Tag Archives: Moving

Getting Back Up

Hi!

 

Have you missed me?

 

Well life has been a series of busy lately, and while all of it has been fantastic, none of it really lends itself to being ‘blog-worthy’.  Or at least, not in a way that I can think of just yet.  So what has been happening in life down here in kiwiland?  Well, let me tell you.

 

A couple weekends ago two of our really close friends got married.  It was an absolutely fantastic day, the ceremony went off just as was planned and the Bride and Groom had a great time.  I was so very happy to be not only invited but to also be a part in helping them plan and get ready for their day.  Having only known them for a few months, it’s truly amazing just how close we’ve become.  I can’t express enough or in the proper words just how humbled and grateful I am to the pair of them for allowing me to spend time with them and share in their joy on that day.  Love you both R&K!

 

This past weekend, another pair of our friends moved into their new house! And we, of course, helped them move!  Now, I know that does not necessarily sound like a barrel of laughs, and it was some hard work, but it was also absolutely great.  We got to spend time with friends, help them move onto their next big step, and generally just enjoy everybody’s company.  And while helping them move, unpack, and settle into their new place, I had time to look back, reflect, and focus on just how far this life that I’m living now is to the ones that I’ve lived before.  Doing physical labor, but laughing and joking at the same time. Everybody coming together collectively to help out, and then sitting around a table (which is gorgeous!) for a well deserved dinner.  I am struggling to figure out if life gets better than that.   The house is gorgeous, the couple fantastic, and our time spent together equally precious.  Congrats R&E!

 

What else, what else.

 

The job hunt is not so much a hunt as it is shooting arrows wildly into the forest in every direction, only to have them shot back at you with no points and no fletching. Not helpful.  But! perseverance will prevail!  Employment will be gained! Somehow.

 

Now, the biggest new thing happening to me personally is that I’ve committed to a Personal Trainer. Tom is going to be kicking my butt left, right, and sideways twice a week for 45 minutes.  After 7 months at the gym, and a significant amount of body tightening up, It was time to get even more serious.  I’ve got weight I want to, must, lose and it’s not going to come off on it’s own.  And while I’ve stuck with going to the gym at least twice a week for 7 months, I need something more. I need to keep pushing myself even more, harder than before.  I must lose this weight.  The rest of my life depends upon hitting that healthy moment and then keeping going.  And that’s not an exaggeration.

 

Today was my second session with Tom and everything went well.  Really well, actually.  But it was the last ‘exercise’ that got me into a contemplative mood.  Essentially all I had to do was lay down on the ground on my chest and then stand back up again five times, and then lay on my back and get up again five times.  Sounds simple, right? Wrong.  It was definitely not easy.  There was so much involved, just so much energy and movement and muscles.  It was by far the hardest exercise that I did.

 

Just like life.  It’s fairly easy to get knocked down time and time again.  It’s the getting back up that’s the hardest part.  And all of this, the man who is supporting me, the friends that I’ve found and love, and the gym, this is all part of me getting back up off the ground.

 

And this time, I’m going to remain standing. And then, start running.

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Printed!

So, we are underway for getting the next visa application together.  I took a bus trip out to Brown’s Bay today in order to get myself fingerprinted for the paperwork that the FBI needed.

 

There’s apparently so many steps in needing to do this.  First, I need to get a background check from the FBI that is no more than 6months old.  Considering that it takes the FBI 8 weeks to process the background check and then probably another 2 weeks to get it back to me, that’s 10 weeks, plus the week to get it to them.  So that’s 11 weeks from today, roughly.  So we’re looking at the first week of November for getting that information back.  Meanwhile, I get to run around to friends and family and get them to write up some statements about how loving and stable Ee’s relationship is.  Easy enough.  Next, have to get 2 passport sized photos taken, again younger than 6 months by the time that I send the application in. More evidence of a stable and conjoined relationship.

 

And then all of that gets sent into Immigration NZ, and the decision is another 4-5 weeks after that.  So, by hannukah, or at the latest Christmas, I should have an answer as to whether or not my next visa is approved.  This Visa will be most likely for 2 years, and then  a year into that I can apply for residency.   But, it’s still a 2 year visa, and that should open up more options for me for employment.  But enough about that, my adventure today!

