Saturday, June 11, 2011

KC to Kiwi ... and back again

Nine weeks, 13 flights, seven countries, countless trains and buses, five currencies and 30 different hotel rooms. Our world tour was incredible.

We had the opportunity to experience some of the world's most impressive sights such as the Great Wall and the Sistine Chapel, and also visit some of our great family and friends overseas. I kept a journal and took more than 2,800 photos -- that's about 44 per day! I wish I could have shared our pics and stories here but I'm afraid I was too busy enjoying the trip.

We've been in Kansas City for about a week now and plan to start settling in here. We've already received some tips from friends on houses that are for sale. With all of our New Zealand adventures still very fresh in our minds, it's hard to believe that we're no longer there. Although it's abundantly obvious we're in America. There's no mistaking the big roads, big cars, big stores and big meals.

I've read that returning to your home country after being abroad can be more of a culture shock than leaving in the first place, and I think knowing that ahead of time has helped me with the transition. It's certainly a strange sensation.

We're happy to be here and excited about buying our first house and catching up with everyone. Jake's going back to work in the KC office in a week and I'll start my job search before too long. Wow, even though I worked while we were overseas, it still feels like I've been on vacation for a couple of years!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Greetings from Singapore

Well we're off on our next big adventure. Jake and I are at the Singapore airport waiting for a flight that will take us to Kota Kinabalu Malaysia. We've said lots of goodbyes and had an amazing send-off by our friends in Wellington, but it hasn't really hit us that we've really left New Zealand. It feels a bit like a normal vacation so far. A ridiculously awesome vacation! We'll try to check in with some photos once in a while.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

2011 Kiwi Royal Smoke-off Challenge

A while ago when we began sorting through our belongings to decide what to sell and what to ship back to Kansas City, Jake was struck with a tough decision. What to do with his smoker? He couldn't just sell it to some stranger who wouldn't appreciate it, and I put my foot down and said we're not paying to ship it back. So he decided to organise the soon-to-be-famous 2011 Kiwi Royal Smoke-off Challenge on the last weekend in March, with the winner taking the smoker home.

In the spirit of the American Royal (world's largest barbecue competition hosted in Kansas City every year), the Kiwi Royal allowed Jake's buddies to compete in smoking the best meat. Thanks to Lesa and Jase for hosting the event and congrats to Mike and Kate Day for taking first place.

I'm afraid I've deleted my photos from the event, but you can be sure it was a fierce competition. It was pouring down rain that day, and the boys were outside much of the time monitoring the meat.

For my contribution, I shared the artery clogging American favourite that is Rotel dip made with Velveeta. This is the same Velveeta I smuggled into the country after my trip to the States last July. I have to admit it was quite amusing to define "pasturised cheese food" for the Kiwis in the room, and also try to explain why no refrigeration was necessary even though I'd bought the cheese more than eight months ago. Everyone tried it and offered a polite comment here and there, but I think it's safe to say Velveeta is probably a one-time experience for them.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Ruby slippers: check. Now we can return to Kansas

Of course when people hear Kansas, they think of The Wizard of Oz. So now that it's time for us to return to Kansas, I was quite pleasantly surprised that my workmates gave me my very own ruby slippers.

Aren't they beautiful? They added the glitter themselves. I was wondering why I saw red glitter all over the office in the last couple of weeks.

To be clear, I should say that I'm not really from Kansas. I grew up mostly in Missouri and lived on the Kansas side of Kansas City for a few years before moving here. But Jake is from Kansas, and so it's easier for us to offer a quick and simple answer when folks ask us where we come from.

Several people in the office signed the card, including my closest colleagues and some folks I don't know that well. I loved reading all the comments, but my favourite comes from someone in the latter category: "It was great to meet you, even for a short time. Take care and don't forget NZ when you're back in Wisconsin."

I don't mean to make fun because I certainly no expert with NZ geography, but it made me smile and think about how big our world feels sometimes.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How to survive a rabid monkey lick

One thing we need to do as we prepare for our upcoming world tour (nine weeks of Borneo, China and Europe) is to get caught up on our vaccinations.

