Wednesday, March 31, 2010

First Day of Solo Road Trip

Bought TransApline train ticket from Christchurch to Greymouth for $63. Booked car for 10 days from Greymouth, drop-off in Christchurch. $280. Then got an email from car company informing me there were no cars, NONE available until April 11. And so my whole plan got derailed. Fancy footwork: my hostess with the mostest Kiri, (former tour guide in Africa, England, Europe and New Zealand) rented me her Isuzu SUV, loaned me her esky (cooler) some mittens a hat and wool socks and now I am staying in Greymouth at youth hostel in a 4-bed-room dorm.

The dorm stay is $20. I get free soup for dinner and free toast and jam for breakfast included in that price. Also my second beer is free at the bar.  By the way, and from here on out I'm just quoting all prices in US dollars for ease. 

Today I woke up at 6:30 am to call TransAlpine to cancel my train ticket in hopes of a 50% refund. Their hours were posted wrong and they didn't open until 7, so I had to wake up AGAIN and call. I was able to cancel and got my refund. Then I fell asleep again until 8:30 when Kiri gave me a tour of the car and let me know where the jack is and the spare tire and such. I got rolling at 11:30am. I had to sort of pack one bag with my winter stuff for this trip and leave all my summer stuff in another bag at Kiri's place. I felt so bad because she worked so hard on my itinerary and wrote it out several times because my plans kept changing. She recommended that I get on the road at 10am. I didn't leave the house until 11:30 and as I pulled out of her street, she was pulling in. Busted. So guilty...felt ashamed for the next hour.  I had all these imaginary recreations of her-- mad at me and wondering why I didn't appreciate all her hard work and just leave at 10am as she suggested.

Found my way out of Christchurch, and headed towards Arthur's Pass. Stopped for coffee and a toasted sandwich. Stopped at interesting-looking rocks on the way and took a nice walk around them. Drove really really slow through the mountain pass, didn't want to ride Kiri's brakes.

You cannot even imagine the gorgeous, spectacular views that I saw today. Try. Imagine the most beautiful mountain, and then multiply its' awesomeness by 1,000 and then maybe you'll come close. I took pictures of course and will try to post them. AMAZING...

Arrived in Greymouth, booked the hostel, and then drove 1 hour north of town to Pancake Rocks. Don't freak out: I picked up three hitchhikers. Total backpacker-y types, and they totally stunk bad. I regretted it instantly, not because they pulled knives and threatened to kill me, but because of their stinkiness. They were very nice, from northern California and are in New Zealand for just under six weeks. They have apparently been showerless and rained on, I gathered that from the smell. But nice people, nonetheless. They gave me a beer for the ride. I haven't drank it yet...somehow I want to work on that free beer from the hostel instead and save the bottled beer for an emergency.  And, I've got that Esky...

LOVE TO ALL.  I'm kind of lonely.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

News Zealand

In the news: 

Three guys totally trashed a government satellite thingy.  They were recently acquitted of all charges by the government even though they caused a million dollars in damage because they "believed their actions to be correct" at the time of the incident.  Apparently the satellites are so that Americans can bomb people in Iraq and these guys were trying to save lives.  And they don't have to serve jail time for it.  They knew that what they were doing was illegal, in fact, they waited to be arrested when it happened.  But they believed it to be right, and the courts agreed with them.

Click here if you want the full story

New Zealanders are pretty good at protesting -- in fact they wouldn't allow nuclear test bomber boats into their harbors at all, even though the US threatened to cut ties with them.

Also they had a Green Peace boat in their harbor that would go out to float near a nuclear bomber test boat that was parked outside of their jurisdiction.  The French were testing, and it was technically their territory they were testing in, but they couldn't test if any other boats were nearby.  So this boat would just go float by it so it couldn't run it's test bombs.  Well then two French people sunk the Green Peace boat, killing one person.  They went to jail in France, got a cushy sentence, and then were hailed as heros.

All this according to my free bicycle city tour guide today.  Who seemed like he liked to smoke weed.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pine Nuts and other Frustrations

So my pine nuts were, in fact $109.99 per kilo.  The confusion came in because they are listed as $10.99 at the place where you buy bulk nuts.  But that is per 100 grams, and at the register they charge you per kilo.  Whatevs!  I went back to the grocery store for more food and just brought the receipt with me.  So I didn't waste a trip to the store or anything.  But I was just a teensy bit embarrassed, standing there, expecting my $6 refund, then being told I didn't get one, and then still standing there in disbelief, like, "please can I just have my $6?". 

Anyway, we had TACO night last night and I made the most yummiest guacamole ever.

So now I'm trying to get serious about flights out of Christchurch through Bali and Singapore to Bangkok.  I'm finding prices to be around $700 US from NZ to Bali, and then $700 US from Bali to Bangkok with a 4 day stop in Singapore.  But now the question is, is that a good deal?  Who knows.  What is expensive?  Just because when you search, you'll find flights also for $2300, does that mean the flight for $700 is cheap?  Can't I just fly out of here for like $250?  Jeez.

