Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Posting Photos

As of today, it's been three weeks since I arrived in Auckland.  It's taken me that long to finally post my photos.  Incredibly, I still haven't included all of them in my latest album.  Here it is for your viewing pleasure:

Click on the photos to see the full album with captions.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

And for my next trick...

The Kingsland Festival, which occurred last Saturday in Auckland, promised to have a street closed down so event goers could “enjoy bands, djs, pie eating competitions, stilt walkers, and other entertainers from 3pm – Late.”  On the surface it was a perfect plan for a Saturday night - much like one I might enjoy during a Chicago summer.

 I was excited to see how they were done in Auckland (although to be fair, multiple kiwis warned me that I would be disappointed).  Upon arriving I noticed that the street wasn’t in fact closed, but just had a few lanes blocked off. That’s fine, not what I expected, but not a problem.  We headed into the first bar and had a few drinks.  The bar was packed with people and the beer was good but since we came for the festival we decided to see what it had to offer.  We wandered down the street to find the heart of it, and on the way we stopped to watch a street performer. 

This particular street performer hailed from England and had been performing for 11 years.  We came towards the end of his act (although the last two “tricks” were stretched out to last about 10 minutes of the 30 minute show).  Just as we arrived he was getting ready to unveil one of the props he was about to use...”and now I unveil....[dramatic pause as he whips a cover off]...the orange juice!”

He then proceeded to balance the glass of orange juice on the inside of a pool triangle attached to a chain.  At this point I was hoping for a disappearing act, mainly his disappearance, but I would have settled for the OJ disappearing.  Instead, he explained, “I will now spin this orange juice around my head without dropping a single drop.”

And so it began...he demonstrated what any 13 year old should recognize as centrifugal force.  My mouth gaped open, but not in the amazed response he was looking for.  Was this a joke?  I turned to see what the rest of the audience was thinking as they watched a basic law of inertia demonstrated right before their eyes...the sad part is that half of them actually looked impressed. I closed my mouth and now had to hold my tongue as a fit of giggles started to erupt. The icing on the cake was when he made the trick “even tougher” by stepping on a chair while continuing to spin the OJ.  Seriously.  He's been doing this for 11 years.  What are you thinking, man?!? 

His final act was fitting his body through the inside of a tennis racket (the strings had been removed, of course) and then chopping a zucchini in half as it rested on a guy's stomach (pictured above).   Unfortunately it wasn't much better than the OJ trick, it only required him to dislocate his shoulder momentarily, which was quite disgusting to watch.

The rest of the festival wasn't much better. So the street performers were lacking actual talent, the street wasn’t in fact closed, and the masses of people that were expected were clearly scared into the bars and off of the streets.  But the night was still fun and I did learn one thing:  If I can’t find a job in marketing I can always become a street performer...

“And for my next trick I will pour this oil into this jug of water.  Just don't try this at home folks, I'm a trained professional and this is a very dangerous, highly skillful trick.  Watch as it magically separates when I wave my wand! ABRA CADABRA!!" [And the crowd goes wiiillldd!!]

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Dear friends and family,
I’m sorry to tell you that I do not miss the snow or the cold or the work, in fact, I haven’t suffered from homesickness at all.  I know it will happen, I can't prevent it but I’m doing my best to cause a delay...and doing a pretty good job.  I'm leaving no time for homesickness during my week:
  • Running:  I’ve decided to take advantage of the time off and the hills to make an attempt to get back into shape’s going slowly but at least it’s an improvement over what I was doing in Chicago – which was nothing of late.
  • Walking:  For the most part I walk everywhere.  With nothing but time on my hands and no desire to spend money on buses I’ve walked all over downtown Auckland, Avondale (suburb of Auckland) and everywhere in between. 
  • Socializing:  The number of people here that are visiting or working makes it really easy to meet new people.  On St. Pat’s Day, for example, I was hanging out with people from Ireland, America, Canada, Australia, Germany, and of course, New Zealand.  It made for a great evening out.  In fact, at one point, I met a girl who gave me her name and then stated matter-of-factly, “I’m a Kiwi,” I, of course responded with the only obvious answer, “I’m an American.”  She then paraded everyone she knew at the bar, and some she didn’t know, over to meet me.  I love this country. (My new best Kiwi friend and I are pictured right)
  • Catching up on American TV programs:  I'm catching up on all of the shows I should have been watching years ago (Entourage - my new favourite, 30 Rock, and Modern Family)  
  • Day Trips: I have now made it to the beach on two occasions.  The first time I was navigating the car through the streets of Auckland on my own so I just went to a local beach that wasn’t too exciting but a beach nonetheless.  And the second time we went up to the north shore of Auckland to Takapuna.  The walk along the beaches took us directly in front of gorgeous houses with amazing views of the harbour and Rangitoto (the volcanic island in the middle of Auckland Harbor – it is nearly a perfect cone shape where the top blew off many many years ago).
  • Rock Climbing: I attended a birthday party at a rock climbing facility here in Auckland and finally had a chance to attempt a climbing wall.  Although I didn’t make it to the top, I still had a great time and climbed a bit higher on each attempt.
  • Job Hunting:  Not applicable.
And now for some terrible news from this side of the world:  Brace yourselves Americans... I am sorry to report that the Kiwis have not heard of or tried s’mores, which explains their absence from our camping trip a few weeks ago.  I have now taken it upon myself to show the entire country what they have been missing all these years.  The difficult part is finding the graham crackers, which must exist but I couldn’t find them anywhere in the local market and are not an easy thing to describe to someone who isn’t familiar with them.

