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Monday, 19 December 2016

Chapter 11 ~ Christmas in Christchurch

Waking up in my cosy little den under the stairs, I feel well rested after my journey. Today, it's time to officially say hello to...

Known as Ōtautahi - meaning "the place of Tautahi" - in the Māori language, Christchurch is located just north of the Banks Peninsula, at the shore of the great Pegasus Bay.

The sprawling city extends from the Waimakariri River in the north to the mountains north of Lyttleton Harbour in the south, gradually tapering out towards the west,and as its nickname implies, vast parts of the city are covered in gardens, parks and reserves.

With 389,700 citizens, Christchurch is the third-most populous city in all of New Zealand, right after Auckland and Wellington, and the most populous of the South Island. Nonetheless, apart from the Central Business District, it doesn't really feel like that big of a city, and much rather like a huge, sprawling village. In some aspects, it reminds of my home town of Munich back in Germany.

One Ratty Morning

Since I'm not expected at my next WWOOFing place, the Renegades Community Centre, until noon, I spend the morning playing with Carla and her rats.The cute little critters are a bit shy at first, but soon enough we have them crawling all over our arms and shoulders.

And before long, the two little rodents have become trusting enough to actively infiltrate Carla's hoodie.

Time flies by quickly as we delight in the rats' antics, and before I know it, the time has come when I must pack my things, and be on my way to the Renegades Commmunity Centre, which is located in the district of Woolston.

Getting there is a breeze, thanks to the Orbiter, one of the five main bus routes of Christchurch - the other being the Orange Line, the Purple Line, the Blue Line, and the Yellow Line. Even the buses themselves are coloured accordingly. Imagine how cool it would look if the S-Bahn lines in Munich were looking like this!

Apart from these, there are also a couple of numbered lines, but these five are effectively the centrepieces of Christchurch's public transport, running every 15 minutes for most of the day. As its name implies, the Orbiter is the only of these lines that does not run through the Central Business District (or CBD for short), and thus is a great way of getting from one of the suburbs to another.

From the bus stop, it's only a 15-minute walk to the Renegades Community Centre, and I almost walk right by it as the sign on the outside still has the name of the last organization occupying the building written on it...

...however, while hesitating outside the gates, my new host returns from walking his dog, and welcomes me in. It looks like I've managed to find the right place after all, and this should be the beginning of...

The Christchurch Community Centre Challenge

My host this time is Ajay, who has a nice dog by the name of Bonnie. His dream is to turn this old Malaysian church into a community centre, and I am one of the persons who are going to help him do just that.

There's also a guy by the name of Toby, who is Ajay's business partner, and lives in the caravan parked next to the house...

...and over the course of my stay there, I also run into seven other WWOOFers, namely (clockwise, starting at top left): Carlos from Spain, Lisonne from France, Melissa from France, Romain from France, Caitlin from the USA, Ronen from the USA, Noel from Germany, and Anna from Germany. There was also a girl named Jana, but she left after only a couple of days, so I wasn't able to take a picture of her.

The Place

Unlike the huge farm I've worked on before, the Renegades Community Centre is just one big building with a bit of grounds surrounding it. It has been many things over its lifetime, and last, it was the Full Gospel Church, and now, Ajay has his sights set on refurbishing this place into a community centre for parties, events and yoga classes.

The last owner left a big mess in this place, so there's a lot of cleaning up for me and the other WWOOFers to be done. However, after one month of working there, parts of it are starting to look halfway presentable again.

But for now, it looks more like this...

Oh well, at the very least there are inspirational banners all around to motivate us...

...and by seizing some of the freely available furniture standing around, I quickly manage to turn my initially rather messy room into a liveable quarter.

It's even got a lovely dolphin to adorn the wall opposite my bed!

By the gates of the community centre, there's a marvellous tell-tale tree the fern-like leaves of which leave no doubt that it must be a native species of New Zealand...

