Thursday, May 29, 2008

Six n tha Sutty

Last night Chris and I went to see "A Streetcar Named Desire" at the local theatre company here in town. I've loved that play since we read it in high school,* and I totally dug the Marlon Brando/Vivian Leigh movie version. ("Stellaaaaaa!") Excited as I was to see it live for the first time, I was anxious. Kiwi actors and fake U.S. southern accents would be involved. As you no doubt recognize, clever readers, this had the potential for disaster. Most American actors can't do a Southern accent without breaking into full-fledged Hee-Haw mode, for crying out loud.

As it turned out, all of the actors ended up using their regular Kiwi accents. This was a relief and obviously the best decision that the director could make given that 1) inevitably, it would have sounded ridiculous and 2) most of the Kiwi audience would not have understood them. Still, I found myself a little sad -- the play is set during the summer in New Orleans, for crying out loud. You lose the accent, you lose some of the heat. It's hard to explain. (Good play overall, by the way.)

As far as the Kiwi accent goes, it's very cute on most people. Very clipped. I have no trouble understanding it in person or on TV, but when I talk to people on the phone it all falls apart and I ask them to repeat EVERYTHING. It's embarrassing. Kiwis often use the word "wee" instead of "small," which I absolutely adore. (I'm told this is more of a South Island thing, though ...) They also say "Good on him" instead of "Good for him," which is also very fun.

As far as my accent goes, everyone just asks me where I'm from. Initially I thought this meant people didn't recognize I am American, but our Kiwi friends Claire and Fiona informed me that, no, they just don't want to assume I'm American because Canadians get all pissed off when they do this. (Seriously, Canada. Lighten up.)

I should probably acknowledge that my fake Kiwi accent is absolutely horrible, but I'm working on it. My shining accomplishment so far has been discussing the new Sarah Jessica Parker movie, "Six n tha Sutty" with Claire and Fiona, who agreed that I pronounced the title perfectly. (In the interest of full disclosure, each of them was probably on the third glass of wine by the time I broke out the fake accent. That may have influenced their judgment.)

Practice along with me at home! Take all of your "eh" sounds -- as in "yes" -- and change them to "ih" sounds. "Yis." Now take all of your "ih" sounds -- as in "fish" -- and change them to "uh" sounds. "Fush." That's it! You're doing great! "Yis, ah'd lahk some fush." Awesome!

You'll be bungee jumping and herding sheep in no time.

*In retrospect, I am absolutely astounded that Mrs. Peters somehow taught this play without any discussion of what actually happens between Stanley and Blanche -- no doubt adhering to the school district's fervent directive to shield our young minds from any thoughtful critical analysis of adult subjects we were already gossiping about, anyway. Still, mad props to Mrs. Peters for always making us read cool stuff! Best English class ever!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

I struggle.

Another weekend is almost to a close. After bragging on last week's weather it is now rainy (though still not too cold ... knock wood) and time to bring activities inside.

I got a hankering today to make some chocolate chip cookies, which as you can see turned into a Toll House fiasco. Lots of mess, lots of flat, misshapen, rock-hard cookies. (All of the chocolate marks on the plate are from the first batch, which I burned, and threw out.) More flour next time, I think.

Last night we had dinner with a Kiwi grad student in Chris's department. A lot of wine and a few Neil Diamond records were involved, so needless to say a good time was had by all. I had my first pavlova, which actually is very tasty with a delightful sweet crunchy shell. Who knew?

She and her roommate are also big American Idol fans, though unfortunately they are more of the Archuletta persuasion. I've already read on American news sites who won (I love you, David Cook, you hair-challenged, multi-necklace-wearing cheeseball! You'll Always Be MY Baby!) but since the show is delayed by several weeks here I had to keep quiet. It was tough.

I met with a super nice law school professor last week and she has bent over backwards to put me in touch with a few potential job contacts. Everything seems to move on a slower time frame here ... we shall see.

Otherwise, life is pretty quiet for now. We got some venison at the farmer's market yesterday so I'm cooking a venison stew -- proof, dear readers, that I am officially a Kiwi pioneer woman. It smells good, but it remains to be seen whether I am 0-2 in the kitchen today. Wish me luck.

