30 July 2013

Visiting Sydney

I am back in NZ now, after what seemed like a very short 4 days in Sydney. I am stuck in the airport in Christchurch because the morning flights to Welly were cancelled due to fog. Luckily there is free wifi in the airport, unlike at Sydney airport where they are stuck in the past. So I will use my waiting time in the airport (I have another hour to wait still and no book to read) to write a blog post, so that when I get back to Welly I don't use this to procrastinate from writing my thesis.

Sydney was very warm, it didn't feel like winter at all. That plus the fact that the gum trees don't lose their leaves made it really feel like stepping into summer - and I felt way overdressed in my winter clothes. The 4 days flew by because we did a lot, but even then there was a lot that we didn't do. We went to the zoo, which was good, but it closed at 4.30 pm, which we weren't expecting, so we didn't get to see it all. We only missed out on the Australian exhibits though and I've seen that stuff before so it was all good. I was really tired after having to get up so insanely early for my flight, so a good sleep and a quiet Saturday were welcomed by me. Over the course of the weekend we tried out some restaurants, wandered through a market, walked over the harbour bridge and went on a cruise of the harbour in a tall-ship (I'm not sure why they call them that, but it's one of those old ships with big sails, like a pirate ship). We were going to go up the big tower in the middle of Sydney and have lunch in the revolving restaurant but we ran out of time because we were too busy ice-skating! After which we found a Baskin-Robbins and I introduced my Aussie friends to my favourite ice-cream flavour, chocolate peanut butter.

Now my little holiday in the sun is over and I am back. It's time to get my thesis finished, so the next two months might be stressful and busy. Perhaps it will be some time before I write again so I will leave you with lots of pictures to enjoy for now instead.

25 July 2013

High Stress Levels

Me and stress don't go together very well. For the most part I manage to be pretty calm and chilled out, but when that fails I am such a mess. Moving to Wellington and starting work immediately has had me teetering on the edge for weeks, and this morning's somewhat dramatic events are a good example of how me and stress don't go well together.

To begin with, I've been tired all week because Cher has been waking me up at least a half hour before my alarm (which is set really bloody early to begin with so that I have time to walk her). I sorted out flatmates, but the one that has moved in already has so far demonstrated a habit of getting up at 5 am to have breakfast? Perhaps it will not be an every morning thing though - or perhaps she will get quieter or I will get used to it and not wake up. I am still in the process of organising my new life - I have registered the dog up here yet and I haven't changed over my car registration, but I have changed my details for other important things, and I also had time to get my brakes fixed, which was very necessary. I bought a shiny new tv but still don't have enough furniture, or internet, or a proper aerial on the roof for getting freeview. And I had long work days, which really tire me out. And I found out that I have a deadline for my thesis and it is September 30, which really means mid-September because I need time to print it and get forms signed and arrange for it to be handed in without my being there in person. So, lot's to be worried and stressed about right? Add to that the fact that I hadn't sorted out anywhere to stay in Christchurch (I am here two nights, on my way to and from Aus). Finally, on top of it all, I have had a cold. So yesterday at work I wasn't in a very good mood.

After work, and taking the dog for a run, I got accommodation sorted at the YHA, who were so helpful and made it so easy. I immediately felt better and less stressed, which carried through to the morning, even thought I didn't get enough sleep. However, then things got bad again. First I had to find time to go the bank, because I opened up another bank account so that I could get a credit card and stuff (PSIS just doesn't cut it when it comes to buying stuff online). The lady at the bank is very nice but she is also very slow. So after that I was running a little late, but what really made my morning bad was that I managed to drive the wrong way as I tried to get to the kennels where Cher was booked in. Which I might add was another reason for my general stress, as I worry about leaving her in a strange place. So instead of going the right way I headed out to the Hutt, and ended up in Petone. Between that and another couple of wrong turns I surely wasted a half hour that I really needed. So I got her to the kennel and I liked the place well enough, and getting back to the city went smoothly. But then I had to park the car up by my brother's place, where the parking is not free but apparently nobody ever checks it. There were none close to his house so I had to drive way up this tiny windy road, then when I found a park I had to try to turn around to go back to it. So on this tiny, windy road my three point turn ended in my backing into another car. Luckily, a parked car and nobody was around to see. But that's really bad, right? What's worse - I was so rushed for time I couldn't stop to see how much damage I had done or to leave a note. I just left it. How bad is that.

