Sunday, July 22, 2012

Kia Ora!

…And she’s here!  After 3 flights, 6 movies, and +23 hours of travel time, I finally reached The Land of the Long White Cloud.  Just a bit of context: I left Atlanta at 5:55 PM ET on Saturday, Feb. 11 and reached Christchurch, NZ at 11:30 AM GMT (+12) on Monday, Feb. 13.  Luckily, my flights from Atlanta to LAX and LAX to Auckland had in-flight movies. I watched In Time and Country Strong from Atlanta to LAX and from LAX to Auckland The Adventures of Tin Tin, Rio, Warrior, and One Day.  It was so late by the time I left LAX that I was falling asleep, and I ended up taking a one-hour nap in the middle of every movie.  Surprisingly, the food on the plane was not only edible, but quite good.  For supper (at about 1 o’clock in the morning eastern time), I had chicken in alfredo sauce with a roll a cup of fruit and some cheese and crackers.  Oh and the grand finale was a small serving of Haagen-Däz ice cream cone flavored ice cream.  Superb.  I had a fruit plate for breakfast but they also offered a ham and cheese omelet with tots.  All in all I would give the food an A- grade. 
            Upon my arrival in Christchurch, I was greeted like an A-list celebrity with my aunt and uncle’s friend Lester Fletcher waiting for me at the end of the terminal with my very own name placard.  After grabbing my bags from the conveyor belt, we headed to the parking lot where I proceeded to try to get in on the right side of the car.  Rookie mistake.  Everybody knows Kiwis drive on the left side of the road and therefore the steering wheel is located on the right side of the car.  Duh.  Mr. Fletcher drove me to campus and helped me get situated in my flat where I met two of my new flatmates, Mary and Kate.  Mary is a kiwi and Kate hails from California.  Kate gave me some chocolate within a minute of meeting me so she immediately moved to the top of my friends list.  I met my other two flatmates, Florence and Monica, later.  Florence is from California and Monica is from China.  From first glance our group dynamic seemed completely different from the Northpole in Lexington.  False.  Mary is married (a la Greg & Caroline—hehe), and Florence and Monica both have boyfriends (Ainsley & Scott, Toddy & You-Know-Who). Then there’s me and Kate—single and ready to mingle (me and Zank).  Kind of creepy.
Even though I hadn’t showered in two days my first course of action was to go to the grocery store and get some supplies.  Mary drove us (on the left side of the road) to Riccarton Mall a couple minutes down the road from UCan. We went to a discount grocery store called Pak ‘n Save where I was shocked to find that they don’t refrigerate their eggs in New Zealand.  Surprise number one.  Surprise number two: calories don’t exist here.  They use kilojoules (kJ) to measure the energy found in food.  Guess that means I won’t be counting calories while I’m here! Best. Day. Ever.
It’s only been a few days but I’m already in LOVE.  I haven’t seen the sun since I’ve been here, but I love the campus and meeting everybody.  There are a lot of American study abroad students here but I haven’t met any one from any where remotely close to the South.  The Northeast and West are predominant.  I’ve run through the area around campus the past three days and tend to run longer than I initially intend because I get lost quite often but I’ve gotten to see a large part of the surrounding area.

1.     There is an Indian, Thai, Japanese, and Chinese restaurant on every block.
2.     There’s no such thing as Kroger or Walmart. but there are McDonald’s (Macca's) and Subway.  Sadly, the $5 dollar footlong is a figment of the American imagination.
3.     SUVs are a rare sight and most cars have two doors.
4.     School kids are made to wear uniforms that are designed to be as unattractive as possible. Think grey knee-high socks, khaki shorts, and blazers for boys and rompers three sizes too big and black clogs for girls.
5.     Pedestrians DO NOT have the right of way.

Vocabulary of the week:
1.     boot=trunk of the car
2.     gumboots=rain boots
3.     jelly=jello
4.     Scrumpy’s=alcoholic cider
5.     telly=television
6.     biscuit=cookie

Kia ora!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Grocery List

            Living in New Zealand for the past five months has meant adapting to new people, new food, and new situations.  While I’ve been a big fan of a lot of these new experiences, there are just some things that are better in ye ol’ U-S-of-A that I have dearly missed.   Likewise, I’m really going to miss some of the things that I’ve grown accustomed to during my stay.  So, I’ve compiled a list of things I have missed from the states and things I will miss from New Zealand as well as some situations I will have to re-adapt to when I get home.

