Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Run Jacob, run like the wind

It's been raining all this week, so we're hoping for better weather when Jake runs his marathon at 9 a.m. Saturday. We're leaving Friday morning for Rotorua and will return on Sunday. I hope to snap some pics of my good-looking husband on the run and post them here when we're back.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Way to represent, America

Chatting with my workmates today when we got onto the subject of American food, specifically the disgusting and unhealthy options. Jake's a little concerned that Corey, aka White Gravy, might need to sit down for this.

Apparently there's nothing more horrifying to Kiwis than the idea of sausage gravy. And on biscuits -- can anything be worse? I have to admit the fact you can get it out of this gas station dispenser is even more revolting. Really, how long has it been in there??

They found another impressive/disgusting example online at the Heart Attack Grill, which is south of Pheonix. On the menu is a quadruple bypass combo in which you get the above burger, flatliner fries, a can of Jolt cola and a pack a cigarettes. If you're anywhere north of 350 lb., you eat for free. And nothing says "obese and proud" like a free wheelchair ride to your car afterward. 

We've found that Kiwis really know a lot about the U.S., and they understand these things don't represent average America. But it was still pretty entertaining trying to describe the merits and ingredients of a good gravy while they frowned and studied the photo of the scary gravy machine. 

Monday, April 27, 2009

Good luck Matt!

Siblings are funny people.

When you're very young, you're told to be nice and give them hugs. As you grow, they start picking on you, and tricking you into thinking you'll become a super-ninja if you can just land that backflip off the living room couch. Maybe they trick you into eating dog food. Maybe it's something much, much worse. You drift apart a bit when you're teenagers. Then you a get a bit older and wiser, and you can't imagine your life without them.

My brother Matt is leaving for the Army today. He's heading to Ft. Benning, GA, and I'm not really sure when he'll have phone and online access again. Our friends and family are very proud and wishing him luck. Jake and I are too.

Love you Matt. You're much more of a super-ninja than I'll ever be.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Old man and the sea

The (fish) killer woke before dawn and put his boots on...

Warning - this is a non-professional blog by Jake.
Howdy folks! My darling wife has decided to take a break from the typical weekend update, so I'm back for more blogging. This is me leaving at 6 AM for a fishing trip with a bunch of mates from work...and after a restful 5 1/2 hours of sleep. Thanks Marc for being my early morning designated driver.

Tensions were high on the high seas of the Cook Strait just prior to the first group of grouper joining the crew...

My friend Andy was one of the first on our trip to drag in a grouper. Note that he is sporting the latest in fish catching technology...this way if the fish pulls you into the water, then the guide is assured that he gets his rod and reel back!
His fiancee, Liang, was clearly not going to go home empty handed either with her contribution to the daily catch:
The dreaded albatrosses were a consistent reminder not to get separated from the others in the group. With large talons and jaws of steel, these deep sea monsters could easily come in to snap the line and fly off with the catch.
I had a rather poor showing (many a small fish - none big), but later found out why. I had packed a banana in my snack/beer bag for the trip and was told that bananas are never allowed on the boat. I'm assuming I was lucky to avoid any major misfortune.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Comparing health care systems

Another amazing sunrise over the harbour this morning. Although we're well into fall here, the weather is still great with temps in the 50s and only a few spots of wind and rain. Love it!

Yesterday I had my first experience with the NZ health care system.

First, a refresher on my medical experiences in US:
  • Leave work early to make it to an appointment
  • Spend 30 minutes in waiting room
  • Fill out 100-question form, even though I've been a patient there for five years
  • Fill out another hippa form
  • Nurse comes in carrying my big fat paper record
  • Doctor rushes in, asks three questions, gives me a quick look up and down, scribbles out a script and is outta there
  • Pay $25 copay
  • Pay $300/year for prescription
  • Pay $900/year insurance premiums
Yesterday's doctor visit in NZ
  • No need to leave work early -- they offer after-hour appointments for, get this, a $3 fee
  • They forget to charge me the fee anyway
  • Fill out three questions on a form
  • Wait five minutes
  • Pay $25 fee for visit ($US)
  • Pay $3/year for prescription ($US)
  • Pay $0 for insurance premium -- we're eligible for NZ's public health care system
I made my appointment for 6:30 p.m. on a Thursday night. That in itself was amazing to me. After five minutes in the waiting room, my doctor comes to greet me. We sit down in chairs (not an exam table) while we chit chat about the neighborhood, since this office is two minutes from my house.