 

Caught an earlier bus than I had intended, by virtue of me being absolutely paranoid about time and getting lost.  No worries though!  The bus dropped me off exactly where I thought it would and finding the police station was fairly easy peasy after that (just walk up the street…)!  Of course, I was an hour earlier than I should have been for the appointment, so I stopped into the little cafe right next to the police station.  They were rather busy for the middle of the week, which was kinda neat.  I grabbed a little pastry and a bottle of coke, although I later wished I had picked up something hot to drink.  Once I finished up with that, I headed to the police station and sat and waited.

 

Another lady there and I got into a conversation about this place called “Martha’s Backyard”.  Apparently they sell all kinds of imported american goodies.  like Pop-Tarts and lucky charms and kraft Mac& Cheese.  Definitely going to have to see if I can make a trip out there sometime soon. A box of lucky charms sounds awesome right now.  She was there to report an attempt to pass on fraudulent travellers checks by somebody over the internet.  She was looking for a new flatmate, this guy contacted her and said he needed a place for a few months.  She asked for payment in advance, he sent through some traveller’s checks for more than the amount agreed on and asked her to send the extra money back to an address in the UK.  Well, the checks were forgeries and she would have been out about $2000NZD.  Eek!  But she caught the gimmick and brought them into the Police to make them aware of it.

 

She got all sorted, the police called INTERPOL and gave them the head up and she went on her way.  And then it was my turn to be Fingerprinted!  I had brought all the paperwork that was needed (which the technician was happy for, because it made his life easier), filled in all the stuff that I could (he was also so very pleased about that), and then we got to the fingerprinting.  Want to know something neat?  he asked me to look at the wall, not at the fingerprint card, because apparently when you look down at the card, it tenses your fingers and that can mess up the prints.  Neat, huh?

 

So, after that, he took a statutory declaration from me for my election paperwork (how cool! I brought the papers with me on the off chance that there was a notary in town, and he said he could notarize it for me), and I headed off to the postshop.

 

Got everything boxed up and sent out, the paperwork for the background check, and the request for my absentee ballots.  And then I wandered around the shops for a bit, stared at the bay and Rangitoto, and then went to catch the bus.  Turns out, I was waiting for the wrong bus.  That’s ok! I had extra time, so I headed back to the music store that I had seen, independently owned, and shopped around.  Bought myself a new Amici CD (well, new to me, it was from their 2006 NZ tour), and a present for my brother.  A kiwi singer who is trying to get himself started.  I picked up his sample CD for my brother, since the guy behind the counter said that the guy was kinda pink Floyd-y.  So I’ll send that off to the brother for his birthday and see what he thinks.  If he likes it, I’ll see about picking up the guys full LP when he releases it later this year.

 

After that, it was time to run and catch the bus and head home.  Note to self: Catching a bus on the way home after 3pm, silly idea.  The bus was soon stuffed with schoolkids, all heading home from school.  Luckily I had sat right near the doors so I was able to pour myself out of the bus fairly easily.

 

And now, time to make dinner (soup) and relax for the night.

 

A good day and plenty accomplished.

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.

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.

Auckland Museum

So, this weekend we spent our Saturday at the Auckland Museum and War Memorial.

 

It’s this really big building, marble and concrete and it looks as though it easily could have come from Washington DC.  Complete with cannons outside.  The unique thing about the Museum is that it’s in the middle of a rather large park, called the Domain, but we’ll get back to that later.

 

The Museum is divided up onto three floors, with the first floor being mainly cultural history, the second floor being natural history, and the third floor consisting of the Museums research library and the more modern history, along with the Memorial Hall for all those brave Kiwis who served and lost their lives serving in the various wars where Kiwis have been called to duty.

 

The first floor we spent most of our time in, exploring the different artifacts of the people of the Pacific Islands, not just New Zealand, but of most of the Islands in the area.  Samoa, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, etc.  It’s rather intriguing to me to look at these native peoples and compare them to the natives not only in Hawai’i but also to the native peoples in Alaska.  There are some very similar attributes to both, not only in culture, but also physical.  Yes, the natives from the Northwest US are lighter in skin tone, but it is not difficult to believe that there are some possible Polynesian roots as well, somewhere back in the family trees.

