Monday, December 25, 2006

Our trip to the NZ South Island

We recently got back from a two week adventure to the south island here in New Zealand. We heard that the south island was beyond description and that it was something that had to be seen to believed. I would completely agree.

For the next sections you can scroll around google maps to see where we went.

Click for Google Maps

My parents and sister flew into Auckland and we started our journeys. We started by flying from Auckland to Christchurch which is on the center east coast of the south island. We picked up the RV and drove to Lake Tekapo. On the drive to the lake we traveled through flat farmlands with fields of lupen. The first thing that you notice when you get there is that all of the rivers and lakes are an odd creamy light blue color which is very distinctive.

The weather was extremely cold and windy at the start of the trip so we really couldn’t get out and walk around too much in any one spot. Our plan was to camp at lake Tekapo for the night but since we had a fair amount of daylight left we decided keep driving on to Twizel(pronounced: Twy-zehl). My sister’s boyfriend’s cousin is a fly fishing guide/magician/kung fu actor who lives in Twizel although we weren’t able to hook up with him.

The following day we drove to Omarama which is one of the world’s greatest gliding locations and you can see why by the drive there. You are surrounded by steep mountain faces on all sides and the wind blows like it has nothing better to do. We got there and prepared to glide but the weather socked in it got canceled. We were driving out of town towards Oamaru and I remembered that I had left my video camera on the seat of one of the glider so we had to turn around and drive back. By a stroke of luck when we got back the weather had cleared up so up we went. Roberta and I went up in separate planes and worked our way up to about 8k feet and got some great views. I ended up getting motion sickness and had to turn around after an hour but Roberta kept going and stayed up for over two hours.

While we were up flying, my family went up to the base of Mt. Cook which they said was one of the highlights of their trip.

We then drove over to Oamaru and saw the Moeraki boulders. They are these big spheres on the beach that you can check out a low tide. My sister got stuck in one with much comedic value.

Another one of the major highlights of the trip for everyone were the penguins in Dunedin. If you drive out to the point where the albatross reserve is there is also a penguin area. You get there right before dark and sit down next to this little trail and the penguins come in from the ocean in a big flock. They then walk up this wee trail right in front of you. Honestly there were penguins walking within a few feet of us. It was a very surreal experience. The sounds that they were making were amazing.

After that we headed inland towards Queenstown to start the preparations for Routeburn tramp. Driving towards Queenstown we traveled through a ton of farmland and wineries. That area looks like the place to go for wine tours.

We arrived in Queenstown and found an RV park right in town where we could walk to everything. We spend a couple days there before we got the word that they had closed the Routeburn track due to snow and really bad weather. Supposedly there was 6 inches of snow on the top and people were stuck in the huts for 40 hours. I heard a story about these two groups of trampers at a bridge. The river was up and almost over the bridge and the first group decided to chance the crossing. Right after the last person got across the bridge collapsed. They were also helicoptering people across impassable sections of the trail.

After that we headed to Milford Sound where the rest of the family did a 2 hour boat trip and Roberta and I did an overnight trip. Our overnight trip was really fun. We had a whole four bunk room to ourselves and met some nice people from the UK. The only way to describe Milford Sound is with pictures.

Roberta and I decided to get a rental car at that point and do our own thing for a few days. We stayed in Queenstown for a couple more nights and were really glad that we did. We did a little winery tour and had some great wines then went to the AJ Hackett bungie bridge which is the site of the world’s first bungie jump. It is now all packaged and cheesy. They play it off as extreme but there were many other activities that seemed more adventurous and that actually required a bit of skill.

In Queenstown we went hang gliding which was a great experience. You basically get all strapped into this harness and then jump off a cliff with wings attached to your back. The instructor told us to just keep running no matter what until we were flying. We did a little ridge soaring and then landed on our bellies. Fun stuff but I still like flying sailplanes better.

We then drove north on the west coast up towards the glaciers. There are two amazing glaciers right next to each other, the Franz Joseph and Fox glaciers. The town of Franz Joseph seemed a little nicer so we decided to stay there. The next morning we got up and took a helicopter ride up to the top of the glacier which was definitely a highlight of the trip. Neither one of us had ever been in a helicopter so it was a great experience. It landed on the top of the glacier and we got out and were able to walk around. Check out the pictures to see the sheer enormity of the place.

Our next destination were the pancake rocks. They are a neat formation on the coast with blowholes and such.

From there we headed east over to the Hanmer Hot Springs for a relaxing next to last day in the south island. They weren’t so much hot springs as they were warm pools. I guess we were spoiled by the Tabacon hot springs in Costa Rica and the natural pools in Oregon. We did meet a nice couple of guys who said their highlight hot springs were in Budapest which is now a destination on our life travel list.

The last day we spent in Christchurch and we stayed in a hotel called The Camelot which was medieval themed. We kept cracking jousting jokes with the owner but he wasn’t laughing. Both of us really liked Christchurch as the downtown area was quaint and had some historic charm.

All in all it was an amazing trip and we are planning on doing it again to focus on sights that we missed.

Click for more pictures

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Scuba Diving New Zealand: Poor Knights Islands

I took my first scuba diving class at the Orakei Dive Shop.

The next weekend we went to the Poor Knights and it was fabulous. The fish and the rock formations were incredible. I was really nervous about diving. It's actually really scary breathing under water for the first time. But, I highly recommend it. It's definitely a mental and physical exercise.

Poor Knight Pictures Here

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Gliding at Matamata for Labour Day Weekend

As you all know Roberta and I have been learning to glide and were invited to take a trip to Matamata for Labour Day weekend to glide away from home our home field of Whenuapai.

The weather forecast was looking bad but everyone decided to go anyway. To transport the gliders you have to derig them by pulling the wings off and putting them on trailers. It is actually easier than it seems to pull them apart. Just pull a couple pins out and POP, the wings fall out.

One of the gliders was towed behind the towplane on the trip down. I volunteered to ride shotgun but one of the other students beat me to it. Luckily they went because the trip down to Matamata in the air sounded scary with low clouds and rain.

We got down to Matamata and started putting the planes back together. They are much harder to put together than to take apart. Especially the Grob Twin Astir. There were about eight of us working to get the wings on for about an hour. Luckily all of us were chiefs. Right before we gave up the wing clicked into place. We should have thought about giving up earlier.

In Matamata there is a huge ridge about 3kms from the gliding field and when the conditions are right you can head over there and fly all day. The conditions were not good that weekend. Most of the time you could barely see the ridge because of the clouds. Oh well, it was interesting trying to land on a small field with regular landmarks.

Roberta's first flight was devoted to loops and spins and stalls and such. The instructor took her up to 3k feet and tried to scare the crap out of her. It didn't work. Roberta is coming along with the flying, she will be doing the Aerotow next time she flies.

Here are some pictures of the weekend.
Clikc for pictures

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Part III: Signing the Treaty of Waitangi

This is Part III of what I learned at a two day Maori training at a real marae from a real Maori...see previous posts for background.

The British Empire sent a man by the name of Hobson to wheel and deal with the Maori. In six days he had the treaty signed. Hobson relied on two missionaries to translate the treaty. Obviously, the Maori who weren't getting any obvious benefit declined to sign the first draft presented.

"The meeting ended indecisively and the Maori withdrew to the other side fo the Waitangi River to debate throught the night. They sought the advice of the missionary who told them that it would be in their best interests to sign the Treaty. The missionaries had some influence because Christianity had given the Maori a choice of religion. At the time the Maori world was exclusively dominated by tapu (a state of sanction/sacredness) and noa (common state of being).Some say it was because of the wicked cool robes the priest got to wear.

Anyway, the Treaty had a very important clause that the missionary had inserted after these discussions guaranteeing Maori possession of their lands, forests, fisheries and other prized possessions. The missionary believed that without this promise, the chiefs would not support the Treaty.

40 Chiefs signed the english version and more than 500 chiefs signed the Maori language version. The Treaty differs betweeen the Maori and the Enlish version, which will be the subject of the next post. I'm really not sure how many more posts there will be. My Maori training differs somewhat from what is on Wikipedia so I'll just keep posting what I learned.

Part IV: Content of the Treaty of Waitangi

Friday, October 20, 2006

Auckland Pictures

I'll get to the Treaty of Waitangi after this three day weekend. But, here's some pictures I took of Auckland.

