It’s Easter morning. Deb has gone to work already, and I’m the only one awake in the house. This is the sunrise outside our front window right now. No kidding.
The Otago harbor is glassy, an unusual site especially for the last week, during which we have been pounded with rain. It is a quiet morning. Outside, the morning stillness is broken by the call of a tui bird (a song similar to a mocking bird), and inside the house there is the hum of the heat pump I have just turned on (no central heating for the Dunedin homes, which are most heated by ‘heat pumps’, or electric heaters, installed in a wall of the house). A mug of Peat’s Anniversary Blend coffee sits steaming on the coffee table in front of me. I grasp the warm mug, which takes a little of the chill off my hands on this Autumn morning, and sip the dark brew. That needed fuel of life begins to coarse through my veins, and I feel alive. Life is good.
The Peat’s Anniversary Blend was a thank gift from our out-of-town company, Dylan and her mom, Desirre, who arrived two days ago. They have always wanted to see New Zealand…now, here there are. While it’s fun to live here, sharing the joys of living here brings it up a notch. I was very fortunate to not be on call this weekend. By this weekend, I mean the Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday of Easter weekend. It was just last week I found out I had all four days off (everyone, except those on call do). Really, I asked. All four days? Why do I get Friday off? “It’s Good Friday.” They answered. Alright, I kind of understand. What about Monday, though, why do I get Monday off? (I know, I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, and should never look a gift horse in the mouth) “It’s Easter Monday, of course.” Right, Easter Monday. How could I not have known that? How big of a Holiday is Easter here? Well, on Good Friday, there were no grocery stores open. None. (And, quite suddenly, the HUGE crowd at the New World grocery store on Thursday night makes sense….back to the tool shed comment). In fact, virtually no stores were open, anywhere. Wow. I wouldn’t have guessed that. We did find a couple of restaurants open, and had a great dinner at Salt, in St. Clair overlooking the stormy surf.
Yesterday, Saturday, was the Dunedin Farmer’s market. I’ve written about this before, but it’s always a treat to experience it through new eyes. Deb had to work yesterday, and the kids weren’t interested in the market, so Desirre and I braved it alone. We had so much fun and I had to admit, Desiree’s ‘let’s just try it’ spirit was infectious. I even sampled the New Zealand Whiskey…..at ten in the morning. Ouch. We bought so much stuff! Lettuce, cheeses, wild venison, free range eggs, potatoes (which we had to buy, because they were named ‘Desiree potatoes’), falafel mix and hummus. Some of the eggs we bought were normal size, and then the farmer also had some ‘extra large’ eggs.
We asked him how these eggs came to be so large, thinking, maybe it was a bigger hen or a different variety of hen…but no, he said, on his farm he let the hens die of old age, so some of older hens only laid an egg every third day or so. These are the eggs that are so large. He didn’t have many chickens on his farm, he said, just enough to know them all by name. About 150 or so….
Much of the lettuce here is hydoponic, and it’s so beautiful that when we got home we put the lettuce in water and we’re using it for a centerpiece. And then we’ll eat it.
After a holistic, Earth-friendly trip to the Farmer’s market, where else would you take an out-of-town guest but….The Warehouse…Dunedin’s answer to Walmart. Desirre and I were on a hunt to pick up some Easter egg coloring supplies. Only, it turns out, no one does that here. OK, we’ll have to look up how that tradition started, but what next? It’s not like people here don’t celebrate Easter (heck, they gave me four days off work), they just celebrate it differently. Like, with chocolate. The thing here is Easter chocolate. And when I say chocolate, I mean A LOT of chocolate. There were aisles and aisles of Easter chocolate. Each aisle seemed to advertise a bigger and bigger chocolate Easter egg. I think I managed to find not only the biggest chocolate egg (1kg of chocolate!), but also the one of the most unusual. And, this stuff has been selling for weeks before Easter. Somehow I think the dental association is behind all this…
Last night we went out to the end of the peninsula where the albatross colony lives, but we were there to see the blue penguins. These are very rare, and they are the smallest penguins in the world. They go out to sea in the early morning, and stay out at sea all day, finding food. They are wary (they probably seem bite size to a lot of predators) so they wait until dusk to come in to shore to sleep. It was dark as a large group (almost a hundred) of us walked down a long path to the viewing platform by the seashore. Then, we spotted a raft (that’s what a group of blue penguins is called) of them came swimming into shore. They waited, just momentarily, at the surf’s edge, then used the surf to propel themselves up on to the rocky shore. They then hopped up the rocky bank and waddled to wherever their particular nest was located. The low bar penguins nested close to the shore, but those over-achievers nest high up the hills, some as much as 400 meters up a steep hill…..a long waddle for a little penguin whose stature, on a good day, barely stretches to one foot.
It’s now almost 11pm on Easter evening. It’s been an awesome day. This morning, after a pancake and bacon breakfast, we headed out to soak up some sun at the beach. The weather was absolutely amazing…maybe even the best day ever in Dunedin since I’ve been here. No wind and about 22 degrees and for almost the whole day, pure blue sky. Wow, what a day!
When we got back from the beach, we colored (no dye to be found) Easter eggs…..seemed weird doing this to free range eggs, but we’ll be eating devil’s egg sandwiches most of the week so why not free range deviled egg sandwiches?
Then we had the kids go upstairs for a bit while the grown ups hid the eggs, and then we let them loose to find all 18 of the eggs (we were too easy on them….it only took them about 10 minutes to find them all).
We wanted to squeeze every last ounce of sunlight out of the day, so after the Easter egg hunt we went kayaking in the harbor, and then off to Sandfly beach to see some yellow-eyed penguins and sea lions. We made a nice roasted chicken dinner with potatoes and kumara and had a fire outside and some marshmallow roasting. We star gazed until just a few minutes ago, and the sky was dazzling…..just billions of stars (and I saw two satellites). Just now, there is the sound of rain drops on the roof, which means it’s time for bed. What a Dunedin day…what an Easter.
We hope all of you had (and have, for those of you on the ‘other side’ of the dateline) a wonderful Easter.