 

The intricacy of the artwork, the skill of the weavers and painters, everything is on display.  The huge longhouse that they have made available to be walked through, though not set up for any particular use, other than to have a large longhouse, is still impressive.  My first instincts in a longhouse is to look up, to find the smoke holes in the roof, but there were none.  Probably because it presumably does not get cold enough in this environment to need to have a fire within the longhouse itself for warmth, it would probably have been lit outside for food preparation.

 

The Natural history portion of the museum was equally as fascinating.  The amount of birds and plants that are endemic to New Zealand is just astounding.  And the other impressive thing?  There are no creatures to kill you here.  Oh sure, there were Moa’s and other large animals way back when, but apparently New Zealand was formed by the volcanoes and other factors long before or after any poisonous creatures made their way here.  So those huge spiders and dangerous mammals and terrifying snakes that you hear about in Australia?  Nope, nothing like those here in New Zealand.

 

Now, the really interesting thing is that Auckland rests on volcanoes.  Several of them in fact.  And while there are some extinct volcanoes in the harbor, the volcanoes surrounding Auckland are actually only dormant.

 

Yes.

 

Like Vesuvius.  And Mt. St. Helens.  Dormant.  Let that sink in.  Got it? Excellent.  Now, much like with the Earthquakes to our south, there is no real way to be able to tell just when or if there will be a volcanic eruption.  However, the measurements and scientific data are all carefully monitored and we should, in most realities, have some idea, or at least a few moments warning.

 

Comforted?

 

Yeah, not me either.  But, can’t spend your life living in fear, so just keep on keeping on.  We didn’t get up to the third floor, as the museum was going to be closing soon and we didn’t want to get stuck in there.  After all, there was a stuffed elephant we wanted to see.

 

And then back out into the Domain we went.

 

Now, the Domain is the largest park on the North Island.  And I believe one of the larger parks in the entire country.  And it’s right in the center of the city.  There are paths to walk, great fields to play games or picnic or whatever you want in.  And plenty of venues for a wedding, or any party I would imagine.  There is also a nice greenhouse, which they call the ‘Wintergarden’.  When we went through that, there were eggplants (aubergines) of various varieties growing, many ornamental chilis, and lots of hanging vines and potted flowers.  A koi pond with fountain and statues, and some lovely orchids.

 

I honestly can’t wait to get back to the Domain, to walk the trails, to bring my camera with me, which sadly I did not do this trip as it was raining rather insistently and I’m still rather cautious of getting the camera wet.

 

but next time, next time the camera will come along, and I will take many glorious, beautiful pictures of plants and trees and the huge expanse of green nestled quite happily in the middle of a vibrant city.

 

And for those of you chuckling and shaking your head, Central Park ain’t got nothing on this.

Heart Kiwis

I’ve been in this country for just under a fortnight, and I can already say with definite truth, that I love Kiwis.

 

Love them.

 

Not a single person has been rude to me, insulting, or even given me a dirty look.  Not one shopkeeper or bystander on a corner has said one thing crosswise to me, or been anything but endearingly helpful.

 

To my very limited access of people and my small interactions with them, I can gladly say that I am happy to be here in this country, and I doubt I could have found a more pleasant place to move to.

 

Even with the earthquake this week and all the horrible devastation that has brought and the national sorrow that is palpable and felt even by myself, the Kiwis I’ve interacted with have had nothing but this undercurrent of good humor.

 

There is an overall attitude of inevitability that seems to be innate in Kiwis.  Yes, this tragedy happened.  Yes, it was a tragedy.  But we’ll move on, we’ll fix it, we’ll make it better.  I was watching the new reports yesterday when one of the Australian Urban Rescue teams showed up, and the Kiwi reporter seemed to be so amazingly overwhelmed at the kindness of the Aussies for being here, so astounded that they responded so quickly, it was catching in his throat that this realization that everything would be alright, that the Kiwis had friends.

