Tuesday, September 19, 2006

19 - September 2006

We're back in a land of the familiar toilet flush, soft toilet tissue, and paper toilet seat covers! And Burger King is called none other than Burger King here in New Zealand.

After a fabulous breakfast at the inn (the fruit is incredible in New Zealand!), we spent the day walking around the beautiful garden city of Christchurch (New Zealand's first established city), so genteel that it's said to be "more English than the English." (They've even got double-decker buses and red phone booths!) There are stately homes and gorgeous colonial buildings, the beautiful Cathedral Square built around the 1881 Gothic cathedral, quaint cafes (we had a mid-morning treat at the Java Cafe and Coffee House--the best mocha and hot chocolate ever!), great shops (the folks at The CD & DVD Store helped us select some excellent Kiwi music to bring home), and plenty of meandering paths and gardens.

Then we strolled through the Arts Centre, a stunning set of Gothic buildings that originally housed Canterbury College (where physicist Ernest Rutherford first succeeded in splitting the atom--work for which he earned himself the Nobel Prize in 1908) and now home to craft shops, boutiques, galleries, cafes, artist studios, a dance school, theaters, and art cinemas (we'd love to have been there on a weekend when it also becomes a market for artisan crafts, gifts, and foods). As you make your way through the centre, you hear beautiful ballet music wafting from upstairs windows, see children carrying stringed instruments through the courtyard, and smell enticing food all around. It's at once a peaceful and invigorating place.

Tonight was our long-awaited Maori experience at Willowbank (the Maori are an indigenous culture to New Zealand, and they are very hospitable to respectful visitors). The evening began with a powerful (and rather scary!) challenge by the Maori warriors (Mike was chosen to be our visiting tribe's chief, so he was the one who ensured a safe and pleasant evening for all by accepting the warriors' peace offering and performing the traditional hongi greeting of looking eye to eye while pressing foreheads and noses with the other chief). We were then welcomed by firelight onto the pa (village; this one is a reproduction) where, as the evening unfolded, we learned about the Maori culture and language, participated in some poi dance (swinging ball) and haka (fierce dance), and then watched the traditional haka (unbelievably intimidating and exhilarating, it's the dance made world famous by the New Zealand All Black rugby team, who performs it before their opponents) and love songs and dances. The entire experience was moving and unforgettable.

After the show and dance, we enjoyed a buffet meal (I had my first pavlova--rich and rather sickeningly sweet, but I quite liked it and look forward to making a version at home). We then took the nighttime guided tour of New Zealand native and introduced birds, animals, and fish at the wildlife preserve. We saw pigs; skinks; swans, mountain parrots (known as keas--the little rascals who apparently destroy rubber window gaskets on cars in many a New Zealand parking lot!), owls, and many other kinds of birds; brush-tailed possums (they're protected in Tasmania but considered, and I quote, "little fluff balls of evil" here in New Zealand, as they are non-native and have severely destroyed the local trees and environment...hence the many warm and beautiful combination merino wool/possum scarves and sweaters available in New Zealand today!); eels (we got to feel them--slick and soft as jelly--but they have very scary, snappy, snake-like mouths with lots of sharp teeth!); and the country's mascot, the kiwi (the round, fuzzy, flightless birds can't be photographed, as their eyes don't close, and thus camera flashes can render them blind).

Upon our return to the hotel room, we found the tub ready, the fire burning, and a note apologizing once again for last night's arrival snafu and congratulating us on our coming baby (I had turned down several wine offerings and was fearing I was insulting them, so I explained my drinking predicament) along with a bottle of sparkling wine (hey wait, no fair!) and a fruit platter with chocolate and fudge (okay, forgiven!).


--Kiwis (the birds, that is) give birth to eggs that are the equivalent of humans giving birth to 33-pound babies--yow. Check out the proportion of egg to body on this x-ray!

--In New Zealand, Kiwi refers to either people (New Zealanders) or to the protected kiwi bird, but never the kiwifruit.


reednose said...

Yow, that kiwi bird's birthing challenge should make us feel like wimps but how do they ever do that?
Alisa, you are looking fastasically pregnant! Congrats!!!
Mike, you may have a future career in Maori dance, should you two decide to become NZ transplants- great scary tongue pose!
Where are our latest posts? Its now the 24th... looking forward to catching up with you two. Take care.

8:58 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home