November 26, 2010

Let the Pictures Do the Talking

My last few posts haven't involved any photographs.  And who doesn't love photos?  I do. So this entry uses several recent photos to depict a bit of my life here in New Zealand. Some of the pictures I took deliberately with this project in mind.  For others, I realized after taking them, that they say a lot...

So here it goes.

I get to enjoy this view, from the Staff Club at the U of Otago, several times a week.  It's a quintessential Dunedin, NZ view. The oldest buildings on "campus" (a word that I rarely hear NZ'ers use but am seemingly unable to delete from my vocabulary!) are local icons, the green hills are good representatives of the landscape and the "tussocks" (the plants on the deck) are common both in the wild hills and in urban landscaping. Sun makes sitting outside the club particularly enticing and I realized it is one of my favorite spots in all of Dunedin.

And since drinking coffee at the Staff Club ranks up there as one of my favorite past-times, this seems like a good time to comment on NZ's coffee.  It's delicious.  And here's my take on it.  Coffee culture in NZ is relatively new. So when they did "import" it - they did so directly from Europe.  You'll pay more for it, but the espresso is strong and the milk is fresh, local and creamy.  It seems all Americans go through withdrawal without a single pot of drip coffee in sight in NZ.  But give it time.  You will come around to see the magnificence of having a delicious espresso drink less often. Quality over quantity. (And if you order a "long black with a side of cold milk" then you'll just about have yourself an Americano with cream. Yum.)

These next few photos depict the art of road-tripping in NZ.  James and I both missed jumping into the car and going for a long drive while we were in Alaska these last two years. The longest road in Juneau is just 47 miles long. There are no roads in and out of Juneau and that, in my opinion, is a critical factor in its unique character. But it is a bit clausterphobic at times. In NZ, we hit the road every few weekends - for any reason at all. To see friends, to camp, to hike, to bike, to swim or ski. These are photos of our first "weekend away" upon returning to NZ.

A typical view...

Changing scenery and lighting as the day goes on.
And, arriving at our destination after a few turns down obscure gravel roads: The Middle of Nowhere.  We stop, watch the sun go down, drink a beer, and enjoy the warmth eminating from the "bonnet" while it lasts.  We pitch a tent, make dinner over a camp stove, and sleep pretty darn well in the fresh air.

The next day, we get to do one of our favorite things in NZ: buy a few local commodities along the roadside.  This part of the road crosses the famous Otago Rail Trail - an old railroad track that has been turned into a gravel cycling track. Right at this juncture, this family sells the honey they make right there from their home. It's delicious. We bought 2 kg's.  Later in the day we also buy free range eggs from someone else's home. Soon, we'll be able to by all sorts of stone-fruits along the way too.

Back home again...

Though it's only the beginning of summer, we're preparing for winter.  Well, James is anyway, and thank god for that. He gets wood from the trees on his parents farm and brings the rounds to our house.  He's been chopping wood on and off for weeks, with a constant grin. What is it about boys and chopping wood? He has missed wood-chopping while we've been living in an Alaskan apartment with electric heaters!  He's stacking it here against the sunniest side of the house to dry out a bit before we'll restack it in our leaky old woodshed. Ha. Unlike most places in America, and certainly unlike the way I personally grew up, this is our main form of heating here. We also now have a heat pump but energy is expensive and the burnable kind, thanks to his parents farm, is free.  It's been a learning experience for me, to have to think so consciously about producing and maintaining a warm living space. But that's enough commentary for now because home-heating in NZ is definitely a big enough topic for its own blog entry another time!
Again, another daily thing that's different from the way I grew up and different from the way I think most Americans live...  Hanging "the washing" to dry.  Such a simple thing.  Again, I guess it comes down to the fact that energy here is expensive. And so are appliances. Many NZ'ers (perhaps most?) don't have dryers.  We actually do, thanks to James' knack for combining three broken ones to make one that (barely) works! (When you are married to a creative electrician there are "special instructions" for almost every appliance in the house!  Push this button first, then that one.  Push this button twice, quickly. Push this button once, that one twice, then hit it right here. I can't decide if I find James' talents admirable or infuriating or both!) Anyway, we barely use our pieced-together dryer as air-drying is free.  And again, it's one of those uses of energy that you suddenly become aware of. And after a while, realize that you really don't need.

And lastly:
The sight of the USPS label in the postbox or at our doorstep is such a welcome sign.  These are boxes full of James' tools that arrived just a few weeks after I did, back in NZ.  When the local courier pulls into our cul-de-sac, he could be going to any number of houses with whatever parcel he's delivering.  But when I see the blue and red USPS label, I know it's for me.  It feels like a piece of home has been shipped to my doorstep. Well, it has!  If I get this excited over the sight of a box or envelop arriving from America, just imagine how excited I get when I see what's actually inside!!

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