Next I had to parallel park in a tiny space on a hill. I'm not good at parallel parking. It didn't go well. Probably the worst parked car ever. But I had to leave it because I was going to miss my plane. At this point I should have stopped and thought 'I should call a taxi to get me there faster and with less hassle'. Of course, I didn't think of that because I already had my plan of getting on the airport bus and in my stressed out state I couldn't think enough to deviate from the plan. So I walked as fast as I could to the bus-stop, and I didn't manage to take the fastest walking route because I'm still getting used to the city, and the weather was much warmer than I anticipated so I was very warm and uncomfortable. I made it to the bus stop in a state of panic, to find that the next bus was 10 minutes away. So I waited, still in a state of panic, convinced I would miss my flight and hoping that they would be kind enough to just put me on the next flight at no cost. The bus finally arrived and I double checked my electronic ticket, which said that I had to be there 20 minutes before departure, not the half hour I thought. So I had an extra 10 minutes to get there. The bus arrived just on time and I rushed in and ran to the check in place, because AirNZ doesn't do online check in (if it did, I would have not been worried at all). I put my booking number into the self-service thing, and it said that I could not check in! Then it printed out a ticket that told me to go get some assistance. Luckily, an AirNZ person saw me looking so flustered and managed to quickly get me onto the flight, so I did make it in the end. But it was not fun, I have never cut it so close before (except when I nearly missed my Ireland-NZ flight, but that was the connecting flight's fault and not my own).

So that was my morning, and the culmination of my being too stressed out is extra-bad driving. So in the future, I must try harder not to get into such a situation. I have already reduced my work hours, so that I have time for my thesis without getting into that state. Next I simply have to not book travel and then move city right before I go, neglecting to finish organising my travel. Perhaps not getting lost while driving in Wellington would help too?

Now I'm in Christchurch and soon I'll be off to Aus for 4 days. Can't wait. Have no money though. When I get back I will have internet on in the house, so I will be able to start including photos again. I will have flatmates and I will finish getting furniture. I will finish my stupid thesis. But right now I'm going to go and relax and have a holiday.

19 July 2013

Finally, a weekend

Two and a half days off work after 11 days straight. I was so exhausted that I thought I was coming down with something, because by the end of yesterday my glands had swollen and my head was achey and fuzzy. Fine today though so I guess I just needed a break. Not that it's much of a break, because it's time to get focused on the PhD again. I probably only have a month or two left to get it handed in - I am waiting to hear about when the last lot of fees paid will run out. My day off today was great, but not entirely without stress. I went into the city to sort out some bank stuff and shopping stuff, but driving into the city is a nerve-wracking experience for me, in which I narrowly miss other cars (the streets here a really narrow and windy and confusing) and cause even further damage to my brakes (which started making a bad noise today so I've booked my poor car into a garage to get them fixed). I gave up on town sooner than I intended because it was just too stressful, but after that I went to the opshop by the dump where I found a big pot for soup and a good baking tray, and a pile of other stuff, and they are so nice and helpful there, that it made it all better. I went home and met a potential flatmate, who is my backup but I don't really want because he is far too old - I specified an age bracket in my trademe ad for a reason, that reason being that I really would be more comfortable with people closer to my own age. I don't know how old he was, but seemed to be to be 35+, which is a bit much. So tomorrow somebody else is coming and I have a couple more that are supposed to get back to me - by the end of the weekend I hope to have at least one, even better two, because then both the rooms will be filled and I won't have to worry about money. So after meeting the potential flatmate I called the landlord because my shower sucks, and for various other house problems. Clearly it worked because a few hours later I got a call from a plumber, who is coming tomorrow. Yay. Then I went to visit my neighbour, who I met the other day and is moving in a couple of weeks, and in the process getting rid of a bunch of stuff by giving it to me (because I still need lots of stuff). I bought a washing machine off of trademe you see, and after asking around all week could not manage to find anyone to lend me a vehicle big enough to pick it up with. So my neighbour luckily had the card of a guy with a small business that is pretty much doing odd jobs for people and moving stuff in his truck. Which is perfect, so tomorrow morning he will get my washing machine and bring it here as he does his rounds of moving stuff for people.

