At long last, readers, we've reached the exciting conclusion (at least for the time being) of our informational series "Getting to Know New Zealand."
Q: Are the seasons opposite from those in North America?
A: Yes, NZ summer is roughly November-January, winter is roughly June-August, and so on. The school year for students at Chris's university runs from February-November.
Q: Weird! So does that mean you'll have two winters back-to-back?
A: Basically, yes. It sounds nicer to think I'll have a sliver of spring and a little dose of fall in between the two winters.
Q: What does "Kia Ora" mean?
A: From our friends at Wikipedia: Kia ora is a Māori language greeting which has entered New Zealand English. It means literally "be well/healthy" and may also be regarded in a more formal sense as a traditional greeting of "Good health." It is used for both "Hello" and "goodbye" and as a general exhortation or acknowledgement when listening and responding to a public speaker.
Q: What is the time difference over there?
A: Normally NZ is 18 hours ahead of EST (Georgia time). They observe daylight savings time on a slightly different schedule, though, so that fluctuates by an hour for a few weeks each year.
It is easiest for me to calculate by thinking that they are six hours behind, but one day ahead. For example, if it is Wednesday, 6 pm in Atlanta, it would be noon on Thursday in NZ. For pacific time, it is 3 hours behind, one day ahead (i.e. 3 pm Wednesday in Vancouver is noon Thursday in Dunedin).
Q: How will I be able to contact you?
A: I'm keeping the same email address, and I've recently gotten into Google instant messaging. Chris and I have talked almost every day at no cost through IM or by using Skype. I'll also get a cell phone, though I have no idea what it will cost to dial it from North America. Chris got a very reasonably priced international calling card in NZ, so that will help us make conventional phone calls to you guys. And you can always find me here, my darling readers.
Q: Is it true that the toilet flushes in the opposite direction in the Southern Hemisphere?
A: I'm told this is true, and that it has something to do with the magnetic pull of the poles . . . or something. Unfortunately, when I was down there, none of the toilets I used seemed to swirl. They had more of just a giant "whoosh" of water that seemed to shoot straight down the bowl -- kind of like an airplane toilet -- so I can't say I observed this myself. (After a while, I started feeling kind of deranged, eagerly staring down the bowl of each new toilet, and I abandoned the experiment after a couple of days.)
A friend of mine was very disappointed with this story when I explained it to her. She cleverly pointed out that I should have filled up a sink and watched it drain to see if the water swirled in the opposite direction. You will be glad to know, dear readers, that I have added this to my list of things to do upon arrival.
Q: Who are those child molester-looking guys in the photo?
A: New Zealand's sensational musical/comedy duo "Flight of the Conchords." (individually, they are Bret Mackenzie and Jemaine Clement.) I adore them and have developed a rather unhealthy crush, though Chris does not seem threatened.
They won a Grammy this year, and they've now got a show on HBO, descriptively named "Flight of the Conchords." You can also rent it on DVD if you don't have HBO. Watch it. It's funny.