She asks about my medical history, etc., and she takes a few notes on her computer. We talk pros and cons of a certain medicine, then she grabs me three months' worth of free samples. I'm pretty excited because she just handed me what is worth $75 back home, but I learn here, a year's worth costs only $3 USD! Instead of rushing me out of the office, she took the time to discuss the differences in US and NZ medical practices. I spent maybe 20-25 minutes in her office.
To be fair, they didn't have the exact medication I wanted, but a very close version of the same thing. Not ideal, but close enough for me.

Overall, everyone was relaxed and working at a normal pace. I'm sure a lot of this has to do with the smaller population, but I sure noticed a huge difference in the stress levels of those I encountered. Reminds me of one of our favourite movies...

Spies Like Us with Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd

Sunday, April 19, 2009

10 things we miss from home

We've had a fantastic weekend hanging out, grilling our meals and catching up on things around the house. We've booked some more travel and worked on some tax-related paperwork. I swear there's a ton of paperwork involved in moving and working internationally.

And yesterday Jake ran 20 miles (that's right, 20 miles) in preparation for his marathon on May 2. We're going to spend the weekend in Rotorua, which is famous for its geothermal activity. Apparently there are geysers and thermal pools and steam rising from cracks in the streets. So while Jake is trudging through his marathon, I plan to be sipping a fruity cocktail in a thermal spa somewhere. Hey, I've cheered him along through six other marathons... and let me tell you, it's not much of a spectator sport.

One of our readers asked us what we miss about KC, so we've been thinking about it and come up with this list:

My list

  • Crab rangoon
  • Wal-Mart (I hate to say it, but it's so true)
  • NPR and country music on the radio
  • CSI and tv in general 
  • Playing volleyball with the girls

Jake's list
  • Golden Tee (he probably just misses the cheap beer)
  • Playing his bean-bag toss game with his buddies
  • American sports (although our hometown Hurricanes rugby team is pretty good)
  • Roads larger than two lanes
  • First sunburn of the year at Royals Opening Day
But of course our friends and family are at the top of the list. Thanks to Dave for the question. If you have a question you'd like us to answer in a future blog post, please send it our way!

Cleaning out the camera with a few random photos... 

Saw this on our way to Wanganui. Cody, if you don't have a job yet...

Work sent Jake down to Dunedin a couple weeks ago to interview some grads, and all I got out of the deal was this pic, although it's a nice one.

This tasty looking son of a gun in Kaikoura is the NZ crayfish. Looks like a maine lobster without the ginormous claws. 

And this handsome fella was doing his best to strike a pose during a quick photo shoot in Hanmer Springs.

This band from Australia performed at KPMG Kansas City's 100-year celebration, and we found their CD in a B&B in the Coromandel Peninsula. Apparently someone other than Tyler Roe has heard of them. 

In Thames, they don't mess around when they say seafood platter.

I had a flashback when I found this in a cute little shop in downtown Wellington. Pantone 286 is Rockhurst blue, and it's been burned permanently into my memory.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I'm sorry, and you are...?

Today at work I called someone in another office and spoke for five minutes before she said, "I think you've called the wrong person." Hmm. 

Tonight after work Jake and I ate dinner and watched our usual Colbert Nation and Daily Show. (Hey, it's not all glamorous.) Then we wound up on YouTube watching some good ole Flight of the Conchords. Here's one of our favorites. 


Monday, April 13, 2009

Holy Mackerel! Jake caught a shark.

That's right. Before I tell you about tramping in the Marlborough Sounds, I need to share the story of the (alleged*) shark Jake caught on Day 2. We spent the day before and the day after hiking, so we we were relaxing and enjoying the gorgeous weather on Saturday.

After a bit of morning kayaking and lunch, Jake rows me out into the Endeavor Inlet and we each cast a line. I'm not usually a big fan of fishing, but I was having a good time.

We caught a couple of these little guys and decided they're not big enough for dinner. Then Jake gets a huge bite on his line and reels this monster up! 

The two fought for a while, and I saw a bunch of sharp little teeth as Jake freed the hook. After getting a bit of photographic evidence, he threw him back. Good thing, because I have no idea how to cook that kind of creature.

*Okay, so maybe it's a shark and maybe its something else. If any of our readers has a degree in marine biology and/or can confirm this is some type of shark, please post a comment and let us know! However if you can tell it's NOT a shark, please keep that information to yourself. After all, no one likes a know-it-all. :)

And now, the rest of the story...
As I mentioned, we walked for two days and chilled out for one. We have a new backpack, but we were happy to hear that the water taxi that took us to the trail head would deliver it to our destination each night. Sweet.

Here's a Maori totem pole at the trail head in a place called Ship's Cove. Apparently Capt. Cook visited there several times back in the day. 

