Monday, March 31, 2008

No Shoes? Uh, wha?

[This will be the first in a series of posts regarding cultural differences between Canadians/North Americans and Kiwis, as perceived by me and Travis]

In Canada it is almost unheard of to walk around barefoot. Our climate, for one, ensures that we are sufficiently shod all year round.

Four years ago when I visited my sister in Auckland I made a startling discovery within an hour of arriving. In them mall, where Janci worked, I said to her, "Are the parents here neglectful? Why are those children not wearing any shoes in the mall!!!" She informed me that it was quite common to go around barefoot in New Zealand. "It's a beach culture," she said. I had never been anywhere that allowed people in public areas, such as malls or restaurants or grocery stores, to enter with no shoes. I thought, before I leave I have to try this "barefoot thing." I did. One day, after spending the afternoon on a soggy beach, my sandals were covered with so much sand I decided to leave them in the back of the car while I went grocery shopping. I have successfully made a trip to the supermarket and the beer store in bare feet. I don't recommend visiting a beer shop in bare feet... the walk-in coolers make standing very uncomfortable.

I'd love to be able to go around barefoot all the time. I believe living on a farm in rural Saskatchewan has made my feet really wussy. You NEED to wear shoes on the farm! You don't want to cut yourself or step on a nail. It could have detrimental effects to go barefoot on the farm. However, I have done it on a couple of occasions in Saskatoon: I attended 2 football practices with no cleats or shoes on (and it felt SO nice on my feet); and one day I had too many blisters on my feet from my sandals I was forced to walk along Meewasin trail barefoot (not as comfortable, and quite dangerous since there was broken glass everywhere).

I read an article today in the New Zealand Herald about kids wearing shoes for cross-country events. In a nutshell, the article discussed the possibility of making it mandatory for kids to wear shoes for phys ed classes and track and field events.

At first, this seems like a great idea! Make sure those little feet are protected! But, remembering how nice it felt to play football barefoot on grass I am not as inclined to be so "pro-shoe" as I have been in the past. People who have played sports with me, or have heard me complain about my feet, might find my change of perspective unusual. I would like to have the ability to feel comfortable barefoot... or at least in flat sandals, which are almost a uniform in this country.

One thing that barefootedness avoids is the need to be fashionable and spend money unnecessarily on expensive brand name shoes. Unfortunately, for me, I will still spend money on running shoes. :(

To read more about barefoot culture, here's a wiki article about "barefootedness."

Thursday, March 20, 2008

New Office!

I finally got a chance to set up my new office space. It's still in my apartment, however, my computer isn't sitting on my kitchen table anymore.

Travis and I moved our bed from the "master" bedroom (which is still pretty tiny), to the smaller room (now the bed has 2ft of room on one side of it). I spend most of my waking hours working, so I figured I'd rather have space and a balcony in my office. :)

I've got my zu name-plate in the window and everything. I have yet to make a sign and put it up.... I'll hang it from my balcony ;).

The unfortunate thing about my office is that it is also housing a spare bed. Behind the spare bed is spare headboards and random crap that was left in here that we don't want laying around... like a crappy lace curtain. I'm hiding the bed with a crappy, mauve bed skirt. Hopefully I'll be able to find some cheap fabric and kind of make a partition.... maybe hang it from the ceiling or something with a makeshift curtain rod. That's my grand idea, anyway. Right now the office is looking a little dodgy, especially since we have no extension cords or power bars yet. We also need an extra table/desk/flat top area. Hopefully in the next few weeks everything will be set up properly and it'll not be so ghetto.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Dr. Penfield - I Smell Burnt Toast

Multitasking is a very difficult thing for me - especially when it requires 1) hot kitchen appliances; and 2) computers.

Distracted by work and my crappy, crappy internet connection that allows me to do ZERO work at the moment, my toast got charred. SO charred, in fact, that it set off all the working smoke detectors in my place (note: Hallway smoke detector is not working) and has filled my apt with smoke. I thought it had been an hour since it went off, but it's only been 20 minutes. Still smells like burning.

