A Travellerspoint blog

Goodbye, New Zealand. G’day, Australia.

When I first arrived in New Zealand and was missing the pace of life in San Francisco, several people told me to visit Melbourne as it bores an uncanny resemblance to my favorite city by the bay. And thanks to United’s lack of service from New Zealand to the states, I was pretty much forced to choose between flying out of Melbourne or Sydney. Melbourne, here I come.

Unfortunately, a combination of factors has made this not quite the best trip in the world. One: rain. Lots of it. My preferred way of getting to know a city is to walk it. Being too cheap to buy an umbrella makes it slightly more challenging. Second factor, for about the first time on my whole trip, I’ve been feeling quite homesick. A little bit like a little kid at camp. Unfortunately, I no longer have the option to call up my parents and say in a tearful voice, “will you come pick me up?” Although I did make an attempt, with tears and all, to get Juan to fly over. Which, speaking of, I’m going to make the big reveal. His name is Blair. That felt fairly anticlimactic, but that’s okay. Anyway, I’m feeling a bit in limbo of wishing that I were either in the comfort of my broken down home with my little honey or at home in San Francisco playing with my little nieces and nephew.

Alas, that is not so and all I can do is make the best of my time here. Despite the rain, there have been periods of dry weather while the clouds reload their ammo. From what I can tell, Melbourne is quite a cool city with a vibrant art scene. It’s also really tourist friendly. They have a free tourist shuttle and trolley car which offers automated commentary about the various areas all over the city. Sadly, my trip is not ending with a couchsurfing experience, as I would have preferred, over hostel life. I think I was a bit too used to the last minute nature of life in new Zealand and didn’t really get my act together early enough to get a spot with anyone here as all requested couches were booked. But, it may work out for the best as I probably wouldn’t be the best surfer at the moment. I would expect my feedback to be along the lines of: “kind of boring and mopey. Seemed quite keen to go to bed at 8 pm.”

Alright, the rain decided to take a rest and I’m going to venture out to make the most of it.

Posted by keoco1 08:55 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Last days in the land of the long white cloud.

After Juan and I returned home, I didn’t have a job, so much of the last two weeks in New Zealand were spent doing what I do best: sleeping! No one ever called me rip van winkle for nothing. The effects of a five week road trip and waking up to the sun in a tent at 6 am every morning caught up with me. I’m telling you, it’s a very stressful life I’ve been leading. Other than that, I oversaw the repairs of my car by juan, stalked the auction site it was listed on, did some holiday baking, hassled my previous employers for my holiday pay, luxuriated in the 18 hours of daylight, lamented that I’ve put in the hard yards through winter and am now leaving at the best time of the year, tended to our little garden and said lots of goodbyes.

It seems my time in New Zealand has truly gone by in a blink. It feels like just yesterday I was sitting on a plane from San Francisco heading out on adventures unknown. And since that time, I’ve had so many new experiences and met so many wonderful people for which I am eternally grateful. I will return home to San Francisco in a similar state to the one I left: unsure about what the future holds and how it will all turn out, but excited to see what happens. Whether that means remaining in San Francisco, returning to New Zealand or possibly traveling elsewhere, time will tell. However, here is one thing I’ve figured out for certain while I was away.

• New Zealand lamb is the best lamb in the world. No joke. Buy lots.

Oh, and I’ve made several mentions of the dilapidated house I’ve been living in for the past nine months and I decided I simply could not leave Invercargill without giving all of my loyal readers (I think we’re now up to two. Whoop whoop!) a little peak of the beauty. As a side note so as not to confuse anyone, the intention for this house is to be torn down and have several townhouses built on the lot. So, to answer a possible question in your minds, no this is not Juan’s dream home. Enjoy!

Tweed Street palace video tour

Tweed Street pics

My (half of a) sheep sheering experience

Posted by keoco1 08:48 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Road Trip Part II


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After my parents left, Juan and I got back to our roots of being uber cheap and spent our first few nights camping. We were able to find beaches which served as our accommodation for the nights and we had a chance to do some free diving and look for non-existent paua (another diatribe for another day.) And, as an added bonus, my amazing parents treated us to a scuba diving trip at the Poor Knights Islands. It’s one of the top ten dive sites in the world and was a true treat to be there. We took a small boat out with about 6 other people. One of the highlights was getting to swim into an air bubble nine meters underwater. Quite cool being able to take your reg out of your mouth and have a chat while looking on your depth gauge to see that you’re still 9 meters below the surface. After departing, we headed into Auckland where we were planning to see U2 and Jay-Z the next day. The concert was fun, even with our musical differences.

