Napier, New Zealand: The Art Deco City

This is an exciting blog post for me, as I get to highlight the city Greg and I call home in New Zealand. (The 1920’s/1930’s photos you’ve seen of us will make more sense once you’ve read this article as well!)

Nothing will prepare you for what Lonely Planet describes as the ‘charismatic’ New Zealand city that ‘can provoke a Great Gatsby swagger in the least romantic soul’.

https://www.artdeconapier.com/

(Facts in this article are taken from this website, as well as what I’ve learned from Napier citizens during our time here.)

The Art Deco story all began when the people of Hawke’s Bay experienced a devastating earthquake on the 3rd of February, 1931. The quake measured 7.8 on the Richter scale, and was the largest in New Zealand’s history. It killed 261 people in the Bay, 162 of which were from Napier City. After the quake struck at 10:47am, fires broke out in the cities of Hastings and Napier. Hastings was able to control their fires, but Napier wasn’t, and the city was largely destroyed.

The land shifted and tilted up 7 feet, and the sea line extended out east. According to artdeconapier.com, Napier gained 5575 acres of land. The land was drained and is now where a lot of our city sits, including the new downtown, and the Airport.

The people rebuilt the city in the early 30’s, with what was the popular 20’s fashion at the time, Art Deco. Our city is filled with Art Deco buildings and street signs, gardens and homes, artwork, and lots of old cars we see driving around during the festival, and all year. It’s a very cute city to visit, and is a stop for most cruises that come through. The most photographed building and statue in New Zealand are in Napier.

The Art Deco Festival is an annual event that allows the citizens of Napier to showcase the history of their home, share their story of survival, and celebrate it’s rebirth. It’s a time for people to come together as a small community, and honour the past in a meaningful and fun way! Kiwis come from all over New Zealand to participate in the festival; tourists come from Australia, and even places as far as Europe to participate! The 2019 festival was the 31st annual celebration, and according to media.newzealand.com, there were over 300 events, and 40,000 guests in attendance.

There were both ticketed and free events to participate in. We kicked the festival off with an Art Deco Valentine’s Day; we had a walk around after dinner, and some wine at a cool wine bar in town where we listened to old music and watched the customers dance the night away.

Greg and I went to the opening ceremony on the Friday evening with friends, which consisted of the first fly over of the old war planes. They did tricks and put on a show that everyone gathered along the shoreline to watch.

Almost everyone who’s out gets involved in the festival. As we sat on the beach with our friends later that night and looked around, it actually felt like it could have been the 1930’s.

Little kids were dressed in their 20’s/30’s gear and playing catch by the ocean with their parents. A group of teens were dressed the part, lazing on the beach nearby, drinking and laughing. Seniors had old tables and chairs set out on the lawn, with full spreads of classic China and glassware, and were enjoying a picnic while decked out in top hats and pearls.

There was a live orchestra and band performing 1930’s music, and people were dancing in the parks and in the streets. As we made our way around, we took time to stop for a chat with a familiar face, admire a beautiful car, have a photo, or just take it all in with the numerous groups of others around us doing the same.

Walking through the downtown streets, seeing every person in 1930’s dress, looking at the old buildings and cars, and hearing the music, I felt like we’d all travelled back in time.

We also spent some time walking around on Saturday, seeing the old car parade, old motorcycles, and a fashion show.

There were numerous musical groups to be spotted all around town.

We attended the Gatsby Picnic on Sunday, and had our lunch there.

We were, again, awed and entertained to see how many people went all out to participate in this event. We’d heard that many of them go each year at 4:00am to get the best spots and set up their themed gazebos. Some of them were absolutely amazing!

Being part of the festival was a special experience, to say the least. We both talked about how an event like this just wouldn’t work if the people didn’t get so into it. I believe the enthusiasm the locals show, young and old alike, is what makes the festival really successful each year. There’s something truly magical about watching an entire community fully embrace the spirit of the time, and come together in a significant way.

We loved Napier already, but celebrating it’s rebirth as part of the community this festival made us love it even more.

How to Teach Phys-Ed in Heels

Anyone who knows me can tell you that I adore high heels.  I’m not prejudiced either; I love them in all shapes, colors and styles!  My clock is a red high heel.  I have a high heel shaped tape dispenser (thanks, sis), wine bottle stand, cake server, calendar… Even my spoon rest on the stove is a red high heel.  I also have a few real pairs… (okay, I’m being modest).  After my husband accepted the fact that he’ll never get me to stop buying them, he built me a closet for them.

