A Snapshot of our Life in Dunedin

I have been reminded that people might be curious what our life in Dunedin looks like. Andrew and I have been living in Dunedin since early June and, to us, it doesn’t feel like we are tourists anymore here.

Where we are Staying

Our landlords house, still under construction (our flat is in behind)
Our landlords house, still under construction (our flat is in behind)

It was somewhat fluke that Andrew and I managed to find the flat that we are currently living in. One of those ‘it was meant to be’ type situations.

We all do it. Standing in a long line at the grocery store, we start to check out the trolleys of the people around us. Does their dinner look better than ours? Hmm…maybe I should have picked up milk. and ice cream.

Inside our Flat
Inside our Flat

The kind lady in front of us had a cart full of icing sugar, butter, flour, and the makings for a pretty decent looking barbecue. Our own meagre cart of rice, ramen, vegetables, and whatever meat was on sale this week looked somewhat lacking in comparison. Andrew jokingly said that he wanted to be invited to her house since it looked like she was going to have a more entertaining evening than ours and she, unfortunately (or fortunately!) overheard.

We got to chatting and it turned out that her and her husband had a small section just outside of Dunedin central. A section in New Zealand is larger than your standard housing unit, but smaller than a lifestyle block. My guess would be around about 1/4 acre or so? They had been living in a small flat beside the garage while they built their main house and had just finished the interior of the house when we met her.

Daffodils in bloom
Daffodils in bloom

We got along fairly well and by the time she was done purchasing her groceries we had exchanged numbers and she had said she would talk to her husband that night. Lo and behold, we had somewhere to stay! We had already booked into the holiday park for the next 2 nights, but we went up to look at the flat afterwards and it was beautiful. Especially after living in just the campervan for 6 months!

We were starting to feel a bit cramped and a bit cold, especially since, despite our best efforts, not all of the campervan is insulated. Particularly the water tank….we kept waking up to no water and had to wait for the lines to thaw so we could make breakfast.

Seagull Sculpture with a View
Seagull Sculpture with a View

It’s somewhat of a bachelor suite, with the only door being located between the bathroom and the rest of the living space. U-shaped, the living/dining room is off the main patio, the bed is in the middle, and the kitchen forms the other part of the U with a half-wall up the middle to separate the kitchen from the living room.

Sunset from our balcony
Sunset from our balcony

If you are looking to come visit, then you can check Booking.com for a great list of nearby places!

Our Jobs

One of the main reasons that Andrew and I came to Dunedin was to work. We had done our research and Dunedin seemed ideal for our needs: decently large city with engineering work, on the coast, minimal earthquake risk compared to other parts of NZ, and good weather.

Ratbags

Ratbags where Andrew works
Ratbags where Andrew works

Andrew has a job as the assistant head chef at Ratbags, which specializes in pizza but also offers mains such as curry and ribs, an assortment of delicious appetizers (kumara chips with chilli sauce), and a variety of other dishes.

He was invited in for a trial at the end of June. A trial, in New Zealand, is basically a practical interview. Come in and work for 2-3 hours so that the management can see that you are capable, that you fit with the team, and have basic social skills in a real environment. I hung out at the library doing my job search while Andrew did his trial.

Afterwards, we decided to go back for lunch since their food is fantastic and Andrew got offered the job on the spot! He was also asked if he would be able to come back that night to start work and work two other days before his official start date. They really liked him!

He started out as a sous-chef and, with training and other staff departures, has moved up to be the assistant head chef. Plus he has learned to make fantastic pizza that I talk him into making at home too.

Leith Valley Holiday Park

Relaxing after work
Relaxing after work

Remember how I mentioned that we stayed at a holiday park right after meeting our nice landlady before we moved into her house? That’s right, it was at the Leith Valley holiday park! Everything fell into place within about 24 hours after nearly a month of searching.

While checking in at the holiday park we mentioned how everything was starting to work out: we had found a flat to rent and Andrew had a job…now if only I could find one. At this point I was asked if I could clean and if I would be willing to do a trial the next day. They offered to let us stay for free the next night in exchange for the trial, which was quite kind.

