niversity of Canterbury
November 1, 2009 - January 10, 2010
We had no idea before we came to Christchurch how much time we'd spend at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch's oldest, largest, and most prestigious. The campus used to be in the centre of town, but moved out to its current campus in the '60's and '70's. The campus itself is large and parklike, very green and leafy with the buildings nestled into groves of trees and nice native plantings. The building themselves however are a horror story: concrete 1960's architectural monstrosities. It is a shame, but as time goes on, no doubt they will gradually be replaced by something less ugly. Hopefully before they become listed as being somehow "historical".
Our first visits were short and allowed us just to get a flavor of the place, but as time went on we discovered more and more reasons to visit. Gerry found a weekly physics seminar to attend and we also discovered a computer science lecture series too. Gerry even managed to get himself invited to a physics conference that was held at the university and allowed him to brush up his knowledge of quantum physics.
While Gerry was indulging in science, Jan discovered that the university library had a wonderful selection of Russian books. She spent many happy hours browsing their shelves and dipping into works she'd never heard of. Most of Jan's Russian reading has been in fiction, her ambition being to read all the great Russian novels in the original. She's managed Tolstoy's Anna Karenina and Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment so is doing pretty well on that score. She doesn't however get much opportunity to read political books in Russian. In UC she picked up a book by a guy who worked for the last four General Secretaries of the Soviet Union as personal assistant and enjoyed dipping into it.
We always looked out for public meetings and thought one day we had found a meeting of the University Council that we could attend. Unfortunatley, when we showed up, we were told the meeting was closed to the public. The staff were a bit bemused that we were even vaguely interested in the arcane subjects the council covered, but they were very friendly and helped us find a public session two weeks later that we could attend. It reminded Jan of similar events at Bradford University that she attended as a student there.
But perhaps the most colorful of university events was the parade of graduates. Graduates all decked out in cap and gown, accompanied by the University professors and administrators in all of their much more colorful finery walked a kilometer across town from the old University campus, now the Arts Center, to the City Hall auditorium where the graduation ceremony would take place. The weather cooperated and it was a real pleasure to see all these young people striding through downtown Christchurch.