Sunday, December 20, 2015

Hiking, Hakas, Hail, and Star Wars

We've been to a couple new places around Christchurch recently. I also found out about a project called Christchurch 360 Trail that is working on a kind of hiking/biking trail around the city that goes into different kinds of terrain and can be broken off into chunks. Our walk in Bottle Lake Forest Park turned out to be more rocky than we hoped and is really more suited to biking than walking. Many of the trees are growing to be harvested, so the scenery wasn't that memorable.

Sumner Beach was pretty and the weather was nice.

I attended the annual Maori Graduation Celebration (Hui Whakahonore) which is a more intimate affair than the regular graduation (which takes place in a stadium with hundreds of graduates in multiple ceremonies), although Maori graduates also participate in the regular ceremony as well. The smaller setting allows Maori families to perform a haka if they wish when their graduate receives their certificate and pounamu, or greenstone, necklace. I had never seen a haka before, and it was a very unique and emotional experience. They originated as war dances but are now used for special occasions and ceremonies. Some people (mostly men) rhythmically stomped their feet and shouted, while other people sang or spoke to their graduate. You could feel the energy in the room and it was so much more than the mere clapping or whooping that I'm used to!
I have been doing Christmas baking and bringing a taste of American treats here, although I've had to make substitutions because some ingredients aren't available here (no Chex cereal!!). For a country with such a diverse group of people, the suggested Christmas desserts in the newspaper and ads seem limited to a couple items, and they like to put fruit in everything. The British influence is still trying to hold out I guess.

The big event lately has been the new Star Wars movie, Episode VII: The Force Awakens. We went to a midnight showing and being in New Zealand finally meant being ahead of the game -- it showed a day early here so with the time zone difference, we saw it almost two days ahead of everyone in the U.S. It was good and thankfully not the prequels. We did a marathon of the despecialized original trilogy beforehand so the references and nostalgia were nice and fresh. We will be seeing it again this week to catch what we missed the first time! We went to a bookshop that specializes in science fiction because I was looking for another copy of Dune to lend out to people I've been telling about it, and I ended up finding one copy buried underneath several boxes of not-yet-priced books, as well as a set of the Star Wars books (I already have these back home but wanted to re-read) and a dozen other science fiction books, many from the 70s so I can see what was popular at the time. I stumbled upon several Frank Herbert short story collections that I couldn't resist, even though I'm not researching those technically. The most interesting was probably the book subtitled Understanding American History Through Science Fiction which features short stories sorted by various social studies themes and discussion questions for students. 

The weather also unleashed one of the worst storms I have ever seen, with a massive hail storm that brought tons of hail and wind and thunder and lightning. It decimated a lot of our plants in the garden and elsewhere, with the leaves shot through with holes. When it cleared up the first time, I went out and poured warm water on the strawberries to melt some of the ice bath they were sitting in. Then another round of thunder and lightning and rain came later. Crazy weather here!

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