Monday, January 28, 2008

Sailing the Bay of Islands (north New Zealand)

The view from the little bush walk we did after we sailed into this harbor. It had 2 lagoons, but was called "Three lagoon harbor". There's some difficulty with counting here, as 90 mile beach is really only 55 miles.

Here's the sailboat. I laid out front on for a while, and felt like I'd died and gone to heaven. Perhaps I can get a gig on a boat and drift along for a while. Sounds dreamy.

Captain Mike, from Vancouver BC. He's been in NZ for 15 years, took 8 years to sail over with his wife and 2 children. Lovely man.

I hiked up to a lookout and this was one the way- pretty cool when the tide is out- it looked like it was from another planet. The smiling pic on the next post is when I was at the top. This was just adjacent to our campground.

Psycho smile from New Zealand!

Here's me at the end of a perfect weekend!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

It's safer in China/India/Mexico/Mars/(insert any place here) to cross the street.

This morning, I was about halfway across the street when I got a "HONK" from the 60 year-old-ish gentleman in a small station wagon who was taking a left turn off a main street onto a side street. You might think he was getting fresh with me. No. It was another of those friendly reminders to get the H off the road if you are on foot. About 10 seconds later, a bicyclist rode by and offered a word of sympathy (I hope anyway) for the rude Aucklander behind the wheel.

There is no place in this town where you are safe crossing the street. Even yesterday, I was crossing at a raised pedestrian walk with white striped lines and 4 circles signs in front of a primary school, only to nearly be plowed down by a navy minivan! However, I am not giving up on my walking habit. I refuse to drive to work and then pay to go to a room and walk or run on a machine. Instead, I am on the lookout for full-body armor for my walk to work. I figure also that will help build up muscles as I will be carrying around and extra 100 pounds or so of metal. Please email me if you find any suits of armor for sale or perhaps you have one in your basement?

I was on my way to the coffee shop Kokako when "the incident" (horn-honk) happened. Every morning I set my alarm for 6:30 so I can be to the coffee shop at 7ish to read the paper and partake in my "Short Black" which is really an organic espresso with maybe a touch of water.

The second time I went to the place, my barista asked me, "Will you have the same as last time?" (Even though my previous visit had been about 5 days before.) After 10 years in Portland, no coffee shop was ever this friendly. They seem genuinely happy to be there. This morning, I got there and they had built a new table in the window. The two of them were both so proud of it, they came over separately and asked if I liked it, one of them offering to move the bouquet of hydrangeas out of the way if it was bothering me.

Today I asked the barista how long he'd been working there. (Because he seems so good and friendly.)
His answer:
"Two weeks, but this is my first full time job in 6 years. I'm working hard for a year to save money, then I'm going on a big trip, overseas I hope. You don't need much, just clothes and food. I get food here [the coffee shop/organic cafe]. Once you get things, you just want more, like you get an Ipod, then you want the next model. I have all I need. My parents were hippies, sort of. One time, I lived for 6 months in a tent."

I thought, AMEN. That's exactly what I needed to hear. That's why I'm here. To slow down, take it easy, figure out the meaning of life. (Not that we ever do, but at least I can reflect on it. And not take my life for granted since I risk it every day walking.)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Sir Edmund

One of New Zealand’s national heroes died right after I moved here. Sir Edmund Hillary. The first man to summit Everest. A man of legends, and he lived in the neighborhood where I have moved. He was rumored to be humble and willing to meet anyone.

The church where he was lying in state was on my walk home. So I went in. Ave Maria played overhead as New Zealanders shuffled past their beloved, stopping in the center of the stage to nod at the casket draped in a New Zealand flag, yellow scarf and flowers. At the foot of the casket lay his medals. To the right was a portrait of him right after his Everest climb and a small gold bowl with flowers and candles, a mark of his connections to Nepal and India.

I didn’t know this man. Still, I could feel the hot lump in my throat and the tears behind my lids as I walked along the ropes.

I passed a pair of old men who looked like Sir Edmund. I smiled. I figured it was a good time to sit in the pink-covered chairs and reflect. Surprised that I was so emotional. I closed my eyes and thought about life.

I hope we can all can aspire to greatness without arrogance.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Trip around Coromandel

We tried to take a scenic road trip on Sunday, but ended up with piles of rain and fog...

Here's Ursula and Nick at the scenic outlook. And the Blue van who was always just ahead or just behind us. Not to miss the very scary-looking police station, where you might get cookies with your booking. (There was actually a yellow VW bug in the driveway that I missed in the photo!)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

New Digs

Here's a few pics of my neighborhood. Actually all I have is the Farmer's Market across the street and the cathedral on the corner by my house- where they will be holding the services for Sir Edmund Hillary on Tuesday. I noticed as I was leaving today that my house is on the historic register list. If you'd like to read the history on my house, here it is: Takutai
I'll have to add pics later. Currently my room is in a state of disrepair! (MESS!)

