FiNZ 44 – Relax & Remember

We’re gearing up for three of our WPI friends coming to visit us over the next 2 weekends and another big hike after that. Therefore this weekend was a well deserved break. We even passed on going to the cricket match in return for lounging around not doing much.

This past Sunday, February 22 was the 4 year anniversary of the most major earthquake to rock the city. I say the “most major” because from September 2010 through 2012 the city was rocked with pretty constant aftershocks. When I was here in 2012, feeling a small earthquake every couple of weeks was normal. The February quake caused catastrophic damage in the central city and claimed 185 lives. The liquefied soil that emerged from the ground left the roads in shambles and buried cars.


City Skyline Post Quake –

So when the documentary  – “The Day the Changed my Life” – aired this week, Keith and I figured we ought to watch it to learn more about the city’s experience before we arrived. (It’s also available online to watch here). Like you’d expect, its one of those things that’s hard to watch. I’d liken it to watching a clip on 9/11. The documentary interviewed a few people who were involved in the aftermath – a reporter, a construction worker that helped retrieve bodies, emergency medical staff, and a husband of a wife that died in a collapsed building.


So when I ran around the park on 22 February, seeing the flowers magically appear on top of the construction cones throughout the city, I couldn’t help but reflect how and why I came to be here and my responsibilities as a structural engineer.

So to conclude a bit of a sobering post…

The city has come a long way, yet there’s still a long way to go. So for this week, it’s a hearty cheers to Christchurch– The city that has humbly been my home for over a year. Until next week…


Flanders in NZ 11 – Happy 4th of July!

I can’t believe we’re already coming up on 3 months, it’s gone by a lot quicker this time around! We’re currently attempting to finalize our schedule for a vacation trip home and figuring out how long we’ll be here.

Just in case you didn’t know…the whole world doesn’t celebrate 4th of July. So I had to work on Friday but planned to stop a bit early for an office BBQ in the parking lot. Keith chose to celebrate by baking up a storm and bringing a homemade apple pie and cupcakes to his office. He signed the treats “Happy 4th of July! – The American.” I’m not sure what got into my husband, but since landing on New Zealand soil he is a baking aficionado.


(left) Homemade strawberry shortcake biscuits by Jen, (center) America!, (right) Apple Pie by Keith

New Zealand (and most commonwealth countries) don’t sell fireworks until around 5 November (Guy Fawkes Night), so poppers from Warehouse had to do for the time being. I attempted to get creative and throw some streamers and tissue paper throughout the office using hard hats as bases… Don’t think I’ll be leaving engineering for interior design anytime soon.


4th of July @ the Office

On Saturday, Keith and I planned our trip to Abel Tasman with one of my coworkers. Hostel, boat, hut…booked – CHECK! More photos of this to come. Afterwards we needed to get out and enjoy the weather so off to the Riccarton Farmers Market we went. Afterwards we continued our walk over to downtown and checked out Cathedral Square (or what’s left of it). After a long battle versus the community, the Cathedral has been slated for demolition. If you overlook the fact that the front gable has collapsed, it is a beautiful church.

Related to this, Keith and I decided to watch the Hope & Wire miniseries that just premiered in New Zealand. I’m not sure if you can watch it in the States, but if so, it can be found here. The miniseries follows fictional families throughout the Christchurch earthquake events and shares their stories and actual news video footage. I’m not going to lie, it was a little tough to watch and I wasn’t even here when the quakes began. The reviews are a little harsh and I can see why. One critic writes “I had to quickly hit pause through blurry eyes as I felt tears running down my face.” However, it does share a bit of what happened here through an easy medium. If you want to learn more about why Keith & I are here on a more personal/community level, I would encourage you to watch.


Present-day Christchurch Cathedral



Light at the end of the tunnel…

On a more fun side, a few of us drove to Waipara Sunday for a fun wine tour! Keith agreed to drive and we had a great time meandering to five different wineries and grabbing lunch. Wineries visited included Torlesse, Waipara Springs, Black Estate, Terrace Edge, and Waipara Hills. We came home with a haul of 9 bottles of wine and a bottle of fresh olive oil! Looking forward to trying some of them again, and (fingers crossed) saving them for 1-2 years down the road.


Waipara Wine Tasting

We’ll be on a fun adventure this weekend, so looking forward to sharing some new photos next week!

New Zealand 20 – Sunshine & Rugby

I was out and about Christchurch again this weekend; however, this time I barely did any work. Additionally, my field camera finally died on me this past week, so at first thought I wasn’t quite sure what I’d share in this week’s post. Once I actually sat down in front of my laptop and scanned my iPhone photos, I realized I managed to fit in a lot of fun in one packed weekend–

Friday night we gathered at a friend’s apartment, ate some of the best barbecue chicken I’ve had thus far, sat around a backyard fire, and drank whiskey. It actually reminded me of being back in New England for the summer, minus the fact that I was wrapped up in my giant fleece jacket outside.

Saturday morning I reluctantly woke up for 10am to drive with a coworker and another colleague out to the Lyttelton farmer’s market. They sure do love their farmer’s markets here — all the farms are in our backyard, it’s an easy ride to sell fresh goods every weekend. With it being such a beautiful day, it was a no-brainer that we’d go to Governor’s Bay afterwards for brunch at She Chocolat (remember that chocolate spoon from 2 posts ago?). It appears that winter is finally moving out of the Southern Hemisphere. This past week the sun showed itself quite a few times and automatically started to brighten everyone’s moods.

