Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Speaking Up, Cooking Classes, and Denny's


The postgraduate room at school where we go to research is quickly filling up with new students. Most of them are History master's students, a couple Art History. The semester starts next week, and even though postgraduates can start at any time, it makes sense that those continuing on from undergraduate and honours would be starting around this time. It should make for a more lively room.

I had a few hours of work last week for the Academic Skills Centre helping facilitate discussions for English-as-a-second-language students. The staff showed the first few minutes of a funny video on the history of the formation of the New Zealand accent (http://youtu.be/bV_UmOvV1vs). I have noticed the different vowel sounds. In the video they say that gradually the short "i" like in milk is turning into a short "u". They exaggerate it for comedic effect, but some people have sounded almost like that here.

I composed a short survey to send to postgrad students as part of my effort to build a better community and ran it by the professor I had the meeting with in December. He sent me back a really nice email saying that thanks to that meeting, he had made postgraduate support one of three strategic priorities for the year and was assigning someone to implement the Year of the Postgrad in 2015. How awesome is that! I figured he was working on things behind the scenes, so it is really nice to know that my speaking out was worthwhile. I also spent some time last week emailing an academic science fiction association in the U.S. about how it really needs to do more to support postgraduates and get with the times in terms of Facebook groups, organizing helpful materials, and attracting the younger generation of scholars. We all know how institutions that can't keep up end up fading away.


I've completed two classes of the four-session cooking class I signed up for through a community center. In the first one, we made Osso Buco (beef stew with red wine and tomatoes) and Pan-fried Tofu. This was my first time having tofu. It wasn't too bad. Kind of a strange texture unlike anything else. The stew was a bit too sweet for my liking, but it was my first time cooking with wine, so I think I'll try experimenting a bit more with that. In the second class, we made fried noodles with bok choy and spring onions and steamed chicken with shitake mushrooms. All the vegetables were new to me, and I am proud to say I tried all of them and even actually liked the mushrooms! They weren't as mushy as the little ones that are normally dumped in food, although they still look weird. The teacher is from Malaysia, so she knows how to make good Asian food with the right sauce combinations.

We finally found a cheaper restaurant option here, and it is good old Denny's, classic American diner. It is celebrating 25 years in New Zealand this year, although the Christchurch one just opened recently. It has the usual items like pancakes, French toast, omelettes, skillets, and sandwiches. No waffles though! They are not as big into waffles here for some reason. We both ordered French Toast and then chocolate peanut butter lava cake with ice cream and whipped cream, and hot fudge cake with ice cream and whipped cream. Needless to say, we were stuffed. No tipping required, and we were on our way. This kind of American dessert contrasts so much with the Chinese dessert of "pumpkin cake" we ordered at a Chinese restaurant that we could only take a bite of: sesame seed-covered pumpkin shells filled with black bean curd. Not what we were expecting to say the least. We wondered how many other people ordered that not knowing what it would be.

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