Monday, February 28, 2011

Okay, here's the plan

You may have heard me talking about our big vacation and our big move coming up. In the next four months we'll be packing up and leaving New Zealand, taking a ridiculously cool trip and relocating back to Kansas City.

Here's the plan:

25 Feb: was my last day at work

31 March
: Last day of work for Jake

2 April
: We leave NZ and begin our nine-week-long vacation (we're calling it our world tour, more details to come)

3 June
: We arrive in Kansas City, where we'll find an apartment and start house-hunting

: Jake goes back to work in the KC office he left in 2008; Jamie looks for a job

So we have about five weeks left in New Zealand. In that time we will sell most of the stuff we own, organise the rest for shipping to KC, close our accounts, say goodbye to our friends and make arrangements for our world tour. And I plan to squeeze in lots more fun before we go. It certainly feels like one chapter is coming to a close and another is about to begin.

Friday, February 25, 2011

My last day at work

Yesterday was my last day at work as we prepare to move back to Kansas City. I'm afraid I didn't get much work done as I said my goodbyes and my awesome colleagues took me out to lunch.

From left is Olly (new member of the web team), myself (some call me WebBabe1), Stacey (WebBabe2), Kathryn and Diana. There are more several more people from work that I've enjoyed working with, but these are my closest workmates.

As a going away present, they gave me what I'm told is the quintessential guide to Kiwi cooking, the Edmonds cookbook. I'm pretty excited about it because now I have a bit more time on my hands and will give some of these recipes a shot. Take note of the date on the cover, and I've even come across some recipes inside that are from the first edition. Very cool. Thanks guys!

So now I will focus my time on enjoying our remaining time in NZ, organising our trip and preparing for our move back to Kansas City. We leave NZ in five weeks, then travel for nine weeks and land in KC in early June.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The tragedy in Christchurch

This is a difficult time for New Zealand as the people in and around Christchurch try to recover from an earthquake that has taken several lives. We have been reading news reports about the latest numbers of dead, injured and missing, and seeing images of the broken buildings and distraught people. It has been devastating.

Jake and I have received several emails and notes from friends and family checking in on us. Most understand we're in Wellington which is far enough away to be safe. Many have asked "how soon are you leaving?" Thanks to all of you. It makes us feel fortunate to have so many folks looking after us.

Several fundraisers have sprung up here and I even heard about a website that is trying to match up people with extra rooms around the country with those displaced by the disaster. That's the spirit. Our hearts go out to those who are there or who have friends and family affected by the earthquake. Here's hoping for peace and calm to return to Canterbury soon.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Speaking of cruise ships

The Queen Elizabeth, one of the world's newest and most luxurious ships, cruised into our harbour early this morning. And when a ship like that comes in, it's a big deal to Wellington.

It blew it's horn and woke me up as it glided in at 6:45am, and so I grabbed my camera and stumbled out onto the balcony to snap a couple pics. Then I saw my next door neighbors watching from their balcony as well, and was grateful that I'd taken the time to put on appropriate clothing before running out.

It was calm and beautiful, covered with some clouds but we saw a graceful sunrise nonetheless. The ship is said to be 294 meters long and carries 2,000 passengers and nearly 1,000 crew. And it's estimated that it will inject more than $1 million into our economy during it's short stay. Wow. For more details, you can read the news story on

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Not your typical two-cruise-ship day

I think Wellingtonians are proud of their city and its often dreary weather. The rest of NZ could be sunny and beautiful and you could easily find a giant dark cloud covering Wellington. That's really more the exception than the rule though because our climate is so mild and we have so many lovely days. But I think the perception of our city's moody weather is a big part of its character.

We find the weather reports to be less than consistent, so a while ago Jake developed a more reliable way to gauge the weather. Every morning we look out at the harbour and make a call based on the number of cruise ships we see.
  • 0 cruise ships = gorgeous bright, sunny day
  • 1 cruise ship = cold, grey, windy and rainy
  • 2 cruise ships = call in sick because it's going to be awful

This system was developed based on much observation and our sympathy to all those happy cruise ship passengers who may be disappointed to encounter our sometimes gloomy skies.