It was at Ship's Cove where we were introduced to the area's wildlife. At first, when we heard bushes rustling as some mysterious little critter raced by, we didn't get a clear look at it...

We later found that it was a Weka, a little guy who will steal your sandwich as soon as look at you, according to a local lady I spoke to. They were all over the place. 

The views from the trail were amazing. The weather was fantastic, and we spent much of our hiking under a canopy of silver ferns and other cool trees.

I learned the difference between the geological terms sounds and fjords. A sound is reflective of much of the other terrain in NZ -- very hilly with steep slopes, lots of gorges and valleys -- that have been flooded. I heard three-quarters of the height of these hills are under water. And a fjord is something that's been cut by a glacier. Haven't seen any of those yet, but they're on our list.

It was our first time in backpacker lodges, and while I didn't get any pics, I can tell you they're mostly simple, affordable and smelly to varying degrees. But a fun way to interact with other travelers and experience life as a real tramper.

Maximum load of this suspension bridge = one person. Hope I didn't pack too much in my backpack.

Found lots of cool little caves in the inlet where we stayed. 

And here's Picton, our arrival/departure city on the South Island where we caught the Interisland Ferry across the 22 km or so of ocean that separates NZ's islands. 


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Off to the Marlborough Sounds

Hi all. We're headed to work this morning, and later we'll be hopping on a 3-hour ferry across the Cook Strait, one of the most dangerous stretches of water anywhere, for a four-day weekend in the Marlborough Sounds. Can't you just hear the Gilligan's Island theme song? This is on the northern tip of the South Island, where we'll be hiking and staying in backpacker lodges along the Queen Charlotte Track, and possibly working to improve our videography skills. We're pretty excited. We'll fill you in when we're back Monday night. Until then, we'll be away from our phone and e-mail most of the time. 

Happy Easter, and Happy Birthday to our brother/brother-in-law Jeromy. Whenever Jake and I are doing something awesome, one of us always pulls out Jeromy's favorite line... "When are we going to start having fun??"

Here he is with his lovely wife Shelly. Have a great weekend guys! 

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Our first attempt at shooting video = failure

We headed down to the South Island last weekend and tried out some video for the first time. First, Jake will offer some insight about Kiakoura, a beautiful area nestled between the mountains and the sea.

Pay no attention to the fact that we're sitting in a cow field. Next, I'll try my best to offer some interesting information about our destination.

Maybe we should just stick with what we know... the still shots.

P.S. Our Internet is running super slow for some reason, so I can't tell if these videos are taking too long to load for everyone else or just us. 

Our trip to the South Island

Christchurch, Kiakoura, Hamner Springs, sunsets, hiking, waterfalls, seals, sheep, birds, waves, beer. Too exhausted from hiking for complete sentences. More later.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Beer + cricket = best job EVER


What I've learned in 4 days of NZ's corporate world

I'm getting ready to wrap up my first week as interim intranet news editor in the Corporate Relations Group for Telecom, an NZ telecommunications company with 8,000 employees. Here are a few of the cultural differences I've picked up so far.
  • Overall, things seem very relaxed, just as Jake told me they would be. Relationships and chit chat are super important. People are friendly. 
  • Bad language is no big deal. Someone in the office received a phone call the other day and let out a flurry of f-bombs. No one batted an eye. I probably hear 50 a day.
  • Vacation time is highly valued. 
  • It's not uncommon for people to take vacation time in huge chunks. We know three couples who are getting ready for six-week stints. It's not a big deal to hop over to Chicago or LA from KC. But NZ is pretty far from everywhere, so you better block out some time on your calendar.
  • Programme, harbour, colour, metre, amongst, as well as other oddities including words such as inbuilt and no period after Mr. For an editor, this is like learning a new language.
  • People seem to work very closely with folks in various cities. Half of our office is in Auckland, and I've already been involved in several conference calls and a video conference.
  • People don't go out to eat for lunch that often -- maybe once or twice a week -- but when they do, they're drinking alcohol. Sweet!
  • Casual Fridays must be an international tradition. I can wear jeans. Jake gets a "no tie" Friday, but is still in a suit. 
  • Personal usage Internet policy states: ...Now some personal use of the internet for tasks like getting your banking done and paying your bills on time is quite ok. (No kidding??) However, downloading music, streaming video and file sharing is not ok...
So far the gig is pretty good. I'm on the ninth floor of the building, and our office looks out over the harbour. My desk doesn't face the window, but I have an even better view. Just above my monitor, I can see the tv on the far wall, and it's usually playing a cricket match. Sweet.