Friday, September 30, 2011

Getting Sick Abroad

Have you ever had those moments where you can almost hear yourself mumbling “I want my mommy”? You know the times. You have moved out of the “nest” and are mean to be taking care of yourself. You’re quite happy going about your life until suddenly you are struck down by some foreign germs taking over your body. It all starts with a bit of a sore throat, but you might be convinced it’ll disappear with some tea and a good night’s sleep. Then the congestion comes and brings along the ache in your head. You leave work early to walk slowly to the store and stock up on tea, honey, lemon juice, throat lozenges, and soup.  Then you realize that’s not enough and add in some extra vitamin c, echinacea, ibuprofen, and Tylenol. Only, you’re in a foreign country and can’t find the Tylenol – apparently in NZ it’s called Paracetamol. You gather your pile into your backpack, but when you think about walking 2km home up a couple big hills, you burst into tears. You’re just too weak. You gather your emotions long enough to call your flatmate, who actually answers for once, and then wait there pathetically to be rescued. You force yourself to eat some soup, put yourself to bed at 6pm and wake up thirsty and aching in the middle of the night. You’re too stuffed up to breathe, it hurts like crazy to swallow, and it’s all you can do to get through the night. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mentioning the Unmentionables

There are many food products I have grown up with in the States that they do not sell in NZ. Often when trying to follow American recipes, I need to either find substitutes for things like vegetable shortening, or just kind a kiwi version of a similar recipe. It’s hard enough trying to convert grams into cups for me to be able to follow a recipe, but to also figure out substitutes makes things rather complicated and at times seems like too much effort!

I got used to not being able to buy Ghiradelli chocolate chips (the reliable brand in the States that is dairy free) and instead became partial to Whitakers dark chocolate blocks that they have here in NZ (yummmm). The thing I haven’t gotten used to is the selection of deodorants that Kiwis have to choose from. I have always been partial to solid deodorants (roll-ons are too wet!) but they don’t really have any of them here. The options are typically roll-ons or spray-ons (anybody want to explain to me why an “environmentally conscious” country located so close to the ginormous hole in the ozone layer uses so much aerosol?). Regardless of the limited options, I have switched to natural deodorant (sans aluminum) in the past few years so wasn’t interested in the majority of the selection available anyway. I instead had to seek out health food/organic shops in order to find natural deodorants, but they never had one that seemed quite right. I’m not enough of a hippie to go for the powdery stuff you sprinkle on, and I was skeptical about a liquid spray on. There were a few solid choices, but they all seemed to have very “alternative” scents to them. The only other ones were super flowery and made me gag.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Baked Beans and Porridge, Chestnut and Pear Forage: Every Penny Counts

Alright, so they don’t have pennies in NZ, but you know the saying. And when you’re jobless and struggling to pay your weekly rent without dipping into the savings account in your home country, you can get pretty resourceful!

When I moved to Wanaka, I completely cut out the purchase of any wine/alcohol or chocolate. I decided that these were two main things that were unnecessary indulgences I could live without. I also made every attempt not to spend money on activities or entertainment. I cut my grocery bill down to $20 a week and never ate out. I may not have had the most varied, well rounded, or interesting meals, but they were enough to sustain me. I also found plenty of free activities to entertain me. Job searching, blogging, climbing, wandering town, volunteering at the climbing gym, sitting on the lakefront, and reading all occupied my time.

I shopped around for the cheapest porridge for the quantity, and have eaten porridge for breakfast (with a banana and brown sugar if it fits in the budget) nearly every day since I moved to Wanaka. For lunches I have lived on either leftovers or peanut butter and jelly (jam, for all you non-Americans) and I have consumed more pasta dinners than I can count!

At one point, after researching some frugal cooking ideas online, I started a soup train. I made a basic chicken noodle soup one night, and every evening after would add different ingredients so I had enough for dinner and some leftovers to alter the next day. I edited the meal until I think the last day it turned into some sort of curry. Even though it’s not quite as exciting, I’m still not afraid to fall back on baked beans on toast! Where can you get a cheaper meal that’s still quite tasty? I will point out, however, that I have not once purchased prepackaged instant noodles!

In order to stretch my food a bit further, I also began looking into alternative methods of acquiring nourishment. No, I didn’t start stealing!

Romancing the Vines

“Are you just going to stay for a year, or will you move there permanently?

“Well, my visa is only good for a year so there are only a few possibilities for me to stay longer. I could stay if I get a work sponsorship, but they don’t know what my profession is in New Zealand. If I were to work in agriculture for 3 months, I could possibly extend my visa for up to 3 months… Or, I could just get married.” I would throw in there at the end with a playful smile. “Maybe I’ll just go work at a vineyard for a while and keep my options open.” Working at a vineyard; it sounded so romantic, so distant from my past experiences. I love wine, so why wouldn’t I enjoy the process of making it?