Thursday, October 28, 2010

Think left.

I had heard Nate talk about how every American he's ever seen drive a car in New Zealand turns on the windshield ("windscreen" here) wipers instead of the turn signals, and hugs the outside edge of the lane to a frightening degree. Well, I had never driven a car on the "wrong" side of the road before, but I thought I would probably adjust pretty quickly.

The car we rented is manual, which means I am the designated driver. Of course it would happen that I stalled before we even pulled out of the driveway, but once I got used to the clutch, we were in business. We pulled out of the rental lot and first off made a right hand turn. Moving to the far side of the street I could handle, but sure enough I surprised myself by flicking the windshield wipers instead of the turn signal! With a little assistance turning them off (or, as it was, turning on the rear wipers as well, before figuring out how to turn them off) we were officially on our way! We made a stop at the grocery store to stock up on some food for the weekend and then headed out of Auckland towards the Coromandel Peninsula.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

be healthy, be happy [composted 27 October 2010]

Today I made a very large salad. I sliced each piece of the greens and piled it all together in one big lot. The tool? A bread knife. The greens? Weeds. HEAPS of weeds. Grasses, thistles, clovers, "docs," and many, many more. The WWOOFer task for the day was to weed the pond area. We were given spades (to remove the pesky "docs") and bread knives (for all the rest) to accomplish the task. The three WWOOFers spent much of the morning wondering why in the world there was not a weed-whacker to use for this job, and obligingly made progress around the pond amidst a chorus of extremely loud frogs.

This is not what I signed up for. Farming? Yes, when I am not helping with the rockwall business, household duties, or office work, I am helping to check off farm chores that nobody else around would like to do. Is it organic farming? No. Do my hosts help out alongside me and teach me about organic farming? No. When I took on this WWOOFer job, I knew it would be different from others, but thought the opportunity to work with the portable rock climbing wall business would make up for that.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Geekfest, beaches, and two minute showers. [composed 23 October 2010]

They say any publicity is good publicity, right? I'm not sure if that counts outside of celebrities, or if the actual reference point is not mentioned in the report, but I suppose it's a positive thought! On the way home from a rockwall gig yesterday, we heard a radio DJ say something to the affect of, "You know what we need to teach Kiwi kids in school? We need to teach them to tie stuff down to trailers. That way they know when objects are safe and secure and we won't have things like couches or rockwalls flying off all over the roads." Now, ROCKUP wasn't mentioned, but it's pretty clear what he was referring to! It would be nice if people got the facts straight. That rockwall wasn't about to "fly off" the trailer, in fact it was because it was so well connected that it simply turned on it's side! Anyway, there's not much point to going off on here about it, I just think it's interesting to be on the subject end to see how skewed information can get.

I've had some busy days lately, including working the rockwall at Armageddon (aka: geekfest in Auckland) which is a video game/comic book/wrestling convention/expo. It was certainly an interesting crowd, and not one for which rock climbing was very popular. We were located right next to the wrestling ring, so it was quite hard to hear yourself think for parts of the day--let alone talk to kids who wanted to climb! I did think it was humerus how incredibly fake and dramatic the "wrestling" next door to us was. Regardless of the crowd and the long hours, I had a good time. I started off as the "harness assistant" getting everybody set to climb, then changed out to take the money, and later was trained to be "climb master" and was in charge of all the climbers for a while.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Everything happens for a reason.

Today I woke up to a rooster crowing outside my window. It was 5:05am and I had already snoozed my alarm once. Still dark, I fumbled for the light switch and donned my new "ROCKUP" uniform. Having had my allotted 2 minute shower the night before, I went straight to get some breakfast and make my lunch.

ROCKUP is a company that delivers and facilitates portable rock climbing walls and various other inflatable/challenge/team building/fun activities to schools, parties, and other gatherings. My first day on the job and we were headed South to a primary school in Auckland (where I just came from yesterday) to run a rock climbing/team building session with various classes! I was riding with a nice English guy who has worked for ROCKUP for the past few seasons on working holidays like mine. He ran through the plans for the day as we made our way down the major highway (one lane each direction) and I watched bits of the sunrise through the rainclouds.

Now, before you go looking up ROCKUP and find a misleading news story, I am just as healthy, happy and well as in my post from yesterday! The thing is, that we never made it to Auckland.

