Tag Archives: emotions

8 Minutes

When I was a baby, I sucked my thumb.

When I turned 9, I stopped sucking my thumb and started biting my nails.

When I got into University, I stopped biting my nails and started smoking.

When I stopped smoking, I started chewing on my lips.

 

It’s been almost 20 months now since I quit smoking, and let me tel you, I feel great.  My coughs are not as severe, I don’t get sick anywhere as much as I used to with respiratory issues.  My headaches are fewer, and I’m even getting into better shape.  For months after quitting even the smell of a lit cigarette nearby was enough to make me nauseous and run in the opposite direction.  I could barely stand to be near my brother and some of my coworkers, because they smelled of nicotine and ash.

 

That’s been better lately.  I’ve actually caught myself liking the smell of the cigarettes, not to mention the smell of nicotine on clothes.  It’s become almost a comforting smell to me, which is just bizarre.  And while I was working at the call center, I started to notice the cravings. Ever so slight, but sometimes, a group of people would go out for a smoke and I could almost feel myself wanting to go with them.  That was one of the other reasons that I stopped working there.  The smoke breaks were getting to be a temptation, the people smoking during those breaks were awesome and I wanted to hang out with them more.

 

But cigarettes are expensive down here. Crazy expensive.  But that’s not the only reason that I’m looking at the last 20 months and reevaluating where I stand, and why I’m happy to have quit and why I will fight my instincts and my need for something to do with my fingers until the end.   I saw a billboard the other day.  And while I’m not completely sure on the veracity of the claim, or the science used to back it up, it stated that every cigarette costs 8 minutes of your life.

 

8 minutes.  For every smoke. Every pack of cigarettes is 160 minutes. Every carton, 1600 minutes.  That got me thinking.  All those nights and days at the theatre, where we did nothing but smoke and joke around.  Those nights out at the diner where we could finish off a pack and a half easily.  Or at verizon or walmart where I could smoke a pack a day, maybe two days when I was cutting down.  I don’t want to even think about the money that I spent or wasted, but the time.  I mean.  All that time.  I’ve shortened my life significantly by smoking.

 

Now, I want to say that while I was smoking, I knew about this. I knew the health risks and the dangerous factors. I knew that I was taking a leap of life and limb every time that I lit up.  I knew it, and I didn’t care.  It was my life and I was going to live it how I wanted to live it. I was going to make my mistakes, hang out with my friends and bugger the future.

 

So what changed?

 

I found a future worth being around for.  I think this advert, and the thoughts that followed, effected me more now than they would have back then, simply because of where I was.  I was in the car, driving somewhere with Ee.  And I think of all the time in our life together, that I cheated us out of, by smoking.  Hypocritical?  Possibly.  Sentimental? Definitely.  But there it is.  Ee is the one who gave me the strength to try to quite, all those 20 months ago, the reason that I stuck it out, and now the reason that I won’t ever go back.

 

I want a life with this man. I want a future with him.  And our friends.  I want a chance to live a life and start a family and see my kids grow up and start their own lives.  And now, I kick myself, because I willingly cut off so much time from that dream on my own.  I have shortened my own Happy Ending.

 

This is not for me to post and get all preachy for others to quit smoking. I know that it takes time, and some people won’t ever quit.  This is for me to get these thoughts out.  8 minutes a cigarette.  assuming that I smoked a carton a week, which is not a big assumption, it comes out to just about 1.5 years that I smoked off my life.  Doesn’t sound like much, when you look at it that way.  but 1.5 years is the difference between your grandchild being born and not. Between your kid graduating from college and not.

 

Heady stuff.  I’m glad I quit.  I’m glad I have what I have. I’m grateful for what I have.  I’m just mentally kicking myself for that 1.5 years that I could have had.

Dashboard

I’ve yelled at myself something fierce lately.  Trying to get myself psyched up for writing again.  And I knew it all was going to start with a blog post, or seven.  But which one?

 

Do I sit down and write about how great it was to be working where I was working, but how fantastic it is to not be there anymore?  Or about the fantastic people and coworkers that I had while on my brief stint there, but at the same time, how grateful I am that I’m not there anymore, and can sit with myself and my thoughts?

 

How about I write about how horrible I’ve been at the physical fitness stuff, and how I’m still hovering at the same weight, which granted it could be worse, but I was going to get myself moving.  I can tell you that I am in much better shape than I was when I first set foot on kiwi soil.  I nearly died while climbing and walking the trails at Piha beach, but I actually made it through two days of fairly intense (for me) walking while in Rotorua.

 

What about that trip to Rotorua?  Do I just post a bunch of photographs and give a brief overview of the trip like I did when we went to Piha, or to Manganui?  It was a fantastic trip, and the scenery was breathtaking, the food delightful, and the time to unwind with Ee was superb. And even the pain from the walking and climbing was a sweet pain to me, near tear jerking, but sweet.

 

And food! What about food?  I have been cooking lately now that i’m not working.  And I’ve made some interesting things.  Including my own version of pierogies!  I really should write about them too!  The soups I’ve made, the sauces, the dumplings that we’ve cobbled together, all very intriguing topics for conversation!

 

And my goodness, I turned 30!  What a momentous occasion, a glorious day, a rather anticlimatic hump.  no really, it wasn’t that traumatic.  Other than I can now say that I’m 30 with a straight face without all of those preceding words, “I’m going to be turning…”  No, no more future tense for me.  I am 30.  And it kinda feels nice.  But at the same time, now I get into a whole bunch of other things. Like where am i going now that I’m here. What happens next in my life.

 

So where do I go from here?  I’ve got some work experience in New Zealand, but what happens next?  I know that I don’t want to work in a call center again, but I know that I want to work.  But what do I want to do?  I’ve toyed with the thought of part-time work, since I do enjoy being home and being the ‘housewife’, but I also like having my own money.  And having my own money would lead to a whole other world of things.  I’ve been looking at bigger flats and a car of my own.  I’ve almost given up on the vague dream of having a scooter, since that would be impractical, both due to weather concerns, as well as potential offspring.

 

So yes.  This is what I’ve been thinking, and so many choices actually leave me paralyzed a bit.  I’ll work on getting around to most if not all of the topics above, eventually.  I just need to make a list and then work down them one at a time.