About the photos -  right: Walking path near Blockhouse Bay Beach; center: Views of the beaches and homes around Takapuna; left: Looking at Rangitoto from Takapuna


Monday, March 15, 2010

Not in Kansas Anymore

I have arrived!  My flight here was great, mostly because the flight from LAX to Auckland was pretty empty which allowed me to move to a different seat.  I found a window seat (as a nervous flyer it’s a prerequisite for my own peace of mind) next to a girl who is also in New Zealand on a working holiday visa.  She is my age and plans to stay until June so I’m hoping to meet up with her again somewhere in New Zealand.  We toasted our upcoming adventure and marvelled at the differences in airlines (we were on Air New Zealand, which was recently ranked the highest in the world).  Which meant that wine was offered for free, the food was good, and the service was polite (not to mention the personal video screens and blankets, pillows, and earphones on every seat).  After arriving, we travelled through customs and then I kindly offered her a ride to the city, unbeknownst to my friend who was picking me up.

After spending the morning running (the hills here are brutal) and exploring the area (I found the local library for Internet), I went back to the house I’m staying at to pack for the weekend.  We started our drive out of the city around 4pm to head up to the Kai Iwi Lakes (pictured left).  The car and boat were packed with enough stuff for a small country to spend a weekend at the lakes.  And it was looking to be a beautiful weekend until we were about an hour away from our destination and the sky darkened and opened up.  We ate dinner, hoping that the rain would didn’t.  So, we set up the tent in the mist and dark – little did we know that this battle would continue the whole weekend.

Fortunately, the kiwis know how to camp in style.  Our tent (pictured left) was called “the Taj” it fit two queen air mattresses side by side and included a front entry way with a floor and roof where we could safely sit out of the rain on our chairs drinking well-deserved beer.  The other tent, which we set up on Friday, was called “the Hilton” and included two rooms and a sunroom for the other couple and their two kids that were coming to join us that night.  We also had a gas stove, kitchen set (which truly included even the kitchen sink), a table, games, air mattresses galore and four coolers of food and drinks.

We hiked around the lake the next morning and then took a drive to Baylys Beach (pronounced like Bailey’s) on the Tasman Sea (pictured below).  It was a rough day but that didn’t stop the kite surfers from taking advantage of the wind.  After picking up a few things in town (including a tasty ice cream) we headed back to the camps, only to be stopped short by a “traffic jam” (pictured right).  I have arrived.

Things to be thankful for:
-  No wild animals in New Zealand scarier than a possum (which managed to sneak into the entry room of our tent while we slept on Friday night).
- A wakeboard teacher who almost managed to get me out of the water (I ruined it when I was so excited to be standing that I forgot to keep the weight on my back leg).
- Fantastic tents and people that made camping in the rain a good time

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Just A Drifter in Chicago

I am now officially a vagabond, living on the streets of Chicago with my suitcases in tow.  I have a new appreciation for the homeless people with shopping carts - genius. I may just have to tackle one and run off with it. Dragging a menagerie of bags around as I move from place to place, isn't easy.

Fortunately, I'm not actually homeless. I'm staying with friends until I leave next week.  I turned in the keys to my apartment on Sunday. All of my furniture and belongings have been somewhat carefully packed away in storage. Unbelievably I fit almost everything I own in a 5x8 foot storage unit. There was much cajoling and manuevering involved, plenty of help, and more than one swear word, and a complete break down...but it's done.

I lived in my tiny studio for 3 years and 7 months of my life - the longest I've lived at a single address address since I moved to college almost 12 years ago. It was definitely bittersweet as I left. (My former studio apartment is pictured above. Note: the objects you see are not larger than they seem - it really is the size of a postage stamp, but I liked it.)

I'm now losing a lot more sleep, between not having my own bed to sleep on and trying to figure out questions that don't have answers (Am I doing the right thing? Will I make friends there? What if I hate it? What if I don't and I don't want to come back?).  Can I just start the trip already?  I want to get to the part where I'm having fun and not so tormented.  My only consolation is that the next blog I write will be from the other side of the world!!!

Personal Goals:
- Avoid tears on my last night out in Chicago this Saturday
- Get to Auckland safely and with some sense of sanity left
- Get some sleep!