I booked a train pass on something called the TransAlpine from Christchurch to Greymouth for Wednesday.  The girls here said I can leave half my stuff and just take what I need with me, so that will lighten my load a bit.  I'm going to rent a car in Greymouth so I can drive down the west coast of NZ to see glaciers (New Zealanders pronounce this 'glassy-ers') and snow-capped mountains.  I'm going to maybe do a heli-hike up a glacier, which means I'll have to rent boots with spikes on the bottoms.  Sounds like fun, eh?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Could this be my Million Dollar Idea?

Today I went "Op-Shopping", or second hand store shopping.  I went to a huge Savers'-style place, which had an entire rack of used underwear for sale.  All hung on hangers and priced to sell from $.99 - $2.99 per pair.  This idea haunted me for the rest of the day.  Why the HECK would anybody buy used underwear at a used clothing store?  And let's not forget that it's actually somebody's job to hang each pair, individually on hangers and price them.  And you know that each pair must receive at least a visual inspection.  EW.  Let's face it: some pairs probably make it all the way to the second hand shop that just don't make the cleanliness cut, even according to "Op-Shop" standards.  I imagine this poor employee's conversation at home goes something like this:  "How was your day at work honey?"  "Crappy.  Literally."

In my opinion, there are only two acceptable reasons to buy used underwear.  Number 1 -- Money.  "Maybe some people can't afford brand new underwear", you may be thinking.  This reasoning would work if they were selling at, say, 5 for a dollar.  But you can get brand new underwear for a buck a pair!  Which brings me to reason Number 2 -- The Environment.  This one I can really get "behind."  Shouldn't we applaud the re-use of anything that is still useful?  And that's when I came up with my brilliant idea for a new business.

Yes, you got it.  Re-Crotching.  If you think of it, it's just a tiny 2 x 4" portion of our underwear that gets gross and needs replacing.  You just snip out that section, stick in my new self-sticking crotch replacement piece and VOILA!  New underwear!

How will I market this product?  Infomercials!  Imagine a woman going through her underwear drawer.  She is searching for a good pair, to no avail.  She grabs two huge handfuls of underwear.  She holds them high into the air, looks at the camera, shakes her head, then stuffs them all into a bag and grimaces as the announcer says, "Tired of bringing your underwear to the second hand shop?"  A big red circle with a line through it stamps over this scene.

Next you see a woman seated comfortably at her desk with a huge pair of scissors in hand, and a huge smile on her face.  She snips a pair of underwear in two places, removing the unwanted crotch section with great ease.  She peels back the self-adhesive strips and secures my new, gleaming white replacement piece into place.  She's surprised!  See how easy!  It's wonderful!

Later on in the infomercial, the announcer asks, "But what happens to all those unwanted used crotch sections?" and then it shows a woman who has just washed her face.  She is patting it dry, pat pat patting it dry.  Then she smiles and holds up her patchworked-off-colored cotton towel.  She winks.  Another woman rolls over in bed , running her hand over her patchwork pillowcase as her face also caresses it.  She's so relaxed.  The announcer exclaims, "Just send them in!  We recycle them too!"

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Kitchen

I didn't realize that I would miss it so much.  Chopping, slicing, sauteeing, stirring, washing, tossing, cooking!  The girls I'm staying with in Christchurch have been so gracious to let me use their kitchen.  They just aren't into home cooking.   First I went to the grocery store and bought tons of vegetables.  I filled their colorless fridge with orange carrots, purple onions, red tomatoes, green spinach, celery and cucumber, white mushrooms and garlic.  Now it looks like a proper fridge.  Yesterday I made a fantastic salad with all of the above plus some pine nuts (which, by the way I was overcharged for, but more on that later).  This morning I woke up early to make my mom's specialty breakfast: egg on a bed of spinach on a bed of sauteed vegetables.  Tonight I made "my"* famous Avocado/Lemon/Basil rice.
*I ripped it off of that 5 Ingredient show on the Food Network. 
I've had a couple of "I miss home" days.   I started to rifle through my .pdf files and saw some pictures and videos of an old Girls' Night where we had Karaoke at my place.  It made me miss my friends any my house.  And this kitchen time is having the same effect on me.  I'm still having a blast, and loving this vacation for sure.  I'm just saying that I'm glad June is around the corner and I can come back and see y'all for a visit. 

Today I looked into flights and it's looking like I'll be here in NZ until the 13th, then go for a week of laying on the beach in Bali, then fly through Singapore for a few "city" days and then head up to Bangkok to meet Summer on the 23rd.  She and I will trek around SE Asia, landing at some point in South Korea and then it's on home for me around June 1st-ish.  I plugged International Falls into the flight search engine and it didn't show up.  ha!  Somebody want to volunteer to drive me up to my parents' place?  10 hours round trip!  Anyone?  Anyone?

OK-- pine nuts/ripped off:  $10.99NZ for a kilogram of pine nuts.  Translation?  $7.70US for 2.2 pounds.  I bought them in bulk, where you have to put them in a bag and write a code on the bag so they can weigh them and charge you at the register.  Well when I got up to the register they weren't ringing up properly.  She asked me if I remembered the price and I told her $10.99 per kilo.  She looked confused because of whatever her computer was saying and brought the manager over.  I had like maybe three handfuls in this bag.  But even back home pine nuts are expensive and so I wasn't too shocked when she said that they had originally rung up as $2.34NZ, but that wasn't correct and that they were actually $7NZ.  I was like whatever, because she was one of those slow-poke check out girls and I was getting irritated.  Fast forward to me finding the receipt in my pocket a day or two later and just happening to see that she rung them up as $109.99 per kilo.  SO.  They should have been 70 cents.  Not $7.00.  Which made so much sense because there was no where NEAR a kilo of pine nuts.  Remember a kilo is like 2 pounds.  It's heavy.  I should have figured that out when she called the manager over.  My bad.  So, the question is: 

Do I go back to the Pak 'N Save and get a refund of the $6NZ? 

