4th May 2018 – 9 months

It’s now nine months since we arrived in New Zealand and we have just about reached the sweet spot. We both have full-time jobs and next week I should get paid for the first time in nine months. I feel like job wise I landed on my feet, I only applied for two jobs, interviewed for one and got it! After years of trying to climb the ladder and going to more interviews than I care to mention this has all feels a bit surreal. I applied for the job before I had my work visa, though it was submitted to immigration waiting to be processed, got a phone call one afternoon and had the interview the following morning. After eight months of not working the whole process knocked me off my feet a bit, I had spent no time doing interview prep. I’m thankful for the voluntary work I did helping the hospital and friends with their business solutions so that my work brain didn’t disappear altogether.

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So I now work for Christchurch City Council in the Vertical Capital Delivery unit. More specifically in the project management of community facilities i.e. the repair/rebuild/replacement of community centres, libraries, swimming pools and other community buildings. There were approximately 1,000 Council buildings damaged in the 2010/2011 earthquakes and the Council is still working to get them all functioning. It’s a new area of the Council for me but my aim was to get into project management so I’m right where I want to be with lots of potential for the future. I’ve been learning about building standards, NZ legislation, programme funding, Council plans etc. My boss has got my joining working groups relating to risk management, resilience and learning lessons so plenty scope to have an impact across the team. I’m based in the headquarters which is a former NZ post building and is full of high ceilings, lots of concrete and wood. It’s a 6 Green Star for environment which they are very proud of. https://ngaitahuproperty.co.nz/portfolio/christchurch-civic-building/

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I mentioned pay earlier. There was no salary listed for the job I applied for, they don’t advertise the salary here but instead you have to negotiate it with your future employer. Thankfully a couple of verbal references telling my new boss about my awesomeness sealed the deal and I didn’t have to negotiate. In NZ the majority of people get paid fortnightly, mortgages and loans are paid fortnightly too. As it turns out Chris and I get paid on alternate weeks so in effect we get paid every Wednesday – wahey! Since I went shopping when I got my contract for new work clothes every dollar next week will be transferred straight into the savings account while we try and build our savings up to cover what we spent when we first got here. We have been used to living on just Chris’s salary so it seems reasonable to continue to do that for the foreseeable future anyway.

 

I’ve realised that because of my job I need to learn more about the Māori culture. Understanding how the Council works with the local iwi (tribe) to best serve the people of the city is already impacting on the work I’m involved in. I’m also starting to try and understand how to pronounce local areas and street names. All Kiwis pronounce their vowels very different to us which can be fun when you are asked to spell something. A couple of Scottish men have made themselves known to me at work, Ian is from Greenock and has been here 32 years and Mark is from just outside Glasgow and been here about 8 years. Both seem really happy they made the move and glad to have another Scot on the team. The others in the office say they can understand me but can’t understand Ian or Mark which is funny.

Holi Chris

We have been to many events in the city over the last three months. From the Chinese Lantern Festival to the Holi Festival and the outdoor cinema. The Holi Festival was the best fun, held through the day in Hagley Park it was like being back in a 90s rave with loud music and colour everywhere. We cheated on the Chinese lantern festival and went the night before it started, there were lanterns spread across the city centre including a big dragon on the river. When we went back on the official night it was so busy you could barely move and definitely couldn’t get good photographs. Locals complained about how busy it was but the Council saw it as a victory in getting locals back into the city centre which has been tough since 80% of it was lost after the earthquake and has had to be rebuilt. The outdoor cinema was a washout, it was one of those rare rainy nights which started about 15 minutes into the film (Disney’s Coco) we stuck it out but I got a bad cold almost immediately after – lesson learned. We were meant to go to a hot air balloon festival last weekend but it got rained off so we have put it on the list for next year.

 

At Easter we hired a car and travelled down to Queenstown for a couple of nights. It’s like New Zealand’s answer to Aspen with vineyards in the summer and ski slopes in the winter. The scenery is amazing and it is where bungy jumping was invented so plenty fun to be had. On the way we stopped at Lake Tekapo which has a picturesque lake and chapel which shows up in most tourist information. Luckily we got to see it about 15 minutes before a tour bus showed up. The scenery on the way to Queenstown was amazing, driving through the mountains. The air force was practising for the Warbirds Over Wanaka weekend which is similar to the Leuchars Air Show. We got a Top Gun style banking flyby from one of the jets which was a bit of a surprise and saw plenty of the planes flying over Queenstown that weekend. I think we will try and go another year.

