Monday, March 30, 2009

when in nz

so, looking at the end of my time in new zealand, land of the great white cloud (and there are lots of awesome clouds here) and at what i've done etc. i've read 28 books and written 48 postcards (gives me a handcramp just thinking about it) and learned all sorts of things. for instance, in nz toilets say vacant/engaged and men wear very short shorts and everyone seems to have taken to walking about barefoot, in the city, in some sort of protest. burgers are served with beetroot a fried egg and chile sauce and this is deemed normal, it's impossible to find mexican food that won't make you ill, any place spelled with a 'wh' at the beginning is inexplicably pronounced 'f' (and i am massivly impressed by the weather ladys ability to say all the names at breakneck speed without mistakes), and "sweet as" is said by everyone, all the time. and the facts are incorrect, and dairy production has gone up as the demand for lamb has subsided so there is now only 10 sheep per person. also:
bathing suits=togs
trash cans=rubbish/litter bins



car body shop=panelbeaters
pants=trousers (and pants are something entirely different)
and fries/chips/wedges are all used to describe potatos treated with hot oil, but each means a different variety. however, the lines of differentiation are rather vague at times.
as i am making lists now i can also say that i have been to a lot of places, and here they(mostly) are in order (i think):
auckland/wellsford/auckland/wellington/picton/renwick/blehnim/linkwater/havelock/nelson/rai valley/french pass/nelson/greymouth/christchurch/dunedin/queenstown/christchurch/picton/wellington/upper hutt/wellington/taupo/whitianga/auckland/whangarai/paihai/auckland/wellington
while here in new zealand i have done rather i lot of things. again i will grace you with further listing:
cyclone escaping, bird breakfast sharing, cow chasing, garlic harvesting, beekeeping, long bus riding, ferry crossing, blueberry picking, blueberry baking, early morning inaguration-ing, bicycle powered wine tasting, lemon rescuing, jungle walking, ugly dog sitting, shady tree reading, post van riding, room cleaning, bed making, dolphin swimming, rain dancing, film watching, cocoa drinking, flower smelling, duck feeding, spicy curry eating, freezing, bus talking, sweater buying, bus sleeping, cloud watching, jump missing, popcorn making, more bus riding, music listening, sick boating, ice cream slurrping, laughing, sauce making, pie baking, sign painting, fair attending, pancake making, swimming, postcard creating,joke telling, left hand eating, cider drinking, friend goodbying, chocolate eating, art seeing, nerd touring, rugby screaming, ink getting, car driving, skydiving, picture taking, sun rising, parallel parking, haircutting, truth realizing, more bus riding, tree hugging, water wading, sand boarding, writing, package sending, more bus riding, freind visiting, place/people returning to, goodbye saying. to name a few things.

i will miss this place and the people here and i have a feeling that i am not seeing the last of it!
and now off to the next adventure..............

Friday, March 27, 2009

the farthest north

quite hot up there, though farthest north makes me think of the north pole and lots of snow and white bears. yesterday i journied up to the very tippy top of the north island. walked out to the lighthouse at the cape, saw where the tasman met the pacific. and it was beautiful and much less windy than it usually is (according to ted the bus driver). we also drove to the giant sand dunes where the driver produced boogie boards and we hiked up the most giant hill of sand ever just to slide back down again. my pockets were full of sand and lunch tasted distinctly gritty as well. and the we drove along the entire 90 mile beach (actually closer to 70 miles but still the name sticks i guess) in the giant bus or coach as they are called here, stopped to admire the wildness of the clouds and the perfect beach, some of the travelers even picked small shellfish out of the sand and ate them. right there. raw. i did not partake in this gruesome activity but took pictures for my friends of their stunned faces. and then dinner at a really authentic 'chippery' though i was told by an english guy that it would have been better if they had used newsprint to wrap everything instead of blank butcher paper. yum!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