Here’s a taste:

Me: Wow, Jay-Z was insane. That was amazing.
Juan: Hmm. Yah. So, umm, is he a popular rapper?

He claims to have been taking the piss, but I’m not so sure. After Auckland, we spent a couple more nights in the north island and then took a few more on the south island before arriving home. The trip was nice and relaxed and filled with stops to look at lots of boats, engines and trees. Yeah! (note the sarcasm on the looking at boats, engines and trees. Although, I will admit a couple of the trees we saw were awesome like something out of avatar.) And, as an added bonus, the end of our trip meant I got to be reunited with the black beauty. Which, I will report is now sold! Another yeah! Okay, I’m about to insert another fake blog ending. Here’s to being tricky twice in one day.

North Island Road Trip Pics

Sandboarding down ninety mile beach video

Posted by keoco1 08:36 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Times they are a changin'


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Since the last episode, lots has been happening over in little New Zealand. I will give the extremely abbreviated version of our trip which I’m sure will actually somehow veer off into several longwinded diatribes thereby not being abbreviated at all. But, at least the thought is there. After leaving the Marlborough sounds, we took the ferry to the north island and spent some time in Wellington, the capital city, which lonely planet dubbed the “coolest little capital in the world” (hard to escape anyone’s notice as there were flags flying with the slogan at every street lamp. Unfortunately for new Zealand, they’re kind of like the red headed step child of the world. In fact, most people in the world probably think the country is part of Australia. So when something cool happens, they’ve got to go all out. it’s like little man syndrome, but for a country. Diatribe 1 over.)

After Wellington, which lonely planet has correctly dubbed a cool little capital, we moseyed on up through the central north island where I had a chance to walk the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. It is billed as New Zealand’s finest one day walk and it was pretty spectacular. Minus the part where I seriously thought I might get blown off a side trail no one else was on. I could just picture it in my head, “Tonight on New Zealand news, dumb American girl gets blown off trail after she decided to take the road less traveled.” To the point, but with a slightly poetic ending. There were other versions I came up with, but the basic gist, all’s well that ends well and I made it out alive and unscathed. We then headed north through Rotorua which smells like rotten eggs because of the sulfur from geothermal activity in the area. As you might imagine, that was a quick stop. We spent a couple of nights in the Coromandel at Hot Water Beach where the water is literally scorching hot. At low tide, beachgoers come with a shovel in hand and start digging on the beach to create their own very natural hot tub. There is a spring beneath the sand that is heated by the geothermal activity. It gets up to about 140 degrees. We didn’t have too much luck getting ourselves a hot tub as it seemed the regulars knew exactly where to dig, but we did get to feel the hot water bubbling up from under the surface. I had a blister on my toe as proof for a few days.

After departing from the Coromandel, we spent a night in Auckland to break up the drive. We then carried on up to Northland and spent our last four nights together in Russell, a cute little seaside town in the bay of islands. We attempted to go out swimming with dolphins, but in the two pods we saw, there were babies present and that means a no-go for getting into the water as it can stress mom out and she’ll stop producing milk. But, we still got to see two pods of dolphins which was truly incredible. They are such amazing little creatures which actually aren’t that little at all. They’re quite big up close and would definitely be cause for me to have a major freak out if one ever brushed by me while scuba diving.

Anyway, our last two nights in Russell, we were joined by my special friend who was constrained from participating on the whole trip due to the fact that he lives in the real world, unlike me, and had to work. My parents then headed back to Auckland for their flight in one car and Juan and I headed up further north in the other. Even though this is all part of the same entry, for everyone’s sake, I’m going to end it here and start another, thereby allowing me to keep my word that this will be an abbreviated post. I’m so tricky.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing Pics

Dolphin Video

Posted by keoco1 08:31 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Part II


View Where in the world is Kerryn O'Connor? on keoco1's travel map.