Today however, we've found a glitch in our usually fool-proof system. There are two giant cruise ships docked in the harbour and the skies are bright, sunny and warm. The downtown streets are crowded with many khaki-clad camera-toting sightseers. It makes me smile to think of all the happy people on vacation and how much I appreciate the sun when it shines here. It is certainly not your typical two-cruise-ship kind of day here in Wellington!


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

This weekend was one of the best ever – a perfect combination of friends, family, adventure and relaxation.

First, we had a chance to meet one of my relatives Germany, Tim, who is on holiday here in New Zealand with his girlfriend, Sina. After a conversation with my Dad, I figured out that my great grandfather and Tim’s great grandfather were brothers. Fortunately Tim and Sina speak excellent English because my three years of German classes are a distant and rather fuzzy memory now.

On Friday night Jake and I drove about four hours north to the mountains with a couple of friends where we met Tim and Sina. We were there to take on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, which is magnificent and daunting 7-hour walk up to a couple of active volcanoes and is considered one of New Zealand best hikes. I’ve been looking forward to this for more than two years.

The six of us set off on Saturday morning. After a long walk through rocky terrain then a steep climb, you’re rewarded with a view down into an incredible red crater featuring different colours of volcanic rock and the jagged edges created from repeated eruptions, which remind you how violent this place can be. We encountered solidified lava flows, steam vents and a heavy smell of sulphur in the air, and our photos can’t possibly capture the power and beauty from this place.

Just a bit farther is your final push to the top where I found the most breath-taking view of all. Down below on the other side are the three shining Emerald Lakes, their vibrant hues the result of volcanic minerals. After three or four hours of seeing nothing but the harsh, dry rocky terrain, a view of these bright green pools was like an oasis of calm in such a treacherous setting. It made me wonder about the first person who ever saw these lakes. Someone would have climbed up there without knowing what they’d see, and without the benefit of stairs and marked trails, to find those lakes. They must have thought they were hallucinating.

I found the walk exhilarating and exhausting. I felt my muscles burning and my heart pumping, and it made me feel incredible.

After the long decent back to the car, we stayed in a little motel and made it an early night since we were all so beat. The next day we stretched our sore muscles and chose activities that were a bit less strenuous, including some miniature golf (Tim won) and a swim at the Waikanae Beach on the way back to Wellington.

The beach was a big deal for us because this was the first time Jake and I have actually swam at any NZ beach as we usually find the water much too cold. I’m so glad we took advantage of it because I would have regretted leaving here without a good little swim in the ocean.

Tim and Sina are staying with us for a while before they continue their travels to the South Island later this month. It will be good to get to know them a bit better and to bring our families a bit closer.

Experiences like this make me thankful for my friends and family – including those I’m just now meeting – and for the cool opportunities Jake and I have had. This has been a truly incredible weekend.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Crazy Horses at Wellington Sevens

It's time for the annual Wellington Sevens, a two-day international rugby tournament that is famous for its fancy dress (Kiwi term for costumes) and its high level of alcohol consumption. And it was quite a year to go because New Zealand took home the first place trophy.

Jake and I went with some friends and dressed as the East Coast Crazy Horses, a fictional New Zealand gang from the movie Boy. I have to admit I was pretty excited to wear a mustache.

The movie was a big deal here in NZ but if you're unfamiliar with it, this one-minute-long clip introduces the gang-affiliated characters and offers a bit of insight their simple-minded antics and general silliness.

And what good sporting event is complete without a streaker?

A few fans wore Tui sombreros and ponchos featuring variations of the beer company's "yeah right" campaign messages. This one reads "I wasn't passed out. It was just my afternoon siesta," and it was the cleanest one I could find.

Other costumes ranged from simple to complex to "how am I supposed to fit in my seat?"

While the rugby is fun to watch in bite-sized pieces (seven members per team and seven-minute halves), seeing all the costumes and watching all the fans at various levels of inebriation (and amounts of clothing) are by far more entertaining. But after two days of so much fun, I'm ready for a siesta of my own.