 

So I am not dead or missing, just busy, happy, and overwhelmed.  Also, look forward to posts detailing the process that I’m going through in order to get my next visa.

Besties

There is always that one person that you can count on to be there.  The one person in your life that no matter how long you spend apart, you always start right back up in the beginning again.  A best friend, a soulmate.  Although most people now take soulmate to be strictly for love and marriage and other things, but it may not always be so.  I mean, sure there are soulmates for love, but there can be soulmates for friendship as well.  If I can love my friend and love my lover and love my parents all at the same time, it’s still love.  Different love, but it’s still love.

 

Shaun.

 

Of all my best friends in the world, Shaun is the oldest.  And I’m not just saying that because he is older than me.  But because we’ve been together the longest.  Fourth grade.  I was still pretty much the new kid from Philly, and he had moved from Dover and before that Michigan.  We were the outsider kids.  And the only thing the other one had.  We hung out on the playground and we made up our own world to tell stories in.  I don’t remember half the stuff that happened or half the characters involved, but we were quite the little storytellers, let me tell you.

 

So much so that most of our next few years, we spent every moment we could (when not doing other things like school work) writing a book.  We had it all.  Shaun would come up with the plotlines and I would fill in the holes with the characters.  He wrote the story, I gave it flesh.  We started this book at least three times that I can remember, and finished it, sadly, only once.  And that manuscript was lost to the years.  We would spend hours on the phone going over chapters and stories.  How this character felt about this and that.  And every year we would take a break from this and watch Miss America together.  Over the phone.

 

Yes. You read that correctly.  We would watch Miss America together over the phone.  You have no idea how truly awesome that was.

 

There were boyfriends and girlfriends and relationship fights, and the constant, insane instance from everybody around us that we were dating.  We swore and swore to them that no, no we were just friends.  He had a girlfriend, I had a boyfriend, there was no way that we were dating, we were simply best friends.  Throughout middle school this continued on, until after 8th grade graduation, the horrible reality struck.  We were going to different high schools.

 

It turned out to not really be as bad as we thought.  We still spent time together, weekends and some school nights.  There were times when I would have piano lessons at Avenue Methodist and then Shaun would meet me after the lessons and we’d walk down to the waterfront behind the church and sit on a rock there and just talk for the night.

 

Every big moment in my young adult life, Shaun was there.  From the first major breakup with a boyfriend, to the first car accident.  I had been going food shopping for my parents in my little brown pinto.  I had gotten to the corner across from Causey Mansion and was all set to make the left hand turn. I looked left, I looked right, and I went.  But somehow, I didn’t see the large white station wagon.  I don’t know how I missed it.  But we hit.  Their front passenger bumper to my front driver bumper.  The next hour or so was a blur, I remember a few of the other kids from high school driving by and looking but not stopping.  I remember going into the house on the corner to call the cops and my parents.  I remember sitting in the cop car, talking to the police officer and looking out the window across the street.

 

And there was Shaun.

 

He had been coming back from church and had seen the brown pinto and lord knows I was the only person in town with that car so he knew it was me.  So they got home from church and he walked to the accident scene (only about 3 blocks-ish) to wait for me.  I saw him outside and started to cry, finally started to cry.  The cop and I finished up and he let me go over and Shaun and I sat on the grass while waiting for my parents.  He wrapped me up in his arms and just held me as the shock of what just happened and what it all meant started to hit.

 

Shaun has met every single one of my serious relationships. Every one.  The guy that I was engaged to back at University. The Guy that I moved to maine for.  Even Ee.  Shaun has met every single man in my life that has ever become a big part of my life romantically.  He has met them all.  He was home from University on Halloween weekend when I brought Jimmy home.  He was home for a visit from Michigan when Chase and I were down for a visit.  And he was living in Seattle when Ee and I were there last year.

 

To say that Shaun is a huge part of my life is by no way or means an exaggeration.

 

We realized, or at least I did, at some point after high school was over that we had actually been dating all of those years.  We had actually been a couple and that all of those people we kept telling them that they were crazy, were indeed not crazy.  We were.

 

They say, and I don’t know really who ‘they’ are, but they say that you never really forget or lose that first love.  It just grows into something else.  Shaun was my first and longest best friend.  Shaun was my first love and the first guy to ever make me care more about myself than what other people thought about me.  Shaun saved my life on more than one occasion and has always been right there when I needed him to be.  He is the best friend that I know for certain i will be able to see again in five or ten years and it will be like nothing has happened.

 

The hell that I went through the last year in maine, the trauma and drama of finding myself and building myself back up again, the numerous scars, were all helped to ease away by seeing Shaun in Seattle, hugging him tight, seeing him happy and seeing him smile.  Ee did a lot for my healing, and a lot for my confidence, but Shaun finished it off.

 

There is always a place in my heart and in my life for Shaun.  And there always will be.  I’m trying to think of the best way to finish this off without saying something that will set my world ablaze and will not make people go crazy.  But, The best way to end this, is the only way guaranteed to make people think I’m nuts.  But ohwell.

 

I love you, Shaun.

You will always be my best, closest, oldest friend.

You will always be the one reason that I am here now to type these words.

You were the first person to save my life when I needed you most.

You will always be a part of my heart and of my life, no matter how far apart we are.

I love you.

 

Fort Minor

So, there’s a song by this group called Fort Minor and I enjoy it a bit.  The chorus begins with ‘where’d you go?’ and I figure that’s a question that I should be answering.  The long and the short of it is, I’ve been working.  And then sleeping.  And then working.  The original 4 week assignment has turned into almost 3 months, and we finish up on July 29.  Although that feels so very far away.

 

Also, I’ve been sick.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m back in a call center and still getting my body used to being bombarded with germs from every direction, so that when one person gets sick, everybody gets sick. Or if it’s because of the weather change down here and it being Winter but not really a winter that I would call a winter so I don’t get as bundled up as I should.  Or if it’s because of the humidity and moisture in the apartment having finally settled into my lungs and refusing to go away.  Or, if it’s a combination of them all.  Suffice to say, I’ve been sick.  Stuffed nose, chesty cough, I even lost my voice the other day.  I start to feel better during the day and then the night hits and my body feels like giving up all over again.  I’ve been eating right and drinking plenty of fluids, so maybe all I need is rest. I’m not in work today simple because I could not find the strength or the energy or even the desire to move or do anything but hide in the bed.  Headache, nausea, and some light other intestinal problems along the way as well.

