Pirates Women win the 2017 Dunedin Area Rugby! There was much celebration and today I am recuperating. Posts will resume as normal next week!
Andrew and I both turned 30 over the last year. For our birthday’s, Andrew’s wonderful sisters got us tickets to see the local provincial team, the Highlanders, take on the British and Irish Lions in their 2017 tour.
Yes, Andrew and I have become quite passionate about rugby. I’ve always quite enjoyed football (aka american/Canadian football, aka gridiron), and Andrew has always enjoyed hockey. The hockey isn’t quite as relevant, although he was largely just missing playing a sport. Rugby though…it’s like football if they didn’t stop the play every time someone touched the ball and fell down.
Andrew and I had fairly good tickets for the game. Right at the try line (aka the goal line for those who don’t know rugby), close to the front.
We were both quite glad that it is a covered stadium. The game was only a week from the winter solstice and, while the weather had been fairly nice for the weeks leading up to the game, that day dawned cold and wet. In an uncovered stadium it is likely that the game would have been cancelled with how wet and muddy all the fields were.
Andrew and I dressed quite warmly thanks to jackets that we brought from Canada. I was asked more than once where I’d gotten my jacket actually! We also brought a light blanket to keep our legs warm. While it is easy to stay warm while walking and moving, it’s quite different sitting on cold seats for 90 minutes!
What a game it was too! I honestly wasn’t expecting much. The British and Irish Lions are the national team and are going to be taking on the All Blacks later in the tour. Considering that the Highlanders are a level lower and are sitting at the bottom of their league, I was expecting to see some good, but not exceptional rugby.
The Highlanders certainly played well! The game was tied at half time (10 all), with the Lions pulling ahead in the second half. A few fans actually started leaving when the Lions managed to pull ahead to 22-10 within the first 10 minutes of the second half. The Highlanders fought back though, scoring their final try with minutes left on the clock, and then defending well to finish with a final score of 22-23 for the Highlanders.
So much fun to watch!!
So, as I’ve mentioned…Andrew and I joined the Pirates Club Rugby this year. It’s been a bit of a crazy hectic season with both of us new to the sport, but we are loving it.
Pirates Prem 2’s
So, like all sports, there are different levels. For men, there’s the normal community touch, recreational leagues that you find everywhere, but there are also the official club leagues.
Andrew is playing on the premier 2 rugby team. This team feeds into the premier team, which feeds into the provincial teams (such as the Highlanders). There’s some quite competitive guys there!
A lot of them are surprised that Andrew is completely new to the sport since, like hockey in Canada, most of them have been playing rugby since they were 3-5 years old.
Andrew is doing really well and is usually playing most games (there are enough guys that they tend to put the newer players on for substitutions so that they can watch and learn more). He generally plays as a #14 winger. This means he is the back row defence; if he gets the ball he is supposed to take it and run as fast as he can up the sideline. It’s also his job to catch any of the opposing team’s offensive players if they manage to get a breakaway.
Unfortunately the men’s rugby team is struggling a little bit this year and has lost every game so far. They are getting closer though!
Also know as Pirates Women. Wahine is Women in Maori. I’m learning!
My rugby team has done amazingly well this year. Although we officially lack a coach, I have learnt a great deal from the senior members of the team. While it is difficult for them, wanting to train with the team, but being forced to coach as well, I have been quite grateful!
One of our ladies has just gotten called up to the national rugby team (the Black Ferns), which says a lot for the quality of women’s rugby in Dunedin. Go Angie!!
The position that I play is #1, or the loose-head prop. It is my job to take a short pass and do my best to gain a couple of meters by charging straight into and through the opposing team. During a line-out, I’m in the front lifting our jumper, then driving forwards once we have the ball. During a scrum I am in the front row, binding onto the opposing team and trying to gain control of the scrum.
One of the best parts of being a forward in rugby on a cold or rainy day is the scrum…cuddle party!
Thus far, we have only lost one game, although we did draw with North Otago the second time we played them.
We have two more rugby games before the semi-finals and are hopeful that we can bring home the banner this year!
