Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day everyone! My colleagues here were so sweet and threw me a little Canada Day celebration in the office with yummy treats and coffee. One muffin had a little Cdn flag on a toothpick stuck in it for me which now sits proudly on the top corner of my computer screen! This afternoon, we played Cdn tunes while we worked away. KD Lang, Arcade Fire, Feist. Good times.

I hope you are all sipping away on Caesars whilst sitting on various docks, listening to the Hip and just generally lounging the summer days away this weekend! I raise a toast to our Confederation and to all Canada Day benders!


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Truly a land like no other!

Last night I was invited to the opening of an interactive centre at the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, just outside downtown Wellington. The sanctuary is about 225 hectares (approx 1 square mile) of land that has been literally cut off from the rest of the world. Their mission is “to restore a corner of New Zealand as closely as possible to the way it was the day before humans arrived”; quite a feat considering the number of invasive species that have completely decimated parts of this country’s vulnerable wildlife. So many of its birds and reptiles are now extinct due to the introduction of these species (ie. All things fluffy and mammalian). New Zealand is such a unique ecosystem in that it is so far removed from everything and the majority of its wildlife is endemic (unique to NZ). Two thirds of all fish in NZ waters, for instance, are endemic to NZ as are the majority of bird species. Prior to the introduction of invasive species, these islands were known as a paradise for birds. They ruled the roost – literally! Because of this isolation, however, many animals had little to no defense mechanisms to protect themselves from four-legged critters. Many birds here are flightless (including the kiwi bird) and as a result, when rats and ferrets reached NZ territory, they seriously threatened these animals’ populations by killing them, their young, and consuming and destroying vital resources such as food and habitats.

Some of the work WWF-NZ is doing in this nook of the world focuses on pest eradication – a totally different strategy than that taken in Canada (where “eradicating” anything brings uproars from the likes of animal rights groups and Pamela Anderson). But let’s face it, our two countries face very different problems, many based on very different causes. The sanctuary hopes to demonstrate to the rest of New Zealand that a balanced ecosystem can be achieved once again if we work together to help protect the native species and ensure a future where kiwis can live in harmony with kiwis.

Now. Back to work. Today I had a status meeting with the Marketing Manager and we decided to take it to a local coffee shop instead of our meeting room. Went to a cafĂ© called Ernesto’s in downtown Welli and I can honestly say that I have never had coffee like that! You may not know this but New Zealand is known for its legendary coffee. It’s definitely quality over quantity here; a nice break from the North American theory that size matters. They raise their noses at Starbucks’ Venti coffees which are mostly hot water with a shot of something that resembles an espresso. After sipping on Ernestos “flat white coffee with soy milk”, I feel as though until this day I was blind and now I see (at least in terms of my coffee experience). The food is just as good with options like free range eggs poached (from Bob the farmer, down the road) on gluten free toast with organic tomatoes and spinach. Or a BLT made with local NZ bacon on a fresh baguette baked in-house… Is your mouth watering yet…?!

Oh ya – the meeting. Right. The meeting was actually really interesting. We talked about some upcoming projects that we’re going to be managing the marketing and publicity for. One project that intrigued me is a Maui’s dolphin sighting competition for surfers. It's going to be promoted online and via some other publicity channels. Since Maui's often ride the same waves that surfers do, WWF wants to use them for some on-the-ground tracking and research. These findings will then be utilized to lobby government to increase the size of New Zealand’s Marine Protected Areas. Very cool!

Monday, June 28, 2010

The office and the office mascot.

A few pics of my office and our lovely companion, Basil. What a gem, he is! Our office is really beautiful and I love where it's situated, even if it is a bit of a trek from any of our agencies' offices (which are located in the heart of downtown). But let's be serious - downtown Welly is not the urban jungle that Toronto is and nothing is really all that far away (including trails, beaches, mountains, etc). Kinda nice to have a change of pace.

Busy day ahead of me. Have already started working on comms strategies for some of the conservation programs and am meeting with the terrestrial/species team (aka person) today to review the programs he's working on. Looking forward to learning more about that. Did you know that the only two native mammals to New Zealand are a species of bat?! There was a third species (of bat!) but it went extinct about a decade ago. The basic rule is that if it walks on four legs and it's furry, then it's an invasive species, and apparently there are a lot of them (deer, rabbits, possums, rats). Many of these were introduced for hunting purposes. Silly humans....
Will share more once I am wiser on the issues :)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Some photos

I just bought a card reader and am attempting to post some pics now. These are some images of the house as well as the view from my deck. The last one is a shot from my walk through the Botanic Gardens. This is en route to my office. Not a bad way to start the day! :D

Friday, June 25, 2010

Will it ever stop raining?!

