Saturday, February 27, 2010

Trolley Derby

Yet another activity in Nelson was the annual Trolley Derby yesterday. This is a fantastic event. They close one of the hilly streets in town and the trolleys are raced down the hill. They announce the races as they are taking place and have a radar gun that gives the speed the racers are travelling. The winner was clipping along at a 68km per hour rate (that's about 40 mph). The trolleys and their drivers are all shapes and sizes. Some have been professionally engineered while others are held together with duct tape. They had different categories for ages. The youngest was for children born between 2003 and 2008 (boy does that make me feel old). Can you imagine putting a 3 year old behind the wheel? It was great fun.

Friday, February 26, 2010

cicada symphony

As summer winds down here, the cicadas are in full swing. If you are not familiar with these insects, they are rather noisy and apparantly like the Nelson region as much as I do. Amazingly, they spend 13 to 17 years underground until they emerge to live a very short life (I've heard less than a week but have not been able to confirm that) above ground. But, one thing I can confirm is that while above ground, they make their presence known! They are making noise from sun-up to sun-down and, as Brenda says, could drive someone crazy if unable to tune them out (they don't bother me too much). If you look closely at the photo, you can see the cicada with its translucent wings. I've attempted to attach a video clip that you might just be able to hear them. It may take some time to load, so please be patient. Please send me a note whether you can or cannot view the video so I know whether it works or not.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

carbon (or is it carbon fiber?) footprint

One thing I love about the kiwis is there concern for the environment. As I mentioned in my earlier write-up of the Opera in the Park event, it was a zero waste, pack it in, pack it out event. And people obliged. These folks are very concerned about the impact they make on this globe we share and the awareness level gives me reason for hope that someday we, in America, can do the same. Here is another example. The mail is delivered every day except Sunday here, just like at home. What is different is that the mail carriers have no trucks. They ride bicycles. And I want you to know that this is not flat terrain. There are very steep hills that these folks need to climb, and they do so with very basic 5 speed bicycles with a basket holding their mail. I spoke with the mail carrier in the photo about it and she said she does 5 routes a day, rain or shine, on her bicycle. She said she has no need for a gym membership and after climbing a couple of these hills myself, I believe it!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

the home of rugby

Rugby doesn't get a lot of attention in the US. In NZ, it's big stuff. The Rugby World Cup, held every 4 years since 1987, will be hosted by NZ next year. The NZ national team, the All Blacks, won the inagaural tournament and has finished lower than 4th only once. A lot is expected of them. Nelson will be one of the venues for the matches and will be hosting the Italian team. The stadium in town is in the process of receiving a new grass surface.

It just so happens that down the hill from our rental home is a park that was the site of the first rugby game in NZ history in 1870. A young lad by the name of Monro had traveled to the UK as part of his education and brought the game back with him upon his return. Nelson proudly claims to be the birthplace of NZ rugby!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

hangin' around

The last couple of days we've been taking a breather along with the weather. It rained off and on today. Hey, it can't all be perfect:). The forecast is for chamber of commerce type weather the next few days. So, we'll take a rainy one once in a while. We've noticed the days beginning to get shorter, which means you must notice them getting longer at home. It will be good to get home to enjoy the days lengthening again! We feel so fortunate to be able to be here and enjoy our 1st of 2summers in 2010. Anyway, I've attached some photos of our surroundings and activities. One is a panoramic view looking away from Nelson from the geographic center of NZ which is on top of one of the lovely hills that surround this beautiful town. Another is from quiz night at our adopted neighborhood tavern. The quizmaster has positioned himself on top of the bar. Finally, there is a shot from a beautiful little park where we had a nice picnic lunch on a pretty summer day. There is a nice war memorial in the center of this park honoring those kiwis who served in the world wars.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

opera in the park

Nelson held its 11th annual "Opera in the Park" event. They brought in the Vector Wellington Orchestra along with a number of vocalists and put on a huge outdoor concert. The concert was held down by the beachfront as we looked back up toward the hills of Nelson; an absolutely beautiful setting. And to top it off, it was free! A huge crowd attended and most everyone brought along a picnic of some kind with loads of fabulous NZ wine being consumed. The event was touted as a "pack it in/ pack it out" affair. People were encouraged to bring their own "crockery", take out with you whatever you brought in, and create zero waste. They provided compost bins but no garbage cans. And you know what, it works. A free bus service was also available to various points in town. A well-behaved, respectful crowd enjoyed 5 hours of entertainment on a beautiful summer evening capped off by a fireworks display accompanied by the performance of Ravel's Bolero by the orchestra. It was a magical evening!