·      Ketchup-Tomato sauce is ABSOLUTELY NOT the same thing.  I want thick, creamy, Heinz 57 ketchup for my burgers and chips.
·      Bookstores-Books are extremely expensive here because they have to be shipped a long ways over here and there are no Barnes & Noble or Books-a-Million to be had.  As someone who regularly goes to Barnes & Noble just to sit in the rows and read, I have sorely missed a quality bookstore.
·      McDonald’s dollar menu-They have the “spare change menu”…but they also have $2 coins.
·      Walmart-I’ve missed being able to walk in to one store and be able to buy toothpaste, a NASCAR shirt, and a duct tape with flames on it.
·      ESPN/Sportscenter-I missed the Tim Tebow-Jets debacle, the Roger Clemens case, and the Jerry Sandusky trial. NEED. SPORTS. ASAP.  The New Zealand equivalent of Sportscenter is called Crowd Goes Wild but the content is mostly cricket and rugby.
·      Peanut Butter-It’s probably due to the fact that the peanut butter here is a lot less processed than ours but that knowledge doesn’t make me feel any better when I’m trying to make a quality PB&J.  It’s thick, but not creamy so it just doesn’t spread well and generally lacks the classic peanut butter taste of JIF and Skippy.
·      Standard System of Meaurement-I have had no sense of speed, temperature, or weight since I’ve been here.  The metric system sucks.
·      Connie’s-Chicken biscuit with gravy. ‘Nough said.
·      Speaking Tradition at W&L-If I pass one more person who breaks their neck trying not to make eye contact I’m going attack them.
·      Participation grades-There’s no buffer 5%-10% grade just for showing up to class here.  Professors could care less if you drag yourself to uni.  There’s a midterm and a final. Sometimes a paper.  But that’s it.  I prefer a little wiggle room. 

And the thing I’ve missed most of all…

·      THE SOUTH-If I had a dollar for every time someone commented on me saying “y’all” I could buy the country of New Zealand.  Also, I miss the southern mentality of bending over backwards to be nice/helpful even if you secretly wish the person’s face would melt off.  Kiwis are genuinely nice and engaging but for the most part if they’re annoyed that you’re a stupid American asking them a question, you’re made quite aware that you’re an annoying, stupid American.  I miss Sunday lunch after church where you see half of Tupelo; I miss buttermilk biscuits; I miss cornbread; I. MISS. THE. SOUTH.


·      Fish n’ chips-Fried fish and chunky chips. And salt. Need I say more? Even better with some aioli sauce.
·      Gummy snakes-Better than gummy worms. I’ve bought two bags to bring home and am thinking about adding a few more to my carry-on.
·      Shortland Street-I have never in my life watched a soap opera but I’ve gotten really invested in New Zealand’s home-grown soap.  I literally plan my night around the 7 o’clock airtime.  The fact that they have shirtless Maori doctors featured at least once a week is pretty good incentive to watch.
·      Kiwi style-I’m really going to miss the casual style of Kiwi clothing: girls in baggy sweaters over short dresses, boys in blue jean shorts and singlet tops, and lots of Vans and Converse.
·      Cheap avocados-When they were in season, I could buy four avocados for $2.  Winning.
·      Hokey Pokey-This New Zealand version of honeycomb toffee is a mix of golden syrup, sugar, and baking soda melted together.  It can be eaten separate or my favorite broken up and put in vanilla ice cream.
·      The Hub-For the past few months I’ve had free access to countless movies, TV shows, and music via the student network at my flat.  There have been several times where I’ve had to go through my hard drive to delete files to make room for me downloads. 
·      Landscape-This country is beautiful.  And I don’t just mean the wilderness parts of it.  I can honestly say that every inch of this country that I’ve seen has been breathtakingly gorgeous and even puts W&L in the spring to shame.
·      Rugby-Now that I’ve figured out the rules, I’m a fan.  It’s all of the best parts of soccer and American football mixed together: hard hits, lots of opportunities to score, and no timeouts.
·      Frogger-Nothing makes me more wide-eyed and bushy-tailed for class in the mornings than trying to avoid getting hit while crossing a major street to get to campus. 

