Thursday, June 28, 2007

Back in San Francisco ...

So am on a flight again, this time to seattle. The kids are asleep and trying to get a few words in. We spent the last week in San Francisco, meeting old friends and the kids visiting their favorite museums and playgrounds (exploratorium, discovery museum, grattan playground). Its a bit strange to be in a relatively big city after seven months in Nelson. San Francisco seems to be quite crowded relatively speaking, a lot of traffic and just too rushed. I think i've gotten used to the quiet slower pace of life in Nelson :). While we do miss the various activities the kids can do in SF, I think we have it pretty good in Nelson.

Having to do a fair amount of work with no DSL at home and a few folks from india visiting makes life a lot busier than I'd like. I miss our regular swimming pool and beach visits.

However the food makes up for quite a few of the above things. We've eaten at quite a few of our favorite places. All of them still rock and definitely worth visiting (Shalimar, Viks, Sketch, Sartaj, Cheung Hing Chinese, Tartine). We also tried Bi-Rite Creamery and it indeed is delicious. The salted caramel and honey lavender are amazing flavors. I think Sketch is a wee bit better, the ice-cream a bit lighter and smoother, the flavors much more natural. However Bi-Rite has the location advantage of being close to where we love. Also recently saw EOS (a fancy restaurant in Cole Valley) offering home made icecream also with similar flavors to Bi-Rite. Looks like ice-cream is the trendy thing in SF this year (thin crust pizza was the trendy thing the past couple of years)

Some more thoughts on 7 months in NZ ..

Flying is a great time to update the blog. You have a few free minutes while the kids are asleep to get some work done and/or update the blog. WIne does not really help the work aspect, so updating the blog is a good alternative. As we are flying back to the US, here's a look back at some of the high and low points of our 200 days stay in NZ ..

We've decided to extend our stay in NZ till Nov 20 (this was when our visa runs out). A combination of us liking NZ and not getting into the schools we wanted in SF led us to extend our visit. I foresee some more travel for us in 2007 / 2008 (maybe a spanish language country?)

I think the biggest drawback is we miss our friends and family in NZ. We've been super lucky to have quite a few folks visit us in NZ (and we'd like to encourage even more people to come visit us!) and we've spent a fair amount of time with them. So overall I think we spent quite some time with our close friends and grandparents in NZ. I thought we'd miss the food and coffee, but NZ surprised me in both counts. I'm a bit scared that I'd miss NZ coffee in San Francisco now. The produce / fruits / meat / seafood is quite excellent and the quality is as good if not much better than the US. We've been doing much more cooking at home which is quite enjoyable. We travelled a fair amount in NZ but not as much as I expected. The summer was fairly cold and rainy that we did not go camping. The beaches in and around Nelson are so awesome that we felt driving a long distance to do something similar was just not worth it. With kids, the top three things you look for are: a beach and water, a play structure and a place to ride their bikes. Nelson has those amenities in plenty and as such driving a long distance to do the same did not seem worth it. We did go Northland and the Bay of Islands, Christchurch and Wellington. I'd like to otaga, southland and milford sound before we head back home to the USA.

I'm quite glad and happy that we did make the move to NZ. It is a great experience for all of us. We've spent way more time with the kids than we did in the US and have a fun time doing quite a few different things as a family. I liked our regular schedule of dropping the kids at school in the morning and doing an activity with them most days after school. At the same time Mari and I would get some exercise in (either a swim or a run). Work was a bit easier than I expected. I liked the fact that NZ is in between India and the US and I could spend a fair amount of time with developers in both India and US while working regular hours in NZ. My work schedule was much more flexible in Nelson than the US, and something I probably will carry back with me. I'm glad and excited that we learnt how to sail a yacht. I hope to get the next certification when its spring and the winds are steady and predictable. I'm also quite thrilled with my swimming progress and cant wait to get better in the TI technique.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Swimming class, day two ...

Today was the second day of the total immersion swim class. We dropped the kids off at the babysitter's place at 7:30 am before heading down to the pool. Its quite cold in Nelson in the morning (0 c / 32 f), so we were all bundled up and ready to go.

The first hour or so we spent watching video from yesterday and saw a few good things we did and a few things we needed to focus on and improve for the next session. Watching an underwater video is an awesome thing, gives u a much better perspective and idea on all the things that are happening and how you respond. I was quite surprised as to the many good things I do while watching the video. We hit the pool by 9:00 am and spent the first 30 minutes warming up and doing the drills from yesterday (relaxed back float and kick, fish, switch, zipper stich and linked zipper). Lionel was also kind enough take me to the deep end and work with me a bit on my kicking technique. The good thing from the class is we've got lots of drills to do when we go swimming on our own. At the end of the session, we were filmed again so we could analyze and improve for the next session.

After a short break and a video session, we got back in the pool. We warmed up a bit and then started linking zipper switch strokes to complete our free style motion. Lionel also introduced a bit of breathing technique in this session. This was the only part of the class which felt a bit rushed, i.e. there was no nice smooth progression to introducing this. We did a few lengths in the pool and finally got a stroke count. My initial stroke count was 40, using the gliding technique I came out with a stroke count of 16!!. To be fair, it was not a valid stroke count, since I was still getting the breathing technique and hence was quite irregular with my strokes and did a fair amount of gliding.