Apart from the RCC, there's a while city for me to explore, and although it has great bus service, I prefer to take extended walks for the first couple of weeks, and before I know it, there's scarcely a place in the city that I haven't walked to.

During my strays, I experience the Xmas spirit firsthand...

...visit the Bridge of Remembrance...

...and come across interesting store fronts, such as the Mad Butcher...

...or the KO-Sushi.

There's also a number of nice restaurants around... well as curious accommodations for sale or rent.

Naturally, no city the size of Christchurch would be complete without its fair share of artwork, whether they be corgis on the high street...

...a spinning nucleus...

...colourful sheep...

...or walls of flags.

There's also the eponymous cathedral, which is yet to be rebuilt after the great earthquakes... well as a mural denunciating global warming, and its effect on the nearby continent of Antarctica.

Although the track is quite incomplete as of yet, there are also tram tracks running all around the inner city (which can be a bane to careless cyclists...

...and after looking for a tram in vain for several days, I finally spot one doing a tourist ride around the city.

I also visit the botanic gardens...

...and naturally also get around quite a lot of the more urban areas of Christchurch...

...and get to play pedestrians ping-pong in areas where construction is ongoing (read: a LOT of areas).

Eventually, however, I get myself a Metro Card, which makes using the bus services here so much cheaper...

...and subsequently, I find myself a frequent customer of the more-or-less reliable bus services...

...regularly passing through the busy central bus interchange, watching the buses come and go as I wait for my connection.

By the way, the bus timetables are a little bit different around here. If you want to see what I mean, try figuring out when the next bus will arrive on this stop, assuming that it's 6:12 PM on a normal week day.

The correct answer is: Sometime between 6:21 PM and 6:45 PM. Unlike the timetables in Munich, which tell you when the bus arrives at a specific spot, the timetables here in Christchurch instead tell you when the bus is scheduled to arrive at all major stops, leaving you to estimate when it arrives at the stops in between. I guess that makes it easier to print out timetables for all the bus stops, and lowers expectations about the buses arriving on time. Still, I do prefer the German system.

Just a few days before Christmas, I take by far the longest stray I have attempted ever since Wellington, taking me from Shirley to Woolston along the scenic route (the really, REALLY scenic route), and taking me a whooping 7 hours to complete.

On the way, I wander along the twisty Avon River...

...across a sandy cemetery with some very colourful crypts...

...and finally arrive at the Avon Heathcote Estuary, where I was hoping to see the ocean. Unfortunately, the sea is out right now - looks like I just missed it by six hours - leaving behind a shimmering expanse of wet sand... well as the occasional carpets of seaweed.

...and after watching a number of seagulls play in the fierce wind.

...I finally return back to the community centre through a tunnel of green.

The Job

There's a LOT to be done here in the Renegades Community Centre, and Ajay quite literally needs all the help he can get, but that's what I'm here for. My first job is tackling the dingy toilets to get them into presentable shape again. Fortunately, Mr. Duck is ready to lend me a hand, and while we fail to get them TV-add-sparkly, they still look significantly more higienic after several hours of insistent scrubbing.

Next up, there's the room that should eventually become the dining hall. Again, it takes me a couple of hours, but eventually I manage to get it from dreadful to acceptable.

After that, the backyard needs cleaning up. This is a task spanning several days but in the end, I not only manage to tow away heaps of bricks and palettes with my trusty trolley...

...and with the help of Carlos and Lisonne, who arive a few days later, the three of us even manage to clean up all the mess in the backyard.

Another day, we tackle Mt. Chairpile, gradually chipping away at it, until we have transferred all of its substance to the large, open space above our sleeping quarters...

...and working as a team,we even manage to relocate one shed and turn around the other, even though it has a 1-ton ice cream counter inside.

Next, Carlos and I bring in super-heavy palettes from the other side of the property, and use them to cover up the nearby channel, effectively making a shelf that can be used to store away useless stuff well out of sight...

...which effectively serves as the preamble for me organizing a huge pile of paints, sorting them by brand and area of application...