There are some more pictures located here. Please excuse the rants I have about Auckland city urban design and this city that favors drivers and cars over pedestrians and cyclists. They have a long way to go before becoming a truly livable city. I got honked at twice today for crossing a street, legally. WTF? I miss Portland.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Part II: Te Ao Maori, New Zealand Declaration of Independence

Since I work for a crown entity (the government) everybody is sent to a Maori Bi-Culture training. I was really looking forward to it. The training was at a local Marae (Maori lodge). Very Cool! The workshop focused on the Treaty of Waitangi, the Resource Management Act 1991, consultation (or participation) and Teo Ao Maori (A Maori Worldview). The Marae (lodge) where we were staying had a good relationship with Transit, via a freeway in their backyard, though not quite clear how that worked out, but is a good indication of the importance of the relationship with the Maori.

Let's start from the beginning in 1935 Aotearoa (New Zealand) had 120,000 residents living in tribal areas (rohe). Each rohe consisted of a number of iwi (tribes), hapu (villages) and whanau (families). Each iwi had their own systems and processes of belief, religion deities, government, justice, co-operation and sharing. There were some 500 iwi (tribes) at this time.

At this time Aotearoa was frequented by a number of European colonies settling on the coasts whaling and sealing. This is when the British and French rat race started. Similiar to the US, the Brits won by having 34 tribal leaders sign a Declaration of Independence. Who knew, the US isn't the only colony with a Declaration of Independence, they read very similiarly. At this time the declaration also unified the tribes, established a flag, and thus ships could trade with Australia.

After the declaration came the Treaty of Waitangi, which trumps the declaration and is the subject of the next post. Woohoo! Can't wait!

Part III: Treaty of Waitangi

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Part I: Entry onto the Marae

I'm putting together a few posts to describe the two day Maori training I went to and some of the things I learned.

There was a special ceremony that the Maori performed before they could let us on the marae. We had to be asked via a song to enter the Marae, we (one Maori lady in our group) had to sing back to request entry and then we walked in a group towards the lodge.

We stopped halfway to the door to remember the dead. Then we were let in the lodge after taking off our shoes. The women were in the front when we walked in but then the men took the front seats when we entered the lodge. They put the women up front going towards the lodge (just in case fighting breaks out), but then inside the lodge the men were suppose to protect and sit in the front.

Then there were a lot of songs and prayers in Maori that I couldn't understand, but it sounded sacred. Then the training became more informal. We were laying on mats inside the lodge during the training, between eating the five meals that we were served each day. It was really a great venue for learning about Maori culture, way better than sitting in a hotel conference room! The trainer said we could sleep if we wanted but it was entertaining enough to keep us occupied throughout the training. It also helped to have a roomful of people who were very interested in learning about Maori history. It was an international group (UK, Croatia, Russia, India, Ireland, US and Kiwi) of students all of whom worked in my office.

I learned during the course of the training that gaining entrance into the Marae is one of the most difficult things to do. Though, I don't really understand why. Just hire a consultant who knows the songs and customs. This is what eventually came out of the entire training, plus an extra 4 kilos because of all the food. No really, I'll be posting more on the New Zealand Declaration of Indepence, Treaty of Waitangi and a brief review of current status of Maori/gringo relations. I think the gringo term holds relevance in NZ as well as Costa Rica.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Imagine there's no Heaven: an Atheist's manifesto

I am beginning to realize that religions are dangerous. Check out this video interview of Richard Dawkins author of The God Delusion:

In the An Atheist Manifesto, Sam Harris argues persuasively why religions are dangerous and thus religious tolerance is dangerous.

Adam and I had a very interesting conversation. Adam is initially opposed to organized religions, the ones that are organized enough to impose their morals on election results. I've had this link on this blog before but I've continued to go back and reread this article and realize new ideas and concepts.

Another interesting phenomenon is the documentary film Jesus Camp.

I was reading the lyrics of Imagine by John Lennon. I was reminded of my general opposition to nation-states or the idea of a nation. I would be interested in reading a comparison of religious beliefs and patriotism. My lack of a belief in a nation-state is even more apparent after living in two other countries besides the United States. It doesn't matter where you live as long as you treat people with respect and dignity. I believe that nation-state boundaries prevents us from treating people with respect and dignity at a macro level by imposing trade barriers, employment barriers, etc...

Well, I have a few more thoughts floating around in my head about this subject, but just have a look at some of these links. It would be interesting to hear about somebody else's reaction.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

My friend Bob Paul died in Afghanistan

One of my first jobs out of undergraduate was in Wasco County, The Dalles Oregon. I didn't have very many friends there, so I hung out with Bob and Todd, two city planners in the area. They were literally two of a very few handful of cool people to hang out with in The Dalles (re: redneckville).

Bob was in the Army Reserve. He was eventually deployed to Iraq in the Civil Affairs Brigade and I think he was doing urban planning in Iraq, later he was deployed in Afghanistan. Must have been difficult doing urban planning in a war zone, though I can't think of a better thing to be doing in a war zone then rebuilding communities. I think the world needs more planners and less prayers.

So here's a post for Bob.

Picture from OEF

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Weekend Trip to the Coromandel Peninsula

Last weekend we travelled to the Coromandel Peninsula. It was fantastic and just one and a half hours away from Auckland. Here some highlights of our trips:

Hotwater Beach, we dug a pit in the sand during low tide and let the volcanic activity heat the water for a spa like experience. Did I mention it was at night? We were wandering around with shovels trying to figure out where to dig. We found the spot after falling into a steaming hot pools. I saw a couple of shooting stars, very memorable night. And we met a very nice couple from Oz.

We encountered wild turkeys and they were entertaining! See for yourself on our youtube debut:

The next day was beautiful for beachcombing at Shakespeare Cove.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


Well if you haven't heard already, Steve Irwin died by getting stung by a sting-ray. It's really unfortunate, I thought he was pretty entertaining.

Anyway this reminded me of the time I got stung by a sting-ray. I had taken a year of from undergraduate school to travel in Mexico. I think I was 20 or so. We lived in the back of 69 chevy truck, which we painted with crosses, to make it appear that we were missionaries. But we carried a box of old porno magazines to bribe police at border crossings. This was in the mid-90's and this method seemed to work. We didn't get robbed or pay too many 'fees'. We were mainly traveling on the Pacific coast staying in primitive surf camps. I left with $1500 and came back to the US with $400, we were on the dirt-cheap trek.

Anyway I was learning how to surf on a smaller break and I got stung by a sting-ray, right after I got in the water. I stayed in the water for a few more waves before quitting for the day. I think the cold water was numbing me to the pain, because as soon as I started walking on the sand I was in excruciating pain. I met up with my friends who were sitting at a restaurant watching the surf. I tried to ice it but that was also very painful. Finally the waitress came by with a hot lime and she squeezed the juice on it. She knew what had happened. That made it feel a bit better. She also went on to say that after the warm lime juice cooled down my boyfriend at the time should piss on my foot, which he did. I don't remember that making me feel any better. I think it was more humiliating having my boyfriend piss on my foot. You have to remember we were in the middle of nowhere, no telephones, no hospitals and barely any electricity. I was willing to try anything.

I'm glad  it didn't kill me.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Best Four Hours of Your life

My friend "Bob" we'll call him had the best four hours of his life. I'm inspired to think about what the best four hours of my life would be, I don't think I can have sex for that long, so I have to think of something else.

Here's his experience, I've removed the names of the innocent , because "Bob" likes anoniminity, he's not a pansy-ass name dropper and the search engines find everything. If you know "Bob" you'll know who this post is about.

"So my friend and I went to bumbershoot in seattle last weekend to see 'THE famous comedian' perform. I do 'THE famous comedian' 's website and have known him for a while. He hasn't done a standup show outside of LA in like 10 years, so him doing 3 shows in seattle was a must-go kinda trip. We get there, get our backstage credentials, see 'THE famous comedian' s show, hook up with him backstage, the 3 of us go to the womens roller derby for a while and then we go to another comedy show thats happening at the festival, we go in the green room and have some beers and then slowly over the course of the next hour or so, 'famous comedian 2' , 'famous comedian 3' , 'famous comedian 4' , 'famous comedian 5' , 'famous comedian 6' , 'famous comedian 7' , 'famous comedian 8' , and 'famous comedian 9'  all start coming through the door one by one. we had beers and made midget jokes and generally shot the shit. I think if we hadn't been there as guests of 'THE famous comedian'  they wouldn't have given us the time-o-day, but since 'THE famous comedian' is some kinda hero of comedy, we were like royalty. They laughed at all our jokes (even the stupid ones) like we had some kinda power over them. It was the most amazing 4 hours of my life.
ok, i'm done. hope you guys are good."

Right-on, all those years of archiving and fandom paid off.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

I-Hug and Telecom Suck!!

