Monday, 30 January 2012

Time Traveler's Wife

I did see that movie in the video store the other day but I didn't check it out. That's right people, I was in a video store. A real, live video store that is actually open and I will even say, thriving. Adam and I felt like we were back in 8th grade at our local Blockbuster, picking out a movie for the big sleepover party. We didn't technically know each other in 8th grade, but after hours of long walks on the beach and pre-wedding questionnaires you get a sense of what your significant other was like in middle school. 

Video stores and book stores are everywhere in New Zealand, which is weird after seeing them all wiped out in the States. Surprisingly, this sense of traveling back in time has become a familiar one to me the past couple months. I am often asking myself - what year is it here anyway? Exhibit A:

Not a great picture but at least you get a sense of the style here.

Since I had just gotten a video card I thought why not take it from an A day to A+ day and get a library card too. So I made my way to my local library, got a card, and just because I could, checked out Billy Joel's Greatest Hits Cd and relived my youth all in a matter of an afternoon. I am trying to embrace these differences instead of feel irritated by them, depending on the day, I am successful.

Speaking of differences, I was listening to the radio the other day and heard an F bomb dropped, just like it was hot. I guess censorship and Kiwis are like oil and water  and radio stations play songs in their original form. This also happens on TV shows and I don't mean cable. Perhaps you've been curious about how that angry cop on Southland really feels. Well I can tell you that when the bad guy gets away he doesn't yell, "Fudge." Same goes for those reality shows where people make idiots of themselves babbling on in their drunk tirades. Well the secret is out and while all you folks back home are racking your brain for what could possible be behind that bleep, I now know who these people really are. And they are just like US right?

Oh and I almost forgot to mention what I did end up renting. I could say it was a tough choice but it wasn't. I went with the 1st Season of Gossip Girl. It is SO good. I mean I had to do something to balance out the podcast I had listened to the day before about the European Debt Crisis.  

With regard to my actual life and goings on, it's proceeding as usual. Not that I have a "usual " yet but I'm working on it. The folks at Rhythm Cafe do know my name and coffee order so that's a small victory in the settling in game. Adam had to work all weekend, but I did get a last minute invite to attend a business dinner with him. It was at a fancy and delicious seafood restaurant in the Viaduct. I sat next to an American man who said "I'm not a big eater, I don't really understand the whole Thanksgiving thing." Alrighty, I'll add that to the list of Things I'll Never Say. Since I am not in the "not a big eater" camp I did eat a lot and had the pleasure of walking it off here:

This is the chair I would have layed down in had we not been with Adam's colleagues. Maybe next time....

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Let Me See Your Tootsie Roll

Since I don't currently have a job it's important that I keep my mind sharp, just like how old people should watch Wheel of Fortune and play Suduko. This is why I have decided to challenge myself to write about my experience last night in the form of the classic Candy Bar format. Here goes:

We were walking down a street that looks nothing like 5th Avenue and ran into a couple I had met while looking at houses. The real estate agent we had dealt with was a real Zagnut and I mean that in the worst way possible. We Snickered about her and joined them at their table thinking what a SKOR it was to run into them. Andrew and Adriene had just moved from Canada which is closer then the Milky Way but still really far from New Zealand. We imparted our infinite wisdom about Kiwi life and Mounds of other things we had learned in our weeks here. We did not talk about the Symphony but about how Adriene is also a therapist like me and what life is like in the Navy for Andrew. I was quick to share that I had seen an International House Hunters episode where a guy from the UK, we will call him Mr. Goodbar, moved his family to the North Shore of Auckland to work at the very base where Andrew will be. We dined over delicious Indian food and our bill was less then 100 Grand which is always a good thing. Much to my chagrin it did not come with a free Butterfinger but turned out to be a really fun evening. I am looking forward to hanging out with them again and most importantly Adreine really seems like the kind of girl I could do the Tootsie Roll with.

And just because it hasn't gotten old :

I guess even at the Doctor's office you don't have to wear shoes.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Before Sunrise

That would be referring to when I got up this morning. I was sleeping soundly as I usually do. Unbeknownst to me, it probably looked like this outside.

But anyone who knows me knows that I love my sleep. It's not only something I excel at but really enjoy. In my past, I have taken extreme and unprofessional measures to get the sleep I need. I am thinking specifically of a certain golf club I waitressed at on Martha's Vineyard, where I would lay down on the lovely carpeted bathroom floors if I had the morning shift and we had no cutomers. At one job in San Francisco, I also might have been known on occasion to "check out" the company van at lunch time so that I could take a nap in its cozy confines without being bothered. Ahh early 20's such a special time in a girls's life....