I would REALLY REALLY appreciate it if the gods of the Internet could deliver my modem so I could actually get something done today... and gimme back my toast. Grr.

Monday, March 17, 2008


Not many people would find the topic of yogurt interesting. I know I don't.

However, I have started to make my own yogurt. It's partly out of thriftiness, partly out of practicality.

I eat a lot of yogurt. Since Travis and I live so far from any big supermarket with decent prices and selection, I have found a cheaper and lighter way to transport yogurt home.

EasiYo is a system of yogurt making at home. You buy a package of yogurt powder for about $3.50, purchase the EasiYo yogurt maker (basically a big thermos to suspend your yogurt container in), put the powder inside the yogurt container, add cold water, shake, place inside thermos thingy with boiling water..... and voila! In six to twelve hours you have delicious yogurt at home. And it's fresh and live and yummy.

I just finished making wildberry drinkable yogurt (Yop, anyone?) - and it's SO good. I started a new batch of plain yogurt again. Travis actually eats it, too, which is weird because he doesn't usually like yogurt.

Seriously, I'm really impressed with how easy it is. And, when I bought my yogurt maker I got a free moisturizer inside! Ya, EasiYo has a line of facial products - cleanser and moisturizers - made out of yogurt. The moisturizer is really nice, actually.

I'm going to finish drinking my homemade yop. mmmmmmmmm....

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Weird Day

This past week:
Travis went to work some more and finally got his IRD # (like his SIN number.... now he can get paid!). Yay.
Amy started working on Wednesday. Yay again! My commute happens to be longer than Travis's since I walk to work with him in the mornings, then walk home. Round trip: 30 minutes. He starts work at 7:30; I start work at 8am.

Went to Quiz night on Monday with Helen and the Quiz gang at the Dog's Bollix pub down the street. Our team won - again. We're at the top of the Quiz league.

Tuesday - nothing. made yummy supper

Wednesday - nothing. made yummy supper again.

Thursday - I went swimming with Helen; Travis did nothing. Made more yummy food.

Friday - Travis went out to the research station near the Ardmore Airport (happens to be the busiest airport in NZ). They do stuff out there. I don't know what. Test stuff, maybe? It's the second time he's been out there.

- We went on a field trip with a 3rd year marine physics class that Stuart Bradley - travis's boss - teaches. He has them testing ocean currents and stuff. We went with them to get out of the city - not because they needed our help or anything. Stuart and Chris (his wife) do this trip every year with 2nd and 3rd year students. We stopped in a town called Warkworth for supper, but the only places open were fish and chip shops, and our fish and chips were the greasiest I'd ever ingested. Eeesh. Then on to Leigh, the same place we went last week with Helen, etc. Leigh has a research lab because there's a marine reserve - no fishing in the reserve, so the fish and birds and everything are really tame. We stayed overnight there.

Saturday - We attempted snorkeling at the beach this morning, but the waves were WAY too big and it made for very murky water, so we just played in the waves and laid on the beach. After lunch we went out to the bridge where the class was performing their experiments and doing their tests. We basically just sat around, watched, took pictures, and walked back and forth across this VERY BUSY bridge, watching the tide and the current.

Travis and I were taking a break from standing around - we were eating cookies, actually - and I see Travis's face perk up and he starts waving to someone, and I hear yelling from the road. I thought, who could he possibly be waving to. We know 5 people in this country! I turned around and saw Louise waving out the window.

Now, here's the explanation.

Louise, and her boyfriend Nathan, lived in Montreal. Nathan's from NZ, and Louise is from Ireland. Travis and I saw them in the Vancouver airport. We boarded the same plane, boarded the same plane out of Honolulu, and, strangely enough, boarded the same plane out of Nadi, Fiji, to go to Malololailai Island, to take a boat to the Funky Fish resort in Fiji (we were the only 4 passengers on the plane out of Nadi - here's our pictures).