This is a rant post about our ISP provider I-Hug, but really it's a rant about Telecom. Telecom owns all of the copper (ie: phone lines going into houses) for New Zealand. Costa Rica, considered a 'developing country' has better internet access than New Zealand. I'm resisting the urge to think that government should take over the internet delivery, but maybe the government should just set up or subsidize some new connections because the current system is expensive for business and residential users.

Is the current monopoly good enough anymore? If New Zealand wants to compete on a global scale for more white collar job growth then they have to do better. New Zealand can only build and attract the right kind of [green] growth if it's willing to invest in high technology infastracture.

Here's a good example: About two months ago there was a full day power outage in Auckland. Yes there was a big storm, Yes, it did some damage. But how can New Zealand's major metropolitan city lose power for an entire day? Especially when it's just as easy to do business in Australia where the taxes are lower and it's WARMER. In addition, there have been multiple days of internet outage since we have signed up, far more outages than in Costa Rica, where at least we had the option of doubling up our internet service, just in case.

Telecom was formed in 1987 from the New Zealand Post Office. That was less than 20 years ago. If Telecom can't provide a quality product at a reasonable price than somebody else should have that opportunity.

To explain why I am mad at I-Hug it's because they shut off our internet on a Saturday, for a problem with processing our bill. Remember I have a broken toe and being at home without internet would be the equivalent of breaking my other toes, seriously. We got it worked out, but ironically enough, a letter came in the mail two days later informing us that we would have 10 days to remedy the problem or risk having our service cut off.

Jack-asses, at least in Costa Rica they called you seven days in advance of your bill being due to remind you that the due date is coming up, and the person calling was proficient IN ENGLISH, in a spanish speaking country! Beat that I-Hug!

Oh and did I mention the bandwidth caps? There are monthly bandwidth caps. We are on day 15 out of 30 and we have hit our cap. BASTARDS!! We will be stuck with dial-up speed for the next two weeks. Go ahead break my other toe and bring on the painkillers, it will make the wait easier.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Cost of Living: USA, Costa Rica, New Zealand Compared

In the last three years we have lived in three different countries:

Portland, Oregon USA until April 2005
San Jose, Costa Rica until April 2006
Auckland, New Zealand current

Frak! That's a lot of moving, new banks and new bills to deal with. Yesterday I-Hug our ISP shut us off, though that story deserves it's own blog post (bastards!).

To sum up our living preferences, Adam and I like to live in neighborhoods were we can walk to a shops. In Portland our neighborhood was a twelve minute bike ride downtown and near a local pizza shop.

In San Pedro we were close to the university and downtown. There was a grocery store and a few good restaurants within walking distance.

In Auckland we are in the equivalent to Portland's Northwest 23rd neighborhood (fancy people barrios). There are lot's of coffee shops, restaurants and shops selling outrageously overpriced clothes.

Here's the comparison of living expenses in all three locations:

Northeast Portland, Oregon USA
Mortgage - 1,600
Electric - 40
Water & Garbage - 70
Internet* - 0
Phone - 20
Food - 350
Total (US Dollar) - 2,080

Barrio Dent, San Pedro, Costa Rica
Rent - 800
Electric - 40
Water & Garbage - 72
Internet* - 100
Phone - 18
Food - 250
Total - US Dollar 1280

Parnell, Auckland, New Zealand
Rent - 1296
Electric - 180
Water & Garbage - 36
Internet* - 48
Phone - 27
Food - 318
Total - US Dollar 1905

* We always get the fastest connection available for residential use. In Portland we were the neighborhood ISP. We hooked up about 5 neighbors with internet for cheaper than they were paying, we (Adam) provided the hardware and tech-saviness.

In terms of wages I took about a 25% paycut working in Auckland, but my purchasing power remained the same. So I can buy the same amount, but if I wanted to save up money in Kiwi dollars to convert to US Dollars I will take a 30-40% currency cambio hit.

Taxes seem a bit higher, though not excessive [Adam disagrees and thinks the taxes ARE substantially higher]. It's nice to have a functioning health care system and no homeless people. All the kiwis who go to the states, make the same comment "There are so many homeless people in the states". Yes there are, unforunately, the US government doesn't like poor people right now. Who knows maybe it will change soon. That reminds me I need to update my voter registration card.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Guatemalan smell

Today I was ironing a tapestry that Adam and I bought in Guatemala.

The smells of Guatemala provoked memories of dusty villages, farm animals and young girls sitting on their porches weaving their brightly colored tapestries. They wore those bright tapestries which contrasted quite starkly with their long black thick straight hair. I remember being stranded on the bus on top of a huge ridge line. You could look down and see the 4:00 late evening colors start to form. Lines of people in other cars, trucks and busses were congregating on the side of the road. They were selling roasted corn on the cob. These were not average corn on the cobs. They were speckled with black and gold kernels that were mismatched in shape as well. It had wonderful flavor, after I wiped off the big gobs of mayonaise and ketchup.

I definitely think we need to end the invasion of bad ketchup and mayonaise. It's all over the world and it has got to stop. Kiwis premake sandwiches and you can't get one without mayonaise, Blek! They are disgusting condiments, people should start using their imagination and come up with something better. Blek!

Thank you for reading the stream of conciousness post!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Crippled in New Zealand

Since breaking my big toe I've had time to:

  • Reformat my hardrive
  • Write letters (by hand, imagine that!)
  • Install Google Earth, here's where we live 21A Cathedral Place (in the middle):

    You can now see why we have such an interesting  bird community off of our back porch. We are really close to a body oof water and the green patch just to the south of our house is one of the only 'natural' landscapes. The rest of the green space is manicured park areas. To the northwest is the Auckland Domain (major city park and museum). To the north is Parnell and to the southwest is Newmarket, both are 'happening' neighborhoods.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Crack-a-Toe-y and New Zealand Insurance

I'm starting to like the New Zealand healthcare system.

So on Tuesday night in a mad dash up the stairs I slipped and fractured my big toe in two places. Not knowing where the hospital was we called our trusty friends Clair and Bradley and they told us to go the private hospital, Ascot, near Greenlane so we wouldn't have to wait at a public hospital. We have additional private insurance via Adam's employer. A couple of x-rays later they sent us to the public hospital because they wanted a specialist to see us. They were concerned about charging us $50 for the x-rays. Ha! That's in kiwi dollars! We were imagining in the $1-2k range.

After about a half an hour wait we were able to see a doctor at the public hospital. The public hospital, about a mile and half from our house, was definately dirtier. We saw a couple of blood splatters and Headwound Harry in the lobby methed out. But otherwise prompt and friendly.

The doctor advised, after threatening surgery, that he was going to yank my toe and straightened it back into place and than put a splint on it. At that point Adam had to leave the room because he was getting nauseous. I can't say I enjoyed myself but the laughing gas helped. I had flash backs of whip-its from my younger days. Definintely one of the most painful experiences. He put a cast on instead, I thinking he was tricking me for my own good.

So now I am home bound until at least Wednesday when  the specialist will see me again to determine if I need to have surgery and pins in my big toe. I have no idea why my life needs an emergency room visit every 4-5 years.

All an all I was really happy with the public health care service. I went back the next day because the doctor was going to try to 'sneak' me in, in case the specialist thought I needed a surgery that day. I've been told that publich health care for emergencies is pretty good here and now, unfortunately, I can attest to that. I guess the private insurance is when you need a surgery that isn't an emergency you will have to wait some time. With private insurance you get to see private doctors faster, and consequently you will likely see the same specialist who works part time in public and part time in the private sector.

New Zealanders are covered by ACC or Accident Compensation Corporation. The doctor gave me a note that I am suppose to send to ACC indicating that I am unfit for work for 10 days. I think the first week of time off is unpaid and then after that it's covered at 80%. This coverage starts after only four weeks of work on a non-work related accident. I think I've been working for about 7 weeks. ACC coupled with public health insurance means that most people don't really have to worry about getting hurt because they will be covered. This is quite opposite of the litagous route Americans have to take to recover damage if needed. Though for snowboarding if I crash and wreck my wrists it's only covered if I'm wearing wrists guards. Remember this is the land that invented bungee jumping. A common term is 'Ah, she'll be OK'.

I really hope I will be WITHOUT surgery...

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Condoms vs. Rubbers

I went into the pharmacists to stock up on the goods, feeling pretty good about my self. I'm not squeamish about buying condoms any more, I'm an adult...

I went up to the old man behind the counter and asked for some condoms.

"Some what?" The old man says.

"Some condoms?" I reply.

"SOME WHAT?" The old man

"SOME CONDOMS!!" I screamed.