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Church of the Good Shepherd, an old church overlooking turquoise blue Lake Tekapo, Tekapo, Mackenzie Distrtict, Canterbury Region, South Island, New Zealand, Pacific

After Queenstown we headed straight to Dunedin for the Ed Sheeran concert. The city has a population of 150,000 and there were 120,000 people attending the concerts over the weekend so special measures were put in place to cope with traffic, tourists etc. There is a strange law here over the Easter weekend regarding the sale of alcohol. Tourist areas get special dispensation and I think you are okay if you buy a drink with food but Dunedin had to get the alcohol ban lifted for the weekend. They closed off the roads around the Octagon (city centre) allowing pubs to bring out additional seating similar to what George Street does during the Fringe. We stayed at an Airbnb for the night as there were no hotels etc. My face was a picture when we pulled up outside the house as it wasn’t the most desirable from the outside. However, when we met Jackie and went into the house it was a totally different story and we had a great time. A classic example of first impressions. The only downside to the whole weekend was the drive back to Christchurch on Easter Monday. The roads are mostly single carriageway A roads, there simply isn’t the volume of traffic for dual carriageways or motorways so when the mass exodus started we were jammed. What should have been a four hour journey back to Christchurch was in the end about six and a half hours. Thankfully I had an awesome playlist of classic tunes to sing to all the way back.

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April has been our musical month starting with the Ed Sheeran concert, then Rag’n’Bone Man a few days later, Wicked the musical, a charity event with actresses from Wicked singing their favourite songs and then The Killers in concert. It’s been ages since we last went to a concert and we’ve noticed ones at The Hydro in Glasgow coming up that we would have went to so it’s good to know we can still do this here. The venue for Ed Sheeran was a rugby stadium which although was big wasn’t the best sound quality. Rag’n’Bone and The Killers was at the local indoor arena as both had a much better sound quality. There has been a huge discussion in Christchurch about them not having an outdoor stadium for big events. Lancaster Park was destroyed in the earthquakes and they only now just starting to demolish it so they are a long way off getting a new stadium and many locals are very disgruntled about the opportunities the city is missing out on.

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We have both won local competitions lately. My theory is that with a much smaller population the odds of winning are much greater. Chris won the valentine’s competition on the local radio with spa and massage vouchers for two and I won a selection of DVDs from Universal. Needless to say we enter every competition we see so I’ll keep you posted. However, one thing we don’t do is play the lottery as its too confusing. There are a whole range of types of tickets and levels you can buy. The standard option is $16 which is about £8.79 we’ve done it twice in the last nine months and we won £27.50 so not too bad but it seems a lot to pay. There is a casino in town that has free prize draws of $5000 you only have to register that you are there to be able to win so we’ve done that a couple of times but realistically it is hard work that will put dollars in the bank.

 

Its Autumn now and the garden city as Christchurch is known is very picturesque with lots of fallen leaves and beautiful hues of colour. Chris can usually be found in the botanic gardens at lunchtime taking pictures. You can see his pictures on Instagram @mrfirestar Temperatures are still good but it gets cold in the evenings when the sun goes down. Local adverts are currently for ski passes for the winter season. We’ve decided that we will go down to Queenstown next year and learn to ski over the winter. With a trip to the Onsen pools afterwards.

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The good weather has meant that we have been keeping active. I walked about 100 miles in April according to map my walk. I should have done the 1,000 miles challenge. I bought a bike in March so we’ve been cycling around the city at the weekend making the use of the quieter roads and bike lanes as well as cycling along the river Avon. I’m also fulfilling a life-long ambition to learn to swim through a well-being initiative at Chris’s work called hi-five. A lovely A&E doctor has started to give me lessons and fingers crossed I will be a water baby in no time. Just as well as a new state of the art swimming pool opens in a few weeks. I’ve also joined the yoga group at work so twice a week I go to yoga at work for an hour. The best bit its only £16.50 for six sessions.

 

We still try and keep in touch with what’s going on back in Scotland. We have watched all of series 8 of Still Game on YouTube, we’ve enjoyed all the memes about changing the irn bru recipe and the new sugar tax. We organise with Chris’s mum to get some things sent out to us from Scotland every few months, it lets us buy things on eBay to save a fortune and give us some home comforts. I’ve realised I’m getting old now as I can’t wait for my M&S tea bags and trespass socks to arrive – my younger self would be horrified!