Ever the good sport, Christopher washes down a cookie.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Nice Weekend

On Saturday we went to a Mexican potluck with two other American couples and one Kiwi couple. The lack of good Mexican food appears to be a common complaint among Americans here, so we made our own and it was pretty durned good if I do say so myself. (I still miss you, Nuevo Laredo! And Aqua Linda! And Taqueria del Sol! And that Cuban/Peruvian place in Athens formerly known as Caliente Cab that keeps changing its name, which technically isn't Mexican but is still freakin' swimming in deliciousness! Never forget me. Sniff.)

Not to jinx ourselves, but for all of the apologizing people do about the weather around here, it was absolutely gorgeous all week. Blue sky, sunny, crisp. Sweater weather, but not coat weather. Considering this is the equivalent of mid-November, I'll take it.

Chris and I went for a very nice trail run, or I should say it was very nice until we came to a couple of mammoth hills he didn't warn me about. I would have shouted some four-letter words at him if I had any breath left at all.

We also decorated the car:

Drove to the St. Clair Esplanade and walked around:

Took a stroll on the beach:

Watched surfers:

Saturday night we discovered this little buddy in our backyard. For the uninitiated, he is a hedgehog. Chris named him Sonic, but I think he looks more like a Javier:

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Some stuff you won't see in the U.S. (Part I of ??)

1) Woodburners in middle-class homes. For some reason I have not quite grasped, nobody in New Zealand has central heating. I mean, nobody. It's not that winters aren't cold enough for it, they just don't have it. Furthermore, a lot of the houses seem to be poorly insulated, which means people put a lot of thought and needless energy (heh heh, pun) into warming their homes.

Instead of heavy-duty insulation and central heating, you tend to rely on heat pumps (which, I have to admit, work surprisingly well) and then make up the difference with wood burners, space heaters, and so on. For the most part these do the job, but I still don't get why nobody is putting in central heating, even in new construction. I know you pride yourselves on your pioneer spirit, Kiwi people, but I am here to tell you there is a better way! My current theory is that Kiwis don't employ better heating methods because everyone really seems to enjoy talking about heating, and if every room of the house was an even and consistent 72 degrees F there would be nothing to discuss. This topic will require more research.

2) Georgina Beyer. In 1999, NZ became the first country in the world to elect a transsexual (not to mention a former stripper and prostitute) to Parliament, where she served until resigning in 2007. I know the makeup of U.S. politicians is changing (see Obama, Barack) and maybe I'm not giving my countrymen enough credit, but I just can't imagine middle America voting for a transsexual candidate, much less a former sex worker. Maybe San Francisco. (As a side note, NZ was also the first country in the world to give women the right to vote. 1893 baby! Woo hoo, progressive politics!)

3) Unsupervised kids. Everywhere. I know there are small towns in the United States where kids are allowed to roam the streets without a parent. Coming from Atlanta, however, 1) you don't let your kids go anywhere by themselves; and 2) even if you did, there is nowhere for them to go without a car. Even in Athens, kids tend to be under lock and key, probably to keep them from wandering in to one of the town's fine drinking establishments that will serve anyone tall enough to peer over the counter.

So it is kind of amazing to see all of the packs of kids just hanging out and walking all over Dunedin after school. And not just the skanky-looking teenagers you see outside of convenience stores, either, but clean-cut little 9 and 10-year-olds. Everywhere. The funniest part is that they are all color-coded in their school uniforms, so one pack will walk by wearing frumpy, ill-fitting green blazers, another pack will walk by wearing frumpy, ill-fitting red blazers, and so on. They are truly adorable. My favorites are the really little boys in shorts, knee socks and blazers who look like mini-members of AC/DC. I was going to take a picture of some of them to show you what I'm talking about but realized it might be perceived as slightly creepy to take covert photographs of strange children on the street and then post them on the Internet. Just imagine tiny gangs of used car salesmen.

4) Naked people on TV. I guess you expect this sort of thing in, say, France, but it was a full-frontal shock to find it in New Zealand.

This is about all I can think of for now, eager readers, but I will add more observations as they come.

Friday, May 16, 2008


As most of you know, food is an important priority in our household. Chris and I spend an absurd amount of time thinking about it, talking about it, and of course eating it. It's kind of a hobby. So you'll be glad to know we've been eating very well in Dunedin. Food prices are quite a bit more expensive than in the US -- I suspect because a lot of stuff is imported -- but let my tightening pants assure you, dear readers, that we are not going hungry.

NZ cuisine itself seems to have a heavy British influence and is pretty meat-and-veggie based. Lots of meat pies (lamb, beef, venison), roasts, stews, and so on. Pavlova is popular dessert and I see it in the grocery store but I've been hesitant to try it. Not such a big merangue person.