This went back and forth a couple of more times.

He points at his ear and looks at me confused. Oh, I get it.

"Do you have any rubbers?" I asked.

They call condoms rubbers here. That was a really funny experience.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Turoa and Whakapapa ski areas on Mt. Ruapehu

I went snowboarding again with another fun group of people. Having only been in New Zealand for about a month, it seems pretty easy finding people to do stuff with.

We left on Friday after work and drove down in three cars, four people per car and we eventually met up with another couple of people. We went to a little village at the base of Turoa ski area on Mt. Ruapehu . We drank some beers and played some pool. I played teams with some guy, we took control of the board and then played some really rough locals. It was a couple and they both were really rough and mean looking. It looked like they wanted to beat the shit out of us everytime we sunk a ball. I was kind of concerned after we won the first game and nobody would put their money down to play the second game so we ended up playing them again. At this point I could see myself getting into some trouble after my pool partner patted my ass and I felt a serious rage to gouge his eyeballs out with a pool stick and smear his face with blue chalk. It was time to go to bed. No need to unleash the fury.

The next day was freezing with clear blue skies. We were twenty minutes away from the mountain. I spent the morning teaching a newbie boarder how to ride, it was kind of fun, but I am so glad I'm not learning snowboarding again. My ass would surely hurt. Christian took so many tumbles, sometimes it hurt watching. I rode the rest of the afternoon with Ida. Ida was fantastic, she was just a bit faster than me, so it was fun keeping up. It's nice riding with a girl who is just a tad better than you. The problem was I kept taking her out riding the T-bars. T-bars are bloody hell  for boarders.  I could feel the ligaments in my knees burning out. After I got lost from Ida I ran a couple of runs near a cliff and followed a guy who was hitting some really good jumps. I was really happy with some of the jumps I was taking. I learned my lesson though, if he doesn't hit a jump its probably because there is a sheet of ice on the landing. Oh my ass!!

That evening was 12 people with pizza and beer in a small little room. It felt like we were at camp. The pictures quickly deteriorated into sloppy drunk photos, so not much to share there. Than we watched a rugby game, standing room only in the pub, where I had a couple of people telling me what was going on. Suzy summed it up quite nicely, you can't tip the ball forward.

The next day we went to Whakapapa pronounced Fucka-pupa.  I could not stop saying Fucka pupa in a punk rock way, Zoe was getting tired of it. She thought I was a crazy American girl. I was surprised she could hear the voices in my head... Whakapapa was OK, but I like Turoa better for boarding. There were more jumps and it was sunnier on that day. Sunday turned into white conditions, whereby me and Kyle had to walk off the mountain through rock gardens. That was the most horrible run, ups and downs. We had to strap on and off about 6 times before we just opted to walk out. I was hung dehydrated and slow. Kyle offered to carry my board, what a British gentleman, how could I say no?

More Pictures

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Chirp chirp....

In Costa Rica I was in awe of the amazing number of colorful, loud ass birds that started their concert about an hour before the sun came up every day. I would typically get up and go onto the roof and watch the sun rise and see what kind of birds were out.

Here in New Zealand it is amazingly similar. We live right on the edge of a dense park so it is just packed with birds and, like in Costa Rica, they just love the mornings. We look out into a valley so when the birds really get going there are echos coming from all over. One morning there were two large birds that had a red crest and dayglo green bodies. They followed each other around and hung out in the tree ferns.

If you care to hear what the mornings are like in New Zealand for us just click play. I recorded a stereo sample of the birds which is best with headphones on so that you can hear the birds flying by and chirping. The rustling noises that you hear are the birds going nuts in the trees.

Monday, July 24, 2006

New Links and Blog Maintenance

I hope you like the new links and pictures. I checked all the old Costa Rica links and added some New Zealand links. There aren't as many people blogging and living in New Zealand. Also, it looks a lot better with Mozilla Firefox, the far superior internet browser experience.

Also we miss Vida so I put her on the front page.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Pictures of where we live: Parnell, Auckland

We've had requests for pictures of where we live. Just to describe the location we are about a block and a half from the Auckland Domain (huge city park and museum), Parnell and Newmarket - very cool neighborhoods. Although we don't have a view of water from our house we are abutting Newmarket park (nice trails) and some city night views. Our house is a duplex and the family next door is very nice, and the other next door neighbor's dad lives on Sauvie Island in Portland. Small world!


Friday, July 21, 2006

Transportation Planning in New Zealand

So my mother asked me specifically, what do you do? So it's been about a month on my job and I think I now have a better idea of what I do. But I should first brief the readers on the planning situation in New Zealand.

Back in 1991, New Zealand enacted the Resource Management Act, which took a lot of old (and outdated) legislation and wrapped it into one to "managing the use, development, and protection of natural and physical resources in a way, or at a rate, which enables people and communities to provide for their social, economic, and cultural wellbeing and for their health and safety..."

There are a whole subset of planners who specialize in this type of NZ planning. Basically, if you do anything that is going to impact anything you have to apply for a resource consent, asking permission to impact something and include an arguement how it's not too much of an impact or that it's allowed because of some other law.

The vagueness of that last statement is a reflection of my own understanding of the law. Now let's try to apply our new found knowledge into building big highways and large scale mixed-use developments. We are in the wild west of planning now!!

The New Zealand national highway network is considered a resource worthy of protecting. This SOUNDS like environmentalism turned upside down but stay with me. So whenever a person wants to develop anything that enables a car to enter the state highway network that may negatively impact it they have to apply for a resource consent. Basically everything, though there's a lot more to it.

So when an application comes into Transit, the resource planners review it. Usually the applications are little to no impact; but when it's huge, say the size of the Pearl district redevelopment or say some huge Mall of Kiwis they pass down the 'file' to the transportation planners. We 'submit' or object to the application give a reason and open up dialog with the applicant to mutually find a solution that limits car trips.

At this point we sometimes hire transportation modelers to determine exactly what the impact is, negotiate with the developers and local township to find a solution that 'protects' the highways. If we can't find a solution we go to Environmental Court. Nothing like showing up Monday morning and going right into a meeting with lawyers.

Usually the projects that we have are highly contentious and very political. Our team building events are; if your project makes the first two pages of the national paper, you have to take the team out for morning tea. There's been a couple of billion dollars pumped into transportation, specifically in the Auckland region and we are setting the stage for what happens nationally. Mind you New Zealand isn't that big, which makes it even easier to set precedents.

Right now the Auckland region is going through a sort of regional awakening. They now have the Auckland Regional Council which is similiar to Portland's Metro. This organization is only 2 years old and is still just starting to create policies, guidelines and figuring out ways to enforce those. I get to review some of those drafts, representing Transit but hopefully I can make some constructive comments based on what I know works in Portland. I'd say they are about 15 years behind Portland in terms of strong land use policies. Though, Auckland is doing some really great work on Bus thorough fares that I think Portlanders can learn from.

Although representing the nation's roadbuilder isn't ideal, I'm starting to realize that planning is really where the rubber hits the pavement, haha. Consequently, I'm really happy with where I'm at, the projects are cool and my boss is great. It's unbelievable what a difference a good boss makes, and what a disservice my last boss was, by being a micromanager.

Bienvenido to New Zealand's wild west of planning, where the severe shortage of planners enabled me to say adios to GIS! Nary is the word GIS, though our department manager has visions of a database and he keeps looking at me, which is when I get up to uhmm... use the loo.. or something very important.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

My first New Zealand Snowboarding Trip

We left Saturday morning at 9:00am, obscenely late for a snowboarding trip. We packed six people into a subura legacy with all of our gear with no racks. Talk about packed. Then we drove five hours to the mountain. Luckily everybody in the car was cool. A good way to get to know somebody is when you are smashed together for a while. Finally, we went snowboarding for a half a day in almost white out conditions, wind and rain. Regardless, it was nice to get on the slopes again.

Frak! We got denied at the hotel where we were booked in the cute village. There were some communication issues, but I could tell just looking at the owner and the way his wife looked embarassed that he was a complete cunt. I was with some English and Irish types, they kept using the term fucking cunt as we were driving around looking for another place.

Eventually we found the Erua Lodge. This place was great. It was a hostel so you have to provide your own bedding, as if we could pack sleeping bags into the car! They provided towels and blankets. At that point we were happy to not be in the car anymore. Hostels seem like the way to go here.

The hostel was great and had everything, even a gracious hostess who kept harassing me about being American. I swear I have to apologize to everybody for what an asshat Bush is. I did not vote for him!