Day 10 on adventures with Johnny and Eddie. I’ve recently decided that rather than moving into a retirement home in old age, my mom should move into a hostel. The reason: unsuspecting people willing to let her talk their ear off for hours on end. She loves them. Thus far, we’ve stayed in a mix of houses/condos and hostels. And I have to say, while the houses are nice, my mom really “comes out of her shell” in the hostels.

We’re currently residing in one of my favorite places in New Zealand: The Hopewell Lodge in the Marlborough Sounds. It’s a long journey along two hours of winding roads, some unsealed, but upon arrival, it instantly becomes worth it. Guests are greeted with tea and cookies, enjoyed sitting under umbrella tables right by the water. We’re living off the land tonight after grabbing oysters, clams and mussels from the beach. Tomorrow, we’ll do some sea kayaking and then try our hand at catching some fish for dinner. I stayed here with my friend, Heather, back in April. This is when the possibility of me becoming a fisherwoman first became a glimmering hope. Five fish caught in five minutes. Take that deadliest catch.

Anyway, we spent some time preparing for dinner in the common area. My mom started chatting with a german couple who said 8 of the 11 guests in residence are German. Now, Germans are ALL over New Zealand. If I put in any amount of effort, I could probably be fluent at this point. That’s the mass we’re talking about here. But as with many Europeans, most speak almost perfect English. However, Johnny obviously didn’t get the bilingual memo.

Next person that enters into the common room.

Mom: HELLO….I’M….JONALYN….THIS…IS…ED…MY HUSBAND….HOW….ARE….YOU? (the periods represents ridiculously long pauses and the capitals are extreme enunciation and high volume.
Me and dad: (trying our best not to laugh our arses off, but quite unsuccessfully.)
German Gent: (In perfect English.) Hi, I’m X. Nice to meet you.

This might be one of those “had to be there moments,” but I swear I almost wet my pants. Anyway, so far so good with the trip. We started in Riverton (northwest of Invercargill.) Thankfully, we stayed in a rented house instead of the Tweed Street palace. In 20/20 hindsight, it may have been better to forgo the house tour and head out to the rental. Or at the very least, head to the posh section of town, point to a house and pretend it was my humble abode. Better yet, find one undergoing construction, “oh, yes, mom and dad. We’re having an additional wing added on and that’s why we can’t stop.” Oh, 20/20 hindsight, how amazing you are. After Riverton, we went to the spectacular Milford Sound. I decided to get a little rustic and had us stay a night at Gunn’s Camp about an hour outside of Milford. My second wrong move of the trip. In my little fantasy world prior to my parents arriving, I envisioned us camping at various points during our trip. This fantasy became such a reality in my head that I even procured three sleeping bags, a tent and various camping accessories. Upon arrival to Gunn’s camp, this fantasy quickly died a fiery death. Mom was mortified by the bare bones cabins. In her defense, we did not grow up as campers, but really, it’s in the middle of a national park, I’m quite certain that a Ritz Carlton would be a bit out of place. Apparently not in Mom’s world.

Mom: Jee-sus, Kerryn. This looks like some backwoods shack straight out of my grandmother’s era.

One great thing for her is the mileage she will get out of the story of staying in “that horrid Gunn’s shithole.” No doubt that will give her at least a year, possibly two, of fodder with her friends.

After a few days in a Queenstown haven, we then went up to Fox Glacier where housing options are fairly limited. We ended up at the Ivory Tower Hostel. As hostels go, it’s fairly typical. I took one for the team and stayed in a dorm, while mom and dad stayed in their own double room. After we settled in, I went over for a little visit.

Me: knock, knock.
Dad: Oh, look. We have a tv and dvd player.
Mom: I feel like Indiana Jones in he-ah.
Me: Mom, how exactly would this be close to Indiana Jones? You’re staying a private room with a double bed, heater and television.

After another brief stop up the west coast, we headed to Abel Tasman. My dreams of camping dashed, we ended up renting a house in Kaiteriteri. On our first full day there, we took a boat along the coast of Abel Tasman National Park and then landed at Bark’s bay for a short hike down the coast to Anchorage Bay. Along the way, it was filled with beautiful views of the water, clean scents of the surrounding trees and yes, complaints from my mother:

Mom: I’m thirsty, I need some water. Kerryn, stop drinking all the water.
Mom: These tree stumps just come up from nowhere.
Mom: Slow down.

