They're Late, They're Late, For a Very Important Date
During a recent walk through the city centre, LC and I had an epiphany. I'd say it was probably the deepest and most philosophically intriguing thought we've ever had. Now I'm not saying this is going to impress anyone, in fact, I'm saying quite the opposite - you are likely to be unimpressed. Although, who knows? Maybe you actually will be impressed, but my guess is you'll be more impressed that this is the extent of our mental capabilities.... Enough preamble though.
We are told a number of things about science and generally accept them as facts. We are told the Earth spins, the sky is blue because blue light waves are the shortest on the light spectrum, so they are reflected more often so we see more blue, and we are told the wind blows because of pressure in the air. But what if the wind doesn't blow from pressure systems? We witnessed a bunch of leaves blowing past us a couple months back and it dawned on us. Leaves don't get blown BECAUSE of the wind, leaves are the CAUSE of the wind. Bear with me.
Leaves might have really important lives and agendas they have to follow. They have appointments, gutters to clog, dogs to get stuck to, lawns to lay down on and get a nice tan. Leaves have things to do. So anytime you see a bunch of leaves that are "getting blown along", just think that that might not be right. Maybe those leaves are all bustling along together to go somewhere. I'd like to think there's some massive event for a sporting event or concert taking place somewhere, but it's a leaf concert or leaf sports game, so humans don't know about it. So all the leaves are running to get there, and the leaves running en masse are actually causing the wind. Think about when a big-rig drives by you and you feel the massive gust of wind from behind it, maybe the leaves do the same thing.
But it was a fun thought.
When is New Zealand?
I've mentioned before that NZ is in a weird place in terms of time. As a country, we are generally able to watch things happen in the world, long before those events ever come here, if ever. We are somewhat like an audience on the globe of performance. It's not just that we are somewhat removed, it's that we are advanced in some ways and behind in some ways. I want to verbally illustrate some of these things:
Ahead: When you buy any type of alcohol, each bottle or container tells you how many standard drinks it contains. Very nifty and sensible.
Behind: Travel agencies still exist. I thought the internet long extinguished travel agencies, but they are littered throughout the country. Not 1 or 2 here and there, but everywhere. A remnant of a time gone by.
Ahead: Grocery stores tend to mostly sell what's in season and don't much sell what isn't. This makes the food more affordable.
Behind: The country didn't have Monetary Policy in place until 1989. Imagine if the US didn't have the Federal Reserve until the Berlin Wall came down.
Ahead: Most cars are small and hatchbacks. It's like a country of little travel pods whizzing around all the roads.
Behind: many businesses don't operate online at all. They don't even have a website or domain name, no facebook, no presence on the internet. Just a brick-and-mortar store.
Ahead: Electronic payments exist everywhere, and have for a long time.
Behind: Insulation has only recently been required for new buildings and structures. Up until the past decade, you could build a brand new house with no insulation.
Both Ahead and Behind: The smell of toast all over Chch.
Cuba "Fooding" Junior
This has nothing to do with Cuba Good Junior, it's just about food, but that was the best title I could come up with for this section. People always ask me, "What's the food like there?" and by people I mean, no one and by ask me I mean I think that thought to myself. Here a couple of oddities that have stood out to me:
Malaysian Food - I don't think I ever had Malaysian food in my life before coming to the 2 islands here. Now, they are on every corner. Malaysian food by the way, is quite a gustatory experience. Look at Malaysia on a map:
Now, think about the countries around it and what those food are like, combine them, and that's essentially Malaysian food. It's quite similar to Thai, Vietnamese and Indonesian food if you've ever had those. If you haven't had those, then who cares - I can pretty much make up all kinds of things and you won't know about Malaysian food. I assume it shares similarities to Philippino cuisine, but I am not cultured enough to know what Philippino cuisine tastes like. Long unrelated tangent aside, Malaysian food is delicious, it's everywhere, and it's delicious. Delicious gets 2 mentions on purpose.
Peanut Butter - PB in NZ doesn't have salt added and doesn't have sugar added. This has been a big adjustment for me. I wouldn't say I was a PB addict, but it's possible a 12-step programme could have helped me and my feelings about Peanut Butter when I lived in the US. Peanut Butter in NZ doesn't taste like what I grew up with though, it tastes like....peanuts.... mushed into a buttery paste. It sounds tautological, but it's a kind of plain spread here. It's also made me question life, the universe, and everything, because if I didn't know peanut butter, what else did I not know. The answer is that there's lots I don't know, but Peanut Butter was my gateway to 'knowing that I don't know.'
ANZACs - ANZAC is the short-hand for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps during WWI and WWII. Because soldiers missed the amenities of home, cookies were baked and sent off, with coconut shavings and oatmeal. They were typically baked to be quite a hard and crunchy cookie (or biscuit), so the cookies were named ANZACs also. ANZACs are basically the IPAs of the cookie world. Personally, I'm not a big fan. I'm also not a little fan. The only time I really enjoy them is when LC makes them because she does magical things in our kitchen. LC is the Hermione Granger of food things - knowledgeable, bright, capable and possessing a great deal of magic. She has chosen to use her magic for good and charmed ANZAC cookies to be chewy. This isn't the normal tradition in NZ, so now, because we are Americans making a NZ specialty, we call them AMzacs. Come to New Zealand and we will bake you some.
