27 January 2009

Seton Nossiter Park revisited

We were barely a month in Wellington when we first visited the Seton Nossiter Park. We liked the place so much that we said we will go back one of these days. That day came last weekend, albeit unexpectedly.

Our friends Pinkee and Ricky have moved house at Woodridge the previous week, and they invited us, as well as Jerry and Myra's family (and RA, another friend) to their new place. We were having small talk and some refreshments at the living room, and the afternoon was moving to one of our routines of movie-watching. Suddenly Pinkee suggested we do a bit of bushwalking. Jo-Lo and I have been to one of the nearby trails (which I am yet to blog about), so I was thinking it was going to be that one. However, we started walking down Colchester Road instead.
Lo and behold! A track from within Seton Nossiter! We guessed it might lead us to the home of Bill and Debbie's home. But wherever the Lawson's track will take us, the spontaneity of it all made us excited and we trodded onward.
This trail is very clearly marked. In fact, all you have to do is follow the neatly laid-out path and you will never get lost. It is wonderful really, to be able to enjoy such trails with kids and friends because no particular navigation skills are necessary.
Lush vegetation surrounded us. Wonderful flowers....
... and edible berries!

There were small streams along the way but sturdy wooden bridges afforded us safe passage.

After a half-hour leisurely walk, the trees suddenly gave way to a grassy meadow. My wife delightedly exclaimed that we have been there before! Indeed, it was the place where we had our photo by the row of trees. And the bench was there as always!

Our friends had their photos taken there as well.

After loitering a bit, we proceeded uphill and received a warm welcome into Debbie and Bill's home. We had a grand time swapping stories and after an hour, we bid farewell, being 8 in the evening already but with the sun still affording us a lot of light to continue our walk home.

More photos of this wonderful park are available at the Kaleidoscope blog.

23 January 2009

Job hunting in New Zealand (continued)

I can't believe I forgot to include Seek which I browsed almost every day when I was looking for a job.

And like I said, it is better to register personally with the job agencies so they can put a face to your name and they will most likely to remember you when a part time or full time job comes up. Alternatively, when you can also sign up for job alerts on some of these agency websites so you can get e-mail announcements based on your categories.

Getting support in your job search
While it is great that you do your legwork in your job search, there is actually a "hidden" job network. I know this because I read about this in other job sites (Hmmm... not so hidden I guess). It simply means that these jobs do not get advertised either on paper or online. So it's good if you meet other people (such as other Filipinos).

New Zealand has also set-up different organizations that help in getting migrants (and refugees) settled. Firstly, there's Multicultural Learning and Support Services) (mClass). I learned about mClass through a fellow Filipino we met in a children's playground as we swapped stories. Contact them through e-mail, and you will be given an appointment (followed by a series of more meetings) to discuss your job hunting activities and how they may help. I am especially thankful to them because they helped me overhaul my CV and kept a lookout on vacancies I might be qualified for.

Another agency I went to is Work and Income. This agency also provides job vacancies and support for families and individuals facing financial difficulties (conditions apply, understandably). When I visited their office in Johnsonville, I was asked to come back on a specific day (I forget when anymore). There were around 12 of us on that morning. After registering, we were ushered into a room and showed a listing of current vacancies they have. A job broker eventually arrived and talked about options. There were openings for a security-related job which includes training (as long as you pass the endurance test) and a couple accepted the challenge. I did not find something to suit me on that day, but the job broker asked me to e-mail him my CV for possible openings.

One interesting thing here in New Zealand is they do not discriminate against religion, sex, age, or race. In fact, they do not want to see these details in your CV. You can thus get a part time job that is normally taken by working students in the Philippines and if you are a university graduate, they would say you are overqualified. Not so here. You can go to a McDonald's outlet or to a supermarket (such as Pak n Save, Woolworth's, Countdown) or similar (The Warehouse) and ask for an application form from the Customer Service counter or the store manager and they will give you one (or direct you to their online recruitment site). It's a good way to get a part time job and at least have money coming in, plus gain some local work experience. I also applied for part time work as well but was not successful... I know it's strange but I want to experience becoming a grocery assistant or similar, having come from an office environment for all my working years. I guess it was not meant to be.