 

So what’s coming up next? There’s not much in the calendar for May so we will just have to go discover the new bars and restaurants opening up along the river. In June we have a comic con and a rally stage. It will be winter by then so not quite sure what to expect. The snow has started already but keeps itself to the mountains that surround the city which is lovely to look at but you don’t have to trudge around in it trying to get to work. Our rental agreement runs out in August so we already starting to think about where in the city we will move to. We are on the edge of the city centre just now which means we can walk everywhere and hire a car very cheap on the odd occasion we need to go outside the city. So the dilemma becomes do you move outside the city centre to get a bigger house and more space but then need to buy a car or stay in the city centre where floor space is less but you don’t need a car. Practically everyone here has a car (only 35% of people use public transport compared to 65% in Auckland) but second hand cars hold their value much better here than in Scotland so we are thinking about waiting until we have saved to buy a brand new car where there are good deals. We have a few months to figure out what is the best way forward.

Mountains

Anyway to celebrate our nine month anniversary we are going to a Thai restaurant and then my favourite Fat Eddie’s jazz bar for a Long Island Iced Tea – cheers!

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4th February 2018 – 6 months already

So Chris and I have now been living in New Zealand for six months. It’s fair to say that life during that time has been a full-on rollercoaster of ups and downs where we never quite know what is going to happen next but overall it has been worth it and we are glad we made the decision to emigrate. As they say ‘nothing in life is ever easy.’

Chris has secured a permanent job here in Christchurch working in the public sector. I am hoping to apply for my work visa in the next few weeks. I’ve had a six months break from working which has been great and I now feel fully refreshed and ready to work (plus having wages again would be good!). There are lots of opportunities here in New Zealand so once I have a work visa I’m also going to look at setting up a part-ime business.

When we first arrived we were kept talking about how expensive things were compared to the UK. After a few months we have sussed out how to be a savvy shopper (sales prices match UK prices), mastered loyalty cards and changed our food shopping to match locally sourced food. I’ve developed a taste for pineapple flavoured sweets and biscuits and accepted strawberries will never taste as good as Fife/Tayside strawbs. Crusty bread is a thing of the past and mature/strong cheese is very hard to find but farmer’s markets are so much better and frozen Coca Cola for $1 is great on a sunny day.

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We are still in love with Christchurch. The city continues to rebuild with new/replacement buildings, facilities and businesses opening every week. The city has a good range of shopping malls around the city and The Crossing opened in the city centre late last year. The entertainment and restaurant scene is steadily rebuilding, Little High is still one of my favourites mostly because of Bacon Brothers but Stranges Lane and The Terrace areas are both providing a great range of food and cocktails. Christchurch definitely has a foodie scene, I started following Christchurch Foodie on Facebook when we were still in Scotland and it was a great way to find out about places to visit. I reckon we have only visited half of the bars and restaurants in the city’s CBD so there are still plenty to discover with many more opening in the next six months.

We done lots and tried to attend every event Christchurch City Council have put on. Highlights have been the Santa Parade and YMCA Christmas Carols in the park in December, Kite Day and the World Buskers Festival in January. The Lazy Sunday concerts in the park and Summertime events every Friday have been a great showcase for local talent. In February we have a nostalgia festival, spark concert and Chinese New Year Parade to look forward to. We have tickets booked to see Wicked at the local theatre and three music concerts booked for this year so far.

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We have ventured out into the countryside visiting all the local towns, the spa town of Hammer Springs and the Waimakariri and Rakaia gorges. We have walked the Bridle Path taken by the first settlers and ventured part of the way up mount Hutt. There are many more places to visit with plans for camping hopefully before winter draws in. It’s definitely an outdoor lifestyle here but only if you want it to be (Chris and I have both lost a significant amount of weight and feel much fitter since we got here). The average Christchurch resident travels everywhere by car and our friends find it odd that Chris and I walk everywhere in the city centre. Thanks to a much sunnier and warmer climate than Scotland we find we are interested in doing much more. Chris is currently plotting to buy an inflatable kayak (maybe even two – eek!) and I have worn out several pairs of shoes with walking though I have wore nothing but my jandals (flip flops) for the last six weeks! As we have been outside so much we both have a nice tan though wearing SPF50 sun cream at all times.

