Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Arts Fest Tauranga

This past Sunday closed the two week long arts festival held annually in Tauranga City. 

As a new resident to the area, i had no idea that this might mean that walking to work one day i would run into an endless slew of street performers. 
On my way to work i saw a woman dressed head to toe in red, covered in red body paint, a man driving a sink through the street with a woman in a bathtub connected to the back of it, a puppeteer on stilts wielding a young woman acting as puppet, a disco dancing roller skater in a pink afro, a gang of unicyclists, and a gaggle of women on stilts. Keep in mind that i live about three blocks from my place of employment. 

Here are some photos i snapped from the patio at work before we got too busy from lunch:

Mr. and Mrs. Redbox take a break at the bench across from De Bier Haus...

...They share a quick snack...

...And i was really hoping one of them would pull out a cigarette, but alas, the ultimate photo op was lost.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

...just got in from work and don't feel much like writing but thought i'd post some of the pictures i've been promising people from my very first Kiwi rainbow...

Rain on the harbo[u]r 
(our Northern Irish friend keeps making fun of me for not spelling words with 'u's, to which i keep telling him is entirely inefficient and completely unnecessary)
Can you see it? 

The view from my bedroom balcony, i shit you not.
Katy and i could only just stand out there laughing at this rainbow. 
We live here. 
i wonder when [if] the novelty will ever wear off. 

...Tomorrow night we have been invited to our very first official Kiwi  party... despite the fact that it's honorng the 23rd birthday of a man who grew up in Wales thrown by his Canadian girlfriend... stay tuned for some great pictures and stories...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Cabbage & Kings

Well friends, you're probably sitting upside-down, on your dark half of the world, canopied by your Orion's Belt and Big Dipper, wondering what the hell the infamous tripod here has been up to...

Quite simply, the answer is not much. We're finally getting settled into our varying work schedules and the new culture of such environments. i'll let you read Katy's blog for details on the house warming party gone a bit awry. 

Mostly we've been navigating through various day to day tasks with slightly more difficulty and confusion than at home. Many of the grocery store commodities we've all grown so used to and even fond of, are simply non existent here. Tubes of cookie dough do not exist and Karly can't find any peanut butter M & M's to save her life. i didn't even know i loved them so much until i couldn't have them... 

At the video store one day with one Mark Collins, i was admiring the candy display and wide variety of M & M flavo(u)rs, wishing aloud, i murmured something about looking to see if they had any peanut butter ones. This didn't seem like such a stretch since they have fucking orange flavored M & M's... What the hell are you thinking, New Zealand? But the cashier (who i still suspect to be under the influence of cannabis every time i return to said video store) practically screams "You two MUST be American... you put peanut butter on EVERYTHING." Okay, look here, weasel-faced-movie-guy-who-i-am-actually-kind-of-fond-of-in-a-novelty-stoner-movie-guy-kind-of-way, it's really quite simple... peanut butter tastes really good on stuff and it tastes really, really good with chocolate... if i should expect anyone to understand, i would think it would be you, Retardedly Stoned Movie Guy, so cut me some slack here. 
It wouldn't have been so bad if he wouldn't have suggested we purchase some "Pineapple Lumps" instead (Hey Pineapple Lumps advertising agency, calling your candy product "lumps" probably wasn't the smartest selling point). In theory, a pineapple flavored fruit snack covered in chocolate sounds fairly enticing. Except that in reality they taste like marshmallow versions of banana Laffy Taffys covered in poo. i haven't been back yet to give Ol' Smoked Out Of The Gourd a piece of my mind just yet (we have some really overdue films). 

In other news, i have successfully taught myself to flawlessly open a twist off bottle of wine without any hinderance (Jack would be so proud of me!)... and on that topic, for such a multi-cultural and diverse nation, New Zealand's wine selections are ridiculously continental. i miss using my wine key!
i have also successfully taught myself to keep my fork in my left hand while eating and use both hands and utensils in order to look less American while dining. 

i am enjoying a job with a much smaller staff and truly appreciating a feeling of being far more than disposable at my work. i am also enjoying drinking on the job. But what i can't say i really noticed or could put my finger on about New Zealand's more laid back lifestyle, i finally got when i started working food here. NZ is (quite subtly) missing the American competitiveness we've all grown so used to. i never fear for my job. i'm never nervous about asking someone to repeat themselves or show me how to do something. i never feel stressed at work and i don't really feel sorry when i mess something up. People (coworkers, managers, and customers) just don't care to punish you mentally for such things the way they do at home. And hell, it's not like i'm working for a tip, right? 