...before stacking them neatly away on the palettes.

And finally, there's the job I've been waiting to do for so long: Repainting the sign out front. It takes me a number of layers to finally get a solid base coat over the powerful colours of the old sign, but after a few days of diligent painting and re-painting, it's finally time to add the actual design... only that it should turn out to be quite different from what I originally had envisioned, due to reasons I will elaborate on in a later chapter. Nonetheless, I am still quite proud of my final work, even if I messed it up a little in the heat of battle.

In case your wondering why I left the bottom half of the sign blank: Due to excessive foliage, the sign is partially obscured when seen from the road. But the way I arranged it, you can see the important parts just fine.

As for the design I originally envisioned to go onto that sign.. I eventually make a smaller version of it, and saw out a board of wood to fix it onto the main gates.

Then, there's also a dingy caravan to be cleaned up, and while it's quite gross having to dispose of some yoghurt cultures, which were just on the verge of declaring independence, I eventually manage to turn it into a habitable accommodation once more.

And if there's something dirty in the neighbourhood, who you're gonna call?

Also, at one point we're tasked to tear off the carpet from the main stage, so we can access the broken floorboards underneath. And while we're at it, we also have to meticulously pry out all the staples that were used to tack down the carpet on the stage, as well as the rest of the big hall.Nonetheless, by dividing up the area into manageable portions, we, the WWOOFers, systematically comb the hall, and eventually manage to pull out every last one of the sneaky staples (or pound them into the floor in case they're hopelessly stuck).

All these things combined take up lots of time, and before I know it, a month has gone by. Nonetheless, there's still one fimal task for me to do before I move on, and that's disassembling the bunks in the WWOOFers' quarters, and bringing them into the big hall.

The Food


That being said, allow me to elaborate: This time around, I'm only working for accommodation, which means I have to provide my own food. That means doing my own shopping and cooking, but the upside of this is that I not only get to decide what I want to eat, but that I also have significantly shortened work hours. Ajay only expects his WWOOFers to work 15 hours per week: 3 on work days, with weekends off. That's the most spare time I've had for a long time while not having to worry about the cost for accommodation.

For breakfast, I usually settle for a cheap-but-delicious combination of toast with butter and jam, together with a cup of fruit juice - though occasionally, I decide to have a bowl of ceral with mango-passionfruit yoghurt instead.

At lunchtime, I usually resort to having a ready-meal, such as a can of baked beans or spaghetti in tomato sauce, ramen, or another ready meal...

...though naturally, there's nothing wrong with eating at McDonald's every once and so often - especially when I'm out during lunchtime anyways. Still, I try not to make it a habit, mostly since McDonald's is pretty expensive over here.

It's at night when I do the real cooking! Then, I bring out the most delicious dishes I can whip up, such as chopped pork fillet with mushrooms and rice, Naleiayafero, or our family's special recipe, Gamm Ligeral, and fill the kitchen with savoury smells that leave my hosts and the other WWOOFers drooling. Eventually, both Caitlin and Ajay should have the honour of tasting one of my dishes, but for the most part, I was cooking for myself, making meals for two days in one go.

And then, there also was one occasion when Ajay treated all of us with delicious peppermint ice cream...

...though despite all my calorie intake, I eventually have to find out that I've lost a total of 12 kgs since I last weighed myself! I'm down from 79 to 67 kg, which would kinda explain why my trousers are no longer fitting me properly. I figure it must be due to the physical work I've been doing, and my long strays through the city have probably contributed their part as well. My only hope is that the magic of rapidly approaching Christmas will be able to remedy this troubling condition, but first there's...

Interlude: A Furry Party at the Dread Fort

Since Rachael is celebrating her 30th birthday, I've got a very good reason to return to the Dread Fort on one of these days...

...and boy has the place gotten furrier!

This is also the first time I notice that Rachael has an actual cat bus in her driveway...

...and before long, more guests start to arrive, and practice their artistry in the back yard.