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Finally, we wouldnt have enjoyed settling into Christchurch near as much if it weren’t for the geat friends we’ve made. Kiwis seem to understand my accent without any problem but they can sometimes have problems with Chris’s accent and they laugh at us when we talk to each other. The people in the hairdressers were all laughing last week when I was talking about the girl out on the street murdering the song she was trying to sing.

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We are planning a visit back to Scotland, hopefully before the end of the year. We are not homesick yet though miss our friends and family. Video messaging is great and makes regular catch ups with family much better, Ive even seen my gran a few times which I think she finds hard to understand. Ideally if I could teleport back whenever I like to have a cup of tea and catch up with everybody then head back to New Zealand that would be the perfect solution but I doubt that will ever be an option.

I will keep writing a blog every three months from now on so I should be working by the time the next blog is written and we will be heading into winter.

Here is a picture of Chris and I at Spencer Beach on Christmas Day.received_10156013812555050

Sylvia x

 

8th December 2017

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December means Summer here in Christchurch. According to weather experts we haven’t had any measurable rain for 43 days, the current record in 45 days back in the 1950s. In the last week the temperature has been in the thirties for four out of seven days. Today they reckon it will peak somewhere between 33 and 36 degrees – phew! It’s one thing having these temperatures for a week or two when on holiday it’s something else when it’s part of your daily life. On the plus side the washing dries within an hour. When it’s this hot we keep the curtains closed, use air conditioining, store bottles of water in the freezer, use face cloths to keep from sweating and plan to be most active in the evenings. It’s unlikely this weather will stay at these temperatures but we are so glad we arrived in Winter and have had time to adjust.

 

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On Saturday 25th November we went to the Coca Cola Christmas Spectacular in Hagley Park. It was a very big affair but there was room for everyone with almost everyone taking folding chairs or picnic blankets. The show starts with traditional carols then local singers sang current pop hits then the event finished with a big fireworks display, in all it was about 3 hours but very well done and in it’s 24th year still very popular.

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Last Sunday we went along to the Santa Parade. There were 125 floats/entries in the parade which took two hours to pass by. There was a mixture of sponsored floats based on traditional children’s stories, local groups including Irish and Highland dancing as well as cultural community groups from China, Thailand, Fiji, Philiphines etc. which were all very colourful and entertaining. Two highlights for me were the dancing chinese dragon and the sheep taxi (Cab 4 Ewe). I took almost 300 photos trying to capture everything I saw.

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We have moved in the last two weeks. Things hadn’t been going well in the shared house with one of the housemates being threatening towards one of the others as well as selfish and rude meaning we were trying to avoid any confrontation with him. Chris and I along with others felt we couldn’t relax in the house and the atmosphere was only getting worse. Although we did contact our letting agent and I attended an uncomfortable house meeting we were lucky in that our lease was up so we have now moved to a small one bedroom house in a gated community. We have a front and back garden with plenty space of our own to relax and enjoy. We have both felt much more relaxed since moving and thankfully it’s not far from our old place so the city centre is still a short walk away. I now have a garden to potter about in and my vege/salad patch is coming along very nicely.

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Since it is now Summer it is time for Summer cocktails. People of NZ seem to be into them in a big way here so I have a collection of recipes to try so far. They sell champagne frozen popsicles Called Cuvee in strawberry and mint or passionfruit and lime. I have also found the perfect ice bucket for storing bottles in.

 

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Last night we went to see Love Actually at an outdoor cinema. It was at the Arts Centre in town and all they asked is that people made a donation using gold coins ($1 or $2 coins). It was very popular and not everyone got in. They had Polar Express on before it for families which was also full to capacity. In January they are showing Aladdin, Moana and Grease and films in February are up for public vote. It’s definitely something worth doing when the weather is so nice. It was about 22 degrees at 8pm and very nice.

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Today we attempted to walk the Bridle Path which follows the route of the first settlers to Christchurch from when their ship landed in Lyttleton. The path is very steep (equivalent of 41 floors in 30 minutes) and although we set off at 10am it was about 28 degrees by then so after almost reaching the summit but feeling a bit sick with the heat we turned around. I guess we will give it another go on a cooler day.

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We found a local cafe today that does a Scottish breakfast complete with Lorne sausage, tatties scones and haggis – result! It was closed but I hope to have a review in my next blog.

I found this video online from Air New Zealand that explains how we are getting on understanding Kiwi accents.