And most importantly…

·      Mary-My Kiwi flatmate has been the best! I’m really going to miss her wisdom on all things New Zealand and having her right next door enabling me to procrastinate by watching movies and Gossip Girl.  She played tour guide for our adventures at the Wild Foods Festival as well as Fox Glacier and Franz Josef.  I shall be returning the favor to her and her husband when they come to the states sometime soon.  Nigel really wants to go to a NASCAR race.

·      Switching light switches down to turn them off
·      Driving on the right side of the road
·      Looking left before crossing the street
·      Walking on the right side of the sidewalk
·      Standard measurements
·      8.5”x11” computer paper 
·      No half flush on the toilets

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pause. Touch. Engage.

After lots of fingers crossed, prayer, and perfect execution on the part of my friend Carolyn, we got tickets to the second test match of the All Blacks series against Ireland.  For those of you unfamiliar with the rugby world, getting to see the All Blacks is equivalent to watching Brazil or Spain play in soccer.  The weather was below freezing and threatening to rain the entire time but our enthusiasm would not be hampered and all of us went all out in our black and our war paint.  I was excited to watch the 2011 World Cup champs play, but honestly I was most looking forward to their performance of the haka.  The haka is a traditional Maori war dance that the All Blacks have adopted as part of their pre-game intimidation.  After both national anthems, the two teams met in the center of the pitch facing one another while my man Piri Weepu led the All Blacks in the haka.  

            After getting spanked the weekend before 42-10, the Irish put up a fight and made it a really close match.  The All Blacks pulled it out in the last seconds though with a drop kick score from Dan Carter. All Blacks win 22-19.  

Extreme steam coming off of the scrum
May or may not be friends with them

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Intergenerational Escapades

            As I write this, I’ve got 10 days 23 hours 35 minutes and 32 seconds until my parents pick me up from the Memphis Airport.  I’m beyond excited to see my parents and have them spoil me with home-cooked food, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and support for the baking binge I’m going to go on as soon as I get in the house.  But I digress, let me just catch you up on what I’ve been up to recently.
            Lectures officially ended June 1, but I decided to take off early to visit some of my dad’s old friends in Nelson, which is pretty much as far north on the South Island as you can get. The last time my dad saw them was thirty years ago in 1982.  They didn’t get to meet Norma because I’ve been told Phil was in trouble with her when they came to visit.  I’ll have to wait to hear (and then share) that story when I get home.  I had corresponded with Bob and Gay Schmuke via email a few times over the semester but other than that I was spending 5 days with two complete strangers.  I have to admit I was a bit nervous about how my trip was going to go. 
            In short, I had one of my best trips yet in New Zealand.  After waking up at the crack of dawn to catch a bus at 7:00 AM, I had a long day of traveling before getting into Nelson at 2:30 in the afternoon.  Gay picked me up at the bus stop and we had an easy time chatting, and I think I almost gave her a heart attack with my extreme gasp at the detail that they have a big black lab named Satchmo.  Needless to say, I’ve been extremely dog deprived the past year (sorry Cassie) so I was ecstatic to have a subject to dump all my love on for the weekend.  When we got to the Schmuke’s gorgeous house on the estuary complete with a large backyard and duck pond, I met Bob and we immediately packed up the car to head over Takaka Hill to their beach house on Golden Bay.  We watched the sun set over the ocean from the second floor of the house as we drank wine and ate cheese.  I could already tell I liked these people.
            I awoke on Saturday to a delicious smoothie made by Bob with lots of fresh fruit and some yogurt.  Seriously good.  We drove into town for a heartier breakfast of eggs and toast and dropped Bob off at the golf course before Gay and I headed to the end of the Abel Tasman Coastal Track for a little afternoon hike.  Of course, Satchmo came.  The scenery was absolutely gorgeous and the weather was perfect.  We hiked along the beach, ate some lunch, and then headed back to the house.  I introduced Gay to the glory that is Pinterest that afternoon; her life will ever be the same.  We watched the sun set over the ocean from the second floor of the house as we drank cosmopolitans and ate spiced nuts.  I could already tell I REALLY liked these people.
            Sunday morning I enjoyed another wonderful smoothie while I watched my dad reconnect with his friends for the first time in 30 years via Skype.  After the reminiscing session, we took a little trip to see “the clearest fresh water in the world” and I caught a salmon for us to have for supper that night.  We also collected some mussels off the beach that Bob cooked out on the grill for appetizers.  Inspired by all of the cooking shows we had watched that afternoon, Gay and I proceeded to make three loaves of bread: a seed loaf and two different types of focaccia.  I could already tell I REALLY REALLY liked these people.
            On Monday, after my smoothie, we headed back to Nelson.  We stopped for lunch, and I got a tandoori lamb pie and real fruit ice cream.  I have to say that I’ve been a little disappointed by the ice cream in New Zealand.  I figured that a country with such a large cattle population would be on top of their dairy products.  That being said, real fruit ice cream is the real McCoy.  It’s essentially what it sounds like; frozen fruit gets blended directly into the ice cream when you order it, á la Cold Stone Creamery (except a machine does it and minus a few hundred calories).  I was quite pleased with the result and my faith in New Zealand dairy was moderately restored. That afternoon Gay took me to the World of Wearable Art Museum.  Until recently, she served as CEO of the production so I got a really personalized tour of the exhibits.  We then visited the “Centre of New Zealand” and happened to run into a few friends from Christchurch who had just gotten into Nelson.  That night we made the most amazing brownies I have ever tasted.  We ate them warm with vanilla ice cream on top.  I could already tell I LOVED these people.
            Sadly, Tuesday signaled the end of my trip in Nelson.  After almost five months of fending for myself, it was incredibly relaxing and comforting to have a set of quasi-parents take care of me for a few days.  I even got a pack of snacks to take with me on the bus: a big chunk of brownie and a bag of feijoa fruit.  I had such an incredible time hearing about all of the adventures the Schmukes have been on during their extensive traveling.  If I can be them when I grow up, then I will be quite happy to get older.  Thank you Bob and Gay for the amazing experience, the delicious food, and the thought-provoking conversation.