 

So today is for resting, and medicating, so that I can go back to work tomorrow, finish this week off strong and use the weekend to complete my journey back to healthiness so that I can stop feeling so damned miserable.  Being miserable is not a fun thing.

 

What new adventures am I having?  Well, we went out about two weekends ago and I bought myself a big monitor.  my little netbook is still running everything, but I can now see more than I thought possible.  the screen is about twice the size of my netbooks screen.  Awesome.  I have bought myself some early birthday presents as well.  A new bento box and lunchbag, and some video games for the computer.    Last weekend we went out and bought a dehumidifier.  To try and get rid of the excess moisture problem.  It’s a 20L tank and thank god for that.  We turned it on after we brought it home, around 5pm and left it to run over night.  When we got up the next morning, around 7am, the thing had sucks about 17-18L out of the air.  And I wonder why I’ve been feeling sick and chesty?  We’ve run it on and off again since then, but haven’t gotten the amount out again, thank goodness.

 

I’ve been exploring the goodness of a wok.  I finally got around to seasoning the wok that we bought back in february (God bless Youtube!) and we’ve been making some tasty stir-frys ever since.  And I’ve been investigating Tofu.  and the many different ways to make tofu. We’ve marinated it and eaten it just like that.  We’ve marinated it and baked it in the oven.  And we’ve added it to the stir-frys.  I think that I am starting to not only get the hang of tofu, but also to liking it.  I am not, however, going to be giving up my meat.  Tofu is just another alternative at the moment.

 

But mostly, I’ve just been working.  And I love the work. I love the people and the company and I even enjoy the customers.  Hard to believe, but it’s true.  Unlike American customers, it seems like Kiwis will readily tell you that they’re not really mad at you personally, but they are going to yell anyways, but please don’t take any personal offense.  And some of them, most of them, are quite easy to turn around and calm down after they’ve been allowed their moments of yelling.  It’s amazing.  I’ve been cursed at once by a customer.  And when I informed that customer to not curse at me, she immediately apologized and was calm from there on out.  I do enjoy the work.  And were it work that I could continue to enjoy in the manner that I have been (M-F 9-530) then I would most happily continue there.  But, it is a call center, and that means working rotating hours with rotating shifts and rotating days off.  It would mean never getting a normal sleep schedule, or a normal day off with Ee.  And that’s really not anything….

 

I came down here to start a new life, and go in a new direction.  And right now, in my mind, that new direction includes weekends with my partner and nights curled up on the couch watching a dvd.  Not days off in the middle of the week and coming home from work just as he is going to bed.  I’ve done that life before, it ruined the relationship.  And I didn’t come halfway around the world for that.  No.  As much as I love the office, I think it really is in my best interests to keep searching, to keep looking.  To explore more options and grow more as an adult.

 

But as a first experience working for a New Zealand company? I couldn’t have asked for more.  I think, however, I may want to look into the public sector.  Maybe a government job, if possible.  Eventually.  But for now, I’m going to go back to resting as I am feeling rather worn down, and I want to get better, faster.

 

So that is where I went, and where I’ll be.  Next update will probably be before Rotorua and after Orcon.

My Daddy

There’s all sorts of stereotypes and caricatures out there of the little Jewish girl and her Daddy.  Stories and tales and jokes made about the olive-skinned girl with the dark curly hair, the slightly prominent nose and those xdark brown eyes putting her hands on her hips, stomping her feet and whining in a tone that would make Fran Drescher shudder, “But Daddy!”  And of course the very next part of that story or joke or comment is that the Daddy in question folds and gives the daughter everything that she is asking for.   While I can’t completely deny that I did everything in my power growing up to get things from my Daddy, I can easily say that I never had to resort to such lengths.

 

My Daddy comes from a fairly small family, made smaller even by the family politics that he wanted to avoid. He married my mother and then promptly did everything he could to take care of her and his new family.  He worked long hours when we were growing up and made the hard choice to move us from Philadelphia to Delaware, away from his own mother, to help us get a better life.  We went to good schools, we never wanted for anything.  We were never hungry or naked (except for bathtime), and we went on vacation of one form or another every year.  A fond memory was when we went to Disneyworld for the first time (yes, the first time), My Daddy had set up a scavenger hunt for my brother and I to follow around the house, ending at the VCR where we pressed play and the information movie on Disneyworld started.    There were other vacations too.  Williamsburg, Boston, Cleveland, Scotland and London.

 

My Daddy made sure that while growing up I was being educated well.  I would bring my homework home and after finishing it, my Daddy would go over it with me.  Vocabulary words were always a favorite, as the usual task was to write the word out and then use it in a sentence.  But that wasn’t advanced enough for my Daddy.  Oh no.  The challenge was to use all of the words that week in as few sentences as possible.  I remember it driving my teachers crazy, but it was the challenge that my Daddy set forth for me.  Daddy had no problems helping me with reports, sometimes going so far as to teach me how to footnote and write in styles that i shouldn’t learn for years to come, just to make it a bit more challenging.  Mathematics were always a struggle for me, but I always knew that I could trust my Daddy to help me through them.  Whether it was a new approach to fractions (using a pizza pie), or just help learning my multiplication tables (A deck of cards), Daddy was always there to help me with schoolwork.  And when school became too intense in other ways, Daddy was always there.  The Principals of my schools knew my father and they knew better than to argue with him.  Daddy only became involved when it was necessary, like making sure the Jewish Holidays didn’t count against my absence records. Daddy and Mommy both volunteered every year when I was in the primary grades, coming in around Hannukah and Purim to give a presentation to the other kids in my school about what the holidays were and what they meant.  Daddy even took off from work one day when I was in the third grade to be our chaperone for the school trip to Washington DC.