 

 

 

 

 

24th November 2017

The last blog was written at Hanmer Springs where we enjoyed the thermal hot pools. On the Saturday we climbed conical hill and got amazing 360 degree views of the area. There was an amazing breakfast of French toast, bacon, caramelized banana and maple syrup. In true Scots tradition we left our mini-holiday covered in bites and Chris sporting a burnt red back and shoulders, he needs to get a rash top for all future trips to the water.

 

Megan had kindly lent us her car for a week so we explored more of the towns  and villages around Christchurch. On our way back from Hanmer Springs we stopped at a new town called Pegasus. It felt very similar to Florida with wide streets named like Infinity Drive. There is a big lake in the middle with a few shops, future bar/restaurant, small beaches and a play park. The East coast and beach are a short drive or 15 minute walk away. There are lots of plots of land for sale and practically every house looks different so no feeling of walking into Stepford Wives territory. After the 2010/2011 quakes a lot of people moved out of the city to a town called Rolleston. Land was readily available and cheap to build on so lots of developments with houses meeting the new building regulations were built. Chris and I found that the town was based around a retail park and didn’t seem to have much community to it. Next on our tour was Lincoln, we did a double take when what sounded like a WW2 air-raid siren went off but no-one around us was bothering. It turns out it was the voluntary fire service raising an alert and soon enough two fire engines went tearing past. We also went back to Sunmer and drove around the peak to Taylor’s Mistake which seemed to be a haven for surfers and very quiet which was nice.

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The Canterbury A&P Show ran from 15th to 17th November. We picked Thursday to go as that was when the Clydesdale horses had most of their time in the show ring. The show was much bigger than most shows in Scotland but significantly smaller than the Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh. Nevertheless the RHS could learn from the family focussed and laid back feel of the show. They had a music stage and deck chairs out as well as a family area with kids activities and a separate carnival area. I found it interesting that they had Clydesdales in the ring either standing still with decorated harness or slowly pulling sledges around obstacle courses right next to dressage and Hunter horses flying around their courses and jumps. It was good that the Clydesdales were in the main ring from 8.30am and not at 6pm like at Edinburgh. It was a great day out, Chris and I ate all the usual rubbish of ice cream, doughnuts and burgers. We almost fell asleep in the sun on the deck chairs watching the awesome Kiwi Army Band, we saw them last year at the Edinburgh Tattoo. We had a full day (8.30 – 5.30) wandering around all the stalls, there was a great conversation with a salesman from Tekapo Thermal Pools who has a Scottish wife from Elgin. He loves the cheese and red wine aisles in Asda when they go to Scotland.

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Last weekend we took the bus to Lyttleton Harbour, where the original Canterbury settlers first landed, and a short ferry across the bay to Diamond Harbour. After a short walk into the village which consisted of a cafe that sold ice cream but not the flavours listed, a bar and an estate agents. We walked to Stoddart cottage which was the first dwelling in the area, lived in by a Scots man and his wife in the 1860s which has been preserved as it was back then. We then wandered off and found the coastal walk. It was barely wide enough for both your feet, over boulders, hidden by 4 foot grasses, weeds etc with a sheer drop into the water on the other side for good measure. It seemed more like jungle trek than a coastal walk. I noticed all the signage was tagged Christchurch City Council not the usual Department of Conservation which explains a lot. After enjoying all the wonderful views at the bay we walked the road back into the village rather try and find the path back (it only took 20 minutes following the road compared to 90 minutes on the coastal route).

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Developments in the city continue, the bars and restaurants at The Terrace should be in over the next few weeks and the Council released the picture below explaining how some of the empty buildings and spaces will be utilised. Work on the Anglican Cathedral will hopefully start soon and the massive library is taking shape and should open next year. Last week a building facade and empty plot was sold on the high street, hopefully this will see a significant movement on the work being done on the high street.

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It will be seven years this weekend since Chris and I first met and four years since we got engaged. Chris’s acceptance of all things Christmas is getting better each year so we are heading to the Coca Cola Christmas Spectacular in Hagley Park on Saturday night. They have erected a big concert stage with multiple screens and a huge Christmas tree. I have my Santa hat to wear but couldn’t find Chris a bah humbug had to replace the one left in Scotland.

 

It will finally be Summer when the next blog is written but we are getting used to the lack of rain, sleet and snow and embracing the sunshine. Until next time …

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10th November 2017

So today’s blog comes from the lounge in our hotel sat on a big comfy sofa next to a log fire. I have a big bar of Lindt chocolate and a glass of fizz to see me through.

