 minute bus ride, we were back in Sydenham and headed to the mall to take advantage of the late-afternoon reductions on Sushi! We ate our salmon and rice in the local oval, whilst the cricketers screamed about LBW. Such a hard life. We ended the day with a meal at a Chinese restaurant in Sydenham and a pint of Guinness in the Irish bar, The Craic, frequented by a horde of genuine Irishmen (funny that). When we got back to the house, our other housemates were sat in the living room watching Forest Gump, which one of the Kiwi’s had never seen before, so that was an experience!
We woke on Sunday after another night with hardly any sleep (our mattress is softer than kittens and we’ve been on at our landlord for a new one), feeling grouchy and a bit slobbish to say the least. We decided to take it easy, perhaps borrowing Tom and Gabby’s car to go to Westfield Mall in search of a practical pair of city shoes. Andy had a couple of days off and had decided to venture to Arthur’s Pass national park, about 1-2 hours drive away. After having set out, he sent us a text asking if we’d like to join him, and after a month of having very limited opportunities to see outside the city, we jumped on the chance. About half an hour out of Christchurch, the flat landscape starts to fatten out, gaining lumps and bumps and more diverse shrubs and wildlife. I was kicking myself for not taking my wildlife guide to identify the birds and trees I was seeing. After a while, we saw a sign for ‘Castle Hill’ and after explaining to our German Andy that this was the emblem of home, we stopped off to check it out. Not a real castle (if you can call Huddersfield’s castle a castle), but strange naturally formed limestone boulders dotted all over the hill side. I have to say, NZ’s version is much more breathtaking. I waited for the boy’s to have their fill of climbing and dangling their feet from dangerously high up places while I took photos of everything with my sadly neglected SLR.
Travelling on, we passed snow-capped mountains and crystal clear hillside lakes; the kind of sights which explain why Peter Jackson chose NZ for his LOTR location. Upon arriving in Arthur’s Pass village, we stopped for a ginger beer and a bag of chips - whilst watching the cheeky Kea's drink abandoned milk - before we took the 1.6km climb up the mountainside to see the Devil’s Punchbowl falls. The climb nearly killed me, but half way up I began to find the incline more bearable. And boy was it worth it. Rather than stand on the specially built viewing platform, I decided to climb past the sign marked ‘Dangerous: Falling Rocks’ into the midst of the river fall itself. It was wonderful to feel a part of the flow and see the water simmering beneath me. After being shaken from my reverie, we climbed down and began the drive home, welcomed by the sun emerging from the fog that had been following us all day. I read Andy’s Lonely Planet guide to New Zealand on the way back and was captivated by a section on the Maori interpretation of the formation of the country. I thought some of you would enjoy it too...
"In the Maori story of creation, first there was the void, then the night, then Rangi-nui and Papa-tu-a-nuku (sky father and earth mother) came into being, embracing with their children nurtured between them. But nurturing became something else. Their children were stifled in the darkness of their embrace. Unable to stretch out to their full dimensions and struggling to see clearly in the darkness, their children tried to separate them. Tawhiri-matea, the god of winds, raged against them; Tu-mata-uenga, the god of war, assaulted them. Each god child in turn tried to separate them, but still Rangi and Papa pressed against each other. And then Tane-mahuta, god of the great forests and of humanity, placed his feet against his father and his back against his mother and slowly, inexorably, began to move them apart. Then came the world of light, of demigods and humanity.
In this world of light Maui, the demigod ancestor, was cast out to sea at birth and was found floating in his mother’s topknot. He was a shape-shifter, becoming a pidgeon or a dog or an eel if it suited his purposes. He stole fire from the gods. Using his grandmother’s jawbone, he bashed the sun so that it could only limp slowly across the sky, so that people would have enough time during the day to get things done. Using the south island as a canoe, he used the jawbone as a hook to fish up Te Ika a Maui (the fish of Maui) – the north island. And, finally, he met his end trying to defeat death itself. The goddess of death, Hine Nui Te Po, had obsidian teeth in her vagina (obsidian is a volcanic glass that takes a razor edge when chipped). Maui attempted to reverse birth (and hence defeat death) by crawling into her birth canal to reach her heart as she slept. A small bird – a fantail – laughed at the absurd sight. Hine Nui Te Po awoke, and crushed Maui between her thighs. Death one, humanity nil."