 

My Daddy wasn’t just amazing when it came to school, but he was also supportive in everything else.  One of the rules that we learned quickly while growing up was that we could ask our parents anything, and we would get the answer.  There wasn’t a time growing up that I remember being treated ‘like a kid’.  Oh sure, there were moments where I was pretty childish, but then every kid goes through that.  But there was no questions that could be asked that would ever result in “you’re too young” as the answer. We had rousing dinner table discussions about everything, from school, to moving, to the assassination of JFK, there was no topic that was considered too adult.  I don’t ever remember having “the talk” with my Daddy, or my mother for that matter, but sex was not something to be hidden or not talked about.  We just never needed to have the talk, it was understood.  I remember the day that I woke up, I think I was just about to turn thirteen, it was two weeks before my birthday and I woke up and went to the bathroom like normal.  Only this time wasn’t normal.  The first person that I called was my Daddy.  I don’t know why, but it never even crossed my mind that it was unusual to do that.  I wanted to let my daddy know that not only would I be a grown up woman in our religion’s eyes, but in the eyes of nature as well.  Telling my Daddy never seemed weird, until years later some people commented that it was just odd.  Whatever, I say to that.  A girl should be able to tell her Daddy anything and have him understand.

 

My Daddy has been very understanding with me, especially as I got older.  I finished high school and went away to University.  I picked the campus that I liked, the school that I wanted, and my Daddy simply told me that he wanted me to be happy.  And when I failed my first semester so hard that it left scars, I called my Daddy and he understood.  He never once yelled, but simply said that I had to do better and he told me that it took him a few years to figure out what he wanted to do.  As the years went on and school continued and one boyfriend after the other rose and fell my Daddy would voice his displeasure, but he never did anything but that.  And his displeasure and disapproval was often enough.  My Daddy understood that I needed to get out of the wing, out of the house, out of Delaware to fully grow.  And so he let me go.  It hurt him a bit inside, but he let me go, because it was best for me.  My Daddy has always done what he determines is best for me.

 

My Daddy is my hero.  He let me discover life on my own and when it became too much, my Daddy rescued me.  He never once told me that I had to live with the mess that I had made.  My Daddy never once pushed me away into the darkness and left me to flounder.  When I thought my life could not get darker, when I was drowning in the inch of water left at the bottom of the barrel, my Daddy fished me out, dragged me to the surface, and saved my life.  He gave me a firm place to put my feet, a safe place to rest my head, and the rock to lean on while I tried to get myself back together.  Never once in my life have I ever said “Daddy I need help” and My Daddy hasn’t been there for me.

 

There’s a thing, with writers, that we try to find all the words to cover everything, to make it clear and true and ring deep into the hearts of our readers.  That’s a difficult thing to accomplish with emotions.  I could write the words, “I love My Daddy” and they would convey the emotional impact well enough, but not deep enough.  There are some things in this world that have to be felt, that have to be truly experienced to understand, not just read.  I am the woman that I am today because of My Daddy.  He raised me as best he could, did everything in his power to guarantee that I had every possible opportunity that I could have ever wanted.  He sent me to England with university, he took me to see stage shows, the circus, Disney on Ice, and a million other things all because it was good for me to have the culture (and because I asked).  My Daddy has suffered through Thundercats and through WWF.  All because it made me happy.  He has put me through University, helped me buy a car, rescued me from my own stupidity, and he has done it all while providing food, shelter, and security for the entire family.  My Daddy has finished his Doctorate and he takes care of his patients, working ten hour days, if not sometimes longer.  My Daddy has run a side business helping to educate urology nurses across the United States and sometimes Canada.  My Daddy has done all of these things, and still been there for when I needed to talk.

 

I have memories that will never fade, of laying on the couch with my Daddy watching football, or the Three Stooges, and eating pistachios from their shells.  Of my Daddy hugging me after my Bat Mitzvah, and of my Daddy hugging me one April in Maine.   Memories of my Daddy at my high school graduation, and of My Daddy driving us through the Scottish Highlands at night.  Memories of dinners at restaurants where it wasn’t needed to tell me to behave, I already knew how.  Of swimming pools in various hotels across the country, of talks about the craziest things from the time I was old enough to have memories.  I have never wanted for anything in my life that I did not get, eventually.

 

I’m far away from my Daddy now, living on the other side of the globe, a completely different hemisphere and time.  I am happy here, I am finally coming into my own being, coming into the point of being who I am.  I can’t give my Daddy the hugs that I would like to.  I can’t make him dinner and try to get him to work on his blood sugar.  I see my Daddy via skype on the weekends, and sometimes that’s enough.  Other times, I miss my Daddy and would like to give him a hug.  But I have to live my own life, make my own way.

 

Luckily for me, I had My Daddy to show me the way.

 

I love you, Daddy.  Happy Father’s Day.

Easter at the Mount

So, this past weekend was Easter weekend.  Four days off of work for E and most of the country even, so a great time to get away.  We were invited to go down to Mt Manganui with his friends Derek and Victoria to stay at Derek’s parents’ holiday house.

Let me tell you, it was a really fantastic time and I am so glad that we went.  I’ll try to be brief while still giving you the gushing review that you’ve come to expect from me.

Good Friday

After spending the morning packing, E and I drove down to Botany to pick up Derek and Victoria.  We loaded up the car and took off!  The ride was memorable not only for the gorgeous scenery outside of mountains in the distance, Cows, and vineyards, but for the stimulating conversations about visible spectrum radar and whether it would be possible to make a boat move purely with radar power.

After about an hour we came to what was affectionately referred to in our car as “The Gorge”.  The dire warnings from the backseat had ne fearing for my life, this roller coaster that we were about to be on, with a single strip of road winding through a gorge enough to put the highland roads of Scotland to shame. Happily enough, there wasn’t much to it.  There were high walls and a rather nice looking river running through it.  We’ll have to go back at some point and walk through the old mining settlement that is there along the banks.  But I did get a nice picture of a bridge for my mom!

Soon after we were arriving in Tauranga, and then a few turns and we were at the Mount!  Well, almost. We got into the house and settled our stuff in, and then we went out for a nice walk.  We started at the park across the street which had some rather stately looking trees growing.