We have a 4X4 for a week (thanks to the lovely Megan) and Chris has some time off so we are exploring. We are at Hanmer Springs for a few days, It’s an alpine village famous for their thermal spas. The village is also good for jet boat rides, bungy jumps, fishing, skiing, nature walks and mountain biking.

Our hotel room has a jacuzzi bath and since I’ve only had access to a shower since we got here I celebrated the occasion by going to Lush and buying a big pink bath bomb before we left Christchurch. I’ve also put my name down for a bottle of Snow Fairy shower gel, the pink glitter and smell of bubble gum always get me in the mood for Christmas (and lasted until March last time). Chris however hates how slippy the shower floor gets with it though says nothing about all the glitter!

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We visited a few hot pools on our tour of NZ last year and Hanmer Springs is the biggest we’ve been too (so far). There were 12 adult pools including 3 hydro therapy, 3 sulphur, 3 rock and 3 standard as well as a family section including a lazy river, fun pool, aqua park, water slides and swimming lanes. I managed to get discount vouchers meaning our full day of huddling in hot, bubbly water only cost $12 each.  https://hanmersprings.co.nz

On the way to HS we stopped off at a couple of towns north of Christchurch that are popular with people who commute to the city – Kaiapoi and Rangiora. We also visited a new build development called Silverstream which was on the edge of Kaiapoi and about a 30 minute commute to the centre of Christchurch (a new faster route opens in December). We had a wander around the town centre of each area, checking out local shops, banks, takeaways, cafes, restaurants etc. There was much more in Rangiora though it was much bigger.  http://www.silverstreamestate.co.nz

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We also visited a town called Halswell only five minutes south of the city. It’s small but had all the necessary shops, bakers etc and a pretty impressive community centre complete with outdoor swimming pool (only open in the summer). We especially liked The Old Vicarage bar/cafe/restaurant that was perfect for sitting outside enjoying sunshine and cocktails.

For those not liking the frosty starts back in Scotland we reached a new high of 27 degrees last week. It was a fantastic week of sunshine and mid-twenties temperatures, unfortunately this week it’s dipped back and there was rain, wind and snow in some places on Wednesday though it was back to early twenties yesterday. Chris and I still can’t believe Summer hasn’t even began yet. As Scots we’re convinced we’ve had enough sunshine to keep us going for a good year or two already. Our faces are now well tanned though we always have the factor 50 sunscreen handy. A burnt Scot is not a happy one.

We’ve been out to a few pubs and restaurants over the past couple of weeks. Chris’s new favourite is the Irish pub called The Bog which does a steak and a pint for $20 on a Monday. We’ve also tried a Brazilian BBQ where the chef brings 12 courses of meats to your table and you tell him how much you want. We’ve been to the cinema a few times, there is no Cineworld card equivalent here but it’s only $11 (£5.50) for any film so finally something is cheaper than the UK. It was the Melbourne Cup this week which Kiwis treat like the Grand National with pubs showing coverage from 3pm, sweep stakes and betting all advertised. Tomorrow starts Cup and Show week with horse races every day for a week with the city shops, hotels etc all promoting special deals to help celebrate. Friday 17th is a local holiday so everyone gets a long weekend. Many pubs and restaurants are offering a Cup breakfast and then transport to the racecourse.

Since we got here I have travelled everywhere either on foot or by bus (I’ve worn out my trainers I brought here new in August). The bus service here is excellent, the drivers are nice, polite and mostly cheery. They often change drivers along the route and the leaving driver will say farewell and the new driver will acknowledge everyone and say hello as they get on. They wait until everyone is sat down before moving and wait at the stop if they see someone running for the bus. It’s about £1.25 per journey and the maximum you will pay in any week is ten trips after that every trip is free. The bus exchange in the centre of the city is more like an airport with a control tower and display screens telling each bus which stance to go to. All the buses are GPS tracked so you can check Google or their website to see if your bus is on time. I can’t say enough about how good the buses are here.

My gran is finally moved into the farm so I can now see her through video chat though I think she will need time to get used to this. Last week she was trying to give me a bit of her Crunchie she was munching.

I completed my Project Management PRINCE2 Practitioner level last week. I had a 2 1/2 hour exam I sat in the house with the examiner watching me on a webcam. All was going well until 40 minutes before the end the really noisy housemate came home unexpectedly thumping up the the stairs, shouting, banging doors. Thankfully it was a flying visit and he was gone 3 minutes later otherwise it would have been difficult to concentrate to get it finished. Thankfully I got 75% and now have my certificate to add to my CV.

