Weeks 5 & 6 Recap

I’m now at the stage where I need to check back when I last posted anything – not that it was that long ago but the days are going a bit oddly here. [check check] – I need to account for two weeks or so again.

[moving]

Most of the past block of time was revolving around me moving out of the “old place” and moving into the new one. This meant that strictly speaking of calendar weeks there wasn’t a lot to account for between Monday and Saturday of the first of the two, apart from the fact that the last few days in the rented house/room where I originally started was a bit funny because I had to move to a smaller room, which involved attempting to move the bed frame as well. That didn’t quite happen because the bed frame didn’t fit through the doors and upon disassembly we decided that it’s not worth the whole fuss, I’d just sleep on the mattress. That aside little happened in that place.

The moving to the new place was quite straightforward, at least on my side, as in I took my stuff and that was it. The furniture that I ordered was less straightforwardly arriving. I spent a good $300ish on shopping for various household items and food (mostly household items, but since there’s no decent cheap food here, unlike in London, I had to start cooking, again unlike in London.) I also got a present from the girlfriend (who is still in London), she bought me a rice cooker online, one of the nicer ones that is. Awww. I even bought a $1 mug, which was branded “Necessities” and it promptly lost its handle by Monday morning, so either that the handle doesn’t count as a necessity, or that I really didn’t get my money’s worth.

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As mentioned, the move date for me was the 3rd December, and the delivery for furniture was set for the 6th, meaning I knew I was going to sleep on the floor for a few days, which worked out reasonably okay, I got some decent sleeps and some crappy ones, largely depending on whether I managed to keep my makeshift pillow in one piece or if it’d fallen apart during the night. The delivery of the furniture was a bit messed up. I ordered three things, really, a bed, a desk and a couch, the latter two from a charity shop, the bed new. As it would be, the two delivery teams managed to arrive spot on at the same time, but luckily about five minutes after the post-earthquake inspection team has left. Here’s the rundown for what worked and what didn’t. The couch didn’t fit through the door, so it was eventually returned to the shop where I got a store credit, rather than cash back – fair enough, I still need stuff they sell and it’s not too bad. The desk came in okay, though we needed my toolkit to assemble it because they didn’t have one. The base of the bed also came in okay, but the bed itself was the wrong size, so it was returned. I got the correct one a day later.

The apartment allegedly comes with an internet connection but it hasn’t been set up yet. Apparently, it’s something on the provider’s side that’s not being handled properly, which means I’m offline for most of the time. This isn’t entirely terrible because my phone is still online and there’s a lot of free Wi-Fi in town, so for example I spent about two hours in a Burger King on Monday evening abusing the free “CBD Wi-Fi”, skyping w/ parents, downloading the latest episodes of Westworld and Ash vs Evil Dead. Also, while I’m trying to keep myself out of the apartment and be amongst humans, failing that I’ve smartly prepared for the offline period by pre-downloading some gem games from the mid-90s, such as XCOM 3, Diablo 1 & 2 and a few other similar titles. Diablo 1/Warcraft 2 need a Win2000 virtual computer to run, which I also have. Ninja.

At least the view from the balcony is nice. There are even stars around here when it’s not fully cloudy, unlike in London. One of my friends that live near Orpington (zone 6 of “London”) said that given that she’s living “in the countryside” she could also see stars. Well, it feels like living in the countryside here too! [from a good may points actually].

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[work]

Work has been ongoingly quiet and/or even non-existent. It’s interesting how open people are about the fact that they don’t do anything around here, or that they don’t like things. Specific example: we had a team meeting of sorts where we discussed that even those that do have proper remote access aren’t doing more than 2 hours of work a day. That fact by itself isn’t surprising but I find it unusual to say in front of management, especially with the tone of showing off – seems they’re pretty relaxed here. The other thing is that there’s a fair bit of resentment about how the whole “business continuity” process is being handled and how inconvenient it is – more to the point that it’s possible that disruption owing to the lack of access to the main office might continue for up to a year or beyond.
This puts both the employees at an inconvenience and the company as well, however the whole thing is a catch-22. On the logical side of things what happened was an earthquake that displaced some thousand employees across the city, most of which were previously working in single large offices that belonged to their employers – in our case we’re talking about 1100 people in a 12 storey office building (well, half of that space was us, so 6 levels with the same number of people) – there are no free office buildings in the city that can accommodate this number of people at short notice, especially not enough of them that can accommodate a number of companies with similar volumes of people. Moreover, a lot of corporate and personal items have been left behind in the office that are still off limits for all sort of reasons. Get the problem? Long story short, shit hit the fan. The more emotional side of the problem is that obviously, this cannot be simply solved in the short term by anyone. What’s amusing is how employees are voicing their concerns. Some have openly said they’d quit if certain things happened or failed to happen, such as being moved to an off-Wellington location (which is likely and doesn’t entice me either too much) or keeping on being disorganised as a company (which is also likely), and so on. Interesting times ahead. As much as I don’t plan on having kids, however long I stay here, it will be quite an interesting story to tell “the kids”.