It is Caitlin who accompanies me to this party. Like me, she's not really a party animal, but since she's aware of furries and likes our kind, she comes along anyway. However, neither of us expected what happened next: We ran into Lisonne, who had left the RCC a couple of days earlier, and just coincidentally happened to crash in the Dread Fort, since one of the people there offered up a place on couchsurfing. Talk about an unexpected reunion!

Since it's a birthday party, I've naturally not forgotten to prepare a gift. However, unlike an ordinary gift, my present is quite ephemeral in nature, though nonetheless quite delectable. I've offered to cook pizza for all of Rachael's guests, and - happy about having the burden of dinner organization taken off her back - Rachael gladly accepted my offer. Caitlin did her part too, by helping me with some of the preparations, and paying for some of the ingredients. It's about 6pm when I begin preparing my ultra-tasty special fox dough...

And only a few hours later, two dozen people are happily munching on the most amazing pizza they have ever tasted.

Night soon falls, and with it, the artistry displays become only all the more spectacular.

And with more and more people joining the furry bunch by putting on costumes from Rachael's collection...

...I soon find myself unable to resist putting on at least a headpiece and a tail myself.

Eventually, however, it is starting to get late, and Caitlin and I bid our leave, returning to the RCC by means of the trusty Orbiter, and although we have to walk from the Eastgate Mall due to this being one of the last buses running for the night, we still manage to return home safe and sound.

The Flair

In a big city like Christchurch, there naturally are quite a bunch of funny or interesting things to be seen....

...for example, the pedestrians' lights want you to stand on the yellow paving while waiting...

...yeah, well, good luck with that! Great job, Doug!

And here's the Woolston Community Library. Stand in awe of its selection of THREE dozen books.

I also find a place where you can send your children if you want them to be cared for more kindly... well as a monument erected in the honour of the great traffic cone, adorning streets left and right and guiding us into safe paths wherever we drive.

I also return to the Dread Fort on occasion, where I take some time to properly appreciate the atmospheric chicken coop...

....and to observe both chickens and rats in life action.

By now, the rats have taken a real liking to Carla's Miyazaki hoodie...

...and don't grow tired of playing "Alien" with it - much to Carla's dismay.

Another curious to be found in the Dread Fort are the Annals of Peterism, which read as follows:

It goes without saying that apart from my visits to the Dread Fort, I also find the time to hang out with a nice bunch of furries at some other places. Apart from trying out some cutting-edge VR-gear, we also enjoy some very tasty BBQ together!

One day, while I'm at McDonald's, I notice that they have outfitted their bathroom with fitting accoutrements...

...and can't help but wonder whether they use this company to make get their supplies delivered.

There also are some very creative "beware of dog" signs... well as even more creative establishments.

Oh, and in case your kid ever asks you where babies come from, here's a convenient answer:

Now, this sign might reflect the thoughts of many-a hard working office worker in the morning...

...and who ever said that mailboxes had to be uniform and boring?

By the way, I wonder how many of my old friends will remember this particular name:

Though to be fair, in this case, the context is a little bit different, and while we're still talking about big vehicles, it's less...

...and more along the lines of:

Looking for an organic alternative to baby food? Well, you need to search no further, for scientists have just uncovered the miracle of...

Better spread the word about this amazing breakthrough yourself, because...

And while you're at it, you might as well...

...and call a doctor, just to be on the safe side of extermination.

Finally, let us not forget about the single one most important piece of personal protective equipment when wielding a hammer. It is - and how could it be any other way - safety goggles!

The Trip

"Hey Kira? Are you up for an adventure?" Ajay unexpectedly asks me one evening.

The next day, I find myself on Ajay's car together with Noel, Anna, Ronen and Bonnie, and headed westwards towards an area known as Castle Hill. Before we get there, however, we take a short side trip to a farm of Ajay's friends, and visit his horse - a beautiful steed who regrettably suffers from a cleft hoof, and without any money to get her a proper treatment, the best Ajay can do is give her a nice and quiet life out here on the farm, where she can share a large paddock with a pair of ponies.