Anyway, I tell you this so that you get a sense of how precious my sleep is to me. So this morning when Adam woke me up at 6am to see if I wanted to go watch the sunrise with him my first thought was - I'm sure this is a dream. Then I started to remember that we had kind of talked about it last night, but I thought more in a we will have to do that sometime kind of way, not in the I'll wake you up at 6am tomorrow morning kind of way. Then I started thinking how lucky I was that I actually had someone who wanted to go watch the sunrise with me before he went to work, and that we actually lived in a place where we could do that. So I managed to pull myself out of bed, walk to the beach, and this is what I found:

  The trim flat white I have every day at the coffee shop - $3.50. The cost to rent a new release from the video store - $8. Getting up to watch the sunrise with my man - priceless.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Put Another Shrimp on the Barbie

This past weekend Adam and I experienced a first. There are so many memorable firsts in one's life. First kiss, first dance, first time you see your teacher outside of class and realize they don't live at the school, and of course the first time you let your dog sleep in you car because the hotel you are staying at doesn't allow pets. That actually happened last weekend, but the first I'm talking about is moving to a new place and finally having enough friends* to have a party.

I know that typically when reading you have to wait until the bottom of the page to find out what the * means, but not here folks. I'm revolutionizing the writing world as we know it and I won't keep you in suspense anymore....

By friends I mean people we have met at least once or that those said people have met at least once. I use the word party loosely because basically it was a  BBQ. I gotta say that Adam did a mean job on the grill. I cooked up a storm and baked my favorite chocolate chip toffee cookies.

I am still bitter, though, about not being able to find some of the games we brought over such as Cornhole or locating a stump for the very popular, and soon to be famous in New Zealand, Stump game. They would have been the perfect accompaniment to our little gathering.

For those not familiar with it "Stump is an American drinking game played with a hammer, nails, a tree stump, and beer." Thank you Wikepedia. I will say though that I've never thought of it as a drinking game but more as just something to do while you are enjoying a drink. Also, I don't really think it is American and that more likely it is a "derivative of Hammerschlagen, a German game dating from 1940, in which contestants try to hammer a nail into a stump." Anyway, point is it's a lot of fun and was enjoyed for many hours in the backyard of our fantastic friends Kyle and Kelly Swanson back in Atlanta.They introduced us to the game and to each other for that matter, which is a whole other story completely, but I digress...

Overall it was a success. We had a great turnout and a lovely group of people. It was a nice mix of Kiwis and Americans. We even finally got around to hanging one of our going away presents:

Hopefully it will be the first of many gatherings at the Wolf household.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Tall Poppy Syndrome

I had a very interesting and informative coffee date yesterday. I met with a fellow American in the mental health field who shared what her experience has been like transitioning from the States. She told me about how different she found the work culture to be here. She talked about the Tall Poppy Syndrome which a couple months ago would have meant nothing to me. The good news is, it isn't two months ago so I actually knew what she was talking about .
 I have heard it a few times since coming to this strange but beautiful country. Basically the Tall Poppy Syndrome is the idea that standing tall or above the rest is seen as a negative. From my understanding, self promotion, knowing your strengths, and being able to communicate them in a direct way would be looked down up. Basically, wanting to be the best you can be, whether you are in the army or not. Clearly you can see how different Kiwi values and attitudes are from Americans.
I got the opportunity to go to a very interesting presentation one of the first weeks I was here and it talked all about New Zealand culture and the values Kiwis hold most dear. Among them were: love of the land and outdoors, a DIY approach, a defining masculinity that is inclusive of both men and women, being non-confrontational, and the idea of this Tall Poppy Syndrome.
I recently met two sisters who moved their design business from the US to New Zealand and had an actual client request that the work they do for him "be good, but not too good." Can you imagine giving that directive?! I mean the only time I would say that to someone was if it was for a plagiarism job and Stephen Hawking was the person I had hired to complete my science report.
It's fascinating, this desire to not stand out and force yourself to blend in. Everyone (except the Kiwis I guess) know there is a line between confident and cocky, simply letting your light shine and shining your light in someone's face. People, get your shine on.
Lucky for me I'm still a hot blooded American and this Tall Poppy Sydrome has not gotten to me so I can tell you that last night we had  two, that's right TWO, offers to do something. This means that I actually had to turn a social invitation down. I also take this to mean that our Poppies were standing pretty tall and that I might have a fuller calendar sooner then I thought.
What we got to do last night was attend a low key work function at a beautiful home in the country and eat fresh fish caught that day. Who were these mysterious fishermen? Well none other then Adam and Blair and a few other skilled lads.  Blair is our one shared friend mentioned in an earlier post. He is awesome. Here we are about to enjoy some Snapper.