Chris has created a gif for me of the fire to let you see

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Until next time when I’ll tell you about Cup and Show week and the A&P Show as well as tours in our borrowed car, good night.

27th October

It’s almost Halloween which you may know is Chris’ favourite day of the year. On Sunday morning there is a reenactment of Michael Jackson’s Thriller dance in Cathedral Square as part of Thrill The World. They have run workshops for free for people to go along to for the past few weeks. As we are not organised in terms of wardrobe or make up so we won’t be the living dead on Sunday but will be watching to get ideas for next year.

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We went to the Canterbury Home Show at Horncastle Arena. For only $6 each we had the best part of a day looking at fancy hot tubs, barbecues, solar panels and plans for new houses. For all the moaning we do about the price of things building a brand new house in NZ is a much better venture than in Scotland. It was an interesting day out with plenty of dreaming to be done, we bought our first lottery ticket that afternoon and won $53 so I guess it’s a start.

 

The Kea was voted New Zealand Bird of the Year. it’s definitely a favourite of Chris and I. The Kea is widely regarded as the most intelligent bird in the world and the colours of this alpine parrot are amazing.

 

Well there is now a Prime Minister and a Government. After four weeks of negotiations the parties that were 2nd and 3rd in the election have formed a coalition government. Jacinda Adern is the 40th Prime Minister and the second youngest at 37 years old. The Labour/First National government have made pledges to focus on child poverty, cleaner rivers, reducing immigration levels and invest more in mental health. They have planned an increase in minimum wage to $16.50 for January 2018 and aim for $20 per hour by 2020. As a country that doesn’t have a deficit to deal with it will be interesting to see what happens over the next three years, they are talking of increasing police numbers and the word “austerity” is never mentioned. The NZ dollar has went from $1.86 to $1.92 to the pound which is not good for NZ but good for us transferring money from the UK. Normally it’s about $2=£1 so should be back to that level soon enough.

 

Chris had an interview for a more permanent job at Christchurch a couple of weeks ago, everything looks good for him getting the job so it will be time to get another work visa which involves getting a medical amongst other things. Once Chris has this visa I will be able to apply for my own work visa – yay! There is an immigration office is town so we went there this week to check out what we need to do, thankfully it can be done online and is reasonably straight forward if you are good at following checklists. All those years working for local council are good for something. I have been studying for my PRINCE2 Project Management exam this week, I sat the foundation exam in April and now have the practitioner booked for Wednesday. Fingers crossed this will help me get a job when the time comes though I see jobs every day I would like to apply for.

 

We have our tickets bought for the A&P Show and currently looking at the Addington Races for Cup and Show Week. We have also decided to go to Hanmer Springs where we can relax in the hot pools so November is shaping up to be a good month. We’ve both lost a bit of weight since getting here so I was very glad when we found the outlet mall on the other side of Christchurch, it’s similar to Livingston Designer Outlet but not nearly as big.

 

We were both woken at 5.30 am this morning, Chris thought it was an earthquake and sure enough there was a weak earthquake about ten kilometres from the city centre at a depth of seven kilometres. It’s only once you look into it you realise that there a multiple earthquakes every day across New Zealand but almost all are too weak to notice. https://www.geonet.org.nz/earthquake/2017p807261

 

 

Friday 13th October

So it’s the school holidays in New Zealand and back in Scotland. Children are playing in the canoes on the River Avon and teenage girls are discovering the joys of H&M. But I have found something for mums and dads during the holidays – paint and sip – for $50 you get a two hour painting lesson (each session has different theme) with wine and nibbles! They are very clear that you don’t have to have any artistic abilities to join. http://paintnsip.co.nz/

Chris has a week off in November so we are planning a mini-break. Nothing is confirmed yet (i.e. when???) so we are looking at a range of destinations from Rotorua to Wellington, Queenstown or Hanmer Springs. The good thing is it’s still early tourist season so hopefully any of these places won’t be too busy. I vote for Rotorua so I can try and beat Chris at Luge though the hot pools at Hanmer Springs are very appealing.