 

There’s a bit of, self deprecation that seems inherent in nearly all communications with Kiwis.  There’s an underlying current in the tone and diction that says “Yes, we know we’re not from Australia, but we’re really just a likable”.    It’s a black humor, dark and sometimes misleading, but it’s there.  This feeling of being not quite the best, but the best at what they do.

 

I love it.  That sense of humor, the sense of knowing that they might not be considered top notch by the world, or even be remembered by the world farther than Australasia, but they know what they are good at, they know what they have to offer, and they’re more than happy to offer it.

 

I hope I’m being clear.  I’m not trying to poke fun at the Kiwis, especially not now.  But their ability to poke fun at themselves, even if they don’t know that they’re doing it, even if they don’t see the little tendencies of appearing as the younger children that I seem to be picking up on, it’s there.

 

And it makes this place even more delightful than before.  Especially for me.  I seem to have found a nation full of people with the same self-deprecating humor that I have found in myself.

 

I love it here.  And the I love the Kiwis.

Bubble Tea

I’ve decided that there will be posts about the different foods I’ve had since moving here.  I’ve already introduced you to the Red Bean Paste Bun (or Azuki bean), and to mochi.  Today, we travel to the exotic world of Tea.

 

Yes, tea.

 

Now, I know I’ve posted on here about tea before and it’s not something that a very many people think about being unique.  However, most people that I know in the states have never experienced Bubble Tea.  Or Pearl Tea.  And even the concept of Milk Tea is slightly foreign.  So, let’s start with the easy one.

 

Milk tea.  Sounds fairly simple right?  It is.  Think of your favorite iced coffee with cream.  Now, make it tea instead of Coffee.  Fascinating right?  A thought that never really would occur to most Americans, but there it is.  Tea with milk and sugar is a hot beverage, not a cold one.  But for the longest time I thought that about coffee.  Until I had a properly prepared iced coffee.  It’s the same way with Milk Tea.  It sounds strange, until you have it.  And then, somewhere in the back of your mind, it clicks and you realize that this is good.  And how in the world had you not thought of this first?

 

That brings us to Bubble Tea.  Or Pearl Tea.  Now, it’s easier for me to describe Bubble Tea once you’ve seen a picture of it.  So, here we go.

Thanks to agapetea.com for their image

Now, that is standard milk tea. But those black things in the bottom? That’s the Bubbles.  Of tapioca.

 

Got it? Ok, we’ll move on.

 

now, I’ve had Bubble Tea before, when I went to DC to meet E for the first time, we went out to a teashop and they had bubble tea for sale.  I tried some and I was, confused by it.  We had some the other night, tried it, and I was still confused.

 

The tea comes in a plastic cup with a plastic seal on top (at least to the place we went to) and you get a really BIG straw and you stab the plastic seal in one easy swipe, and then you sip.  And as you sip the tapioca pearls travel up the straw and into your mouth.

 

Now, I’m sure you’ve had tapioca pudding and you know that odd gelatin type texture that is on the tapioca pearls.  these pearls are much larger.  Much larger. I would say smaller than a dime, but not by much.  And the pearls do come in smaller and larger shapes as well.  But the ones that we had the other night were about dime shaped.

 

And they’re gooey and sticky and jelly-like and it just feels odd.  The tea itself is usually quite good, a bit hard to describe really because you’re so focused on the fact that you have this odd sphere of goo in your mouth, but good.

 

Can I heartily recommend Bubble tea as much as I did Azuki buns and mochi?  Not necessarily.  I’m still out on Bubble Tea.  I’m hoping to find a shop around here that offers the smaller pearls so I can try again.

 

But I can definitely endorse Milk Tea and highly highly recommend that you try some yourself.  A great way to cool off in summer’s heat.  I personally would suggest jasmine, mint, or lavender flavors as they lend themselves quite well to the lightness of adding milk and the cooling effects needed on a hot summer’s day.

New Flavors

So, i’m sure we’ve had this talk before.  About how I’m a fat girl who just loves food.

Well, this is a dangerous place for me, especially if I’m trying to lose the weight!  All these new things to taste and try!  The other day, E and I went down to Mission Bay for a walk on the beach.