Grocery stores are essentially the same except I don't recognize most of the brand names. Dunedin has a fairly awesome little farmer's market every Saturday, where you can get lots of good produce, freshly baked breads, and local meats and cheeses. The pic above is a very tasteful artistic composite of a bunch of the goods purchased one week.

Some new foods I am currently digging:

1) Muesli with apples and plain yogurt for breakfast. Yes, I'm European like that. I've never been a big fan of plain yogurt -- kind of like putting sour cream on cereal -- but I got this in a cafe for breakfast one morning and it hits the spot so I've started making it at home. Stick-to-your-ribs, awesome.

2) This gooey Evansdale blue cheese from the farmer's market. It is stinking up our fridge and totally worth it. I do love a stinky cheese.

3) Mr. Ws Sour Worms! Okay, these aren't really any different or more special than the sour worms you get at any given convenience store in the U.S. But Chris and I have been putting away so many Mr. Ws that it's a wonder we have any stomach lining left at all.

4) Hob Nobs (see "Blame it on the Hob Nobs.")

5) Hot tea. I almost never drank hot tea in the US and now I'm having it every afternoon. Maybe because it's colder here, or because everyone has an accent, but suddenly there's just something so freakin' comforting and civilized about it.

6) All of the good ethnic food. Korean! Turkish! Japanese! Indian! I've also got my eye on a hole-in-the-wall Cambodian place that looks pretty awesome.

Chris is currently really digging these bacon-onion-mustard sandwiches from the farmer's market:

Although there is always a long line for these sandwiches, I am not yet convinced.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Here is our cute little Honda Fit:

Steering wheel. Freaky, huh?

Chris is a pleasant driver.

When you come to visit, this is what it will be like to ride around in our car:

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

They're always after me lucky charms ...

Here is a picture I took just outside of Dunedin after a very drizzly weekend. We actually saw the full arch, which was pretty spectacular, but I couldn't quite capture it from my vantage point in the rental car.

I keep forgetting to carry my camera around but I'm trying to be a better photoblogger since so many of my devoted readers have complained they have trouble reading a story without pictures. (I'm not naming names, but I'm looking at you, Frank.)
Your incessant demands for photos have been heard, and I'm working on it.
In the meantime, a quick pulse check:

1) I think we found a car. Actually, two we like. Deciding.

2) Still don't have a job. Honestly have not been looking very hard, but I am just about ready to get up off my rump. Really. (If any advertisers are interested in negotiating a generous sponsorship package for Kia Ora, Y'all, you know where to find me.)

3) Chris's boss had a very nice wine tasting party for us on Saturday. Everyone is super friendly and I got to meet a lot of people and drink a lot of good wine. Eventually I may make a friend, after all. Maybe even two.

4) Get a Skype account so we can talk for free. Seriously!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Blame it on the Hob Nobs

I know, I know ... I've been neglectful of you, my darling readers. You have been shivering, wrapped in a tattered gray blanket, rocking back and forth in a fetal position, listening in vain for my footsteps from the dark hallway, wondering whether I have abandoned you. Fear not! I've simply been away from the computer a lot. Some might call that healthy. This does mean we have a lot to discuss, however, so put on your cozy pajama pants, pour yourself a cup of coffee (or tea, or bourbon) and gather 'round ...

1) Travels. We went to Christchurch this weekend to visit the doggies in jail. It was a joyous reunion, as you can tell from this photo. (I am not wearing baby blue shoes, by the way. They make you wear booties while in quarantine.) They arrived safely and seem to be doing okay, if they are not exactly enthralled with their current set-up. Poor little guys kept trying to follow us out. Ouch. I was feeling very sorry for them in their sterile-looking run with only their little doggie beds and then later that night on TV I saw a profile of this family of three kids in Angola who shared a dirty mattress on the floor. I decided I'd better get over myself. And quickly.

The rest of the trip was also fun, though rather soggy. As a result, we spent most of our free time holed up in various Christchurch pubs, waiting for the rain to pass. Here is an artsy photo composed by my better half to convey mood of the trip:

On the way back we stopped at the beach and I took this picture of a fur seal. No penguins, though.

2) Habitat. Dunedin is actually a lot prettier than I remembered, probably because it rained a lot the last time I was here. But damn, it is HILLY. Not so much hills as mini-mountains; it is hard to explain. I suspect that everyone around here must have thighs like tree trunks. I'm going to post more pictures soon, I promise.