Of course, you can’t play a full contact sport like rugby without a couple of injuries. Luckily, having a free and dedicated physio and clinic is part of being in the club!! Andrew’s injuries have luckily been quite minor, limited to a grade 1 hamstring pull and a few bruises and scrapes.
I, unfortunately, haven’t been quite so lucky. With only 3 minutes left in our game against Varsity I took a bad tackle from one of their props and felt my knee snap to the side, out of joint, and then back in. I then decided that it would be a very good idea to just lay on the field for awhile.
I was apparently quite concerned about where my mouthguard had gone since I lost it in the tackle (I got hit HARD). I mainly remember a lot of ouchie.
I am exceptionally grateful to my amazing team, from the opposing team’s physio who checked me out at the field (our physio was playing), to the manager who helped me off the field, to my awesome team-mates who took me to the sports clinic, took me to get crutches and dinner, and helped take care of me until Andrew could get off work. I couldn’t have done it without them!
As for rehab…it’s going…slowly…
It’s only been 4 weeks (I keep reminding myself). I have/had a grade 2 MCL sprain (the ligament on the inside of the knee) and possible/probable damage to the meniscus (which is the cartilage in the knee joint). The sprain is healing quite nicely, but I haven’t yet managed to regain mobility in the knee. It will bend from 0-90 degrees and simply refuses to bend further. I shouldn’t be able to put full weight on it, but I can. I can also manage all of the physio exercises without any difficulty…apart from my knee not bending. So it is probably off to the MRI to figure out exactly what is going on and why it won’t bend.
One of the advantages of living in one of the four largest cities in New Zealand is that Dunedin is just large enough to still attract the major events that visit the larger cities like Christchurch and Auckland, while still being small enough to have that small town feel.
This past week, Dunedin played host to the ‘Night Noodle Market’, which hosted both performances and foods with an Asian influence. According to their advertising, it would allow locals to experience the “sights, sounds, and tastes of an authentic Asian street market”.
Authentic? Not so much…far too orderly with neat little queues marked out in the grassy fields of the Kensington Oval. Far too neat and orderly if anyone’s been to any actual Asian markets, but still, the food was quite tasty.
Andrew and I arrived just at the dinner rush, which wasn’t the best timing on our parts. We were hungry and most of the lines were ridiculously long (think around 20-30 minutes in line).
The portion sizes were also quite small given the prices. The only thing we were tempted by that we didn’t go for was the pineapple smoothies; they wanted $12 just for a small smoothie in a pineapple!
That being said, the food was still absolutely fantastic. Andrew and I shared our dishes and got to sample four different dishes while we were there. It did mean standing in line for each dish, but once we had our first one and weren’t so hungry anymore, it was a lot more enjoyable.
The atmosphere was nice and the people were quite friendly. Each of the stalls was quite efficient in their food delivery as well, getting through the long lines quickly.
The skewers were definitely the most popular stall in the place, and I can see why! They were absolutely delicious. It was $12 for 2 sticks and some people were walking around with entire bouquets of the things. I wouldn’t be surprised if some people spent upwards of $100-$200 on dinner, although Andrew and I kept our evening reasonable.
There was also some fire dancing performances, which were fun to watch. The fair could have really benefited from a small craft market as well, in my opinion.
Overall, Andrew and I really enjoyed our evening and the opportunity it gave us to sample food from a bunch of the different local restaurants.
Chocolate!! Every woman’s (and men’s) best friend. One of the best parts of living in Dunedin is sharing a city with the Cadbury chocolate factory, which means every city sponsored event has chocolate!
Of course, what would the city of chocolate be without a full on chocolate festival? From opening ceremonies and the chocolate games, to cooking demonstrations, to a scavenger hunt, and the epic annual Jaffa race.
There were a number of activities that Andrew and I didn’t have a chance to take part in during the last festival, so hopefully we can hit up some different events in the following year. What we did get a chance to participate in was excellently executed.
We started with the opening ceremonies, which included a variety of sports and games. It was aimed mostly at families and children, but they had no problems with a couple of big kids taking part as well. There were small chocolate rewards for successful completion of each skill and then a chocolate medal and chocolate bar for completion of a majority of the activities prior to the fireworks. Overall a very fun evening!