back to the bus

well, goodbye car, hello bus! i have not missed you but still, good way to get around.
i dropped off the car in auckland yesterday morning, early, and only 20 km over the alloted amount (and the guy winked and said i was under!). woke up early in the cormandal, early enough to catch the sunrise. it's the eastern most point of new zealand, and of the world, so i was seeing the wednesday sun first, out of anyone in the world-well along with everyone else on the beach looking at it, but who cares, it was magnificent. and then the drive to auckland, which was fine, until the city drew near and then it was harrowing in the extreem, and i pulled over cause the gas light went on and it turned out i was right where i wanted to be and i got there early and it was great. it was difficult to say bye to patty, she treated me so well and it was awesome to drive a car that felt so spacious, and cushy. i'm used to being more squished! i would just like to say thank you so much to my 'secret santa' out there, for allowing me four days of glorious freedom. i think i pulled over several times an hour, just to walk around the pullouts and exclaim at the view. i reveled in my temporary mobility. it was such a gift. thank you.
after dropping off the car i spent an afternoon in auckland, got a haircut (i was getting pretty snarley) and wandered around. discovered 'margaret' street (awesome!). and this morning at the crack of dawn the stray bus picked me up. a nice small bus full of really lovely people. not as young and crazy as the kiwiexperience kids. and we stopped at goat island and saw beautiful fish, and hugged the huge ka'uri tree which is apparently an old custom. hug the tree and pray to it. lovely tree. but not what i would call huge. and now i am in paihai and it's beautiful beach, and i'm going on a day trip tomorrow to the '90 mile beach' which should be awesome!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

more exciting stuff

wow, two things to write about in one day. an embarrasment of riches! though to be fair my entry this morning was concerning the events of the day before but still....
today was a big day. i have been wanting to jump out of a plane for, well, forever really. and i was going to in queenstown but the weather sort of foiled my plans. and thank god, because taupo skydiving is aparently the best in new zealand. i went with 'skydive taupo'. they picked me up in a limo (with five other kids for israel and belgium already hyped up or freaking out respectivly) and took up to the hanger at the airport, where we were show a video which convinced me to buy the full set-splurge and get the dvd of the fall and all the extras. i just didn't want to forget a second. we were able to pick the songs that played during the different parts. i chose for mine to start with 'eye of the tiger'! and then we were suited up and introduced to our instructors. mine was named steve and he was tiny. short. and very blonde. from chicago. the instructor /tandem partner wears the camera on their arm so it's all very personal throughout the freefall and into the parachute part as well. the video we saw looked awesome. i was in a daze the whole way through the prep but tried to keep my head and remember my instructions which revolved around holding myself in the shape of a banana. not too difficult.
we squeezed for pairs into the bright pink and alarmingly small plane and took off. there were two girls who were doing the 12,000 ft jump and they were to go first. i vastly enjoyed the flight, the country looked amazing from that height. the clouds so soft and far away. the weather couldn't be more perfect. but when it came time for her to go the first girl refused and looked very upset. they wenta rround again and her friend went and then again she refused so they took us higher so that myself and the other guy going from 15,000ft could jump. it was so hard to go last i was chomping the bit like crazy. and finally it was by time to go and i opened my eyes wide, put my legs under the bottem of the plane as instructed, and out we went, (aparently over the plane rather than under, due to weather issues) and i was euphoric. it was unbelievable. so hard to comprehend. so against nature and yet amazing. we were falling so fast my face flapped and i had to try hard to keep my arms from flying up over my head. and the spinning and tumbling. madness. utter awesome madness. and in what seemed like a moment it was over ( the best 60 seconds ever!) and the paracute was deployed and we were floating. and even that was wonderful. and even that went quickly and we were landing, perfectly i may hasten to add. none of this landing by sitting, i just stood up. a perfect landing!
they say the human brain can't comprehend heights over 5,000 ft and maybe that's why we are able to jump out of planes. it just doesn't occur to us that its not a good idea. but it is such a good idea. the best. i want to go again.....