I originally took my teaching degree to teach Middle Years students, but jobs are scarce in my small city, and if you want one, you take what you get and you don’t get upset!  Long story short, I ended up becoming an Elementary Phys-Ed Teacher for a couple of years.  That’s not where I thought I’d end up, but being the perfectionist that I am, I set out to do the absolute best job that I could, while still being myself, of course.

Myself – wears heels.  I was the gym teacher who wore heels every day.

My students quickly became fascinated with my shoes.  They would wait to see which pair I’d have on each day.  A rumour went around my school that I’d never worn the same pair twice, which I’ll assure you is not true!

“How many high heels do you have?” I’m often asked this question.  My students could tell you the answer I always give.  “I refuse to count.”  There are some things you just don’t need to put a number on.

Another frequent question I hear is, “how do you walk in those shoes?”  My answer to that one is, “the same way you do.  One foot in front of the other.”

“Those can’t be comfortable,” they say.  Honestly, they’re not always comfortable, no.  If what you value most in footwear is comfort, then heels are not the shoes for you.  If you value style, I would argue that there are stylish shoes in any heel height, right down to pretty flats and funky sneakers.  Wearing heels is important to me.  I feel good in them, even if my feet don’t always feel good.  (However, at work I am practical in my choices; I do have several comfortable pairs of heels, that I can wear all day, be active in, and my feet are fine at the end of the day.) Some women do a lot more difficult things in heels than teach! You get used to them.

It was inevitable that someone would eventually comment on my ability to teach phys-ed with heels on.  Some wondered how I could possibly do a good job if I wasn’t in runners.  It’s amazing to me some of the things that people decide to care so much about.  Is my shoe choice really that big of an issue that it needs to become a topic for gossip?

I kept a pair of runners at school for the days I needed to demonstrate a skill; I was the teacher – I knew when those days were coming! With my hobby job and certifications in the fitness industry, I also knew the importance of modeling proper footwear for my students when doing physical activity.  On the contrary, anyone who’s ever taught a phys-ed class knows that the teacher’s main role is not to get in there and participate in every sport.  It isn’t summer camp, and I’m not a counsellor; the teacher’s role is to educate, supervise, support, build relationships, and assess (plus so much more), much of which can be done in heels.  It can – I did it.

My boss thought I did a great job.  The kids thought I did a great job.  Any parent that actually spoke to their child in my class knew that I poured my heart and soul into being the best phys-ed teacher I could, while still being me.  One of my colleagues suggested I do a professional development at a conference titled, “How to Teach Phys-Ed in Heels.”  I didn’t get the chance, so I’m writing this in honour of her now. She knew I was fulfilling my professional duties, while still expressing my personal style. (Thanks, Heather!)

My heels can tell stories.  I remember where I was when I bought them, or an experience I had while I wore them.  I have shoes from places around the world, and when I look at them, they remind me of that trip, or that place, and that brings me joy.  My heels were a point of connection for my students to ask about my stories, and my life.  They were a discussion starter, and a symbol of me, to them.  Now, because of those cute, honest conversations with kids, some of my heels have become reminders of my students, to me. When I see certain pairs, I can see their beautiful little faces.

I’ve had parents tell me more than once that my name gets brought up when their kids see high heels on movies, shopping, or on trips. It warms my heart; it’s nice to know they think of me.

I asked my husband once if it’s dumb that I’m known throughout the school for my shoes. I said, “that’s a really trivial thing to be remembered for.” He reminded me that my shoes are just a fun part on the outside, and how any student that has actually worked with me will remember me for how I impacted their lives. Upon receiving their farewell cards this spring, I can see that they will remember me because I helped them learn something, overcome something, because I listened, because I showed them love. The heels are just a visual reminder.

Whether I want to admit it or not, wearing heels has become a part of who I am.  I feel like myself when I have them on.  People can think what they want about that. As educators, we teach kids the importance of ignoring negative criticism, and fully embracing their own little (or big) personalities. We try to instil values in them like independence, strong self-esteem and acceptance of diversity. We teach that doing things to help them feel great, beautiful, confident, or like they’re being true to themselves is important in presenting their beautifully and wonderfully created selves to the world around them.  Why should we not do the same?

Why Can’t He Have a Beard?  It’s Not Your Face.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard a wife or girlfriend say, “I won’t let my husband have a beard.”

The comment is usually followed by some explanation of why their statement is valid, but the usual reasoning can typically fall into two categories.  They either don’t like how it looks, or they don’t like how it feels.  I guess that’s one category.  The guy can’t have a beard because his wife doesn’t like it.  I’ve not yet heard a woman give a selfless reason such as, “he’s succumbed to the peer pressure of the trend, but actually hates it, and I’m his scapegoat,” or “the doctor said he’ll die if he doesn’t shave it off; I’m saving his life.”