The next day was great. It cleared up and I got to ride with some really good boarders (Johnny an instructor) and a good skiier (Glen). Clair, Emma, & Patrick were just learning. They also informed me that I'm an ignorant asshat for not completely knowing the difference between England, UK, British, Britain, Crowns, royalty, Princess Di, Fuckapupa (the ski resort), kangaroos, tulees, tea, or the Spice Girls. I concede, I need to figure this stuff out; I can't just say it all sounds British.

I'm loading pictures. They will be here eventually.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Gliding and tree planting

The last two weekends we had fun. On one weekend Adam went to the cute sea town of Devonport and I went with a local Sea Scout crew to plant trees on Mohuike island.

The following weekend we went gliding. Check out more pictures:

We have become weekend warriors. Next weekend I'm going snowboarding.

EDIT: This is Adam. I would also like to mention that Roberta came glider flying and went up on a test flight also. She got to the ground and had a perma-grin and said that she was having so much fun that she was drooling. She was hooked and we both joined the club and are working on getting our licenses. Gliding is pretty amazing.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

We are those people...Foreigners

It just hit me, we are the foreigners. In Costa Rica we were SOOO foreign that it wasn't worth mentioning. But, here in New Zealand we speak the language and go to work like everybody else (vs. stay at home with our computers, aahhh those were the days). Last night we were sitting at a table with an Australian, a Kiwi, and two Irish people. We were the token "Americans", or foreigners...

But in the eyes of others maybe I always was a foreigner, even in the states. I always felt like yes, I have darker skin and hair, but I never really felt foreign or foreign looking.

But, people here in NZ (pronounced nzed) can't place my background when they talk or look at me. You can see the questioning in their faces.

First off, is she Canadian or American? They always ask "are you Canadian?" They say Canadian, because the don't want to offend Canadians. Canadians get royally offended when mistaken for Americans. It's kind of like mistaking a New Zealander for an Aussie. It's all about the little brother complex. American and Aussies could care less, but Canadians and Kiwis get mad.

After they establish American they really don't know where to go after that. 'She's dark, not quite white'... they are thinking. They fall back to Native American Indian. You know just like in the western movies. I really must cut my hair a little shorter before I really take on the Sacagawea look. I'm too dark to be white, obviously not black, but no other ethnicity is on their radar screen. They are unaware of how Latino the US has become.

Exactly as unaware, for me, of how Asian New Zealand has become. New Zealand has opened it's borders, so to speak, and a lot of Asians have immigrated here (there are also a lot of South Africans). There has been so many immigrants so quickly that some kiwis are slower of acceptance as others. Racism is a strong word that I don't like to use. It's more like the melting of two very different cultures; western and asian. You know somebody is commenting on this tension when they say "I'm not racist, but [insert Asian sterotype]..." This saying is very common.

So, these are the funny encounters I have had. I've realized that I must look more hispanic than I think I do. I was in a store and a clerk came up to me and said "Are you hispanic?" This really threw me for a loop and got me thinking about this subject. She happened to be from Ecuador and we had a great conversation in Spanish. She picked me out in a crowd instantly.

As Gene would say, 'your people', recognize you. Now there's a funny story!! When I first met Adam's dad on Thanksgiving he asked me what 'my people' call a griddle. I swear his spanish was probably better then mine at the time. This is now a family joke on Gene. "What do you people call this?" It's the modern American Thanksgiving story.

FYI: I'm 1/4 Mexican, 1/4 Italian, and 1/2 Gringa. That makes me the American melting pot representin' in New Zealand.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

My White Collar Injury

Well today was my second day on the job and I got a paper cut! Ouch! I forgot how much those hurt. Don't laugh! It HAS been a year or so since I've been in an office. What a nerdy bunch transportation workers are. I'm in good company. Basically all I've been doing all day is reading documents to figure out the framework that Transit New Zealand operates under. I think it is like Oregon about 15 years ago, maybe 20.

My commute door to door is about 25 minutes. There is a bus that goes by about once every 8-10 minutes. If I'm super lazy I can have Adam drive me up to the bus stop on his way to his office. This is surely going to become a boring blog with us going to work everyday.

But there are some other interesting things:

-There are Ke-Babs places everywhere. We, Americans, know them as Shish-Kabobs. But here you say it Ke-BAAB. Say the bab like you would say babble.

-The Subway sandwhich shop has a vegetarian 'garden burger' but it is made out of chickpeas in a spicy Indian style.

-The radio disc jockeys cuss on the radio and it's the funniest thing ever. "Don't be an asshole, get your tickets NOW!". The US should really deregulate the radio, it's so boring compared to this, plus the music they play is way better (even in Costa Rica it was better).

-People use and it sucks for buying things and it sucks. People should use craigslist

-Driving is still weird for Adam, I'm fine with it now.

Well that's it for now. Not quite as crazy as Costa Rica.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

We haven't been drinking enough

Usually when we have a big move or major change we drink, alot. When I returned to Portland after graduate school gin and tonics were my friend (as well as Dungeon Siege). When we bought a house - ditto. When we moved to Costa Rica it was rum and fruit blender drinks. When we stayed in Portland temporarily we drank a lot of good Portland beers.

I'm not sure why alcohol hasn't been a part of this move. It needs to be. It's been a little stressful. Moving to a new country and having to create a whole new household from scratch. We still don't have a couch and we don't have any heat worth mentioning. You can see your breath in our house in the mornings. Definitly colder than to Costa Rica. Although the tile and towel warmers are nice. We have a fireplace and we are waiting to get the insurance worked out.

Blah Blah Blah

If we drank more we wouldn't have the energy to be snappy with each other. This is what we have concluded.

So we have vowed to start drinking more. Australian red wines and New Zealand white wines are our friends! Beer here is pretty crappy and I've done enough damage to my liver to go easy on the hard alcohol.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Restaurants in Auckland

I have been humbled in the past few weeks about something that I could never have expected. Being from Portland for some reason I thought that it was the epicenter of good quality restaurants. I might have been wrong.

Roberta and I have eaten out probably 18 times since we showed up here. Not one of those meals I would consider even slightly below standards. Everything from the fancy restaurants in foofy neighborhoods to the little cafe next to my office have had wonderful food. No matter how much you pay for a meal it has always been good. For example, spending about $5 NZ (~2.75 US) for lunch at the cafe is filling and very tasty. Vegetarian meals are a side though but still well done.

French toast here is not like it is in the states. It comes as a stack of regular french toast alternated with bananas cut lengthwise in half and baked in their skin and thick slabs of bacon. So you get this towering breakfast of champions.

Mmmm... I just got hungry writing this post.

On a non-food related note. I was worried about how bad the drivers were going to be based on what everyone on the message boards was saying. I told people that I survived a year of driving in Costa Rica and they said that was nothing. Well I must say that they are wrong. I have found the drivers here to be very courteous and kind. They always slow down to let you merge onto the motorway and we haven't seen road rage since we actually learned how to drive on the right(left) side of the road. It seems to be about the same as Portland for drivers. The traffic here is a whole other thing though. Imagine Portland without mass transportation and that is Auckland. There are way too many cars here.

More pictures to come soon.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Quick update - Car, House, Job, Pictures

I have had a fair number of requests for pictures so here we go. We are really getting settled and have purchased a car and are just finalizing the details on a house. Roberta also got a job today with Transit New Zealand. She actually had job offers from two different companies but picked TNZ for a number of reasons. You go girl.

Driving here for the first couple tries was fairly difficult. Completely overwhelming. After a couple weeks of it now it isn't a problem. I don't even think about it any more. Although last weekend we were driving though the country and after about 400 meters I noticed that I was on the wrong side of the road. Ooopppsss....

Here are a bunch of pictures from the past week:

Click here for pictures

Monday, May 29, 2006

Rugby and Rainbows

This weekend I went to a pub with some of Adam's co-workers. Adam was battling a cold, and now I am too.

Rugby is big here, like soccer is in Costa Rica, or like American football. We were watching the championship game of the Super 14. The Super 14 is a league of teams from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Rugby differs from most other sports because it is terribly brutal. The rugby players usually have fifty pounds on soccer player and lack all of the protective gear of American football players. I almost think Rugby players are even more brutal than boxers because there is a big pack of them which adds the herd mentality.

During the first play one player dove into another and a knee made contact with a head. These guys are huge and they move fast, really fast. Apparently Maori genetics create huge fast moving Rugby players (among other very nice people, I'm sure). The player, who crashed his head into a sprinting 250+ pound player, crashed to the ground and passed out face down in the grass. People were stepping on him and the play continued. When the play stopped (I still haven't figured out why the plays stop unless it involves a boundary) some other players just turned him over like a floppy doll. I'm thinking, hello, potential spinal injury don't move him! Parametics arrived and he finally came to and walked off the field. He looked amazingly terrible, was smiling and barely holding it together.

