Dinner & a Fiesta
Two parties within 24 hours gave us an evening of international students and a Mexican party. First off, we had our fourth Operation Friendship dinner on Friday night. We are becoming known by the 15 or so hosts of the monthly parties and a number of the regulars know us now, which is good. Like usual, there is a decidedly Kiwi-international blend of foods served, most of which I won't touch but some of which is quite good. The games this time around weren't great—in fact one wasn't really even a game. We always do some games but this time it was pictionary and charades with a strange getting-to-know-you thing that was only okay.
The next afternoon we went to a Cinco de Mayo party with the Americans in Christchurch group. That whole thing is horribly unorganised for some reason but the food was guaranteed to be good this time around because Kara and I made a bunch of it. We made two different sauces/salsas, refried beans, and baby churros. People liked all of it except the white sauce (their loss because it's amazing!). Pretty much the whole time was spent talking to Kara's San Diego friends that she met here, Hannah and Blair. They're a fun group and agree with us on pretty much everything regarding both America and New Zealand, so that's kind of fun. The party itself was a bit simple and the rest of the food wasn't great, but it could certainly have been worse. Oh, and the cake was good. It was a Mexican flag with a Mexican and French flag crossed atop it. Two points to anyone who knows why those flags are important to Cinco de Mayo. No points for checking Wikipedia.
A Movie & a Club
I got hijacked into joining HistSoc a few months back and then conned into becoming an exec, but it was a good decision all around. We had our first event two weeks ago, an Inaccurate Movie Night where we tried somewhat sadly to make fun of Mel Gibson's The Patriot. The movie was a bit too long, though, and people are not super comfortable with assertiveness here (not that I can talk). Still, we had a good night and a decent turnout and we definitely will be doing another event soon. In fact, our next event is in two weeks and I am one of the three co-hosts of it. We're going to do a tutorial seminar regarding exam preparation for the undergraduate students. A bit of it will also discuss their crappy essays and how to make less crappy essays in the future. It's nothing major, but we are expecting a big turnout since none of these first year students have taken a uni-level history exam before.
Well, food things have taken a decidedly different turn. The past few weeks we've been skating by with the regular food items mostly, but we did make a monster blend of Mexican food right when we came back from the North Island. The mixed our chicken/cheese enchilada filler with homemade refried beans, rice, and more cheese to make something truly magical. Mix that with some of our homemade hot sauce (read salsa del fuego) and you've got an excellent dinner.
Our bigger endeavour has been to turn our cooking into profits. Kara thought up the idea while on our trip and I won't go into the details right now, but let's just say that Kiwis are not the most ingenuous peoples and so we're going to try introducing some good ol' fashioned American foods into the market and see how they do. We're still working on a business model, but something may happen. We'll see.
Ups & Downs
We've been so busy these past few weeks that our adventures out of Christchurch have been decidedly limited to walking to and from school, with the exception of a short walk we took around the block today. Weather has been intemperate, too, with some days being freezing cold and others being actually quite nice. The nicer the day, the more likely we have to stay in the room studying. Murphy's Law or something equally annoying.
When we got back from the North Island, I spent literally 10 days in a row mostly writing a chapter of my thesis. And it was a long 10 days. Technically, I got done early on day 8, spent the afternoon editing it, and then had a few MA students read through it to make sure my supervisor wouldn't think it's garbage. After they approved it, I sent it in. I've heard nothing since.
Since May 1st, I've been working on my next chapter. It's a strange thing to go from writing for 10 days straight to suddenly reading full-time. This is the reading/writing cycle of a PhD student. My job last week was to look up various different survey books on my chapter while my goal for the next three weeks is to find books, articles, and primary source documents that discuss my chapter topic more directly. Trying to not get off topic is really hard, too, especially since this chapters has a lot to do with the next two chapters and the thesis as a whole. I just hope I can pull together as snazzy of a chapter as I did for the last one.
The Kiwi Way
So heating in New Zealand is, well, a mystery to the Kiwi. There are a few different types of heaters in us in the country, but the most common is the heat pump. A heat pump is an air conditioning system that pulls air from the outside and chills it for the inside. Wait. Did I just say chills it? Yes, heat pumps are actually air conditioners. "Heat pump" is a setting on them that is not recommended for use. In other words, most Kiwis use air conditioning systems to heat their homes. These systems are expensive to run, cannot be shut off except at the circuit breaker, and do not heat up a room very well. The next system they have are portable or mounted heaters. The Uni has tons of these everywhere. They're so simple that, well, you can't really program them at all. You turn it on and turn it off and adjust the intensity, but if you want a cold room to be warm, you either have to just leave the heater on the whole time or be cold first as it warms up. At Uni, we don't have a choice—the controls are nowhere to be found and the heater is running all the time, day/night/winter/summer. The stationary ones can be a bit better because some have programming, but they have so many safety mechanisms on them that many of the programs can't really be used. A lot of them are also straight up crap. Ceramic heaters are such crap heaters that do nothing except radiate a little bit of heat around its immediate periphery. Utter crap. There is also a slightly rarer thing that we are blessed to have called an HRV. This device is mounted in the ceiling of various rooms of a house and it pumps (read uses a fan) in warm air from the attic. In other words, the attic doesn't get as cold and the house gets its heat. This works great until the attic temperature drops below the house's, at which point it's worthless. To be fair, it won't intentionally push more cold air into the house, but since there are holes in our ceiling and cold air is heavier than warm air, it comes in all the same. The one thing they don't have here is central heating. Not at all. Don't even think about it. And what's the point anyway? There's no insulation in the walls to keep the heat in to begin with. Central heating is apparently cost prohibitive here, but I don't buy it. Just like so many other things, the Kiwi way is just a silly stubborn way, when things like central heating would make everybody happier.