That's $4.20US.  I don't have a car.  The bus goes right by it on the way downtown, but the buses only run every half hour.  Should I make somebody bring me there?  Or just drop the whole thing?  My frugal sensibilities demand that I get a refund.  It's the principle of the thing!  But I could blow four bucks on a cup of coffee.  On the other hand, I could use the four bucks to get a cup of coffee.  Get what I mean?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Today was Good. And Bad.

Today was totally a Kady day.  I slept until 9ish, lazily had a bowl of cereal and two pieces of toast which I forgot in the toaster and didn't even eat.  Then I WENT FOR A RUN!!!  I haven't been for a run in SO LONG.  I might have run next to the office hottie on the treadmill a couple times in November, but since then, NOTHING. 

So today I threw on my running clothes and just went out for a nice walk that turned into a run.  It was fantastic.  Bloomin' fantastic.  I mean it felt really really good.  I just ran up and down the street that I'm staying on.  Palmers Road I think.  I was gone for 25 minutes, so I probably only went two miles or less, but that's good enough for me.  After that I washed my running clothes (I only brought one set) in hopes that I'll go again tomorrow.  After a shower and hanging my clothes on the line, I walked out to the bus stop.  My bus was # 84, and it was just a few minutes away from its' every-half-hour stop on Palmers.  Before I got on, I ran across the street to confirm that the returning bus was also #84.

The bus brought me to the City Center, where I basically just walked around and went shopping. At Cathedral Square, there were tons of street musicians. MY FAVORITE. One of my favorite favorite things to do whilst traveling in a city is to go to the square and just sit there with my coffee and watch the musicians. And I got to do that today! It was a group of Maori singer/dancers (pronounced Mau like Chinese leader, so Mau-ree), a lady saxophonist, a pan-flautist, and guitar/drum machine guy. Also there was a street market, where I bought a camel-leather pouch-style purse that I LOVE, to replace my stolen South Africa tote. Also I bought one of those skirts you can tie in one hundred ways. I figure that will be nice in SE Asia. Then, to get me through the next couple weeks in New Zealand, I bought a pair of long underwear and a jacket. The jacket is that brand name Columbia, probably made in America. There goes my idea of getting a merino/possum New Zealand special. They're just too expensive. Like $250 for a vest. But I like my new jacket, it seems warm, and I'll definitely wear it for my next Minnesota winter (hopefully not until 2011). I also bought a small backpack!  It was originally $159NZ and I got it for $39NZ! One other thing that I bought is a mobile internet USB thingee. It was $99NZ, or $70US, but that came with a $40NZ credit, or $28US to buy internet credits. I decided to go for it, because I HATE being without the internet! This would mean I can be on the internet whenever I want! Plus it will work all over the South Island and also in SE Asia; all I have to do is buy a new SIM card once I get there. So I was stoked (I'm irritated with the speed now that I'm using it but whatever). Anyway when I got to the register, it rang up at $30NZ or $21US! So it was on sale -- like 70% off -- and I didn't even know it! I love it when that happens!!! LOVE IT. They paid me $10NZ to take it basically, after that $40NZ credit, which I still got! ANYWAY...

So the girls I am staying with here invited me to a dinner party at 5:30pm. I agreed to show up at 4:30 in order to help them get ready. So I went to the bus station at 3:45 so I could get to their place in plenty of time. I boarded bus # 84, and at 4:30 I looked out the bus window, wondering why nothing looked familiar. Finally I figured out that I had travelled to the entire opposite side of the city. Like trying to get to Hopkins but ending up in White Bear Lake. On a bus. So the bus driver advised me that I should just stay on his bus and head back to the bus depot in the City Centre and then change buses (his turned into a #83 at the turn-around). What happened is I took the #84 the WRONG WAY.  

I didn't get back to their house until 6:15.  Two and a half freaking hours on the bus ARGH SAD FACE :(.  They saved some dinner for me (seafood chowder YUM), but I felt SO BAD.  I even borrowed a mobile phone from a school girl on the bus to text my friend in Thames to text the girl I'm staying with because I don't have her number.  They didn't get my text.  But they figured I just got on the wrong bus, and weren't worried.  I was glad, because I kept picturing them freaking out, which caused me a stress pain in my back that is only now cured by this third glass of wine that I'm drinking.
Alls well that ends well, I always say.

p.s. Here's a new TV show for you to throw in your Netflix queue. This means you: Kay and Josette. It's called Black Books. It's British. You've probably already heard of it?  Kay being British and all...anyway, very funny.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

South Island

So here I am in the South Island...I really don't have anything to write about.  I'm chilling in Christchurch for a week and then I'm going to take the TransAlpine railway over to a town called Greymouth.  From there I will rent a car and drive all around the South Island.  There are plenty of things to see, like the glaciers, the fjords, snow, etc.  I'm excited to meet up with Summer in exactly one month!