So other than that tangent-filled blather, how is everything else going? Well, my job is exhausting but mostly good. For now I am a host, which means I hang around the museum helping people. In some parts (the sciencey parts) I look for people that are looking a bit unsure and I proceed to give details about random animal/natural history stuff. I'm learning about all the art that we have because the art galleries are quite quiet, so I walk around reading, so that I will be prepared if somebody asks me a question. Soon I will begin to be posted in our children's areas aswell, which are where there is a lot more interaction with people. At some point I will be trained to be a tour guide but perhaps not for a couple of months. That's OK though, because for the next two months I have to be thinking about my thesis and not taking on more work. The people I work with are nice but there are about 100 hosts in the team, so in such a large group there are politics and cliques and a fair amount of gossip. I have already noticed that working with some of the hosts is fun and provides opportunity for conversation, while others I would rather not be posted alongside. When I started I wasn't really sure what the job would be like but I've pretty much figured out what I will be able to make of it now. I look forward to becoming a tour guide and to working in the children's areas sometimes, but I think that when the PhD is finally behind me I will focus on introducing myself to the publishing people and seeing where some persistence there will get me. More immediately I will be getting in touch with some of the scientists because I'm hoping that some of them might have some books and journals that I can borrow as I write the last bits of my thesis. And you never know where meeting the science researchers and curators might lead me aswell.

Other than work, and looking for flatmates, and trying to finish furnishing my flat, I have slowly been finding that I have more spare time. The dog is getting used to our new routine. We get up crazy early and go for a walk, then I give her breakfast in a treat-dispensing ball so that she is entertained for awhile. I make my bed up really tight so that she can't get into the sheets (she still pushes the covers off though) and I hide toys and treats for her so that she has something to do while I'm gone. When I get home she is desperate for attention and a walk, but I managed to buy a bike (not a very good bike) so we go careening down the hills, in the dark, without a helmet (I'm working on it but it's hard to shop when you work all day). Then we walk back up the hills because I can't bike up them. Then I flop onto the couch, exhausted, while she rips her toys to pieces and makes a big mess. I have learnt to put away my things because with my being gone all day she has started to chew stuff. She has now destroyed a book, a boot, my hot water bottle and a packet of toilet paper. It could be worse though. I just hope she doesn't figure out how to open the closet. Walking and biking has let us get to know the streets around here, and there is a small village down the road and a bigger suburb in the other direction, with lots of shops. Which is great, I don't have to go into the city. I looked into getting a haircut in one of the nearby places today and being in the suburbs does not make things any cheaper. I guess it will just have to grow long. In fact, a lot of things here are more expensive than down south, and every time I nip into the grocery store I seem to spend way more than I thought I would. Partly because I am still stocking up on the basics, but also I think because everything is just a little dearer.

I have still not got the internet turned on in the flat. I signed up for broadband but it takes 5-10 working days for it to get sorted - how sucky is that? However, I don't have a router for it yet because I bought one of trademe and the person never contacted me back about shipping, so even if the broadband provider was faster I still wouldn't have internet. Hopefully I'll be sorted by next week and then I'll have enough internet to be able to start adding photos to posts. For now, though, I'm using my phone internet and it doesn't go that far so it's time to be going now. Off to bed, another day off tomorrow to continue getting my life sorted. Then more long days of work (poor dog left all alone) and then I'm off to Aus for a few days. Haven't sorted out what to do with the dog yet but hopefully something will work out!