Rugby is the most brutal sport I've ever witnessed. I kept gasping and cringing while watching this game. The headlines in the next day was about the bar fight where the losers were partying. All Black drama of handbags at dawn.

But fortunately this cultural phenomenon is buffered. It is buffered by a beautiful, scenic, bubble wrap of scenery that surrounds the Auckland area and likely the entire country. This blog is going to be consumed by pretty scenic pictures. Fortunately there aren't any pretty pictures worth posting on Rugby players with cauliflower ear.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Truthdig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines

I like Truthdig. Here's my new favorite article. Beware, it is long, intelligent and digs into the problem of religious beliefs. It's nice being in New Zealand a country without too many religious fanatics.

An Atheist Manifesto: Imagine There's no Heaven
-A dig led by Sam Harris

It seems profoundly unlikely that we will heal the divisions in our world simply by multiplying the opportunities for interfaith dialogue. The endgame for civilization cannot be mutual tolerance of patent irrationality. While all parties to liberal religious discourse have agreed to tread lightly over those points where their world views would otherwise collide, these very points remain perpetual sources of conflict for their coreligionists. Political correctness, therefore, does not offer an enduring basis for human cooperation. If religious war is ever to become unthinkable for us, in the way that slavery and cannibalism seem poised to, it will be a matter of our having dispensed with the dogma of faith.

When we have reasons for what we believe, we have no need of faith; when we have no reasons, or bad ones, we have lost our connection to the world and to one another. Atheism is nothing more than a commitment to the most basic standard of intellectual honesty: One's convictions should be proportional to one's evidence. Pretending to be certain when one isn't--indeed, pretending to be certain about propositions for which no evidence is even conceivable--is both an intellectual and a moral failing. Only the atheist has realized this. The atheist is simply a person who has perceived the lies of religion and refused to make them his own.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Auckland Day 3: Job Interview and House Hunting

I'm doing much better. Jet lag takes more than one night's sleep to shake off. I'm feeling normal now, although we still go to bed too early.

I had a job interview with Transit New Zealand, which is similiar to ODOT and FHWA. I'm pretty sure they will offer me a job. I've decided to focus my career towards transportation planning. You can pretty much get a job anywhere if you are a trans planner and the pay is a little bit better. Plus it's where the rubber hits the payment for planning, no pun intentended (haha).

Also I should mention that right before the job interview I had sushi for lunch. And, unfortunately, I dropped a piece of sushi into the wasabi soy sauce mix and a large glob went into my eye. I was seriously blind in one eye for a few moments. Luckily my eye only had a feeling of burning sensation, and it wasn't too red. Wasabi is cool like that; burning but not outwardly red for those special occasions.

On to house hunting....

I looked at two houses, which were too big, but also not too far over our budget. Yesterday I was nervous about not being able to find something but I think I will be able to find something. You just have to check the listings in the neighborhood everyday. Now that we know where we are going to work it will be a lot easier to focus geographically.

More Auckland obersvations:
-There are coffee shops everywhere. I know I said this before, but I just need to say it again.
-There are real butcher and bakery shops where people get their groceries. Definately better than shopping at the mega grocers.
-The light switches are really small. You can't just blindly whirl your hands around to turn on the light, you have to focus the fingers. And there are on and off switches for the oven on the outlets. Took a while to figure that one out.

Four more first day pictures

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Mrs. Egan and Mauricio

Today I was missing Mauricio. Mauricio was our good friend in Costa Rica. He was an amazing song writer and musician. One of the best I've heard, especially in the Spanish/Latino genre. He died unexpectedly and it was hard to have somebody close died. It's been a long time since somebody close to me die. That must be the hardest part about growing older are your friends dying.

Now I hear that Mrs. Egan, Trisha's mom, died. She had leukemia and asked to be taken off of support. Mrs. Egan and I use to trade hammocks for beads. About ten years ago when I was living in Mexico, Geth (old boyfriend) and I learned how to weave hammock from the native Indians. Mrs. Egan was a teacher so she didn't want to buy the hammock, but she had beads to trade. Even after so much traveling and moving I still have those beads. Now they are really special to me. Mrs. Egan wanted to give me the rest of the beads after her death, but one of her grandkids was the recipient. It's good to keep things in the family, I'm just happy to know that she was thinking of me, and that she received the hammock I sent her from Costa Rica (even though I didn't weave it). Bye Mrs. Egan.

This is kind of a sad post, so listen to some of Mauricio's music that he recorded with Adam. They are really nice to listen to. Mauricio's Music (and a bunch of other musicians).

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Auckland Day 2: Driving and Finding a home

It's been a bit of an overwhelming day. I'm going to write it down to sort it out in my own head.

We obtained a rental car and Adam was the first one to drive with the wheel on the wrong side and driving on the wrong side of the road. When I read about other people's experience I thought, what is the big deal? Ha! It's quite a mental exercise, with the added stress of possible physical and financial disaster and a first day on the job was the icing on the cake. Adam drove to the office, we dropped him off than I quickly got lost on my own for a while.

I made it to a nearby neighborhood and managed to find a few rental listings before calling Clair. We (she) drove around and I got an idea of what the neighborhoods were like. She has been quite the angel. There was a little confusion at the lunch counter, but I regret not insisting on paying for her lunch. I was figuring out the new currency situation.

One thing I noticed about Auckland is that there are coffee shops everywhere. Auckland has about three times as many coffee shops as Portland, and to my knowledge most of them are local, non-franchised type of places. An Americano is called a Long Black here. If you order an Americano it comes with the water and the milk on the side. Just in case you want to manage your water content. I had a quiche and it was really dense in a not so good way. I'm use to a fluffy soft quiche. But, hands down the pastry I had was brilliant. I had a banana nut bread almond torte thingy that was delicious. Instead of a salad with the quiche people were eating pastries. It's going to be a challenge losing the weight gained in Portland.

Rentals are usually listed at local real estate office. Signs are usually not put out on houses, nor are they listed in the local paper. Though there are a lot of listings on Trade Me. This site is Auckland's Craigslist. Adam will likely find a car there as well.

That's it for day 2. Tomorrow is job interview day. I bought some panty hose to go with my suit. Woohoo can't wait!

Monday, May 22, 2006

My new favorit website is Pandora. Thank you Kearstin for sending me the link, I'm only sorry it took me four months to check it out. You input a few of your favorite songs or artists and it creates an infinite streaming playlist of similiarities. So it's really easy to discover new music while also listening to some known songs. I've been getting bored with my music library and too lazy to update it so, Pandora was my easy way out.

It's otherwise known as the Music Genome Project.

I better get off the internet. I'm not sitting behind a firewall and my antivirus software keeps popping up with warnings. Intersting, this is the first time I've seen one of these pop ups. I guess Adam's firewalls/boxes were working.

Auckland Day 1

First off the ride from SFO to Auckland was pleasant. The plane was about a third full. Each seat has a nifty in seat, on demand entertainment selection. Bradley, Adam's boss picked us up at the airport around 6:00am. His wife Claire drove us around and acted as a really nice knowledgable tour guide.

The day we arrived we opened up a bank account, connected our cell phones, moved into our studio apt AND went grocery shopping. That would have taken weeks in Costa Rica. Here's a picture of a view from our room and our first homemade meal on a suitcase coffee table, if you can call cheese and crackers a meal.

I'm using these blog posts to keep myself awake. I have to stay up as late as possible to acclimate my body to the new zone. So here is some interesting observations:

-Driving on the wrong side of the road. The key is to keep yourself in the center lane. We'll see how well that works tomorrow when we get a rental.

-Drivers are not as bad as we have been told.

-Bathrooms have towel warmers. The US is way behind on this technology.

-Grocery prices are similar to Portland. The yogurt section is about three times as big as any I've ever scene. I guess dairy is pretty big here. Imagine going into a grocery store and seeing items that look similiar, but you don't recognize any brands. It will be hit or miss for a while.

-The local cooking channel was cooking bangers and mash. Why is a sausage called a banger?

-The cosmic connection between Portland and New Zealand is the destruction of the Trojan nuclear power plant near Portland on the day we arrived in Auckland. New Zealand is nuclear free and we discovered the Trojan explosion on the Kiwi local news.

Here's the view from our temporary apartment in the Auckland CBD.

Thank you Portland Family and Friends

We arrived in Portland on April 6th and left on May 19th. The immigration paperwork took about 3-4 weeks longer then expected. We had a fantastic time and want to thank all of the people who housed us, fed us, loaned us their cars and or drove us around.