What’s worse, is I have heard comments about how a wife will allow the beard to disrupt their sex-life.  “He knows that if he doesn’t shave, he’s not getting any.”  I’m serious.  That’s been said, in so many words, more than once to me.

Here’s my problem with these types of statements.  Is a marriage type relationship ever going to be at its healthiest when one person exercises control over the other?  When one attempts to manipulate the other?  I’ll be the first to admit that I love to have control in my life; I’m one of those Type A, super organized planners that loves being in control.  I’ve been on a journey of learning that I can’t control my life, no matter how much I try, and that I can’t control my husband.  It’s not beneficial for me, him, or our marriage when I try and control him.

Woah, Chelsea, you started talking about beards and now you’re onto control and manipulation in a marriage?  That’s not what I was expecting when I clicked on this article.  It’s just a beard!

Hear me out.  In my marriage, I often try and think about each situation we disagree on as if I were in his shoes.  He will do this for me too, which is important in a partnership.  Just humour me on these next few examples.

How well received would it be if today’s men were out there saying things like, “I would never let my wife get highlights.  Gross.” “She thinks she’s going to sleep with me with those shorter layers brushing against my face?  Forget it.”  “I’d never let my wife wear make-up.  I don’t like how it looks.”  Um… excuse me?  It’s not the 1900’s anymore.  This would not fly with us. So why do we think we should tell our men what they can do with their faces?

My husband’s face is not my face.

Yes, I have to look at it a lot more than he does, but he has to own it, be it, live it.  Can I make suggestions to him as to what my preferences are?  Absolutely.  “Honey, I really like it when you keep your beard trimmed and well maintained.”  Can I purchase him a gift card for a barber shop if I think it’s looking a little ragged?  Yeah, I can.  He might take my suggestions, or he might not. If you have a husband like mine, he would.  He would shave or cut his hair and beard into anything I asked him to, if it were important enough to me.  He also knows that I would do the same for him, if it were important enough to him.  He supports me in my style choices.  Whether he prefers them all or not is a different story.  So why shouldn’t I support him in what makes him comfortable and confident in his appearance?

Okay, let’s be honest ladies.  Some beards are legitimately so ugly.  They are.  I’ve seen wretchedly awful beards on guys (or maybe they just seemed wretchedly awful to me).  I’ve seen food stuck in there (snacks for later?), I’ve seen longer beards than I can get my hair to grow (jealous), and I’ve seen all kinds of patchiness (my husband would attribute that to character, and encourage those guys to keep going with it).  Maybe they just don’t realize their beards could look better, and a simple suggestion or tip on beard care could be all they need.  Maybe they’re loving it that way and rocking it.  In that case, I’d say, “you do you!”

Can we admit that some beards look great?  Some men can really pull them off, especially if they’re taking care of them.  The beard trend became a thing sometime in the last few years, and a lot more guys are sporting them.  There seem to be an infinite number of new styles for beards.  There have been many new barber shops springing up to help men trim their beards into fashionable, well maintained, clean looking designs.  Men with beards have the option to choose a haircut and beard combo that can make them look their best.  Basically, guys with beards get to have TWO haircut styles going on at the same time.  Now that’s impressive.

Barber shops are also there to set beard enthusiasts up with the right products for daily care.  These products help keep beard hair looking shiny and healthy, and feeling soft, and I’ll tell you – lots of them smell great.  We all love a hair-spray that smells great, so we can understand that this is important.

I’ve got a family and friend group full of beards! My three brothers-in-law and my Dad and father-in-law all experiment with their facial hair. Apparently I cried in horror as a child the first time I saw my Dad shave his moustache off! Facial hair can really change a man’s look.

My husband’s facial hair has changed a lot through the years I’ve been with him. Sometimes it has looked great, and sometimes, it really hasn’t. At all. I’ve included a variety of photos in this article to give you an idea. What hasn’t changed through the years is how much I love him, regardless of his facial hair choices. Did I give him a hard time for some of these? You’d better believe it! He took it in stride and appreciated the joke.

If you’re one of those women who hates beards (or other facial hair for that matter), I challenge you to really think about why you hate them.  Getting to the bottom of why I feel a certain way about anything, big or small, always helps me to learn more about myself.  Do you hate beards on all men, or just your man?  Could you try having a conversation with him about it to hear his side?  Could you be flexible on his beard, if it meant your guy would be happy and secure in the way he looks?  Even if this article hasn’t given you an appreciation for beards, I hope it’s given you something to think about the next time you see one.