Etc. Hopefully you’re getting the idea. Warning: the next verbal exchange is said in jest. Both parties were laughing at something prior and continued to laugh during and after conversation exchange. Do not judge. I am not a bad person even if my mom occasionally drives me to the brink of sanity.

Mom: Ed, slow down. You need to wait for me.
Me: Mom, did you know you’re quite bossy?
Mom: No, I’m not. I’m just the alpha dog.
Me: No, in dog terms I’d say you’re more of the shih tzu that everyone wants to drop kick to keep from yapping.

And that now brings us to the Hopewell Lodge. The next installment of “shit my mom says” will be coming soon I’m sure.

Posted by keoco1 08:34 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Shit my mom says


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When I first started my blog back in January and I was sitting stranded in San Francisco spending 90% of my time with my mother, I contemplated using my blog as a forum to chronicle shit my mom says. Lucky for me and all of you, that very night, I got onto a flight and was whisked away to sunny Sydney where slightly more interesting topics awaited me. Well, my mom and dad have recently arrived in the land of Gandolf and Frodo and I am once again spending 90% of my time with them. As an outlet to vent any frustration, err, I mean, to expound on all of my mom’s wonderful qualities, I have decided to resume “shit my mom says.”

When mom and dad landed at the Invercargill airport, I parked my car and made a beeline to gate 12 (of 1) to greet them. I escorted them outside and as we exited, mom stopped dead in her tracks. I turned around ready to hurry her up, but the shocked expression and fear in her eyes gave even me pause.

Mom: (pointing to a car directly outside the airport doors.) Oh my god. Jee-sus. Please, don’t tell me that thing is black beauty. (see the picture below and you will see why this is so funny. And no, it’s not black beauty.)

And while we’re on the topic of black beauty, I am sad to report she has now been temporarily laid to rest. There were a few minor problems with it: a slight brake deficiency (they worked wonders going 10 mph, just not so much over that speed or coming down hills. There’s nothing like using the e-brake on a regular basis), random loss of power (awesome when you’re trying to make a turn and oncoming traffic is heading your way) and an oil leak that leaves enough smoke to reach the passengers of a 737 at 30,000 feet. Lucky for me, my little knight in shining armor has friends in high places. We will now be making the south island expedition in black beauty 2.0 - a Honda legend. I used to defend black beauty til I was blue in the face, but after stepping into this vehicle, I can no longer be the great defender of my former vehicle. When I drove for the first time with excitement and surprise to be in a car with fully functioning brakes, I realized perhaps black beauty wasn’t quite the beauty I’d believed her to be.

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Posted by keoco1 20:59 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Let there be life

I think I may have made a brief mention in my last posting about applying for a shepherd position. I am pretty obsessive about checking the local paper every Wednesday and Saturday for jobs. One week, I came across a posting for a head shepherd. In my mind, this was a legitimate prospect. After all, I did some time on a farm when I first arrived in New Zealand. I figured a week would be enough to qualify me. So later on that day, I told Juan I was going to apply for the job.

Juan: let me guess, when they ask you about your qualifications, you’re going to tell them you spent one week on a farm?
Me: Of course! That counts. And I’m really keen.
Juan: I actually want you to apply because I want to see if they laugh at you.

After that, I rethought the idea and decided to hold off. Well, sure enough, the next week, there was a posting for an assistant shepherd position. This must be a sign. Okay, I’m going for this one.

Me: (called the farmer) Hi, I’m calling about the assistant shepherd position.
Farmer’s wife: Oh, well my husband is still out on the farm. I can have him call you when he gets in. Uh, do you have any experience?
Me: Well, depends how you define experience exactly… But I’m really keen!
Farmer’s wife: Okay, well we’ll call you.

Sure enough, no call. Well, I’m here to tell those farmers, you lost out on the best little shepherd. And I have video to prove it! Yes, yesterday on the day of my birth, I helped birth not one, but TWO lambs. It was by far the best birthday present I’ve ever had and not one I will soon forget. And! I learned how to drive a John Deere. There’s no stopping me now. Seriously, I think these things could be the wave of the future. Americans love big cars don’t they?