taming the beast

i decided to face my fears and do some wrong-side-of-the-road driving. so i arranged to relocate a car from wellington to auckland, for budget rentals. the arrangement was this: three nights, for days, 900 kilometers and after that they charge 30 cents per km, all i have to pay for is gas. oh excuse me - petrol! so i was to have my car from sunday to wednesday, and i planned to drive to taupo, then the cormandal peninsula, then over to auckland. figured it would all be well marked and i could figure it out. went to pick up my car yesterday morning and after the preliminary paperwork/identification/credit card etc the man at the desk explained to me apoligetically that since i was relocating a car i had no choice to the type of car and then he went to fetch it and pull it around to the front.
and it was a minivan.
a powder blue minivan. the most un -mini vehicle i had every witnessed in my life. i look small in this car. but what choice did i have? i had booked accomadations along the way, had a bus to catch thrusday morning in auckland, i needed to drive and this was the car i was delt. so with much trepidation, i eased the behemouth beast out onto the road, busy with sunday market and italian festival traffic, and made my tentative way towards the highway-excuse me i meant moterway! it 's fairly easy to find everything, signage is quite sufficient, and i was headed to the blueberry farm in upper hutt first, to say bye to mary and bettianne (and hopefully score some berries) and i found my way without much of a hastle, having done the drive as a passenger several times i was fairly certain of the direction and terraine. mary named to car patty and we had a lovely good laugh about the absurdity of her scale. and the idea of me negociating this monster around-on the wrong side too!
but after staying too long on the farm (hard to say goodbye) and looking up directions, i realized it was a five hour drive to taupo and i would be arriving well after dark and with no small amount of terror i took off again. the route i was given by google maps led me down akwatera road, a tiny one lane through the most jungly terrain, on mountains, with amazing veiws. if only i had the time to look at the scenery instead of wincing everytime another car sped past a breakneck speed, disregarding entirely that my car was far too wide to be allowed and really was unpassable but maybe not.
it was wonderful to have my own mobility though, and after an hour of winding and worry, i emerged onto sh1 and sped into two hours of the most amazing clouds and sunset ever. i couldn't help pulling over and thank god, the view was breathtaking:

and as the sun went down and i began to worry of ever reaching taupo, i switched on my lights and trusted in the straightness of the road and the superior quality of new zealand signage and made my way accompanied by the most random selection of radio ever. first backstreet boys, then 'maggie may' the some motown. a gloriously odd selection. and i made it safe and sound, after a bit of searching, to the hidden hostel. and parked my wide load (a 23 point turn!) and as i let myself into my room i realized that i hadn't worried for hours, almost at all really, about being on the wrong side of the road, just about getting lost. and that in the dark, and unfarmiliar country, i had made it from point a to point b. i can check that off my list now and look forward to three more days of comfortable comraderie with patty, otherwise know as the beast.

Friday, March 20, 2009

intense geekisms and the rugby

so yesterday i broke down and decided that when i new zealand one must go on a lord of the rings sort of activity, and so i signed up for a tour and yesterday was the day. it was a full day of driving around with two dutch guys would were nearly un-underdstandable, and a extreemly peppy woman and her husband, who it turns out know people in mendocino, what a coincidence. halfway through the day we were joined by peter, who you can see pictured with me here, acting like a hobbit. throughout the day, at various locations our guide, ted, would stop, ask us if we recognized a certain spot, and pull out some very accurate props, including a broken carrot at one point. and we would pose and he would take a photo to look exactly like the film still. it was super nerdy but kind of fun. at one point he had ears and a blonde wig even. the locations were beautiful landscapes, and alot of them were for small scenes that lasted less than a minute, fractions of a second even, but still cool to see. no one else could recognize the locations but me though so i did feel a bit like a super nerd, and none of the places we went were restricted so we could have concievable gone on our own, if one had just know wherer to look. still it was a fun day.
and after we got back into the city i ran straight to my favorite chocolate place (best hot chocolate in new zealand) where i met up with my friend jimmi and we made our way over with the crowd to the stadium to watch the rugby. hurricanes (wellignton) vs bulls (south africa). last home game for over a month but deciptivly crowded at the ticket lines for how sparsly spread the people were inside. and not the most exciting game. we were about three rows back so the action was right up close but the bulls are fifth in the league (i think) and totally slaughtered the hurricanes, who managed to scrape up a little dignity from where they had deposited it in the feild by scoring a try in the last ten seconds (bringing the score to 14/19 which was less embarrasing) and the spectators shuffled out like a morose herd, little kids running around with big foam hands and crazy hats, not caring about the game, just likeing the excitement. but i couldn't have just watched rugby on tv in a pub all the time. it wouldn't have been anywhere as authentic.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