Here is a picture of me actually enjoying their catch. I learned an easy way to de-bone a snapper that I will keep up my sleeve should I need to break out any party tricks at my next social gathering.

On a completely different note, I've gone and sprained my ankle. I've never sprained anything before except for a finger in the 4th grade trying to do a flip over my friend Rachel's back. Too bad the circus had already rolled through town that week or my life could have taken a very different course. I was running and hit an uneven patch of sidewalk, a very common (according to the Internet) and uninteresting (according to me) way to sprain an ankle. Which is why I really don't have too much to say about it accept that it hurts and that Adam is a skilled Ace Bandage wrapper. I made myself laugh by singing to him while he wrapped -  "Doctor Doctor give me the news I got a bad case of loving you."

Thanks to my dear friend Stephanie, real doctor extraordinaire, who gave me a good prognosis and assured me I won't be Tiny Tim-ing it for too long.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

It's Official - I'm a Blogger

Greetings from New Zealand and welcome to my blog. I woke up at 7:54am this morning and then went back to sleep for five minutes, woke up again and took the dog out, thought about what I was going to eat for breakfast, made what I had just thought about then.... just kidding people it's not going to be one of those blogs. 
Sunday marked six weeks here in my new country.There are lots of things you can do in  six weeks but here is what I've done - learned to drive on the opposite side of the road, read six books, gone on some amazing outdoor adventures, and seen more people grocery shopping barefoot than I can count.

While I was still working on getting this blog started I sent out an update to friends and family telling them about my new life. I think it captures my experience in New Zealand so I have made it my first official post. Here it is -
Howdy folks from rainy* but beautiful Auckland! We have celebrated our first holidays as a married couple and our first ever away from home. It was definitely hard being so far from family during that time but we survied. Highlights include: unpacking boxes (and one package - thanks Mallary!), making potato latkes, going swimming Christmas day, and attending an expat Christmas Eve party where the host's entire family in Ohio stayed up until 2am so they could read us Twas the Night Before Christmas over Skype. It was as awesome as it sounds. Shortly before Christmas our container arrived to our home, along with a customs official to make sure everything passed the strict NZ regulations - it did! Thurston survived his stay in quarantine and has made a seamless transition to his new surroundings. He is officially a beach dog although still not a water dog.
NZ culture continues to amuse and surprise me on a weekly basis. Kiwis are very laid back as a whole which is great most of the time. They just don't have that sense of urgency and need for customer service that we have in the States. A conversation I heard at my local coffee shop typifies it: a customer orders her coffee and asks can I get a new coffee card. The barista says oh you know we are all out, I tried to call our printing guys a couple times but there is no answer they must still be on Holiday. Cheers mate. It just made me laugh because this type of thing happens all the time. I have had similar experiences like trying to get a haircut and places are just shut done for literally 3 weeks to go on vacation and it's totally normal.Sometimes they will leave a greeting saying they are away but not always.
Grocery shopping is quite the adventure although I'm getting better at it. A lot of things have different names such as Caspsicum = Bell Peppers, Kumara = Sweet Potato, Coriander = Cilantro and the so on. Then there are things grocery stores just don't carry which is why Adam and I took a trip to a little place we had heard about called Martha's Backyard. It is an American specialty store that many expats had told us about. It is owned by Kiwis who after much thought decided that Martha Washington, Martha's Vineyard, and Martha Stewart were as American as it gets and alas Martha's Backyard was born. What you can expect to find here is a shack like building with the most expensive bag of semi sweet chocolate chips you'll ever find along with Graham Crackers, Kosher salt, and yes Cheez Wiz (there was a child in the store begging her mom for it). All of these items along with many more are nowhere to be found on regular grocery shelves. So I'm glad to know it's there in case I get a craving for something but I can assure you Martha Stewart would never set foot in this place.
We are slowly but surely meeting people but have only one real friend btw the two of us so clearly that is going to need to change. I have reached out to a couple girls I found online from reading their expat blogs and my blind friend dates have gone pretty well so far. I usually wear a neon safety vest so they can identify me and at the same time not to stop traffic with my American beauty. The girls I have met have been cool but I'm not giving out any best friend necklaces anytime soon. In the meantime I look forward to having a glass of wine and watching Ellen every day at 4:55 and think I might have referred to her as my friend the other day.

