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Christchurch, New Zealand

Oct 28 – 30

I arrived in Christchurch around 2pm. Nicky and Kat (the girls I met in Te Anau) said I could stay with them at their place. They weren’t going to be back at their house until around 7, so I had a few hours to kill.

I dropped my stuff off at Malte’s hostel and then wandered back to the city center to check it out. I came across Piko Wholefoods, a store with delicious, ready made vegan pies! These things became my addiction for the next 3 days and I stopped by Piko every day on my way into town to try a different flavor. I think the samosa pie was my favorite, but the tomato vegetable and thai tofu pies were also awesome.

Christchurch is the first place I’ve been in New Zealand where I’ve encountered shop owners who are condescending to tourists. Typically people are really friendly here, but many people in Christchurch (not everyone – I obviously met a lot of great people too) seem to have an attitude towards foreigners. The coffee shop guy asked me, with a big smirk, if I just came off the cruise ship. Apparently a bunch of Americans had just come in there from a cruise ship and he assumed I was with them. Once I said no, he decided he could have a normal conversation with me. The shoe shop guy said “Let me guess – you’re with Kiwi Experience right?” Kiwi Experience is the most notorious tour bus company. It’s known as the “Shag Wagon” or the “F@*k Bus” and it’s supposed to be more like a giant party than a cultural experience. Once I said no, he immediately turned nice and gave me a list of good places to check out. To these peoples’ credit, there really are are some obnoxious tourists here in town – the type who speak really loudly, wear bright t-shirts with big flashy logos, complain to locals about every stupid little thing that bothers them about the city, and take pictures of themselves groping statues or flashing gang signs in front of monuments. For some reason, there did seem to be a lot of this going on in Christchurch.

With that said, I really loved Christchurch and could see myself staying there much longer if I was able to. On my walk, I found lots of little signs indicating that this is a place I’d probably like to spend a bit more time.

I wandered in and out of several shoe shops to decide if I was ready to spend the money yet on some good hiking shoes. I decided I wasn’t. Everything here is too expensive – especially hiking equipment. I’ve decided that Americans are pretty spoiled (with all our sales and free internet and hot/cold mixture sinks and monthly rent and stuff).

The next day, I had a leisurely start (basically a euphemism for the fact that I sat and did nothing for many many hours). Then I walked to the botanic gardens to meet Helen and Maddie, who kindly let me use their address to mail my absentee ballot to them. Helen and I walked around the gardens for a few hours feeding ducks, drinking tea, and watching Maddie splash around in puddles.

I was hoping to meet up with Bobbie and Tani as well. I had been keeping up with these girls for several months before arriving in New Zealand, but that never ended up working out. Hopefully I’ll meet up with them someday.

I also wanted to mail my ballot in Christchurch but the only FedEx place was too far away. Both Australia and New Zealand let you FedEx your ballot for free as part of the Overseas Vote Foundation (but I forgot that FedEx is an American company and so therefore not as prevalent as in the US). I figured I’d hang on to my ballot and mail it from Perth instead.

Anyway, Nicky, Kat, and their roommate Mark are part of a beach volleyball team. They had a game that evening so they invited me to come along for the ride to the beach. I envisioned I’d be strolling along the sunny beach or laying in the sand reading my book. But when we got there, it was dark, freezing cold, and windy. I couldn’t believe these crazy people were running around with their shoes off. Also, Kat and Mark both had to work late, so the team was one player short. I ended up joining their team, which was a motley crew of people not from New Zealand – Kat from Quebec, Nicky from South Africa, Mark from England, Danny and Emily from Santa Cruz…and now me, from Texas. We were called “The Flying Foreigners” and I fit right in. But we were horrible!!

We played 2 games – the first one was against a really good team and we just ended up humiliating ourselves. We had 20 minutes between games, so we figured we’d better use it to practice.

The second team was more on our level, but still better than us. It was fun though and we all had a good laugh.

I had planned to spend my last day in Christchurch checking out the various various public art displays around town. The art center gives out maps of the exhibits and lets you borrow a bike for 2 hours to explore them. But I ended up getting distracted by something every few feet (a used clothes store here, a funny sign there, a statue, a pretty river over here, a nice park there) that I ended up just walking around on my own and taking pictures.

I did manage to see one of the art exhibits – a giant purple sperm with a bed inside. It served as an info kiosk for the event.

There was a craft market at Cathedral Square and the little goat Paloma gave me found a Kiwi friend!

They went for a date on the Avon River.

The next morning, I gathered all my stuff, walked into town (about a 20 minute walk), and boarded a bus to the airport. The bus was only $7 and luckily I had exactly that much money (although a nice lady at the bus stop offered to pay the difference if it ended up costing more).

Nicky, Kat, and Mark seem to have a great roommate vibe going on because they all keep super busy all the time doing interesting things (social work, graphic design, testing lake samples, yoga, rock climbing, running, volleyball, Frisbee, hockey, snowboarding). They were great hosts and I hope we’ll cross paths again someday.

Some Notes:

  • One of the words people use a lot here is “heaps.” I usually say “a lot” or “lots”, but “heaps” sounds much better. I’m gonna steal it and incorporate it into my vocabulary.

  • Everywhere you go, you’ll see heaps of colorfully decorated campervans – some rented, some bought.

  • A big occupation here for travelers is WWOOFING (Willing Workers On Organic Farms). Basically you sign up and receive a big booklet of all the farms that need workers. Food and accommodation is usually included and all you have to do is show up and work. I’d like to come back to New Zealand and spend a year going from farm to farm picking fruit.

Leave a comment

2 Comments

  1. Kim

     /  November 12, 2008

    Hey Cristen,

    Love your blog entries so much! They are the first thing I read when I see them on my email. I love your pictures of course and wondered if I could get your permission to paint any of your photos if I get around to it. They are really interesting and beautiful….

    My “godchild” was teaching there as part of her PhD program at the University in Christchurch in political science and is now teaching at SMU. She loved it so much and now I can see why.

    You look like you are having such a great time and your stories are just wonderful. Thanks for sharing your life with us.

  2. Heaps of luck in your adventures!

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