And then it was a walk along the seaward beach with it’s constant surf and pounding waves, a walk down just at the foot of the Mount, and then we were landward at the quieter water, more of a bay than ocean.  And then it was back to the house for a night of some board games.  Until it was dinner time, and then we went out for some Turkish food that was delightful.  The night ended with us watching Terminator 2 (my first Terminator movie! how exciting!  I can cross that off my list!) and then heading to bed for the next day.

Saturday

Saturday morning started out cloudy and rainy and dreary.  Just like we were expecting it to be. But that was alright, the weekend was made for relaxation.  We stayed inside most of the day, watching television and playing board games.  But we did get a chance to go out for a walk that afternoon, E and I.  We were sent out for bread and milk and we ended up going for another loop around the isthmus.  The pictures that I got of the trees and the architecture are just as amazing as the other evidence of the kiwi spirit that I’ve seen.

First, there’s the fact that there’s both palm trees and Pine trees together.

Then, there’s the absolutely gorgeous architecture.  It seems so ‘Beach town’ at first, but then you realize that a lot of the buildings in this country look like this in some way.  Terraced while being built, lots of windows, absolutely fascinating to look at.  Sometimes I’m reminded of the designs that I used to draw up in high school.

And then, there was just the plain amazing things that you find.  I know that there are amazing pictures in the states, and people who do astounding things that just take your breath away.  But the Kiwis have this ability to just make me smile in the oddest ways.  And with the best stuff.

Yes, the tractor is hooked up to the boat in order to get it to the marina and the water.  It was highly enjoyable.  Of course the next best part of New Zealand, other than the people is the scenery.  And the plants.  Like this Hibiscus.  So Beautiful.

Victoria made us dinner that night and we played some more board games and then headed to bed early, determined to get up and try to beat the rain to the Mount.

Sunday

Happy Easter!  A morning of pouring rain, down pouring rain, and chocolate cross buns.  Which are like hot cross buns but instead of the nasty technicolor citron that is used in the states, it’s made with chocolate chips.  They looked and smelled delicious.  I, however, had a piece of matzah and some cream cheese.

The morning started out slow, but then the rain went away and we decided that we were going to try and conquer the Mount.  I was going to try and conquer it.  Now, by climbing the Mount I really mean going up the rather nice and gentle path that was carved around the side of it.  It’s considered the Easy Way (which as I’ve come to find means ‘slightly suicidal for out of shape american girls’), and I know that I’m much fitter than I was when I went up the Kitekite trail, sure I can do this.


I’m pretty sure that I wanted to die about 200meters in.  Luckily there were stairs and plenty of terracing (from when the Mount used to be an ancient pa (pay), a maori hill fort essentially) for me to rest on.  Victoria, being the athletic lady that she is, took off up a different path than us to run up the mountain.  Why? because she’s just that crazy.  Derek decided to stay with E and myself while I tried to get up the mount.

Let me tell you this, I am fairly certain that had the path been flat and not steep, I would have been fine.  I know this.  But the incline on the path was murder on my knees.  The arthritis is gotten to the point that keeping my knees in the half-bent position necessary for walking up a path like that is murder.

I did, however, make it about 1/3 of the way up the Mount, stopping just below the lighthouse (which is a light housed in a box behind a fence) before I absolutely could not keep going. But, I made it 1/3 of the way up the Mount. that’s a full 1/3 more than I would have done last year at this point.  When I would have looked at the Mount, then at E and told him he was out of his mind and hell no.

Progress!

Derek continued on to the top, since he had the water bottle and Victoria was certain to want a drink. E and I continued back towards the bottom, me with the typical and expected disappointment in myself for failing at what I set out to do, but he of course with the encouragement that I needed and the love that kept me going.

Yes, you can gag if you want to, but I’m not going to listen to you.

The path down was, of course, a bit easier, but the view was amazing.  I knew that we were on a small strip of land, but actually looking down on it and seeing just how thin was impressive.  Four blocks, if that, separated one part of the bay from another.

We headed back to the house, I took a shower to wash off the dirt, sweat, and disappointment in myself.  Derek and Victoria returned shortly thereafter, and right behind them came the rain.

So we played some more board games, and then the rain stopped.  Back to the beach!  Derek and Victoria played volleyball and frisbee and E joined them occasionally.  I walked along the water, getting soaked by the waves and picking up seashells.  Dinner out at a Thai restaurant and then back to the house, another board game and then bed.  We got up early on Monday morning and drove back to Auckland.

It was a fantastic weekend with friends and E, relaxing and energizing.  I look forward to going back at some point in the future and conquering the mountain completely.

oh, as a side note that will be fully updated tomorrow, I am at 130kg.  wooosh

Seder

To continue with my educational portion of my blog, I will now expound upon that which was mentioned yesterday and explain what Passover means to me in this modern time.  There are many sides and aspects and thoughts about this, so I promise I will do my best to not confuse or lose you in the thought processes, but I  cannot be certain that I will be successful.

To begin, lets start with the Seder itself.  Seder is the Hebrew word for “Order”, so when you hear somebody invite you to a Seder meal, they are inviting you to not only a Passover dinner, but to an Ordered Meal.  Everything within the Seder has a place, a meaning, and a purpose.  Sadly I do not know these steps and meanings off the top of my head and I did not pack a Hagaddah to bring with me when I moved.  However, if you are curious about the ins and outs of every nuanced step of the Seder, you can find the information on the internet, or purchase a Hagaddah from any bookstore of any reputation.

Most of the Seder is the retelling of the story of the Exodus, please see yesterday’s post.  There are other stories that are told depending upon your family’s traditions.  On every table there is the Seder plate, the matzah plate, and a goblet of wine for Elijah.  More recently, some families have started to add a goblet of Water to honor Miriam, Moses’s sister and a prophetess of her own right.  Some say, but I won’t wade into that argument here.

This is my new Seder plate that my father bought for me and sent me here.  It’s rather lovely, isn’t it.  The squiggly looking letters are Hebrew, and the english translation is just under them.  Starting at the top of the star and moving counter clockwise you have the Bitter Herbs, Egg, Parsley, Horseradish, Haroseth, and the Shank Bone.

