Sunday, 24 July 2011

Winter Life in Christchurch

We're now well settled in, and are making connections with a variety of local organizations - the University of Canterbury and the Computer Science/Software Engineering department, the Okeover Community Garden on campus, Farandol (the international folk dancing group), the Newcomers walking group, the local University staff yoga class, and now the Christchurch Vegetarian Society.  We went to a benefit dinner for the Vegetarian Society (their office was destroyed in the recent earthquakes) at a local Vietnamese restaurant, and about 35 people showed up.  We met a bunch of nice, interesting people, and had a very good 3-course dinner.

We picked up bicycles this week - Paul's bike is on loan from the Computer Science and Software Engineering department (a prior visiting scholar had bought it and left it for others to use - it just needed new brakes), and Cindy's bike is a long-term rental from Church Corner Cycles, our local bike shop.  Dave, the owner, is friendly, knowledgeable (about bicycles and New Zealand), and interested in the States, so we have a lot to talk about when we go there.  It's been pretty cold the last few days, so we haven't biked much, but we're looking forward to getting out more as it warms up toward spring.

Dave with Cindy's bike, ready after a tune-up
We also have bus cards, which give us a discount on the local buses and saves our legs on longer trips around town.  We got on one of the local buses today, and Paul greeted the driver with "hello, how are you doing?".  He responded, "Fine as a bunch of fluffy ducks."  With sayings like that, how can this not be a great country?

We've seen a few interesting birds that we don't see in Wisconsin - photos below.

Fantail (small bird that looks for insects)
Paradise Shelducks (more like a goose than a duck)
As we said above, a winter blast has hit New Zealand, with frost and snow coming in.  The online weather forecast even tells you how many layers to wear - today was a "four regular layers plus one windproof layer" day (advice that we followed).  There's more snow up in the high altitudes, but we even got some sleet and snow bursts today here in Christchurch, which is close to sea level.

A frosty morning in Christchurch
We try to do something every Sunday, so today we hopped on the bus and rode down to Hagley Park, the big park near downtown, to see the Christchurch Botanical Gardens.  Given that it's the middle of winter, there's not a lot growing, but you can see everything is neatly trimmed and ready for spring.  The garden caretakers also have set up a Gnome Hunt for children.  One permanent metal gnome starts things off, and then a series of clues are given, leading to ten wooden doors with a picture of a gnome behind them along with a clue to the next door.  We'd been hoping there were real (well, at least real clay or metal) gnomes at the end of each clue, so we were a little disappointed.  We still started to follow the trail, and found the first three doors, but a burst of wind and snow sent us scurrying back to the information centre to warm up.  On the way, we stumbled upon the end of the gnome hunt, which is a gnome grotto.  This had "real" gnomes, which we were happy to see.  Those who have seen the movie "The Full Monty" will understand our fascination with gnomes.

Cindy locates a gnome on the hunt
Real gnomes in the grotto

1 comment:

  1. Great picture of the fantail bird. We were fascinated by these birds.