Snapshot of our work at Leith Valley Holiday Park
Snapshot of our work at Leith Valley Holiday Park

I was asked to go clean the apartment at the holiday park. Clean the kitchen, scrub the bathroom, make the beds, and make everything nice and tidy. I guess I did a good job because I was offered a job the next day. It’s part time, casual work whenever she requires someone extra. Occasionally she will ask Andrew to come in as well, particularly if there is computer or hardware work to do (although he helps clean too!).

After a couple of weeks I was also asked if I would feel comfortable taking over management of the place while they went on vacation or out for the occasional evening or family event. I was also placed in charge of laundry when necessary. I’ve gotten a lot faster at ironing since starting work at Leith! Managing has been quite challenging at times since people have a habit of asking the most bizarre questions after the owners have left, but it is also fun and entertaining.

Dunedin Tourism

Bike path into the city
Bike path into the city

The City of Dunedin has lots of different options for activities. Since we are here for longer we are kind of spacing them out and waiting for things like baby albatross to hatch, the gardens at the castle to bloom, and travel deals to come up for half off of admissions.

So far we’ve taken part in the Midwinter Carnival, went skiing at Treble Cone, visited Queenstown, wandered around Larnach castle, and enjoyed the Cadbury chocolate festival.

Still to do during our life in Dunedin:

  • The Otago Rail Trial bike path (257 kilometers through New Zealand wilderness!)
  • Visit the world’s only mainland Albatross colony
  • Visit the blue penguins and the Yellow Eye penguins
  • Beach horseback riding
  • Take the train up the Taieri gorge
  • Visit the Cadbury Factory
  • Tour the Speights Alehouse
  • Sailing lessons

Lots to keep us busy during our life in Dunedin! We are probably staying here until the end of March or so, although, depending on how much work we get over the summer we might stay longer. We’ve also been offered spots on the local rugby team come beginning of March, so we might stay in Dunedin a little bit longer and then travel the rest of the south island for our last few months in New Zealand.

Holiday Comparison North vs. South

Having been raised in the North (Canada, specifically), the swap of seasons upon moving to the southern hemisphere is somewhat disorienting. There is no time of the year that it becomes more apparent that the “big holidays” are from the north than by seeing the disparity in the swapped seasons.

Halloween

Generally seen as North American,  this holiday is widely celebrated across Canada and the USA by decorating, pumpkins, spooky houses, costumes, and trick or treats.

Dressed up for Halloween
Dressed up for Halloween

Every city in Canada that I have lived in has had countless houses with pumpkins and we have always had kids visiting our door. Even when on a work trip to the USA during Halloween my colleagues and I picked up candy to hand our to the kids trick or treating in the apartment we had been lodged in.

Halloween evening
Halloween evening

In the southern hemisphere,  however,  this holiday falls in the middle of spring.  It is bright and sunny until 9:30pm. Trick or treating is done in some communities, but even then it doesn’t have the same feel to be running around in broad daylight. Forget pumpkins too…those were just planted and won’t be read for another 4 months! We did see someone try to get into the spirit by carving a pumpkin squash…into quarters!

Christmas

Ah…turkey, Santa Claus, cozy fires, and snow. Almost every Christmas show or movie has snow and winter. Christmas lights too.

In New Zealand, however, it is far too warm to cook a big meal and people just aren’t interested! It’s bright until 11pm so Christmas lights aren’t all that effective and lose some of their magic. Christmas itself is generally spent at the beach with a picnic dinner and relaxing in the pool, lake, or ocean.

Summer Christmas
Summer Christmas

We have shared homes with quite a few host families during the festive season and not a single one had put up any kind of decorations. Stores start carrying some Christmas candies and goodies starting mid-November, but it isn’t nearly the commercial spectacle that it is in Canada or the USA.

Where we spent Christmas 2015
Where we spent Christmas 2015

Dunedin, where we are living at the moment, has both a Santa parade and a Santa run, both of which Andrew and I are going to try to participate in if we can get the time off work. I’m looking forward to seeing what a different family and another region do for the holiday season.

Trying Mulled Wine
Trying Mulled Wine

There is a midwinter carnival, a polar plunge, and other wintery activities, but these are far removed from any religious or iconic holiday being that they take place in the middle of June!

Easter

Easter…spring, bunnies, colourful Easter eggs, little baby chicks. Family gathers over an Easter Ham and it’s a chance to get outside and enjoy being together after a long, cold winter. In North America at least!

