Thursday, December 23, 2010

Piano Jazz and Dry Erase Markers

Nelson airport: the fourth busiest airport in New Zealand. About half the size of the Ithaca airport and the "security checkpoint" consisted of scanning my boarding pass and telling me which direction my gate was. Somehow, though, it was the first place I actually felt a bit of the Christmas spirt. (A difficult thing for a northerner when your days are piled high with sunshine and beaches.) The decorated Christmas trees, the live jazz pianist playing Christmas carols, the enclosed space from which you couldn't really tell the weather outside, the families actually meeting travelers at the gate when they arrive; it was lovely. I felt like I was a bystander in the scene at Hethrow airport in Love Actually. And now I get to meet my family when they arrive! Unfortunately Christchurch is slightly bigger, so I can't wait right at the gate, but I will see them through the next door at baggage claim!

A 50 minute flight hardly gives you enough time to look through the in-flight magazine before you land again, but it turned out to be quite an enjoyable one for me. I sat in my assigned seat (though there were several people who moved to the empty seats up front) and an older genteleman motioned that he was supposed to sit in my row at the window. As I stood to let him in, I realized I had actually read his lips rather than listening to his voice when he talked. After we settled in I noticed he had a small whiteboard and a dry erase marker with him. I got excited, thinking perhaps he was deaf, but then realized I know AMERICAN Sign Language and even if he was a deaf Kiwi who did sign, he would most definitely not use ASL.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Picture Story... Takaka and Abel Tasman!

Since I arrived in Takaka a day early, I spent the extra day exploring all of the little shops and galleries in this tiny hippie town. In the evening I cycled down to the Hangdog campground (a climber's Mecca), where Dave and his students are staying for their 10 day south island trip. Hangdog lies right next to a river with some excellent swimming holes and a short walk from what is said to be one of NZ's best outdoor climbing areas.

As I am writing this (and talking about it) someone at the cafe where I'm sitting just asked if Hangdog is opened again or not. Apparently they had some problems with the city council and the Department of Conservation regarding the quantity of facilities for the number of climbers that flock there during the summer months. They are not open for camping, but have fortunately allowed Dave and his students to use the bunkhouse for their annual trip. This is a hot topic around town, as the managers of the backpackers (and several other randoms) have asked about it - trying to anticipate the increase of climbers patronizing thier own establishments if the Hangdog fails to reopen for the summer.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

She'll Be Right

I remember having a conversation with someone in the first month or so of my travels about how much I enjoyed the "Kiwi outlook" on life because everyone is so laid back, no matter where you go. There is a Kiwi saying "she'll be right" that explains this well - everything will, eventually, turn out okay... whether or not you actually do anything about whatever the current circumstance. I think the concept is based on a "don't worry" sort of attitude (because we all know many of us worry waaaay too much), but the person I was discussing it with (a Kiwi) said he thought it was borderline laziness and nobody ever got anything done.

I haven't really agreed with him until I tried to make plans for this week. I have planned for a while now to join Dave and some of his students on their "South Island Trip" to go rock climbing in Paynes Ford (abut two hours away from Nelson, where I have been staying). The only question was how I was going to get to Takaka (the nearest town). I decided to ask at the rock climbing wall and it turned out that lots of climbers head to Paynes Ford when they have a chance because it is some of NZ's best outdoor climbing! I was offered a ride from some who were going up Wednesday to climb for the day, but weren't sure if they would leave Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. Well, Nelson, one of the top two sunniest places in NZ, decided Tuesday was a good day to rain for the first time in ages. This postponed the plans to go up Tuesday night (and made me find a new hostel to stay the night since the other was booked) and when it was still rainy this morning, the plans to climb today were cancelled completely.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Yoga Workshop

I keep procrastinating when it comes to writing this post. Today I went out to lunch, rode a bike to the climbing gym and had an intense hour-long bouldering session, continued on said bike through some strong winds to the beach (beautiful!) where I met up with some fellow backpackers from my hostel, took a swim in the ocean, biked back to the hostel, ate dinner, took a shower, shook out all of my sand-coated belongings (it was quite windy at the beach), mended a couple things that required repairing (thanks, Mom, I've used the sewing kit a few times now!), chatted with new travelers at the hostel, checked my bank accounts, went on facebook, and then stared at a blank screen for a while before writing. Even now, by summarizing my day I have put off getting into my real reason for writing!

This weekend I had the opportunity to attend a three day Ashtanga Yoga workshop with Peter Sanson, a fairly well known name in the Ashtanga world. (No, I didn't really know of him until I did my research.) He studied with the Guru who popularized Ashtanga yoga (though it has been around for thousands of years), and now goes around leading yoga workshops all over the world. He was born a Kiwi, but moved to India to study with his Guru for 21 years. He has since returned to NZ to raise his two-year-old son while continuing to travel for workshops. Sometimes Peter will teach a "led" class where everyone stays at the same pace as they move through the series of Ashtanga poses, but more often he leads workshops where each individual moves through the poses at their own pace  (called "Mysore style" or supervised self-practice). During these sessions, Peter moves around the room and makes adjustments to correct positioning or assist you in going further in your practice. He is a gifted teacher and uses a gentle hands-on approach to encourage you - and your body - to release into the practice of Ashtanga Yoga.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

RT everywhere!

Today I went on the swings just because. I was walking through a park and there was a swing set with wooden seats (you know, the ones that don't crush your hips when you're an adult) just begging to be played on. I thought about how if I were with any of my friends, I would be racing them to the swings, but since I was alone I found myself looking around to see who would be watching (and judging) me. I then realized I am in the middle of a foreign country in which I have met a handful of people that I might never see again, and... who cares anyway? I love swinging, so why shouldn't I swing if I want to?! It was beautiful. Hot in the sun but actually chilly in the shade with the breeze and the movement of the swing. I really enjoyed having a few minutes on that swing with the wind blowing in my face! I had no appointments (aside from a rock climbing date later in the evening) so took advantage of my freedom and it felt so good!

In case you've never tried it, it's a little hard to get a picture of yourself on a swing--and capture the essence of swinging--without setting up a tripod on a delayed timer, etc. :)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


So, now I have had my butt kicked by a climbing wall twice in less than a week. I instigated a bit of an adventure on my last day with Meg's family. Summer spent the day with Nana so I could "shout" Meg, Joshua, and Eilidh a day at the climbing gym in Palmerston North. In kiwi terms, that means I paid (in order to say thank you for putting me up... and putting up with me). It wasn't the biggest gym, but they had a good variety of interesting climbs. Joshua hopped on the wall and got to the top right off the bat, and Meg did really well too. Eilidh needed a little time to watch us climb and then tried herself, getting about 3/4 of the way up her first time. She didn't get quite as far on her remaining attempts, but did pretty well for a four-and-a-half-year-old! Both of the kids seemed to really enjoy the bouldering area that wasn't quite so high and scary. Joshua was even trying some overhangs by the time we left! It was easy to see that the entire family has the natural ability to climb and all three said they would like to go back again! The only one who didn't seem to enjoy it was Yulana because she was quite tired but there were far too many interesting things to look at instead of sleeping.