This is an unusual plate, I actually believe it’s Sephardic* in origin because it places the Bitter Herbs and the Horseradish separately, whereas the Ashkenazic** Seder Plates usually combine those two together as Bitter herbs and the 6th place belongs to salt water. Each item has a symbolic reason for being on the plate, and each connects back to the story of the Exodus, and of the Jewish people.

  • Bitter Herbs- Usually Horseradish, freshly ground, this recalls to us the bitterness of life in bondage.  It is eaten twice during the Traditional seder, once by itself on Matzah, and then in a sandwich on Matzah with the Haroseth
  • Egg- this is often hard boiled and then roasted in the oven, but that is purely for health safety sake, and also so that if it gets dropped, you don’t have egg yolk oozing everywhere.  In Israel, and most of the world, Passover is a spring holiday, and Eggs symbolize new life, a new year, and a new beginning.
  • Parsley- Or really any greens are acceptable. I have seen some people use lettuce leaves when they could not afford parsley.  This also symbolizes spring, new life and growth.  Parsley and other leafy greens also used to be used in the Temples of Israel to help spread blessings via smoke and water. During the Seder, the Parsley is dipped into the salt water and eaten.
  • Salt Water- This is a vessel that is filled with a mixture of salt and water, enough salt to the point that it tastes of tears and the salt will not dissolve anymore.  It is kept room temperature, or slightly warmer.  The symbolism is clear enough that it is for the tears that the Jewish people have cried over the years.  Not just in bondage and suffering, but also in Joy and Reverence.  A reminder that one Emotion can be different from the other, but the reaction can be the same.  Even in our sorrow, we can find Joy.
  • Haroseth- Now, this is the fun one.  Ashkenazic Jews usually make this mixture with apples, raisins, walnuts, and wine.  Sephardic jews often use the raisins, walnuts, and wine, but instead of apples, they use dates.  The different recipes for Haroseth numbers in the thousands, with every family having at least one of their own.  From chunky to almost paste like.  The symbolism is the mortar with which the Hebrews built the temples and pyramids for the Pharaohs while in bondage.  It is mixed in a sandwich with the horseradish and matzah, once again to remind us of our time in slavery being both bitter, but also a bit sweet, as we who were a scattered people before Joseph led us into Egypt, we left with Moses a nation of people, bound together by suffering and belief.
  • Shank bone- Usually the shank bone of a lamb, roasted in the oven.  Sometimes, in lean times, it is permissible to use any bone you can find. I have admittedly used a chicken bone in the past.  This is to symbolize both the new life that spring has given us in the fluffy little lambs, but also the sacrificial lamb that was killed to provide the blood for marking the lintel and posts of doors so that the Angel of Death may Pass over the houses of the Hebrews while enacting the 10th plague.

Also on the table is the plate of matzah, which is covered and consists of 3 slices or crackers of matzah.  Why 3?  Because according to Jewish Tradition there are currently only 3 Tribes of Israel left, Cohen, Levite, and Israelite.  The Cohen (I know, you have friends with that last name) are the Priests, descendants of Aaron and the other Priests of the temples.  Levites are the shepherds, Descendants of Moses and the other teachers and Rabbis.  The Israelites are everybody else that’s leftover.  After the Diaspora (the Babylonians invading Canaan and doing their typical uprooting the population and scattering them to the winds) it became difficult for most Jews to remember their Familial and Tribal ties, or to even hold to them.  These people are the Israelites, the lost, the Tribeless. They’re not truly treated any differently save for a few ceremonial differences.  Truth holds, the Israelites outnumber the Cohens and the Levites.  By the way, it’s pronounced Coe-Hain, not the way you’re thinking it out in your head.

Goodness I’ve rambled on some more.  Alright, lets see if I can’t wrap this up a bit quickly.

During the course of the night, as the story is being told, 4 glasses of wine (or juice if you’re too young and your parents are sticks in the mud) are drunk.  Except, almost.  During the reading of the 10 plagues, we dip our pinkies into our wine and remove 10 drops of wine from the glass.  Why? Symbolism.  While we hold that the plagues were necessary for our freedom, a lot of innocent Egyptians suffered, those that did not have the power to set us free still suffered because of Pharaoh’s hardened heart.  So, in a show of almost solidarity and sympathy, we remove ten drops of wine from our glasses, signifying that while we are happy to be free, our happiness is not complete, because of the suffering of others.

Deep, huh?

I don’t know if you noticed what I did there, but I moved the story into the present time.  That’s something else about the Passover Seder and the telling of the story, it’s subtle and not a lot of people notice it.  It’s almost second nature, but the story is to be told in the present tense.  As though the Exodus was just the last week and we are retelling it to our new neighbors.  This is just another way of connecting us here in the present to our ancestors in the past.  Another Tradition.  One thing you’ll notice is that the Jewish religion and people are filled and built upon Tradition after Tradition after Tradition.

I digress.

After drinking our wine and feeling sorry for those that suffered in order for us to be free, the youngest child possible at the table asks 4 Questions.  Why is this night different from all other nights? Why do we spend this night reclining, when on other nights we can either recline or sit up straight?  Why do we dip our greens into the salt water? Why do we eat the bitter herbs?

All of this is answered during the story, other than the reclining.  Reclining while eating was a privilege of the rich, of the Masters, not of the slaves.  Slaves ate quickly and sitting up straight, always afraid of punishment.  Now that we are free from our bonds, we have the freedom to eat however we please, but on this night, we recline to show that we do not take this freedom for granted.

Almost done, I promise.

There are a few things left to happen, including dinner.  There is the breaking and hiding of the Afikomen, and the inviting Elijah in.  Now, I do not know and have never really heard any symbolic meaning behind the Afikomen, so I will simply tell it as I know it.  The Afikomen is the center matzah from the stack of 3 that is on the table.  During the meal it is taken out to show the bread of Haste that we eat to remember our flight from egypt, and then it is broken into two pieces.  One piece is placed back into the stack to be broken up and eaten from later, the other piece is, at some point during the meal, hidden.   Why? I have no idea.  But it is a big game for the young children to go and find the afikomen.  There is usually a present for the child who finds it and brings it back to the table.  The Afikomen is then divided up again and is used as the Dessert for the Meal.