...And, I smell toast everywhere in Christchurch.
The Good Words
I learn a new word or phrase every month or so and it becomes my new favourite thing, and I feel like I have to share it with the world. I totally get why Oprah had favourite things now. She was probably just really happy to discover some new great things and because she's always in the spotlight, she didn't have the privacy to keep her discoveries hidden, so she went with it and dubbed it her favourite things.
My new favourite expression is "Chin wag" or "chin wagging". Before I explain it, just have a think to yourself on what it might be. Is it where you have both of your hands occupied so you get on your knees and rub your chin on your dig to get at an itch? Maybe it's where you put a pair of sunglasses on a dog's butt so the tail wagging looks like part of a dogs face? (See image)
Maybe it's a shorthand for a specific type of rickshaw or waggon used in a subregion of rural China?
Maybe a chin wag means one of those elsewhere, but here, it just means having a chat or shooting the breeze. I love that. 2 people, just wagging their chins with each other. I think that's just swell.
Wee Weekend Getaways
We had a weekend trip or as the locals call it, 'holiday' recently. We went to Hanmer Springs. I'll come back to that in a second, but first, I'm going to deviate to paint a picture. For anyone that lives or has traveled through Colorado, you've likely seen some of the small towns that are between the mountain ranges and have a quaint and retro look about them. They have a Main Street that is lined with roads that have a 25 MPH speed limit (as part of the highway), they are lined with small boutiques and I swear I once saw a department store that was straight out of 1962. The letters that made up the JCPenny were golden, Helvetica type, backlit, on an art deco facade. It looked like the kind of building you'd see the cast of Mad Men walk right out of. Most of these Colorado towns are small and haven't really kept up with the modern age so they've lost some of their charm, but imagine if they were still happening places....
A small cute town, with a main drag, that's lined with tiny storefronts and manicured parks. If I was reading this email, and not as the writer of this, I would think to myself, "yeah, sure. everybody says stuff like that. I would only believe this is a really cute town if they did something quaint like... they turned an old post office into a restaurant"
If you can't see what the sign says, I'll write it out: "Old Post Office Restaurant". Boom - there it is.
The town of Hanmer Springs is most well known for it's hot pools or hot springs, that are best described as 'melting away your troubles' once you step in. I can't recommend it highly enough. The town is also nestled at the foothills of the mountains, which means there are some incredibly beautiful hikes all over. All this and it's about an hour and 45 minute drive from Christchurch.
Combine all these things and you get The Perfect Day. A day made of all the best things, putting you into an optimal mood, making great use of your time and giving a good sense of "today was a great day". You wake up, eat breakfast, go for a hike, have a hot-spring soak, walk around the downtown shops, grab dinner. Then your life is complete and guess what - you won. You won at life. Congratulations.
An Ancient World
New Zealand is an old land mass, in fact, the general thinking is that the islands became their own land mass about 80 million years ago. A lot happened in those years, where the flora and fauna developed in a unique way, unlike anywhere else in the world. Most of the plant life became what they call "scrub" which is Manuka bushes, and all the animals were small, non lethal, and the birds grew flightless populations. There were a couple of massive birds that have since been extinct. Those behemoth birds were called Moa, and stood some 8 feet tall. For scale, have a peak at the image below:
Moa could and would hurt you. By hurt you, I really mean they could kill people, no sweat.
But aside from these giant birds, most of the animal life here was relatively peaceful for a long, long time. It's funny that New Zealand is so close to Australia, where seemingly everything will kill you. Some high percentage of the world's top 10 most venomous species can be found in Ozzy. Sit down on a log in Australia, an ant bites you and you die; or step out your door in the evening and a snake is waiting and lashes at you...so you die. Go out to the desert, the temperature rises to a million degrees, so you die a different way. But it's totally different here in New Zealand, where animals are generally not venomous, small, flightless, and not looking to maim people.
Afghan biscuit = a chocolate cookie the is dipped in chocolate. This is not a recipe used only in NZ, but I had never seen them except on Great British Baking show and then upon moving to NZ.
Sunnies = sunglasses
Togs = swim trunks
Faffing/Waffling = talking about nothing
The very common quintessential Kiwi phrase you'll hear is "yeahnah". This is the polite way for New Zealanders to say, "That's a nice thought, but no. Definitely not interested in that. Let's move on."
NZ Trivia There are 6 casinos in NZ and casinos were introduced in 1994! Casinos also are mandated to donate no less than 2.5% of their profits to charities. Gambling isn't great as a habit, but if you gamble in NZ at least it can contribute to social good.
Until next time...