Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Inside Outside Upside Down

When we were teaching English at the Pattaya Orphanage, "Inside Outside Upside Down" was a book BG read to our 7-9 year olds one day. It's also a book I read as a child, so it brought back many happy bedtime story memories for me!

However, inside, outside, and upside-down is certainly how I feel now that we've arrived in New Zealand. We're in Christchurch, which is the largest city in the South Island, but it certainly doesn't have a big-city feeling to it at all. It's got tons of green space, an adorably quaint downtown, and practically zero road traffic. The air is fresh and crisp. This is obviously a huge change from the environment we've been in for the past eight months, with the sweltering, sweaty heat and diesel-scented city air. It's autumn here, which is weird because it's late May and that's always spring for me; like I said before, things here are upside-down, and that's just the beginning of it.

Being here is so easy. I mean -- everything just makes sense. We can read all of the street signs. We can identify all of the foods in the grocery store. We aren't speaking Pigeon English anymore, although BG is continuing to gesticulate and gesture wildly with his hands as he speaks. In fact, we have been involved in no less than a dozen pleasant conversations with random strangers in the past three days. People obey traffic laws, drive reasonably and in predictable manners, chew with their mouths closed, and most wonderfully, they don't eat durian on public transit.

Aside from that, New Zealand is also gorgeous. We walked through Cathedral Square here in Christchurch, with its wonderfully bohemian and adorable market. We strolled through the streets as the leaves dropped from the trees, the familiar scents of autumn in our nostrils. Today we hiked up to the top of the mountain here (the name escapes me) and rode mountain bikes down -- proper mountain bikes, as BG gleefully noted, complete with decent hand brakes, gears, and anatomically protective seats. We kept stopping to take in the impossibly gorgeous scenery of rolling hills, plunging cliffs, and beautiful houses climbing up the hill side, interspersed with meadows full of puffy white sheep snacking on the grass. We stopped for a coffee and snack at a seaside restaurant and marvelled at how simply perfect the day was, as the breeze cooled our hands and the tide rolled out, away from the black volcanic sand.

Everyone is so nice here. BG stopped at an ice cream truck for a soft-serve cone, and when I declined to order one for myself, the truck owner gave me a sample cone (which was essentially a full serving in itself) anyway. When we hired the mountain bikes, we paid the guy cash at the top of the hill for the rental, and arranged to drop them off at the base. He never took our names or a credit card number, just trusted that his expensive bikes would end up where we said we'd leave them. (They did.)

Tomorrow we'll hop into our rental camper van and head south to Queenstown, home of bungee jumps and canyon swings. En route we'll take in some more mountains, more sheep, some wine, and some apples.

The food's great. The scenery's great. The people are great. We love it here.


Teacher Girl said...

Hi Val.
I'm a fellow Canadian (Ottawa) and I have been following your travels here at "Love and Chopsticks" since you were still packing for the trip! Your description of the Asia heat was so vivid that it made me feel as though I needed to turn on the fan.

My guy, DP, and I live in Barcelona and recently took a small group of kids from our school to Dublin, Ireland. It was SO easy... that's absolutely right! People could not have been lovelier and even the Customs guy joked with the boys. Wait! In English... in the language that all six of the travellers speak as their first language. After two years in Spain (in both Spanish and Catalan), Dublin was like being on honeymoon. Our comfort level made us more talkative and the Irish responded well to that! (As, I suspect, will the kiwis).
Enjoy New Zealand.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to NZ! Glad you like it so far - There is lots more to see :)
Enjoy the trip - see you soon if you escape the tourist trap that is Queenstown!

Wendy said...

New Zealand sounds fantastic! I can't wait to see some photos! :)

Renee said...

Be sure to stop in Hokitika and Nelson! :P
(Hi Megan!)

Anonymous said...

Aw, NZ sounds blissful. It's #1 on my "Places to See" list. Can't wait for some photos!
Loved your post about the hotel, too. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Liz said...

I have not read your blog in quite some time and now you are bringing back memories of my family's year in Christchurch!!! Did you go to the flea market at the racetrack? Did you have a beer at the Dux?? I hope you are enjoying the cooler weather and faired better than we did in our house heated by a single fireplace...

Val said...

Hi all, and thanks for your well-wishes! New Zealand is wonderful and we're managing in the cold. Unfortunately, we didn't go to the flea market or the Dux in Christchurch (didn't know about them), but we'll def. go to Hokitiki and Nelson to see the Fam...