All in all it was a pretty great day. I got breakfast in bed, worked on my veggie garden (have now planted strawberries, rhubarb, spring onions, carrots, tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, and herbs), went fishing, had a picnic, did my farming detail and then enjoyed a wonderful dinner with Juan’s family. Of course I missed celebrating with my own family, but I think everyone is still making payments on Caitlin’s past birthday extravaganzas so it probably works out for the best (haha, just kidding you auntie caity.) And thanks to those of you who sent me birthday wishes. They were very much appreciated and glad to know even though I’m on the other side of the world, I’m not completely forgotten!

Posted by keoco1 20:18 Archived in New Zealand Comments (3)

E-I-E-I-O

This past week in Invercargill, I've only had two hours of work in the morning due to school vacations. I've been in the pool with pre-schoolers doing lots of ring-around-the-rosie, follow the leader and blowing bubbles. This has left time for other pursuits like planning for my four week roadtrip with my parents!! That's right, Jonny and Eddie will be making their New Zealand debut in late October. The subject of many future blog posts I'm sure.

We also went out to the farm the other day and happened to be there on calve de-horning day. Yes! While Juan hung out at the house, I went with his mum and brother to take part. It starts with the vet administering anesthesia to all the calves. After that, the vet injected a local into both horns. By then, all the calves are laying on the floor mildly out of it and then it's showtime. Irons get heated on a portable gas flame. When they're red hot, the vet takes one and burns it into the calf's horn. The smell of burning fur and flesh seemed a bit excruciating at first, but I was told numerous times it's actually quite humane. A while after, Juan picked me up to go back home.

Juan: How'd it go?
Me: Great! I got to help the vet hold down the calves when she administered the local to the horns. Except, I didn't hold very hard and she fell over when the calf started thrashing. Then your mum took over.
Juan: So you weren't the best farm assistant?
Me: Well then I asked brother if I could help him tag the ears. And I started pushing the pin, but then the calf started getting up and I could feel the cartilage breaking and I got a bit freaked out and might have let out a wee cry/moan/yell. Then your brother took over.
Juan: So you tortured a calf by not pushing the pin in fast enough?
Me: I guess it's a good thing I didn't get that head shepherd position.

Posted by keoco1 11:12 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Woof, woof

Upon my return to Invercargill, I was certain that I would be greeted by sunny weather, chirping birds and flowers beginning to bloom. Hahaha how wrong I was. Instead what I came back to was about four inches of snow. Not much for this native east coaster, but unprecedented for the Invercargill set. To help paint the picture, a roof of a ten year old stadium collapsed from the weight, along with roofs of other buildings in the city. After dealing with this for a week and realizing I had a week off from work, I decided to make a last minute trip to Stewart Island and return to my woofing roots.

I made some hasty day of plans and was able to get on the flight to Stewart Island.

Me: I wonder if they'll have a flight attendant for drinks.
Juan: Do you think they could fit a drink cart in a Honda Vigor with wings?

So I got to the airport about 15 minutes before my flight. I start making conversation with a fellow passenger when all of a sudden there is a massive hail storm for about 3 minutes.

Inner monologue: I'm excited about going to Stewart Island, but would prefer not to die getting there. Perhaps I'll see if I can fly tomorrow instead.
Me: (at flight desk) Hi. Ummm. Are there any flights tomorrow.
Agent: No, the 9 and 1 are booked.
Me: Oh, that's okay. What about the 4?
Agent: There's space, but you're getting on this flight. This will be the weather for the next six weeks. Here's a pair of ear plugs.
Me: ummm. okay. How's the plane with water landings?
Agent: About 50/50.

I'm not a very nervous flyer, but since the trans Tasman flight from Sydney to Christchurch, I'm feeling a little more weary of small planes. As we taxied down the runway, I seriously considered pulling a Whitney Houston a la Bodyguard and making them stop the plane. Except instead of me jumping off into the hands of my one true love, I could jump off in search of a brown bag in which to breathe into. Unfortunately for me, I missed my window and quickly our wheels were pulling off the ground.

We flew at the low level of 1000 feet on the 25 minute flight to Stewart Island. I decided to use the journey as a great white shark siting adventure. Unfortunately or fortunately depending on how you look at it, all I could see were waves crashing in the water. So much for my great expedition! But one perk of almost having a panic attack before the flight is that the pilot let me sit in the co-pilot seat. It was actually pretty awesome. By the end of the flight I was thinking maybe I should have paid more for the perk.

