Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Case of the Missing 'T'

You learn a lot about the way you talk, as it turns out, when surrounded by people who sound different than you.  Quite a revelation, I know.  Of course it's easy to hear the differences in other accents - but after a while it makes you see how the way you've said words your entire life suddenly seem odd.

Case in point is how we Americans drop the hard 't' sounds in the middle of words.  The word 'mountain', for example, is said 'moun-n' by pretty much everyone. The 't' just up and disappears, doesn't it?  Same for 'gluten' and 'Martin'.  You get the idea.

Even words like 'printer' end up as 'prinner' or sometimes the 't' sound ends up as a 'd' like how 'monitor' turns into 'monider'.

Of course Kiwis (and Brits and Aussies and lots more) actually say the 't' sounds so 'mountain' actually sounds like 'moun-ten'.  Neither way is necessarily right or wrong, really - just different.

So what I've realized is that I seem to be deliberately changing my speech for the first time. It largely comes from making it easier for others to understand me, but it also seems to me like the way these words ought to sound.

Or who knows - maybe I'm just smih-n with the Kiwi accent.
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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Auckland Chinese Lantern Festival

Chinese Lantern Festival
A couple of weeks ago Auckland held it's annual Chinese Lantern Festival just across the road from the University Library where Anne works.

Having just returned from Hong Kong and not going last year we decided to give it a go to check out the lanterns and food.

What I didn't expect was the sea of people! We were there on the first of three nights - a Friday - and I guess I'd have to say it felt like a Chinese market!  Wall to wall people getting food and enjoying the festivities in Albert Park. Actually I think it added to the atmosphere.

In addition to the lanterns all over the park there were performances and buskers and yes, dragons everywhere.  We even saw the Prime Minister of New Zealand speak for a bit on the big stage.

So while it seemed like forever for it to get dark to really enjoy the lanterns it was fun to see and experience.  The dumplings and pork buns weren't as good as in Hong Kong, but that's OK. The mini-donuts were awesome. :-)

Click here for a few more photos.
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Monday, February 13, 2012

Bay of Plenty - Belated

Anne taking in the view from "The Mount"
Yeah so I never seemed to have blogged about this back in November...so yeah. Whoops!

Over what was Thanksgiving weekend in The States (giving me an extra day off) we decided to do a Saturday-Sunday overnighter to the Bay of Plenty region - specifically Tauranga and Mount Maunganui.  They're about a 2.5 hour drive from Auckland and a popular "beach holiday" destination for Aucklanders.

We had never been to this area before but we got a lovely dose of it with a winery visit (Mills Reef), exploring Tauranga and the waterfront, and a day at "The Mount", i.e. Mount Maunganui. It's just next door to Tauranga but it's a step through another door to a laid-back beach town with a little mountain at the end (The Mount) to walk up and explore.

We were treated to a perfect day of sunny, warm weather for our day at The Mount.  The beach was hopping with boogie board relays and people soaking up the sun.  We were unsure of how many people would be around because back in October a container ship ran aground on a reef a few miles out from the beach. Oil from the ship leaked and found its way to shore making a big mess and oiling up some cute little penguins and other sea birds. No one likes oily penguins!

But wow they did an amazing job cleaning it up and there was absolutely no trace of any foreign substances anywhere.  It was a pristine white sand beach just like it's always been - we were so pleased! One of the reasons we chose to go there at that particular time was to help support the local community and economy in case the ship was scaring others away. But I'm happy to say it's flourishing. The ship is still out there, now having broken in two, and they're still trying to recover the shipping containers on it.

Tauranga has a nice little downtown area on the waterfront with lots of restaurants and bars - and that's where we stayed so it was fun to see that.  But next time we go we'll definitely stay in Mt. Maunganui and it's tidy little beach community with an endless stretch of beach as far as the eye can see.

Click here for a few more photos, pretty much all from the day on The Mount.
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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Weekend in Taranaki

Mt Taranaki volcano
Last weekend was a three-day holiday weekend (Waitangi Day) so we took advantage of it by driving to a new part of New Zealand for us - Taranaki. The peninsula juts out from the southwest part of the North Island and it's main feature is a single, 8,000ft/2,500m cone shaped volcano right in the middle of it - Mt Taranaki. It's about 4.5 hours away.

The goal was some good food, good relaxation, and some hiking in Egmont National Park where the volcano is.  We stayed in a cottage just outside of New Plymouth which overlooked the Tasman Sea - quite lovely!

The downer of the weekend was the weather with gloomy clouds, occasional rain, and cooler temps.  Not very summery!  In fact, the clouds completely obscured the volcano - a dominant feature on the landscape no matter where you are - until the very last day we were there.  But at least we saw a bit of it and we were able to get in some hiking that WASN'T completely in the clouds in order to take in some views of it.

Even if we were up to the task of hiking to the summit (an 8 hour round trip lung-draining adventure) it would have had to have been on our second day there when the mountain was hiding from the world. So it would have been futile. Luckily we had more sense that day and stuck to forest hikes at the base of the mountain.  Still in the clouds, but under cover of the forest so not a problem.

On the way to Taranaki we stopped for a bit at a native bird sanctuary and got to see some kiwi birds - albiet in an indoor/dark environment where they are led to believe it's nighttime (they're nocturnal) and forage for food in their pretend forest. Such funny little creatures! It's rare - very rare - too see them in the wild not only because there aren't a lot of them but because they mainly come out at night. So seeing them in a sanctuary is the next best thing!

Click here for a few Taranaki photos.

P.S.  The entire week after we returned we were treated to some absolutely beautiful and absolutely perfect summer weather so I don't feel bad anymore for our Taranaki clouds and rain. :-)