https://hanmersprings.co.nz/

https://www.queenstownnz.co.nz/things-to-do/

http://www.rotoruanz.com/visit/to-do/

https://www.wellingtonnz.com/discover/

We are now pretty settled and starting to plan what we will get up to in the Summer. We came here to spend more time outdoors so we need to start looking at what all the options are and planning them. We are lucky that we have the Canterbury Plains, Lake Tekapo, Arthur’s Pass National Park and the Banks Peninsula all a car drive away. I’m keen to camp since the weather is good (I haven’t done it since I was 18) and Chris wants to see the stars at Lake Tekapo so we have a few ideas to get us started. Chris is cycling to work each day and I will buy a bike soon. I’ve also found that they have a full programme of adult swimming lessons so I’m hoping to finally learn to swim and Chris wants to do his PADI diving certificate so he can one day go diving at Fiji. So far the only definite thing on the calendar is a trip to Dunedin (about 5 hours drive south of here) to an Ed Sheeran concert. Pink is playing next September so hoping to get tickets next week when they go on sale. Rugby doesn’t start up until February though the All Blacks are at Murrayfield in November, I think it will be on the big screen here in town.

Now that it’s mid-October Christmas is starting to spread around. Last weekend we found the Christmas section in k-mart and I was having fun playing with all the musical toys (see main photo). Santa with his surf board still seems a bit strange though. The tradition here is very similar to Australia, have a BBQ at the beach. Since I was never a fan of turkey and all the trimmings I can change to BBQ steak and prawns quite happily. I have all my Christmas films here thanks to the shipment last month and I’ll get a mini Christmas tree somewhere. Shut the curtains to block out the sunshine and stick the air conditioning on, hide under the blanket and I’ll be fine!

Apparently Kiwis don’t celebrate Halloween much which is a surprise given the American influence practically everywhere here (e.g. Dennys, K-mart and shopping malls). However, Chris is making it his mission to spread some Halloween ghoulish behaviour. He only sent out one pumpkin in the shipment but we’ve been to trusty K-mart and stocked up on a few other bits and pieces to make him feel more spooky.  Tonight we went to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show at the local cinema, now we’ve done this back in Dundee but Christchurch excelled themselves. The tickets were a mere $10 (£6) but we had props to use through out the film including rice, a newspaper, a torch, water pistol, playing cards, a slice of toast and a hand bell. There were prizes for best dressed and all the staff seemed totally psyched about the night. We were all up dancing and singing to The Time Warp. No surprises it was a full house.

Rocky

The local Council here announced the other day that they are in a healthy position with a budget surplus of $187 million. Given all that they are investing across the city and previously working for a council that had to make savings of £100 million over three years the idea of having such a large surplus seems unreal but a good place to be. The Council has organised a lot of events to try and get local residents back in the city centre and show them that the city centre is recovering from the quakes. Two weeks ago there was a ‘Streets for the People’ event with activities focused around families. This October has a focus on cycling and on Sunday the Canterbury Museum is running an event to celebrate 200 years since the bicycle as invented. They have also opened up new cycle ways this month and have a cycle/walk planned on Sunday where two groups leave from opposites sides of the city with both walks ending at the same point. There is definitely an increase in people from the suburbs coming back into town at the weekends which can only be a good thing.

https://www.ccc.govt.nz/news-and-events/newsline/show/2113

Kiwis are voting for their Bird of the Year. They seem to take it quite seriously and the breakfast tv programme has been highlighting a different bird each morning, they try to be serious but it never quite seems to work. Chris and I have both voted for the Kea as we saw them on our way to Milford Sound last year. Keas are the only Alpine parrot in the world and are very beautiful when they fly. From what I can gather the winning bird is then put on the national stamps. Click this link to see the kinds of birds they have here, New Zealand is very much out on it’s own with it’s own species of birds and animals https://www.birdoftheyear.org.nz/

As Scotland prepares to batten down the hatches and turn on the heating we are beginning to feel the heat. Last weekend was a howler with three days of rain bouncing off the ground, then on Wednesday morning we were woken up with the mother of all thunder and lightning storms right above the house. It lasted about an hour and made the national news. Thankfully since then it’s got better and better with today being 23 degrees, perfect for shopping and lunch outdoors. Here’s one of the photos from Wednesday morning.

Lightning

I’m not sure what will be in the next blog. I hurt my leg a couple of weeks ago so I haven’t been pounding the streets much lately but I’m all good so will get back out and about to explore new places and try new things. We are going to the Canterbury Home Show tomorrow so will no doubt come back with loads of info about hot tubs, BBQs and outdoor living since that’s the lifestyle we quite fancy. I’ve booked my Project Management practitioners exam for two weeks time and hopefully should have some news about the visa situations in the next few weeks. Until next time….