[social life]

One of the key points of settling in and generally feeling like a human being is to have others around – well either I am, or my environment is failing at that miserably and annoyingly. After a month and a half, I managed to have a whopping total of 1 coffee with another, not work related person. That after a good dozen meetups or more. Part of the problem is that there are no meetups here, or at least very few, and even those get postponed/cancelled too often. Even “festivals” are small scale, when they even happen. This Saturday was supposed to see the “Very Welly Christmas” festival, which wasn’t really advertised anywhere, but nonetheless they closed down Lambton Quay for the whole weekend for it. That’s like closing Oxford Street (or more precisely, given Wellington is considerably smaller than London, closing the whole of Westminster altogether), difficult to miss once you’re in town. Well, Santa was scheduled to appear at noon, followed by a variety of activities over the weekend. By 2pm when I got there, everything was gone. Even the bloody stages were being packed up at the time. At least I hit my daily step count.

Life is really structured differently here. Based on conversations I’ve had with various locals on where and how to socialise, it appears to me that most people prefer bars and pubs and because most of the younger people don’t have the money to live by themselves, they’d meet people via university or shared houses. Neither of which applies to me. Being PC isn’t much of a thing here though. A S-American colleague of mine suggested a few places to go out if I want to meet people (all clubs, which I’m not interested in) – but warned me against some specific locations are frequented b by “a lot of large, brown people with strong body odours”. Political correctness above all. I’ve heard a few other comments regarding just about everyone by now that’s not white. Not that I cared, I don’t teach protocol, but it’s amusing after all these London years, where even hinting at the fact that someone factually has a skin colour (rather than being transparent altogether) carries a capital punishment.

[food]

I’ve mentioned this before but I started cooking. Even ingredients portions in the store are family sized. It’s nigh impossible to buy half a kilo of chicken (boneless) because of course a family would eat through much more than that in no time so meat ingredients are 800-1400gms. Yeah and for me it’s a struggle to eat the same stuff for days on else they go off. Joy.  Same for flour. The smallest package I found in the second largest store in town is 1.5kg. I’ll be back in Europe by the time I finish up that much….

In terms of producing food, rather than complaints, I managed to do a few steaks (some more rare than others but I like it that way, more of a coincidence at this stage though), as well as experimenting with basic fish foods etc. I’ll try something Hungarian early next week, now that I found sour cream and some spices too. I also have some Chinese dumplings to do at some stage. Aside from successes, I had to discard one of the cheap plastic kitchen tools after it has proven not to be heat resistant. I guess that wasn’t a necessity either.

Weeks 3 & 4 Recap

It’s been a bit quiet here on the blogging front, especially the English side of things as I posted a Hungarian article after the first EQ-related one, mainly summarising what was available in the local newspapers for Hungarians.

So there is a variety of tidbits/news from this half of the world. One is that the past week and half has been decreasingly shaky in terms of the earth moving around, which is good, albeit officials are keen to point out that their models show a reasonable possibility for destructive EQs over the coming year – a pretty vague thing, really.

The office has been closed for almost two weeks now and it will remain closed for at least another 6 (!) weeks, if not more. This has to do with asbestos in the building, which has been shaken up by the recent events. To ease the problem a “business continuity site” has been set up in a nearby office, which, depending on the positive or the negative view taken either resembles a sweatshop, or it’s “better than nothing”. The less good news is that according to circulating legends (which have so far been largely correct) the company is now considering setting up an extended temporary office somewhere in the Hutt, which, for readers more familiar w/ say the London area is like setting up an office in Reading or Luton. FML really.

Since most days (I’ve been actually working from the BCS recently) I’ve spent not really doing much I had to come up with activities. This therefore mostly meant days revolving around (sourcing) furniture and socialising whenever possible.

