26 Mar

Going more mainstream for NZ traffic rules

Yesterday was a big day in the history of NZ traffic regulations. No: We still do not drive / ride on the correct side of the road. 😉 But at least some of the rules known to drivers in other larger countries are now also obeyed in New Zealand. Two rules of the “Give Way” rule changed yesterday for the better and in my eyes more logical rules.

In anticipation of this fundamental change, traffic lights were adjusted where there is a crucial intersection and every channel imaginable was used to transmit the information.

Signal changes in NZ

Signal changes in NZ

Fortunately, my daily commute is rather short and governed by traffic lights in both directions so that I can hardly go wrong. And I am more used to this new rule anyway from driving in before coming to New Zealand.

16 Aug

The Antarctic blast

Sure, when the season you are in is called winter, any Northern European expects snow, Christmas lights and skate rinks. However, when you live in Wellington, snow would normally not enter your mind because the winter is wet, you are at sea level and generally the temperature doesn’t drop below 5°C.

But, you can be proven wrong, especially when an Antarctic blast moves over the country and brings severe weather conditions with it that do not only make it snow in Wellington but also up in sunny Auckland. As people here are not used to snow, the state of emergency is almost called: you should stock up on food and water, power outages are expected, schools and roads close.

Fortunately, it’s not all gloomy doomsday mood because people are glued to the windows, run outside to taste snowflakes, scrape all snow together that they can get to build their first snowman etc. It’s a land in wonderment of snow – at least the North Island.

Snow in Wellington

Snow in Wellington

24 Feb

eq.org.nz

Christchurch was hit by a devastating earthquake on February 22, 2011, that was much more destructive than the September 4 quake. The quake happened during the lunch hour and again surprised everybody. I had not heard about the earthquake until two hours later as I had been working in my hotel room and not watched TV or been online. Seeing the pictures later and listening to the reports on TV was horrific and I am grateful for everybody who is doing OK.

The state of emergency was declared very soon, the crisis centers started its work and volunteers got together to help in any way they could. One of these volunteer groups use eq.org.nz as their web site to gather information about the state of things à la “Where are you and what do you see?” It must be noted that this is not an official crisis center page, but crowd-gathered information. The volunteers are in touch with officials to check on certain messages before they get posted to the site.

Colleagues of mine who are in Wellington set up a volunteer training center in our training room at Catalyst to be able to provide the service continuously and have enough people at hand who can help sort the incoming messages. People can email or send a free TXT to contribute information. It then gets categorized and mapped for easy retrieval. As many people in Christchurch only have cell phone access, there is also a mobile interface and apps for both iPhone and Android phones available.

Although I still hope that such data gathering will not be necessary in the future, I am realistic to know that earthquakes or any other catastrophe can happen any minute. The web site that was set up using Ushahidi can be used for other disaster relief purposes in the future as the infrastructure has been set up. The technology used is open source. 🙂

28 May

New job, new country, new hemisphere

May 27, 2010, 5:02 p.m., has turned into a milestone for me. The embassy employee responsible for visas at the New Zealand embassy in Brussels left a message on my answering machine letting me know that my work visa  for New Zealand had just been granted and was ready for pick-up.

My temporary work visa was issued very quickly for which I am very grateful because having to wait for the news of whether I got it or not for already 4 weeks was the most excruciating time in my life so far. I would have surely gone insane had it taken longer. Going for the temporary work visa (valid for three years, and it can be extended) was the quickest way. Other visa options would have taken much longer. However, I will apply for residency to avoid having to go through the temporary visa process repeatedly.

Before I can finally start my new job as e-learning specialist with an IT company in Wellington on 15 June 2010, I have lots of things to organize, wrap up, etc. It will be a hectic 2 last weeks in Luxembourg for me before I go on the 19,025 km journey to Wellington via Singapore and Sydney.

Everything will be new for me: the job, the country, and the hemisphere. But what about the continent? I had wondered if New Zealand belongs to a continent, but it is already too far away from Australia. Geo-politically, it is grouped under Oceania, but does not belong to the continent of Australia. It is just a group of islands. Thus, no continent for me.

I am very excited to embark on this new adventure. Thanks to the internet, staying in touch won’t be a big problem though I will miss face-to-face encounters.

Let the adventure begin. 🙂