Saturday, December 22, 2012

Summer Holidays

Its officially the Summer Holidays! That means we've been spending many hours by the pool after long hot, humid days. We have fallen into some crook weather as the fallout of a cyclone that hit Fiji last week brings clouds and rain for the Holidays.
The kids have also been a bit crook with an ear infection and a new tooth, but we are trying to make the best of it. All our activities are over until mid-Summer (late Jan/Feb), so it was a long week, but I am mostly done with work for a few weeks. Grandparents, friends, and family are going to be in and around the house as we are hosting xmas this year.
The Holiday season is in full swing down here, but it is much more laid back than in the States which suits me just fine.
I just finished a work out program I've been doing for a few months and will spend the next week conditioning for the hikes I start next weekend. We fly down to Queenstown next Saturday morning and start hiking Sunday. We won't be back in Auckland again until the 5th, after 90km, 5 days and three nightsof hiking and back-country camping.
The absolute highlight of the week (month) is that my application for a work visa was accepted and my contract here has been extend to 1 August 2013!! We are planning on having be home a few weeks before that, but will have some flexibility in finding my replacement. I am still going to Hawaii in February with a quick stop over in Colorado before resuming my contract in March.

Often I feel a general sense of bewilderment in my life and the path its on, but when some many amazing things just fall into place with such serendipity, its easy to know I am at least heading in the right direction.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Sundress in December

Random: This a house I drive by every
week - that is seriously a giant monkey head!
  Last weekend was incredibly busy going out with friends, lounging in bed, and doing this insane 20.6km hike (accidentally). I would rather not admit to any more stupidity in explaining the accidentally part other than it was an absolutely beautiful day and I was a bit deprived of nutrition, sleep, and plasma -as I switch from whole blood donations to plasma on Friday.
  A slightly painful, but quick week of recovery lead me to anther fabulous weekend of with family friends over for dinner Friday night followed by a glorious day of drinking beer at the Belgium beer cafe Ponsonby unto which we finished our beer passport! After sun bathing in the court yard of the cafe, we meandered down the P Road's market day back to my house for more sun bathing and a refreshing dip in the pool. A little babysitting last night lead us to be much better prepared for tackling the Te Henga Walkway hike again today.

  The weather was a bit off; windy with rain turning us around, but we still a had close to perfect 13km hike preceding more lounging and trip planning. With only a few weeks until Christmas, sunny, summer weather, and our big hikes down on the South Island, my work out routines and general life function is thankfully going up without much difficulty.

  Tuesday I am going to trivia with the girls, donating plasma again on Friday, Christmas in the Park (concert) Saturday, more pool bathing and another go at Te Henga should round out another life filled week. Its hasn't been an easy couple of months and I am focusing on what I can do, want to do, and what best fulfills a healthy, quality of life in order to combat the natural difficulties in life. So here's to another week of sundresses!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Here and Back again

A few days back at home... That phrase has more meaning to now then it has ever before: I returned to my home town, I returned to the places my family and loved ones are from and resides, my heart spent some time in the most comfortable oasis I could find, and currently I am back to my normal life, with all its loved ones too.
It has been and I am expecting it to continue to be a trying term in my life. Well I it really is all relative to perspective: until a few weeks ago I thought I was overwhelmed, now I know that that was a calm. But that is gone, without having appreciated the ease of breathes, and this new setting of emotions is upon me.
Grief, time travel, celebration, struggle, embrace, counter- culture shock, and most of all love has encircled me.
The quantity of time with loved ones is never enough to satiate and the quality rarely seems enough to make up for it.
Only 1/3 of my boarding passes
I am trying to stay focused, patient (with my self), and remember to do "normal" when I can't do anything else. Further I do know that challenges present themselves not to spurn happiness, but to encourage growth and enlightenment (even if it seems far away).
It was an accidental benefit that I had already planned to attend the theatre production of Mary Poppins the day I arrived back in Auckland. Despite the jet lag it was phenomenal- the sets and lighting took a lovely story, with highly aspiring performers to an enchanting level.

Plus I was able to participate
 in Halloween celebrations!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Labour Weekend

  Like so many other political and social aspects of New Zealand, it was an international leader for Labour Day. First starting the people and union's parades to legalise the eight-hour work day and forty-hour work week back in 1840, I am reaping the benefits this weekend. Labour Day weekend is also the unofficial start of summer here, though it could be a spoof as all it has done the entire day is pour down rain.

