Living and Working in New Zealand

Three
weeks after landing here, we’re beginning to feel more like inhabitants. In
fact, in some ways, we seem to have been here a lot longer than three weeks. We’re
now fairly well settled into our house in Vogeltown. Like most houses here it’s
made of wood (because of earthquakes, we’re assured) and has no central
heating. We were assured by the owners that heating was to be installed before
we moved in (otherwise we would not have agreed to rent it!) but unfortunately,
this proved to be impossible (not their fault). 
At present, we are coping with a set of electric radiators and some fan
heaters we bought last weekend, but we are not looking forward to winter! On
Sunday night we lit the fire in the lounge, which is lovely but a lot of work.
The hot water system seems slightly erratic, but is going to be looked at. On
the plus side, the house is light and spacious, with a nice garden, and they
have let us use their sophisticated computer system which, together with our
laptop, gives us lots of computer power. We have got back into the habit of
cooking our own meals most nights, after relying on restaurants during our
travels.

 

From
here it is a longish walk into town, though downhill most of the way – even
longer coming back. To get to Ian’s office takes nearly an hour on foot, though
Sandie’s is closer. We have now decided to take the bus most days, as the bus
service here is cheap and efficient. The weather is not encouraging, as it can
change very quickly and a nice sunny day can turn into cold and wet weather in
no time. And not for nothing is this called ‘Windy Wellington’. But the city is
great, not too big but with lots of life, and with wonderful scenery all round.
Ian gets amazing views of the harbour from his office window.

 

Ian’s work

 

Ian
is working in the Research Division of the Ministry of Education, as a kind of
general analyst/statistician helping to expand their capacity to carry out more
sophisticated analyses of their educational data. As with all new jobs, it
takes a little while to get really into it, and there are a lot of people to
meet and to figure out how they fit into the organisation. There’s also new
software to get to grips with, plus trying to meet the expectations of a lot of
different people when you’re not actually the great expert they imagine. There
are lots of challenges, and it should be interesting. Unlike the education
ministry in England
(DCSF or whatever they’re called this week) the ministry here seems to have
people who are willing to question received wisdom and look for the best
evidence even if it goes against their political masters’ policies.

 

 

Sandie’s work

Sandie is working for the New
Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER), the (smaller) equivalent of
NFER where we worked in England.  Their offices are on the 9th and
10th floors of a building in the centre of Wellington. 
Most people have their own offices, although a few have to share.   Unfortunately, there wasn’t a spare office
for me, so they’ve created one by partitioning off part of a storeroom.  The only problem is, it’s in the centre of
the building, so I haven’t got the wonderful views of Wellington that most of my colleagues
have.  One of the other researchers is
leaving soon, and I’m told I can move into her office when she’s gone.

My new colleagues are all very
nice and friendly.  On Weds cakes are
provided with morning tea, and on Friday cheese and biscuits.  Weds 30th April was a special morning tea to
welcome me.  I couldn’t believe it when I
saw all the food!!!  Robyn (the director)
made a little speech saying how lucky they were to have me – a bit
embarrassing, but very nice to have such a warm welcome.  I just hope I can live up to their
expectations!

They are calling me a Visiting
Chief Researcher, and I am to be on the senior leadership team, though it
hasn’t met since my arrival.  My first
job is to write two reports (one was already started) on the findings from a
national survey they did some time ago (but haven’t had time to complete).  I’m also going to be doing a small teacher
survey on ‘extreme behaviour’. 

 

Update at 5 May 2008

 

Last
weekend was our first weekend ‘at home’, exploring the local area.  After work on Friday we stayed in the city,
for drinks, shopping and a visit to the library, to borrow books and DVDs. We had
a meal in a pub before getting a taxi home. We then discovered that the DVD
player in the house was a European one and wouldn’t play Kiwi DVDs – very
frustrating!

 

We
hired a car for Saturday and Sunday, which was a bit older than some we’ve had,
but it did the job (except when it began to give out evil smoke from under the
bonnet – we took it back and they diagnosed a missing oil filter cap, and fixed
it pretty fast). On Saturday we went into the city and then into the nearby suburb
of Newtown and
did a massive amount of shopping. Later we drove all round the neighbourhood
getting the feel of the place, including up Mount Victoria Lookout, with
fantastic views of the bay and the sunset.

 

On
Saturday night we went to the nearby suburb of Brooklyn
and had a Thai meal and went to the cinema there, which is extremely nice and
very popular. On Sunday we drove up to Kaitoke Regional Park, about 30 miles
out of the city, and did a 4-hour walk along a ridge through some very
Tolkienesque rainforest (they apparently filmed some Rivendell scenes there for
Lord of the Rings). The weather was cool with some sun and a few light showers.
On the way back we stopped in Upper
Hutt City
for a coffee, and found a shop selling very cheap DVD players. So now we can
watch the DVDs we borrowed from the library – there is definitely nothing worth
watching on NZ TV!

 

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