I'm off to the ocean with Ursula and Nick in a few minutes (they are the couple from the UK- she's an optometrist with me.)

Yesterday (Saturday), I went to some live scandinavian folk music with my friend Dave at one of Auckland's historic houses. It was beautiful location, lovely house, and they had free chips. I talked to the guy, Randall, at the door and later when I got home and told Kate (my landlady) where we'd gone, she said, "Randall is our neighbor- we're on the historic committee together!" Strange small world. Here's a link to Alberton house if you'd like to see a pic:


Last night after I got home, Kate and Tom invited me in for "chips and salad" since they were having sausages. It was the me and the whole crew almost- Mac (16), Hammish (13?), Rachael and Rebecca (5) and the dog, Scooter (always a child at heart). Only Katharine was missing. Afterward, we watched an English murder mystery (Midsomer Murders) midsomermurders - not quite like American TV. By the end, there's about 4-6 dead people.

Then I rolled into bed.

Friday night, I was over at Michelle's (the PhD student from Canada). She made dinner for friends. Every time I go out here, it's like the United Nations- there was someone from South Africa, Sacramento, Jamaica, Canada and me. Great conversation. The only negative was I took a cab home and the cabbie tried to pick me up. Luckily, I'd been smart enough to have him drop me off a block from my house. Yuck. Buses are better.

Photos... of my new commute to work.

I've added a few photos to a previous post- pics of Auckland and Devonport (the suburb with the ferry ride. On this post, I'll add the Auckland Domain, which I walk through to get to work every day. They also have free music on Sundays in the park- and one pic is of the Auckland folks sitting around. (This was mentioned in a previous post as well.)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Cons of "laid-back-ness" and paperwork

Ran into some difficulty getting the University to issue funds into my bank account. Everything here is done electronically (no paper checks). All must have all the appropriate forms, signatures and boxed ticked to be filed. Added to the bureaucracy red tape issue is that much of the staff is still on holiday.

Result= no pay for me. Yet.

Corollary= must pay rent in cash? I hope.

I'll let you know tomorrow if I've become a street person. HA.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Click here if you want some encouragement to slow down your life (this is a link)

National slow down week is Jan 13-19, 2008.
Good little cartoon on life in this link.

Working, sort of.

I've made it through a few days at the University. They are pretty laid back. It'll be interesting to see how it goes when the students start coming back in full force. (Not until Monday.) The University of Auckland has 37,000 students and 3 campuses in Auckland. The optometry program has only about 200 total students. They call it a "boutique program" for good reason.

Optometry has only gotten therapeutics here in the last 3 years, and ophthalmology was actually instrumental in this- they have been helping to forward the career. For you ODs, they use chloremphenical here for eye infections. The horrors!

I have one more night of living in the hotel, then to my little "granny flat" in Parnell. I'm looking forward to really unpacking and hopefully a firmer bed. Though I am pretty content just having a good newspaper to read every day. The New Zealand Herald covers everything- no worries about me forgetting the USA.

Good day to all!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Still no pics.

I have to get my little mac hooked up to broadband. As long as I am living in a hotel, it's not possible. So patience, my friends.

I have taken photos, per your requests, but they are trapped in iphoto for now. Check back this weekend! Cross your fingers.

In other news, it was another perfect day in Kiwiland. Sunshine, 25. Celsius, that is. I have a ID badge for the University. Sigh. :)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Can I apply for citizenship yet?

I'm on day 6 of my new life in New Zealand. I feel like a new person. It's unbelievable. I feel so alive.

Yesterday, I got myself a mobile phone. Now I can be a texting fool like the rest of the New Zealanders. Funny story about the guy in the Vodafone store: I was thinking about shopping around a little more and asked the him when he'd be closing and he said, "3:00, maybe 2:30 or 2:00 if it's slow." Can you imagine a store in the US doing that? So I just bought the darn phone and went on with my day.

To reward myself on the phone purchase, I took a 12 minute ferry to Devonport, a suburb just north of Auckland. I walked around and made myself rest in the coffee shop for a while (my calves are solid muscle now) before I headed up to the top of Mt Victoria. I saw a sort of steppish path going straight up the side of the mount. About halfway, I realised it was quite steep and tending to be on the clumsy side of things, I stopped and thought, "It would be really bad to fall down the hill. My family would not like it." So I leaned forward more and hurried up to the top. When I got there, I was greeted by a bench with two nice people on it, Michelle from Nova Scotia (working on her PhD here) and Dave from Papua New Guinea (civil engineer for Auckland city). We ended up hanging out all day and now I have 2 new friends.