As you can imagine, I put forth a lot of effort in my job hunting efforts. Even if people say, do not let those rejection letters get you down, the truth of the matter is it will affect you one time or another. It's really good that we have friends, and my family is here as well.

We have heard stories of friends here about their experiences and challenges, and we share ours with them. Don't believe what others say about having a nice, happy life in New Zealand (or in another country for that matter) the moment you land here. For many, work is not easy to come by, and you have to be prepared.

19 January 2009

Job hunting in New Zealand

Tomorrow, I start work.

It was a long journey for me and my family. We arrived here in Wellington, New Zealand in the middle of September, 2008 full of hope and optimism. What with years of professional experience and credentials between me and my wife, we were looking forward to joining the NZ workforce in a couple of months' time.

It was not to be, unfortunately. Our visa allowed us to go to New Zealand by October, but we decided to arrive a month earlier because we have been informed by friends that December is an idle month as most Kiwis take a holiday that can last from Christmas til the middle of January. This is, after all, not only their Christmas holiday but their summer vacation as well. And closed offices means lesser work opportunities. Sure enough, things took to almost a standstill jobhunting-wise last December. Add the recession affecting everyone worldwide, and you have a recipe for late nights looking and applying for jobs online.

But God has truly good to us. I was able to find work in a month where offices were closing for the holidays! It was, nevertheless, a humbling experience for me and my wife.

We are here on a Work To Residence (WTR) Visa. The WTR enables us to stay here in New Zealand for 9 months, in which time I (being the principal applicant) need to get a skilled job and show proof of employment for 3 months to Immigration before we are granted Permanent Residence Visa. When we received our visa last July 2008, we had 3 months to resign from work, finish packing up, visit our friends and families, and do things we would like to do before boarding the plane. You can learn more about the moving and working in New Zealand through the Immigration New Zealand website (www.immigration.govt.nz/)

I would like to share some of my experiences in my job-hunting to would-be skilled migrants. I would like to talk about how the CV is made here in another post, but suffice to say that your CV should only be 2-3 pages long and with a cover letter.

You may apply for jobs even when you are not yet in New Zealand. If your skills are indeed in high demand, you may get a job offer and the company hiring you may even assist you in moving here. Otherwise, it is appreciated that you are in New Zealand already so you can be interviewed personally.

You will meet a lot of hurdles in your jobhunting. For example, while Information Technology (IT) is in demand here, there are also lots of people applying for the same jobs. It will be great if you have additional certifications under your name other than work experience (such as a Cisco certification if you are a technical engineer). The software applications used here are also a bit different from what we use in the Philippines. The best way is to check out the prerequisites as listed in the job advertisement. You can have a feel for this online.

Where to look for vacancies
Just like in the Philippines, vacancies can be found in the newspapers. Here in Wellington, we have the Wednesday and Saturday editions of The Dominion Post (www.dompost.co.nz). i couldn't see the job ads in the web version, but you can also try the NZ Herald online (www.nzherald.co.nz).

When you get a copy of The Dominion Post, you will find a list of different employment agencies in one convenient page. You can visit their website and register online (which includes inputting your CV details). However, I would recommend that you take note of their office addresses instead and visit them personally. I learned that agency reps are more likely to remember you when they interact with you personally. If you are lucky, they may even have a vacancy and offer it to you on the spot.

Another very useful site is Trademe (www.trademe.co.nz). It has a database of jobs that you can filter based on region and category.

Wellington is host to the country's government offices, and so there is also a lot of jobs you can apply for in the government. Look up the online site at jobs.govt.nz.

Another hurdle you might face is the employer's preference for someone who already has a local working experience. While this may seem like a catch-22, you can get local experience by getting a part-time or temping job. You can also start becoming a productive member of society by volunteering.

I will add more to this post on another day. In the meantime, it's off to bed. Got an early day tomorrow.

16 January 2009

Walk the walk

One of the unique things we see here in New Zealand is walking barefoot. We have seen some doing this in the central business district, in the mall, by the sidewalk. Not just kids, but men and women of various ages. My hypothesis is that they are so delighted with the coming of spring and summer that they love the feeling on sand between their toes, so to speak. One thing though... if you couldn't figure out which pair of shoes you'd like to wear, at least you have another choice: ditch the shoes and walk! :-)

This is really something, especially since we come from a country where parents fuss over their kids if they forget to put on slippers when going out.