After landing, we were picked up and brought down to the main township of Oban. Upon arrival, I was greeted by my woofing host. We made a quick stop at his house and then on to the restaurant. The Church Hill restaurant sits on the hill overlooking Halfmoon Bay. It's a quaint space with an open fireplace, tastefully decorated interior and breathtaking vistas to enjoy. We started off with 3 woofers and by the end of my week there we were up to 6 total. The instructions from my woofing host were, there are no instructions. Pitch in where you'd like and do the work you think you should do. Excellent. The perfect making for my communist world. I ended up taking over the role of cookie maker. This then included a daily walk down to the arriving ferry to pass out free cookies to welcome tourists to Stewart Island. I also revived my bread making skills. It started off a little slow, or perhaps I should say dense with my first loaf. Yes, I forgot that important ingredient called yeast. But from then on, each loaf just got better. Even experimenting with some fruit and nuts by the end. I also learned the fine art of smoking salmon. From deboning to packaging. And a great perk of working in a restaurant - delicious meals three times per day. One of the woofers was a french pastry chef which only added to all the culinary delights.

Most mornings were spent doing a bit of work and after lunchtime, we'd be off to do whatever we pleased. I went on some great hikes around the area, explored the native birdlife on Ulva Island and we did a driving tour of the island. Definitely a fun part of my trip and a tough place to leave. There are only 300 year round residents on the island so to say the pace of life is slow might be an understatement. But alas, after a week, I was on the plane (riding shotgun) to Invercargill.

The weather picked up dramatically and spring does finally seem to be on the rise.

Posted by keoco1 11:06 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Planes, trains and automobiles

I’m on my way back to Invercargill which consisted of a 15 hour flight to Sydney, 14 hour layover, 3 hour flight to Christchurch, overnight stay for 8 hours and an hour flight to Invercargill. Long travel really doesn’t bother me that much. But, I’m now mid-flight to Christchurch, my flight was delayed and I’m feeling a bit cranky. So please allow me to vent.

It’s never a good sign when before taking off the captain says, “Well, folks, we have vomit bags in the seat pocket in front of you. Feel free to use those throughout the flight. And please let your flight attendants know if you feel sick.” Really? Should I press the call button so that I can actually vomit ON them? I can barely get a glass of water without a death stare. I cannot even begin to imagine what they would do if I said, “umm. Hi. I feel nauseous.”

And why are the desk agents almost always the most irritating people on earth? I arrived from my SF flight at the bright and early hour of 6:30 a.m. After cruising around the airport for a couple of hours, I decided to try to see if I could get onto the 12:30 flight to Christchurch.

Irritating Air NZ employee: Ma’am, are you checking in?
Me: Oh, well kind of. I’m just trying to get onto an earlier flight. The 12:30 to Christchurch. My flight leaves at 6:30.
Irritating Air NZ employee: Well, 12:30 is the only flight we have today. I’m not sure what you’re talking about. That’s our only flight to Christchurch today.
Me: Oh, perhaps I got that time wrong. Let me check my itinerary.
Irritating Air NZ employee: (rips the paper from my hand) oh, that’s pm. Well. Umm. You’ll have to pay a fare difference – go to the counter at the end.
Inner monologue: ugh

And as my frugality would have it, paying a fare change was not in the cards for me. So I patiently waited for the desk to open for my flight. When I got to the counter, I handed over my passport and visa documentation.

Slow Air NZ employee: Are you a citizen of New Zealand?
Inner monologue: why on earth would I be handing you a US passport and visa documentation if I were a citizen of New Zealand?
Me: No. US.
Slow Air NZ employee: where’s your visa?
Me: (trying to remain calm) ummm. It’s the piece of paper I just handed you with my passport.
Slow Air NZ employee: where’s the expiration date on the visa?
Me: It’s on the visa documenation and the stamp in my passport also shows when it expires.
Slow Air NZ employee: well, the stamps aren’t good enough. You have to have visa documentation.
Inner monologue: is this some kind of “simpleton employee” outreach that Air NZ is piloting?!?! What do you think I just gave you? Visa documentation? Correct!
Me: yep. That makes sense.