Easter Chocolate

In New Zealand, Easter marks the start of Autumn. Fall harvest, corn, pumpkin soup, cooler days, and leaves changing colour. There is also almost no commercial celebration of Easter and, apart from days off to celebrate, no mark of the event for many New Zealand families.

Stores had no egg-dying kits and most locals that we talked to had vaguely heard of decorating Easter eggs but had never done it themselves. The kids were interested in trying, but it was difficult to get the supplies together to do so! There aren’t really convenient packages of food-dye either, so each colour needs to be purchased individually.

Tempting Easter Chocolate

A couple of places had small chocolate Easter bunnies, but nowhere near the level of commercialization as North America. It was somewhat refreshing actually, for all that I did miss the chocolatey goodness of Easter morning.

Thanksgiving

For those of us who grew up in Canada or America,

Maple Trees in the Park
Maple Trees in the Park

Thanksgiving is the start to the holiday season. Although the two countries celebrate it in different months and for different reasons, the holiday itself looks remarkably similar in both countries. It is a day to gather with family and friends, usually over a large roast turkey, and to give thanks for the many blessings in our lives.

This holiday, however, does not really exist in many other parts of the world. It was entertaining educating our hosts and sharing the tradition with them, from the big meals, turkey, and sweet potato pie, to the simpler things, like being grateful for what we have.

Andrew’s Dunedin Birthday

This year Andrew celebrated his 30th birthday in Dunedin, New Zealand. We were extremely fortunate to have understanding employers who both cooperated to give us November 5th off so that we could enjoy his birthday!

Birthday Breakfast
Birthday Breakfast

November 5th also happens to mark Guy Fawkes day, however, apart from a few fireworks set off by the neighbours, the celebrations in the south were mostly lacking compared to our experiences last year. For those who don’t know,  Guy Fawkes Day, which is celebrated with a bonfire and fireworks, is a celebration of a failed attempt at assassinating King James I of England in 1605.

This year, we celebrated with a day on the town.

Otago Farmer’s Market

Fantastic local honey
Fantastic local honey

Although this market happens every single week on Saturdays, Andrew and I happen to work basically every single Saturday. We’ve seen the market and I explored it briefly on our anniversary, but this was the first chance we’ve had since arriving in Dunedin to visit the market together.

Yummy moonshine!
Yummy moonshine!

The Otago Farmer’s Market has awesome food, plants, crafts, and live music every week. I think Andrew’s favourite stall was the Whitestone Cheese stall.  So many fantastic cheeses! They even had a blue cheese that, upon tasting, my first instinct was not to spit it out and find something to get the icky taste off my tongue. Still not a fan of blue cheese. The rest of their cheeses were so delicious that we ended up getting a few of them.

Andrew got his cheese!
Andrew got his cheese!

We also picked up some local honey, tasted some fantastic moonshine (I think we will have to return another time to get some), and enjoyed some wonderful goodies from Gilbert’s Bakery.

I was extremely impressed by Gilbert’s bakery. They mix their own gluten free flour and nearly all of their bakery is gluten free. They also have many dairy free options as well. Now, most people when they hear gluten free baking think tasteless and dry. They have actually done blind taste tests where people said they preferred the gluten free baking to the normal baking! They are that good.

Speights Ale House

Speights Brewery free filtered drinking water
Speights Brewery free filtered drinking water

Andrew and I followed up our time in the market with a visit to the Speights Ale house.  Speights is a huge brand of beer in New Zealand (think Guiness, Budweiser, Canadian, etc.). Their factory is in Dunedin and they offer factory tours, although Andrew and I decided to forgo the tour in favour of tasting and lunch this time. Maybe we will do the tour before leaving Dunedin.

Delicious ribs at Speights Ale House
Delicious ribs at Speights Ale House

Anyways, the Ale house. Wonderful food and a variety of gluten free options. I was again quite impressed! I had wonderful pork ribs with chips and salad, along with a yummy Speights cider. Andrew enjoyed a couple of beers alongside his beef and potato lunch.

Ready for lunch!
Ready for lunch!

We were also fortunate enough to have the good timing of catching rugby on TV while we were enjoying our lunch. Always fun to watch the Maori All Blacks crush the USA 54-7!

Doctor Strange

Spoilers! Just kidding…I hate spoilers.