When I packed for this trip I really only brought clothes for tropical, summer weather.  Yesterday, Christchurch was HOT.  I got some sun even!  Today is like a cold spring or fall day, and windy.  It feels about 60 degrees.  So I wore my little light cotton poncho with my light scarf and was pretty cold.  I want to buy a New Zealand possum/wool sweater as a souvenir, so I think I'll do that, but it costs so much money to send stuff home.  I mailed a box to my house and it was $50US.  But freed up lots of space and weight.  So if I buy a sweater I'll most likely have to haul it around with me through sweltering-hot Thailand and SE Asia.  These things cause me much stress. 

Different things used to stress me out.  Real things.  Now life is pretty 'cruisy', which is New Zealander for 'easy'.  My main concerns now aren't really real.  Basically I'm just sick of my clothes.  I'm getting lots of sleep, plenty to eat...meeting new people.  This is the life.  I'm really hoping I can figure out a way to remain unemployed for the rest of my life.  If you have any ideas or suggestions, without using the "marry a rich man" cop-out, please post them under comments.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Movin' On

I'm pretty sad to leave Thames...(pronounced Tems)   I had such a nice time here.  Yesterday I got to play touch rugby!  A group of us gathered at the high school field.  I guess we had 10 people actually so it was five on five.  Age ranged from like 10 years old all the way up to I'd say one guy in his 60's.  So everybody lines up facing eachother at the halfway point, and one team kicks it to the other.  They let it fall to the ground, then pick it up and start running.  You can only pass it backwards, so everybody tries to run in a line and sort of pass it sideways and look for gaps and run it through.  The touchdown is called a 'try'.  We weren't tackling, just 'touch' so if somebody touched you, you just drop the ball, put it through your legs (why this is so important I'm not sure) and then somebody can pick it up behind you and run it again.  But the person who picks it up can't score so you kind of have to pass it.  You get 6 touches and then it's the other team's ball.  If you pass it and the person doesn't catch it, it's automatically the other team's ball.  This I screwed up many times. 

But I got a try!  Somebody passed me the ball, and instead of passing it immediately I saw a gap and ran it into the endzone.  I kind of thought that maybe they just gave it to me, but by that point everybody was so so so tired, so I don't think they had the energy to get me.  Anyway right before I ran it in, I said, "I've got nothing left!" and then scored.  So for the rest of the game, the other players on my team would say, "I've got nothing left!" and then run off.  Oh, and they called me "Minnesota."  Which I liked.

Good times.  So now I'm off to Christchurch and some of my new friends have referred me to another touch rugby game next Sunday so I'll probably play again.  It's fun.  And a HUGE workout.  I forgot my camera, so no photo.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Ever Wonder Where Angora Comes From?

They tie up bunnies and shave them, that's how!  (It was nice to a least find out they dont get killed for their hair.)  We were told that the government strictly monitors their activities and rates them very high for humane treatment of the bunnies.  The bunny being shaved has a 6 week coat of hair (shaved every six weeks) and the bunny Teri is posing with in the middle has 3 months' worth.

Australia Photo Special

Friday, March 19, 2010

My Day with Henry

While traveling in New Zealand, my friend Teri and I stayed with the most adorable couple, Henry and Marion.  They're in their 70s and I just loved them.  So much so that after Teri went home, I stayed an extra week.  I was determined to be a good guest and so I told Henry one day that I would help him with any chores that needed to be done.

He asked me to accompany him on his errands which included a trip to the dump.  Mind you, the garbage man comes to Henry's house, and so does the recycling man.  In fact, they had just been out that morning.  But that wasn't good enough for Henry.  He wanted to deliver his own garbage and recycling.  And now I totally understand why! 

We parked outside the glass area, and chucked each and every bottle individually into it's proper bin (brown, green, clear).  He reckoned I couldn't throw very well and so I had to try it.  It was so fun to break all the bottles.  Here is Henry tossing his bottles:

This one was mine:
(Henry said, "get out your aggressions, Hexum")

Cans and plastic:

This pile of crap was home to the four gas refridgerators that Henry pinched and fixed up. Three went up to their cabin (bach) and he gave the other one away.

Then he brought me to the Foundry where he worked for many years. We got to see them melting steel and pouring it into moulds! And then of course we were kicked out for safety reasons. But then Henry talked to the guy for a while and convinced him to take us to an even better viewing spot and I got some pictures.

They made some of the Regata Sailboats here in Thames that were in a famous sailboat race in the States. Sorry, can't remember which one.  How interesting!

Henry is so full of pluck I tell you, he's always joking around. So anyway after our trip to the dump I did get a chance to help him lift some heavy bags filled with sawdust up into a truck. He had jumped up into the truck and I was handing him the bags. I found a bag that looked like it was completely full, but it was super light and so there must have been something different inside it than all the other bags. Anyway, I saved it for almost last and then pretended that the big bag was super, super heavy with my awesome acting skills and then he looked at me like I was so stupid for trying to lift something so heavy, and even coached me on how to hand it to him. He got prepared to lift a very heavy bag and when I let go he gasped!  The light-as-air bag went flying.  I got him! And then he threw it at me.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Sweet Story

So Henry has a nickname for all of his kids, his dog, pretty much everybody.  He calls his wife Pet, his kids are like Grub, Fat, etc.  But when he first met Marion he called her Steve.  Never called her Marion, just Steve.

