Thursday, June 20, 2013

Batten Down the Hatches

Hoar Frost in Central Otago

Sound the alarm.   A storm is coming.  This is the gist of the national news headlines and reports for the past two days.  This isn’t really news though.  This is about the time it happens every year.  Winter has arrived in New Zealand.

It’s an interesting time of year for a woman who lived her early childhood years in tropical locations and whose family settled in California, Southern California to be precise.   I can remember Christmas day celebrated in 90 degree Fahrenheit temperatures wearing shorts and being barefoot!  That isn’t to say that Southern California doesn’t experience winter weather and temperatures.  The geography does include deserts, mountains and valleys besides beaches, and the local mountains do get snow every winter.  But living somewhere that actually has four seasons, one of them being a real winter outside your door, is different.

I arrived in New Zealand in late March 2008.  Summer was over in Queenstown.  Autumn had arrived.   April and May rolled in shortly afterward … a time when more affluent Queenstown residents escape.  (And there are more of them than you would think.)  It’s one of two shoulder seasons where tourist numbers drop.  Being that Queenstown is a tourist town and the crown jewel of NZ tourism (according to the national tourism body, Tourism New Zealand), it’s a time when tourism operators drop their prices, locals’ specials are advertised and many residents go on holiday to escape the ‘grey’ of the season.  Then June rolls around, and the buzz begins.   Snow is coming, which means the town’s population will probably more than double over the next few months as heaps of skiers and snowboarders arrive from Australia and the Northern Hemisphere.  

Well, that time is now.  The snow has already arrived in Queenstown being that it is in the southern part of the South Island, and most storms come from the North Pole.  Facebook posts from locals were already saying yesterday afternoon that the two local grocery stores were out of bread.  Some cheeky (and clever!) bugger had already posted a loaf of bread for sale at $200 … which actually isn’t that much more than what you’d pay in the grocery store.  (I’m just joking here, but the cost of living in Queenstown is incredibly high.  I’ll save this topic for another time.)

The news is on the television, and the weather reports have said that the storm is going to hit the entire country.  There’s even some talk that snow could fall in Wellington and Auckland, the two largest cities on the North Island.  I’m sitting here tucked up under a blanket wearing slipper boots, nursing a cold.  The winds are blowing hard outside.  The storm isn’t making its way, it has arrived.  But there’s a loaf of bread baking in the oven and soon I’ll be noshing on a slice smothered in New Zealand butter.

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