Naked and Alone :-P [composed 19 October 2010]

I am on the Naked Bus headed for my next adventure. No, I'm not naked, I'm just riding with a bunch of backpackers, headed North. I will be WWOOFing (Willing Workers On Organic Farms) with a family--who happens to own a portable rock climbing wall--for the next couple weeks. Before I get too into my upcoming plans, I want to reflect a bit on this past weekend.

Tramping through the mountains East of Auckland allowed me to see things from a whole new perspective. The first day we hiked 4ish hours up to a very exposed and somewhat "dodgy" campsite called Moss Creek. The topographical map I was lent had lines everywhere, particularly some very close together on the way up to the campsite! The next day we set off on a 5ish hour hike in the rain out, around, down, up, down, and back up to a "hut" near Pinnacles, a high point in this area with a spectacular view. The hut was warm and dry, had a kitchen, two bunk rooms with mattresses, a wood burning stove, a huge barbeque grill, and an expansive deck. Needless to say, we did not rough it the second night of our trip, however it did feel like we had earned the respite! The last day we hiked back down to the road's end, where we had started.

The hike was steeper, wetter, longer, and harder than any I had experienced in quite some time, and despite using (and very much appreciating) a loaner pair of trekking poes, my knees were not too happy with the additional weight of my pack and the constant stair-like trails. They were aching from the first day, however I think it was because of this that I had a chance to really take in my surroundings.

Monday, October 18, 2010

fun as; muddy as; sore as; sweet as!

I could not have asked for a better host to introduce me to such a beautiful country! "Mase," as his students call him, provided me with ample opportunities to get out and be active, while learning a bit about Kiwi culture at the same time! In my first five days, I went to an intense Bikram yoga class, rode a bike to some beautiful cliffs overlooking Auckland and took a walk with my camera, chatted with some neighbors, tried Marmite, sat on a deck overlooking the ocean to draw, learned the difference between the buttons on a Kiwi toilet, climbed at an enormous indoor rock climbing gym (and began to figure out the comparisons between NZ and US route ratings), discovered a chocolate bar called "Dairy Free" that tastes amazingly like milk chocolate, tried to play the Ukulele, army-crawled through the "Cube of Doom" (an awesome self-esteem/self-discovery/trust/courage-based maze challenge Mase built in his outdoor education classroom), hiked/tramped for probably 12 hours in a matter of 3 days, slept in a bivi under the stars, taught some introductory yoga to high schoolers, played  an extreme game of Egyptian Rat Screw with some random working holiday travelers in a hut up in the mountains, actually ran out of games and challenges stored in my brain because these high-schoolers had seen them all, took a dip in some f-f-f-freezing springtime river water, picked up on some teenage Kiwi slang, learned how to use trekking poles, swam in a pool fed by natural hot springs, got "take-away" and ate dinner by the sea, went climbing again (and can now brag about how I'm climbing 20s), and figured out how to get to my next destination via public transportation! There has been so much packed into my days that I can't possibly describe everything!

I wish I could add more right now but I have to go pack up and catch the bus!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Kia Ora

Well, I made it! I left LA Tuesday night and arrived in Auckland on Thursday morning. Quite an odd concept to just skip over a day of your life! The plane ride was long, however quite bearable. I had some nice Kiwis to chat with in my row and was even able to get some shut-eye, albeit not a full night's rest.

I am staying about 20 minutes East of Auckland in a nice window-filled house that sits on a cliff just next to the ocean. The view is stunning and I keep getting distracted from writing this update because of it! There's lots of vegetation and some distant islands to look at, as well as the faint sound of lapping waves mixed with plenty of bird songs to be heard.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The adventure begins... [11 October 2010]

There are bright blue skies above me, some whispering puffs of cotton balls to the side, and an expansive pillow of white beneath the wing I am peering behind. Somehow the image is fitting while I have begun the first day of what I expect to be an adventure of a lifetime! Although currently flying somewhere over Texas, I am ultimately headed to Aotearoa ("the land of the long white cloud.") For those unfamilar with this Maori nickname, you may have heard it described as the "adventure capital of the world," or even "the most beautiful place I've ever seen!" For others, it's known only as the home to hobbits and lions named Aslan.

That's right, I have officially set off for New Zealand! 

At the moment I declare this statement to others, there are a few different responses I typically receive. "Wow, that's awesome! I'm so jealous" seems to be a popular one, while other people focus on, "what do your parents think about that?" Most everyone, however, has to ask 'why?' "Why New Zealand?" "Why a whole year?" "Why so far from home?" My answer? "Why NOT?!"