  Thankfully I did have a chance to get in a hike around Lake Wainamu in the Waitakeres last weekend. Sand dunes were the biggest surprise of our rather muddy and extremely windy expedition into the bush.

Otherwise not much new has happened or excited my days of child care other than a new tooth here, a tantrum there, and cuddles most everywhere (well sometimes). It seems like daily life has taken over again and in that strange way that it fills everyday with something, though the details seem to fade into one another. I am still immensely grateful for the experiences I am learning from whether I full realize them or not. My future hasn't changed from its lovely opaque self, but it is possible I have come to appreciate it more.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Character Building Days

Last week my family in Colorado experienced the loss of my grandmother and all though I don't care to discuss the particulars, it must be noted as a new and difficult experience to say the least. Wanting to hug and take care of loved ones 12,000 kilometers away is a desperately helpless feeling. But this is too is part of living and exploring aboard, it wasn't really a part I was expecting or had though much about.
My feelings are ironically fluctuating as frequently as the weather here and I am just taking it in stride. Although it is possible I am just in shock or something, I am actually feeling very strong - overwhelmed, emotionally overextended, and just plain old tired - just still I feel that there is an inner strength I am relying on that I didn't have a year ago.
My backyard this morning at 0700 - rain and gray in every direction

My backyard this afternoon at 1400 - sunny and beautiful
Friends and family here have been wonderful and supportive. Skype has allowed for me to communicate and offer and receive some comfort from home. All in all, I have been very blessed and know that these days are those that will be considered "character building." The knowledge, perspectives, and strengths I am gaining will lend themselves for years to come.

Friday, September 28, 2012


So that my host parents could attend a wedding, I had to gone a beach vacation last weekend. In order to have enough room for the all the provisions (it felt more like an exodus than a weekend away) a family with two young kids and all the people we took two cars, so I brought a friend with as well. 
Hot Water Beach
Whitianga (pronounced fi-ti-an-ga) is a quaint beach town on the East side of the Coromandel Peninsula. We stopped at Hot Water Beach on the way. It is a beach that is situated over - you guessed it - hot springs. If you bring your shovel and a little patients to find the springs you can ding hole and sit in hot water while relaxing by the cold ocean. The beach along with the entire peninsula is truly resplendent. 
Cathedral Cove
Saturday we went to a walk to Cathedral Cove and babysat in the afternoon.

On the drive home
Sunday we drove home via the scenic route. It was a peaceful and, after seven weeks in Auckland, a much needed holiday. 

The Great Gatsby and Birthday Party

What I call a Good Friday Night
In between re-reading one of my favorite books about WWI before its sequel (about WWII) came out I had a few days to burn. I am always, always reading at least one book going, but I was so excited about the newest book in this trilogy I didn't want to start anything too demanding so I went back to an oldy, but a goody - The Great Gatsby. The historical timing was perfect and it was an easy read done over the weekend.
A friend and I went to the Museum that Saturday, which like the zoo I had been to many times, but never without kids in tow and hadn't really seen any of it previously. It is beautiful building over looking Auckland.  The exhibits are expertly done and the range of artifacts and displays are extensive while not overwhelming. Best of all, the City Council of Auckland has sponosored the museum so that anyone who lives in Auckland is free of charge - the Art Gallery and many other museums here are the same - a brilliant way to keep people involved and culture and education available.

The kids and I made cupcakes for a friend's birthday before we went out for dinner, followed by cupcakes and beer on the beach- what more could a girl want?!


I apologize for my procrastination and lack of ambition to document the last few weeks.
The weekend after my last post the girls and I pretty much repeated the lounging, but added rummy! We played contract rummy for hours while watching music videos and sipping back a few beers. Side note - I have become fortunate enough to find an beer importer that ordered me New Belgium. Until I received the shipment I really didn't think it was possible. The first sip was like having a hug from a loved one at home and almost made me cry.
Anyways the girls and I went out to Ponsonby Road Friday night, which is not really like going out at home as a small glass of beer is at least eight dollars and you aren't allowed into most bars if you are wearing blue jeans.
I can't speak highly enough about the quality entertainment a deck of cards can provide. I am deeply worried that in our fast-paced, electronics dominated culture, playing cards will become a thing of the past like listening to the radio or uninterrupted (by television) family dinners. I vow to do my part to make sure this doesn't happen - even if I don't win a single hand!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Girls Weekend

We watched these monkeys
clean each other for ages
Both Friday and Saturday evenings we occupied by babysitting, but I had one of the best weekends! Friday the girls came over and I cooked a three course dinner that I must say was pretty darn good. Saturday we went to the zoo as they hadn't been before and I rarely get to see or doing much while I am dragging the children around. I have been to the zoo probably a dozen or more times, but still hadn't been to about half of it. We took our time and spent as much or as little time as we wanted at each spot - it was so lovely to ignore everyone's crying children. Not to say that I don't adore my job and all its perks, like going to the zoo regularly, but I appreciate child-free time more than I could have ever expected.

