Thursday, July 27, 2017

Trip to Lake Coleridge and BBQ

We went for another day trip out of Christchurch -- this time the weather was even colder and there were very strong winds we had to walk into. We were near the ski fields of Mt Hutt, south of where we went last time to Castle Hill. Unfortunately there was no snow at ground level, which I had been hoping for. We went for a walk near Lake Coleridge, which is part of a hydoelectric power plant, but the only exciting things were fantail birds and sheep. The fantails are so cute, flitting around and showing off their tails. There were three of them very close to us on one of the forest paths. The sheep were more afraid of us. There were one black-faced one and some were pregnant. The walk was fine on the way out to the lake, but the winds were blisteringly harsh and cold on the way back.

We took a detour to eat at this Texas BBQ place I had read an advertisement for in the paper recently. It's got a great name -- Truck Norris BBQ -- and is run by a Kiwi guy and his partner who is a Texan woman. She must be the one in charge of the Facebook page because it was very friendly and cheery on there. The guy is a typical Kiwi who doesn't say much and doesn't have the customer service skills we expect in America. I figured that would be the case and didn't mind too much because I am used to it. I just ordered the food and didn't make conversation. The food was indeed American-style and the BBQ sauce was soo good. Just like what I've had in the Southwest. We got a sampler platter with BBQ chicken, beef brisket, and pulled pork as well as macaroni and cheese and seasoned fries. I would be eating there all the time if it weren't such a long drive away. Maybe for the best!

I can't wait for winter to be over. The electricity bill was over $340 last month, and that's with us not being home during weekdays. There has been flooding in surrounding areas due to a huge rainfall in the past week, and tomorrow the high is supposed to be 6 C (43 F). It is just crazy that people don't have proper and affordable heating systems to cope with this kind of weather. And drainage systems cannot cope with the amount of water and the fact that the city is built in the floodplains of the river.
Fantail with the white and black tail


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Castle Hill

There's not much going on besides a rather tedious cycle of writing and editing, but we did get out of the city for a day trip to Castle Hill, which is a limestone rock area about an hour-and-a-half's drive west. I can't believe it took us this long to get out there, because it was a really cool place (and also nearly freezing - somewhere around 4 C / 40 F). And since it's winter, there were snow-covered hills and mountains to see on the drive, and we stopped at an accessible patch of snow on the way back to throw some around (several other groups of people were doing the same thing). Snow in June is still such a foreign concept, even after years down here. I'm looking forward to some more free time after the thesis is completed to enjoy more of the beautiful New Zealand scenery.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Autumn Red and New Car

I'm nearing the last stages of the thesis writing, and it's not a pleasant task to have to go through drafts you wrote years ago and update and edit them. It's not something we really teach or encourage undergraduates to do, then suddenly it's all you're doing at the graduate and professor level, because you have to get feedback and make edits on almost everything you write if you're looking to get published. In this environment, there are always seemingly more pressing things to occupy your attention (sometimes they are more important, sometimes not), so it becomes a challenge to stay focused and move through the additional research and writing. I'll get there eventually, but it will take a lot of effort.

Meanwhile, the mostly not-very-good summer has gone away and turned into a cold autumn. I can turn the heater up in my office, which is nice, but the walk to and from the parking lot is still cold and windy. The high next week is supposed to be 52F (11C) and rainy some of the days, so I'm not looking forward to those. The leaves changing color are still pleasant to see, although they really clutter up the car crevices and the parking lots and walkways everywhere. The garden only had a few crops manage to produce through the colder weather -- the cucumbers are still churning out a couple small one -- and my sunflowers had a brief but nice run for a couple weeks when it was nice out. They grow so tall!

We sold our car that had been pretty good to us since we bought it two weeks after we arrived because the auto shop said that it would have some major repairs coming up and wouldn't really be worth fixing since it had so many miles/kms on it. We sold it to a traveling American and it only took a week or so to get another one from an American backpacking couple who needed to get rid of theirs. It's a little 'newer' and has its own quirks, but we got it new tires and a tune-up, and hopefully it will last us for as long as we need it. It rides like a Cadillac compared to our old car though, which is a bit hard to get used to. And I've never had a white car before, but at least it's two-toned. There was a big spider living just above the driver's seat that came out while I was driving one night and it stayed there for several weeks, but we let it build its web back up and finally were able to get it out of the car and send it on its way into some plants.

A friend highly recommended I attend a spoken poetry evening with a famous Palestinian poet, Rafeef Ziadah. Admittedly, I don't know much about the issues, but she was so passionate and her stories were quite moving about the losses she and others have suffered. It is great to hear poetry performed live, and her musical accompaniment was also very good.

Rafeef Ziadah

Kraft Mac & Cheese (albeit freezer kind) finally makes it to NZ!! $5 though...

Can't resist clearance chocolate Easter eggs!

Autumn sunsets

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Orana Wildlife Park, Shakespeare, and Chinese lanterns

We had our last round of visitors scheduled to come during our program, and we got the chance to go to a new place that we'd been meaning to visit before we even moved here: Orana Wildlife Park in Christchurch a little ways past airport. The day we went, we had a very packed day with the park in the early afternoon, an outdoor Shakespeare play 'Two Gentlemen of Verona' in the early evening, and the Chinese Lantern Festival in the late evening.

Some highlights at the park were the lion feeding where the lions climbed onto the enclosed truck to get some scraps, some fun birds like a talkative tui and a mischievous kea, and a lot of tuatara lizards, including one that was just perfectly positioned for a close-up. The cheetahs had also recently been fed and were pacing around and looking so graceful and lean. Big cats really are so similar to domestic ones and so beautiful. The Shakespeare play included one of my former students, and it didn't rain on us so that was good. We popped over to the lantern festival and the timing was good because it was by then dark enough to see the lanterns lit up nicely and we saw lots of new ones -- it's a nice annual tradition in the park downtown.

Now we are nearing the final stretch of completing our theses, which means long hours and getting frustrated at having to go back and re-edit and re-write and cut words and add them and patch holes in arguments and all of the other work to put together an 80,000-word tome. We're not planning other travel or conferences or much of anything to be able to focus on the writing. It will be a challenge for sure.

caught this little critter with its tongue out!

my favorite NZ bird: the tui with two voiceboxes and fun warbles

the very intelligent kea

"Two Gentlemen of Verona" with a swingin' sixties theme