Nathan was en route to move home to NZ, and Louise was going to NZ with him on a Working Holiday visa (like me). They stayed in Fiji for 4 days and left a day earlier than us. We got to be quite good friends with them, since we had taken the same path from Vancouver and they were just very interesting people who were about the same age as us. There were also only 10 guests staying at Funky Fish, and we got along better with them than anyone else. We gave them our contact information and hoped that they'd contact us once they got settled in New Zealand so we could visit them sometime.

This takes us to today when Louise frantically was waving out the window to us.

They stopped their car, and I ran down the highway to meet up with them. We had a nice chat for about half an hour, then they went to the beach. I told them I was sad they hadn't contacted us yet, but they explained they've been busy family-hopping with Nathan's family scattered throughout the North Island. That's right. We hadn't gotten ahold of each other yet. I thought they had gone down to the South Island already, so imagine my surprise when I saw them in the middle of the same bridge we were on. It's not a spectacular bridge by any means. (the bridge is about 30m long),174.770508&spn=0.069551,0.137157&z=13

What blows my mind, and the minds of everyone in this 3rd year Physics class, was that of all the people who met up with friends outside of Auckland, it had to be the Canadians who had lived here for 2 weeks.... meeting up with people who also were fresh off the boat.... in the strangest location you can imagine. It still blows my mind. I can't figure out what it all means.

Anywhoo, we got back to Auckland at about 6pm today - Stuart and Chris gave us a TON of leftover food from this class trip that we weren't even really a part of, and we were still in awe of our random meeting with random new friends.

Ah, we also found a great little restaurant/bar half a block away from here, as recommended by the Lonely Planet website, called Verona. Yummy food. Decently priced (not cheap, but not bank-breaking), and a live, awesome DJ. It wasn't too busy, but it seemed like a really cool place. We're definitely going back.

Plans for this week? Ummmm.... tomorrow = shopping for various household items. Nothing substantial planned for the rest of the week - I might go swimming again to train for the Triathlon I'm going to do with Helen in 3 weeks. I hear it's actually daylight savings tonight here or something, so soon we'll only be -4 hours + 1 day off of Saskatoon time. (or +20 hours).

(fyi - the triathlon is a baby one.... 300m swim, 10km bike, 3k run. I could do that in my sleep! maybe not. I think I'll have to train for the running part...)

UPDATE! We were again misinformed about daylight savings time. It is not until April 6. Apparently Telecom (the equivalent to SaskTel in Saskatchewan) had not changed its automated time announcement to the new Daylight Savings time changeover. They have since fixed their error.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Update from Aotearoa

[this was originally written as an email, sent to friends and family on March 7, 2008]

I'm alive. Travis and I stopped in Vancouver for a few days before we headed down to Auckland.... and then we went to Fiji for 5 days. Fiji was excellent. I highly recommend staying where we did if you come down to visit us :) - The Funky Fish resort on Malolo Island The weather was great, even though I was scared it was going to rain the whole time. It only rained one afternoon.

Snorkeling was killer... thousands of fish everywhere! I'd never snorkeled before, either, and I was REALLY freaked out for the first 15 minutes or so (mostly cuz my mask didn't fit and kept filling up with water). I even lost Travis's snorkel and mask (and he's good enough he could dive down amongst the coral to get it, unfortunately he hurt his eardrum retrieving it.) The food was awesome, the people were great, and I even played a bit of beach volleyball. Travis and I were the most experienced players (along with the locals) so it made for an interesting game.

Now we're in Auckland, and I've spent money on trying to furnish a house..... all the big furnishings were here - but we needed dishes and cutlery and pots and pans and all that good stuff. It's starting to look like we live here now! Our flat is super cool. It's a bi-level apartment, and it has 2 balconies - one off the 2 bedrooms, and one out of the living room - one facing east, and one west. It's awesome. Apartments are REALLY small here.... our kitchen table doesn't really fit in the kitchen properly. The people who furnished this place obviously didn't know anything about interior design for small spaces (I've read many magazines on the topic). Anywhooooo..... we've found a place, and it's great. 15 minutes for Trav to walk to work - if he's slow. Here's a map of where we live.,+nz&sll=-36.868772,174.775143&sspn=0.007399,0.013475&ie=UTF8&ll=-36.857699,174.760938&spn=0.0074,0.013475&t=h&z=16&iwloc=addr

Travis is finishing his first week of work. We're going to his boss's place tonight for supper when he gets back from doing some field work, and, because Stuart's house is kinda far away and it would cost us a billion dollars in cab fare to get back home tonight, we're staying over at their place.