One day when we saw yet another person walking about barefoot, my wife decided to try it for a short while. Walking on the cool green grass is not out of the ordinary, and then she proceeded to walk on the pavement.

After a few minutes, we were still a bit puzzled. Why walk barefoot? Of course, the roads here are some of the cleanest you can ever find. That might be a reason. A clean road celebration of sorts? What do you think?

13 January 2009

Pohutukawa: New Zealand's Christmas tree

The Wellington countryside is currently ablaze with red flowers from trees endemic to the country. These are the pohutukawas, trees that spread the holiday cheer by decorating its canopy and carpeting its immediate vicinity with red. The trees bloom starting December and lasts for a couple of months.

Comparing this with my hometown of Baguio City in the Philippines, the sunflowers start blooming on November and follow the journey of the sun from dusk til dawn til February.

The pohutukawas were a source of medicine for dysentery by the Maori of times past. It also gave them guidance in predicting the upcoming harvest season's success. Two ancient trees at the south side of Lake Rotoiti provided an insight into the immdediate future: if the blossoms started from the lower branches and ended at the uppermost reaches of the pohutukawa, there would be warm and pleasant season ahead with an abundant harvest. If the blossoms started appearing at the top, it did not bode well for the harvest season.

11 January 2009

Wellington, the windy city!

Wellington is also known as the windy city, or the city of sails. It's because the westerly wind drifts of over 60km per hour rushes through the city at least five times more frequently than in any other city in New Zealand.

08 January 2009

NZ Tip: Checking your relative distance in Wellington

13 April 2011 Update: Metlink has upgraded their system and now uses Google Maps which makes it loades easier to use. I might post another article about this.


Since we are here in Wellington, New Zealand and our experiences may come in handy to those coming over, I have decided to share some of these and labeled under "NZ Tip". However, circumstances may change and so I advise my readers to take things with a grain of salt.

One of the main concerns we had when we were planning our move was our choice of suburb in relation to the distance we have to travel in order to go to the city proper (more popularly known as the CBD: Central Business District). We were actually assuming before that it will be quite expensive if we live in the city itself. We eventually found out we were wrong, as attested by the rates we were able to find in Trademe. You can get good rates on apartments, especially single bedroom units. Understandably, these will be smaller than those found in the neighboring areas but you can save up on bus fares which is considerable. A zone 3 roundtrip from Newlands to the CBD via the Newlands Coach, for example, will cost NZ$8.00 or roughly PhP200.00! Imagine if you need to go to the city on a daily basis and you need to take the bus; this will really drain up your reserves. But I'm veering off to the topic on hand... so going back:

One main concern we had was, where can we find places for rent, and how can we determine how far is it from the city? Not really measured by distance but by time. If you do not know anybody living in Wellington, then researching this can be quite a challenge.

Here's the simplest way to do this.

Visit Google maps at http://maps.google.co.nz/ and search for "Wellington". This will show you the districts in and around the CBD. Use this as your guide in familiarizing yourself with the area.

Open another browser window and visit Metlink (http://www.metlink.org.nz). Metlink provides very useful information on travel times via bus, train, ferry, cable car. At the right side of the screen is the "Journey Planner". Let us, for example, find out how to get to the city from Johnsonville. We then type in "Johnsonville" in the From field, then "Central Business District" in the To field. Click the Go button.

In the next window, type in the time when you will either leave, or should be in your destination, as well as the date. I have indicated 7:30AM (this system uses military time), with the default modes of transportation as is. Click on the "Plan Journey" button.

You will then be given suggestions on your To and From entries as compared to its database. Usually, when you write a district's name, the system will give you the area's busiest place, which would usually be the rows of shops, the main street, or mall. For the "central business district', the system gave me 26 Brandon Street which, when checked in Google Maps, is located within the CBD itself so this should give me a good idea of my itinerary. Click on the "Plan Journey" button once again.

You will then be given three options to travel based on various times. But even from this page, I can already see that it will take me at least 21 minutes to travel to the city by bus if I were to live in Johnsonville, and that I do not have to switch buses on this trip (changes: 0). Clicking on the "view journey" button per option will give you more detail on where you would be waiting for your bus, waiting time, and even approximate walking time.

