March has brought fall (actually autumn) to New Zealand. The radio in the morning gives the following information: news, weather, surf conditions and sports. The surf report in lieu of traffic updates is a daily highlight for me. The accepted weather descriptor is "fine.” A typical weather update sounds like this "Today fine, tonight fine, Tuesday and Wednesday fine." They discuss a possiblity of showers, but never cloudiness, sunniness or windiness. So far, the default weather of 24°C and sunny hasn't changed too much, though sometimes the high is only 22°C and it has started to rain more often. This past week there were several big storms which affected all of the North Island, flooding some areas and wiping out roads. It will get a little chillier as winter approaches and it will feel colder since the houses here are not insulated and no one has central heating, which they call air conditioning.

I've spent most of March exploring Tauranga and surrounding area. There is always so much to do! Many people are not surprised to hear that I've kept busy and active in New Zealand, since that’s my nature and I'm a long-staying tourist, but the thing about NZ is that all of these events are meant for anyone and everyone. You see all sorts of people, younger and older, at all levels of abilities, giving it a go. The opportunity for activity is really part of the culture of NZ. I'm just taking advantage of it!

Leanna and Ralph brought Cam the Kiwi for a little tour of Tauranga and a triathlon a few weeks ago. I tried the ocean swim with a wetsuit, but I'm pretty sure that any time I gained in wearing the wetsuit was nullified due to my inability to get it off. Thank goodness for the selfless Kiwi woman (and technically my competitor) who braved my forcefield of baby oil and vaseline in an effort to contort me out of it. The bike was my favourite leg, though it was a disaster competition-wise due to my borrowed Warehouse “mountain” bike. The run around the base of Mount Maunganui was spectacular with sparkling water views. We would have made a good team (out of the 3 of us): Meg - best swim, Cam - best bike, Ralph - best run, Leanna - best photographer. During spot prizes afterwards, I won a really good wetsuit. Now I just have to learn how to take it off.

I spent St. Patrick's Day with Kiwi friends from the hospital so as to investigate the local traditions. We started the day on an all-girls tramp in Rotorua, then relaxed our tired muscles in the nearby Kerosene Creek hot springs, a wild river that runs hot. It turns out St. Paddy's Day isn't so different here in NZ than in Canada... Yes, there are Irish pubs and green beer here, too!

The following weekend, there was a ocean swim at Mount Maunganui. What an inspirational day! First there was a 750m swim which was completed by a woman who was recovering from bilateral hip replacement surgery, an 8-year-old, a 76-year-old, and (my favourite) two labs named Rocco and Ebony, who smiled as they shook themselves dry as they crossed the finish line with their dad. The 2.8K swim had world class athletes like the current European Ironman champ and world ocean swim champ (and me, hehehe). The first 50 metres were tricky because of the giant breaking waves. Some of the techniques I've learned in surfing helped me get through them. After that the waves stopped breaking, but it was like swimming uphill to get up and over them in order to site the buoys. How insignificant you feel - a tiny little head bobbing around in the vast ocean. There were lifeguards all over following us around in boats and on surfboards so no cause for worry. In the end I was just happy to get back to those breaking waves so they could carry me into the finish line.

I've been up to lots of non-sport activities, too. My flatmates are super. Tallulah is very creative and has inspired me to join her in getting in touch with my right brain through all sorts of crafty art projects. Tamati prefers to tempt us into losing games of poker and taking much-needed naps on the beach. I joined a choir. My singing is just as bad as ever, but I'm getting a chance to learn some Māori songs and some more traditional Kiwi and British music.

Plans for tramping and camping this past weekend had to be rescheduled due to heavy rains. Instead, it was kayaking on the Puhoi River and more Auckland night life. Auckland reminds me of Ottawa in many ways. The population is similar, there are a lot of different nationalities, the shopping and amenities approach those of a really big city and you don't have to go far to get away from it all.

SPEECH THERAPY UPDATE

The world of speech therapy is treating me well. It has been hard to verbalize the differences I have felt between my practice in NZ and Canada. I work as hard, if not harder than ever, but the overall feeling is more relaxed. There are just as many mundane administrative duties and all the urgent referrals tend to come in on Fridays at 3:30. However, people seem to have more time to support all the members of the team, the patients, and their families. The terminology used is funny, everything ends with 'ie'. For example, aspiration = aspie, penetration = pennie, parkinson's disease = Parkies, tracheostomy = trachie. I can't bring myself to do it, but everyone else writes these down in medical files and reports. We have little red stickers that say "speech and language therapy" which we use everytime we put a note in a patients chart which makes for quick reference and recognition.

END OF SPEECH THERAPY UPDATE

Everyday I learn a new Kiwi word and laugh to myself when I try to use it. It has become a game at work. We write down a word of the week, which is either new to me or to them. Sometimes my coworkers try to guess words they think I won't know, but that never works very well. They think toque is hilarious. They call them beanies or woolies. They even accused me of saying it wrong, then spelling it wrong, then from stealing the word from some Lord of the Rings character (Peregrin Took?) Another recurring game is talk like a Canadian/talk like a Kiwi. So far, I've learned to say oh-some for awesome. They struggle with my name... apparently it is spelled wrong in NZ phonics and this makes it hard for them to pronounce – think Meeeeg!

Here's a sort-of typical day for me to illustrate some common Kiwi vocabulary I'm getting used to... I wake up and Tallulah says, "Are you chucking a sickie?"... which she asks me everyday that I wake up late. I empty the boot, check under the bonnet, clean my windscreen, then I drive my boy racer to the hospital, watching for road works that might be sign-posted. I find a place in the carpark and ride the lift upstairs. "How you going?" I say to all my coworkers while I make sure the computer is plugged into the powerpoint. I then power-on my computer and check my emails (this word is never singular). I confirm my appointments in my diary and check my answerphone. I twink-out all the errors in my reports.

I check my patients' medical files and attend multi-disciplinary team meetings. If you use the terms medical charts or rounds, you get blank looks. Residents are called registrars, but there seem to be residents who fit somewhere in the hierarchy of doctors, but once you're a specialist, you're not a doctor anymore, you're a consultant but called mister. I haven't met a woman specialist yet so am not sure if she'd be a mister or something else.

Morning tea is theoretically scheduled for 10:30 everyday. Lunch usually involves a discussion of whatever I have brought to eat and often goes something like this:

Them: "What do you reckon that is?"
Me: "It's a banana and peanut butter sandwich."
Them: "Do you reckon it's good? Why would you put those things together? Do you eat a lot of peanut butter in Canada? I don't think I'd like it."

OR Them: "What's that?"
Me: "It's tofu and vegetables"
Them: "Do you reckon it's good? Do you eat a lot of tofu in Canada? I thought you Canadians ate lots of maple syrup in Canada? Are you from Whistler?"

Everyone always thinks you're from Whistler if you're from Canada. Tofu is $5 a block here so it's no wonder no one has tried it. Afternoon tea brings some sort of sweet. Scorched almonds are my favourites. They are actually chocolate covered almonds with a misleading name. Hot cross buns are as popular as chocolate easter eggs and both will be gone after Easter. Museli bars and scroggen are common, too - no granola bars or trail mix here.

At home in the evenings, we have tea again. This time it's actually dinner. We have Sky which means that we get all the good American television shows from last year. When we're all knackered we go to sleep.