Furniture then. I’ve gotta say, the real world ain’t Sims. For whoever’s not familiar w/ the PC game series, it’s a life simulator, which involves a lot of things but I’m now specifically thinking about beds in it. So the way it’s laid out in the game is that you can buy a variety of beds for your sim (player) that have a comfort level and a price of course, and the more comfortable, the more expensive, and the better sleep you get. Bam! Simple as that.
Not in bloody real life. I’ve been hunting for beds for a while now and I have no clue what I want, aside from the size and a budget. I want big, cheap and comfy. [who doesn’t?]. It’s very complicated to compare items because lying down in a showroom bed for two minutes is really not the same as sleeping in one. I also can’t really compare firmness too well. I remember that I want something more firm than medium. Eventually I ended up settling for something that’s budget, but not the least expensive. The other reason for being on a budget is that I’m essentially trialling NZ. If I decide to stay here forever, I’ll get a better bed.
Decent desks are almost impossible to find, at least the size I want. Given that my monitor is a not-so-meagre 32″ I need a desk that’s a metre deep at least. The trick to this is that only “workstations” (the local name for  office desks that look like they can be squeezed into a corner based on their shape) are large enough to satisfy this requirement and they’re priced…well, “corporately”, meaning they’re bleeping expensive. Eventually I managed to get one from the local charity shop, but since I’m only moving in 3rd December, it will need to be stored, meaning the desk will cost just about as much as storage and delivery – still it will be very favourably priced altogether.

As for socials, I’ve been keeping myself active. Went to an Indian foodie meetup, two language exchange meetups a German conversation breakfast meetup, and also a tai chi event, which was quite something, considering that 1) I’ve never done tai chi, and 2) the whole thing was in Mandarin (Chinese), which I don’t understand at all. My Chinese doesn’t go any further than nĭ hăo and even that I had to google because I don’t remember the accent marks top of my head. It [the tai chi] went comparatively well. I also walked a whopping 32km one day in town between home, the Chinese consulate (for a travel visa – funny thing is, their website hasn’t been recently updated as the original address has a big Chinese flag waving on it, as well as a note saying that from January 2014 they’ve moved to a place about 2km from the original one)., the office, a bank branch, the office again, the alternative office, home, the tai chi place near the Chinese consulate and home again.

Less on the social note but on Tuesday I decided to visit the zoo. Clearly the end is nigh. It was cute – and rather small. Tbh I think the poor animals here are suffering more than most of their counterparts in the rest of the civilised world. In the unlikely scenario that the weather is decent, the sun is so strong that’s unbelievable, and in any other case it’s either a windstorm, a rainstorm, or an earthquake-storm (whatever), or all at the same time. I’m a bit funny when it comes to zoos, I keep going to them yet I don’t actually like or care much about animals, plus I’m marginally against keeping animals locked up so…go figure. In addition to this, given that once you hit the age of 30ish, chances are you’ve seen a dozen giraffes, emus and whatnots live, and about five zillion more on some form of digital projection, zoos become a bit less of a hyper-exciting bit of entertainment. At least the Wellington Zoo has a kiwi or two, which, considering the location isn’t a proper shocker. A note on photographing these little furry bastards: since they like almost complete darkness, and keep pecking at the ground, unless you have a Nikon D5, don’t even hope for non-blurry, non-epic-noisy photos. If a D810 can’t do it with a 70-200/2.8 lens, we’re all doomed.

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The place overall doesn’t have a large variety of animals though. The one thing I did find rather interesting is the semi-public vet centre, where the zoo’s vets do their work and the visitors can observe and ask questions from them. So while I was sitting around, they were x-raying a lizard of sorts in a box. That was new.

Other bits of activity that I did involved me going to the Weta Cave, which is a mini museum of the Weta Studios where you can buy incredibly expensive small replicas of whatever things Weta has gotten itself involved with (mostly the LOTR/Hobbit films and a few other less famous ones). I mean, (apart from the crap framing as I didn’t make a step backwards), what’s wrong with having a dwarf lord on a pig at home?

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In even “more other” news, the house where I’m currently ongoingly staying w/ airbnb (actually I’m  now being sublet a room, the same one I have been in, just not via ABnb) has been somewhat fixed, meaning we now have a working front door and the window that fell out weeks ago has now also been fixed. I have furthermore lost count of who is living here and who isn’t, as half of the house has moved out and the other half has been given to other Airbnb people. Frankly, if the yeti spent a night in here we wouldn’t notice. On top of all that, I’ve been fighting with my laptop, which has been misbehaving. A recent update to Windows Insider completely cocked up my network traffic on the standard protocol (HTTP), and after I found no other alternative, I had to reinstall Windows. Unrelated to that, my laptop’s charger decided to move on to the eternal charging fields, so I had to manage a new one somehow. (Hint: if your battery suddenly doesn’t charge, and the max CPU output is around 800MHz and/or around 30% of the max, check the BIOS if the AC adaptor is recognised properly/at all. If not, get a new one and temporarily turn off SpeedStep if it’s possible.)

