Thursday, May 28, 2009

Killing the dream

They said it couldn't be done, but it's happened again. I got a job! And not just a contract this time, but a for-real, full-time gig. I'll be an online marketing specialist for AXA New Zealand, which is a big financial services and insurance firm.
Several of you have offered congratulations, which is so nice. To those of you who have offered condolences, I'm sorry for killing the dream. I know you loved the thought of my "lady of liesure" lifestyle.

This adventure begins on June 8, and you can bet that I'll be updating you regularly on everything I learn.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Singapore Sling

Singapore was definately an enjoyable and interesting place. Yes - I did try a real Singapore Sling. At around US$30 a pop, it was limited to a one-time experience. My favorite part of Singapore was exploring around and our training was just near the center of the city. Not far from my hotel, I started the photo collecting (per Jamie's very strict instructions):

This a shot near the river. We enjoyed a couple of dinners with my co-trainees on the waterfront. The persons working at the restuarants practice some pretty high pressure sales tactics (picture - used car salesman) to get you seated at the tables.

Shot with a two second exposure on 400 speed... (just kidding, it's on "auto-shoot").

They build some pretty massive buildings in this place. In addition, there are extensive mall and even underground shopping opportunities. Shopping is huge in Singapore and definately more comfortable then walking around when it like 90 degrees and humid.

We did take an evening to go check out the night safari at the zoo, which was really cool. About half the pens had deer in them...that part didn't seem so cool! I took about 20 shots for Jamie and made up animal names to fool her. Here is me and the eagle size bat...

This was something for people that like fish to suck on their feet. I really wanted to experiment by dipping my surgically enhanced leg in the pool, but remembered the strict public laws Singapore and thought better of it...

Don't say that I never share! Check out the slideshow:


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Weather report

I wish you could see this -- the wind is going absolutely crazy today, and the rain is coming down in regular intervals. This fierce weather has been going on like this for about four days now. I read in the paper that winds were gusting up to 140 km/h (87 mph), and the ocean swells here in Cook Strait (between the north and south island) were supposed to get up to 11 meters! 

But the good news is that temps are ranging between 6 and 12 degrees C (43 and 53 degrees F), which is much warmer compared with our chilly Kansas City winters. 

It snows elsewhere in NZ, but not in Wellington. We'd love to go snowboarding when the time's right. 

It's only May -- not even winter -- so I hope this is just an unusual early season storm. And I think it is. I've heard it's not going to get much colder than this, and that sounds good to us. I'm finally figuring out how to adjust the electric heaters in our house to keep us warm, and they're doing a good job.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Feeling pretty important

I'm feeling pretty important -- we just received our delivery from the New Zealand Wine Society this week. A mixed case of award-winning wine we ordered at the Food Show. Both red and white because we are equal-opportunity consumers.

Yes, Jake still has the camera. I took this shot with my laptop's webcam. 

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Interesting airline commercial


Finally some peace and quiet!

Jake left really early this morning for a business trip in Singapore. I've definitely been looking forward to sleeping in, eating unhealthy food and watching chick-flicks. But now it's evening and the house is quiet. I just finished my breakfast-for-dinner, and something's missing. We haven't been apart this long since we've been together. 

No, I'm not talking about my husband. I'm talking about my camera that he took with him. How the heck am I suppose to blog without a camera? Illegally downloading and reusing other people's online images? Well, I guess I do that once in a while...

For example, our friend Lesa told us that a lot of Kiwis eat spaghetti on toast for breakfast. So I gave it a shot (with canned speghetti) tonight, and hey -- it's not half bad. I'd love to show you a pic, but you'll have to use your imagination this time.

But not to worry. I'm sure Jake will come back with some good shots and interesting stories from Singapore. (I've given him specific instructions and threatened him.)

Here's one from the files
So we don't go totally imageless, here's a shot of some sunflowers we bought a couple weeks ago. Here's a shout out to all our Kansas friends! We thought Jake's folks Jim and Adena would especially enjoy seeing them. 

Like any good wife
Hmm... our wine cabinet looks unusually empty. Good thing I bought a case at the food show last weekend. It should be delivered any day now, and like any good wife, I'll make sure to conduct some quality control measures on it before Jake gets home. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The All Blacks & their famous Haka

We're pretty excited -- Jake and I just bought some tickets to see the All Blacks, NZ's national rugby team, take on France next month right here in Wellington. I think they only play here twice a year, so it's pretty awesome we have tickets! Game is June 20, so I'm sure we'll have a full report then. In the meantime, you should check out the Haka, which is the awesome warrior dance the players perform before each match. Quite intimidating to the other team, I'm sure.

