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Clam Down

Updated: Oct 17, 2020

Kia Ora,

We settled New Zealand. I mean settled as in found a place to live and rent, not as in we've colonised the country. This was originally something we emailed to our friends and family because we traveled for about 2-3 months before officially finding a place to live for the next year+ of our lives. This post will probably be a little more personal about our experience compared to general NZ stuff, so just a heads up.


My Partner and I are quite pleased to announce we officially live in Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand, Earth. Christchurch is such a great blend of just about everything that we were looking for. Most people will probably know that in Colorado, we lived in a town called Peyton. Anyone that knows anything about Peyton can quickly surmise, it's not really a city, which is fitting, because we're not really city folk. Christchurch is the 2nd largest city or urban area in NZ, making it even bigger than Wellington, so it's weird that we chose here but I want to provide some context... or Camtext...

We winded our way through the country, which you can see a simplified version of our travels on this map:

Christchurch was pummelled by a massive earthquake in 2011, that killed 185 people, but caused severe damage and injury to many more. This 6.3 earthquake deeply devalued property and caused a large exodus of the city's residents to other regions of NZ, which pushed down housing even more. Now the city is slowly getting back, with the population growing, infrastructure being fixed and improved, and the amenities of city life that come with those benefits. Now you can find a wide range of restaurants and cuisines sprinkled throughout the city centre, and lots of trendy breweries and bars, it's thriving again and seems to be on the uptick, while still being affordable for a city life.

Christchurch is home to a massive park (known as Hagley) that contains a botanical garden in it, that's probably one of our favourite places in the world at this point. The city has a small river, called the Avon, that winds through it, and they have made it a feature of the city. Christchurch is also coastal, sort of. The city centre is not right next to the water, but the outer parts of the city are, so you have vast amounts of coastline, that offer some very beautiful beaches.

Christchurch is about half way down the south island, on the East Coast, which provides moderate climate or Goldilocks temperature. Really not too cold, and not too hot, which is perfect for growing wine. There are wineries on the outer regions all the way around the city and throughout Canterbury. Let me stop using so many words and provide a brief image: 

The architecture is unusual because it's a unique blend of 'old meets new'. I'm not sure if there's a technical term for that, so I'll just call it "Kablamo'. There are 150 year-old Anglican style churches, and due to the earthquake and shifting demographics, many of them have been turned into art centres, museums, or other public service buildings.

Some haven't been repurposed at all, they are just being propped up with some construction lattice work that keeps them from falling over, so you'll see these crumbling buildings propped up with steal beams and concrete blocks, and right next door find a sleek modern looking building that provides an interesting contrast.

There's a trolley or tram that goes through town, and it even has it's own street. By that I mean it's a kind of touristy street that doesn't allow for cars and traffic, just pedestrians and the tram. On that street, there is a bar. The bar is small. It's actually the smallest bar in Christchurch Centre. That bar is owned by a person. That owner works with me.

Small world huh?

 Christchurch also has little hip farmers' markets. It's not overly congested or riddled with traffic, it's 1.5 hours from Akaroa, there are hikes, and you can rent a place in the downtown for just a tad for half of what it would cost in one of the other major cities. 

The Langwij

You may notice I referred to my wife as Partner before, because that's the way everybody here does it. I have met let's say, 15 people that are married currently and 14 of them have referred to their spouse as their partner. It's just the nomenclature here, so my wife is now my partner.... we may start an LP soon. We'll see.

Christchurch's abbreviation is ChCh. I think that's hilarious. It's even funnier because we live on Chester Street, so our location is ChChCh. How rich is that? I think we should call this place the Train Station (because it sounds like ChooChooChoo). That name hasn't stuck though, so we'll keep hunting.

Geographical terms are important here because the word that I'm most pleased to call myself these days is the demonym for a person from Christchurch. So take a quick moment and quiz yourself what you think a person from Christchurch is called: For example, someone from Canterbury is a Cantabrian, New Zealander = Kiwis, Colorado is a Coloradan. What do you think a Christchurch person is?

The answer is: Christecclesian

How Effing cool!!! I have nothing to follow that up with, it's just too awesome by itself.

The Clam Life

As some of you may know, our home in Colorado had a special name - The Clamshell. It's a hybrid of our names (LC's name + Cam = Clam.  Clams live in their shells, hence, clamshell). So when we found a place here we were distressed to name it. We scoured dictionaries, hired consultants, lawyers, word hybridizers, called on the City Council, raised an awareness campaign, requested Gallup send out a poll, and more. And while almost none of that last sentence is true, we did think about it. We each came up with a list of several names, in fact we had so many that we still haven't chosen an official one, but here are some of our top contenders:

1) due to our proximity to the botanical gardens = Botaniclam Gardens

2) Clam Manor (thanks Ivans)

3) because we live betwixt 2 parks = Clamly Park 

4) The Clamthedral

There are others, but I think you get the drift. 