If you put in exact addresses in the fields, the times indicated will be even more accurate.

05 January 2009

Slip, Slop, Slap, n' Wrap

Australia and New Zealand has the highest incidence of melanoma in the world. I kid you not; this was stipulated in the December 2008 edition of Reader's Digest Australia. Melanoma - or skin cancer - is more easily contracted here because of the lower altitudes here and relatively clear atmosphere. None of the good old smog to dampen the sun's rays and clog up your lungs instead. Plus, having that hole in the ozone layer quite near us doesn't help any, either. You can, in fact, get sunburned by just soaking it all up in 15 minutes.

It is especially to protect yourself in these summer months. And New Zealand has a slogan for this: Slip, Slop, Slap n' Wrap. I have seen and heard this catchy slogan a number of times already, and it is a good way to remind ourselves how we can best protect ourselves from harmful UVA and UVB rays.

Slip on a shirt, Slop on sunscreen, Slap on a hat, and Wrap on a pair of sunglasses. I learned from Wikipedia that this was actually a slogan from a health campaign in Australia and it started with the 3S's; the wrap part was added later on. Quite catchy, eh?

I actually learned about the harsh realities of sunburn the hard way. We went to the beach last New Year's Day. Though I had my Indiana Jones hat and shades on, I settled for a sleeveless shirt and swimming shorts. My wife was regularly applying sunblock on me because our picnic table was under the full glare of the sun. But we forgot to do so later on and I was mildly burned on my right shoulder and knees. Good thing we were more attentive to Jo-Lo.

Sunburn can also be a problem in the Philippines where going to the beach as well as trekking are also popular. So we can also learn from the Slip, Slop, Slap n' Wrap campaign.

03 January 2009

New Year, New Zealand (and the Greedy man's gift exchange)

I hope everyone had a safe and happy New Year!

We spent New Year's eve at our good friends Pinkee and Ricky's home, along with Myra and Jerry's family. We had a blast! That's relatively speaking, of course. Here in New Zealand, I learned that you need to get permission from the Council if you are going to use fireworks. This is because a huge majority of the structures here is made of wood; not to mention the abundance of greenery as well. Couple that with Wellington's reputation for strong winds and you have a recipe for disaster when you add even a bit of a spark in the mix.

But for someone who has celebrated practically all his New Years from the Philippines where fireworks start as early as the sun sets and continues on til the early morning of the first day of the year, meeting the new year with relative silence is something very new. It's a great thing that we were with friends to do the countdown with, ensure that all the lights in the house are turned on, and jump all over the place at the strike of 12.

We even had the customary shower of coins. Incidentally, we were able to bring with us a pouch of Philippine coins, and these found themselves scattered on the floor soon enough and the scramble for the lucky new year coins was mingled with laughter as they realized they were holding coins from our native home.

We had a Hawaiian theme in mind. I just realized though that I left my flowery shirt back in the Philippines and so we settled for origami leis.
On New Year's day, we were invited by good friends Debbie and Bill's family for a day at the beach. So lunchtime found us at Titahi Bay in Porirua, Wellington. It was a clear, sunny day but the wind made it quite chilly indeed. The kids love the sand and the water. We arrived a few minutes before lunch and surprisingly, we were the only ones around but an hour later, the beachgoers started arriving and there was quite a small crowd of kids and surfers about.

The greedy man's gift exchange
I promised to share this nice gimmick for gift sharing which we did last Christmas so here it is.

Everybody joining in the fun agrees to bring a present. Usually a minimum gift value is set. Numbers are then drawn and number 1 gets to pick a present and unwrap in front of everybody. Then, number 2 can either get the gift of number 1, or pick a new present which is opened once more. Number 3 can get either the gift of number 1, number 2, or pick a new gift. And so the process is repeated until the last person either gets a gift from another person or opens the last gift. The person without a gift gets to open the last one. A gift can be taken only 3 times.

Nice huh? It's a lot of fun.

And so goes our first ever Christmas and New Year celebration here in New Zealand. I wish you and your family the best of all there is to come.
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