But before we got to the beach, we stopped to get some fish and Chips!  Deep fried snapper with some french fries, or chips if you will, and then E added in some Squid Rings and some Mussels for himself.  The amount of food we got was huge!  we brought it home to finish up later.  And then, we went for ice cream.
Movenpick Ice Cream To be exact.  E got the Vanilla, and I tried the Tiramisu.  It was delightful.  Just the right kind of ice cream that you wanted after a long day on the beach.

From which I got horribly sunburned but live and learn, right?

On Monday, we walked to the Sunnynook Bus Station (and by walked, I mean we tramped. Hiked?  Whatever, it was not fun. :P) and then caught the bus into the CBD, or Central Business District.  Also known as downtown Auckland.  While there, we had more sushi (yes I am a slight addict), and then wandered into this little gourmet shop called The Barrow.  Nice place, they had some rather delicious looking goodies.  But over on a shelf there was some asian breads displayed.  Well, you would have thought I had been offered the winning lotto numbers.

They had a red bean paste bun!

I have been wanting to try this for a long time, ever since my mini obsession a few years ago with bento, and my reading through multiple bento blogs during that time, I have been curious about these azuki bean treats.  So, I bought one. For two dollars, I was going to experience something delicious.  I hoped.

I was right!  It was fantastic!  The texture of the red bean paste would be a little difficult for some, most, American tasters, but if you like beans at all, any kind of beans, you can get past that initial texture.  The bun itself was sweet, sticky and good, but nothing really truly memorable.  For me, the true star was the azuki.  It was sweet, it was mushy, it had just the right slippery factor to it that I had always thought it would have.  It tasted just like my tastebuds imagined.

I had intended to only eat half of it, and then save the rest for dessert that night.  That, did not happen.  I just kept eating it, wanting more of the gooey red pasty filling.

Man, if glue tasted like this, I’d be a kindergartner all over again.

Now, that leads me up to today.  And another tasty tasty little treat that I have discovered.  Again, this stems from my brief and yet still slightly ongoing obsession (but not really an obsession) with Japanese goodies.  Bento, Sushi, Kimono, etc.  There has been a dessert that I’ve seen touted on the bento blogs that I used to read called a Mochi Cake.  And I’ve been dying to try one.

Mochi is rice which is pounded into a flour, sweetened, and then made into a dough.  It’s soft, stretchy, kinda tacky to the touch and easily formed into shapes.  Mochi cakes are (to my limited knowledge) little tiny balls of mochi dough that have been formed around a filling of some kind.

So today, while indulging myself in more sushi at the Westfield Shopping Center at the Britomart, I saw that they had Mochi cakes.  I picked up a strawberry and a chocolate creme.

Isn’t it cute?

the strawberry one was heavenly.  I ate that long before I even considered taking a picture of it.  But the taste was quite unlike anything else I’ve ever had.  It was not quite as sweet as I had been led to believe, at least not until you added in the filling, then it was sweet.  But the Mochi dough itself was subtle, and had this background of rice that was just delightful.

Especially for somebody like me.  I love rice.

Alright!  That’s the food update!  Back later with tales of my trip around the CBD on my own!

Trip part Two

 

Landing in Phoenix was delightful.  Got off the plane, got hugs from Raza and Marko, and then I high tailed it to my next gate.  Amazingly, I got to the gate just as they were calling my boarding group to get onto the plane.  Fantastic.  The even better part, the plane wasn’t full. Nowhere even close.  So I was able to climb into one of the last rows of the plane, grab the window seat and then stretch out.  And it was then that I discovered something truly amazing, I didn’t need a seatbelt extender.  I was actually able to get into the seat, sit comfortably and still have the belt buckled.

 

Hooray for Southwest airlines!

 

The flight from Phoenix to LA was short and mercifully so.  But still enjoyable as I got to look out the window at all the scenery.  It was really quite something, just how rugged the landscape was, how amazingly barren and beautiful everything appeared.  And while flying overhead, recalling memories of old Earth Science courses, watching how the mountains and valleys had formed, the way the land had been cut and eroded and shaped into these magnificent shapes and colors.  The waterways that came down from the snow covered tops, and fed through streams and rivers and winded twisted paths until it spilled into the causeways and aqueducts made by human design to keep the land livable.  It was truly impressive.