We then took part in a chocolate scavenger hunt which sent us all over the downtown core of Dunedin trying to find answers to all the different clues. Things like “When was the Settler’s Museum opened” and such. Upon completion of the scavenger hunt we were rewarded with another bar of chocolate as well as entered into a draw to win a $300 chocolate basket. Lots of chocolate this week!
We also went to a cooking class and watched the demonstrations of how to make two absolutely delicious desserts. The classes were exceptionally entertaining and informative, although I haven’t had the equipment (i.e. a mixer) to actually attempt the recipes. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want the recipes!
The final part of the Cadbury Festival was the Jaffa race. A Jaffa is a ball of chocolate coated in an orange flavoured hard candy coating. usually they are fairly small, but the ones for the Jaffa race were larger.
The Jaffa race also takes place at Baldwin Street, marketed as the steepest residential street in the world. Oh, and did I mention that they release around 25,000 of these balls at a time?
It is done for charity, with each ball bearing a number that matches a raffle ticket. It was quite fun to watch! It was also like a giant street party with a DJ, dancers, and the race itself.
I’m excited to see what this year’s festival will hold!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you are looking to come visit, then you can check Booking.com for a great list of nearby places!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Dunedin midwinter carnival happens every year around mid-June. Yes…midwinter is in June and the seasons still mess with my head. This year it was on the 18th of June. Andrew and I were fortunate enough to be in Dunedin for the midwinter carnival so decided to check it out.
Unfortunately we missed out on some of the events leading up to the midwinter carnival. There are lantern making workshops, where families can make beautiful paper lanterns to contribute to the festival atmosphere.
Each year, the midwinter carnival has a different theme to it. This year’s theme was ‘Future Worlds’ with a variety of science fiction outfits, lanterns, and music. The festival consists of around 130 different performers, hundreds of lanterns, and around 1000 lantern carriers, as well as food and live music.
The midwinter carnival procession started just after dark and wound its way around the Octagon of Dunedin (basically the downtown central square that is octagon shaped). Andrew and I were early enough that we got a seat right at the front. We didn’t want to worry about trying to park our campervan downtown in the crowds so we parked a couple of kilometers out and rode our bikes in. Turned out to be a good decision because it was quite crowded!
The lanterns at the midwinter carnival were absolutely beautiful to see. Amazing what can be done with sticks, paper, and candles! I was actually quite surprised that they weren’t using LED candles. Even more surprising is that none of the lanterns caught fire! Good design, I guess. There were a number of stilt walkers, acrobats, dancers, musicians, and other performers as well, making for an interesting show. They circled the Octagon twice, which made it really easy to see everything.
Following the lantern procession, Andrew and I wandered the food alley. I tried mulled wine for the first time and, considering that I am usually not a huge fan of red wine, it was surprisingly tasty! Fairly dry, but the spices and the heat were definitely nice on a cold winter evening. We also tried the potato spirals, which were quite yummy.
After our snack, we hung out by one of the bonfires and listened to some good jazz music while we waited for the fireworks. The fireworks were launched off of the city hall building. There was a good view from basically anywhere in the Octagon and it was a surprisingly impressive fireworks display.
After the fireworks, Andrew and I enjoyed the music and bonfires for a little while more before riding our bikes back to the campervan. It was a very enjoyable evening and I would love to see more done with it in future years. The carnival is run by a not-for-profit organization and has been slowly growing since it started a few years ago. It is part of Matariki, the celebration of the Maori New Year and a celebration of the longest night of the year.
If you go to the Midwinter Carnival
- Arrive early. The festival is quite busy and there is a fair bit to see and do.
- Park at least a few blocks from the Octagon and be prepared to walk in. The streets were quite busy and crowded after the fireworks
- Dress warmly. Although New Zealand winters are not cold compared to Canadian winters, it is a damp cold that penetrates clothing and leaves you shivering even if it is still 10C. This is especially true if there is a strong Southerly blowing as this air comes right from Antarctica…brrr!
- Check the website for dates of the festival as it changes yearly. It is always around mid-June but the exact dates will vary. The lantern making workshops are in the three weekends leading up to the festival but spots fill up early.