Now if only i could readjust my iTunes account to New Zealand so i could continue purchasing albums... i'd be set. 

Sunday, October 11, 2009

a little tale to hold you over

i know it is impossible to cover the ground between the weeks we've been in this apartment, in our new jobs, in our new lives, and today, my Monday off. So instead, within the next couple of blogs, i will touch on some of the highlights that are sticking out in my memory, peppered with some of the cultural differences we've been clumsily navigating through... 

Let's begin with one of my favorite stories i think i've ever heard from one of my new friends. It will take a little creativity to imagine the story told in context, quite casually, in the accent it was given, as well as a little trust just to believe that it all actually happened. 

So i got off of work around 1:30a Friday morning. If you've worked in a restaurant or a bar you know how much you need a drink when you get done serving drinks to drunk, obnoxious strangers... and this necessity for such a drink was probably one of the worst i could remember. Thursday nights are when the kids come out, apparently. i spent my tipless hours at work serving 18 year-old children drinks while they shook their shameless bodies to the terrible renditions of 90's ballads past (ballads i am fairly certain these kids were infants during... imagine checking an id and looking for a birthday before 1992 before you serve the baby-faced, child prostitute giggling like a goldfish in front of you a vodka, raspberry soda, or worse yet, an RTD like a cola and bourbon already bottled and ready to be served, er Ready To Drink). Needless to say, i felt old and slightly over qualified for such a job. And i needed a drink. Maybe several because the free staffie i was served after work did nothing for my foul mood. 

So i headed to a much sadder establishment of Kiwi youth on display in napkin-clothes, climbing on tables, and drinking their nasty vodka, lemon/lime, and bitter concoctions with a kid called Johnny from Newcastle (places don't really have to close here till like 4a). After discovering the tragic absence of Maker's Mark behind the bar, i asked for what i thought was a simple Jameson, and soda water with a twist of lemon. After being told that they only had lime, i accepted the latest disappointment and said that would be fine. Then the bastard proceeded to put lime cordial in my fucking whiskey drink. Lime cordial is some fun novelty people like to pour into everything they put in their mouthes (including beer). Then the same bastards have the audacity to make fun of us for drinking 3.5%alcoholic beer out of a can! Oh how i wish i could fly my entourage here for two days to haul around to the bars and show people how things should be done...

Anyways, if you've never talked to someone from Newcastle you should know that the English country is very, very close to Scotland and therefore the accent sounds Scottish but sprinkled with some of the most ridiculous phrases you've ever heard a human utter. Johnny lives in a closet (The Harry Potter Closet) of an 11 bedroom house down the street from us with a bunch of kids that i work with... an upgrade from the tent he lived in for a year in Australia. So Johnny casually began a story about when he went on holiday with his mates to Greece...

...The story begins with him absolutely pissed (they just say pissed instead of like piss drunk) at a party with some strangers. Somehow, someone poses the idea of a nighttime skinny-sip in the sea. Sounding like a good idea at the time, the group heads to the beach and hits the water, clothes on the shore... Unfortunately for our new friend, the Grecian police show up shortly to enforce the law. No big deal, right? This isn't a barbaric country where one needs to fear for his life from the police... Well, it turns out that our new friends had decided to dip on the beach of "some eco-friendly turtle beach where they go to lay their eggs" and pedestrians are not allowed to frolic about mindlessly pissed out of their gourds naked in the ocean. After being beaten, yes beaten, by the police Johnny was allowed to put his school-girl mini skirt back on (oh, had i forgotten to mention that the group was at a themed party?) and was quickly taken to prison. In a foreign country. Where he was beaten some more and thrown into a cell with his two new friends, also wearing nothing but mini skirts... sans undies, mind you. After the first night while his new mates had a good cry, the boys thought they were being released. No, no... he was separated from the other teary two and placed in a cell, in his skirt, with three giant men. Luckily they were good-hearted Christians who wanted to convert him and although hungry and thirsty with no food or water for the next two days, he was fairly unharmed. After begging his friends to post his bail and promising to pay them back he was released and although the court interpreter refused to interpret the story of how he was punched in the face and beaten by the police, he was free. Then his mate's mum calls from Newcastle. "Is everything alright? What's been going on?" "Oh everything is fine. No news." "Nothing happened with Johnny?" "No. No." "It's in the National Newspapers. It's everywhere. They're saying he was apprehended for a protest..." You can still google his name and the name of the city he was in and read about it. i can't remember any of those necessary details, of course, but they're there just the same. 