Hello Satchmo

Abel Tasman Coast Track

View from the beach house

            I had a couple of days back in Christchurch before flying out to Hokitika to meet up with some friends to see some glaciers.  In the meantime, the sky opened up and vomited several inches of snow onto the city.  Being the savvy packer that I am, I had my snow boots on hand and was able to get around quite comfortably and fashionably.  Thankfully, all the snow was cleared up by the time I needed to fly on Friday.  I was extremely confused when I got to the airport, checked in, and then got to walk immediately to my gate.  No security check. NADA.  I still can’t get over it.  Any who, I got into Hokitika Friday night and spent the night at my uni flatmate’s house.  We spent all day Saturday driving to Fox and Franz Josef and hiking up to the glacier sites.  Nature is pretty cool.  We got back to ChCh Sunday afternoon and I spent the next few days studying for my exam Tuesday afternoon.  I have one assignment and one exam left before I leave.  I have two more adventures left as well.  This Saturday night I’m going to watch the All Blacks play Ireland in a test rugby match.  For people who know nothing about rugby, the All Blacks are equivalent to the Brazilian national team in soccer. Translation: they are a BIG FREAKIN DEAL.  On Sunday, a few of us are heading up to a cabin we rented for the weekend to escape from exams and have one last hoorah before we leave.  Then it’s crunch time; I don’t know how I’m going to pack without my mommy doing it for me. 


Fox Glacier

Venison Pie from Sheffield's Pie Shop. Best. Pie. Ever.

·      Hard out-trying too hard
·      Trolley-shopping cart
·      Flash-expensive, stylish
·      Mince-ground beef
·      Papers-courses (as in University)
·      Chemist-pharmacist
·      Petrol-gas
·      Sit an exam-take a test