'windy welly'

well this city is well named. yesteday evening the wind picked up suddenly and strong enough to knock over a person who may have been not paying attention/otherwise occupied as i demonstrated.
i have settled into wellington happily. i would love to stay but the yha has a strict six day limit that cannot be broken. too bad but more to see and i will move on when the time comes. my friend mary from the blueberry farm took the bus in on tuesday to visit me for st patricks day. we had mexican food for dinner (both casting ourseves excitedly upon the resteraunt with a enthusiasum which showcased the extreemly enormous amount of time which had lapsed since either of us had partaken of the wonderfulness which is the burrito. we almost inhaled our food, and two of the most confusingly terrible margaritas ever-something was missing but we couldn't figure what) and after some liquid courage mary decided it was high time she visited a strip club so we went to the mermaid (cause it was called the mermaid) and were extreemly let down after the awesomeness of the burlesque of the mighty mighty. it was cool that all the girls looked totally like real girls, but they were so spacy and uninterested seeming and each one did exactly the same dance. at one point they advertised that their mermaid would be swimming in the tank and there she was, but no tail, no seashells. extreme let down. in the end we became tired of giggling tinsel-wigged girls spilling green beer on us in their haste to move swiftly in tight packs throughout tightly packed stuffy rooms, tired of bad music and stepped on feet, so we bought some chips and chocolate and drank raspberry tea on the terrace overlooking the city. perhaps not so very exciting but oh well.
the irish pubs were decorated with green white and orange balloons and people were hanging drunkenly off balconies at the lively hour of 11:30 am but other than that the city fairly ignored the holiday with merrimaking isolated to designated spots throughout the city center. many non-irish drinking establishments were in fact closed (it being tuesday) perhaps thinking it not worth opening, what the reason was i do not know. but i have been told there will be far more intoxicated insanity proliferating the streets on friday, for the last home rugby game for several months. should be a sight to see and i don't plan on missing it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

photo update

so i was unable to upload anything from the computers at the blueberry farm, and even though i was very snap happy (that place was gorgeous) i had no way of showing them. so here are some from the last few weeks, a visual diary of my time in the maddness that was upper hutt: view from the swimming hole more butter for the fair dumbledor the maddest chicken ever baking turnovers

making sauces
apples for pie

Monday, March 16, 2009

learning the rules

we all decided to go out in wellington last saturday, to escape the farm, and colin wanted to see some rugby, badly. so we found a pub with an enormous projection screen, checked to game times, and went and got malaysian food (during our wait for our food we discussed the oddity of handedness, and how we should be ambidextirous if we just started using out left hand too, and so we all ate with our opposite hand, forks gripped awkwardly in scrunched up fingers resembling t rex claws). i had decided that i wanted to learn the rules of rugby, thinking that it would be more entertaining if i more that vaguely undertood what was going on (and feeling that as it was such a huge thing in new zealand, it may be a reasonably good idea to watch it, in case i am tested at some later date), and colin felt more than up to explaining everything in detail, sometimes resorting to the salt and pepper shakers to act out plays, and diagrams drawn on upside down beer coasters. all of the differnt positions were explained, the purpose of each player detailed for me pre game. and then it began. all of the rucking, hooking, scrumming, it was madness. utterly awesome maddness. most players had bloodstains on their shirts by the end of the game. and it made sense and i was so proud.
then we went to a bar called the mightly mighty where we drank cider and were suprised by a burlesque stripper show which we were not expecting...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