While I did think for a while that I could be a cast member on the next season of Lost (don’t worry, I’m not that far behind the times. I do know it’s over,) in the end I made it safe and sound to Christchurch. Plus, lucky for me, the couple next to me that was sucking face the ENTIRE flight helped me keep my mind occupied by continually wondering, “should I ask them if they’re getting enough air now or wait for them to pass out?” In the end, I decided to go with the latter. I need to stay sharp with those cpr skills.

And twelve hours after writing the first part of my blog and my flight to Invercargill has been canceled. Sweet. But alas, I am holed up in the Koru club lounge and I plan to drink, eat and web surf my fair share of the entry cost. Technically, I wouldn’t really be drinking at 9:45 a.m. since I’m still on California time. At least that’s what I’ll tell anyone who gives me a weird look.

After this, I’m looking forward to taking a little break from the friendly skies.

Posted by keoco1 09:56 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

On the road again

And in a blink my trip to the US is over. Since I started my trip with a top 10 list, I figure I'm going to finish with one because, well, it's my blog.

Top 10 reasons I'm excited to go back to new zealand:

#1 lululemon has yet to infiltrate the island
#2 I'll be just in time for the end of lambing season and can hopefully be elbow deep in a sheep's uterus very soon...yum.
#3 warm weather is just around the corner
#4 only place I know where you don't have to show id or go through security at the airport
#5 just a little bit excited about the kids of 88 concert
#6 testing out my new wetsuit and diving for abalone.
#7 spatial distance to recover from the memory of 6 kids under 4 in one house for a week
#8 ibid
#9 getting my gun license (hello, sarah palin)
#10 having my bed buddy back

Posted by keoco1 21:58 Archived in USA Comments (0)

I’m goin back to Cali…

0 °F

As I sit here in Christchurch, eight months after my arrival to New Zealand, I am contemplating the 36 hours of planes, trains and automobiles (city buses and super shuttle in my case) which lies ahead bringing me full circle back to San Francisco. I actually attempted to book in at the same hostel I stayed in when I first arrived. I felt there was something poetic about that. Luckily, the Dorset House was able to pull me out of my reverie when I was informed no rooms were available. But, I did get the next best pick. The Celtic Backpackers located on Dublin Street. It was the street I first walked down in the early morning hours when I was wandering around map-less, cellphone-less and clueless about my whereabouts in a foreign city. My stride felt much more confident the second time around.

But, returning home has allowed me the chance for some reflection of my time abroad. And in that reflection, I very quickly came to the realization that I’m not quite ready to return to “the real world.” For all of its merits (steady income, disposable income, family, friends, etc) I’m still enjoying a slightly more unconventional approach for the time being. However, this is not to say I’m not excited about my two week trip to the good ol’ US of A. I have compiled my top ten list of things I’m most looking forward to in rank order:

1. Giving the biggest, longest hug to my nieces and nephew (will probably last about 5 seconds, but for a 1, 3 and 4 year old, that’s not too shabby.
2. Seeing my family and friends
3. The look of shock on my sister’s face when I knock on her door to announce my arrival
4. Fage non-fat greek yogurt
5. A blue barn salad
6. Tartine
7. Food in SF (pretty much anything. I figured I should cut short the individual items since it could easily consume my top 10 list.)
8. Seeing the golden gate bridge
9. Not having to attend Club Book! via skype
10. Driving on the right side of the road
11. Not having to pay for internet by the megabyte (sorry, had to add in one more. One bad thing I will say about New Zealand is they are seriously behind the times in telecommunications. Seriously, 80 cents/minute to make a domestic call?! Eek. Don’t get me started. I might have to make a separate blog post to air my extreme hatred of their antiquated communication infrastructure. Okay, rant over.)

So as I now sit at the Sydney airport, the countdown is really on. About fifteen hours from home soil and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for “Indian Summer” weather.

Posted by keoco1 09:24 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Do not fret…

semi-overcast 50 °F

I am alive and well. No, the great white did not come to get me during our first scuba diving adventure. We spent Saturday exploring the muddy bottom (and not much else) of Lake Te Anau. Sunday, we headed out to Ruapuke Island for our second day of diving. With a refreshing 45 degree water temp, we plunged into the water with me on high alert for any hungry shark friends. On our first dive, we did a few exercises (filling our mask with water and clearing it, removing our buoyancy compensator jackets and refitting them underwater and gaining neutral buoyancy in the water.) After that, playtime! Our instructor broke open a nearby kina (an underwater delicacy) and we had the chance to feed the abundant sea life that quickly became very curious. I was surprised at the incredible variety of fish and the beautiful colors that abound in the area. At one point, a huge school of fish passed overhead and I was tempted to break out in “Unda da sea. Unda da sea…”

After the first dive, we ascended back to the boat for a quick warm up. Surprisingly, seven millimeters of neoprene will keep you fairly warm in the frigid water, but a chill quickly sets in when you’re waiting up on the boat.

