a day in the life of…

I thought that some of you might be interested in hearing what our days are like here in Wellington.  I’ll give you the rundown starting with weekdays…

I wake up around 7:00 to my alarm, turn it off, and sleep for at least another half hour.  That bed feels so comfortable in the morning! If it’s not overcast, the sun comes through the window just before 8:00 and if I’m not up by then, it encourages me to get going. I get up, patch together something to eat like oatmeal, muesli, fruit, and put on some clothes. Some office folks wear business type attire with dress pants and collared shirt (suit coat sometimes) and some are quite casual with jeans and t-shirts. So I just wear whatever is clean at the time and looks reasonably decent. The weather here is really changeable and although it never gets anywhere near freezing temperature like it does back in Montana, these winter days can be absolutely bone-chilling when it is rainy, humid, and windy. And does it ever get windy.  Sometimes a gust hits me while walking and actually stops me in my tracks.

Speaking of wind, a wind farm is being built a few miles away that when running at full power will be able to power every home in the city.  Pretty cool. 

Back to the morning routine. Sometimes Eilidh isn’t awake by the time I head out the door at 8 to 8:30 so I try to be quiet. We’re in a really small place, basically a hotel room with a bathroom and tiny kitchenette. I walk 15-20 minutes through the city to the office. I enjoy the walk, the air is so fresh here because of the wind. There are lots of other people walking the same way toward their offices in the central business district. I get to the office, get a cup of tea, and sit down for whatever work I have for the day. On Thursday mornings our team of five heads out to coffee, which is always a nice break.

So about the job…what do I do? Well what I have spent the most time on so far is a winery. Yeah. Vineyards and winemaking are really taking off in New Zealand, there is a booming market here and overseas for their wine. The bulk of the vineyards are in the Marlborough region on the north end of the south island. There is a guy who recently built an organic vineyard there and wants to put up a couple wind turbines to provide power for a winery he is going to build. I wrote a proposal for providing consulting services for him, and after he agreed to the terms and price estimate, Simon (a guy I work with) and I went to visit the site with him on Tuesday. I got some wind data from the site, analyzed it, and am now writing up a report with our observations. The property appears to be only moderately windy, but it does have other things going for it, like the electric transmission line that cuts through it (easy grid connection) and reasonable terrain for bringing in equipment and installing the turbines. My job is to write up our findings, pointing out potential problem areas to watch out for, roughly calculate the economics of the scheme, and provide suggestions for next steps, such as installing a taller measurement tower to get a better idea of the wind speed near the turbine hub height. The whole aim of the excursion is to help the vineyard owner decide whether it is worth installing wind turbines, and if it is, what the installation may involve.

Other stuff I’ve done: I’ve written up another proposal, processed some raw wind data from various met (meteorology) towers, and have done lots of reading, research, and learning. The job involves lots of technical writing, which I enjoy and do pretty well at, but I do have a lot to learn about critical thinking, writing efficiently and quickly, and writing clearly to different audiences. One thing I like about the job is that (within reason), as consultants we can pursue the projects that we like to do, since we choose the way that we market our services. Our supervisor/leader Blair is very good at negotiating and marketing. Right now things are a little slower than normal but I’m sure they will speed up. I also like the fact that we are free to, in fact we are expected to provide a clean technical opinion without the sales pressure to minimize the negative and maximize the positive that I’ve experienced when working for turbine manufacturers.

So now it’s time for lunch. If the weather is decent, around 12:30 I walk the two blocks down to a park on the harbor and meet Eilidh, who has brought a lunch along for both of us. On a sunny day the park and harbor walk are bustling with small families having picnics or going for a walk/roller blade/bike ride, as well as professional people taking their lunch break. There’s usually a truck down there selling coffee and ice cream and sometimes we just can’t resist having a treat. I persuade myself to go back to the office for the afternoon, and if the weather is nice, Eilidh will stay at the harbor and read. Lately she’s been reading Jane Eyre.

The office is in one of the oldest downtown buildings in Wellington and it is really quirky. It takes up a whole triangle-shaped block, and the floors are at split levels so there is a central area with stairs where you can stand and see several floors slightly above or below at once. A bit hard to explain, I know. It is easy to get lost, it took me a few weeks to get it sorted out. The building used to be a bank, and still has the dee-lux hardwood paneling and trim and unique details. Our team’s desks are near a couple of floor to ceiling windows on “Level 2”; we can look out and see the people walking by below and, if it’s raining, see the rain coming down…or sideways…or up…depending on the wind. The ground and basement levels are shops and cafes, everything from chocolates to shoes to Starbucks to a vegetarian Indian restaurant to hairstylists to jewelers to men’s clothing (“Special – 3 shirts for $300!”). The place where the building sits was once shoreline; an earthquake in the not too distant past raised the shore up and created more space for the city, including this building. (Wellington sits on a fault line). An interesting thing is when they were doing some restoration work on the building, they found the wreckage of an old ship buried beneath it…a relic of the old shoreline. They’ve put a glass floor in parts of the basement so you can see the wreckage.

My work day finishes by around 5 or 6 and I may walk by a shop on the way home to pick up groceries or by the library to pick up a book. I carry a lightweight backpack to work and back every day. Speaking of the library, I just got a library card yesterday and was surprised to learn that they charge for transfers between libraries, for renewals, and for checking out movies, music, and magazines! It’s a bit odd given that we pay so much in taxes here, I’d think the library would be free like back home. If we were to keep up our library habit as much as we did at home, it would cost us more than half a grand over the course of the year! I think we’ll tone it down a bit, thanks very much.

So I head home…oh, yeah, there are no laws against jaywalking here, and there are always people crossing the street at any location and at any time. It is really handy to get places fast, you hardly ever have to stop except at the largest intersections, and it seems like the walking traffic flows really well because of it. There are a lot of people that walk here. 

The only times I’ve even had a need to ride in a car since we got here is for two wind farm site visits. In our daily life I never wish I had a car, and having one would in fact be a hindrance most of the time! I’ve only found myself using my bike a couple of times since our arrival.  Walking is just so handy for everything…

Back to our day.  Sometimes Eilidh will walk down and meet me partway home, and we’ll walk home together. If not, she’s usually cooked up a good supper that is almost ready by the time I get home. We eat it while watching TV if there is something interesting on (and sometimes even if there isn’t), I check a couple websites such as Facebook and Livejournal, if the weather is okay we might go out for a walk around the neighborhood or to a great inner-city park nearby, and then head to bed around 10. Nothing terribly exciting I know, but with the weather windy and rainy like tonight, there’s not much motivation to get out and do things.

The weekends are always more interesting. Our only routine is to go to the farmer’s market at another park by the harbor on Sunday morning, get a coffee and (if the weather is nice) sit by the harbor for a while and (if it’s not) go to a coffee shop or go back to the hotel. We want to check out Te Papa (the national museum), and the Wellington Zoo and might do one of those this weekend. We’ve both not had much energy so may end up doing something a little more restful instead. Last weekend when Eilidh wasn’t feeling well I took the train north to Featherston to participate in a “farm day” that a local CSA (community supported agriculture) program puts on every now and then. We are starting to buy produce from and get involved with this CSA. It’s really interesting, I may write more about it later. On Sunday we take the train north and meet some friends of friends.

In two weeks we’ll move to our “new” rental house and this routine will change somewhat. I’ll have a longer walk to work and our trips to the harbor will be less frequent because of distance, but we’ll be in a beautiful quiet semi-secluded bush area and will be taking walks along the paths in the local park and bush reserve often, I think.

Hope that was enlightening. Time for bed. 😉


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