I have started looking for a job and doing some networking so hopefully that will lead to something good sooner rather then later. I really do miss my work and having a professional outlet. Things could be worse as I fill my days with walks on the beach, cooking, reading, and trying different workout and yoga classes. I just took a Zumba class and when the lights went down and the strobe lights came on (not kidding!) I was transported somewhere far far away and loved every Latin minute of it. The 75 year old woman standing next to me also appeared to be enjoying herself.
New Zealand is truly so beautiful and there are so many amazing outdoor activities to do and wonderful hikes to go on. We did a great tramp (what kiwis call hiking) to Rangitoto, a volcano outside of Auckland that is a short ferry ride away. We also did an amazing trek through the Waitakere Ranges and ended up on the beach where they filmed the Piano. There are so many cool places to go no matter which directon you head. Right now we are planning a trip to do the Milford Track on the South Island, a 4 day hiking extravaganza that according to a NZ poet I've never heard of is the "finest walk in the world." Adam also has to do a lot of work trips in the months to come so I will be going with him on some of the ones that are in more desirable places which should be fun. In February we are headed to the Art Deco capital of NZ for their big festival and to Hawkes Bay, one of the wine regions here.
I think that's all for now. A special thanks to those who have gotten on skype, sent cards our way, or just an email update. I can't tell you how great it is to hear from a friend or family member when you live this far away.
And now that I have a blog I guess that means I'll add complete strangers to the list of people I welcome hearing from.
*It is now currently sunny but I've learned that can change at any moment. Thank goodness for cute rain boots or gum boots as they call them here.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Tutukaka Coast, Whangerei Falls, and One Colorful Character

This past weekend we went to the Tutukaka Coast and Whangerei Falls. It was an easy 2 hour drive  from Auckland. We did a really cool walk from Matapouri Bay to a dreamy place called Whale Bay. There was a fantastic beach there where we soaked up the sun. There is no road access so only the true beach warriors survive. In this situation, what made me a warrior was carrying a back pack with a peanut butter sandwhich in it.

We stayed at a lovely B&B called the Lupton Lodge outside of Whangerei. The next morning over breakfast we met another couple on holiday and were exchanging stories. They were native New Zealanders and the woman, who was probably in her 60's, was delighted to find out we were from Atlanta since she had been there before. Well actually, she had just been to the airport but she described her experience to us in great detail. She couldn't believe how busy it was and said it felt like it was out of a sci-fi movie with all the trams and the numbers counting down until another one left. She greatly enjoyed it but the highlight was "when I saw my first beautiful black man and had to get my shoes shined immediately." I can't make this stuff up people. That seemed like a good time to be on our way so it was off to Whangerei Falls. We came, we saw, we waterfalled. A nice surprise was the Kauri Walkway which went through a neat forest and had a dope canopy walk.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Waitakere Ranges Hike

We did an amazing hike in the Waitakere Ranges whose "fern jungle bush tracks are epic"

KareKare Beach and the Tasman Sea

Auckland and Beyond...

A Backyard Sunset

View from our house in Mairangi Bay

Ocean "sidewalk" Mairangi Bay

Mangawhai Clifftop Walk

Mangawhai Beach

Chick and Hens as seen from Mangawhai Clifftop trail

Rangito - New Years Day walk from Mission Bay to St. Heliers

Took ferry to Rangitoto and hiked to top. Amazing tree on trail.

Lighthouse on Rangitoto hike

View from the top of Mt.Eden, Auckland

Duder Regional Park, near Pohutakawa Coast

If you ever told me I'd have a blog...

Well I never thought I'd actually have a blog but then again I never thought I'd be living in New Zealand so there you have it. I am horrible at taking pictures or even remembering that I own a camera . I guess I will need to work on that for this blog to be worth visiting otherwise it would be like a magazine without pictures and who wants that. But like many things in life this will be a work in progress...