Well this was the 50's and Marion's friend thought that was the worst thing she had ever heard and so she told Henry, "Her name's NOT Steve, it's Marion!" and then he never called her Steve again.  Just Marion, or "Pet", his other nickname for her. 

Well, they had their first baby, a boy, and Marion named him Glenn.  They agreed that their first girl she could pick the name also, but when it came time to name a second boy or a second girl, Henry could choose their names.  When their second boy was born, they were in the hospital, and the nurse asked her what the name was and Marion said, "I don't know, Henry hasn't told me yet."

Henry said, "let's name him Steven".  Then he said, "I used to have a mate named Steve.  Good chap."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

These Days

So, I brought Teri to the airport and she flew flew flew away home on Monday.  And now I am staying with Henry and Marion, a 70-something couple who live in Thames, New Zealand.  They are pretty much the nicest people that I have ever met.  I promised Henry that I would help him all day today with whatever chores he needed done, and so later we are going to build some pallets and I get to use a nail gun!  Marion really likes to make sure her guests are comfortable and so she's always asking me tons of questions, like, "Would you like Pork Steak or Beef Steak?" and I don't know what to say!  What if Beef Steak is twice the price of Pork, or what if Pork is Henry's favorite?  What if I choose wrong?  I can't live with that kind of pressure and so I say, "Oh, I don't know Marion, anything is good for me, whatever is fine, you choose."  In New Zealand there is a phrase for this type of attitude and it is, "Please yourself."  Which I don't like saying.  Because it sounds too much like "Suit yourself."  Which kind of means, 'Your decision is the wrong one and we both know it but go ahead because you're too stubborn to listen to me.'  But people say "Please yourself" to mean, 'hey, do what makes you most happy, I'm proud of you.'  Or something like that.

Anyway, Henry built this house in the 60s and it's really cool.  It's situated at the top of a humongous valley and there are zillions of windows so you can see the whole valley from the dining room, the living room, and all the bedrooms.  He purposely put all the bedrooms along the valley so that they would all have sun.

Henry loves The Far Side.  Marion makes me eat breakfast and make solid decisions about my next phase of travel, which is the South Island of New Zealand.  She drives me to the post office and the information center and we collect millions of tourist books and we go through them and try to figure out the cheapest way to get to Christchurch.  I think I might really miss it here.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Posting these photos for two reasons. 

1. Wow it was snowy when I left Minneapolis.
2. Haha there was an upturned grocery cart in front of Ben G's house. Miles from the nearest grocery store.

Best. Mocha. Ever

Scotts Epicurean Cafe, Hamilton, New Zealand

I'm Gonna Miss this Girl

I tried so hard to make her stay
but her appetite got in the way
"Don't go home" I pleaded hard
"But I have to, because I'm a tub of lard
My butt is big my thighs are fat
I eat my breakfast from a vat
 Do you think I can survive
On tiny portions and stay alive?"

The End

Friday, March 12, 2010


We went to a rugby match tonight!

As far as I can tell, the object of the game is just like American Football.  You try to get the ball across the line for a touch down.  If you don't make it you can kick it through a goal post.  If you make it you can kick it through the goal post for more points.  But, these guys wear no helmets or padding.  The ball is still in play even if they are tackled.  If you tackle a guy, all the other players run up and make a big poop pile, and then the ball comes out of the poop pile and they can still try to run it in.  Once, the ball was in a poop pile for over two minutes, and then it came out, and yep, still in play.  Sometimes the ball goes out of bounds and then gets thrown back in, where the guys give eachother a boost, to JUMP up and get it so their team can have the ball.

Sometimes the ball goes flying into the crowd and once, the guy next to Teri caught it!  That's like catching a puck or a baseball!  But you have to return it.

Rugby is a big deal over here.  There are the "Super 14" teams, which are made up of 5 Aussie teams, 5 South African teams and 4 NZ teams.  These teams play eachother from February to May and then the "All Blacks" is the main NZ team.  Some of the Super 14 players form an All Star team to make up the All Blacks.

The crowd heckles, but the hecklers are actually pretty polite.  The following are some of the things they yelled at the players, and yes I was taking notes:

"That's against the rules!"
"Honestly that's rubbish!"
"Wanker of a call!"
"Couldn't catch a cold!"
"Shoulda kicked it when you had the chance, man!"
"Go back to boring school!"

One of the All Blacks was voted the 3rd hottest sports person in the world.  Daniel Carter, #10.  He played tonight on the Canterbury Crusaders team.  He even models underwear.

Here's a poop pile, those guys just wait for the ball to pop out and then they run with it again!  Look how good our seats were!  I guess the closer you are to the field, the cheaper the tickets.  Craziness.

After the game, the players come out and sign autographs.  We got to meet some of the players!  (It rained during the game and so that's why my hair is jacked.)

