Thursday, March 26, 2009

University of Canterbury

The bike ride to school in the morning takes me through Hagley Park - a nice place in the morning with the mist rising off the golfcourse and the sun shining gold in the windows.

This is my office space at school. I share a room with three other desks, two of which are actually occupied and only one person who is here now.

As you can see biking to school here is a popular mode of transportation, especially since the city is mostly flat (but very, very windy).

The library, where I have been lots.

The architecture is reminiscent of that found at UVic, probably both built in the 60s.

The pathway between the student association (UCSA) building and the rest of campus. There's a small river cutting through the campus, which adds a nice quality of being 'green' to the whole affaire.

And finally, the ride home takes me back through downtown Christchurch, along the trolley tracks, which looks like this.

Hope you're all doing well.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Living beside the river has had me itching to be out on the water for a while now. We see a couple of kayakers paddle by every week and we discuss how easily we could carry a boat from our place to the water and just paddle. Unfortunately, boats (other than expensive yatchs or rowing dingies) are hard to come by, so we usually keep walking and our conversations go on to other things.

Finally, last week, I took things into my own hands and went online (because that's where we do everything these days). I found a paddling club and sent them a note. I was informed that they met on Sundays at 2:30pm and new people were welcome. Great! Stephen had rowing at 4pm so he couldn't join me, but at 2pm on Sunday afternoon, I climbed onto my bike and peddled my way out to the boat compound just 5km away. And . . . . no one was there. In fact, with the spitting rain, grey clouds and increasing wind, it looked pretty desolate. A steel chainlinked fence surrounding a space of concrete littered with the tangled parts of boats in the middle of suburbia. I walked the length of the fence, past the empty looking building along one side, looking for some sign of use. As I was about to leave, a red truck pulled up and went in, so I followed it.

Tane, is a social worker who works with maori youth at risk, and part of his program is taking these youth out paddling; developing skills, confidence, and partnership. And I was more than welcome to join them. So, as the youth started to show up, I was introduced and put to work. By the time 3pm rolled around, there were 11 people (enough for the two 6 seater outriggers they had lashed together) and one baby. After a brief maori prayer and group introduction, we lifted the boat up onto some wheels, pushed it down to the river, clambered in and pushed off.

These kids know how to paddle. Tane and his helper sat at the back, steering and calling out the 'huts' and strokes. Everything was in maori, so I just followed for the first bit until I could associate words with actions, then I just tried my hardest to keep up. The kids are training for a social regatta in two weeks time, on Easter Saturday. They have three teams registered and this was their second last paddle before then. We worked on strength, commitment, working together and confidence (although, I think the baby slept the whole way). But mostly it was fun.

By the time we got back to the ramp, my arms were empty and my breath was coming quickly. We clambered out onto the shore and pulled the boat up. After washing the boat of weeds and salt water, we all said thanks and Tane shared next weeks plans.

After everyone had left, Tane invited me to come again and maybe sometime give a slideshow on growing up in Canada. We'll see what I can come up with, maybe I'll be able to learn something about growing up in New Zealand in return.

Kia Ora,

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Week of Water

Last weekend was Stephens' birthday. Friday was pretty quiet, but Saturday, with lovely sunshine and no wind, we decided to head down to the beach with a picnic and $40 to learn to surf. We did pretty well for first timers, though halfway through I could no longer push myself up with my arms as they'd turned to spaghetti. Apparently I need to do more pushups at home. But it has been decided we will be back to do it again.

On wednesday we went to see the Ellerslie flower show. It was simply a huge trade show with a flower theme. There were a number of garden 'examples' by various local and regional landscape designers, organizations, and architects. As well as 5 or 6 tents with mysteriously long and sinuous line-ups leading into them. It was amazing how long a lineup people were willing to get into in order to get into these tents where there were no flowers, just vendors selling things! Oh well, to each their own. After seeing the displays, watching a marching band, and touring the garden sculptures we decided to head home and make dinner.

This past weekend we went sailing. A couple of friends of ours had given us a sailing trip here in Christchurch as a wedding present. So we called up the company and organized it for last Saturday at 9am. Amazingly the weather was dead calm when we woke up at 7am. Quite a rarity for Christchurch. Nor had the wind picked up by 9am when we got there. In fact the wind didn't start up until around 11am, by which time we were puttering about in a small harbour across the bay from Lyttleton (the port we had left from). Despite not being under our own power for the entire time, we listened gleefully to the stories Mike, our skipper, regaled us with. The time he saw orcas leading their baby into the bay. The time he found a box full of money just floating in the pier, just below a foreign freighter crawling with police and customs officials (he and the boys divied it up and went to the pub to celebrate). And even older stories about the war and more. It was a great trip and absolutely wonderful to be out on the water again.

I know pictures of our flat have been requested. However, at the moment it is not in the best of states to be photographed. So I will instead include a layout plan to allay any nagging desires to know how we live.

Best wishes to you all.


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Did you know

That the phone numbers for Antarctica New Zealands' Scott Base are in the Christchurch phone book. And that calling there from Christchurch is a local call.

Weekend life

Last Friday Stephen and I went to our first Rugby game. It was the Canterbury Crusaders vs. the Wellington Hurricanes. The stadium (still half built) was packed and there was beer and fries in plenitude. I seem to have spent half the night watching the people around me to know when to cheer and when not to. In the end it didn't really matter as our team (yes, the local one) lost. And pretty badly at that. But the rain had held off so far and it was warm, so the night was not completely lost. We biked around for a bit and then went home.

The next day, I woke up, excited about the market that morning. Fresh fruit and veggies, meat and as-local-as-it-comes beer, there was even a chicken liver pate competition on this week. So it was to my dismay to walk outside and find my bike no longer locked up in the shed where I had left it the night before. Man was I ever pissed off. I mean it's not just stealing a thing, it's my mode of transportation, and it made Christchurch feel so much bigger and everything much further away. So I spent the day fuming about having to take the bus and looking at every single bike we went past to see if it was mine. Unfortunately we never passed my bike and I therefore didn't get the chance to jump somebody.

Sunday was much better. With the warm sun and quiet breeze it was hard to stay upset for long. Instead we packed up our swimming togs and headed down to the beach. After a picnic lunch, we played in the waves, body surfing, swimming, splashing, and just sitting. By the time we got out the wind had picked up just a wee bit to level of sand blaster and we decided to pack our stuff up and go for a walk. We watched surfers and kayakers play in the waves, before heading back to the bus and home again. And after a minor incident involving a sharp knife, the tip of my thumb and an excessive amount of tape and blood, we ate dinner, watched a James Bond movie and headed into bed.

The week has gone by relatively quickly since then. I've had several calls from various policemen to assure me they are looking for my bike. I have since purchased a new bike (one that will be covered by our insurance this time). And bogglingly enough I have also received a cheque for 220$ from my landlord who adamantly insists he should pay for it. To quote a childhood favorite of mine "These Kiwis are crazy!"

Today we celebrate Stephens' birthday. And in the tradition of Stephen, that means staying late at school (on a Friday) to finish up homework that is due late next month. I'm hoping to drag him back home at least in time for dinner and a cake, but we'll see. He is bigger than me.

Hope you're all doing well and enjoying spring,