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!

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New Zealand 13 – Coffee Wars

Remember the last post where I said snow was in the forecast? Well it actually did snow.  In fact, it accumulated quite a bit (not for New England standards, but maybe for Washington DC standards).  And yes, our Kiwi intern did show up, albeit a bit late 🙂

Our office was still up and running but, as I mentioned before, the rest of Christchurch decided to shut down! I tried to call a couple clients in the morning and I’m pretty sure they thought I was crazy for thinking they had made it to the office. It’s an ongoing tradition (started during a couple snowstorms last year) to go out for fish and trips on “snow days”–the fish market is the only place that remains open (along with KFC) during inclement weather.  Therefore, we all stopped around noon, gathered round the meeting table, and thoroughly enjoyed a bunch of fried goodness.

Parking Lot Blizzard

Wishing we owned ice scrapers…

Friday night we were due for another office outing. We discovered the small local community of Lyttelton was celebrating it’s annual Festival of Lights. I found a local restaurant that managed to take our 14-person reservation and we headed to the port.  The festival was a great time–the street was closed with your typical fare food venders,  performers (including a blue grass band much to the delight of some very excited coworkers…), hot mulled wine and fireworks! After watching the fireworks and listening, perhaps a bit too long, to the blue grass band we headed to dinner and kicked off a great start to the weekend.

Fireworks over the Harbour <-I’m getting a bit too used to New Zealand spelling

Not up to par with the Soggy Bottom Boys…

Saturday I met with a new cost estimator friend for a spa day. If I had to complain about one thing here, my Kryptonite is the hotel bed.  Luckily a trip to the spa managed to untie the past two months worth of knots.

Sunday was…SPORTS DAY. With the NHL in the Stanley Cup Finals, our Kings fans borrowed the office projector to stream the game live in the apartment. Unfortunately, the Kings didn’t pull through but at least they still have a chance. Luckily the game ended early enough for me to catch the last couple minutes of the Celtics/Heat game…I probably shouldn’t have even tried to watch considering how depressing the last quarter was. Oh well, everyone left the apartment a bit depressed that day.

Thank goodness for the projector

To conclude, I leave you all with…

~~Coffee Wars~~

I mentioned previously that New Zealand does not have drip coffee. Therefore, the TTNZ office has been utilizing a french press since it’s establishment. There’s always been a lot of grumbling around the office about the french press–especially the finely ground sludge it leaves at the bottom of your mug. Well something happened last week, because one coworker had finally had enough and he sent our intern on an errand to find a drip coffee maker. We all gathered round and collected our first drip coffee cup in several months to savor the taste. And you know what? It wasn’t that great. Maybe it was the coffee maker, the fact that we used a mesh filter versus paper, or perhaps we didn’t use enough ground coffee. I can tell you that there was not a bit of sludge at the bottom of my mug though.

So who wins the war? French press or drip coffee? I think I’ll stick with shelling out the $4 for my morning latte…