After that, we're off into the central massif of the south island, climbing great passes and driving through majestic valleys.

Bonnie enjoys the drive as well. Lounging on her established place between the driver's and the co-driver's seat (there's an open space there since this is an automatic car, and the handbrake is located near the driver's wheel), she's prone to getting lots of pettings along the way.

One-and-a-half hours later, we finally arrive at Castle Hill. This spectacular amassment of limestone boulders is truly an epic sight to behold, and it comes as little surprise that it was named a Spiritual Centre of the Universe by the Dalai Lama in 2002.

Apart from the sheer size of it, the place is also spectacular due to the countless curious stone sculptures which nature fashioned here, some of which resemble bridges...

...while others look almost humanoid.

Eventually, we climb around to explore the countless outcrops...

...and while Ajay, Bonnie, Noel and Anna take some time to chill on one of the hilltops...

...Ronen and I carry on to reach the very summit of Castle Hill.

There, we are privy to a gorgeous view of the limestone formations below...

...and I'm not the only one taking pictures of the fantastic scenery.

Eventually, we move on to our second stop on this adventure: The Cave Stream Reserve, which conveniently happens to be just a few minutes' drive away.

The main attraction here is the option to go spelunking through a cold, dark and wet cave...

...which is not exactly my thing, so I choose to stay behind and carry everyone's sensitive electronics and stuff while they venture into the dark, damp, deep cave.

...and they were never heard of again.

...just kidding.

While they take the more direct but also significantly more difficult underground path, I choose to walk the more scenic route...

...and await their emergence at the upstream cave exit (the spelunking tour goes against the flow of the stream).

They keep me waiting for over half an hour, and I am gradually starting to get worried, but eventually, I can hear their voices from the distance, and a few minutes later, they finally emerge from the gaping maw of the cave.

Everyone is quite drenched after this cold and wet adventure, so they take their time to dry off a little in the nearby creatively-shaped restrooms (apparently, it is against some obscure law to build boring-looking public toilets over here)...

...and after that, it's back home to the community centre, where everyone is quite happy to relax after a quite adventurous journey.

The Hardships

Staying in the RCC is not all sunshine and rainbows though. The main problem is that even though Toby has huge amount of money coming in to support the project, and Ajay has a number of investors waiting to jump aboard as well, for the moment the community centre is running on rock bottom.

And that means, staying here brings a number of complications. Number one would be that we don't have a washing machine, so instead of being able to do laundry in house, we have to go to a coin laundry, the closest of which is 30 minutes' walk away.

It should be noted, though - at this point - that the coin laundry uses some very curiously shaped laundry tokens (that's totally not supposed to be a skull, right?).

Next, there's gas, which we not only use for cooking, but also for warm water. Thus, whenever our gas runs out, it doesn't only mean that we'Re down to microwave dishes, but also means no showering for a couple of days.

Even though it doesn't particularly bother me, it should also be pointed out that we naturally also don't have a working TV. However, the one thing that does inconvenience me is when our internet access is taken away due to Ajay not being able to pay the bills for the service plan. Hence, I once again find myself seeking refuge in the library whenever I need to go online (not the Woolston Community Library, but rather the Linwood Library located in the nearby Eastgate shopping centre).

Finally, we also get mail from the power company, threatening to turn off the electricity, and while Ajay somehow manages to keep us on the grid for the time being, things are still rather shaky for all of us.

Although these circumstances certainly are not the most luxurious to live in, somehow, I don't find it all too difficult to cope with them - unlike most of the other WWOOFers, who usually only stay for a few days or a week tops. I guess being a fox means that I'm just very frugal in nature, and while I do admit that I'd be lost without Liete, my trusty laptop, I realize that there's actually very little else I need to be content. Happiness is a full belly and a warm den, and while I have to procure my own food in this place, this place still manages to fulfil these two basic requirements, making me only too happy to stay here and keep helping Ajay out, despite all the hardships.

