hristchurch Visits and Events
November 1, 2009 - January 10, 2010
A Day at the Races
We'd hardly arrived in Sumner/Christchurch when we learned that the big social event of the year was the Riccarton races, coming up the next week. Of course we had to go. We've now been to race meetings in quite a few places: in Paris, notably, with our horse-loving friend Pam, in Melbourne, and in Sydney.
We took the bus across town to get to the racetrack, not really knowing where we were going, but following the crowd as needed. We were just walking through one of the gates, when someone hailed us from a nearby SUV and asked if we would like to have grandstand tickets. Never ones to turn down anything for free, we said yes, and got a coupon that gave us the right to exchange it for two grandstand passes. We walked over to the courtesy office, got our passes and found ourselves some nice seats in the grandstand very close to the finishing line.
We are rather odd race-goers as we rarely bet, know little or nothing about how to pick a racehorse, but just like being in the fresh air, like to watch the races, and enjoy the ceremony of it all. We sat in the stands sipping white wine for most of the afternoon, trying to pick winners for each race, but not caring if they won or lost. Every now and then we will wander down to the paddock to see the horses close up or to the finishing line to watch the horses come in after the race. It is a pleasant way to spend a summer's afternoon.
Sadly, we missed the other main event of the summer season in Christchurch, the big agricultural show. We were not too healthy the weekend it was being held and some poor weather discouraged us from making the effort.
Armistice Day, Kiwi-style
We have made three trips "Down Under" and each time, not surprisingly, we have chosen to be there in the southern spring. One consequence of that is that we have been able to attend three Remembrance Day Services: one in Sydney, one in Melbourne, and, you guessed it, one in Christchurch. The Christchurch affair, as befits the smallest of the three cities, was the most modest, with the smallest number of people attending, but that might also be due to the cold, damp weather we had that morning. For us, it turned out to be more interesting than the other two because of the people we met there. First was the Danish immigrant and former soldier ??. Too young to have fought in WWII, he nonetheless had clear memories of it as a young boy in Denmark. Our second encounter was with a French couple who spend half of their lives travelling the world and turned up in Christchurch on 11/11 as part of their world cruise. All five of us got on well and so first ?? introduced us to the RSA (Returned Servicemen's Association) club and in return, we all took him out for a slap-up carvery lunch down by the Avon river.
Making New Friends American Style
It wasn't long after we arrived in Christchurch that Thanksgiving rolled around. We always celebrated in New Jersey, usually sharing a typical Thanksgiving meal with friends and neighbors, but since starting out on our travels we have mostly missed out on celebrations. In Christchurch, however, we thought about it soon enough to look around for an American club, which tends to exist wherever Americans live abroad. Luckily for us there is an active club in Christchurch thanks mostly to the efforts of club secretary Patricia and club president John, also Patricia's husband.
With the American club we attended two pot-luck dinners, one for Thanksgiving and another to say farewell to an American family who were moving back to the US. Both were terrific affairs. Gerry made some rather yummy double chocolate muffins as our contribution and other dishes included most of our favorite Thanksgiving fare: pumpkin pie, turkey, cranberry sauce, and on and on. The Thanksgiving Dinner was held at a lovely home in the far northern suburbs of Christchurch where homes are typically on five or ten acre lots, or blocks as they call them in Kiwispeak. The farewell Luau was held just after Christmas and was highlighted by a special kind of swap/auction that allowed people to get rid of small unwanted Christmas presents. The gifts were mostly amusing and popular gifts changed hands lots of times.
The third American Club event we attended was rather special. The club was invited to the US airforce base that supplies the research facilities in the Antarctic, on McMurdo Sound. The crews fly down to the Antarctic a couple of times a month ferrying supplies and people back and forth as need be. We got to clamber around on one of the supply aircraft and learned some of the technical difficulties of landing a cargo plane on ice.
Music School Graduation
One day in December, as we were wandering along the outskirts of CC's CBD looking for the nearest bus stop to take us back out to Sumner, we came across a very interesting building that looked a lot like a church, although we couldn't find a cross. There were lots of cars in the parking lot and people hanging around the door as if something was going on. We asked a question and learned that the building was a music school and that a group of students was about to present their annual Christmas concert, followed by graduation performances by students ranging in age from about four (far too small to reach the pedals) to the high teens.
The concert was a lovely affair with some quite excellent performances by a small choir and a handful of solo singers and instrumentalists. There were some carols of course and we were delighted to have happened along at just the right time. After the concert we were invited to a small reception, which we happily accepted and then learned of the graduation performances going on in the concert hall. We went along and were very impressed by the quality of every one of the players. Jan has always wished she had learned to play an instrument and is sure that if she lived in Christchurch she would take lessons from the teacher here, who had such a gift for teaching music.
We came upon the annual pipe and drum competition in the park along the Avon river one day in December. All of the secondary schools in Christchurch seemed to have a pipe band and they were all out in all of their finery showing off their skills.