It's Saturday (aka "soggy" day). It honestly has not given up all day. I came into town to run some errands and I'm absolutely drenched. People's umbrellas are flipping inside out! Not quite the scorching weather that Toronto has been getting, from what I hear.

I'm sitting in an internet cafe now typing away. I am going to go get a camera card today so that I can start posting some pics. You have to see the storms that blow through this city for yourself! From up at the top of my little mountain in the safety of my house, they're quite dramatic to watch!

I'm SUPER psyched as I just learned that my bro and sis-in-law are going to be visiting soon! Yayayayay!! I can't wait. We'll be exploring the city together which will be so much fun. It's actually the perfect place for them. lots of trails for Chris to hit and lots of cafes and restaurants for Elena. I believe that Wellington has more restaurants per capita than any other capital city in the world! I'm not sure if that speaks to the number of restos they have or their general population but it's a statistic that suits me just fine :)

Off to face Mother Nature... Again!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Checking in on the homefront.

Keeping updated on the news at home and I can’t believe what I’m reading. Earthquakes, tornadoes… Oh my! I hope you’re all keeping well up there! Chatting with the team here, I am learning that earthquakes are a regular occurrence in Wellington. In fact, our office sits immediately next to the largest fault line in the region and apparently “we’re due for another biggie”. Just what I wanted to hear on my 4th day in the office! I have yet to experience a quake (knock on wood) but I’m sure I’ll get my fair share throughout the year as Wellington reportedly gets small ones on a regular basis. Oh joy!

Day four and my head is starting to spin. It’s a lot to take in but it’s all really interesting.

We have a resident cat that lives in the gardens that has helped me deal with my extreme homesickness for my little critters. His name is Basil and he’s a gorgeous orange cat. His story is that the family that owned him moved outside the city and took him with them, but he kept escaping the house and returning to the gardens. By the time he reached his fourth escape, the family decided that he obviously wanted to stay in this area and so they surrendered him to the local vet to find a family nearby to adopt him. A family did indeed take him in but he continued to escape and find his way back to the gardens. At this point, everyone threw up their hands and decided that this was simply where he wanted to stay and so now the garden landscaping staff as well as the WWF team look after him. He often wanders into our office and lies right at my feet, next to the heater. His name is Basil and he’s a gem. He certainly doesn’t replace my furry critters at home but he does help fill the void of animal companionship.

Stay safe Toronto! You’ve got a billion dollars worth of security at your doorstep but nothing can really prepare one for Mother Nature’s bad moods.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

More than just farting cows

My sincere apologies for that short and not-so-sweet posting yesterday. As I mentioned I had to rush out of the office and so I only had a moment or two for a quick note to you all. And so today I keep writing...

Day 3 and I’m still absorbing as much as I can. Met with the climate change team yesterday to discuss their program here and am quickly understanding the differences between our offices. As I said yesterday, the single biggest contributor to climate change in New Zealand is indeed due to its agriculture industry and its massive herds of cows and sheep "doing what they do best"! Most of WWF’s focus, however, is not around agriculture but rather around transportation and industry transformation. Through working with government to shift and revise policies, they hope to create significant industry transformation. One remarkable feather in the kiwi cap is the fact that 60-70% of all of New Zealand currently runs on renewable energy (mainly geothermal and hydro). If only Canada could utilize its natural resources as effectively as these guys.

Today I am catching up on some reading and getting familiarized with the Operational, Program, and Marketing & Comms strategies. I am really looking forward to meeting with the other project leads but that will have to wait for a later date as everyone is up to their eyeballs at the moment. With only 15 people in this office, it’s quite impressive how much they manage to accomplish!

The weather has not really been cooperating these past few days (ummm – really since I’ve been here!) and so I’m off to make yet another cup of tea. I’ve been hearing that the average temperature at home is in the high 20’s and I’m missing that terribly. The good news is that the moisture here makes the Botanical Gardens (where my office is situated) incredibly green; definitely not a bad view to take in as I type away.