We're busy for the next 2 or 3 weekends going to a place called Leigh. It's north of Auckland, and there's a Marine reserve there. I guess it's kind of like a national park. We're going there for fun this Sunday, and next weekend Trav's going for work. Actually, he doesn't have to work - we're just catching a ride out there with a university class. My friend Emma (who used to live in Canada with my family) has invited us for Easter to her parents' "bach" (pronounced "batch" - basically a beach front home or cabin). Emma has asked me to take a hip hop class with her on Thursdays, and my other friend Helen has asked me to do a triathlon with her on April 6. I don't even have a bike!!! (but of course I'm going to do it!)

I think we've found a local pub, too. Where we live (just off bohemian K-Road) there are lots of pubs, but Helen and her group of friends go to a pub called The Dogs Bollix. On Monday night it's Quiz Night and it's an evening of intense quiz questions, beer, and prizes. :) Travis won a Guinness t-shirt, and I somehow won a Jagermeister lanyard. Whatever.... But it's definitely a quaint neighbourhood pub.

For now I'm using stolen internet, and it's a little slow, so I don't go on it very often. Hopefully I'll have some substantial internet by the end of next week. Internet here is ridiculous. You NEED a connected telephone line to get internet. I've heard the spiel from quite a few people about how NZ in an internet revolution at the moment, but we're just a few months too early to get good deals and "Naked DSL", which means you don't need a phone line. They're really behind here.....

I'll throw some pictures on Flickr sometime - but they'll be from Travis's camera. [I unfortunately don't have my camera anymore. :( it's gone. I have no idea where it is. I had pictures from xmas on there because I lost my connector cable for it. now I bought a new cable and it's in Saskatoon, but my camera is nowhere to be found. :( sniff sniff. that's a pisser.]

Friday, March 7, 2008

Update on the Living Situation

[this was originally written as an email to family, sent March 6, 2008]
Everything is good so far - we found a place to live... yay! And we even have dishes and forks and spoons and one pot. And Pillows! we'll be sleeping in luxury this evening. ;) But I have lost my camera, so any pictures we send will be from Travis's camera, and he's a little lax with the photo uploads, so I don't know when those will be available.

If you're interested in seeing where we live on a map, click the link:,+nz&sll=-34.563121,173.097839&sspn=0.974849,1.724854&ie=UTF8&ll=-36.857699,174.760938&spn=0.0074,0.013475&z=16&iwloc=addr

Our apartment has 2 balconies - one facing east, and one west. I can't remember where the sun comes up because I'm all messed up with the sun being in the north part of the sky. You wouldn't know how confusing your directions become until the sun isn't in the same part of the sky anymore. I have to look at most maps upside down to understand where I am. ;) Anyway, one balcony faces an old Jewish cemetery - but all we see are the tops of very very old, lovely trees. It takes Travis 15 minutes to walk to work, and it takes me 2 seconds, if I'm lazy. We do have a spare room in this place if anyone would like to visit....

Trav likes work, as far as I can tell.... his boss is really nice and is taking us on an excursion next weekend with his 3rd year students. We're going to the same place this weekend - it's called Leigh and it's north of Auckland. Apparently there's good snorkeling.

We've been out and about most nights this week - out with Helen or Emma.... We're really close to a fun pub called The Dogs Bollix and every Monday night Helen and her friends attend "Quiz Night" - it is what it sounds like - there's quiz questions, and if your team answers the most right, you get prizes. It's really fun!

Anywhoo.... that's a mini-update from me. It's getting late (10:20pm - apparently that's late for me now) so I'm going to test out my new $35 pillow. This better be the best thing I've ever slept on.