Also, we just landed some amazingly cheap airline tickets to Auckland for a weekend in November. And in this instance, amazingly cheap = $28 NZD for two return (Kiwi word for roundtrip) tickets including taxes. Folks, that's only about $15 USD!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Problem --> Solution

Cheese = grated. Toppings = sliced. Pizza = assembled. Oven = not working. Hunger level = high.

Plan B worked surprisingly, deliciously well.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The daily commute

Thought we'd share a bit about our daily commute to work. A normal day starts around 5:30 a.m. when the alarm goes off, then we snooze for another 40 minutes or so. Jake's up first, then me. I eat a little breakfast and check my blog/e-mail/facebook/twitter (yes, I'm a big dork) before making us some lunches. 

Jake's out the door around 7:15 a.m. then I follow around 8:15 a.m., so we don't ride together. Our separate trips start by walking maybe 50 metres down the street, where we find the stairway leading down from our suburb on the hill. These 460 steps aren't so bad in the morning, even if it's raining, compared to when we climb back up every evening. Near the bottom of the steps, we pay $3 NZD ($1.50 USD) to hop on a bus for the short trip into downtown. No one calls it downtown though; it's called the CBD, or central business district. 

The bus ride takes maybe 10 or 15 minutes, depending on traffic. Jake's stop is a few block before mine, and we each have a few blocks to walk to get to our buildings from there. 

A couple more shots of the CBD. I have to say that I love NZ's public restrooms. They're nice, clean and they're all over the place. 

We also see a lot of travel agencies. I swear there are three of these Flight Centres within two blocks of my workplace. We haven't used them to book anything yet, but we're considering a little trip over to the Cook Islands. Apparently American Somoa is out of the question because all the hotel rooms in the main city are booked while Survivor is filmed there. Stupid reality TV!

We were told to buy an Entertainment Book -- the same kind they have in the states -- with coupons to every restaurant in town. It's a great way to learn about all the cool places we haven't visited yet. So Jake took me out to 3C, a nice little after-work spot last Thursday. Excellent beef filet and tasty little after-dinner chocolate mint.


Saturday, May 9, 2009

This adventure hasn't changed who we really are

We've had a lot of new experiences here in New Zealand, but I wouldn't say that it's changed us. For example, we haven't completely given up on hanging alcohol around our necks for the sake of convenience. A big part of our life back in the Midwest involved wearing neck koozies on float trips and lake outtings. Corey, please demonstrate the neck koozie for our readers:

Pay no attention to Jon swatting his friend with the canoe paddle. While those days aren't that far behind us, I like to think we have matured a bit. And so the obvious beverage-around-our-neck of choice is wine.

We learned of this NZ custom at the Food Show, an amazing opportunity to sample tasty nibbles (Kiwi word for appetizers or light snacks), beers, bubbles (Kiwi word for champagne) and a huge selection of wines. This was held in the city's biggest arena, where they showcase rugby and cricket. Booths were lined up throughout the entire perimeter where the concession stands are usually located.

We did a whole lap with Kate and Mike, who are engaged. Sorry Mike, I promise to get a better shot of you next time. ;)

And Jake's standing with Jason and Lesa, both KPMGers who live not far from us in Khandallah.

I couldn't help but share a shot of the Thirsty Bloke Brewery's booth, featuring Good Bastard Dark Ale.

Brett and Jake took advantage of the tasty fare at the food show, then headed off to watch the local Hurricanes rugby game with some buddies.

Friday, May 8, 2009

NZ is really growing on us

If you've read any of our posts in this blog's six-month history, you know that Jake and I are totally psyched to be here in New Zealand. It's been an amazing experience that's been overwhelming positive. I'm hesitant to mention this next topic because I don't want to offend anyone here in Kiwiland. But in the spirit of sharing our experiences, good and bad, in an open and honest way, I'm compelled to proceed.

It's been getting a bit colder and rainier lately, and I started getting a scratchy throat a few days ago. As a consumer of news, of course it had to be swine flu. Okay, obviously not, but perhaps a normal flu, a cold or anything. It never got worse. Then it hit me -- it's mold. In our house. Around every window and door. We've noticed little traces of it now and then, but with the weather changing and the house all shut up, it's becoming a problem. Don't worry, I didn't take any photos of it, just shots of the moisture that we find on our windows most mornings.

To be fair, we knew this before coming to NZ, and we were prepared with the fact that most of the houses here weren't built with much insulation. Many of the building practices for a time were of low quality. I'm not exactly sure where our place fits into that, but I think our place is better than many others.

So last night I went around with my kitchen cleaner (not sure what works on mold?) and a towel to all of our 10 windows, two sets of sliding-glass doors and the glass door downstairs. Whew! I'm also wondering how to clean our giant curtains that hang over our sliding glass doors...?

But I'm not worried, and I'm certainly not afraid of mold. In 2007, I joined a brave group from Rockhurst University to battle some mold a thousand times worse as we helped clean out a couple of New Orleans houses flooded by Hurricane Katrina. I don't know if you can imagine what it's like to take out a still-soggy carpet from a house that's been shut up for 18 months. And Rule #1 was to never open the fridge. Under any circumstances.

So this isn't a big deal. In our case, I just need to talk to our friends and neighbors about how they handle it. We'll probably go buy the right cleaning product and start washing windows every week. 

On a lighter note
Everyday after work, Jake and I get off the bus and climb 460 stairs to get up into our suburb of Khandallah. (Keep your eyes out for more info and pics about our daily commutes.) And I shot this the other day from the top of the hill just down the street from our house. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Quick round-up of today's NZ news

Hola friends! It's been a long day, and I gave blood over my lunch hour so I'm feeling a bit sleepy already even though it's only 9 p.m. So no Kiwi lessons for today ...

... Unless you'd like to check out this interesting article from today's paper that mentions how NZers are a pretty happy and satisfied bunch, watch less TV, have less free time and a bit more crime, etc. 

Also, I won't comment on the journalistic merit of the recent articles in the same paper featuring in-depth analysis on the country's hottest businessman and hottest businesswoman. I know, I need to lighten up. :)

And so I don't feel to neglectful of our readers, here's a little something else that gave both of us a big laugh tonight. 

fail owned pwned pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures

The highlighted part is strange enough, but we're both intrigued by the poor kitty with "rectum problems." 

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A 42 km running tour of Rotorua

This weekend we drove about six hours north to Rotorua for Jake's marathon. It was his seventh! And he kicked butt.
A lot of runners have a pre-race routine that includes some stretching, maybe some jogging, drinking water, pushing buttons on their athletic watch. Jake stands around and drinks coffee. 

Here he is (above) five minutes before the gun... and then at the finish line (below). Wow, he makes it look easy, doesn't he? 

The one action shot I have of him is blurry, obviously due to his speed.

So while he was running 42 km (26.2 miles) around Rotorua's lake, I spent some time exploring the town, which is known for it's geothermal activity and consequently is terrible smell (which makes Jake's race even more of an accomplishment). There's a volcano nearby and you can see steam rising from all over the place. 

I tracked one down to its source and check it out -- I found boiling mud! And this is no exaggeration. It was huge pool of brown/grey mud that was burping and gurgling and going nuts. 

I killed more time in a cafe and by visiting a local farmer's market. The market had lots of fresh foods as well as locally made jewelry, soap, music, etc. Looking around, I saw more Moaris (the original/indigious NZers) than I'd ever seen in one place. So I copied the locals by snacking on a couple of tasty lamb skewers for $1 ($.55USD) each. Pretty tasty!

After the race, we drove an hour south to Taupo, where we took it easy for the rest of the day and watched some rugby on the hotel TV from our in-room hot tub. These guys in yellow are our hometown team the Hurricanes. And they're currently in first place in the Super 14, which includes teams from NZ, Australia and South Africa. 

Our hotel was right across the street from Lake Taupo, and we found a mobile coffee shop conveniently close to our front door. 

It's fall here, and you can see it in some of the trees, but most are the kind that don't change color -- I mean, colour.

When Jake ran the Boston Marathon, I encouraged him (okay, made him) go on a walking tour of the city with me the next day. Although he was a good sport, he'd take breaks on the sidewalk benches as I went inside each museum/church/historical marker. I felt guiltier each time I came out and found him asleep. (Hey, it was my first and only trip to Boston.) So this time, our day-after destination was a five-minute drive and a one-minute walk across the parking lot to Huka Falls. 

 I'm not much for reading the touristy signs or literature sometimes, so I can't tell you much about it. Just that it was loud and powerful and amazing. 

That's all for now. Hope everyone's doing well, and we'll catch up with you again soon!