Possibly the best part of the weekend was just relaxing with other adults, doing (sort of) adult things, and not talking about nappies or naptime. Or maybe the best was pancake breakfasts two mornings in a row!
Or maybe it was how we were craving an American hotdog and then on the way home there was a stand on the side of the road offering just that - sometimes the world just works out.
We are planning to do it all over again next weekend.
a hotdog, just when you need it

Busy doing normal

I am not all that sure why I don't seem to have any spare time these days. By spare I don't mean I don't have free time to have fun and play. I have been actually relishing and cherishing that time more, which maybe is why it seems like I don't have time for the boring things like blogging, laundry (well I am still doing heaps, and heaps of it, just not as religiously), cleaning up rooms when I know they will just as quickly get hit by hurricane Mackay again... My workout routine has jumped up a notch as I am obsessing over re-reading one of my favorite books and am negotiating longer cardio stints so have more time to read while on the machine. There are now two other American au pairs I have become quite close with and we are now spending most of every weekend together. My work schedule has changed a bit, giving me both more time with the kids on my own and more time on my own in general and I can't believe what a significant change in attitude I seemed to have found with it.
I am sure that having a date for going home has rekindled my love in my life here and I am already missing it.
Despite having spent numerous hours on the couch watching movies and chatting away an evening while babysitting, we still managed to go for a quick hike in the Waitakeres.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Ticket

The sight from my window when
I woke up on Monday morning
Despite another rather mundane week, paradise is still beautiful, blooming with birds of paradise. I had a girls night last Friday with some other au pairs, met up with a friend on Saturday afternoon, and sunday was spent avoiding the rain and seeing the new Bourne movie at Sylvia Park shopping centre. I was also able to sneak a trip for mussels and good beer into Sunday evening. So really, really my life has become "normal," with routines and the wasting away of perfectly good weekends. Since I am pretty much doing the same thing this weekend, I must be enjoying it!
In my backyard
The scary, bizarre part of last week was that I made a significant decision/action for my future travel plans, something I've not done in months and months. I bought a ticket back to the States. As soon as I did it, I was awash with a desire to cry and could not for the life of me figure out the cause. I knew I would have to leave New Zealand and I knew I would need to buy a ticket. I even found a great deal and I am going with a friend. It was maybe just that I had in fact made a decision and my fantasy world with made up plans and fake money kind of dissolved in one swoop. It is very exciting and I am so happy, especially since now I can focus more attention on how to manage my remaining time and travel.

I am often shocked and baffled at my life and how I have managed to get where I am and do what I am doing - it just seems all too chimerical. I spent a bit of my week feeling a bit blue for this new direction, but have now somewhat accepted, though not full realized, that I will be home some time around 1 March. From the time my contract is up in the middle of January until then, I will go to Australia, NZ biggest sports event down in Wellington, and then poor, poor me will be flying home via a trip in Hawaii.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Bethells Beach

Another night of babysitting in a peaceful house started out my weekend before some of the friends I met in Wellington came up to Auckland. Saturday we went to the French Markets in Parnell. The market is full of fresh produce, breads, spreads, and baked goodies of all kinds and is a fresh and fabulous place to get some grocery shopping and breakfast out of the way.

We then drove out to the Waitakeres again to Bethells Beach. Despite the shoddy weather, we were able to walk along the coast and visit a few caves, though never actually completed a hike as intended. The area is famous for beautiful summer weather with swimmers, surfers, and people lounging in the hot black sand, so we will have to make another trip back in a few months.
Once back in Auckland, we cleaned up an hosted a casual and entertaining dinner party for our Welly friends.