WLG in a bit of a lockdown

By now probably everyone has read or seen in the news that the South Island was hit by a major earthquake about 36 hours ago, just about 2 minutes into Monday morning (00:02am). While being about 200 kilometres from the epicentre of the EQ, we also felt it, I never quite managed to figure out what magnitude it “felt” like here, but I think 6ish is reasonable.

Just to put this into perspective, there haven’t been an awful lot of strong earthquakes over the past years in Wellington or its surrounding areas. If anyone interested I’ve uploaded an image w/ stats here.

Thing is, I don’t want to go on into how it was because apart from the strong/odd but not explicitly violent shaking here in WLG I think it’s been a lot less bad/terrible than in Kaikoura. It’s more like being in an airplane while during turbulence but without the safety belts.

The city is in an odd state at the moment. I went to wander around downtown Wellington yesterday, and found that there has been mostly minimal damage to structures. While I did take a few photos, they aren’t particularly exciting to look at, no doomsday buzz anywhere, probably for the better. Despite all that, there have been hardly any people in the city yesterday – a few streets were cordoned off, but while the area was theoretically open for business, all offices and services (cafés, restaurants, etc) were closed. Lambton Quay, probably the local “high street” was void of people, save for a few tourists. WLG became a proper ghost town.

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In times like this public transport shuts down, there are no trains running, and most people stay at home waiting for news on what to do. It also doesn’t help that the WLG wharf is shut down due to damage. At least food was still available as the supermarkets have opened, but that’s mostly it.

In the meanwhile, things have been slowly “quieting down” here. The number and strength of the aftershocks slowly diminishing:wlg_eq

It’s now Tuesday here, many offices, including ours are still closed, and it’s likely they won’t open any time soon, at least this is what we’ve been told – in fact our offices will be closed all week, probably due to flooding but not sure. I think while the office building is structurally safe there has been damage to the internal parts, probably things falling off etc. The semi-official plan seems to be to keep people out of the offices for as long as they deem it’s okay, so we’re all getting free holidays (save for the awful weather). The company has been sending out emails with information on e-counselling in case someone needs it, how to cope w/ post-EQ stress, and so on. Luckily in my case this hasn’t been necessary but it’s good to know there are options. Things have been made worse by extreme weather. WLG has received around 100mm of rainfall over the past 24 hours, which has resulted in severe floodings, which, coupled by the up to 90kmh winds doesn’t help anyone. To put that into perspective, London gets around 600mm a year, Budapest gets 500mm. Wellington usually gets around 1200mm.

Welcome to Wellington, the coolest, rockiest, windiest little capital in the world!

The house and its inhabitants

So as said I’m currently living in an airbnb house, which is more like a room in a student house. That has its moments as one can imagine. Here’s a few of them. [Since nobody knows where I live, I don’t mind sharing the details]

  • The main doors of the house can’t be locked. I actually figured this is reasonably common around here, many houses have unlocked doors (I haven’t tried, but it is obvious from conversations.)
  • The main doors of the house can’t be opened either. I think this is a bit less common. More to the point that the front door’s handles have fallen off, at first just the one on the inside (so we couldn’t go out the front door) but now on the outside too, so we can’t come in either. The back door still works.
  • There’s a guy in the house that hardly ever comes out from his room. Based on the sounds coming through his door he is constantly watching the same thing. I haven’t identified what that is but probably some action movie (not porn action)
  • As the uni year just ended recently, the housemates organised a party. One of the girls stripped.
  • The day after the party I noticed that the window of the above mentioned girl’s room fell out. The whole thing. Her comment on the subject: it just fell off in the night. Ghosts, I’m tellin’ ya. Considering that the given night was not stormy or windy and there were no injuries, it’s actually likely the thing really just fell off.

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  • There are two washing machines and a drier in the shed. While one of the former ones work, the drier on the other hand is semi-manual. That means it’s inside isn’t turning around at all so occasionally one has to poke the clothes a little. It also turns off for about 10 seconds every minute and sounds a lot like a person going through their dying breaths.
  • When I signed up for the place there was a cat lurking on one of the pictures. It’s apparently now lying buried in the garden (dead) – happened before my arrival, not my fault, promise.