Interlude: Work and Travel?

The essential part of a working holiday is finding occasional jobs and work on them to earn funds for your further travels, which is exactly what I intend to do while staying in Christchurch. Ajay is cool with that, and offers me to work my hours in the RCC on off days, and potentially even switch over to paying rent for my accommodation instead of working. With that, it seems like I'm all set to find myself some work, and look forward to earn some cash shortly. After all, how hard can it be to find a job in a city the size of Christchurch?

Very hard, as it turns out. Following the suggestions of both Ajay, as well as the local iSite, I being my quest for a job at the countless job agencies littered throughout Christchurch.

Some of them reject me outright since I have no experience working in construction, don't have my own transport, or they turn out not to do temporary placements after all... and of them even pulls me out of the middle of a safety schooling due to them having problems with my official pseudonym. However, after several weeks of running around I still manage to get myself registered with a total of 19 work agencies - for whatever little it's worth.

It turns out I have chosen a very bad time of the year to do my working, since not only do a number of companies close up for one or two weeks around Christmas, but also because it's summer break, and the job market gets flooded with scores of students looking for unskilled labour.

Nonetheless, I eventually manage to walk into one of the agencies at precisely the right time, and manage to net myself a job working in an OfficeMax logistics centre, where my duty consists of strapping packages with office supplies shut. Certainly not the most exciting task, but I'm still happy about the opportunity to earn some cash.

For the moment, it's only a few days of training, preceding an actual month-long assignment over the duration of January, and I make the most of it, quickly learning all the tricks of cutting down boxes to size and filling them with padding before strapping them up. There are also some periods of downtime - due to the invoicing station before my strapping station being unmanned - but I still make myself useful by packaging scores of spray cans and helping out at other stations, and I'm quite happy when I'm unexpectedly called in the following week to help out with an unexpected spike in orders.

However, my joy is short-lived as my supervisor approaches me by the end of the shift, telling me he's not going to ask back for me since I'm not doing enough lines - or in other words: I'm fired. Working over a temp agency, I don't really have any sort of job protection to call onto, so I pretty much have to take this development at face value. Realizing that my sacking is a fait accompli, the best I can do is to step down with dignity, and return back to the RCC quietly, weighing my further options, and reflecting on what happened.

Was it unreasonable expectations on his part? Was I being to meticulous in my packaging? Or did he simply not register the downtime, which significantly impacted on my productivity? I do not know, and will most likely never find out. But either way, I still feel shamed. Me, the fox of the wind, who takes pride in getting things done both fast and neatly, being fired for not being quick enough at my task? Even considering that this was not exactly my field of expertise, it still gnaws on me.

With all the Job Agencies taken care of, I now start manually applying for jobs, and although I'm not picky, it turns out most potential employers are: There is a huge demand for certified carpenters, experienced hammerhands, licensed fork lift drivers, and people who have their own transport. As a result, I barely qualify for 1% of the listed jobs, and although I sent out applications by the dozen for positions as diverse as pizza baker, customer service administrator, laundry assistant or data analyst, I never hear back from a single one of them.

In the end, my job search in Christchurch turned out to be one big letdown. 30 hours of job hunt netted me a job that barely lasted for 32 hours, and taking all the effort into consideration, I came out of the entire process with barely 6$ an hour for all my troubles. Oh well.

They don't know what they're missing out on. I'm fully aware of my own worth, and take pride in all the things I can do. Regrettably, communicating my prowess to other people appears to be something that's rather complicated for me to do, but that's alright. I'm sure I'll be able to find someone who is willing to give me a proper chance someday, and when they do... boy will they be impressed by the size of the diamond they found by the roadside, just waiting to be picked up.

The Betrayal

As I have mentioned earlier, pretty much all the funding for the RCC is based on a trust fund which Toby was supposed to bring into his partnership with Ajay. Meanwhile, Ajay went in advance by putting a substantial down payment for the community centre, and basically has been paying for everything up until this point, which has caused him to gradually bleed dry.