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Outings in Otago

            Made a brief visit to Dunedin this weekend.  I was a little apprehensive about the trip since my friends’ university had set them up with a Maori-immersion adventure on Saturday, and I was going to be left to my own devices for a day and a night. 
            I took the bus on Friday morning and got into Otago University around 2 and met up with my friends that had travelled down a few days earlier.  It was rainy and cold, and I already had a bad attitude about how the rest of the weekend would go.   Luckily, we didn’t have to pay for a place to stay thanks to Danica’s friend from her university having a flat where we could crash.  Even more fortunate, one of the flatmate’s girlfriend’s birthday was Friday.  In all of her enthusiasm for turning 20, she planned a whole night of shenanigans beginning with jello shots, skittle vodka, and cake batter shots and proceeding to an incredible pizza place.  The restaurant was B.Y.O. so we all brought a bottle of wine to enjoy with our pie.
            After supper we proceeded back to homebase for a mini dance party and then migrated to another flat.  Being the southern lady that I am, I proceeded to teach every guy at the party how to swing dance and by the end most of them had managed the basics of “the pretzel”.  True to form, I found a W&L connection with a guy from Chicago. He claimed he has a friend (at one point of the night she was his cousin but then he changed his story to “family friend”) at W&L, which has “all those white buildings”.  Nice try.  I was a little skeptical because I didn’t know the name he gave me, but some simple facebook stalking revealed he was telling the truth.  I also encountered a Canadian in a camouflage hat that was convinced that “the North”, i.e. Canada, equated to “the South”. I’ve never heard a worse lie in my entire life.  He thought he could solidify his argument by claiming that being a deer hunter made him a southern gentleman.  Oh, Canada! To his credit, he did take care of my jacket when we went downtown to the bars and he walked me home, insisting that he walk on the street side of the sidewalk. Well played, sir, well played.
Thank goodness I decided to borrow a sleeping bag for the weekend because I would have died of hypothermia without it.  Dunedin is insanely cold! Even sitting in the flat we could see our breath.  When I went to put my glasses on in the morning, the lenses were frosted.
My friends left for their Maori trip early on Saturday morning so I had all day to tour around by myself.  I wasn’t sure how much fun I could have alone but it didn’t take me very long to realize how much I like being around me.  I like to explore places and don’t necessarily have to have a destination in mind when I set out.  I walked through the Otago campus to the main street in downtown Dunedin. First stop: shopping! Duh.  After some fastidious sale shopping, it was lunchtime and I sat in The Octagon and read while I snacked on tuna and crackers.  Afterwards I hiked by happy tail up a steep street to Cadbury World…only to realize that the museum was on the other end (the downhill end) of the street.  Take two: Cadbury World! I got some free chocolate including a few servings of liquid chocolate during my tour and walked away with a special addition Cadbury milk chocolate bar with cookie bites.  Cheese and rice I wish I had had the wherewithal to stock up on it. 

 I tried to go to the National Sports Museum after Cadbury but it was already closed so I just perused the back streets of Dunedin and made my way back to the flat.  What was left of us at the flat were still feeling exhausted from the night before so we opted for a casual night of massive ice creams and a beautiful view of Dunedin from the top of a nearby hill/mountain. 
After back-to-back 3 AM bedtimes, I woke up on Sunday with a man voice and a hankering for a big breakfast.  First things first though, I walked down to Baldwin Street, the steepest street in the world.  It's not paved with asphalt because their first few tries it all just slid to the bottom.  I walked halfway up and got hungry so I snapped some pictures and booked it to some brunch.  After some delicious French toast and fruit salad, I sat in a park and read/creeped on all of the families having Mother’s Day picnics.  Kiwis have such cute children! Think about a Kiwi accent and then imagine that same accent hyped up on helium and you’ve got how a Kiwi child sounds.  I want one for Christmas.  Santa?

By this point, I headed back to the flat, packed up my stuff, caught the last period of the Rangers-Caps Game 7 (I'm thinking there will be a little competitive tension in the Barton-Schmidt relationship over that one), and trekked toward the bus stop to meet up with my friends and head back to ChCh.  Our bus driver must have been quite concerned with our ability to maintain normal body heat and had us sitting in a sauna.  I distracted myself by reading My Horizontal Life by Chelsea Handler and alienating the guy sitting next to me by laughing hysterically. Despite the bus ride, I’m going to file this trip under my top five adventures abroad.  If only I had bought more chocolate.


·      Precious-overly dramatic
·      Maths-math
·      Unco-uncoordinated
·      Keen-interested
·      Bach-vacation home
·      Stroppy-bratty
·      Zed-the letter Z

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Part Deux: Queenstown and Bound

            After a few days of much needed rest back in Christchurch, we resume our tale in Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world.  

The night before we left ChCh, a group of us went to a Super Rugby match at AMI stadium downtown between the hometown Crusaders and the visiting Stormers from South Africa.  After pestering a rugby-playing friend every two seconds of the first half by asking what was going on, I finally got the hang of the rules and Josh finally got to watch the game in peace.

