CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND — We woke up at 8am this morning to a gently swaying house.
And just like that, our New Zealand experience was complete. We have been to gorgeous mountains and beaches, seen all kinds of wildlife in its natural habitat and met friendly people. And now, we also had experienced a 5.2 earthquake from about 100km away, one of 16 in the area today. The others were too far away or too weak for us to notice.
The rest of the day was taken up by chores: doing laundry, getting our hair cut, checking to see if we could afford to ship our camping stuff back (we couldn’t), updating spring stories on MidwestWeekends.com, writing blog posts— all the stuff we were too busy to do before (and that don’t make for interesting posts, so we apologize to our two readers).
Our hosts Karen and Rob invited us to a typical Kiwi barbecue, and though we felt a little guilty about accepting yet more of their warm hospitality, they were such good company that we only hesitated for a second.
They dished up a feast: grilled lamb, sausage, new potatoes from Karen’s brother’s farm and skewers of chicken, mushroom caps, onions and capsicum (New Zealandese for bell pepper), plus Rob’s homemade tomato sauce with peppers and paprika. We made it an American potluck by contributing deli salads.
For dessert, Karen had whipped up one of her specialties, a New Zealand pavlova, an airy dessert made mostly from sugar and egg whites, topped with whipped cream, blueberries and kiwifruit.
Everything was delicious, and we talked about everything — Karen’s son who’s moving to Berlin from France, how Karen met Rob in England (like so many Kiwi couples we met, theirs is a mixed marriage) and, of course, the 2011 earthquake.
We hadn’t stayed at any Airbnbs before this trip, and we’re always amazed that people invite strangers to clomp around their homes, getting into their fridges, helping themselves to coffee, leaving dirty dishes. Hosts are special kinds of folks, we guess. Karen and Rob certainly are.
After dinner, we all sat down in the living room — each with a laptop. Rob put on a mix of Motown mood music — he didn’t say it was the music he used to court Karen, but we guessed! We sat there in companionable silence, surfing and reading emails, until it was time for bed.
We were sad that we had seen comparatively little of Christchurch. When we first arrived, it seemed like an unexciting and uninviting city, covered in scaffolding. But it’s a scrappy town, with cool ideas (see the Cardboard Cathedral, above). The more we saw of it, the more we liked it.
We think Karen and Rob are responsible for that, though. They love Christchurch, and we got to see it through their eyes. Thanks to them, we’ll always think of it with affection.