Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Go the All Blacks!

Every four years twenty teams from around the globe compete in the Rugby World Cup (RWC) for the rights to the Ellis Cup. The tournament is only surpassed in viewership by the Soccer World Cup, the Olympics and the Tour de France. This amazingly rough and exciting sport is viewed in more than 200 countries by millions of viewers, but most of the people in the US don't even know of its existence. This year, the RWC was hosted in New Zealand which is a huge ordeal and great opportunity to show off the country. And, even better, the New Zealand team (the All Blacks), were playing well too! It was looking to be a good year for New Zealand rugby fans.

My new flat screen tv for the RWC
In September, just after moving into my apartment in Chicago the RWC kicked off with an amazing opening ceremony. I stayed up late to watch it on my new flat screen tv, purchased so that I would have it in time to view the event. There were several hakas performed and some beautiful effects. Little did I know, this would be the last rugby game I would be able to watch live during the tournament.

I kept up with the news, I tracked my friends' updates on Facebook, I followed my teams as best as I could from the other side of the world (the time difference didn't help as most games were played at 11p and 2a). The United States didn't make it out of the first round. But the All Blacks were still looking strong winning games and showing promise.

In this video the All Blacks perform the haka before playing Australia in the semi-finals.

After years of preparation and speculation, and seven weeks of games the All Blacks made it to the final round. The game was slated for 9pm in Auckland at Eden Park against France. That meant it was a 4am kick off time in the Eastern United States, where I was staying in Tampa. After a fruitless search of the sports channels, I resigned myself to the fact that I would not be able to watch the game. I was wrong. Thanks to Skype, amazing friends, and my uncle's internet connection, I was video skypped (is that a word?) into the viewing party at my friend Daniel's house. Daniel, his girlfriend, and 10 other people were watching the game and were more than happy to include me (via Daniel's laptop) in the party.

Bright and early (3:45am), with my hair in a rough ponytail, my glasses on, no makeup and a sleepy glaze over my eyes, I waited on Skype to say hello to many of the friends I left over 8 months ago. Aside from the occasional nudity (courtesy of my friends in the room having a little too much fun with the computer cam), I had an awesome view and was able to watch the game in a prime seat (a table directly in front of the flat screen) for the entire game.

The haka took on a new excitement when I was around my Kiwi friends again. And then as the game progressed, I could hear the shouting and cheering as the time ticked down and the All Blacks scraped out a win against the French (final score NZ 8 v France 7). The raucous singing of "We Are the Champions" was the perfect end to my night (or morning) and it reminded me of how wonderful that country and the people that live there truly are... one more great memory to add to an incredibly long list.

Trips, Trips, Trips

Sometimes time just slips away and pretty soon it's been more than a month since I last posted to my blog but my life hasn't slowed down. I thought I would take a minute to update everyone with my latest travels:

Family and Friends in Boulder
Over Labor Day weekend I was fortunate enough to visit my grandparents in Colorado for a week. It was my last trip around the United States to catch up with my family and friends (or so I thought). While I was there my grandfather played the perfect host. The two things I definitely wanted to accomplish before I left (a trip to Pearl Street Mall and buying a post card) were done within an hour after I arrived. Which meant that everything from that point on was a bonus! Some of the highlights of my trip included:
Pearl Street, Boulder
  • Pearl Street Mall: A great place to see hippies, yuppies, and every rare species in between. The pedestrian mall has street performers (it really gets busy on the weekend nights), cute shops and restaurants. It's definitely quintessential Boulder.
  • Boulder Creek Festival: A series of tents set up along the river in downtown Boulder where we perused the arts and crafts and Grandma had fun observing the people. My grandmother, who suffers from dementia, is still one of the funnier people I know, particularly when she doesn't realize she's being funny.
  • Dinner with the family: On Saturday night I got to enjoy a nice lasagna and then college football with my grandparents, my cousin and his girlfriend, a friend of the family and her daughter (Jen and Madelyn). It started with bunny ears made from our napkins and just got sillier from there.
  • Denver Art Museum: Grandpa and I took a trip into Denver (a place that I've never really explored despite all of my trips to the area) to see the art museum. My favorite part was throwing clay in a workshop they had set up for their special exhibit "Mud". The rest of the museum was really nice and in an impressive building, with some interesting permanent exhibits. I had a soft spot for the Pacific Island collection of artifacts they had which included a few Maori pieces.
Throwing clay, Denver Art Museum

Missouri Homecoming
Last weekend, I was able to drive back to Columbia, Missouri for a reunion with my friends from college. It was the first time since I left school that I've been able to make it back for the Homecoming game and this one was the 100th anniversary of our Homecoming so it was kind of a big deal (MU likes to claim starting the tradition of Homecoming but I've never really looked into the truth behind that). I stayed with a friend (also a former college roommate) at his house in Columbia with some of my other friends and their significant others. We went out on Friday night in town to watch the Cardinals game and have a few drinks and then got up early on Saturday for a full day of tailgating.

Tailgating outside the stadium, Columbia, Missouri

It wasn't until I was sipping my Trops (a delicious frozen beverage that's basically a slush with alcohol) at 10:30a sitting around the BBQ and elaborate spread of food that I realized this was the first official tailgate I've ever been to (I can't believe I claimed to be a Midwesterner before this point - it's atrocious!). I spent the rest of the day bouncing between friends and other tailgates and food. I was in heaven. Oh, and we won the game but that was merely a side note for my day.

Celebrating the MU win with college friends

After a very long day on Saturday, I woke up early again on Sunday to make the 2.5 hour drive to my mom's house in Kansas City. I spent the day visiting with her (and catching up on my sleep) before packing up my car and driving back to Chicago the next day. It was a long drive home and it was only made longer by the yowling of my sister's cat that I was bringing home with me (my cat was perfectly quiet curled up behind my seat), the rain, and a gas overflow at one of my fuel stops.... but I made it home and it was a fantastic weekend.

Tampa, Florida
In the midst of all of my traveling, moving and socializing, I have actually been searching for a job. The process is a little slower than I would like but I'm getting a bit of work in the meantime to make ends meet. One of my latest jobs is helping my old company with its conference in Tampa, which means I was able to come down a day early so that I could see my family in the area for the evening. To make the trip even better, my rental car was upgraded (for free) to a new mustang. I was sad I only had it for one day.

My Upgrade at Avis

It was a last minute opportunity so unfortunately it didn't give me a lot of time with them but it's always nice to see family. And although this will be a busy week, I have Halloween to look forward to next weekend!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Photos Galore!

I realize it's been awhile since I last posted on my blog. I've been busy trying to get the most out of my summer before it's all over. As it's finally coming to a close, I thought it was time to cross a few things off my list that have been there for awhile. The first: posting photos from the remainder of my Asian Adventure on Facebook and on my blog. Enjoy! (Click on the album below to see it in full screen mode)


Southern Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An)

Northern Vietnam (Hanoi, Halong Bay, Sapa)

Guilin & Xi'an, China

Beijing, The Great Wall and Home