by Jim
on Aug 31st, 2007

Good Luck, All Blacks

header_footer.jpgThe All Blacks just departed for France amidst much fanfare to play in the 2007 Rugby World Cup, which starts in about 8 days. The US is in it as well but I have absolutely no connection to that team, so I’ll pull for the Kiwis in this event. (They’re a much better bet, BTW.)

Have a look at the main World Cup homepage for more information.

by Jim
on Aug 30th, 2007


Day 3

Rotorua is probably the tourist trap/destination on the north island. But that isn’t without good reason. I found the city very interesting and enjoyable, despite the huge number of hotels, resorts, minigolf, souvenir shops, and so forth.

Rotorua is located on a very active geothermal field which is one of it’s main claims to fame. There are steam vents and boiling mud pools scattered around the city. They can burn you so most of these have a little fence surrounding them, but otherwise they’re just left as is. There are even such vents right in the middle of the fairway on a golf course I drove by! The evening I arrived in town, I took a stroll through a city park and marveled at how bizarre it all looked, what with swing sets and billowing steam in the same scene. The downside of all this steam and boiling mud: the city reeks of sulphur, smelling basically like rotten eggs most of the time. Some areas are particularly bad, and at first it can just about drive you nuts when you can’t escape the stench whether in a store, your car, or anywhere else. Thankfully my YHA room was paneled such that the eggs were overpowered by cedar.

(Note: I’ve not been to geothermal areas before, and I was wondering how they’re managed in the States. Are they denoted as hazards? Comments welcome.)

In addition to the geothermal sites, there is a large Maori population (take that both ways) around town, as well as a wealth of Maori cultural attractions. I visited Te Puia for a tour of the Maori museum, famous geysers, and a traditional Maori dance. It was a great time and I quite liked the Maori dance. If I had it to do again I’d sign up for the dance/dinner which I’m sure would be great.

I visited the German-styled Rotorua Museum and Art Gallery. This used to be a bath house in the early 1900s and half of the building has been converted into a museum of the bath facilities. I got a kick out of the large menu of treatments that could be used to solve just about any ailment through various combinations of hot, cold, mud, massage, electricity, etc. I can at least imaging how one’s skin might be helped by a mud bath, but fixing kidney problems or a ‘weak heart’??? I don’t buy it..

Lastly, I went to an attraction which was probably geared a bit more towards kids but was nonetheless really interesting: a show about sheep. Since I would never get this on the agenda if I was traveling with anyone else I decided to seize the opportunity. It was a good show, and now I know all about 19 different types of sheep. I even got to see a dog trial, which is basically commanding a dog to herd sheep through a serious of gates. (I heard this used to be a staple of the Sunday morning agriculture shows here in NZ.) Flame on.

With that I leave Rotorua. A full one day is probably enough IMHO. Off to Taupo…






by Jim
on Aug 29th, 2007

A Famous Photo at Last

You may remember that a while back I was sent a note requesting permissions to use one of my photos in a magazine. Unfortunately, it was subsequently dropped from the final edit.

Just the other day one of Angela’s Auckland photos was selected for inclusion in an online accommodations directory. You can see it at Schmap. Just scroll down to Auckland City YHA and hover over that listing. One of the photos will be credited to “Kalafut” (due to the Flickr account name).

That’s where I stayed a few days ago as well.

by Jim
on Aug 27th, 2007

Auckland City

Days 1-2

I departed Christchurch on the first flight to Auckland and landed just after 8am. This was to be my only full day in Auckland so I wanted as much of it as I could get. I picked up my run-of-the mill rental and headed into the city.