In this next photo, first check out the gun show, and then look up to the guy's ear.  It's called "cauliflower ear".  When you're in the poop pile, your ears and the ears of the guys on the opposite team get sort of squished together because your heads are clunking over and over and then you end up with inside out ears.  Google it.  ICK.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Can't Talk Now-- Too Much Going On:

I stole this line from my sister Kelly, who, when visiting International Falls, sent her friend back in Portland Oregon a postcard with a cutout of the arrest section from our Daily Journal.  It had reported that one of the residents had their mailbox bashed in with a baseball bat.
Gotta love lil' local newspapers.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It's Getting Hilarious up in Here

Little turd:

BIG turd:

actually, it's a sock

Nails, I Hardly Knew Ye'

Look at these suckers!  Long, luxurious nails!  That NEVER happens to me.  But somebody said in the sun and humidity your nails grow.  Anyway, I couldn't stop staring at them every single day.  Plus I'm super tan right now (for me) and that made it worse.  I guess my head was getting too big and I needed to be knocked down a peg because all of sudden one day the middle one ripped, and I lost the ring I just bought for $120 that looked so nice with the nails.  You can kind of see the rip in the photo.  So now I'm back to my boring old self.

p.s. The ring is found and being mailed to me here in New Zealand.

Funny Money

This is just a slight complaint.  Something somebody should have asked me about first.  Before they made it the NATIONAL MONEY of Australia.

Below, in a terribly out of focus photo, you will see, from left to right, the American Dime, the Australian five cent piece, the Australian 2 DOLLAR coin, and then the American Nickel.  Now, why is the 2 DOLLAR coin so small?  So people will lose it and then other people will find it and then be super happy? 

Now, spend a month in Australia, and get used to the tiny 2 dollar coin and the larger 1 dollar coin.  Proceed onto New Zealand where their money is the EXACT opposite.  Below, on the top row, we see a New Zealand one dollar coin, smaller as it's supposed to be then the larger 2 dollar coin.
Bottom row: Australian 50 cent piece, which is HUGE, then the Australian one dollar coin, and lastly the Australian 2 dollar coin.  Can anybody make sense of this for me?
(**Interesting to note that the Australian 50 cent piece still has a picture of Lady Di and the Prince of Wales on it.) 

On my first day in Australia, I bought something for $5.80, (let's say...) and gave the woman a $10 bill.  She handed me a handfull of coins.  I need my change, I say.  You've got it, she says.  Oh, you gave me just the change, I need the bills, I say.  Then she explains that I have all the change.  Of course I was hugely embarrassed, and thus began a month of carrying around six pounds of coins in my purse.  Not realizing of course that there's like $50 in there.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

New Zealand

OK so I'm here for reals now.  We stopped on the way to Sydney for a little layover.  But now we got picked up at the airport by Henry and Marion from Thames, which is about an hour and a half north of Auckland.  Now we rented a car and are in Rotorua.  They have a lot of thermal activity here and such, so we're here for two days and then we're going to see a rugby match in Hamilton between the Chiefs and the Chargers, or something like that.  bla blah blah then we go to Waitomo Caves and then Teri goes home on Monday :(

boo hooooooo sob sob sob

I'll be all alone until I meet up with Summer in Thailand around April 17th or so.
Why am I scared of being alone?  Because Teri makes all the plans that's why.  She finds my computer mouse when I lose it and decides where we're going.  Now it's up to me.  I'll probably do a lot of sleeping.  I'm sick again too.  Here comes another frowny face.  :(

I must be totally worn out or something.  Looking forward to relaxing on the south island of New Zealand.  Here they call it N. Zed.

Also they put the 'e' sound where the 'i' goes and vice versa. 

Tennis  = Tinnes

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Peeing in a Wetsuit

As I mentioned before in this earlier blog post, whilst sailing on the Spank Me, I didn't want to use the on-board disgusting bathroom and neither would you.  What other options is a person left with?


Pee in the ocean.  This time of year, however, most reputable companies require their patrons to wear a stinger suit at all times in the water.  This prevents death by jellyfish sting.  So, more clearly, your only actual option is to pee through your stinger suit into the ocean.

One Size Fits...Most?

OK so fast forward.  We were off the Spank Me and on Reef World, where we stayed overnight in the lap of luxury.  Our private room had crown molding for Gosh sakes.  BUT, when the ferry that brings the day-trip people from the Mainland to Reef World is there (from 11am to 3pm), we were not allowed to use our awesome private bathroom, inexplicably.  Instead we had to use the disgusting ferry bathroom.  Not much better than Spank Me, and so here we are back to my pee story.

During my entire first dive (wearing the neon blue stinger suit pictured above) I was completely unable to go to the bathroom.  Oh and by the way, after all the one-day people left and it was just Teri and me on the boat (the only overnighters), I saved a nice darker-colored Stinger Suit off the rack so I wouldn't be stuck with that gross neon-blue getup again.  Also I hung it in the wind so it could dry properly from use the day before.  There's nothing worse than putting on a wet used stinger suit.  Anyway.  On the second day, on the second dive, I had to pee really really bad.  I had to pee the whole entire dive.  But listen, after 32 years of telling your body "Don't pee in the pool!" it's really hard to revert back to "it's OK now, go ahead and pee in the pool".  When we were almost finished, and approaching Reef World at the end of the dive, I realized that I would have to use that gross ferry bathroom if I didn't take action soon.

I got to GO.

