Sunday, January 24, 2010

Glad to know I inspire my colleagues

It happened to me again on Friday. At work, I met someone whom I've only ever corresponded with via email who was rather surprised to find that I am a woman. Apparently the vast majority of Jamies here are male. No worries. I've gotten used to it.

Another thing I've gotten used to is the little nickname I've been given from the folks in our marketing team. For some reason they started calling me Ja'mie (pronounced juh-MAY) not long after I started. They told me it was because of some Australian TV character, and I never bothered looking it up.

Just today I finally became curious enough to Google the show, and was surprised to find that not only was this female character played by a MAN, she's completely stuck up and vacant. Check it out:

She's actually really funny. Think what you'd like, but I'm pretty sure my colleagues gave me the name with good-hearted intensions. We work in the insurance and financial services industry after all, so any bit of humour and fun we can add to our workdays is fully welcomed.

Ja'mie King of Summer Heights High

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Digital effects in Wellywood

We just saw the movie Avatar last night, and now I know what all the talk is about. Some amazing special effects. I'm proud to know those effects were created just down the road from here, at Weta Digital in Miramar Wellington.

If you haven't seen the movie, at least check out the trailer and movie site so you get an idea of how impressive these effects are. The reference to Kansas did not go unnoticed.

Weta Digital is a big player. They've been involved in films such as Lord of the Rings and King Kong. Here's a quick read I enjoyed if you're interested in learning a bit more about how they make the live action filming and digital effects look to real and seamless. Because of our city's growing involvement in the film industry, some have referred to us as Wellywood.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Royal Update!

I saw Prince William this morning as he entered Wellington's new Supreme Court building!

He arrived with a motorcade and several secret service types, escorted by our Prime Minister John Key -- it was the first time I've seen him as well. A couple colleagues and I walked over there, saw several hundred people gathered there, then found an excellent spot at the top level of the carpark across the street. (To be clear, it wasn't my carpark as I mentioned earlier. Mine's on the other side.) A Maori delegation greeted him with a traditional Maori cloak, which I'm told is only presented to the highest Moari chiefs and other dignitaries, as well as a haka performance. It was all rather exciting for a Monday morning in Wellington!

Royalty in Wellington

Speaking of visitors to New Zealand, today we're honoured with the company of Prince William. In his first official international visit for the Queen, he's joining us for three days, which will include a tour of the 2011 Rugby World Cup grounds, a cruise around in an America's Cup boat, a barbecue with the prime minister and a visit to a children's hospital.

Best headline so far: Right in the Crown Jewels, with a report on how he received a minor injury while playing catch with a group of boys.
The reason for his visit is the opening of the new NZ Supreme Court building here in Wellington, which is across the street from our downtown carpark, and only a couple blocks from the buildings Jake and I work in. I love how compact our little city is.

Hardship in Haiti

Hilary Clinton was scheduled to visit New Zealand until the earthquake hit Haiti, which is all over our news. What an unimaginable tragedy. It's hard to understand how such an enormous disaster should happen in one of the poorest nations on earth. Makes us feel pretty far removed from the challenges and hardship people face -- not just after something like this happens, but the struggles that many people deal with every day for basic necessities such as food and shelter.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I'm over this weather

We've heard and seen photos of how the US and the UK are experiencing the worst winters in more than 25 years, and our hearts go out to them. Everything covered in snow and ice... it's been a while but we remember how depressing that is.

Our city is going through its own cold snap this week, and it's supposed to be summer here! I love Wellington, and we have a strange sense of pride in knowing it always seems to be colder, windier and rainier than any other part of the country. I think it's just part of its character. Take a peak at this news clip about our unseasonably cool weather and how the hearty folks in our city are coping.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Man it's windy

So windy that today they called for sustained winds of about 70 km/h and gusts of up to 120 km/h -- that's 75 miles per hour!

I just got back from a run, and it sure felt as though I was running in place at times. It's hard to capture the intensity of the wind in a photo, so I'll just share a shot of one of the sculptures featured along Wellington's harbour front. It was created by English artist Max Patte and titled "Solace in the Wind."

Monday, January 4, 2010

Cows, caves and carvings in the Northland

When our Chicago friends had to leave, Jake and I wanted to take advantage of the six days of vacation we still had left, so we hopped on a flight to Auckland to explore the northern part of the North Island.

I hear the entire U.S. is covered in a giant cold front, which really makes me appreciate our warm sunshine right now.

Jake and I had a chance to kayak to Haruru Falls near Paihia and Waitangi. The trip took us almost three hours since we didn't research the tide schedules before leaving. My arms were so exhausted, but it was worth it to paddle right up to this waterfall.

We also had a chance to visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. If you're unfamiliar with the Waitangi Treaty, it's among the most important documents in NZ history. Signed in 1840 between the British and 500 Maori tribal chiefs, it gave the Maori the same rights as British subjects and recognised Maori ownership of their land. The interpretation was controversial though, as the British version sites the word "govern" where the Maori version says "sovereign."

Overall though, it seems both Maori and non-Maori people respect the treaty, especially since we get a day off in February every year to celebrate it. The Maori carvings are amazing to see in person. Apparently Maori wasn't a written language, so they communicated and upheld their history through carving and weaving. We were told the faces stick their tongues out because of the spoken nature of the language, and the man at the top is holding a paddle because the sea is so important to the Maori culture. Paua, a type of abalone shell found here in NZ, is used as an accent in most of the carvings' eyes.

The New Zealand flag flies above the British Union Jack on the right, and the flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand on the left at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. On our drive from Paihia to our next camping destination, we came across a site that reminded us of Kansas. A bunch of cows in the road, and some lady on a four-wheeler yelling at them.

Check out our brand new tent in action at a campsite near Whangaroa. Pay no attention to the fact that it is stretched to the seams in order to fit our double-tall, queen-size pillow-top air mattress. You didn't think we were roughing it, did you?

We were looking for a tent that would be big enough to fit our giant air mattress when we go car-camping, but also small and light enough that we (and by we, I mean Jake) can fit/carry it in a backpack for multi-day treks. In case you're wondering Brett, this tent weighs about two kilos of peanut butter. (Readers: remind me to tell you the peanut butter story some time.)

Glow worm caves are a big tourist draw here. The next night we stayed at a little backpacker lodge that let us check out the cave next door unguided and for free. Of course my photos of the little critters didn't turn out, but that's okay. I don't want to ruin their mystique anyway.

This cow obviously didn't recognise my rural and agricultural roots.

We had plenty of beach time on this trip as well. I love these gorgeous beaches that never seem crowded. Not sure if we've just been avoiding the most popular places, but we can always walk a little ways or crawl over some rocks to find a little spot all to ourselves. I lived in Southern California when I was little, and it always seems like our blanket was touching other people's blankets. The weather here may not be as consistently nice as there, but I do love having some space. And when a New Zealander walks by, they say "Hi, how are you?" or "How you going?" I should be used to it by now, but I continue to be surprised and impressed by the friendliness.

Here you go, everyone. This here is the largest sea cave in the southern hemisphere. Jake and I took a cruise out to the Poor Knights Islands (apparently Jacques Cousteau rated this place among the top 10 best dive spots in the world). We did a bit of snorkeling in the chilly waters and kayaked into this amazing cave. What a beautiful place.

And after nearly two and a half weeks of blissfully amazing vacation, it's time to go back to work.