I thought I was lost a number of times while following the “City Center” signs as I meandered through the surrounding residential suburbs. The route in from the airport basically wound through little towns that were situated upon rolling hills. It was unlike the typical large city approach on a major freeway with the skyline in the distance. And then after coming around yet another bend… there’s the Sky Tower, the harbor, and I’m about two minutes’ drive from downtown.

img_3190.jpgI didn’t really have much of an agenda for Auckland. Most, if not all, of the Kiwis I know recommended not even entering the city. I couldn’t in good conscience skip it altogether, so I allowed one day. My first to-do was food: I needed a proper breakfast, and Lonely Planet recommended a small pedestrian-only street called Vulcan Place. I was expecting a bit more prominent a plaza and managed to walk right by it twice. There are a couple of blocks worth of little pubs and restaurants, and as LP promised there were a few serving breakfast. My choice was the very hearty Moorish Eggs, served with kefta meatballs and Turkish bread. I’d give it a 6/10, though it suited me fine as I was starving.

Looking through LP there were only a few attractions that stood out for me, and a number of them tended to be museums. I didn’t really want to start on such a slow note and opted for sailing instead. (Auckland is the “City of Sails” after all.) SailNZ runs cruises on the harbor in a real America’s Cup boat. It’s pricey, but the novelty seemed worth it. It was a decent cruise, but it wasn’t a good day for sailing. There was simply no wind. The boat nonetheless went, and we had an informative and entertaining trip. Most of the NZ tourist attractions are very well done in that regard.

img_3195.jpg img_3199.jpg img_3197.jpg

So… this is where the Auckland City portion of my trip starts to fall over a bit. After the cruise, the crew invited us for some beers in a nearby pub. That would have been fine, but I met a couple of amicable guys on the boat (including the COO of Bank of New Zealand who just moved to Auckland from Sydney) and it turned out to be a full night in the pub. Here’s the short version of the next 12 hours: left the car (and accidentally my toiletries) downtown, had a painful night in the mediocre youth hostel, got kicked out in the morning against my will to sleep in, found the car (no damage 🙂 ), found the $40 parking violation 😥 , and finished my sleep in the car down by Viaduct harbor.

Having blown through half of day two, the time and interest in Auckland museums etc. was well and truly gone, so I chose to hit the road and head to Rotorua, which is where this will pick up…

by Jim
on Aug 24th, 2007

The Storm Before the Calm

(Note: this post was written especially for Ngaira, who called to say that she didn’t want any more “boring political stuff” showing up on this blog.)

I’m on holiday starting tomorrow. Aside from the 500m walk between the international and domestic terminals at Auckland airport, I’ve not seen any of the north island of New Zealand. So I’ll fly into Auckland tomorrow morning to start a week-long journey by car which will end in Wellington. I’ve booked hostels and have my route roughly planned:

View Larger Map

But before I can leave I have to prep the house for the movers who will be showing up just about when I’m returning. I’m not actually relocating for a while, but the atrocious sea shipment schedule has pulled everything forward a bit. (11 weeks?? I assumed the container would actually be put on a boat and not just set adrift, but I was wrong.) This premove sorting seemed like a pretty manageable task before I started, but now some four hours later with not much to show for my efforts, I’ve decided it’s a pain.

By this time tomorrow I’ll be relaxing in Auckland, but for now the piles of stuff are calling me back to work.

With any luck I’ll be able to post from the north island next week.

by Jim
on Aug 20th, 2007

If you had $50 to spare.

I just donated $50 to Ron Paul 2008. I, however, don’t know who I will support in the 2008 election. This $50 was paid by me on behalf of a colleague and friend who cannot submit a donation as he’s not a US citizen (thereby making it against FEC rules).

I find this support pretty impressive. It not only reinforces to me the importance of the US worldwide and the attention paid to it, but it also is indicative of the immense frustration that has built up during the current administration. But aside from just supporting a candidate, this $50 is also a vote of confidence in the US system and ideals. (I know because I was told so.) While I’m not yet a Ron Paul supporter, I can see why he might look attractive for those wanting to get back to basics:

Brief Overview of Congressman Paul’s Record:

He has never voted to raise taxes.
He has never voted for an unbalanced budget.
He has never voted for a federal restriction on gun ownership.
He has never voted to raise congressional pay.
He has never taken a government-paid junket.
He has never voted to increase the power of the executive branch.