Elijah is another deal.  Throughout the night the goblet of wine is filled and waiting for Elijah to visit.  Before dinner the children go to the door and invite in Elijah, and any others who may be outside and be hungry for dinner.  By the time the kids get back to the table, the goblet of wine has been emptied by the Prophet while he stopped in briefly to enjoy the meal.

There are larger implications of Elijah’s visit, namely that if he actually does visit and stay, it will be to announce the coming of the Messiah within the next year.  But that’s a completely different story for a completely different time.

Whew.

You think it was long to read?  A traditional Seder will last about 4 hours, not necessarily including dinner.  Most modern families skip the longer parts by putting The Ten Commandments into the DVD player during the day, asking the 4 questions, singing a few songs, and then inviting in Elijah.  My father and Uncle Brent could do the entire Seder in under 20 minutes.  And then you eat.

Food is traditionally lamb or chicken, with matzah ball soup and other jewish side dishes that I have yet to learn how to make (although tzimmes is fantastic and I really need to perfect it..).

By the end of the night you are full, you are happy, and you are surrounded by family and friends. I am strengthened every year by the thoughts that everywhere in the world, everywhere from Israel, to new Zealand, to The US, to Iran, to Kenya there are Jews everywhere celebrating the holiday with me, singing the same songs, saying the same prayers, and waiting for Elijah.

And that connection to the greater world, the knowledge that no matter where I am, the traditions have been held onto and passed down and are being repeated everywhere makes me feel even more spiritual than insignificant.  But explanations on my religion and my faith are not why you’re here.  I promise, I’ll get back to more fun things like food and travel soon.

I hope you have enjoyed this two part explanation of yet another segment of the complex person that I am.  I am considering making a whole section of this blog about Judaism, or at least My Judaism.  I wonder if anybody would be interested in reading that?  Let me know!

Although I’ll probably do it anyway.

Next Year In Jerusalem!

*Sephardic refers to the Jewish peoples from the Western European countries and the middle east (Iran, Iraq, Spain, morocco, etc)

** Ashkenazic refers to the Jewish peoples from Eastern Europe (poland, Ukraine) and Russia

A Good Life

I don’t think that there is too much more in life that I could ask for at any given moment.

 

Do I want to lose weight, yes.  Would that be the most awesome thing ever to get to a weight where I can be able to get around without sounding like i’m slowly dying a thousand painful deaths with each breath? Yeah, that would be pretty cool.  I am getting there, slowly, i’m getting better at making it up and around the hills and walkways around home.  the numbers may not be moving on the scale, but i’m feeling better.

 

I have a man who loves and adores me, he treats me better than I ever even dreamed I would be treated by any man.  He spoils me, he supports me, and he loves me.  And to be honest, there is not much else to hope for out of life other than that.

 

I still do not have a job.

 

But that became a bit secondary this past weekend when I got an e-mail from immigration telling me that my visa was running out in 45 days.  Insert panic here!!  So I did what any person would do,I called immigration.  sure, most people down here work through e-mail, but there are some things that just need to talked about with a real person.  Like the apparently very real possibility that I’ll be getting kicked out of the country.

 

So, what happened was that at the border, the customs agent had a difficult problem getting my visa to scan or get recognized, so instead of grabbing somebody to help her, she just punched me into the country as being on a visitors Visa, as opposed to a working holiday.   Insert frustration here!!

 

Easy fix though! Just head down to the branch office in the CBD and they’ll get everything straightened out.  So today, that’s what I did. And after waiting in the long queue for a bit, I got my paperwork all handled and my visa is now not only the correct visa, but it’s been extended from october to next february.  Of course i’m going to have to reapply for the work visa midyear,but at least I know we have some time to get our partnership thigns together.

 

Insert relief here.

 

So, that is taken care of.

 

Of course, in finally getting the visa taken care of, I have found out that legally I can’t work in a permanent position.  so it’s not even that the companies are covering their own behinds, I legally can not work for them.

 

Which didn’t soften the blow on friday any when i got the rejection email from the company that had actually interviewed me. That, on top of the absolute pummeling my good mood had taken from the visa notice and this was not shaping up to be a good weekend.

 

Enter the boyfriend.

 

He took me out to dinner on friday, we were going to go for Thai, but we found this little Italian place instead, and then we went to the countdown and grabbed some food things for the fridge (mostly eggs, because i’ve been going through them like they’re going out of style lately).

 

Saturday, we went out shopping in anticipation of colder weather.  I got a new shirt/tunic thing, some socks and a sweatshirt.  Plus a scale for weighing me, and a scale for weighing food.  A good day.

 

sunday, another meal out! I know, i’m spoiled.  This time to Tony’s Steakhouse in the CBD, and then a quick trip to Borders to take advantage of their sales.  I got a brand new cookbook for half price!  A good night.

 

 

So what is the moral of all of this?  Well, it’s mainly that even though I haven’t yet hit any of my goals that I’ve set for myself, I haven’t ruined them yet either.  And through it all, I have my E standing at my side, supporting me.

 

And right now, that makes this a good life.  and I’m ready for the next challenge.

Home Comfort

There are some things that you begin to miss when you’re away from home.  I remember growing up and going to the week of 4-H camp down at Camp Barnes.  By the end of the week, I missed my bed and a nice long shower more than anything.  That, and not being covered with bites from mosquitoes head to toe and not sleeping in a bed filled with sand.

 

On vacations, you would miss your pets, and your bed.  Not having to sleep in the same room as your brother, or be in the back seat of the rental car and being near your sibling.  Lemme tell you, those could be some long car rides.

 

But the things that you miss on the casual excursion, the family vacation, are nothing really like what you miss when you move so far from home that you can’t quite drive back.  University saw me only 2 hours away, Maine I was only 13 hours in straight driving.  I could always go back home if I missed something.  Like making apple butter with mom.  Or going to synagogue on friday nights.

 

It’s a bit different on this side of the world.  I can’t just hop in my car and drive home.  Not just because of being an ocean and a continent away, but also because I don’t have my car.   And man, I miss my car.  I miss having that freedom of (if I wanted to) getting in the car and going out for a drive.  I don’t have that here.  Not yet.  I will work on getting wheels, but I can’t yet.