Overall the class was awesome. Lionel is a great teacher and coach, and we hope to use him more in the next few months in Nelson. TI was all what I expected it to be and a bit more :) A few things I need to practice include:

  • Relax more in the water and flow with it
  • Keep the lead hand at a good 4:00, fingers lower than wrist lower than elbow
  • Hand close to shoulder on zipper switch
  • Work on my balance
  • Work on my back float and comfort level
  • Practice kicking in the deep end
I'd highly recommend a TI class to anyone (and everyone). We hope to teach maya and pj swimming using quite a few of these techniques :). I would recommend buying Terry's book and DVD as a good way of getting started. I'll post videos of all our swims when I get them from Lionel :)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Returning to San Francisco ..

but just for a visit :) We'll be in the Bay Area from June 20th to July 17th. The kids are quite excited to go back to their home and have been talking about it for a few days now. Mari and I are excited to meet all our friends and eat at some of our favorite places in the Bay Area (Shalimar, Sketch, Pizetta 211, Tartine, Good Luck Dim Sum, Noriega takeout chinese) and also try some new places (bi-rite ice-cream!)

We'll be visiting Seattle from June 27th - July 1 for Ryan and Julie's wedding. We are also planning on doing a couple of camping trips around the Bay Area / Sierra's

Total Immersion swimming ...

So this weekend mari and i are taking a 2 day swimming class at Riverside Pool in Nelson. The class is basically about how to swim efficiently using Total Immersion Techniques

We've been spending a fair amount of time in the water in Nelson. The kids love the pool and like to swim, so we figured we might as well become better and more efficient swimmers. I've been interested in the total immersion technique since it seems quite logical and scientific.

Today was day 1 of the class. It was a six hour class from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm. We managed to find a babysitter for Maya and PJ for these two days, so off we went bright and early to the pool. We met the other two students and our instructor Lionel. Lionel is quite an excellent instructor, very patient and works within your swimming ability (mine obviously being quite poor!)

We had two 90 minute sessions in the pool. Saw some video clips of our swimming and practiced balance on the water and how to move more efficiently. To some extent swimming is both a complicated sport since any movement / tension can cause drag and the goal is to minimize drag (and hence maximize speed). TI basically approaches swimming like skating, so the goal is for you to skate thru the water while minimizing drag.

We pratices skating and switch skating. Tommorrow we'll do the zipper switch and more fish like swimming strokes. Mari got a wee bit sea sick from all that time in the water (which is ironic considering that our yachting class we had much rougher water!). Personally I need to work on getting much more comfortable in deep water and learn how to thread water a bit more effortlessly. Overall the class is just awesome and highly recommeded

Thursday, June 07, 2007

3 days in Christchurch.

Not so early in the morning, we headed for christchurch. On the way, we stopped in Blenheim for breakfast at the Golden Arches. We had our usual egg mcmuffin, hashbrow, coffee/orange juice. There is a very nice indoor play structure that M and P enjoyed playing in. There are even cubby holes for the children to put their shoes in before entering the play structure. P is 3 now and tall enough to climb up and down and return on her own.

While P and M were burning off their extra Mickey D calories, Lobo went to CPR to pick us up some real coffee-2 flat whites. We enjoyed our daily caffeine while M and P screamed (mostly laughing) and ran around in the playstructure. The coffee is worth it if you're going to be in Blenheim.

Back in the car and on the road. Before Kaikoura, we picked up some cooked crayfish at nin's bin (it's a permanent trailer that sells fresh crayfish. Our next stop was Kaikoura where we met up with Stephen, Ivy, Frei, Reia and Janaki, Venkat, Sarayu. They saw dolphines and whales. We had a bit of lunch at the dolphin encounter cafe. After lunch the crayfish eaters had some ok crayfish. It wasn't as tasty as some yummy crab i've eaten. The kids had fun throwing rocks in the water. The beach in Kaikoura is filled with smooth, soft round rocks from pure white to dark grey. We took some back to color

We started to head back to christchurch around 3pm. We arrived at our accomodation, addington motel in time for dinner. We ordered pizza and falafels from Souvlaki's. Their falafels were great and the pita is home made and tasty on it's own.

Early Saturday morning we headed for Lytleton Farmer's Market. I bought 3 jars of Rasberry Valrohna Jam. I've been looking forward to buying her Jam since the last time we were there. There's a shop in Nelson selling her Jam at double the price. She does phone orders : ) Other things we ate were stuffed olives, savory pies and coffee. I also bought 2 loaves of ginger bread. It's the best ginger bread that I've ever had. Last time I just bought one. Silly me.

Next stop - downtown Christchurch. The kids hung out at the museum in the botanical garden, while the adults went wandering around the arts centre and craft market. We also had lunch at the craft market - a variety of food - greek, chinese, thai, crepes, sausages. Later in the evening we went to QE2. It's an awesome swim centre with a wave pool, lap pool and large toddler pool that's warm. There's a jacuzzi too.

Sunday we had dimsum for lunch. It was our second time there and just as good as the first time. We hung out in Cathedral square and watched an entertaining street show under the sunshine. We also kept warm while listening to an oregon recital in the Cathedral.

I realize i enjoy visiting the big cities like Christchurch. I looked forward to the dim sum and the option of other ethnic foods to eat. There's more driving and more traffic, but also more things to do. Besides going swimming and to a playground, other things to do in Christchurch is go to the museum, walk around different neighborhoods, window shop, eat ethnic, try more cafes and explore different open spaces.