Maybe you have to be here, maybe you have to hear him tell it, but honestly, i thought it was good enough to write down. Still makes me laugh out loud. 

Haha, promise to post at least one more blog before my weekend (Mon-Wed) is over...

Our Place on the Harbo[u]r

Let me welcome you to our not quite humble abode. 
Our apartment is set on the third floor of the high rise Crown Tower complex, nestled just in the corner of the heart of Tauranga City Centre. The first two floors are hotel accommodations and we're still getting used to collecting our mail from the front desk and buzzing our friends in from outside on a snazzy video phone from the future. 

This is our front door. Just a sharp right from the private elevator. The lights in the hall come on as you walk down them... They know. They're watching us. They're self-aware. 
The view up the street from our balcony... People give utterly shitty directions here... there is no left and right just up and down, over and arounds. 
i like to sun on this couch. It also comfortably accommodates all three roommates with pillows and comforters for movie time. All we need now is a tv... 
A look into the second sitting area and a corner of the kitchen. 
Tiny oven, tiny refrigerator, tiny New Zealand... silly big counter suitable for beer pong. 
Our dinner table is a little ghetto, i will admit but all we need is a huge tablecloth and we're set... That's my pile of seashells in the center that i collected on our first day at the beach. 
Gnarly won the master bedroom. Baby Katy conceded and took the small room with the big closet, leaving Shark and Gnarly at the draw. Shark drew the angry face wearing a tophat. Needless to say... i drew a less than angry face.
Yes, that is my private balcony. Good thing the room is so spacious for my multitude of possessions... Er, all i have are books on the windowsill. 
Shower from the future... It steams, offers five optional heads, and plays the radio... all the showers have see-through doors here. Although i wouldn't label Kiwis exhibitionists, i guess they are far less affected by the Puritan values America was founded on (like savagely wiping out entire populations of Native Americans clearly in our way of manifest destiny), because after all, they are a country bred from convicts shipped from their homelands. Small jokes. 

The spa tub none of us have used. A month and a half in and i still loathe NZ toilets with their buttons instead of handles. It's also pretty strange the way English from two different countries can have such a variation in the expressions used to describe the need to urinate... baffling, really. 

The view from my balcony. Look for future blogs with the photo of the rainbow that settled itself at the foot of on of those mounts. 

i promise to post more pics and actual stories from our new home here in Tauranga in the next couple of days!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

...Looks like rain all week...

Mark got a full time job serving at a place called The Naked Grape. It was like dropping off a sullen child for his first day back at school after a beautiful summer. And i suppose that's pretty much what it was. 
It's weird having jobs here. i remember when we drove down The Strand in the City Centre of Tauranga for the first time in our spaceship and it seems like a lifetime ago. We had no idea where we were. Mark was tired and couldn't stay on the left side of the road to save his life. It was dark and raining and i remember seeing all of the bars and restaurants where we all hold jobs now. At that time it was still the beginning of our roadtrip and we had no idea that this was the place we were going to be calling home. Strange how things fall into place. But looking back, i think we all pretty much knew we were going to be ending up here. 