In the meantime, Toby has been coming up with all sorts of excuses to further justify his lack of financial engagement in the project: The trust fund has been seized by the IRD (Inland Revenue Department), a check hasn't cleared yet due to the bank having trouble, and the money Ajay gave him to pay for the internet bills was instead used on a lawyer to secure the funds... Does anyone start to notice a pattern here?.

Ajay demonstrates admirable patience and compassions, but eventually, in the face of liquidation, he confronts Toby, and the cruel truth is revealed: There never was any money coming in from Toby's side, and he has effectively deceived Ajay all this time by spinning a network of lies, which he eventually got caught in himself.

With only a jar of stolen yoghurt, half a bottle of fruit juice, and 3$ which I loaned Toby, my own damages from this not entirely unforeseeable revelation are manageable. Ajay's business with the Renegades Community Centre, however, is pretty much finished.

The Decline

Ajay takes this turn of events a lot better than I would, given that he has just about lost quite a sizeable investment. He doesn't waste any time sulking, but instead proceeds right up to the logical next step, which is selling things and moving on.

As for me... this turn of events means that I'll have to find another place to stay it. With that, my plans for finding a job finally come to a complete standstill, and it's back to finding the next WWOOFing place again. Since the RCC still has no internet (and never again will have, as things stand), that means more trips to the library for me. There, I draw up an exhaustive list of available WWOOFing places in Christchurch, and save them on Liete - my trusty laptop - so that I can access them offline. Next, it's calling a lot of places from my mobile phone, and while writing messages and waiting for people to reply can be frustrating, I find that taking to people and having them turn you down directly is outright devastating.

I manage to make eight calls the first day - until the rude refusal of one lady finally puts me on the brink of scratching myself up again... something that hasn't happened in a long time. I don't know exactly what it is about making phone calls that makes me so extremely uneasy... or maybe it was just the repeated refusals... but either way, the day is done for, and I have to spend the rest of it trying to calm down.

The next day, I can barely work up the courage to start calling people after what almost happened the day before, but somehow, I still force myself to do it. This time, I have more success, and eventually find a couple who is potentially willing to take me in from the 28th of December - which is still 10 days away at this point.

Now, since I don't know whether the RCC is going to hold out that long, I still worry about the time in between. Fortunately, Joppy - a local Snow Leopard - is ready to shelter the Travelling Fox for a few days, and thus I make arrangements to depart from the RCC on the 23rd.

In the meantime, I continue helping Ajay getting stuff ready to be sold. This entails clearing out the big hall - which in the meantime had temporarily been transformed into a makeshift fitness studio - getting the spare car into sell-able condition, and finally, disassembling the bunks in the WWOOFers' rooms.

The Retrospective

Helping Ajay with the Renegades Community Centre was definitely a experience like no other, and quite possibly the very kind of adventure I had been looking forward to back when I first left Germany. The work was varied and interesting, and after it was done, I had enough time to work on my projects from my warm and quiet room, or the comfortable lounge. Okay, so I had to buy my own food, but at the very least, that gave me the chance to cook up the things I love, and even though the conditions gradually deteriorated towards the end, I still very much enjoyed my time at that place.

More than anything, however, it was the feeling of being needed here that encouraged me to stay - although all the other WWOOFers were quick to move on. Ajay was really appreciative of my efforts, and I could see the place gradually turn into something presentable over the days and weeks I spent working there, and was looking forward to see what it would become before I left. It is truly a shame that things turned out this way, for I could have pictured myself staying for another month at least, just to see this place truly shine, but oh well... I guess it just wasn't meant to be.
Objectively, the RCC probably wasn't that nice of a place, but to me, it was still very special, and right now, I believe this might just be the one place that I'll have the fondest memories of upon my return.

It goes without saying that I also leave Ajay with one of my artworks - especially since I just happened to introduce him to the world of furries during my stay - as well as one specific, very inspirational post card which my family sent over from Germany, and Ajay is quite touched by these little gifts, and promises to cherish them forever.