I spent almost all of Sunday on a friends couch, eating junk food and watching movies while the rain continued to pour down. Good food, a little adventure, friends... This is what life should be about. (our internet usage went over this month and we are now operating at dial up speeds so pictures will follow in a few days)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Wonderful Weekend in Welly

View of Wellington from Mt Victoria
The first weekend in August I took my first real holiday since being here. I actually took off the Friday and Monday - a first time request and went back down to the Capital. I was lucky enough to have grabbed a cheap return ticket for 90 bucks and even had a friend to take with me. It can't be said whether it was the unlikely, but amazing weather, the adventures we had, the friends we made, or just the fact that I was finally on a vacation, but it was one of the best trips I have ever had.
Dinner at Shed 5
We left first thing Friday morning and were picked up by a friend of a friend at the airport, a generous individual who was kind enough to show us around Mt Victoria, the water front, an art gallery,and offered his tour guide services again on Monday before returning us to the airport. Friday afternoon we had a leisurely lunch before checking into the hotel, working out, and hitting the town. A fabulous seafood dinner and a few drinks rounded out our evening in Wellington's CBD.
Up bright and early on Saturday, we rented a car, picked up another au pair and drove out to the Southwest coast. Despite the twisty-turny "mountain" roads and the many hours of driving, the scenery and destination were more than worth it. We took a couple hour hike through the Pinnacles Track and over, around, and through a river. Then we went to Cape Palliser, the most southern point of the North Island, a light house, and the home to a large fur seal colony. I have now traveled literally from the top to the bottom of the North Island.
Cape Palliser Light House
Both the views from the lighthouse and visiting the lazy, but cute seal colony were spectacular, but did include a bit more exercise. Two-hundred and fifty stairs to be precise. Then it was back to the car for a few more hours of twisty-turny roads before stopping at Countdown (the grocery store) for dinner supplies. We were fortunate to have more generous and friendly people who had offered us lodging and the opportunity to meet some kindred Kiwis.
Sunday, a group of us went out to the best brunch ever had. To be completely honest, in retrospect, we are not sure what made it so amazing other than we were all famished and the ambiance and food hit the spot. Then we were driven around Wellington, around all the bays, and to a beach walk called Red Rocks. A few more hours of immersing ourselves in New Zealand nature and beauty, another seal colony and we were back in town getting more dinner preparations. Monday we met up with some friends for lunch, toured Parliament, and spent our remaining hours wandering around Te Papa- the national museum.

We finished our trip back at the Mt Eden Belgium Beer cafe with apple crumble, what more could a girl want? I will have to admit the following week was a bit difficult - coming back to reality and having to work with limited rest, but I keep trying to figure out how to do it all again sometime in my remaining time here - there is just so much to see! (pictures to be add soon as the internet connection is extremely slow today)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

And I am talking about the weather, again

Gratefully, after the painful experience of paying my most annoying parking ticket last week, I have had a shockingly quite and all be it wet and rainy boring old week. I am skeptically told that the worse of the winter weather is behind us. Despite this, the forecast for the foreseeable future is precipitation. I have actually just given up on planning and am trying not notice the constantly changing and unpredictable weather in New Zealand. In colorful and sunny Colorado we claim that we can have four seasons in one day. New Zealand can seriously have four seasons before morning tea.
Over the weekend I offered my babysitting services, took a friend out for her birthday, and then didn't even leave the house on Sunday. It was pouring rain all day, and I took the opportunity to catch up on reading, researching (travel mostly), and enjoying a relaxing day- which I sadly find harder said then done.
What is most on my mind this week is my glorious four day weekend coming up. A mate and I are flying to Wellington to enjoy some seriously wet and windy weather and hopefully a little break away from children. She is one of those "let's just wing it" sort of people and I can't be bothered to make a bunch of plans so we will just have to see what we get to and how we make that happen. I am trying to take this in graceful stride, but it is extremely difficult exercise in faith, patience, and relaxing.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Epic Fail

As part of my initiative to appreciate the new and exciting by planning fun events, a friend and I made plans weeks ago to see the new Batman movie opening weekend. A long, rainy weekend inside with children made me even more excited to get out Friday night. I stopped over at her house and chatted with her host family and some friends and before we knew it, it was time to go to the movie down in Mission Bay. So  without having dinner (I thought I'd just grab something later) we drove down, grabbed a quick pint at our favorite Belgian Beer Cafe and went into the very long, and somewhat disappointing movie (I just thought there were too many things going on and in a few places it lost that something special the first two had but I am getting off track here). Since I am often in bed hours before 11pm I had completely forgotten that everything - restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations - close before 10pm so no dinner for me. As we were walking up Patteson Ave I slowly realized that we must have passed the car since we had passed all the cars on the road and were heading into a large residential area. We decided to walk back and try again. My friend pointed out some cars in the distance asking if they were mine, which they obviously were not. After walking up and down the street again it was clear that somehow the car had moved itself without my key, but with my phone in it. They didn't cover what do in this sort of situation in my au pair orientation.