After a twenty minute break, we started suiting back up for our next dive and our instructor declared we would be venturing forth without him.

Instructor: You’ve done all your exercises. You guys are ready to dive on your own. I’ll just wait here and pick you up when you’re ready. Just stay away from the anchor line when you dive in because I’m going to pull it up once you’re in the water.
Me: This isn’t going to be like in Open Water where you ditch us, right? (hey, a girl’s got to be sure.)

So off we went on our next dive. And thankfully, just as enjoyable as the first in that I lived to tell the tale.

A couple of videos are below for your viewing pleasure!

http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/z3Qyw_2cWTOYZy3tvjSJVUlYF5y0j2ohbvY-v1sHeZ0?feat=directlink

http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/sMZv_4M0xvGoOlroRU_m10lYF5y0j2ohbvY-v1sHeZ0?feat=directlink

Posted by keoco1 18:42 Archived in New Zealand Tagged boating Comments (2)

Mary had a little lamb…

Spring has, well, almost sprung here in Southland. And in this farming community, that means the land will soon be littered with little lambs hopping merrily along. A set of twins was born this weekend at Juan’s family farm and I got an up close and personal look at the cuddly creatures.

Ps. I think this may be a personal record. Shortest blog ever!!

http://picasaweb.google.com/keoco1/MaryHadALittleLamb?authkey=Gv1sRgCO2w6L_PjZyPYQ&feat=directlink

Posted by keoco1 09:16 Archived in New Zealand Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

The seaweed is always greener…

“I just want you all to know that I am deathly afraid of sharks.” Before even uttering my name, these were the first words out of my mouth at my scuba class this weekend. Yes, Juan and I are taking the plunge. Putting our toe into new waters. Exploring new depths. Okay, I will stop with the cheesy clichés. We started our two weekend journey to becoming Scuba School International scuba divers this past weekend. Thus far, the class has consisted of pre-work (watching a dvd and reading a scuba manual), six or so hours of classroom work and then about six or so hours of pool time. In the pool, we learned how to clear our masks of water, remove our buoyancy control devices and some other maneuvers that may prove to come in handy should problems arise (i.e. sharing air in an emergency – yeah to breathing!)

During the classroom work, we didn’t quite cover the whole shark issue, so I decided to take the bull by the horns or maybe the shark by the teeth in this case?

Me: Um, so if we do come upon a shark, what should we do?
Instructor: The truth of the matter is, the sharks really are not interested in us. There are plenty of fur seals down here and that’s what they prefer to eat. If you do get bit, it’s just a case of them testing you out. Unfortunately, a test bite is often deadly, but you should be good.
Another student: Oh, a mate of mine saw a great white a couple of weeks back. Said it was unreal.
Instructor: Oh, yep, about 5 months ago, I was out and had a two and a half ton great white swim right up to me. Man, that thing was huge about the width of this table (7 feet) and had massive teeth.
My inner monologue: Seriously!?!? This is not helping the nerves.

Regardless, we are venturing out for three dives on Saturday to Lake Te Anau about 90 minutes from Invercargill. I was probably the biggest advocate for diving in the lake.

Instructor: Righty-o, folks. Next weekend, we can either scuba in Bluff or Lake Te Anau.
Me: (in the most overly aggressive jeopardy contestant manner) what is Lake Te Anau!!!!

On Sunday, we’re going to do two dives out at Stewart Island. This is like the Farallon Islands of New Zealand: a great white breeding ground. On the plus side, visibility is usually about 20 meters. Which means… if I am going to be attacked, I’ll probably have plenty of time to see it happening and can get myself into a good panic before it all goes down. Sounds fun!! Until then, I will probably continue dreaming about scenes from jaws, complete with theme music.

Posted by keoco1 14:45 Archived in New Zealand Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

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