Dropped Katy off at Encore for her second day in training later in the day. Bruce Springsteen crooned 'Born in the USA' on the radio and of course i cranked it up so that people walking by couldn't hear Katy and i laughing hysterically. Kind of reminds me of how if you spend $75.00 at the grocery store (New World) you get entered to win a holiday to America. Haha. We yelled at Mark sitting outside of his new place of work as we drove by. i think he was rolling silverware, ahem, they say cutlery here. And he still looked like a sullen child. i don't think any of us wanted to be serving again, but here we are, haha. At least we have income and immersion into how things really happen here. We'll see if any of us can hunt out some more solid, career type jobs. At the end of the day though, the fact remains that we're here and we're living it. 

The novelty of living in a garage seems to have finally worn off pretty completely. Which is good because we move into Kingsview in just four days. Then we can walk to and from work and take our days off to the beach for barbeques and mussel collecting. The summer is coming and it's still strange because my body is ready for Fall. 

Monday, September 21, 2009

Heated Towel Racks... Here We Come

Team NZ's delightful garage dwelling adventures ensue...

Also, we've managed to become something closer to real live adult human beings as we've obtained some semblance of occupations. Er... okay... we still live in a garage and spend most of our time eating, drinking, grocery shopping, or watching movies. But pretty freaking soon (seven/six days!) we're moving into our resort apartment complex with its steam showers, gym, sauna, and free rubbish (you have no idea how weird and expensive the garbage system is here), and heated towel racks. No, seriously... we need heated towel racks. Probably. 

Anywhoo, here's what we've been up...
Gnarly got a job at De Bier Haus. It's a pretend Belgian restaurant/bar that serves Stella and steak. Ahhh, sounds familiar? Don't worry, folks, it's better: 
a) i'm on the other side of the world (and yes, the stars are different and confusing and the difference in the way the sky looks at night is maybe the only thing that has scared/weirded me out since we've been here, except maybe for the first time we had to sleep in a parking lot and i kept thinking Kiwi hooligans were approaching our spaceship) 
b) management is waaay cooler (i know, easy enough to conquer) 
c) i had an Irish carbomb at work followed by a three wisemen (in one glass?) while on the clock, for free... impressed at my performance i was obviously greeted with a sense of shock and disbelief from my new colleagues... which warranted the second drink. (Thank you American college for making me into the machine that i am today.) I'm still in shock over the acceptance of such behaviors.  
d) Kiwis may be speaking English but getting lost in translation is apparently part of the job thus far... which i still find delightfully novel. 
"Um that lady just ordered and color and milk?" 
"A Kahluh and milk?" 
"Fuck. Why do you guys put r's on the end of everything you say?" 
And they put ice in their juice but can't be bothered to put their eggs in the fridge? After being freaked out by being asked to add ice to an orange juice i was explained to that they put ice in all of their post mixes (pop) as well... no shit, New Zealand. i get that. That's normal. That makes sense. But don't you dare put ice in my OJ.  

Katy got a job too. She works at a little cafe called Encore which is affiliated with a very fine restaurant called Bravo so she'll most likely be oscillating between the two. As she was clearly found to be quite a gem of a find after working her first day (what else would you expect, world?... after all we are the cream of the crop, duh). 

Mark is looking for real jobs. He got all gussied up yesterday and got a part-time type job as a supervisor for this huge summer-long volleyball tournament. It's like once a month but it's solid and our landlord, of course, set him up with the interview which will hopefully lead to another for a full-time job in the company. 

Other than that... we've been drinking occasionally and watching movies in our garage. i know, i know, it sounds a little sad doesn't it? 

We did get fairly intoxicated with the lady who pimps our garage one evening (following photos). After Shark and Gnarly were told alcohol cannot be purchased at the Mount after 9p they were then directed by Genevieve to a bar/liquor store running what seemed to us a fairly sketchy operation in which we were instructed to enter the bar (think creepy small town bar where 4 locals gather every night to black out) and follow a path back behind everything to a little liquor store where we would be able to purchase any libations our hearts might desire... And we did.