The university is also prettier than I remembered, again, probably because of the weather. Posters all over campus notified that it was "Cannabis Awareness Week." It seems that most of the people who participate in Cannabis Awareness Week probably are already quite aware of cannabis, but it's good to see young people rallying for a cause.

3) Kiwi Style. It's hard to explain the differences in fashion. Everyone is definitely more casual and more outdoorsy-looking, but then again it's not hard to be more casual than the people who lived in my building in Atlanta. I might say the fashions are slightly dated, definitely less self-conscious. Leggings seem to be popular. People layer very effectively. A lot more dreadlocks and man-ponytails than you see in Georgia.

4) Entertainment. You get four NZ TV stations via antenna. These channels seem to feature just about all of the popular American network shows (Desperate Housewives, The Office, Ugly Betty, Oprah, etc.), some cable shows (The Daily Show, a lot of those crappy E! and VH1 reality shows), as well as a lot of British, Australian, and of course NZ programming. We watched this British show last night called "The Mighty Boosh." Hi-freakin'-larious! I suspect it is a favorite during Cannabis Awareness Week.

As some of my devoted readers may know, I have developed a rather unhealthy and shameful addiction to American Idol this season. If you had told me six months ago that watching some goatee-wearing, Goo Goo Doll-looking guy from Tulsa cover "Always Be My Baby," would make me squeal like a sixth grader, I would have poo-pooed you. But alas, here we are and there's not much to be done, so I'm thrilled to report that we do get American Idol here in NZ, though it is delayed by several weeks, so I actually re-watched Michael Johns getting kicked off this week. I know. I am ill. But David Cook rocks, baby! He's going to wipe the floor with that dopey little Donnie Osmond wannabe! For real!


We are debating whether to get satellite TV and currently are siding against it since just about anything we care to watch is on the four basics. I don't miss cable news at all. Yech.

5) Tastiness. If I weigh 300 lbs the next time you see me, devoted readers, you can blame it on the Hob Nobs. I've had them before and you can get them in the States, but they are these little chocolate-glazed oatmeal biscuits and they are fantastic. A good Hob Nobs binge will take all of the sting out of moving to a foreign country. This is the truth.

6) Transportation. We have been doing some car shopping. We are leaning toward some kind of station wagon/hatchback, as we need room for the doggies and gas prices make SUVs pretty much out of the question, although I do see them around. The dealers here are much more laid back than in the US. Going for a test drive, the dealers do not come with you, and no one asks to see a driver's license; they just ask you to write down your address. One dealer said something like, "it's got plenty of gas; just have it back before we close."

In the meantime, there is a bus stop right across the street from our house and the town is fairly walkable, but again -- those damned hills.

7) Communications. I got a cell phone. I have no idea what it would cost you to call it from the US -- probably a lot -- but let me know if you want it for emergencies and whatnot. In the meantime I've talked to some people via IM and Skype, so that is fun.

8) Domestic Affairs. Since Chris is working and I (temporarily, anyway) am not, I have been trying to play homemaker by cooking dinner for my husband every night. I say things like, "Dinner will be ready in about 15 minutes" and "Would you like some cobbler?" June Cleaver would be jealous. I had something of a cultural culinary mishap yesterday, however, when I bought tomato sauce for making enchiladas. Nobody told me, but the "tomato sauce" you buy in cans over here is just like freakin' ketchup, so the enchilada sauce was more like barbecue sauce, and at the end of the day they were only barely edible. Tomato puree is what I need to buy in the future. I think.

9) New People. On a non NZ-related note, I'd like to welcome the lovely and talented Miss Sofia Copp to the world. Although it may be some time before she is a devoted "Kia Ora, Y'all" reader, I'm sure her mother will read it to her aloud. Blogs are good for baby brain development, I'm pretty sure.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

I've arrived

Just a quick note to say I made it, devoted readers! I know you have been waiting with bated breath. I'm writing this in my bathrobe from our kitchen table in Dunedin. Woo hoo!

Flight from LA to Auckland was surprisingly great. I had an aisle seat and no one on the other side of me. From Auckland to Dunedin, I sat in front of some Kiwi rednecks, who are suprisingly exactly like Georgia rednecks with a different accent and different logos on their T-shirts. It is great to see Chris and he's done a good job with the house. Aside from some grocery shopping and some wandering around, it's been a very low-key first 48 hours.

I've got to go get cleaned up as we are going to a tea in Chris's department (Tea! As an event! I love it!) but I will report more soon, darling readers. I miss you already!