Crusaders huddle

Now to Queenstown! Danica and I flew out of ChCh bright and early on Sunday morning and were welcomed to the airport by the sight of the entire Stormers rugby team from the night before.  After cursing myself for not bothering to put my contacts on or taking a shower that morning, we hopped on our 45-minute flight to Queenstown.  The views from the plane were incredible and even the Queenstown airport had some beautiful views. 
In the name of adventure, we decided to get a rental car so we could do some exploring outside of Queenstown.  Despite a rough start with touchy brakes and figuring out the blinker lever was on the opposite side than in the States, my left-side driving was impeccable.  We picked up another one of our friends and then headed to lunch at the famous Winnie’s Gourmet Pizza Bar.  All other pizzas have posters hanging in their delivery boxes of the pizzas they serve at Winnie’s.  I ordered the Montonara which had chicken, sundried tomato, brie, spring onion, sweet chili sauce, and a topping of pistachio sour cream.  The next time someone asks me what three things I would bring to a desert island with me I’m going to say 1)Mon 2)Ton 3)Ara.  Even a week later, I’m drooling while I talk about it.  I washed down the Second Coming with a classic L&P, a NZ soft drink. 

THE Montonara

            After lunch, we waddled to the gondolas that took us to a scenic overlook of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu and then headed back to the hostel for a nap and a shower before heading out for the night.  After a little bar hopping, we did what any normal people would do: sample fudge.  We tasted everything from tiramisu and crème brulee to cookies & cream and red velvet cake (shout out Maria and Brittney).  Feeling guilty about taking advantage of the free samples, I was obligated to by a small brick of the red velvet.  I’m not even a big fudge fan, but my purchase was consumed before sunrise.
            On Monday, we picked up another friend at the airport and then headed out to Wanaka for the day.  We drove about an hour to this beautiful town on Lake Wanaka and then drove another hour further to do some walking tracks: Thunder Falls, Fantail Falls, Haast Pass Lookout, and the Blue Pools.  After a long day of driving and knowing we had a long day to come on Tuesday, we decided build up our energy stores by going to Fergburger, essentially the gourmet burger counterpart to Winnie’s.  This place has lines out the door from the time it opens at lunch to when it closes very late at night.  We waited about 45 minutes to get our food.  My choice is called the Southern Swine: NZ ground beef, lettuce, tomato, red onion, avocado, tomato relish, and aioli sauce wrapped in the loving arms of a thick and chewy bun.  Did I mention it was the size of my face? 

Blue Pools
Lake Wanaka
The Southern Swine

             We called it a night early and headed back to the hostel under the dark cloud of our 4:15 AM wake up call to drive to Milford Sound the next morning.  And by drive I mean I drove while Abby and Kate slept and Danica was having a passenger seat driver anxiety attack.  Other than almost running over a bunny with a death wish, we made it unscathed and ready for our early morning cruise of Milford Sound.  The views were just indescribable, and in my attempts to get my camera to accurately capture how beautiful it was, I got a little trigger-happy.  The cruise lasted an hour and a half, and we went all the way out to the Tasman Sea before turning around and heading back, seeing some fur seals, and getting sprayed by a waterfall (some more than others).  Since it had been completely dark for most of or drive to Milford, we mad some stops on the road back to Queenstown and had an unexpected run in with some Kea parrots.  Everyone kept their fingers so it was a successful encounter. 

Our dear friend the Kea Parrot

            After a long, long day, there was nothing left to do but relax. WRONG!!!!  Wednesday morning meant bungy jumping!  Danica and I signed up to do the tallest bungy in NZ and the second tallest all-season jump in the world according to one of the guys that worked for the bungy company.  After psyching myself up for the jump all week, I was nervous that I had used up all of my mojo and would freak out last minute.  After edging out to the end of the platform and giving a thumbs up to the camera in front of me, the bungy guy started his countdown.  Now, we had been instructed that the best way to jump is to go as soon as they guy says “1…2…3…BUNGY”.  If you don’t go then you start to psyche yourself out and it’s harder to make yourself jump.  And the guys holding your harness don’t push you either; you have to do all of the pushing off the platform by yourself.  So, “1…2…3…BUNGY!!!”, and I  swan-dived for my 8.5 second freefall.  Nothing gives you an adrenaline rush more than jumping face first for 400 feet towards the bottom of a ravine. Bungy jumping: CHECK. 

