Nelson, New Zealand
Life goes on comfortably here at the "top of the south," where in just the last four or five days, fall has descended on us. The nights are cold, and early morning bike rides to work require gloves, even on the sunniest of days. The poplars and maples are turning yellow, and the wind coming in off the sea has a distinctly autumn-y crispness to it. This is one of the last places in the country to feel the change in the seasons, but with the arrival of April (the equivalent of October back home), there is no denying that it is truly autumn (which is, incidentally, my favorite season. Hurrah!)
Work continues to be mostly enjoyable, with the occasional insanely busy day or whackadoo customer thrown in just to keep things exciting. We are enjoying getting to know our coworkers, and have found them all to be awesome people. We have been hanging out quite a bit with Kathryn, who is from Scotland and a kindred spirit, and spent Wednesday evening with her and a big group of British travelers at perhaps my favorite pub that I have been to, ever- The Free House. A converted tiny Anglican church, the place is light, bright, happy, and has giant sculpted copper cockroaches all over one wall, a roaring fire in the woodstove, and one of the best Irish jam sessions I've ever heard playing in the corner.
We've also been invited by our manager, who is a totally rad Canadian ex-pat, to join him and several friends at Golden Bay for Easter weekend, where they are renting a big house out in the bush and planning to explore a local cavern system. He made sure we got time off for Easter weekend, including one paid day off, so we may very well take him up on the invitation, as we've had about a million people recommend we see Golden Bay before we leave NZ.
My body has finally adjusted to cycling again, after six months of not being on a bike. I still miss Sheila, my beat-to-hell but familiar road bike, but am enjoying the bike commute nonetheless. We have driven the car once in the past two weeks, which I think is a pretty good accomplishment. The only disadvantage of our two-wheeled commute is the terrain. Our ride to is almost entirely downhill on the way to work, which means it is almost entirely uphill on the way home. It takes us 15 minutes going to town, and around 30 minutes coming home, due to the slightly uphill grade of the bike path, and then the massive and steep hill that we live on, which no sane person could ride all the way up, even on a mountain bike, and so necessitates walking.
(Click on Photos to Enlarge)
From Tahuna Beach; the hill in the background with houses all over it is where we live.
A highlight of our week was celebrating our first paycheck on Wednesday by going out for-- wait for it--MEXICAN FOOD! And also an Indian Buffet. The restaurant is called Mumbai Mexico, run by an Indian family, and advertised entirely by word of mouth. An unlikely cultural combination, but it was exceedingly well done. The buffet was incredibly good, but the chicken and spinach enchiladas (and a Mojito) totally made our week, and were astoundingly authentic. I think I have sufficiently emphasized on this blog how rare Mexican food is in this country, so you can appreciate how grateful we were to find some, finally! (To highlight the ignorance in this country of all things Mexican: we watched a show on the telly about a kid from the Far North going to the national spelling bee, and one of the words he was given was "Chipotle," and the judge pronounced it "cha-pot-il." Sigh.)
Matt and I finally had a day off together on Thursday and we made the most of it. After sleeping in and having a breakfast of bacon, pancakes and coffee, we headed out to run several errands, and Matt also signed up for a library card! The library is right across the street from our work, so it is very handy and we came home loaded down with woodworking and animal husbandry books (Matt) and cookbooks (Me). We also finally got down to the beach! It was a beautiful day, and we found our way down to the beach at Tahunanui, which we can see from our living room windows. It was chilly in the late afternoon, but wonderful to walk barefoot in the sand again, smell the saltwater, and admire the beautiful light on the water. It had been far, far to long since we'd had any quality time on the beach.
Mostly we've settled into life here, but are getting a little stir-crazy after being itinerant for so long, and are really starting to look forward to coming home. Our experience here is and has been amazing, but we have learned so much and expanded so much in our views and knowledge that we are getting really excited to come home and re-start our life there and put all of these things into action. While we are still here, though, we are taking advantage of our time by adding to our routine things like baking bread, which we've been doing regularly, with the odd chocolate cake thrown in alongside, and learning more about cooking, as that's one thing we have the resources to here. While I struggle with how much TV we end up watching here, one benefit has been that we have become religious followers of Masterchef New Zealand and Masterchef Masterclass, and are already reveling in how much better pasta is when cooked in very salty water, and how easy it actually is to make your own tomato sauce for pizza, and similar things.
The other news of late is that we have two new housemates, Jamie and Tom, who just moved into Nickola's other spare room. Tom is a Kiwi and Jamie is from California, and although we haven't gotten to know them terribly well yet, they seem really cool, and it's fun to have them around.
It's time for me to get this posted and move on to other things, but I thought I'd add in one last cultural note before I go:
In spite of six months' presence in New Zealand, until last night Matt and I still hadn't entirely figured out what was meant by the terms "Manchester" and "Whiteware." These phrases are not brand names but are used constantly in commercials and on signage in stores (as in, "50% off all Manchester"), but they always seemed a bit generic so we never completely caught on. I finally remembered to ask Nickola for a translation, and it turns out that Manchester refers to linen generally (towels, sheets, duvets, etc.) and Whiteware means appliances- washing machines, dryers, refrigerators, microwaves, the whole bit. So we were right about the generic thing, at least. I can see where the logic for calling appliances Whiteware comes from, but no one seems to know why linens are referred to collectively as Manchester.