Partying through the Night of Long Shadows

Before the flickering light of the Renegades Community Centre is snuffed out, however, this place should experience at least one proper party. It is I who proposes to Ajay to celebrate the Night of the Long Shadows - the shortest night of the year on the 21st of December - with a number of people, and being the enthusiastic baker that I am, I promptly offer to bake pizza for any number of people.

Being the fox I am, I post the news on the local furry groups, and true enough, come the Night of Long Shadows, a total of six furries show up on the RCC's doorstep, and soon enough there's lots of snuggling being done and billiard being played.

Soon enough, Joppy the snow leopard occupies one of our four pianos, and starts playing up a jolly tune...

...and it doesn't take long for the playful group to find the overgrown playground behind the house (getting that back into shape would probably have been another task later on) and climbing around a little.

Eventually, they occupy the DJ's balcony...

...and valiantly - yet ultimately futilely - attempt to get the technical equipment working.

Everyone's highlight of the evening, however, is the legendary fox pizza, which proves to be might enough to satiate even the msot ravenous furries, as well as Ajay, who finds it absolutely delectable as well. Initially, we have a little trouble getting the gas oven started, and eventually have to switch to the smaller, electric oven, but in the end, we are even left with a couple of extra pieces, which should nourish both Ajay and me well the following day.

Afterwards, we have some relaxed discussions about all sorts of stuff...

...and somehow end up exploring the RCC's attic, which happens to have a certain christmas-flair to it

It's 2am by the time the last furries leave - none of them are quite ready to party through the entire night since the following day is a working day. I, however, have no such obligations, and as such am free to stay up in accordance with the traditions of Ceal. I spend some of the time left until dawn cleaning up after my guests, and subsequently enjoy myself by playing some games for the rest of the time. By 5am, dawn finally breaks through the eastern sky, and the view down Ferry Road has something enchanting to it.

Enjoying the marvelous sight, I take my time going to bed, and by the time I finally turn in and get some direly needed shuteye.

A Furry Happy Christmas

After leaving the Renegades Community Centre on the evening of the 23rd of December, my next haven is Joppy's place in Redwood, towards the north of Christchurch. Since I'm once again travelling with all my luggage, I choose a combination of bus routes that minimizes walking time, favouring a route using the Purple and Blue lines over a more direct connection featuring the Orbiter and a quite long walk. Nonetheless, with all the weight I've lost during the last few weeks, even that much is already quite challenging on me, so I am rather exhausted by the time I arrive at Joppy's place.

Having already been to this place during an earlier furmeet, I quickly settle in, though this is the first time I properly notice of Joppy's humongous collection of Rubik's cubes and derivatives.

Subsequently, I express my gratitude by prepare delicious dishes for both Joppy, and Kakapo the fox, who is a frequent visitor at this place.

But that's not all! Since it's christmas after all, I don't miss out on this opportunity to bake traditional German christmas cookies after my grandmother's recipe for the three of us. I have to improvise a little bit since we don't have any cookie cutters...

...but gauging by Kakapo's and Joppy's reactions, the cookies are nonetheless tremendously tasty.

As for christmas presents... not only do I get a box of tasty chocolates from Joppy, but the two of us also treat ourselves to lunch in the Fox & Ferret...

...where I feast upon a delectable Deluxe Fox Burger, which auspiciously comes at only 20$ today thanks to a special promotion.

Afterwards, I take a small 4-hour stray walking all the way to Redwood from Shirley...

...along an apparently temporary road... the side of an adorable brooklet...

...over garden path crossroads...

...and past gardens full of ducks...

...back to the suburb of Redwood, where the substation boxes are quite colourful.

Finally, before I leave at the morning of the 28th, I prepare a little piece of artwork featuring Joppy, Kakapo and me...

...and then I'm off, taking one of the numbered buses along a rather scenic route over to Halswell, where my next WWOOFing experience awaits.