Breakfast w/ a View @ She Chocolat

Sunday was a great personal day. Imagine the office you work in and your relationship with your favorite bunch of coworkers. Now imagine you live with all of them, spend most of your time in the office, eat most meals with them, and go on weekend trips together. Our New Zealand office is a bit unconventional, yet it ends up working really well. BUT, alone time is still a very necessary requirement of our lives. This can be a bit difficult (remember we all live in the same place and work plenty of hours together), but after a month you tend to be able to read cues on when coworkers start to need their own time & space.

Sunday I managed to get to the gym — my personal-time haven. On the walk out I realized I haven’t quite shared too many “red zone” photos here yet. The red zone is the central business district (CBD) that has been fenced off and off-limits (except for us engineers/contractors/others with appropriate badges) since the earthquake in February 2011. The gym I joined actually used to be in the red zone, until a few months ago when they petitioned to open the road to get you there (the gym is actually an earthquake fortress – I have far too much fun working out and checking out the steel bracing connections in that building). Anyways, when you step out of the building you literally find yourself surrounding by fencing and abandoned buildings. Here’s some photo sampling. Hopefully before my New Zealand duties are up I’ll have another red zone site visit to share more photos–

Christchurch Central Business District – “Red Zone” (from top right clockwise – ribbons for remembrance, ribbon close up, large empty lot due to several buildings being torn down,  permanent crane adjacent to the Holiday Inn–just another building slated for demolition very soon)

The day was really too nice to go back to the hotel (this has been the first time in a while I had felt comfortable walking around in a t-shirt); therefore, I drove up to Victoria Park. I can’t believe I haven’t been here yet. The park is at the top of the Port Hills and you can see down onto the plains where the central city is and to the mountains beyond. This photo doesn’t do the actual thing justice, therefore, I conveniently labeled the snow-capped mountain range you’re missing out on.

Alps view from Victoria Park

I had just enough time to run/hike around for an hour, and cut short my personal day just in time for our very own Fantasy Football draft. Something about being in New Zealand has made many of our Stateside friends forget about inviting us to our typical home leagues, so obviously we just decided to form our own. Several of us gathered in our office meeting room (can you tell it’s called the Chess Club? refer to below photo) with beer, snacks, our laptops, and for some certain coworkers, their organized spreadsheets and highlighters–

Hard @ work for “The Draft”

Afterwards, somehow we all got roped into playing Rugby. This, in fact, was all we really needed. Nothing like de-stressing after a long week by sprinting around playing a fun-filled sport you still don’t quite understand. Thanks to one of our coworkers for joining only to be our personal photographer–

Rugby in the Park

Today is August 28th, which means only 4 more days until September 1–Spring in New Zealand. I believe I can speak for everyone when I say we can’t wait for the sun and warm weather once again!

New Zealand 1 – Departure

I’m heading on an adventure and therefore the blog is back! As much as getting married is an awesome adventure, I’m sure even my closest of family could care less than reading posts that I could have written over the past 6 months: “Tonight Keith and I made a great dinner. We cuddled on the couch and watched a movie. On the weekend we cleaned the apartment… ” etc, etc. I wanted to spare the rest of the world from continually hearing my giddy posts on coming home after work and enjoying grocery store dates with Keith (yes, we always grocery shop together. Weird? I don’t think so), cooking dinner together, and collapsing on the couch.

So without further ado, I am traveling to New Zealand this upcoming Saturday for three whole months. I will be back in the States for the month of July and will probably be going back again after that. “Why?” you may ask. A tragic earthquake struck Christchurch, New Zealand over a year ago. By now most people have forgotten it even happened. Most don’t realize that the damage is still there and the central business district is still CLOSED. Can you imagine? You worked on Main Street in City X for your entire life and now you can’t even enter that part of the city for over a year. The point is there’s still damage to be evaluated which means there’s still work for my company to do in the structural engineering & building performance industry. Therefore, I was asked if I wanted to ship out for an all expense paid trip to New Zealand for a little while. After a short discussion with the new husband that I didn’t know if we should be apart for so long we quickly realized this was a pretty awesome opportunity—one that came at a time where we don’t have kids or any other parts of a crazy hectic life (remember that first paragraph about grocery shopping and chilling on the coach all the time?). We’ve survived me traveling abroad and going away to grad school in the past, this really isn’t too different.

If you happened to be one of my WPI Admissions blog followers (aka my parents, Elizabeth, & Cindy)  you may know about my adventures in Australia & New Zealand I’d had in college. Unfortunately I only spent a brief 2 days in New Zealand after living in Australia for 2 months, and by that time I was rather broke…we’re talking calling-up-my-parents-to-deposit-$20-in-my-checking-account-just-so-I-could-eat-lunch-at-the-airport broke. Luckily this time around my food is actually paid for and I’ll be able to do a bit more adventuring through the land of Lord of the Rings.

Oh and for my fellow WPI-ers who traveled for IQP, I’m not going to lie – PQP is the best thing since sliced bread. I wish I could have an entire class devoted to teaching me what I’m getting myself into and how to pronounce “Kia Ora” to the local Kiwis (typical welcome greeting). But alas, I was emailed a few reports to read, sent the address of my hotel, and will show up to work on Tuesday morning wondering what my day, or even the next 3 months, will look like. I guess WPI was just doing what we paid the school to do, teach us what to learn on our own and be prepared for these large-scale projects even half-way across the world. Luckily I already learned some things the hard way, like knowing not to ask your boss “which team do you root for?” when discussing Australian Football and rugby. That wasn’t an awkward situation at all…

I’ll leave you with a comparison photo of Christchurch’s Cathedral pre & post earthquake. Note that the steeple has disappeared completely:

Pre Earthquake - photo from my camera

Post Earthquake (