Warm Xmas with warm peo­ple

Central Otago Mirror - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - DASHA KUPRIENKO

She moved to New Zealand 14 years ago and a sum­mer Christ­mas still seems odd.

In fact, Queen­stown’s Fiona Gray had heat stroke as a Christ­mas present last year while her fam­ily in Manch­ester, Eng­land, were bat­tling with cold.

The 28 year-old chef re­calls grow­ing up on a farm ’’in the mid­dle of nowhere’’ and rid­ing a sledge to pri­mary school in De­cem­ber.

There was so much snow, it was im­pos­si­ble for her mum to start up the car.

A few years later Gray and her younger brother had to go through a bl­iz­zard to catch a bus to school from the near­est vil­lage.

De­cem­ber in Queen­stown con­sists of tan­ning on the beach, camp­ing and moun­tain bik­ing.

No pow­der on Christ­mas is very dif­fer­ent, Gray says.

‘‘I’ll never ever get used to that, I don’t think. It doesn’t feel right.’’

As well as warm Christ­mases, Queen­stown has a warm cul­ture.

‘‘I feel like be­cause a lot of peo­ple don’t have fam­ily here you kind of make your own fam­ily and get re­ally close with the friends that you do have, which is so nice.’’

As friends be­come fam­ily they cel­e­brate big oc­ca­sions to­gether.

‘‘We all are kind of in the same boat so we all just spend the day to­gether, play a few games, open a few presents and chill out in the sun.’’

Gray says she is miss­ing her fam­ily in Eng­land but not Eng­land it­self.

‘‘When we moved, mum said she was want­ing to get a bet­ter life­style for us, and I have no doubt that she made the right de­ci­sion by bring­ing us over here,’’ she said.

Rainy day Queen­stown re­minds her of Manch­ester, but more beau­ti­ful.

‘‘I think some­times you take it for granted af­ter you’ve been here a long time, but then when you take a mo­ment and you look around, like ‘...yeah’.’’

Gray’s mother and brother live in Dunedin, where she went to high school and univer­sity.

She moved to Queen­stown eight years ago and be­came a chef for Frenz Lunch Bar, and is now work­ing at Ivy and Lola’s Kitchen.

‘‘It has re­ally good food and a re­ally good team and I’m al­ways learn­ing heaps. It’s just nice to be in the en­vi­ron­ment where you’re look­ing for­ward to go­ing to work.’’

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