Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Our New Home: Palmerston North

Palmerston North is our home for our time in New Zealand. This blog is about our home away from home.

Clock tower in the City Square

During the time I was looking for a job, I was offered two jobs. The first one was in Invercargill, at the very southern tip of the South Island. Although close to the tourist hub of Queenstown, the weather was ... almost Canadian and it was remote enough to make traveling anywhere else other than the southern South Island difficult. The clincher was when I found out that it had on average 19 days of rain per month.

Fitzherbert Avenue leading up to the Square
The next offer was in Palmerston North on the southwest coast of the North Island, the largest city in the Manawatu region of NZ. It's a small city of 90,000 people about 90 minutes out of Wellington. It is also home to Massey University which gives the city an an average age of 32.4. The anesthesia practice sounded great and I liked the climate and the accessibility to many of the best spots in the north island as well as the south island.

So now that we've been here for a few weeks. Here is what we think.

Likes the Least:  Watching TV with an antennae (we didn't sign up for Sky TV because of a Sky-high cancellation penalty if you don't sign up for at least a year), our crappy shower.

Likes the Most: No traffic, no rush, no pressure - very relaxed pace of life. Trish loves that we can walk everywhere and that our house (closer to a cottage, really) takes about 90 min to clean as opposed to a couple of days in Montreal.

Likes the Least: The lack of any substantial ice surface - kidding, actually. He's barely mentioned hockey. Harrison's largest complaints are about the TV and lack of XBox and he misses his friends Matt Miron and Thomas Gale as well as his cousins.

Classrooms surrounding the schoolyard
 Likes the Most: Harrison's adaptation to our new home has been one of the most pleasant things to witness. The tearful emotionally unstable child has dissolved back into the confident 10 year old we knew in Montreal. To boot, he's shed some of the sulkiness and mood swings that have heralded the upcoming tween years. Harrison likes his new friend Evan, a Maori classmate of his who is teaching him rugby and his school - the digital curriculum (they use keyboards more frequently than pencils and he has to bring his laptop and iPod to school every day) and the school's pool and there's NO HOMEWORK!

Cassandra with our $500+ bill from our first trip to the grocery store
Likes the Least: Nothing specific to Palmerston North or being in New Zealand. Cassandra misses her best friend Isy Miron. One of the more impressive spectacles I've witnessed since being in New Zealand is a Skype conversation between 8 year old girls: twenty seconds of recognizable speech and 9 minutes of giggling and silliness, but they bonded.

Likes the Most: "Daddy, you're so silly and smelly." I guess I'll have to get back to you on that; Cassandra is always pretty guarded about her feelings.

We have 4 bedrooms but it's like this every night!
Likes the Least: Snacks are now stored above her eye level instead of in a massive pull out shelf 2 feet above the floor.

Likes the Most: Not having to get up in the morning (the kids walk to school on their own), spending every waking moment plotting her return to Trish's uterus, having "sleep overs" with her brother and sister every night!

Likes the Least: The lack of Montreal-quality cuisine but that's old news. I've traveled afar and have eaten at some fab restaurants but haven't yet visited anywhere where the general standard of food at every pizza place, hot dog joint, steakhouse or sushi counter is held to such a high level. I also miss the creature comforts of our great house in Beaconsfield.

Lemon tree growing in our neighbor's backyard
Likes the Most: Relaxed work schedule (next blog), no winter, walking to work, being forced to shed my mantle of urban Canadian aggressiveness in favor of the "No worries, mate!" attitude to life. Patients' actually say this when they get the news that their surgery has been canceled! I love thinking that the end of day involves choosing among a Central Otago pinot noir, a Marlborough sauvignon blanc, a Hawke's Bay chardonnay or a Mac's Hop Rocker Pilsener - this place is an alcoholic nirvana! Finally, TONS of family hang time whether it be grabbing an ice cream across the street, watching downloaded Glee episdodes or strolling through the fab Victoria Esplanade gardens stopping to smell one of the 144 varieties of roses and watching pickup cricket matches.

Just a few of the 144 varieties on display at Victoria Esplanade

I don't think I would list "Palmy" as a place that you absolutely had to visit during a trip to New Zealand. In fact, I probably would recommend against it given the rich abundance of other spectacular venues across Aotearoa (New Zealand's Maori name). But it has everything we need and it is a peaceful place to rest our heads and an excellent launching pad for weekend adventures.

Next up: Medicine Among the Kiwis.

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