Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tuesday Evening, Part I

Sunday found our party driving south to Christchurch. Rain spoiled any plans we might have made to stop along the way, so it was a fairly efficient trip. We left Murchison around 10, only stopping once for soup at Waikari tea rooms in Waikari. We arrived in Christchurch in the late afternoon and unpacked the Landcruiser to return to the rental company.

Buda and Nada live in a lovely home of their own design in a quiet Christchurch suburb. Nada made a dinner of stuffed peppers and a creamy cauliflower soup with brazil nuts, both of which were delicious. Later, we had crêpes for dessert.

Ljuba and I decided to hit the town and experience the hustle and bustle of Christchurch’s nightlife. It turns out there’s none to be had, at least on a Sunday night, so we went to bed instead.

After a large breakfast on Monday, we drove Nada into town to pick up her car from the shop, then ran some errands at the mall. We strolled around downtown and had lunch at the Honey Pot Café, which was delicious. Ljuba was excited to show me Hagley Park, a large tract of land in the center of the city with enormous trees. We sat on the bank of a small river watching a riveting duck drama unfold, then climbed the most excellent Camperdown Elm ever. I felt like I was in Avatar.

That evening, we sat down for an Orthodox Christmas dinner at home. Buda sang a song while Ljuba, Nada, and I turned a round loaf of bread in our hands between us. When the song was finished, each of us tore off a chunk. Baked within the loaf were a coin, a twig, a bean, and a kernel of corn. Each represented good fortune of one kind or another for the year ahead. There was chicken soup with homemade noodles. There was flekicesa kupusom, a kind of noodle casserole with pickled cabbage. There were roasted potatoes, roasted red peppers (or capsicum as they’re called here) with homegrown garlic, homemade yogurt, venison in cream sauce, and gibanica. Dessert was sour cherries rolled in filo dough. Everything was beautiful and delicious.

After dinner I requested a song from Buda, as I’d not yet heard him play guitar. He set up in the living room with Ljuba on the violin, and Nada joined in singing Serbian folk songs. The musicality of this family always impresses me, and tonight was no exception. It was clear they’d all grown up singing and playing, and I have to admit some envy for their ability to launch into song at any time.

After some frenetic packing and planning, Ljuba and I hit the hay. The next day was the start of our South Island tour.

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