OCD got the one-up on tradition and I decided to go.  Unfortunately it was in the staging area where they teach you scuba skills before you go on your dive.  I let it all go.  Standing there on a metal platform thing, in the ocean, waist-deep, I started peeing.  And I kept peeing.  And peeing.  And peeing.  I pretended it was taking a long time to get my fins off.

People were starting to wonder what was up with me.  I lied and told the gorgeous red-headed dive instructor that I needed to "do that thing with my hair", where you smooth it back in the pool because it's messy from swimming.  But in truth I was still peeing.  For what seemed an hour.  Teri was ready to get out, and was looking at me funny like 'let's go' (and by the way she was not in danger of getting in the pee at all, she was in a different area.  I'm not a total jerk.) 

Then suddenly I jumped!  Right behind me, and by the way I'm STILL peeing, were two other divers with their goggles right in my butt.  They were also returning from their dive.  I was so embarrassed because I felt sure they could see the pee cloud around me.  And also I felt bad because, well, you know.  But I wasn't done peeing yet!  I tried to move around as much as possible to disseminate the pee, and I tried to do it so that they wouldn't know what I was doing.  I was sure that they were.  Kind of like, "oops, sorry, didn't mean to be in your way, NOTHING funny is going on...heh heh...."

I WAS forced to actually do "that thing with my hair."
Later Teri and I cried laughing because I finally admitted to what was really happening and she said she was wondering why I was so surprised when the other divers arrived, and also why I insisted that we go snorkeling immediately after we got out of the water from diving, and then why I was done snorkeling after 30 seconds.  (Rinsing!)

So Here Is What I Learned About Wombats

Wombats are generalists, meaning they'll eat a variety of foods.  (A koala is a specialist, only eating eucalyptus leaves.)  They dig holes under the ground and live in burrows.  They have the same cartilidge plate in their butt that a koala does, but where the koala uses his for sitting, the wombat uses his for protection.  A shield.  They can run 40-50kph!!  So if a dingo is chasing them, they start running!  And then stop!  And the dingo gets knocked out.  Also they sleep in their burrows with just their butt sticking out.  So the dingo can chew and chew at their butt all it wants, but the wombat will not feel it at all.  And the dingo gets nowhere.  If a dingo happens to get into the burrow, the wombat lets him.  He lays on his back, very still.  Now the dingo gets all the way on top of it to go for the jugular.  At the last minute the wombat uses it's strong legs to KICK! the dingo up into the air and knock it out on the ceiling of the burrow (or hopefully crush the skull.)

Plus they are cute!  I got to hold this little guy, named Tonka.  His mom was hit by a car, and a passerby checked to see if she had a little nugget in her pouch, and sure enough, there was Tonka.  He is being raised at the sanctuary.  He is 12 months old and bottle fed.  In the wild the wombat stays by the mother for 2 years.  He was so sleepy!  He fell asleep twice in my arms.  And then they were bottle feeding him they had to shake him awake a couple times because he just dozed off.  While eating.

So Here is What I Learned about Koalas

Of course a koala is a marsupial, which just means that the babies develop mostly in the pouch, and are not "placental" mammals.  They are born a naked jellybean, only 2 inches long, and possessing two claws, which it uses to make its way to the pouch, where it will spend the next 6 to 7 months turning into a real koala.  The opening of the pouch on a koala is downward, as opposed to a kangaroo's upward facing pouch.  But the two teats inside swell up and prevent the baby from falling out.  However if the baby is unfortunate enough to fall out, the mother does nothing to help it.  She will let it die.

Of the almost 700 varieties of eucalyptus, the koala eats about 70.  There is not a lot of nutrition in the eucalyptus leaf, and since that's all they eat, the koala has almost no energy.  Its brains are pretty small.  They are stupid, slow and sleep 21 hours a day.  But so cute!  (See above).
Eucalyptus is toxic, even for the koala.  In order to not be poisoned from the leaves, the koala has a bacteria in its stomach to protect it.  A baby koala is not born with this bacteria.  How does it get there?  Well, I'll tell you:

They eat their mom's poop!  Diarrhea poop!  Normally the mom koala takes about a week to digest one eucalyptus leaf, because it moves so slowly through the colon.  It comes out dry like a rabbit turd.  When the mom has a developed, ready-to-come-on-out baby in the pouch though, her body AUTOMATICALLY smooshes the leaf through faster, creating diarrhea, which the baby eats, (made easier by the fact that the pouch faces downward and it's face is practically right in the way).  So -- after the baby spends 6-7 months in the pouch, finishing their development, they are ready to eat some poop and get their stomachs ready for eating eucalyptus leaves.  Then the mom just poops and poops and poops and the baby eats it for 6 weeks.  Then the baby climbs onto the mom's back and lives there for 12 months.  Now the mom figures the baby is ready to be on its own and so she claws and bites at the baby if necessary to make it leave.

The End!

Friday, March 5, 2010

My Musings on Australian Roadways, However Inaccurate they May Be

It seems to me that nobody really speeds here.  And I should know, because Teri and I rented a car and traveled two motorways, for a total of 14 hours.  If you look at a map of Australia, we covered about one millimeter of it.  If my sarcasm is lost on you, what I'm trying to say is I probably don't know what I'm talking about, but here it is anyway:

They seem to have cameras everywhere for speeding.  They take a picture of you and just mail you the ticket.  Back in Minnesota this doesn't fly because people have argued and gotten attorneys and everything, more or less to say just because you have a picture proving that I was speeding (or running a red light) doesn't mean I really was speeding (or running a red light).