Wednesday, 8 February 2012
Today, we have officially been in Christchurch for two weeks. For the last few days, we have been enjoying our first public holiday here, a long weekend in celebration of the signing of the Waitangi Treaty, entitling the Kiwi’s to independence from the British. We enjoyed a lazy Saturday and Sunday, with a couple of strolls around the Botanical Gardens and a game of Hide and Seek (there are many good places to hide in our new home since it is so BIG!). However, the weather took a turn for the better yesterday and since we were woken by the loud banging of a handyman replacing the rotten boards of the veranda roof, we decided to get out and enjoy the sunshine.
Our house mate, Andy, has a car and offered to be designated driver for the day in exchange for our knowledge of good places to visit. I suggested Sumner, a seaside destination 20 minutes drive away. As many houses are built on the hill and cliff side, there has understandably been a lot of damage to this area in the recent earthquakes. We had witnessed the huge shipping containers put in place to protect cars from rock fall on our last visit, but we were unprepared for the further damage wrought upon the hills by the quake before Christmas. Some houses had been ripped literally in two, with one half teetering on the cliff edge and the other reduced to a pile of rubble at the cliff foot.
I love Sumner and it hurt very much to see how the force of nature has decided to wreak such havoc there. Amongst the damage, the spirit of the place still remains and the three of us were captivated by the charms of the Esplanade, the crashing of the waves on the shore and the smell of the sea and flora. We stopped for a coffee in a gorgeous cafe in the midst of the town, and relaxed for a while on beanbags grouped around a little tree in the outside dining area. I could have sat there for hours, just taking the world in and enjoying the little moments life allows us if we find the time to appreciate them.
I had begun to forget why we had uprooted ourselves from our comfortable life and moved ourselves to the other side of the world, away from all our loved ones and the support they offer. Yesterday reminded me why. There are so many things to enjoy and be part of, all on your doorstep in New Zealand. You just step outside your front door, and the day is yours for the taking. I am living a life that I never knew I could have, but has been within my reach all this time. I just wish I could share it with everyone. Somehow, I get much more satisfaction and enjoyment out of a thing if I feel I am sharing the experience with someone else. I want to show everyone what my new home has to offer. Patience. My new favourite word.
Well, well, well. Here I am in the Garden City at last! A new city, a new country, a new life. I’m very much excited about this fresh start and what life holds for us here. And yet still feeling a little trepidation that my expectations are a little too high.
I haven’t had much chance to explore yet as we are saving up to buy a car so I’ve only really seen stuff within walking distance. A little frustrating since I know the sea is so close by and I can see the cliffs from my dining table! Having never lived in a city before, it feels like you have to walk miles and miles to actually get anywhere. My feet have been aching and swollen ever since we’ve got here. But when the weather is nice, I’d rather walk anyway.
For our first three months in the city, we are living in a shared house with five bedrooms. It isn’t exactly what we were looking for and I don’t think we ever imagined we’d be sharing a kitchen and bathrooms, but we feel lucky to have found anything at all due to the massive influx of trades people seeking rental accommodation in the city.
I feel like we’re beginning to settle in now. I’ve hung my first load of washing out to dry in the sunshine and put up drawings and photos of family in our bedroom. It’s beginning to feel like home. I’ve just come back from a stroll round the local suburb, Sydenham. There’s a small mall on the main street filled with lovely boutique shops and a couple of galleries...somewhere to start the job hunt I feel!
Along the same street lies the office of a project called the Gap Filler, which aims to fill all the spaces created by demolition in the city with shops, cafes and recreational facilities. Already in Sydenham, there is a make-shift outdoor coffee shop, a container dairy and a giant chess board complete with seating area. Local artists are also getting involved, painting giant murals on big empty walls to send out positive messages in potentially down-heartening locations.
I hope to get involved in a few of these projects while I’m here. It would be nice to think I have contributed to the healing of the city in some small way.