Drinking in our garage, yes that is our fourth optional wall behind Shark. Check out the sweet bunk beds as well... we use the bottom bunk as a dresser... aren't we creative and resourceful!?
Katy looks unsure of the situation. This photo optimally displays the corner of the living area as well as the corner of the kitchen (Washer and sink)... exciting, eh?
Gnarly loves Giovanni.
Gio and his baby Harriet, six weeks old. 
JP and Jo. 
Now you've got a great view of one of the beds and the dryer!

One of Genevieve's visitors travels everywhere with her enormous cat Simba. i hate cats but i loved him. He was very strange. 

A following evening we finally hit The Strand in hopes of experiencing some nightlife Kiwi culture. Let's just say that difference in drinking age here is fairly terrifying and i no longer support changing the drinking age in The States to 18. There were children at the bar. Also, it's perfectly acceptable for people to walk around public places barefoot... the grocery store, the mall, the bars... Again, a little shocking. i tried to go to the supermarket barefoot yesterday and couldn't bring myself to do it. Oh the classic American fear of germs and Hepatitis B... 

For now i am keeping my feet covered. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What i did Tomorrow

Why put off until tomorrow that which can be done today? How does that work when tomorrow is today, today is tomorrow? Greetings from the future. 

Team NZ attempted to purchase hot wings today at the Pak 'n Save. 
 Not buffalo wings. No, those don't exist here. And neither does buffalo sauce, of course. (Please send me some Bdubs Spicy Garlic or Asian Zing asap, you can tuck it in next to a big bottle of Maker's Mark!)... Kiwis don't eat bleu cheese dressing, everything is called aioli, and the ranch is suspiciously watery and lacking in flavor. 
 Also, there is no such thing as solid deodorant. Much to Mark's dismay, Old Spice does not exist at the grocery store and all they offer is roll on or spray. Lime flavored milk is sold everywhere and the largest amount of milk available is 3 liters... 25% less than a gallon. Enough for a Mark and a Gnarly to finish in one night. 
 The candybar "aisle" at the grocery store is utterly pathetic. All i can find are Twix and Snickers... and massive sized caramel Kit Kats? Not nearly as delightful as they sound... and Kinder Eggs. Mark requested i mention Kinder Eggs. It's really just a thin, sad milk chocolate shell around some mass produced plastic toy. Last time Shark got a dinosaur formed from interlocking pieces. i threw it out the window in an immature display of resent over having my window locked down. Sorry, Shark. The hind legs are all that remain. They live in the ashtray of our car now. 
 NZ, much like the rest of the world, does not believe in free refills on pop. They believe in small glasses and calling Sprite lemonade. They call lemonade lemon drink. Figure that shit out. It's all very confusing while i struggle to interpret Kiwi accents and terms while taking drink orders. The only place you can get free refills is at Burger King, go figure. i hate Burger King. 
 People like to drink lemon lime and bitters (bitters, lemonade (Sprite), and lime juice). Soda is called postmix and Mark very accurately described the "computer" i use at work to ring things up as "looking like a typewriter." It's called a till, not a cash register. 

Meet Giovanni, Genevieve's Maltese. He just had a baby girl called Harriet. She sounds like a kitten and is about the size of Mark's hand. She lives upstairs but comes down to play occasionally. Gio is the most docile creature i've ever encountered, hence my suspicions of his being drugged. He's a good boy, anyways. 
i own 1/3 of a right hand drive '95 Toyota Camry. Insurance is optional. Round abouts exist instead of traffic lights and stop signs. The windshield wipers are where the turn signal out to be. And turn signals are called indicators. 
Today we finally signed the lease for our apartment.
Check it out: www.kingsviewresort.co.nz... Our landlord is quite possibly the coolest landlord to ever exist. No offense, CPM and University Group, all of Champaign really appreciates your quality services. 
 We drove out to her home this afternoon to get everything squared away and were introduced to her massive green yard with the view of seemingly endless rolling hills, pool, spa, sauna, chipping green and tennis courts. She naturally invited us to "ring" her anytime to come over and hang out. No one uses any of it anyways, she explained. 
Then she led us through the guest house showing us which furniture we could have. She also offered to take us to the thrift stores around town since we don't know where any of them are. What, your landlord doesn't offer such services? Then she invited us to the benefit concert she's throwing at her house for one of the private hospitals in Tauranga. She also offered to try and hook Mark up with a job and then tried to set Katy and i up with her current tenants. Dear Ali Martin, i love you.