-Kristen and Darren thank you for letting us stay in your beautiful house. We loved getting to know you and your dogs better. We are cat people, but we enjoyed Buddy and Porter.

-Michelle and Allen for taking care of Vida for the next five months. I'm jealous because they are all very happy together and we may have to file for custody to get Vida back.

-Dan and Amy thanks for letting us borrow your cars. Driving a car with heated seats for weeks on end completely spoiled us.

-Congratulations Monica and Jerry for your new little baby Simone. She's a cute squishy baby.

And thanks everybody else for coming to visit, eat and drink. We hope you come and visit us in New Zealand. The plane ride wasn't that bad.

Here are some pictures of a Gorge hiking visit and a day at the water park with my sister's family.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

We got our visa!!!

We have been hanging out in Portland for the past month or so waiting for our immigration paperwork to go through in New Zealand and yesterday we got the word!!! We are officially Kiwis(Not the fruit).

The application process involved getting a series of medical tests and a complete physical. We got chest xrays for TB and blood test for just about everything known to man. We had to get our criminal records from the FBI by sending them in our fingerprints. We had to prove that we were in a long term relationship so that Roberta could get in on a work visa also. I had to prove that I had the qualifications for the job that I was offered by citing work experience with letters of reference and a certified copy of my diploma. All in all it was just hoops, nothing was too complex.

So our next week will be filled with finishing up the things that we have been putting off. Finishing packing, shipping boxes, buying any last stuff that we need, etc.

Portland is really nice right now so it will be sad to go. Our living experience here has been wonderful. It made me rethink my attitude about roommates. Maybe now we are old enough to be civil.

Here are some more Portland pictures:

Click for more pictures

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Phil and Maile had their kid

We are back in Portland now and are glad to announce that our good friends Phil and Maile just had thier first kid.

Here are the technical stats:

Name: Ella Virginia Ross (girl)
Weight: 6 pounds 8 ounces (heavy)
Length: 19 inches (long)

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Goddess Dawn of Chuckville on the Minam River in Eastern Oregon

We have arrived in Portland OR, introduced Vida to her home with Michelle and Allen, and now is a good time for an Oregon post.

Dawn is my good friend from undergrad at Southern Oregon University. Later we were in the Resource Assistance for Rurale Environments (R.A.R.E.). Dawn and I were placed working for the GIS departments for Wallowa and Wasco Counties. This was our introduction to Eastern Oregon. Eastern Oregon is completely different than Western Oregon. This is where people really hunt and fish. Yeehaw!!

Dawn lassied up with Chuck. Chuck is the type of guy who you could spend an afternoon with and feel like you've been good friends for years. For a while they lived in a little old school house above the Minam River Campground. For a better description of the area read the following article from a fly fishing travel writer. Rat Pack Steelhead In Bing Crosby’s Paradise Part One

So here is a little plug for my good friends Dawn and Chuck in Minam Oregon who own the historic Minam Hotel. The Minam Motel is nestled virtually within the Eagle Cap Wilderness Area, and sits on the bank of the Wallowa River at the confluence of the Minam and Wallowa Rivers.

Since I'm not a hunter or fisher my favorite memory is floating down the Minam River in an innertube then running back up the river and doing it again. Also Hell's Canyon for rafting and hiking is very close by. Good Times in Oregon!

We are currently at the Goat Farm. I've got to get back to my fresh goat milk and coffee! Check out Missdee's French Alpine Dairy Goats.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Hasta Luego

We are in the airport right now hopefully all of our bags will make it onto the plane and to Portland safely. Especially the one with the cat in it.

Amazingly she went into the cat carrier easy at the house, like she knew we were moving. Typically you have to shove her pretty good to get her into the case.

We have 6 checked bags at 50 pounds each, the cat, two carry ons at 40 pounds each, and two laptop bags stuffed to the hilt. We were waiting in line and Roberta heard someone bitching about how much stuff we had. So the next time you are traveling and see someone with an unreasonable number of bags please understand that they might be moving. Before today I probably would have been in the crew that was doing the bitching.

Well, we will be boarding our flight soon so expect the look of the pictures to change. Less sun, more rain, no palms and bananas, and maybe even a little snow.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Our final trip to Puerto Viejo - We are leaving tomorrow

We decided that for our last weekend here we would take a trip to Puerto Viejo and get some beach time in before we leave. We got a rental car and headed out for two days. We stayed at Roberta's favorite hotel, Casa Verde. It was my first time there and I liked it. The room was great and the pool was awesome. My only gripe was that the beds in our room were well past the time to throw them out. The only bed big enough for me and Roberta had a huge divot on my side so I had to sleep in the other bed in the room which had metal springs gouging me in the back. If I would stay there again I would test out the beds before I accepted a room.

We had a great time there. We went down past Manzanillo and probably looked at the Panamanian frontier. Then we just pulled up a spot on the beach and chilled out. We were going to rent motorcycles and go for a mini tour but the guy who was renting them had a bad attitude so we decided not to. We made the better choice as I was able to finish the Culture Shock Costa Rica book. I will write a review of that in another post.

After a couple days in PV we decided to drive back and get into the real world. You know, to start packing since we are leaving on Thursday. I was driving from PV to Limon and I was going fairly fast but Roberta was prompting me to go even faster. We were railing along and I hit this big pothole and Roberta screams because the hubcap flies off into the ditch. We had to stop and try to find it. We found it but we had broken a piece off of it so we just threw it into the trunk to deal with later.

About halfway to San Jose I gave the wheel to Roberta and we continued. She was cruising along at about 60 and came across a car eating pothole. There was no way to avoid it so she just hit it with the front right wheel of the car hard. We made it home and got out and looked at the tire. It was half flat and the rim had a huge dent in it. I tried to put the hubcap back on but it wouldn't fit. I had to go borrow a hammer from the guard in our complex and pound it flat so that I could get the hubcap on.

It was Sunday evening and we needed to find some zip ties to tie the hubcap onto the car. We went to the new Hiper Mas in San Pedro but we couldn't find any zip ties. We asked the guard if he knew where any were. He was like, "No no, we don't have any" And we were like "Oh come on man, help a brother out" Costa Ricans can't stand to help if you act a little sad or aggitated. He went into the back and came back out with 8 zip ties and he gave them to us for free. He was a life saver since we had to take the rental car back at 9:30 in the morning.

We took the rental car back after zip tieing on the hub cap and they didn't charge us for anything. They were pointing at the rim and he called his boss over but there were no problems. Whew.

This will likely be the last post from Costa Rica. Expect the scenery to change and the stories to change. We have had a great time in Costa Rica and would consider coming back but the world is so big and unexplored.

Click for more pictures of the trip

Monday, March 27, 2006

Moving From Costa Rica to New Zealand

Well, I guess it is about time to change the title of our blog to reflect what is happening with our lives. We are moving to New Zealand at the end of April. Keep reading to learn about the New Zealand immigration process, establishing a home in Auckland, and new places we'll get to visit. Adam and I are really excited.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Ox Cart parade in Escazu.

I went to the Ox Cart parade a couple weeks ago and am finally getting the pictures up. We have had other things, namely moving to New Zealand, that are on our mind.

The parade was an awesome display of meat and wood. The cows and oxen were huge. Everyone was having such a good time.

The pictures best describe the action at the parade so here you go:

Link to pictures

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

One more....

Our friends Michelle and Allan were in town from Portland and we went out to dinner with them at Jurgen's restaurant. It is excellent and fairly close to our house so we decided to walk there. On the walk home after a great meal I was walking a little bit behind the other three. While walking across a street in the streelight I saw Roberta just about step on a HUGE spider. You noticed how I capitalized "HUGE" right. I screamed and then everyone else screamed. It was basically a screamfest. I was confused, it wasn't a spider, it was a frakkin tarantula, hair and all. I grabbed a stick and poked it a couple times but Michelle looked like she was going to have nightmares so we kept going. Did I mention that the thing was HUGE?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

What's that in my shoe?

I put my shoes on yesterday and walked around for about ten minutes and then felt something in my show like a large rock. I pulled my shoe off and dumped out a huge cockroach. Nasty.

Then, as if it couldn't get any worse, we went to bed that night and I woke up half way through the night screaming because a cockroach was running around under the covers.

This is the first time that a cockroach has been in my shoe or under the covers. It must be the season to get weirded out.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Things I miss (or will miss) Costa Rica, Portland OR, and New Zealand

I've been thinking a lot about Costa Rica and the things I like and don't like about living in Central America.