Today I wandered into the Auckland Museum today, which was great, though I am pretty bad at museums. Carrie can attest (Deutsches Museum delirium), our family goes into an instant sugar low and blood pressures drop the second we enter a museum. They had a fantastic exhibit on volcanoes though, including a simulation of Auckland if one should erupt anytime soon. Hope not! This is the land of volcanoes, so you never know.

After that some kiwis I met walking advised I wander over to the Domain for some free live jazz. I sat in the grass amongst about 500 other Aucklanders (in the shade) and thought, this is really not too bad. Gee. I think I have converted in 6 days. There's always a friendly face for conversation or directions. I love it.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Hey, give me a few more days! I haven't had any time to lollygag around with my camera photodocumenting my new home. Just wait til this weekend.

Every day I've walked approximately 600 miles, in search of housing, phones, etc. I've rolled into my hotel after 10pm looking like I need a wheelchair assist. Maybe Grandma could loan me her motorized cart?

Today I secured a little mother-in-law studio in a nice neighborhood called Parnell. My new commute to work will consist of a 30 minute walk through the "Auckland Domain," a giant park or I can take the bus for $1.60. But I plan to walk. I kept going back and forth between roomates and living alone. This is sort of in the middle. It's all furnished. There is a nice fold out futon for guests. And a nice bathroom. Sort of reminds me of Molly's place at the Welleman's... only it's upstairs (above the garage).

They have a funny rental scheme here- you pay per week and only have to give 3 wks notice. So if it does not work out, it's ok. They are a nice family though- she's Canadian and has lived all over - several kids and a dog that I can borrow for walks if I like (he's not quite Oatie, but he's friendly). They have a fat happy outdoor cat too. I think it will be a good mix of living alone and not.

Yesterday I met my department at the University- they were all nice, laid back and professional. The other new person in my spot is a girl named Ursula from the UK. She's pretty cool.

My brain is mushy now. But I will get pics on the next post, I swear!

Oh one thing interesting: no one has asked me for money. I haven't seen a homeless person. I wonder if they have any?

Monday, January 7, 2008

Cheers from the other side! (Kiwis are great!)

Greetings all.

I've arrived!

Is that enough to say? Would you believe it's raining here too? I thought I just moved to summer. Ok, it's a warm rain. I don't mind at all. There is still light out and it's nearing 9pm. That's a summer sign.

The trip here was mostly uneventful. I had a lovely stop with Uncle Brian and Andrew in LA. Then survived the mass confusion of LAX. Air Pacific was a sweet airline. The guy at check in just weighed my bag and quickly pulled it off the scale when it was 2.5 Kg over... no fees. The flight crew was equally great. I managed at least 8 hours of sleep on the plane, helped by the fact that we sat on the runway for 2 hours in LAX due to rain. I thought I was leaving the rain in Oregon.

Fiji was hot and humid. They had a band playing while we waited to go through security clearance. Thank goodness, since they only had ONE lane and about 500 people. Luckily I was in line with a Kiwi couple - in their 20's who chatted and wrote in my journal a list of things to see in Auckland and around.

After a very simple customs clearance and shuttle ride, I checked into my hotel. It's set up to be more like a home away from home. With a large communal kitchen, fridges in the rooms, etc. I think I prefer hostels. They're more friendly and knowledgeable about the stuff I want to do. But I did make myself at home- there's clothes strewn all over the room now. (Had to find some lost items in the monster duffle bags.)

After creating a giant mess of my hotel room, I took a shower and headed out to walk around town. Auckland's quite manageable. Nice folks. I found out about Vodafone and wandered into a large grocery store. They were broadcasting helpful messages like, "Don't eat too much candy, it's low in nutritional value and high in calories" and "Even 30 minutes a day of exercise makes a difference." A little helpful non-subliminal messages in the grocery store. Makes you think twice about buying piles of candy.

I wandered down to Parnell, a very old section of Auckland, where I heard they had free wifi. I found it. In STARBUCKS. Sorry. I cannot believe I went in there. But there was a girl in the window with her computer, so I figured I would take a shot. I met a lovely barista named Kiki, who later gave me her cell to text if I wanted. And a German girl named Carolin who is here on a work visa also. I take back anything mean I've ever said about Starbucks. It's already made me 2 friends.

So far, I feel normal. It's fun just learning new things every day.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

It's 2008!

Last day of work. It went fine. I'll miss the wonderful people at Kaiser.

I got a link from Donna regarding a Northwest woman who has downsized:
(I gave up trying to figure out the proper way to link, so just cut and paste it!)

Perhaps, I too could be happy in an 84 square foot place? I guess I have down-sized to squatting in my baby sister's room. Anything could be next. Watch out friends and family, here I come with my shed! Who wants me first?