Sunday, February 22, 2009


Lyttleton Harbour, the last stop for boat heading to Antarctica (including both Shackleton and Scott and Amundsen on all their respective journeys)

Our hike over the hills, Lyttleton Harbour is in the background.

His Lordships' Lane, a place to relax and let the drink take you.

Today was the Lyttleton Summer Street Party. Roads were closed, buskers were brought in, and food was grilled. And amongst this all the sun decided to shine down too (of course the wind came as well).

Stephen and I headed over to Lyttleton in the late morning to catch the start of the day. With a hot sun and warm breeze, the weather could not have been better. As Lyttleton is built on the inside of an ancient volcano crater, the roads are steep and the views from every house fantastic. The party was stretched throughout the small town with different events at different places, meaning there was walking up and down and across to get between venues, which meant you got sweaty. But there were lots of vendors willing to help cool you off with various juices, smoothies, beers and wines. The wonderful thing about Christchurch, is that public drinking is perfetly acceptable except right in downtown Christchurch; want a picnic with wine on the beach? That's just fine! We listened to some music, watched some 6-10 year olds perform maori songs (I swear we were the only people there who did not know or have a child in that group) and eat some lunch. We had decided we would walk back to Christchurch and enjoy the weather and finally get to see the country side.

The Banks Peninsula is formed on the remnants of an old volcano (see above), so the hills are steep and many. It is also located dead in the middle of the Canterbury coastline, the most farmed portion of New Zealand, so the plant species are mostly invasive. In fact I could name just about every plant we saw. As we gained elevation, the views opened up beneath us and you could see the ocean on the far side of the peninsula and off to the Antarctic Ocean beyond.

After making it back to the other side of the hill, we caught a bus downtown, found a pub and enjoyed a nice cold beer in a funky little alleyway (complete with it's own flock of wall climbing bikes). Our evening has been spent making bread for the week to come and relaxing. Another week of work to come.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Lantern Festival

Takoyaki balls - same batter as okinomiyaki, different filling, different shape.

Speacialty to Christchurchs' Lantern Festival.

This puppet is writing (in phonetics) "Sin Knee-en Qwi-le" or Happy New Year in mandarin.

The central water fountain became home to this enormous red dragon and his floatilla of pond lilies.

February 14th marked the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations. This was marked in Christchurch with the Lantern Festival held in Victoria Square. Both performers and lanterns were brought in from China, as well as from down the street, food stalls with an asian bent were invited to line the squares' perimetre and the square just seemed to fill itself. There was a Chinese Opera Face Changer, who in the course of a 10 minute performance changed his face no less than 10 times with a swish of his cape in a matter of seconds. There was a puppet who did calligraphy and another who performed the same operatic face changing as the real one only in minature. There were musicians, dancers, martial artists and speakers. The lanterns themselves varied from the traditional dragon to the more local penguin and sheep. And the food was phenomenal. As the evening progressed and the sky dimmed, hippotamus shone in the river, musical turtles lit up the rivers edge and giant bumble bees flit through the trees. It was a magical night.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


New Brighton beach; just a 15 minute bike away from our place. Lots of waves, lots of people.

The giant chess set available for use any day you want it.

The market in Cathedral Square open every day (sunshine mandatory).

Punting on the river Avon which leads pretty much straight to our door, perhaps we should invest in a boat. . . . .

Stephen in our little kitchen. What it lacks in space it certainly makes up in style.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Down to Work

Today is my second day at my new "job" for the next 3-4 years of my life. I have a nice desk with a window above it that looks out into a shady square. I can hear the birds singing on colder days and the cicadas chirping on the hot days. I share my office right now with two other PhD students, one who is just finishing up her dissertation on pond chemistry (in Antarctica) and the other who is currently in Washington doing field work (I'm not sure on what though). My bookshelf is slowly filling with things to read, but right now I'm simply waiting to meet my supervisor, Gary. Everyone seems very nice and they have been very welcoming into their space. I'm looking forward to working here.

Stephen is on his second day of classes as well. He's successfully transferred from Physics and Math to Physics and Chemistry, and will be busy in classes for the next five weeks until his first placement in a local school. He's also taking a Maori Education course, which is mandatory here, that teaches Maori language, culture and traditions to teachers to ensure culturally sensitive people are going into the classrooms. A wonderful tool I think for all institutions to think about.

Hope you're all doing well. Our home phone and internet should be up next week, so I will have some pictures up then.


Thursday, February 5, 2009

First Impressions

Well, we've been here 4 days now and the place is really growing on me. Christchurch is a really neat place and although we haven't taken any "tourist" time yet, I'm slowly feeling more and more comfortable. We have a house, with furniture and a full fridge, all we need is a phone and some regular internet access. Internet will be and is the most expensive thing here. For one month with 3GB (yes, only three) it costs 50$. Apparently having only one cable linking the country to the rest of the world makes for some expensive connection costs.

Some other random differences I've noticed include;
- driving on the opposite side of the road (of course we all knew that - but when you try biking that way, you'd better be extra bloody careful, on the way back from getting our bikes I almost rode out into oncoming traffic because I was looking the wrong way - hasn't happened again since)
- all toilets are low-flow toilets
- the gulls here are tiny little guys with creepy eyes; they also act like very forward ravens, when we were eating lunch at a cafe outside, they would go right onto tables once people had left, pulling food right off the plates
- Japanese restaurants are everywhere (and yes, they have okinomeaki), second place goes to chinese/thai/korean restaurants
- The bus system is awesome; tomorrow we're taking the bus to a nearby town for their weekly farmers market - you can go anywhere
- People speak with funny accents (though I suppose since we're in the minority we do)

Stephen had his orientation over the last two days and will officially start on Monday (your Sunday I believe). I still have to track down my supervisors and talk with them, I think I'll be officially starting on March 1st, but will be able to get going sooner than that hopefully.

The rest of the day awaits, so I will head off to meet it. I wish you all the best and will post some pictures as soon as I can.