I have attempted to attach a video to this blog. This is a first for me. It takes a while to load, the lighting isn't great, but it does give you a feel for the venue and a look at the sunset. Good luck viewing it.

Friday, February 12, 2010

more subtle differences

One of the pleasures I get from travelling is seeing how other cultures live their daily lives and observing how different issues are dealt with. For example, the climate here in Nelson is very much ocean influenced. Like southern California, the winters are mild as are the summers. They don't have a lot of need for climate control in their homes. It simply doesn't get too hot or too cold. On the cold winter day (10C/50F) they may need to warm the house up a bit. Traditionally they have used wood burning stoves to accomplish this. However, with the threat of climate change these devices have fallen out of vogue. As I understand it, wood stoves are no longer allowed in new construction and certain existing homes with older models of stoves must either upgrade to a more efficient burning model, or lose the right to burn wood. There is a transition happening away from wood to cleaner burning fuel all in the name of climate change. This is yet another example of the Kiwi consciousness of the climate change issue.

On a different note, when we had just arrived we had to wait for our hotel room to be made up as we were a little early. So, we went to find a cup of coffee. At the restaurant we visited they had an item on the menu listed as fruit toast. Falling into the category "you don't know unless you try," we ordered some with our coffee. What we got was toasted raisin bread. I've never thought of it as "fruit toast" but will from now on! Since that day, we have found multiple versions of "fruit loaf" in the grocery stores, some referred to as spicy (with cinammon). So, we've been enjoying our spicy fruit loaf toast frequently.

The picture is us at a local pub enjoying a pint. An improvement over shoveling snow.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Happy Waitangi Day!

February 6th is a national holiday in NZ. It is the commemoration of the signing of the treaty that basically made NZ part of the British Empire and gave the native Maori land rights and rights as British subjects. There are some differences between the translations that has caused some confusion over time as to exactly what was agreed to. In any event, it is a big day here, kind of like a combination of our Independence Day and Thanksgiving Day. In Nelson, there was a gigantic sidewalk sale, they blocked off two blocks of the main street in town, and lots of seeing and being seen going on. The picture shows a pipe band playing in the middle of things. There was also a commemoration of Maori activities and history at a local park. The weather was very cooperative with sunshine and 70's.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

takin' it to the streets: busker festival

There is currently a festival going on in town celebrating buskers (a term I learned during my last visit) or street performers. They have brought in a handful of world reknowned buskers to entertain. They have closed off a section of the main street in town and the performers set up their props and get down to business. One act is a full fledged circus aerial performance with trapeze stunts and the works. These folks are not compensated. Their only form of pay comes from a passing of the hat after their act. The circus act was nearly an hour long with 5 performers, an elaborate set, sound system, etc. I don't know how they make it work financially. We watched a magician/comedian do his routine for about 45 minutes. He has won awards throughout the world including Germany, the UK and Australia. Not only was he a great magician, he was very funny and managed to pick on just about everybody passing by. Pretty entertaining so long as you don't get noticed. The event started on Thursday and continues through Sunday.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

the hills are alive

Many of the hills in NZ are planted with pine trees that are harvested for timber routinely. It is an amazing process to watch them harvest a hillside of trees. The Monterrey Pine was introduced to NZ in the 1850's. The soil and climate allows it to mature in 28 years, much shorter than the normal time to maturity in California. Currently, 90% of NZ managed forests are planted with Monterrey Pine. The hillsides are beautiful and the trees give them a soft look.

The loggers make logging roads on the hillsides before planting the trees. The trees are then planted and thinned after a couple years. Fifteen to twenty five years later they are cut and brought to the mill for processing. The harvested area in the picture (taken from the golf course if you hadn't noticed) experienced a hurricane some 18 months ago or so. This harvested area represents trees that had blown down in the storm. They were mature enough to get some value from them. You can see the unharvested area adjacent. It has been fascinating watching the big logging trucks rumbling along the logging roads up in the hills and then down through town to the mills. It is amazing to see these trucks, fully loaded, half way up the hills making their way down.

The forestry industry makes up about 4% of NZ's GDP.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

talk to the animals

Our next door neighbors were going to be away for a couple days and asked if we would feed their two chickens for them while they were gone! I didn't even know they had chickens. Well, with all my farm background (ha ha) I obliged, of course. There really wasn't much responsibility, fill up their feeding dish with grain, top up the water bucket, etc. In return, we got to keep the eggs they produced. What a deal. Farm fresh eggs right from next door! I don't know what the zoning laws say here about livestock, but I am pretty sure there are no chickens in Minnetonka. These folks also keep bees and provided us with a fresh jar of honey the other day. Pretty friendly neighbors! There is a sustainability movement here and people seem to be more aware of their impact on the environment.