Comfy seats at the theatre to see Doctor Strange
Comfy seats at the theatre to see Doctor Strange

I do have to say that New Zealand does movie theatres well. Quite well. Andrew and I enjoyed the comfort of leather reclining seats with tables and table service in the 3D theatre with the fancy surround sound features for normal movie prices ($15). We also enjoyed a super large pop and popcorn for an extremely reasonable $10.

As for Doctor Strange…it’s Marvel. It’s wonderful. It is definitely a movie to see in theatres (preferably in 3D) thanks to its stunning visual effects.

Cake, Company, and Fireworks

Couldn’t find a C word for fireworks for some awesome alliteration unfortunately.

Turtle Cake
Turtle Cake

Andrew and I picked up pizza on the way home for dinner since neither of us felt like cooking (indulgent, I know, but it’s only $5 at Pizza hut!). We invited our lovely neighbours and landlords over for some cake and spent the evening chatting with them and watching the fireworks that people in the community were putting off for Guy Fawkes Day.

Blow out the candles!
Blow out the candles!

Andrew had a two-layer double chocolate turtle with rice puff head, tail, and legs. It was quite challenging making a passable cake with a bread tin, a butter knife, and a ziploc bag as my only baking/decorating tools! Tasted delicious though.

Great Travel Products on Kickstarter

One of the hardest parts about getting started with travelling is picking up all of the requisite gear. While you don’t really need a lot of it (a simple backpack, some clothes, and a passport are all you really need), there are a number of products that make travel both easier and more enjoyable.

Unfortunately, they are also usually quite expensive by the time they hit the market, costing 2-3 times as much as their non-travel counterparts due to the niche market and the lightweight materials.

Companies like kickstarter can change that though. While you do have to wait longer for your products since they are in their production phase at the time of funding, Kickstarter is a great way to get awesome travel products at a huge discount before anyone else gets them.

Check out some of the cool and upcoming products that would be perfect for the traveller on your Christmas list!

Floatti Suitcase

Floatti is the awesome travel suitcase that offers both carry-on and checked bags. Floatti has several awesome features that make it perfect for long trips. The handbag docking makes it possible to strap your carry-on, handbag, coat, jacket, or other bulky items to the extendable handle, leaving your hands free for other travel necessities or to play on your phone.

It features a detachable charger to keep your devices charged on long flights, which is particularly useful now that most airlines are removing their in-seat entertainment in favour of your own devices.

It also features an incorporated scale so that you are never over-weight again and includes tracking systems so that you always know where your bag is, even when it doesn’t manage to follow you where you are going!

FireFlies Wireless Earbuds

Maybe you upgraded to the new iphone or maybe you simply don’t like wires taking up space and getting tangled in your bag. Either way, enter the Fireflies! Wireless earbuds with a charging pod to charge them on the go, these offer silicone tips to fit all ears, as well as locking wings that turn these earbuds into sport buds.

Que Bottle

Water is expensive. In airports, at convenience stores, everywhere you are travelling wants to charge you for water. Now there is a way to have a collapsible bottle that doesn’t take much space when you aren’t using it, but expands to a full sized bottle when you need it.

Keep the que bottle empty through airport security, and then enjoy free water for the rest of your travels! It is also better for the environment!

Crate Wallet

The wallet that works at home isn’t necessarily the wallet that works while travelling. Although with the Crate modular wallet, it could be! This wallet is durable (made from carbon fiber and titanium), and offers RFID blocking. Oh, and it’s modular and customizable! Multi tools, additional storage capacity, clear backings to see your driver’s license from outside the wallet…all of these things are possible.

Futo Air Mattress

Alright, so Andrew and I just got one of those totally awesome laybed couch hammock things that inflates in seconds that we can set up anywhere. It is awesome. Now they’ve come out with the same thing as an airbed! The FUTO is set to be equally as awesome and comfortable as the lay beds and will make setting up your campsite at the end of the night a breeze!

RooSport Power Pocket

When we are travelling, there are two things that are always lacking. Enough pockets and enough power. The Roosport is set to change this! A magnetic pocket that clips onto any pair of pants (or anywhere really), the Roosport can add an extra pocket to your yoga pants, your bra, your purse, or anywhere else, giving you space to carry your passport, your phone, and some cash with you all the time. The new RooSport Power pocket also features an ultra-light rechargeable power pack that will also charge your phone on the go.