When you get to the age where you're going to get your license, you have to have a big 'P' posted on your car.  This stands for 'Provisional' and means you can drive, but not before you have a certain amount of hours practice and you can only go, say 80kph instead of the actual speed limit, whatever it may be.  Then when you're done with your RED 'P', you get a GREEN 'P', and then you need so many more hours, with fewer restrictions, and then you have to pass a written test. 

You get an allotment of 9 points and then your license is taken away.  Speeding ticket?  3 points.  Anybody in the car not wearing a seatbelt?  3 points.  Etcetera.

All over the roads there are signed warning against sleepy driving, like 'Yawning? Power Nap NOW.' and 'Nap Area Ahead' and my personal favorite: 'Don't Sleep and Drive'.  There are billboards with photos of bloody terrible accidents that say, "Slow Down, Stupid."

All this in the name of saving lives.  (Take a cue, America!!)  Anyway, so here you'll be driving the speed limit, which on the most busy highways is only 100kph, or 60mph.  Anyway, you're the fastest one.  Most people drive UNDER the speed limit. Yes we saw a few jerks fly by, but for the most part, everybody is pretty chill on the road.  

So, the other day, Teri and I were driving the Great Ocean Road, which is similar to the Pacific Coast Highway in California in that it follows the coast from Melbourne westward and is surrounded by beautiful scenery.  But apparently it is a high accident area.  Suddenly all of the traffic was stopped.  We saw that a police officer had pulled everyone to the side of the road.  We waited in line, wondering what it was all about.  Turns out he was giving EVERY SINGLE DRIVER a breathalizer. 

I thought that was so awesome.  I asked if I could take a picture and he was like, "absolutely".  The policeman was really good natured and was totally OK with us laughing the whole time.  He said that in Australia they don't need to have any "probable cause".  If you're driving, he can pull you over and give you a breathalizer.  I say that's brilliant.  I don't know the statistics and I don't do research on my opinions, EVER...but it seems like that's a good way to keep your nations' roadways safe.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


So yah.  When I quit my job and sold all of my furniture and clothes, I had to really minimize what I would need for traveling.  I would be gone for a year or more hopefully, visiting warm-climate countries and therefore needing only summer clothes.  Easy, right?  Not really.

Even when you cut your wardrobe down into what you consider to be nothing you have too much.

I didn't really pack my bag until the day I left, and so I ended up bringing WAY too much stuff.  I couldn't get my bag zipped, and brought an unexpected additional carry-on bag.  I flew to Samoa with a backpack filled to capacity, a tote bag brimming with heavy books and my purse/laptop bag stuffed with everything that couldn't fit in the other bags.  "I'll just trim the fat along the way," I thought.  Try as I might, I couldn't imagine my life without each and every item in all three bags.  "I'll just make sure to use the same dental floss each time, and then I can throw one of the three out, and that will make more space," I reasoned, as my clothing expanded in the humidity, making it harder and harder to zip the bag shut.  "I threw away some receipts today!" I gleamed, believing that surely now I could illiminate the tote bag. 

Since February 2nd, I have strapped my backpack onto my back a total of three times, and that only mostly on principal.  Otherwise, the cab driver grabs it and throws it onto a wheeled cart, and I push it around.  I have carried it like an awkward, heavy, handle-less suitcase back and forth from hotel lobbies to rooms, lifting it's 19 kilograms with my low back and not my knees.  Every time someone else hefts my backpack into the trunk of a cab, Teri laughs at the idea of me "backpacking" Australia, never actually putting the "pack" on my "back".

As far as 'trimming the fat' goes, in Sydney, I finished The Thorn Birds, and parted with a skirt and a sweater.  In Airlie Beach, I tossed that old embarrassing straw hat that Melissa Kasprowicz loved so much and a paper-thin white shirt that had become stained from sunblock.  However, I bought pajama pants, a pair of shorts, and a new hat.  Every time I think I'm making weight/space headway, I buy a T-shirt or acquire some new "needed" toiletry. 

The point of this whole story is that I finally broke down yesterday in Melbourne and bought a suitcase.  It's a lovely forest green hardcase number by the makers of CATERPILLAR truck and tractor accessories.  I'm terribly angry about it because at home, I have an AWESOME hardcase suitcase that my aunties Julie and Debbie bought for me for my graduation 15 years ago and another smaller suitcase that works for a nice carry-on.  I should have scrapped the backpack and just brought those two.  After all, Teri has been easily and without effort wheeling around her two suitcases for five weeks and doesn't have to spend 6 minutes on the zipper, trying to force them shut like me and my ol' backpack.

So, new suitcase.  $200.  Yah, everything is way more expensive here.  Aveda face cleanser, travel-sized?  $25. 

And then I threw all caution to the wind and went fancy girl shopping.  Made me feel like a real traveler --more than a stupid backpack ever could.  And I spent money, wooo DOGGEY.  Coulda lived in Thailand for a month on what I spent.  But it felt goooooooooooood.  So good.  Take that, backpack!

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