 

I love asian food.  Sushi, pho, hot pot (i’m guessing, haven’t tried this yet.), curries.  I love it.  I could probably be happy with sushi at least once if not twice a week.  I could live off bowls of white rice with just enough of the starch to stick together in tasty and easy to pick up clumps.  Apparently I even hold my chopsticks the proper way, not the cheating way.  And I’m fairly good with them, although I am having to get used to the rounded ends as opposed to the tapered to a point that I got used to.

 

Where was I?  Right.  I love asian food.  And I am sure that I will love ‘Kiwi’ food, if I find any.  the dinner that we had out with S & H was probably close to what some would call ‘normal’ food for a former British colony.  But it’s still not quite right.  For one thing, if you say the word ‘pie’ down here, most people assume you’re talking about the savory kind.  Meat pies, of varying flavors and sizes.  E loves his steak and kidney pies.  I have yet to try a savory pie.

 

I have, however, been lamenting the loss of sweet pies.  Fruit pies.  The one I’ve been fixated on the most, and I have no idea why, has been the cherry pie.  Short pastry tender and flaky and the ruby red, sweet and disastrous filling, topped with either more pastry or if you’re really lucky topped with crumbled topping.  A forkful would garnish you that sweet juice of the cherry, the tartness of summer in your mouth, and that crumbly goodness to lick it all up with.

 

I have hunted.  I have searched. I have peeked into the different cafes and restaurants that we have passed by.  None, none of them have cherry pie.  I’m lucky if they have a lemon tart (the marvel grill and the tapas bar both had this choice).  So I am still hunting for that piece of home.

 

Another thing that I have been missing is pasta.  Good italian pasta.  with red sauce and parmesan cheese.  I have Udon, and that’s good in the soups that I’ve been making, but it’s not quite the same thing.  So tonight, while I have the house to myself, I made myself a bowl of penne.  I topped it with some spaghetti sauce that E bought me and with the parmesan cheese.  I will probably regret the amount of cheese that I used, but the taste of the pasta, the feeling of absolute comfort and happiness that went through me as I nibbled and chewed and felt the red sauce and the cheese and the bite of the aldente penne.  It was warm, it was comfortable.  It was fairly close to home.

 

Still not quite doing it for you?  Still not quite there, not hitting that button for making you feel better about being so far from just about everything that you know but still being able to understand everybody around you? Very well, my friends.  For the cure to this, I bring you, Denny’s.

 

Yes, that Denny’s.  The breakfast slams, the tuna melt, the oreo shake.  All of it, right here in downtown Auckland.  Now, the menu looks familiar, but don’t be too placated right off the bat.  There are some things missing, like the cherry pie filling that you could put on your pancakes or french toast.  Or the huge ‘Slams’ that could probably feed a small African family but feed one very hungry American adult male.  There are some new things!  Like chicken satay, or a chicken curry with rice.  Or the almost dessert option, the Banana Fritter.  Which is a banana, dipped in batter, and fried.  I say almost because I would have ordered it had I had enough room in my stomach for it.  But after an appetizer of chili fries, and a short stack of pancakes with two eggs, I had no room for dessert.

 

The food was exactly what you expected.  Freezer and prefab food, thawed and tossed onto the large grill or into the ovens and served up with consistent quality from New Jersey to Maine to Auckland.  So at least I know that between the big bowls of pasta swimming in red sauce that I can make myself and the pancakes I can get at Denny’s, swimming in butter and maple syrup, I can still find some of the comforts of home.

 

I will find cherry pie filling.  I will make cherry pie. I will make Hamantaschen next week.  I will bring sweet fruit pies to New Zealand!  Ok, maybe not the last one.  But I will at least introduce them to my new circle of friends.  And from those few mouths, I will ignite a revolution!

 

Cherry Pie for Kiwis!

 

What?  A bit much?  Just watch me.

Silence

A beautiful thing happened the other day. The morning was normal, woke up shortly after E was on his way to work. Had a good day.  But we were going out for lunch, to activate our bank cards and get something to eat.

 

We got to the bank, got the pins activated and then everything stopped.  The entirety of New Zealand stopped.  For two minutes the entire world around us shut down.  Well except for the muzack in the mall playing some Paul McCartney song.  But other than that, everybody stopped.

 

Even the kid who had been screaming holy bloody murder moments before, even that unruly child stopped its selfish screams of discontent for two minutes. And you knew, you knew that even from your small corner of the country, that the entire country had stopped as well.  Radio and television broadcasts ceased, transactions of any kind halted, and silence was held.

 

The number has been put at 160 people who as of right now will not be coming home.  These are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, and uncles, and children, babies who will not be coming back from lunch out in the city.

 

I have been in New Zealand for twenty days now, and even being here for so sort a time, my life has not been untouched by what has happened on the South island.  I have friends who are not working, who are trying to escape from the endless shaking and the memories.  I have a friend who has lost somebody, who knows personally one of those 160.

 

I can not even begin to express my sorrow, the pain that I feel even as an outsider as I am for this tragedy and this country and these people that I am quickly coming to love.  As a foreigner in this land, I can only begin to scratch the edges of how this feels to those who have lived and loved here their entire lives.

 

But from the ashes of the purging flame leaps the phoenix burning bright upon the wing.

 

The kiwi spirit lives on.  In the student army, volunteers from secondary schools and universities grabbing their shovels and their boots and tramping out by the thousands into neighborhoods to help those who as of yet cannot quite help themselves.

 

In the man who has put the several ton boulder that came through his wall from the quake up for auction on the local ebay site.  He has named the boulder Rocky, and insists that Rocky makes for fantastic indoor/outdoor flow.

 

In the mayor of Christchurch, Bob Parker who has shown up to every camera and press conference in whatever clothing he could find, has been honest, forthcoming, and at times brutally so, but with the true touch of heartfelt pain that it’s obvious he loves his city, and her residents, very much.

 

In the faces of those who are fleeing Christchurch, and those who are heading into the battle against nature and time.  In the silent tears of the spoiled brat who stopped screaming its displeasure for those two minutes of silence the other day, there is one thing that has not been shaken, and I doubt will ever be shaken.

 

The Kiwi Spirit continues on.

 

I love this place, and these people.