 

And then, out of nowhere, civilization.  It was nearly instantaneous, the land became less rough, less arid and then all of a sudden, there were houses.  Thousands upon thousands of houses, in nice little rows and odd shaped neighborhoods.  I picked the correct side of the plane, it appeared, because as we were flying low into LA, I looked out my window and just off into the distance, I was able to see the Hollywood Hills.  Complete with the Hollywood sign.  It was far away and there wasn’t much definition to the letters, but rest assured, there it was.  The white letters that spell out Hollywood against the high green hill backdrop, welcoming everybody to the West Coast paragon of American Life.

 

I had made it to LA.

 

LAX was not a very friendly airport.  It wasn’t necessarily bad or even evil, but it was not the most friendly of places.  The brief ten minutes that I spent in Phoenix made me feel better, happier, than the three hours that I spent in LA.  The airport was dark, cold, and old.  Now, I know that not much can be done about the age of the airport, and they are working on upgrades and repairs, but there had obviously been no real change to the interior (including the seats) since the late 1960s.

 

But, I made my way from one terminal to the other, got my bags taken care of and made it to my gate.  The Duty free shop was astounding, filled with alcohol and makeup.  There were a few other shops, but nothing incredibly interesting.  I was hungry, though, having not really eaten anything since getting up on Wednesday morning.  So I stopped into the LaBrea bakery that was in the terminal, bought an Orange Juice, a Bottle of water, and a Mozzarella, sundried tomato, basil, and pesto sandwich.  It was fantastic.  I wasn’t able to completely finish it, but it did what it was supposed to do.

 

I then went and sat at the terminal, surrounded by a dozen or more college students, all heading to different universities in New Zealand from different Universities in the States, all going for a semester or a year for studying.  We sat together and everything seemed well.  I purchased some internet access and played around online for a bit, to help ease the stress and the waiting.  I filled my iPod (thank you danny!) with more music for sleeping to, and then they were ready to start boarding.  Now, they did things very interesting.

 

The business premier boarded first, and then the economy premier, and then people with children.  And then, they boarded the back of the plane.  So I was technically one of the first people on the plane.  I chose my seat wisely, as I had picked the one all the way in the back of the plane where the row dropped from having three seats, to two.  I chose the aisle seat on the first row of two, so I had all kinds of extra room for my carry on, and my feet.  Brilliant.

 

I ended up sitting next to one of the college students and we had a great time being generally friendly and playing with the touch screen in front of us.  Movies, television shows, music, all right there at our fingertips.  We could order snacks and drinks on demand in the middle of the flight right from our screens.  We could watch any movie from the list (I watched Red, it was quite delightful), listen to any music, and even watch our flight’s progress over a large map.  They gave information with accurate altitude, temperature, speed, distance remaining, and time remaining.  It was really fascinating.

 

Dinner was served shortly after takeoff, sadly I was in the back of the plane and dinner started being served in the front first.  Unless you asked for a special meal like vegetarian, as the college girl did, and you got served first.  I knew I should have chosen Kosher.  But eventually, dinner did make its way to me.  I picked the Braised Beef with roasted courgettes (zucchini) and parmesan mashed potato.  It was, as airline food goes, quite delicious.  Of course, I was starving.  I did not, however, get a chance to have the dessert, as I fell asleep very quickly after eating.  But the choices were a pineapple carrot cake or a plate of New Zealand cheeses and fruit.  I’m a little bummed about not getting that.  But I slept well.  I slept through most of the time to order drinks and snacks on demand.  But the sleep was good, and it was needed.  Unfortunately, I was unable to get my seat to lean back, so I was uncomfortable, but I still slept.