geeking out

we went to the movies on tuesday. i was our reward for the hard work we put in at the fair, and for some reason all the theatres in new zealand have ten dollar tuesday rates for some unexplainable reason. we went to the movies at the embassy in wellington, the theatre which was severely run down until peter jackson restored it for the new zealand premiers of his lord of the rings films. it's lovely now, and all of the seats are named so if one were particularly nerdy they could walk down the aisle and see all of the actors and artists....and even request specific seats at the box office. there was a green velvet curtain which rose on the awesomeness which was watchmen. mandi (my wwoofs host) was horrified. i guess she didn't realize that there would be gore. ah but what pretty gore it was. and all the previews were for comic book movies and i was just in floods of nerd joy.....
and then today i baked blueberry crumble all day. and blueberry apple turnovers. and bite sized blueberry raviolis...

Monday, March 9, 2009

armed with a frying pan

the fair is over and i apologize for the lateness of my story. however it took me a few days to recover. we woke at three in the morning on saturday after baking and preparing for a week and packing up the cars on friday night before our enforced early bedtime, and arrived in martinborough at five thirty as the setup was just going underway. and in the low crack-of-dawn light and the illumination of several oddly bright colored lights it was hard to grasp the extent of the booths, which spread beyond eyesight as we hung our signs, moved the two freezers full of icecream and pies off of the truck, and set up our dozen frying pans. as it got lighter we recieved a trickle of customers from the other stallholders seeking an early breakfast. we were able to grab some hash browns masquarading as potato pancakes from another stall for breakfast, along with the smallest large cup of coffee i have ever recieved, and then were much happier about preparing food for everyone else. about an hour in we were in full swing as a small contingent of fairgoers sought an incredibly sugary breakfast in our pancakes with icecream, berry sauce and maple syrup, and it picked up continually as the day went on.
since we were a mad up this time (it only requires six people to properly run the stall and there were seven of us) we were able to rotate through breaks and see the fair, something they weren't able to do last month as they were understaffed. it was the largest spralling fair i have ever seen, part farmers market, part flea market, with a whole lot of craft fair and crazy thrown in for flavor. there was a rubber duck race and a guy making knit batman fingerpuppets, and all sorts of awesome handprinted new zealand themed t-shirts.the stalls and tables filled an entire park and the street circling it with little mini fair annexes stretching off onto outlying streets. it was impossible to see it all in the forty minutes i had for a break but walking fast i was able to cover about half. and when it got to about noon the lunch rush hit and i rushed back to a line of people going around the corner i went straight to my frying pans and resumed pre-planned duties as 'griller' making pancakes for the next hour.
the batter is very thin when poured and it gains a large about of height as it cooks, puffing up quite a bit to make a rather tall pancake, but as the top side is uncooked, when you flip them, the loose batter splatters all over. hitting you, the pan, the grills, and everything else in it's path. we wore gloves and aprons but even so i smelled like pancake for the next twenty four hours. and to make the pancakes golden brown and rich and at the same time keep them from sticking to the pan, we used butter instead of spray. huge sticks of butter, that we kept whole and just rubbed into the pan. during the rush it took me half an hour to go through a 500 g stick of butter and a five kilo bucket of batter. we had every frying pan going. and i think i began to absorb butter through my skin. as the rush increased we became more manic, making inane pancake themed jokes and more references and spontaneously bursting into songs in which we changed lyrics to pancake. and still the people came. having just enough time for a bathroom break, having built up a twenty pancake reserve in a slight lull in service when there were more orders for sundays than pancakes, i was able to sprint to the bathrooms and mercifully there was no line. we were luckily situated in prime fair location, under the trees in the middle of the park, so we didn't get the direct sunshine which was out if full force at midday, but standing over a set of six frying pans pouring pancake batter can keep you pretty warm and we drank an alarming amount of water in a small amount of time.
we finally coasted to a crawl about an hour after the fair had closed. and at six we began to pack up the trucks, consoladate dishes, and give away the last of our leftover pancakes to our neighbors the lemon cordial people who had supplied us with lemonaide at our busiest moments and praised our speed and flipping prowess. and by seven thirty we were home and so exhaused we couldnt' even contemplate making dinner but knowing we had to eat. and so we ordered pizza and managed to stay away long enough to eat it before crashing. i mistakenly thought i could read a little and i fell asleep still holding my book and my roommate bettyann had to take my glasses off as she was afraid i might break them while is slept.
looking back at the experience two days later i can safely say that when i comes to pancakes there is only one thing you need to remember to solve any problem which might arise: more butter