Looking down

            With our bucket list shortened, we met back up with our friends in town and went to some of the local shops and enjoyed a market on the boardwalk with local artists, psychics, and massage therapists selling their wares.  Wednesday night we went on a sponsored pub crawl to six of the bars in Queenstown that included a trip an ice bar.  Being the prepared person that I am, I wore my Chacos for the occasion.  Danica and I also decided to wear our bungy jumping tshirts out 1) because we were so impressed with ourselves for both jumping without hesitating and 2) I had already packed up all my clothes for our early morning bus ride the next morning.  We had a great time hanging out with the locals and two of our roommates at the hostel.   It wasn’t such a great time the next morning when we had to wake up at 7 AM to catch our bus back to ChCh.

Now it's back to Uni for another six weeks of class, another week off, and then two weeks of exams.  Here's hoping it doesn't go by too quickly.


milkshake-flavored milk
ice block-popsicle
judder bars-speed bumps
dairy-convenience store

Friday, April 13, 2012

Reed-Ruff Honeymoon Part Un: The North Island

            I haven’t posted in a while, but this one is going to be long and action-packed so I hope it makes up for the delay.

            For some blessed reason, the University of Canterbury has a three-week midterm break in April.  Apparently, it’s usually only two weeks but the way Easter fell this year they ended up changing it to three.  How dare they.  We decided to take full advantage of the break and do some extensive traveling.  And by “we” I mean Danica and I essentially went on a honeymoon together.  The first part of our trip was spent on the North Island in Auckland and Wellington.

Day 1: We flew out of Christchurch at night and got into Auckland fairly late.  We walked down Queen Street, which is the hub of the city.  Anything you could possibly want/need is either on or just off of Queen Street.  We walked down to the harbor and went to the grocery store where we purchased our rations for the week: white bread, peanut butter & jelly, and some fruit.  This seemed like a good idea initially, but if I never have to look at another PB&J again it will be too soon.

Day 2:  After surviving our first night in a hostel (I slept on top of the flat sheet they gave us since it didn’t seem like they changed the fitted sheets very often), Danica and I had some toast for breakfast and made our sandwiches for the day and went on an adventure.  We took a ferry across the harbor to a little hamlet called Devonport.  While walking through the ferry terminal in Devonport, we passed a bike shop, and Danica had the inspired idea to rent bikes for the day.  Alas, the price for individual bikes was too much for our budget…but a tandem bike seemed cheap enough.  While our strategy was good, our execution was not as successful.  After several failed attempts to coordinate which almost resulted in us taking out a car and the guy that rented the bike to us, we finally got a semblance of the hang of it.  We biked around the beach with stops at the Navy Museum and the war battlements of North Head before making our way to the top of Mount Victoria, an extinct volcanic cone.  By the end of the day, we were quite proficient in the art of tandem bike riding, as long as we weren’t going up any hills because Danica was a freeloader and never remembered to pedal.  I paid her back by riding in the street instead of on the sidewalk.

View from North Head
Downtown Auckland from Devonport
Devonport Beach
Steps to the top of North Head

We spent the entire day in Devonport and then headed back to the city.  After showering, eating another PB&J, deciding we needed something other than that for supper, and getting a $5 teriyaki bowl, we headed to the Sky Tower Casino downtown.  We had every intention of spending a few bucks gambling but got so overwhelmed when we got there that we just headed straight for the bar.  The only open space at the bar was next to two older gentlemen who bought our drinks for the rest of the night.  Well-played.

Day 3:  We took a 2-hour roundtrip bus ride north of Auckland to a beautiful beach called Long Bay.  The scenery was incredibly beautiful and made the never-ending bus ride completely worth it.  After spending a few hours napping and laying out we jumped in the water for a little bit and watched as we got circled by a group of guys on the beach.  After about 20 minutes, two of them finally came up and talked to us.  We exchanged numbers with them and made plans for meeting up in the city the next night.  At least that’s what we gathered from their texts, but Kiwis don’t believe in predictive text so they have weird text vocabulary. For example, “Wea bwtz u guys stayn? N u guys duen anyfng 2mrw nyt?”. Translation: “Where about are you guys staying? And are you guys doing anything tomorrow night?” Another example: “Aw yea mean soundz lyka plan. I knew u guys drnk hardowt. Sowi 4 randum”. This one was a little harder to decipher but here’s what we came up with: “Aw yeah man sounds like a plan. I knew you guys drank hardout(?).  Sorry for being random.”  It got to the point where we couldn’t decipher them at all so we gave up.