Here's a little preview of the botanic gardens we live quite close to:

Queue the Music

We met one of our neighbours, because we live in a townhouse. He's a music teacher that we will use the pseudonym of Travis. He's an Aussie and he has a piano in his place. Now, it's worth noting that Health and Safety laws in NZ are behind the rigorous standards of the US. Because of that, properties that are for rent don't have the same level of upkeep, and while that's changing, it does mean that at this very point, certain features of rental properties are NOT required, one of which is insulation. This probably seems like an odd tangent and totally irrelevant to Travis being our neighbour... it isn't. The fact that there isn't insulation makes winters quite cold indoors, but it also means that sound tends to carry through the walls.

Travis plays the piano and sings. You may see where I'm going with this...

While it would be easy to be irritated by this fact, we are THOROUGHLY entertained, because the music he typically plays is not what I would expect. It's not what you would expect. No rational person on earth would expect it. The first time we heard it we looked at each other with raised eyebrows of confusion > > ^ ^ ^

I think the genre would best be described as '19th century cowboy saloon tunes'. Yep. That's it for sure. It's like living next door to a version of the West World soundtrack, but it doesn't play remixes of popular songs. Our initial reflex is to grab a bottle of whiskey and start swigging it, whilst playing a deck of cards (but we don't end up doing that). I imagine him on the other side something like this: 

To be fair, Trav also plays a ton of other music, Disney Movie songs, Elton John, etc, but those things also don't make for a good a story. We later learned that he's the teacher at the local Polytechnic so he has to put on a number of musicals, hence the unusual sounds that we hear that we've come to love and take delight in.

If you can't handle the eat, get out

People always ask me, "what's the food really like there?" By always I mean 3 times, and by people I mean the inner dialogue in my head. The short answer is, not totally different. The long answer is, well, more fun.

There's a bigger emphasis on seafood and fish, because the whole country is basically a giant coastline. There's only about 1/4 less coastline here compared to the entire US. That means, there's a lot of coastline, which means a lot of fishing. So the food most closely identified with people here has got to be fish n chips, or as the locals tend to pronounce it, "fush n chups". It's become such a staple of the diet, that other cuisines, restaurants, cooks and culture have indoctrinated it. There are a large number of take-away restaurants, which are small shops, huts, storage containers or vestibules that only cook food that you have to shove off elsewhere to eat - think of Chipotle but without seating inside. You can find a broad array of dietary preferences under these single places. And on the awnings of those restaurants you will often see something like "Chinese Burger Thai FishNChips Curry Takeaway". Take a moment to unpack all that. That's a lot of geographical, culinary and ingrediential diversity. Magical!

The other main difference is that they eat pies on pies on pies.  I can't say how this food fad caught hold here, but it's here in a big way. Pies are a very common food and in many forms. The one form you don't really see a lot of pies in, funny enough, is dessert pies. You can find shepherds pies, beef pies, sausage roll pies, mince pies (mince is just ground meat of unnamed origin), and other kinds of pies. You can find them in small bite size portions to family size. New Zealanders get down on pies. Also, I've gone through a process of self-discovery when it comes to pies.

As it turns out, pies are quite savoury and rich - I learned this not from watching every season of The Great British Bake Off, but from having a catered lunch of bite size pies where I grabbed several with my cocktail napkin. Then, I sat down and ate them. I ate em all. I got up and ate a couple more. Then fullness set in. Then overly-fullness set in. Then I felt like I was stuck in my chair and couldn't move. I had the pie equivalent of an LSD trip where I melted into my chair and couldn't move for a loooong time. I imagine my experience being narrated by David Attenborough when he observes a snake that's just eaten a mouse so it has a big clump just below its head and it's so full that it can't move for hours so the snake become vulnerable to other predators. So, I sat there. Digesting my Pile-of-Bricks-like meal for a couple of hours because there was a meeting taking place, then I carried on with my life and reflecting on eating decisions I've made, and how I should be healthier, and more mindful of what I eat. That was a real revelation for me... but then I saw some mini pies a few days later and....turns out I didn't learn all that much.

VoKiwibulary Corner:

Kia Ora = Hello (it's the Maori word for hello, but used in common parlance)

Full Stop = Period. In the sense that we call the dot at the end of a sentence a period, they call it a 'full stop'. This has caused lots of confusion for us.

Easter Hamper = Easter Basket

Tertiary School = University (you may have already known this, but it was news to me)

College = Community College (it does not mean university)

* Bonus word: "Quarantine" - this is a timely term. It comes from mid-Italian for 40. "Mid-Italian means middle times of Italian, not a middle-aged Italian person. Quaranta is the Italian word for 40, because back in the day, when people were sick, they would be shut-off from the outside world for 40 days and nights.

That's all for now - I have to go and live the Kiwi life.



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