Chez Cecile

Press reporter Cecile Meier shares impressions of her new life in Christchurch, far away from home in France, as she struggles to master the quirks of New Zealand English and culture.

Volunteering serves up attitude check

05:00am 18 Apr 2014


When my colleague Beck Eleven said the Salvation Army soup van needed volunteers, I did not hesitate to put my hand up.

Partly because I am a kind, generous and noble person who wants the world to be a better place, but mostly because I thought I'd get free soup. 

Volunteers from the Sallies go out four times a week at night to give away hot drinks, soup and various goodies donated by bakeries and cafes. The food is available to men and women out in Manchester St and Latimer Square.

I turned up at the Sallies' little kitchen on Bealey Ave at 9pm last Thursday.

Pies were warming up in the oven, and boxes of bread, sandwiches, and pastries were ready to be set up on trays.

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Big girls don't cry - or only in the loo

05:00am 11 Apr 2014


There are at least two important things that ladies do in the loo.

The first involves hair and makeup. The second needs a lot of toilet roll: I refer, of course, to having a good old cry.

My uncle had died in France a few weeks ago. Because I could not fly there to attend the funeral, my brain did not process the news at all for a couple of days. My brain is annoying because it finally acknowledged the sadness as I was writing an email at work.

The newsroom is not a place to break down in tears. People type furiously at their computers and conversations are interrupted with phones ringing or a piece of news breaking.

At first I tried to suppress the emotion and kept typing. Tears welled up in my eyes. I wanted them to stay in there but then I could not see the screen properly anymore. So I ran to the toilets, had a good cry and avoided eye contact for the next hour.

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Cecile: City full of hidden treasures

05:00am 04 Apr 2014


Christchurch is not a place for lazy people. If you want to enjoy this city, you have to make an effort.

Going to Wellington for a workshop last week reminded me what regular city life was like - people rushing to work coffee cup in hand, bikes, buses, numerous bars and cafes on every block.

I had forgotten shops existed in streets outside of malls, and that footpaths had peak hours too.

In Christchurch, with most of the CBD still in ruins, it is easy to give up going out, and have drinks at home. It is easy to focus on what has been lost and forget the new places that have been mushrooming here and there.

Waking up on Saturday morning, I can see from my balcony the empty buildings that now form Christchurch's skyline. They don't beckon. But I can hop on my bike and glide through quiet streets to Hagley Park and go for a jog.

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Bonding over wedding dresses

05:00am 28 Mar 2014


It was like a Hollywood romcom - a disparate group of women sat in a semicircle around the hapless leading lady as she tried on wedding dresses. "The Dress, starring five feet of fabric."

At first I thought there was something wrong with the picture - the women weren't my best friends and family, but work colleagues, new acquaintances and my future mother-in-law.

Abbie and Georgie are fellow journalists I hadn't spent much time with outside of work. But my obvious lack of preparation for my own wedding compelled them to step in and rescue me. I should have known then that I would get on well with them, but going on a dress hunt with them helped me realise how great they are.

"It's perfect! Amazing! Perfectly amazing!"clapped Georgie every time I emerged from the changing room.

"Yes," Abbie would say, "but is it Cecile's style? She's frittered away so much time we have to get a move on!"

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Tips to take the steam out of stress

05:00am 21 Mar 2014


I attended a stress monitoring workshop last week. The Press had organised it for all employees to attend if they wanted to. It was perfect timing for me as we are in the middle of moving houses and organising our wedding, and I haven't even found The Dress yet.

I am not the only one to be stressed in Christchurch right now. In Cera's latest well-being survey released this week, 78 per cent of the 2476 residents who took the survey said they experienced stress in the past 12 months that had a negative effect on their lives.

I thought I'd share what I learned at the workshop in case you'd like something new to try next time pressure gets to you.

The most helpful thing about it was to be in a room full of other people talking about how stressed they felt. Each with their own problems and their own ways to cope - trembling hands, road rage, drinking to relax in the evening, blanking 10 minutes before deadline. Realising I was not the only one to lose it once in a while was a relief. If you don't have a room full of stressed people to go and bond with, pop along to EQC or Southern Response's offices.

I've had a week to try the tips I learnt in the workshop, so here are the ones I find the most useful:

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