Long Bay
Aotea Square Concert-The Hypnotics

When we got back from Long Bay, we went to an outdoor concert in Aotea Square right across from our hostel as we supped on veggie pizza and chips (fries) after a failed hour long search for fish n’ chips.  We went back to the hostel, showered, and went out to a tavern with one of our hostel roommates.

Day 4:  Kiwis take their religious holidays VERY seriously.  We decided to stay in the city on Good Friday and quickly discovered that EVERYTHING was closed.  We ended up doing a lot of walking around the harbor and then ended up at Albert Park across from the University of Auckland campus.  The art museum happened to be open so we spent some time in there and I am so glad we did.  I’m not a soap opera person, but I have gotten really invested in New Zealand’s soap Shortland Street.  The show is based in Auckland and I got really excited when I found the actual street after which the show is named.  That paled in comparison to the surprise I got at the art museum.  While trolling around in the modern art section, I walked right by one of the main characters from the show and his daughter.  I really wanted to take a picture, but I didn’t want to be one of those creepy fans.  I played it cool and took a mental image.
Albert Park
Harbor Sunset
Date Night

Danica and I had a date watching the sunset on the harbor with some Indian food before heading back to the hostel and showering to meet up with the boys from the beach.  Danica and I brought essentially the same outfit to go out in, black tank dress and vans, so I’m sure we looked real cool walking together.  While waiting for the guys to find a parking spot, we started talking to two Spanish guys who unsuccessfully tried to guess which states we are from.  After giving them the hint that mine started with an “M”, their best response was “Mew York”. I got them to “M-I-S-S” which they were absolutely certain meant I was from “Misschigan”.  FAIL.  The one fact that they knew about Americans: “You love “How I Met Your Mother!”.  Yes, yes we do.

We ended up not meeting up with the guys from the beach and just did some bar hopping of our own, a good last night in Auckland.

Day 5: We flew out of Auckland in the afternoon and landed in Wellington, NZ’s capital, around 5.  After discovering that Danica and I were not booked in the same dorm room at the hostel, we got upgraded to our own double room.  We dropped our stuff of in our honeymoon suite, FINALLY found some fish n’ chips, and reunited with some of our friends that were already in Welly.  We went out on Courtenay Place, but since the next day was Easter Sunday, all of the bars closed at midnight so it was an early night.

Finally found our elusive friends
Day 6: Even though it was Easter Sunday, the Te Papa Museum (NZ’s national museum) was open and we spent a few hours exploring in there.  They have the world’s only on-display giant squid and a huge Maori exhibit.  After the museum we walked along the harbor, parts of which had been completely redesigned for the Rugby World Cup last year.  We took a cable car up to the Botanic Garden and walked around before finding a park to eat lunch and sit in the sun for the rest of the afternoon.

When we got back to the hostel, Danica and I headed up to the top of Mt. Victoria for our traditional Indian food and sunset date night.   This time we added a bottle of wine and sat overlooking Wellington for a few hours.

When we headed back to the hostel, we stopped by the Embassy Theatre and walked around inside for a little bit.  The Embassy is where the final LOTR movie had its world premiere.  Definitely one of the highlights of the trip.  I walked on the same steps as Viggo Mortensen and Sean Bean. DREAM. COME. TRUE.

Wellington Harbor

Park for Rugby World Cup

Park for Easter lunch

Day 7: We woke up at 5:30 AM to watch the sun rise from the top of Mt. Victoria and look for some of the Lord of the Rings filming spots.  Our ferry from Wellington to Picton left at 8:30 AM and we spent most of the day traveling on the bus from Picton to Christchurch.  We stopped for a little bit in Kaikoura, which is known for its whale watching, and got to walk along the beach.  The views were absolutely incredible.  This is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen since I’ve been here.

Sunrise over the harbor
Picton Harbor
Beach at Kaikoura

We had an incredible trip, but we were both ready to get back to Christchurch and sleep in our own beds and not spend money for a few days.  We’re heading out to Queenstown on Sunday for 5 days of tramping, bungy jumping, and sightseeing.  Ruff-Reed Honeymoon Part Deux coming soon!

Happy trails,

·      Splash out-splurge
·      Togs-swimsuit
·      OpShop-thrift store
·      Mufties-casual clothes
·      Lollies-candy
·      Pokies-slot machines
·      Macca’s-McDonald’s