04 July 2013

A New Home

Here I am, in Wellington, in a flat that is, so far, all mine. I live in Kingston, which is about a 5-10 minute drive from the city center, but at least 25 minutes on the bus. The house is nice enough but there is no real yard. I have almost nothing yet - I have a bed, which I figured was most important. It has nice new bedding and pillows. I have an old TV and a random dining chair and an oven that doesn't close properly. The landlords are bringing a fridge and better oven on the weekend - I'm hoping they bring a washing machine too or I will have to find a laundromat until I get sorted. The problem is that I don't have a van or ute to borrow any more, so I can't make the most of all the good stuff on Trademe. I have, however, been trawling a website called freecycle, where people list the things that they want to get rid of and you go pick them up. As well as that I will go op-shopping on the weekend and sort out some furniture quick-smart. Then the place will seem like a home. However, I do need to find flatmates or I will be incredibly poor. I have had 3 responses to my ad so far. One was a young French student who would only be here 2 months so I advised they look for somewhere that already has furniture. The second was an Indian girl, bit older than me, who worked for the weather service but I haven't heard from her since so she must have liked another listing better. Just now I have been contacted by a very promising candidate - an undergrad ecology student who really wants to live in a house with a dog. He's just my brother's age but living out here will surely have to be better behaved than my brother. And if not, oh well, at least I'll be able to afford the bills and rent.

So the people that were in this flat before me just left without any warning and apparently left the place in a huge mess (which is probably why my oven is a bit broken). I don't know what sort of dodgy things they were up to but last night there was a knock on the door at about 10 pm - at first I thought it was somewhere else because who would knock on my door at the time? Plus the lazy dog didn't bark. So then the knock came again and I saw that there were people at the door so I asked who it was ... it was the police! I kept the chain on the door until I was sure that it wasn't some random lying about their identity, but it actually was the police. They were looking for someone whose name I didn't catch, and I don't know why, but now that they know that person is long gone they will surely not come back. The locks are being changed this weekend, so hopefully I won't need to worry about dodgy people coming back.

As for work, it's been incredibly exhausting because the training period is full time. After next week I will be down to part time and hopefully I will get the perfect amount of hours to keep me going yet give me enough spare time for my studies and cooking and looking after the dog. The museum is awesome and everybody should go to it as much as possible. Spending all day on my feet is killing me so I really need to get some good shoes. I can't wait for the weekend and having a chance to sleep in and relax. Though Saturday I will be busy trying to fill my new place with things. I need to get a dresser so that I can get all my clothes of the floor. And I need a couch so that the dog stops sleeping on my bed during the day (hopefully). And I need a bike so that poor old Cher can go for proper runs again. These hills will make it difficult, but walking up and down them is just as bad and my legs are full of aches and pains. I just hope that in the long run it keeps me fit and toned! Did I mention that I'm right by this huge reserve, or string of reserves, that I'm pretty sure runs all the way to the bays on the southern coast. Me and Cher will go for a hike that way in the weekend and find out. Lots of pictures coming, but for now I'll leave you with the view from my morning walk:

01 July 2013

In Wellington

Well here I am. It was a very long drive - longer the first day but the whole thing has left me exhausted. I have survived a bit of driving in Wellington, up crazy hills and along narrow, windy roads. I looked at two places to live yesterday and neither were that good. Hopefully looking at another tonight and it is run directly by the landlord so if all is good I will try to sign a lease and move in immediately. Until then Cher is in a kennel and doggy day-care. I felt so awful leaving her there yesterday, in a strange place, after a stressful couple of days and not enough exercise. I hope she's OK. She will have to stay there till tomorrow at least. However, if I do get this place tonight I already have a bed lined up and it has a fridge, so the place will be in a liveable condition right away. I will have to sort out a washing machine pretty quickly, and stuff for the kitchen so that I can live like a civilised person. Now it is very early on Monday morning and I must have had too much on my mind because I couldn't sleep properly. I was awake since 5.30, so I got up early and now have nothing to do until it's time to go to work. Hopefully all goes well today. Here is Cher falling asleep in the car: