Friday, July 31, 2009

The Lion, the Tui and Top Dog

It was definitely a good day for Jamie and I to take in some rugby last night in Wellington as the local club, the Lions, began their season from home. There was plenty of yellow (empty seats), so quite a few folks missed out on all of the fun.

Sometimes somebody else can say it better, so according to the news release on the teams website -- The Vodafone Wellington Lions repulsed a strong Otago challenge before successfully defending the Ranfurly Shield 23-19 at Westpac Stadium on Friday night. If it interests the readers, there is plenty to read about on this coveted shield ; however, essentially, it's a traveling trophy that you defend whenever you play on your home turf.

The top dog (aka american dog) once agian drew it's rightful attention from Jamie and me.

The game was a relatively low scoring affair, but the last 20 minutes of the second half were really exciting...which was good for us because the weather started acting up a little bit. You hardly notice the cold when you're standing up cheering your side on to victory.

We definitely enjoyed a good view at the was nice to get out and see the rugby and to try and stomach the always unique, never uncontroversial Tui ale.

Even Matt (recognized less without the penguin attire) and Brett stopped by to join in the fun.

The Lions will have several more opportunities to stand their ground and defend the shield and we hope to get out again to watch them do so.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Today's Kiwi lesson: mufti day

The last Friday of every month here at work is mufti day, which means casual Friday for those who'd like to make a "gold coin donation" to charity. (In Kiwi money, the gold coins represent the $1 and $2 denominations.)

I pulled on some jeans even though I was a little nervous about mufti day. What if I have the wrong day? What if no one else shows up?

Of all people, guess who steps on the elevator with me this morning...? Our CEO -- a man I haven't met yet. He looks at me and says "It's bloody mufti day, isn't it?!" Of course he's in a suit. All I can squeek out is "I hope so." I decided to leave my official introduction for another day, and went on to find everyone in my office in casual clothes.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Red Rocks and All Blacks

Jake and I have gone walking along shore of the Taputerange Marine Reserve several times since we've lived in Wellington. But just this weekend we found out that we were missing the best part. Just beyond the point where we'd always turn around is a place called Red Rocks, for obvious reasons, and its local seal colony. 

Jim, Sandy, Jake and I had a chance to check it out yesterday. We saw lots of seals lounging around. 

All the relaxing seals inspired me to go home and take a little nap before meeting a group of friends out to watch the All Blacks from a local pub.

(From left: Brett, Sandy, Jim, Jason) We were all in good spirits as our NZ team beat the Aussies, our biggest rivals. Jim and Sandy just left for the airport a little while ago, and the house already seems so empty.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Earthquake on the South Island

Good morning from New Zealand, which apparently made big news while we slept last night. A 7.8 earthquake hit the southern part of the south island around 9:20 p.m. (NZ time), followed by a 6.1 aftershock. Jake and I didn't didn't feel it, and we didn't find out from news reports, but from my mom calling as we got ready for work this morning. And I guess there was a tsumani warning that was later called off when they found a wave 17 cm high.

But I still wanted to comfort my mother... "No need to worry about tsunamis here mom. Our house is teetering on the top of a tall cliff way above the water."

All joking aside, we hope no one was hurt last night. Jim and Sandy are on the South Island right now, but they're on the north end.

Wet wishes from Mooresville, Missouri

NZ is such a quirky place. We've learned so much about the people, the culture, the land. And little things too. Such as the marshmallows being a different flavour. And very few people say "bless you" after someone sneezes. And when someone says "I can't be bothered to work on that project right now," they're not being rude; they're politely expressing a preference. (Hat tip to Brett for that one. It's now his favourite phrase he uses as often as he can.)

And I'm slowly coming to learn that most of our mail is going to arrive wet. I don't know if it's because we have a lot of international mail, but we get local mail that's wet as well, even when it's not raining. When another case of wine was delivered today (half pinot noir, half sauvignon blanc from Marlborough, NZ, in case you're interested), the box was even wet. But I digress. 

I was pretty excited to get a card from Uncle Bernie and Aunt Bettie today. I tried to open it carefully, but the soggy envelope really kind of fell apart in my hands. 

But no worries, the card inside was fully intact. It was so sweet because everyone who made it to the Sievering annual 4th of July family reunion in tiny Mooresville, Mo., signed a card for us! This is on my side of the family, with my folks hosting it every year. With my brother in basic training right now, neither of their kids were there for the first time. Apparently that didn't slow anyone down because 34 people made it this year. It's been more than six months since seeing our folks, and much longer since seeing a lot of others, so it was so great to hear from everyone! 

Thanks Aunt Bettie, Grandma, Mom and Dad, and everyone else for thinking of us! Alec, you're conspicuously absent from my card, and I expect a thorough explanation. :) 

Monday, July 13, 2009

What kind of wine do you pair with a kabab?

No visit to New Zealand is complete without a thorough sampling of some of their delicious wines, so Sandy, Jim, Jake and I headed up to Napier last weekend. A few hours north and east of Wellington, Napier's a fun little town that's known for its big 1931 earthquake that measured 7.8. Then the town was rebuilt in art-deco style. 

Matariki Wines was named after a constellation the Maoris (indigenous NZers) used to predict what kind of weather the coming year would bring. Matariki symbolizes the mystery of nature, and the legend is pretty interesting.

We hired a tour guide to drive us around to several wineries and had the chance to sample other little treats such as tasty olive oils and some yummy little stuff called dukkah (little flavoured crunchies that you dip your bread in after you dip it in oil). Yum.

It was a bit chilly, and there were no grapes on the vines, but we still managed to have a great time. :) Which leads me to...

I need sleep! 
After two weeks of late nights visiting with Jim and Sandy, and getting up early for both work and play, I'm ready to make it an early night tonight. Many of our late evenings have involved mudslides and playing Quiddler (think: scrabble but with cards). Jim and Sandy are off wandering throughout NZ on their own this week. Their plan includes both North and South Islands before we see them again this weekend. We wish we could provide them with nicer weather -- temps have been under 10 degrees C (40ish F) acompanied by some wind and rain. But then again, apologizing for the weather is another Kiwi habit we've picked up.

I wasn't going to embarrass Jim by talking about his obvious and utterly ridulous man-crush on Jemaine from Flight of the Conchords. But I just can't resist. We should never have told him that Jemaine, who's from Wellington, can be spotted around the city occassionally.

The real kabab
Speaking of Jemaine, I have a bone to pick regarding a discrepency in the video "Part-Time Model." He's singing about a kabab (and yes, we pronounce them to rhyme with "crab.") But I don't think he's holding a kabab. Sure, Americans would call that a shish kabab (of course this one rhymes with "blob.") But all the kababs I've seen here are comparable to gyros. See what I'm talking about at the 2:00 mark:

Is Jemaine turning his back on his own culture? Or is he using an inaccurate prop to avoid confusing the short-attention-span HBO market? Write a comment and set me straight.

By the way, Jake has recently developed an obvious and utterly ridulous addiction to kababs. And he's not ashamed.

Update from the jobfront
Now in the fifth week of my new job, I'm really enjoying it and learning a lot. I'm helping the company manage its three websites using a content management system that's new to me, but not too different from what I've used in the past. But there is a lot yet to learn about this company, this industry and our target market (NZers), that I'm still entrenched in the orientation/learning phase, and anxiously looking forward to adding some real, research-based value. I'm getting there.

Jake's job continues to be pretty sweet. In his (our) near future is a client assignment in the Cook Islands! Woohoo! As well as the annual KPMG ski trip up north. Hard to beat that.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Went to a land down under

Just got back from an amazing trip to Australia with Cousin Jimmy and his girlfriend Sandy. They've come back to Wellington with us for a few weeks, so all the trip planning and other random goofing around has kept me from updating you with our Aussie pics. 

We flew into Brisbane, then drove up the coast a few hours, took a charter flight out to Lady Elliot Island for a couple days, before driving 10 or so hours over a few days down to Sydney.

The weather was great and we crammed a lot of fun stuff into our short time there.

The highlight was on Lady Elliot Island, which is on the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef. Spent two days snorkeling and saw a shark, several big turtles, a sting ray (!) and a manta ray. Sandy got a minor sting from a jelly fish. 

Quite a rainbow. The trail led back behind this waterfall, so we had a chance to see underneath.

Standing in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. 

Jim and Sandy in front of Sydney's famous Opera House.

Look closely and you can see some big bats in this tree. We're in the botanical garden in Sydney, not far from the Opera House.

We visited this vineyard in honor of my mother-in-law Adena. They had some tasty wine and some excellent olives. 

The others did all the driving and navigating. I didn't have to do anything but relax in the back seat and help plan our next accommodation. 

We went on a fun little wine tour in the Hunter Valley. Our tour guide, whom we named "Doom and Gloom" Russell, was an interesting character. In between our lovely tastings, he told us stories about folks dying on wine tours and getting bit by poisonous snakes.

11 a.m.: Show up to the beach in Bargara. 
11:05 a.m.: The guys invent a new game, "hole tosser," with rocks and a hole in the sand. 
Next four hours: The play the same game while Sandy and I play in the water and soak up the rays.
Jake got friendly with the locals.

And so did Sandy. One of these had a little joey in its pouch, and we could see a little red hairless tail stick out, then a little red nose. 

In Bundaberg, we stopped to take a tour of its famous rum distillery. It was interesting and fun. As we left, Jake says "Now let's go get some Captain Morgan so I can wash this taste out of my mouth." 

Little charter plane we took held 10 people including our pilot.

Our favorite quote of the trip came from Nick, our tour guide on the Island, who said "no worries" after practically every sentence. "You'll want to watch out for a camouflage sea creature with 33 venomous tentacles on its back. If you happen to step on one, you'll be in excruciating pain. No worries, right this way...

This is a real, live manta ray just off the shoreline. Saw him from a boat.

The island had a grass runway through the middle, which we had to walk across each day to get to our favorite snorkeling beach.

Below's a slideshow of some of the beautiful sites and animals we saw while in Australia. 


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Awesome trip to Aussie

Just returned from an incredible nine-day trip "across the Tasman" to Australia. Amazing! Still sorting through the pics, and we'll have them posted soon.

We want to send a couple big Happy Birthdays to Grandma Dolores (hope you had a good one!) and also to America (we didn't get to see you either, but did our celebrating in Sydney this year).