1. I will miss speaking and hearing spanish on a regular basis. Living with another language is challenging on a daily basis. Go out to eat? You have to translate. Pay a bill? You have to speak spanish. Nope, can't send it via mail.

2. I will not miss standing in line to pay the utility bills. You stand in line for everything. I've learned to take a book or magazine everywhere just in case I have to wait.

3. I will miss smiling, dancing, happy people, genuinely happy people. Coming from Portland there are a lot of transplants from other cities in the United States. They say people are just nicer and friendlier in Portland. Well the 'happy' people in Portland don't hold a candle to the happy Ticos. I was in the supermarket yesterday and I saw four people either dancing or singing. Yes people here bust out in dance or songs because they are happy. Two of those people were stock boys. No sarcastic teenage ankst here. I've been in a dozen or so taxis where the drivers will just bust out a latin serinade just for you. How can you not smile and be happy here.

4. I miss my motorcycle. I have a Suzuki GS 500, but I'm hoping to upgrade in New Zealand. There are a lot of people on motorcycles here, but IMHO it is too dangerous for motorcycle here, especially with the mean drivers.

5. I will not misss the mean drivers here in Costa Rica. I swear, the Ticos turn into Dr. Jeckyl and Hide. They are nice dancing singing folk, but when they get behind the wheel they will run you over in a heart beat. I will not miss the transporation system here.

6. I miss the great restaurants of Portland. I miss Milo's for breakfast, Pizza A Go-Go for lunch with real NYC style crust, and I miss a dozen other of my favorite restaurants for dinner. I hope New Zealand can live up to Portland restaurants.

7. I MISS GOOD BEER! Portland has so many great breweries.

8. I don't miss the 15lbs I've lost since moving to Costa Rica. Not many restaurants or beer to temp me. The most fun we have going out for food is the Plaza Viquez Saturday market with so many different types of cheap, fresh local produce.

9. I miss my Portland friends and will miss my new Costa Rican friends. So many friendly people!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Truck for sale (Sung to the tune of Love For Sale)

With our upcoming move to New Zealand we will be selling our 1991 Isuzu Rodeo 2-wheel drive. It is perfect for down here because it is high off the ground and a bright color. It is also big enough so that Taxis tend to get out of your way. It is a manual transmission and has good AC. We are located in San Pedro which is directly east of San Jose.

We have owned it since we have been here and prior to that it was imported from the states. There are approximately 131k miles on the odometer. The asking price is $3200 (price lowered for quick sale) US which is extremely fair for the condition.

It has been a fairly reliable ride since we have been here. When we got it there were a few minor problems that we had taken care of immediately. We had some suspension work done on it to tighten it up for the roads and there was an oil leak from the distributor that we had fixed. We also change out all the filters including the fuel filter and had a complete tuneup on it about seven months ago.

The motor is dirty but I don't want to pressure wash it since I feel that it looks like the seller is trying to hide something. That will just show that the motor is in good, non-leaky, condition and you can pressure wash it if you want.

We have a really good trustworthy mechanic that we can give a glowing reference for. He is located near Plaza Viquez if you will be living in the San Jose area. He has done wonderful work and I never feel like he is trying to rip us off.

Now for the not-so-good part of this truck. It is not a luxury automobile, if you want a clean, perfectly running auto then down here that starts at about $12k for something used. There are little things wrong with the truck that you should know about before you come and look at it. The back doors are a little finicky as one of them won't open from the inside and the other one the window won't roll down. The second thing is that the steering is a little looser than I like but it doesn't cause a problem, and it could probably be fixed rather cheaply. The rear speakers for the stereo buzz. There is also a scratch on the side but the rest of the body is in fairly good shape.

I would recommend coming to take a look at it and driving it around the block. You won't be disappointed. Please email me at takefive at speakeasy dot net.

Click for more pictures

Saturday, February 25, 2006

We might have to change the name of the blog.

Recently there have been a few changes with my employment which moved the management of the products that I work on to Auckland, New Zealand. With that they offered me a job down there on site. After much discussion with Roberta we decided to take it and make the move. Although the thought of moving to Panama or Guatemala is very tempting, the thought of moving to New Zealand has its own excitement. Supposedly New Zealand is a fairly hard place to get into.

We are planning on moving to Portland, Oregon in a little over a month and staying in an apartment while the immigration paperwork goes through. Since we have to send our passports off for the process we don't want to do it from here. Then after the paperwork comes through we will pack it all up and move to New Zealand. Sounds simple huh.

After that will will be under obligation by logic to change the name of the blog to "Moving to New Zealand - The story of a boy, a girl, and a cat moving to New Zealand."

Here is a picture of our good friends Ann and Brian who we will miss. They have promised to come and visit us in NZ though. That is a bold promise since it is about a 27 hour plane ride from here.

Click for more pictures

Friday, February 24, 2006

Car Jacking

The other evening I went to pick up Adam at the airport. I took the back roads because it's faster and easier. I was playing video games and was running late.

I was behind a taxi, a nice four door sedan and a semi stopped at a light. A skinny kid comes around the corner of the semi and lunges into the open window of the four door sedan. I thought they were just doing a drug deal. The car started shaking and then I see the kid pull his arm out of the window with a gun and walk off. I guess the guy in the car wasn't going to let go of it so easily. The light turned green and everybody rushed off. I'm just glad he didn't come for me.

Moral of the story don't take short cuts through bad neighborhoods at night and don't drive with your windows down.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Traveler's First Aid kit

What medicine always goes in your bathroom bag when you travel? This is my new favorite question I ask when chatting with other travelers. I've heard bag-balm, Pepto-Bismol tablets, weed, pain relievers, or condoms.

In the last 10 months we've been living in Costa Rica, but have traveled to Panama, Nicaragua and Guatemala. And being the hypochondriac that I am, I've put together a beat-em-up first aid kit that does not take up too much space. It has already come in handy. This is only my personnel list, hopefully it will get you thinking about what you should carry with you depending on where you are going, what type of traveling you intend on doing and the current status of your health. Do you really want to spend a couple of days sick than a few more trying to find the right medicine or doctor? Planning ahead and prevention is worth a pound of cure. Here's what's in my bag:

Pepto-Bismol Tablets, these are small pink tablets that help with most digestion problems: otherwise known as the Black Water Fever, otherwise known as shits like you’ve never known!

Ciproxina 500, this is a strong general antibiotic for infections that just won't heal. Or if you have a serious case of diarrhea and or throwing up you can take one of these and it will clear your system out of everything, but only for very serious instances. Don't take antibiotics on a whim; you don't want to develop resistance. I met a fellow traveler-pill popper who got sick, ended up in the (developing nation) hospital for five days and went through 3 strong antibiotics before getting better. The doctors never did figure out what the virus was.

Imodium, is for blocking up your system during diarrhea. I only take immodium when dehydration becomes an issue. It blocks both the good and bad stuff.

Fluconazol is a one pill antibiotic for yeast infections. For me, this is only for use in remote areas. For a natural cure for yeast infections go here.

Bandages and band aids, include various sizes. Also don't forget. moleskin, if you plan to do serious hiking.

Antibacterial skin cream for various scrapes and open wounds. In the tropics you can never be too careful.

DEET and Anti-itch cream, I just discovered Jungle Juice, which is %100 DEET. Anything else is pathetic. Spray this on; don't take a shower for a couple of days and you are good to go. Yes, there are health problems associated, but it works for me. But it might kill you or make you insane. Dengue is a serious problem in Central America, which is transmitted by mosquitoes. Plus bites are prone to infection. I contracted mange, the skin disease, in Mexico after a bug bite. It lasted for six months because I refused to take antibiotics. Now I carry them everywhere!

Pain killers, I carry a little bit of ibuprofen, aspirin and vicadin. Ibuprofen is for headaches and cramps. Aspirin doesn't do anything for me, but I heard it is good for heart attacks. And the vicadin is for serious broke your arm kind of injuries. Or for hellishly long plane rides!

Sun Block I didn't think I had to list this but we had some guests come without, so here it is on the list. It's up there with toothbrush, toothpaste, and dental floss. Sun block is expensive down here so please, if you come to visit us, bring your own sun block.

So that's what's in my bag. For more information on healthy traveling see The Travel Clinic hosted by a doctor specializing in traveler’s health. Also it's helpful living in a country where you can buy your own drugs over the counter from a knowledgeable pharmacist.

PS: Do not pet cats and dogs on the street. I just saw a well fed and well taken care of dog with ring worm. And we all know what ring worm leads to....

Good night, I'm going to go cleanse my colon and puke.