Until next time!

Monday, June 21, 2010

A quickie...

Not much time to write as I am heading out of the office soon and I don't have email at home (yet). Two days of work completed and I'm still standing. It's so interesting learning about conservation work in another part of the globe. For instance - did you know that the single biggest contributor to climate change in NZ is not industry nor transportation (which are the two biggest in Canada)? It's actually from agriculture (ie. from the cows... ahem... you know!)

Will update with more tomorrow but thought that was a nice tidbit of info ;)

More later.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The weekend

Not much new to report but seeing as I will likely be unable to get to a computer tomorrow to post an update, I figure I'd post something short and sweet now for your tastebuds.

Had a great time at my Director's house last night. The dinner party was amazing and everyone was so nice. It was his wife's celebratory dinner as she has just completed her Masters in Marine Biology at the University and was having all of her classmates and her professor over to celebrate. Turned out that there was only one kiwi in the entire class. Everyone else was from England, Germany, Austria, Australia, Africa... It was a truly International affair!

Today I have been wandering the streets of New Zealand running errands and generally enjoying getting lost. It's not the nicest day out but it's perfect for wandering and exploring. Tomorrow will be spent doing some research and getting ready for my first full day of work on Monday. I'm really looking forward to it though I have almost forgotten that I'm here to do a job!

Happy weekend to you all!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Meeting the team

Today was a quick visit to the office to meet the team. The office is situated on the property of the Wellington Botanical Gardens in a building known as the "treehouse". And yes - it is just as beautiful as it sounds! I was introduced to the troops and shown my desk which looks out over the gardens. Too beautiful for words. After the intros, I had a quick meeting with Jen - the woman I will be working most closely with over the next year - and then headed downtown to get some chores done. My official first day is on Monday and I'll be jumping in feet first as we'll be briefing an agency that morning on a Direct Mail piece they're working on. I am also going to get the chance to visit one of the conservation projects here so that I can gain a better understanding of the work they do first hand. Plus, I am signed up to take a course to learn about the Treaty that was signed between the NZ government and the Maori community; when it was signed and how it (and the relationship) has evolved. Very fascinating. I'm really looking forward to it.

Tonight I am headed to the WWF-NZ Director's house for a dinner party. It'll be really nice to get to know the team outside of the office.

I have already taken a ton of pics but sadly I can't post them as I don't have the proper connector (thingy). I will be sure to post them soon.

Happy day to all!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Safe and sound in kiwi town!

After 24 hours of flying and trekking through airports, I have finally arrived in Wellington. My new landlords were waiting for me at my new home and they are the absolute loveliest couple I have ever met. And the place! The place is beyond words. It is literally at the top of a mountain overlooking the bay and the city. It's going to be one helluva workout getting home every day. I'll certainly be in shape by the end of this whole adventure!

They provided some furniture as the place is not furnished but it's more than enough to get by - a bed a table and chairs, a small couch. The main room is quite open but that leaves me plenty of space to do yoga so I'm happy! :)

I am now wandering the streets aimlessly trying to get my bearings and stay awake so as to adjust to the time change as quickly as possible. The streets here are very quaint. It feels very much like Guelph or London - a nice break from the hustle and bustle of Toronto. I am headed to the WWF office tomorrow to meet my new team. I can't wait! We have a briefing with the agency so I'll be jumping in feet first, which is great.

Oh man - I think I need another coffee. I'm starting to wind down a wee bit. Off to find a cafe and continue my meandering!

Until next time!

Thursday, June 10, 2010


I have yet to begin my offical journey to New Zealand but preparations are well under way here in Canada. My last day in the Canadian office was yesterday. It was difficult to say goodbye to such fantastic colleagues but I am really looking forward to the adventure that lies ahead!
So far, most of my focus has been on getting visas, bank accounts accommodation, and travel plans in order. Now it's time to say my goodbyes to friends and family, pack up my clothes, grab my surfboard, give my critters one last pat on the head and hit the road. I will miss Pete so much but hopefully he will be able to join me in a month's time. By then, I will be settled into my new life as a Kiwi and be able to introduce him to all of the local coffee shops and beaches. Of course - somewhere in there I will get some work done ;)
Off to go pack!