*i must make an amendment to my previous statistic on sheep and kiwis. The current sheep to Kiwi ratio is actually 10:1. My baaaahhd.*

Monday, September 14, 2009

Climbing Mountains

Currently we're living in Genevieve's garage, just a quick jaunt from the beach and a bit of a jog from The Mount. Mount Mauganui is settled at the end of a sort of peninsula and accounts for a very large strip of beach, shops, homes, and businesses just over the bridge from the port city of Tauranga. Tauranga City population doubles during the busy summer months (during Christmas and New Year's... Christmas in summer, ha) and it's not difficult to see why. That is if you enjoy surfing and sunshine. The climb up the mount is steep and scenic and takes about 45 minutes... but there's like 378 million paths to take up and down with various levels of incline as well as an unbelievable variety in scenery. We walked up though sheep strewn meadows and descended through jungle-like forest. And the jog to the base isn't bad either, that is if you don't mind jogging along the beach in sunny spring weather, ew, ha.
My verdict? Totally looking forward to the regular sexy leg workout. Duh.
So come take the first climb with us...
Shark Collins, why is your shirt tucked in like a child at daycamp? 
i think a meteor struck this spot. It's the only obvious explanation. 
The harbor where you can wade in and collect your own mussels... dinner? 
Before the climb gets too steep there are benches and picnic tables located in some great viewing spots. 
Mama sheep and babies. They make the weirdest noises you've ever heard. 

New Zealand boasts more sheep than people. 4:1. Seriously. 
Sea Sheep. Wild Sea (zombie?) Sheep. 
Ah! You're so tiny! Lambs leap instead of walking. 
Mark named him Elmer. And then promptly tried to pull some gunk off of his belly. To which i informed him was actually its shriveled umbilical cord that hadn't fallen off yet. 

i guess we could get used to this. 

Hang gliders. They come within feet of the mount.
Almost to the top...

Team NZ on top of their mountain, in front of their city. 

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Home Sweet Garage?

After some unsuccessful apartment hunting we made an appointment to meet a chatty lady with a possible furnished place for us to lease. Heading over to her house in our sexy spaceship one night after dark; tired, sore, and probably smelly, ready to check the place out we had no idea how things were going to turn out...
Or that we would end up sleeping in the same room in her semi-converted garage for three weeks... sure, we still find it pretty unbelievable ourselves that we landed a spaceship on this woman's lawn one night and just kind of took up here. But with amenities like a washer, drier, microwave, fridge, portable stovetop, tiny tv, one very uncomfortable bunk bed (that has eventually warranted a rotation for sleeping in), one overly girly queen bed, kitchen table,shower, random kitchen ware, and some furniture that reminds you of being in your grandparents basement... what else could we ask for? Oh yea, and the fourth wall is optional... suddenly you're outside with the mere push of a button. Plus we met our snazzy flat mates Jo and JP, recently married in Las Vegas!
Basically we have a very unconventional living situation with the ever motherly Genevieve, her terrifying ex-boyfriend, troubled son, tiny maltese Giovanni (who i suspect is fed quaaudes on the daily), Tauranga native Jo, and Chilean JP, not to mention the endless slew of visitors all boasting a more unbelievable life story than the next. 
Needless to say we're keeping things interesting down under...

Looks like Newcastle just got a little competition. Steinlager Pure is NZ's own beer made with pure New Zealand water, no preservatives, no additives... and is nothing but refreshing when drank on the beach. Hello, second summer, here i come. 
Ocean meets beach, beach meets forest, forest meets rolling hills covered in sheep, sheep meet jungle, jungle meets mountain. New Zealand terrain is suitable to all tastes. 
It was JP's birthday so we headed out to catch some scenery. 
We watched some massive freight ships haul cargo through the narrow pass between land masses. 

Karly gathered seashells by the seashore.
Someone installed a swing for beach goers to enjoy?

Team NZ takes it all in. Plus one Kiwi Jo.