 

I woke up shortly before breakfast, which since the rear was served dinner last, we got breakfast first.  The choices were between a savory ham and cheese Danish, or a potato and spinach frittata.  I chose the Frittata which also came with a single link of chicken and apple sausage, a bowl of fresh fruit, and a container of yogurt.  The eggs were quite good, and I think I could manage to make something like that on my own quite easily.  I didn’t eat the yogurt, I just couldn’t get it down. I knew how close I was to new  Zealand and the excitement was starting to affect my stomach. I spent the rest of the flight watching the plane on the high detailed map flying closer and closer, and then altitude dropping.  It was fascinating.  Watching the plane on the screen indicate that we were flying in over the top of the islands, and then looking out of the window to see the first semblance of land appear for the first time in several hours.

 

As the plane got lower and lower, most of us were leaning towards the windows as much as possible, drinking in the pure green that met us.  I’ve seen the pictures, you’ve all seen the pictures of the green land, the absolute lush earth that New Zealand has.  None of the images do it Justice.  You think you’ve seen green, but you really haven’t.  The land here is so full of life, so very natural, its slightly overwhelming.

 

The plane touched down, and the deep breaths through the nose and out the mouth began.  I had made it to New Zealand. I was in my new home.  At least partially. I still had to get through Customs and Biosecurity.  And that wasn’t very difficult. Queue up in al long line that moved fairly quickly until you got to the window.  You hand the Customs official your paperwork, all of it, anything that you can think of that they might need. Your arrival card, your passport, and in my case, my Visa papers.  There was a slight problem where my visa showed up and then disappeared, but it got fixed.  I got stamped and entered into the country.

 

Next stop, baggage claim.  Grab a trolley, toss the suitcases onto the trolley and then head to biosecurity.  Another queue, another uniformed officer, asking the simple question of ‘do you have any food on you’.  I had brought some packaged tea with me, so I answered yes.  I got stamped through, and then your luggage comes off the trolley and onto the Xray belt.  Your bags go through the xray machine, there’s a brief moment of panic when you think they’re going to make you open your bag and you realize that while there’s nothing contraband in the luggage, you freak out trying to figure out just how you’re going to get it closed once again.

Luckily, I didn’t have to worry about that, they xrayed my bag, didn’t see anything that gave them concern, and I was waved through.  Luggage back on the trolley and you take a deep breath, following the signs that say ‘Way Out’.  A large frosted glass wall separates the end of Biosecurity and the place where your family and friends are waiting for you.  Turn the corner and you appear to all those gathered, one or maybe two people leaving the airport at once, so for that brief instant you have the eyes of a few dozen people on you, wondering if this trolley coming through is attached to their loved one.

 

It took only a few seconds for me to spot E as he was waving to me and then one leg over the fence and then another, he jumped (more like strode over) the barricade and wrapped me in his arms in a tight hug and a long kiss.  Right there in front of everybody waiting for their own loved ones.  He held me close and then, we headed to the car.

 

It was time to go home.

Trip Part One

Up up and away in a beautiful aeroplane.  I am currently sitting in Baltimore Washington Airport, watching the people pass me by.  As I entered into the concourse, there came over the announcement system that Ralph Nader himself was at the Borders on Concourse A, signing books.  For a moment, I paused.  Ralph Nader.  A book signed by the perpetual candidate himself.  What an interesting thing to pick up on my way out of the country.  And then, another moment.  I have an hour or so before the plane begins to board.  And I am really saddened that they informed me that there is a Borders bookstore so close by.  However, I believe that I will practice some restraint and not try to venture over to concourse A in order to see and or take a photograph of Ralph Nader.

 

But the temptation is there.

 

Airport Security was nothing major.  I did quite well, just pull everything out that you think there might be questions on, put it in the bin, smile and be polite.  I sadly did not get to go through the back scatter machine, I was kinda looking forward to doing so, but who knows, maybe in LA I will get that chance.

 

It’s odd, not having my cell phone with me to keep track of time and things.  But at the same time, it feels oddly freeing.  Not having to run around, forever watching my clock, making sure things go well.  I’m hoping that I will have time in Phoenix to write about my time there, but I doubt that will happen, as I barely have an hour there to get from one plane to another.

 

BWI is completely different than I remember it.  A lot more open, more free, and cleaner. But then, it’s been a dozen years plus since I flew out of this airport.