A few weeks ago we visited the Travel Doctor here in Wellington and learned about all the scary things you can catch (like yellow fever and Japanese encephalitis) - or that can catch you (monkeys with rabies, mosquitos with malaria). Yick.

Due to our plans to visit Malaysian Borneo and China, they recommended the following:
  • Hepatitis A - a one-time injection plus a booster in 6-12 months; good for 30 years.
  • Hepatitis B - series of three injections over eight weeks; good for life.
  • Typhoid - one-time injection needed every three years.
  • Rabies - this one is optional. And here's what you have to do to survive a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal: wash the area with soap and water for 10 minutes without rubbing. Don't compress the wound as you want to let it bleed and flush the virus from the wound as much as possible. Even if you received a pre-exposure vaccine, you need a post-exposure treatment as soon as possible. Because Bali has so many dogs around, our nurse told us that Bali often runs out of the drug, so it's better to catch a flight to Singapore or Kuala Lumpur in search of immediate medical care. Not really comforting but good to know. Did you know that New Zealand is one of the few places on earth that doesn't have rabies? Let's keep it that way.
  • Malaria - Malaria's a bit different in that you take pills for protection instead of getting a shot. Two types were recommended to us. One is fairly cheap, may upset your stomach and you have to take it during and four weeks following your trip to a malaria area. The other is much more expensive, fewer side effects and you only have to take it for a week following your trip. In both cases do everything you can to avoid mosquito bites.
  • And your typical flu shot - which is designed to protect you from the flu anywhere in the world.
We have our malaria pills ready and have received all the required shots. In the end we opted out of the $200 rabies shot. What are the real chances of getting bitten or licked where we're going? We're hoping fairly low.

It makes me feel good to know we're able to protect ourselves with these vaccines. But after listening to all the horrible things that can happen to you on vacation to "paradise," I have to admit I feel a bit less day-dreamy and a bit more realistic about our upcoming travels.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Fancy schmancy dinner for Jake's birthday

I'm a bit late in posting this but wanted to share. Last weekend was Jake's birthday and we celebrated it with a trip to one of Wellington's top restaurants, the White House. (This is not to be confused with the White House in Auckland, which I hear is more of a strip club. I'm sure he would have hated it there.)

We had the best table in the house and were greeted with this beautiful view over the harbour as the sun set.

We had an amazing meal and a gorgeous bottle of Central Otago pinot noir, then a gorgeous bottle of dessert wine from Nelson! For entertainment, we saw a car get pulled over across from the restaurant and watched in astonishment as the driver got out and ran away from the cops, leaving his wife/girlfriend hanging out in the passenger seat. That seemed like a bit more drama than you'd usually see on Oriental Parade.

In any case, we had a great evening and took a cab home at the end of the night. That's one of the things we'll miss most about Wellington. It's so easy and affordable to get around on public transportation, especially after a night of celebrating.

Hope my husband had a fantastic birthday, and I think he'd agree that the year ahead is looking pretty awesome.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Our world tour kicks off in 2 weeks

You've probably heard me mention that our time in New Zealand is coming to an end and we're preparing for a bit of travel before moving back to Kansas City.

It's been lots of fun planning our upcoming trip. It began with us asking ourselves "where in the world do we want to go?" which is quite a daunting question. So we created a giant wishlist that we had to narrow down according to our schedule and budget. (Sorry Palau -- I'll have to swim in your magical jellyfish lake another time.) After much brainstorming, negotiation and organising, our itinerary now looks like this:
  • Leave NZ on 2 April
  • Singapore
  • Malaysian Borneo
  • Beijing
  • Switzerland
  • Greek Islands
  • Italy
  • Germany
  • Arrive in Kansas City on 3 June
I'm pretty excited about what's coming up. So excited in fact that I made a logo for our trip. My graphic design friends will undoubtedly be impressed by my expert use of WordArt. In my defense though, I've been busy selling our household goods on and prepping our other stuff for shipping to KC. We've gotten our visas and our shots (more on that later) and our flights. Now just wrapping things up, getting ready to say our goodbyes and preparing for our next adventure.