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


considering that i have been on a farm, i have been doing distinctly un-farmy and more house wife-y things this week. i have spent almost all of my time in the kitchen. and it's been sunny so it's been extremely warm in the kitchen especially when i have been cooking. i have been in charge of meals and cleaning because mary has been feverishly finished one hundred blueberry pies, and bettyann is allergic to everything (and especially animals) so she can't really come in the house, so that leaves me. and while i have been in the house i have been making batches of sauce for the fair. first picking, coreing, blending and cooking apples from out back in chicken territory, then adding berries till it turns a sinister sort of hot pink to fushia color. and in an gynormous pot, often two going at one time, which i have to stir with a very longhandled wooden paddle. makes me feel distinctly witchy, like babayaga or something. and it makes the house smell good but all the steam constantly in an already over warm house, means that i have to go outside often for air breaks, in the two minutes i can be away before i must return to stir some more. because if you don't stir, everything sticks to the bottom, and has to be cleaned very thoroughly, scraped from the bottom with steel wool and not a very pleasant job at all.
yesterday i received some respite however when i was sent into the fields to pick some berries to boost the dwindling supply in the cafe. i was given a ten kilo bucket and i filled it in under two hours working steadily, to the amazment of the others, as that was an unexpectedly large volume to return with. and today i get to go back with my bucket again, and i think that i may bring a second bucket to upturn as a seat, no reason to be uncomfortable and that way i will be able to reach all the wonderful dark ones hidden in the low branches. and taste test as i go of course. it's only right, i wouldn't feel okay delivering berries that i didn't know were extremely tasty, so it's my responsibility to eat as i pick. right?!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

sticky fingers

slow weekend here at the blueberry farm and bakery. i have after two mornings become quite used to the chickens waking me up within the five o clock hour and have decided that the easiest thing is just to feed them so i keep a bag of the old bread used for their breakfast by my door and shuffle out half blind in the early morning to get them their breakfast.mary was off for the day (overnight bbq) so the alluring smell of baking pies did not linger over the property but the sun came out after a weekend of thoroughly dissapointing rain and heavy wind so i was delighted nevertheless. i spent the morning vacuming up drifts of dog hair thick as snow (another wwoofer bettyann is super allergic to basically everything and had to show us where her shot was in case she went into shock while we were there-crazy) and then ran down the hill in a flurry to open the cafe when a group of preschoolers showed up to pick berries and mandi had completely forgotten they were coming. i was given a small respite from the crazy while they went out and picked to get the stove and espresso machine going for pancakes and coffee respectively but all to soo they returned, and being children, bore an average of twenty berries per bucket to be weighed and seperatly bagged at their intense insistance. after which bettyann and i were set running frantically trying to keep up with pancake and sunday orders and watching as twenty odd children ran wild touching everything with icecreamy fingers. oh the glorious smudges.
but mostly it's quiet with just three of us here. i'm bracing though for when we are flooded with incoming wwoofers in preperation for the fair this weekend. it will be crowded and crazy i'm sure but as of now not much to report. so till then...