He voted against the Patriot Act.
He voted against regulating the Internet.
He voted against the Iraq war.

He does not participate in the lucrative congressional pension program.
He returns a portion of his annual congressional office budget to the U.S. treasury every year.

That’s the end of the free support for now. I figured if a foreigner will put money behind a long-shot candidate that he can’t even vote for, I could at least plug the guy too. Now I can only hope the US populace is as interested and participative in this election as my colleague is.

by Angela
on Jul 31st, 2007

Home in P-town

Well, folks for those of you who were wondering; yes I am home.  It’s summer in the US and it’s warm averaging about 28C to 30C.  I have to say I have missed warm days while in NZ so I am glad that I return for a nice summer instead of our normal frigid winter in December.

Last week, I met up with some of my friends.  They have a little boy aged 4.  We were picking “tomatoes” from her back yard.  I was corrected by the kid for saying to-mah-toes instead of to-may-toes.   Ah such is life, just can’t win! ;-).  Once in a while I still turn on the windshield wipers instead of the signal indicator but I’ve kept on the right side of the road instead of left.    I signed off my emails with “Later” instead of “Cheers”.   I wonder what I should do when I meet a bunch of europeans/ english and american at the same place….  give the american a hug and the european/english a kiss on both cheeks??…  I think I’ll stick to a hand shake just in case I mistook a european for an american or vice versa.  Don’t want to start unnecessary confusion!.

by Angela
on Jul 10th, 2007

Farewell Aoteroa

E noho ra

Well, today is the day. I had my fish and chips,  coffees, sushi, and savories (at Copenhagen Cafe) .  I saved my last Friday’s meal for pizza from Pizza Carto but Pizza Carto was on “Winter break”  oh well, Ciao pizza carto.

Jim and I visited the ocean yesterday.  Just to have a look before returning to the midwest.  Yeah Peoria is not “the” town, but I must say that I missed it a lot while I was in NZ.  So I look forward to returning home and getting back to my gardening, work and some daily routine.

Tessa, Deb, Annette, and the ladies thank you for always making me feel welcome.  It was really nice working around you.  I’ll try and post pictures of my backyard under development.    Ngaira, Keith, Fiona and John; I am so glad we got to share Thanksgiving dinner 06.  Chris, Min and the girls thanks for being frequent life savers.    Mum, Jen and Lena thanks for visiting me in NZ and Australia.

Well, the blog is beginning to sound as though I just won an award ;-).  LOL
Jim and I had a wonderful time traveling around NZ.  We now have renewed interest to travel around the USA.

by Jim
on Jul 7th, 2007

Are You Geographically Impaired?

gc1776globe.jpgEvery few months I read another story about how people in the US are geographically ignorant. 20% think the Sun orbits the Earth, half can’t find the Pacific ocean, none can name all of the States capitals after they graduate 5th grade, etc… But watching the UK version of “Millionaire” after work has shown me that the Brits aren’t much better and can’t name half the capitals in Europe (those countries ending in ‘ia’ are particularly pesky). I’ve always thought I was pretty good at geography, but some recent memory lapses have scared me, driving me back to an excellent quiz site:

This is an oldie but goody, and one that ignorance-fearing folk should visit every so often for a tune up. I gained some false confidence on the USA test, scoring 147/150. Off to Europe! Hmmm…96/117…not fantastic (thanks mainly to those ‘ia’ ones). But we now live in Oceania, so surely I must ace that test, right? Nope. That’s where things fell over so badly I dare not post my score. Africa, the Carribean, China, India… all testing disasters!

So, this little site has knocked me down about 23 pegs where I rightfully belong: with the rest of the geographically impaired. Study hard, Grasshopper.

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