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. 

The Bay of Plenty, Welcome Home

Team NZ returned to Tauranga on Monday. Naturally, we headed directly to the beach on Mt. Mauganui to cook up a little lunch outside of the spaceship... (See Mark preparing chicken caesar salads and note the slender Stella cans to the right... Stella does not taste nearly as delicious from a can, for the record...) Katy and i collected some seashells and enjoyed the day. i think the photos pretty much explain how we ended up deciding to call this place home. 

Day two we began the apartment/flat hunt (which, nearly one week later, has proven to be never ending) and found the freshest, unbelievably inexpensive fish, crab, mussels, etc caught daily in our very own bay. Some guy, recognizing our jaunty accents, asked if we were on holiday and insisted on taking our photo (on the wharf). Best fish and chips. EVER. 

Becoming more and more discouraged with the home hunt everyday we took a break at the park to do a little leisurely reading... Katy spotted a huge rat climbing out of the trashcan (rubbish bin) and Shark went out to investigate with no success. An elderly couple napped in the car next to us. i, however, maintain my theory that they were actually dead and not napping at all. Seriously, they didn't move for the entire hour we were there. 

i suppose this chapter of the journey is fairly uneventful. We drove around in the spaceship for a couple of days getting to know the area and drooling over beachfront houses... beachfront houses with dredlocked boys in wet suits carrying surf boards outside of them... hellllooo neighbors! 

Next installment: how we came to be living in a garage. 

Friday, September 11, 2009

Zombie Sheep and Space Mountain

Driving through the rolling green countryside it occurred to us that the grass truly is greener on the other side of the earth. Or Middle Earth, if you're a Lord of the Rings fan. 

At a few points in the initial journey to Whitianga i insisted that Mark pull over and let me touch the flora. Everything smelled healthy, it fucking smelled like the color green. No joke. Sheep and cows have the run of the land and baby lambs are evenly strewn across the meadows. *Cue the scene from The Simpsons where Homer dances around singing da na na na naa chomp, chomp... chomp, chomp* at the sight of lamb littering the countryside. 

For the most part i think the photos pretty much do the talking in this installation of the blog. i wish they captured the way it looked to the naked eye, though. It was a little surreal to take in that this was the scenery in the country in which we reside for the next year... or so. 

We began writing the screenplay for our zombie sheep film (all rights reserved, fuckers) on the spaceship ride. So far it's looking pretty classic... 

Had dinner at some quiet pub in Whitianga and decided the place was way too small for us so we immediately headed south to Tauranga. Arriving just after nightfall we were greeted with a fine mist and no traffic... making it much easier for a tired Mark to begin driving on the right side of the road. Despite the seemingly inimmediate danger, my navigating skills were difficult to vocalize as i couldn't stop laughing when we got stuck in the right (wrong) lane due to a median between lanes. Absolutely immediately after the incident was remedied, sirens blared behind us... to our amazement, however, it was actually an ambulance speeding somewhere else. i still laugh when i think of it. 

After Shark's expert piloting skills led us to some creepy ass vineyard in the middle of nowhere... serious scene for a shitty horror movie... we parked in the parking lot of a strip mall and had the worst sleep of my life. Try cramming two small Karly and Katy-sized people and one Jolly Green Shark-sized person into a double "bed" in the back of a fucking minivan (ahem, spaceship)... add a nearby bar of rowdy kiwis making noise all into the night, my paranoid fear of being rolled in our sleep, and a (or perhaps two) snoring companions, along with all night parking lot lamps, and you have just barely got the jist of what it was like. It was after this night that Mark correctly explained that i sleep with two eyes open. 
We got up the next day, brushed our teeth in the parking lot, changed, and washed our faces in a public restroom (toilets, in Kiwi). 

The second night we parked next to another spaceship on the side of the road near some public toilets after arriving in Napier, again, just after nightfall, after spending some time in both Taupo and Rotorua. The drive in was inexplicable. Imagine insane hills and curves in pitch blackness lit only by street reflectors. Then imagine me driving at top speeds screaming half the way about being on a rollercoaster... i think my comrades were reasonably scared because they were silent the whole time. 

By the third night we had rejected Napier as our home due to its completely inadequate social scene, despite it's exciting 1930's architecture and aquarium in which people are married underwater in the presence of sharks? Mark slept in a hostel that the three of us stole showers from and we hit the road bright and early to head back to Tauranga. We drank beers in the spaceship, *pictured* and laughed about the fact that we left home to live out of a van that we couldn't even sit up in comfortably to drink...