Mission Bay is small and there is really only one police HQ in the CBD and I didn't have my phone and we were a good half hour walk to my friends house and..... where is my (host family's) car!?! A few awkward and embarrassing phone calls later (her host family, my host family, the tow hotline) I had discovered that the car had been towed because apparently I had parked in front of a drive way. I would contest this but somehow had forgotten to take the necessary photographic evidence of my car after I parked it. A cab ride down to the CBD, a signature, and proof of my license, along with the 111 dollar and 50 cent ticket, to be paid within 28 days or they will send a nasty letter, and I had the car back. All in all, not the highlight of my life, but an experience none the less. I have to say its pretty funny now, and was actually pretty funny at the time since it seems just so impossible and ridiculous to have lost my car and my phone in a foreign town, in a foreign country, in the middle of the night when I hadn't even eaten dinner!

Things like tickets, and awkward phone calls, and skipped meals just happen in life and even more so in travel. I am dedicated to continuing my travels, probably to farther, well wait, I can't really go farther away, but at least more exotic places, where I don't speak the language and things like this are just going to happen, and having the right attitude will hopefully keep me from losing anything too important. I promptly paid my ticket and moved on, taking a good story and maybe a little more life experience with me.

Saturday and Sunday contained more rain, a jog to Cox's Bay, heaps of reading under my down comforter, a little babysitting, and few pointed jokes from the family. All is well in paradise.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Best Half Birthday Ever

 This weekend I celebrated my half birthday and it was the best ever, and that's saying something! I don't particularly care that I am over twelve years old, by like a decade, as you probably know, I still believe in celebrating half birthdays. This is probably because this small celebration in the middle of the year has always held fond and warm memories of travel, friends, family, and desert, of course!
  Considering I know this is not a normal tradition and being so far from home, I had low expectations for this years celebrations. My favorite and most appreciated half birthday gift was that that my host family went away for the weekend, leaving me alone at home for 2.5 days - a glorious and quite occasion. I am not saying I don't love the sound of pattering feet and the crying of hungry mouths, but....
  Being at home or anywhere really, when you are truly by yourself and have no obligations to work or to anyone else gives a type of peace and revitalization like no other. I have been missing this and will be trying to incorporate, appreciate and find more of this time.
  To take the stakes up a little higher, a girlfriend and I made appointments for a manicure and pedicure - such luxuries here, where a bottle of nail polish is twenty-five dollars, that we have not granted ourselves these once standard enjoyments since arriving. Then, we dolled ourselves up and went out to the Viaduct (a bar/restaurant district on the wharf next to the CBD) and treated ourselves to a degustation at Kermadec, an award winning seafood restaurant. It is easily in the top five greatest meals I have ever had.
  Saturday I was able to spend almost the entire day in my trackies and still included a work-out, walk around the park, mussels for dinner, and movie. Today was similar, expect that I got dressed and went out for a movie and mussels with a friend at our favorite Belgium Beer Cafe.
  To make it all perfect I received cards or emails from multiple family members at home and a hand made card my "Kiwi Granna" - Andrew's mum! These small tokens make the Pacific Ocean seem not quite so big.
  The last couple of weeks, well actually this entire experience has been the most challenging endeavor of my life - and the most rewarding, personally developing, perspective changing, and clarifying. I have a greater appreciation for everyone and everything in my life. What is even more exciting, if that is possible, is that my view of the world has broadened in unimaginable ways. I have been spending almost all of my free time either doing or planing adventures and any remaining time is spent in reverie of what next year could hold. I surprise myself every week with completely new ambitions I didn't know I had and ways of accomplishing them I never thought were possible. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Tiritiri Matangi

Silver Fern
I have just crawled out of my sweatpants after a week of being sick as. This however didn't stop me from going on an day adventure last Saturday. The weather was absolutely perfect and I couldn't pass up a day in the sun on an island, well a smaller island.
Tiritiri Matangi is a small island about and hour and a quarter north of Auckland by ferry. It has been a bird sanctuary since the 1980s and is a host of preserved fauna, flora, and native and endangered bird species. The ferry leaves the warf at 930am and drops you off for a day of nature and hiking with a 1530 return. We packed our hiking bags and as usual expected a more arduous trek than we received. So as not to spoil tradition the we hiked the entire outskirts of the 220-hectare island in half the expected time, leaving plenty of time to lay in the grass and enjoy the views. It was truly paradise.

Sadly the rest of my week really has been in a pretty pathetic state. I will hopefully be back to a descent condition for my half birthday celebrations and a peacefully weekend alone.