 

Saying goodbye to the parents wasn’t that hard, it was the waiting that was tough.  It was the knowing that as soon as I got in line for security, things would be busy, hectic, and slow.  And that as soon as Igot through security, I knew that I would start to feel better. So, true to form, I am.  I am calmer, I am ready, I am hungry I am moving forward with this next big thing in my life and I will be alright.

 

I’ll be ok in Phoenix, I’m sure the nerves will happen again in LA, but I go through security there and things will be better.  I just need to be able to sit down, maybe get online, and then things will be moving much smoother. Alright, time to get something to eat, sit back and relax for the next twenty minutes or so, and then, onto the plane I go.

 

There is just so much space out here.  It is astounding to me that e can have a population in this country pushing 3 billion people, and there is still al this empty space.  Granted, it’s mostly arid desert, but if Israel can turn the deserts in the middle east into a flourishing land, then why can’t we?

 

I’m currently on the hour long flight from Phoenix to Los Angeles, and let me tell you, the scenery outside my window is amazing.  I had intended to do some writing on this, including thoughts and musings, while I was on the long five hour and something flight to Phoenix.  But those plans quickly went awry.

 

I did my usual, choosing to seat myself in the back of the plane, near the flight attendants and the restrooms.  I watched the other people streaming onto the aircraft, all while trying to discreetly ask the attendant for a seat belt extender (which, it turns out, I didn’t actually need) and trying very hard not o focus on the fact that I am going to be flying for over an entire day.

 

Towards the end of boarding, these two dashing young men indicate that they want to sit next to me, not a problem at all.  They were cute, they were vibrant, and they were in good spirits.  Well, it wasn’t soon after we sat down that the three of us started talking.  Introductions were made between myself, Marko, and Raza.   As it turns out, they were travelling to Phoenix as part of their involvement as Fullbright Scholars attending the University of Maryland.

 

Marko was from Serbia and Raza from Qatar, which I had confirmed for me was pronounced like ‘guitar’ only with a hard ‘C’ sound.  That is, of course, according to Raza.  The three of us had an absolutely delightful time, talking about our plans, their studies, my relationship, my trip.  They insisted on purchasing me a drink on the flight (I had a rum and Coke Zero) and toasting to me and my future endeavors.  For once, it was not a miserable, uncomfortable flight crammed into seats with people far too impolite to talk.

 

We brushed on religion, on politics, on homosexuality in society, on gender bias in society.  We talked about video games and being a person our age in this moment in time.  I mentioned that I was Jewish, Raza mentioned he was Muslim, I asked him if he hated me, he laughed, I laughed, and the plane ride went on.

 

I had no time to really pay attention to scenery, although I was on the aisle as well, I was too engaged with my rowmates.  So engaged in fact that the others in their group started passing us back food, just to keep us quiet for a bit while we chewed.  This, of course, did not help.  I can only hope and pray that I have an equally enjoyable ride across the Pacific, as the company heading to Phoenix made the five hour flight seem less.  In one way at least.  It was still a very long flight, and uncomfortable because of how tight everything was, how tight my jeans were, and that I spent most of the flight leaning forward to give Raza some arm room.

 

The group that they were with is actually not the Fulbright Scholars that most people think of when they think of Fulbright scholars.  The first thoughts are of Students going for the PhD’s in some subject or another.  No, these were a group of semi-professionals, all in their late twenties, early thirties, and all from foreign countries.  The majority of the group are journalists, travelling to the United States on a years scholarship to learn, interact, and enjoy what America has to offer.  After their stop in Phoenix (they are getting to meet Sheriff Joe! I think that’s exciting!), they are heading on to Las Vegas, Hoover dam, and then to San Francisco, LA, and then back to DC.  I didn’t get to meet most of them, but I enjoyed the time that I had with the pair that I was with, and Monti, a Pakistani girl who seemed quite a bit like myself.

 

The flight to LA is very empty, nowhere near as full as I was expecting it to be and the scenery stunning.  I just wish that I ahd left my camera down with me.  Some of the things that I saw on my journey across the country was really  breathtaking.

 

We have so much space.