Sunday, April 30, 2006

Penguins and Small Town Americana

Penguins and the feel of small town Americana (or probably more accurately the UK) have been what have struck me most about Christchurch, our first destination in New Zealand.

Our cuddly little animals in tuxedos first. While looking into things to do in Christchurch, I found out that the NZ, US and Italian Antarctic teams are based here in Christchurch. It also serves as the major hub for all flights and work done on the forgotten continent. Since it's winter in the Antarctic right now and it would be a bit cost-prohibitive to visit anyway, we did the next best thing and visit the International Antarctic Centre. It was incredibly informative; a ton of information regarding everything from the terrain and temps of the continent to what the people living there eat on a daily basis. Also a lot of very interactive, family friendly exhibits, including a chance to relive some of our Minnesota winters via the "Snow and Ice Experience". Brrr...

Christchurch itself has a quaint, almost college town atmosphere. In fact it reminded me of Becca's home town of Corvallis (minus the cow fields) in that it's got a nice downtown area to walk around and some really nice green spaces. Yet it's the second largest city in New Zealand. Throws you for a bit of a loop when you're watching everything shut down at 5:30. I'm sure it's a pain for those shopping after work but it gives you the feeling that the Kiwis are a bit more concerned about quality of life and thus want their workers to head home at a decent hour. We went to find someplace to eat at 8:30 last night and came close to having a vending machine dinner since most of the restaurants were starting to wrap up for the evening. A bit of a shift from walking down the streets of Hong Kong at 11:30pm and seeing most of the stores still open. But it's a shift both of us are ready for. It's nice to have the traveling be a bit less "adventurous" for awhile.

One final note; it has been a serious adjustment so far being back in an English speaking country. I still find myself starting to use my battle tested pigeon English/pantomime combo and having to catch myself. In addition, I find myself struggling through normal conversations because after 4 plus months I've forgotten how to have a normal conversation with anyone other than the wife. And at this point after spending 10 plus months together I'm not sure I'm term any of our conversations normal.

We're headed off tomorrow for the town of Greymouth and a scenic ride on the Tranzalpine train. From there we pick up a rental car and the real fun starts. Hopefully a few days on the ground has allowed our brain to pick up the whole "driving on the left" thing.


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