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.

Dragon

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.

Cycling

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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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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.