07 February 2012

New Zealand Chronicles | Transitioning

12 December 2011

I observed my very last full day in New Zealand by taking the bus. Long live public transport! Ang bought me  a ticket for a ferry ride and tour of Waiheke. We had been sitting on it for my entire trip, waiting for the weather to improve. That did not happen. So, on a dreary Monday, I hopped on the Link, and went. 

The bus was weird. There was no automatic counting machine. I just put the money on a tray and the operator counted it by sight, or maybe it was measured by weight. The operator also gave change, from a tray full of money that was essentially unguarded. The whole thing was unsettling.

The ferry ride was nice not spectacular. It was raining. Everything was bleak. It was kind of a downer way to start the end of my trip. The bus tour helped; the driver was hilarious. Still, I found I wasn't motivated to get off the bus and walk through the town. Don't get me wrong, the views were still beautiful, and it was cool to be on an island where everyone owns a boat and the houses and worth millions. I know I would have enjoyed it more if Angie had been there. Her silly excitement (even for things she's already experienced) is contagious. But she had to work. Also, she and The Squash Player had their own Waiheke trip planned. No comment.

Love these guys!

My chariot.

It was pretty delicious. But how can to go wrong with meat
surrounded by a flaky crust?
I did not have any great mysteries revealed to me whilst on the island. I appreciated it for what it was, then I ate a pie. Angie told me I had to have a pie before I left. I was hungry. There were pies in the ferry terminal. It seemed perfect. Angie said she thought she had her first pie in that same terminal. We're so kindred. 

The ferry ride was kind of the end of my vacation. I started thinking of souvenirs I still had to get, postcards I still had to buy, pictures I still had to get from Angie and the stuff I still needed to pack. I started making lists. The flip had just about been switched. I did more shopping down near Queen Street at Global Culture. More money spent on me, but I got a few things for others. So I was getting better. It was the start of a spree. I got nearly all my shopping done that afternoon. I want to say I even started organizing my luggage, but that can't be right. 

Our grand finale dinner was at Prego. It. Was. Divine. First, we split a loaf of bread. Not just any bread. It was Pane di Grano Duro. Yes, that's excessive, as in entirely not necessary. But it was as good as Ang told me it would be. Granted I didn't think it would be an actual loaf, though after that latte in a bowl thing I really should have learned. I had the fish of the day, which I think was trout, over risotto. I also had a side of asparagus. It was all extremely delicious. We talked about a whole lot of nothing; safe to say we had covered all the major topics in the 10 days prior. We just enjoyed what we had. Life was good.

So good you guys. So. Good.
After dinner we stopped at Lime to see Matt. He makes an excellent gimlet. We talked about Internet data plans, among other things. Matt would not let me take his picture, because he's difficult. I listened to he and Ang gossip. The Squash Player appeared. Matt ordered a pizza from Chapel which was a) delivered and b) not even sold at full price. He's apparently difficult and special.


Difficult and special.
As you would probably guess, Ang, TSP and I ended up at Chapel. I was there my first night. I was there my last night. Ang tolerated TSP & I discussing books for a little bit. there was also further discussion of the builder from the previous night. Good times. I ordered a silly drink that had previously gone ignored on the menu. Ang & I stayed (not too) late in the night, discussing girly things and giggling. I love my friend.

Then it was time for me to come home.

Where the magic happens.

New Zealand Chronicles | Excess

11 December 2011

A lot of latte.
I had breakfast in New Zealand. I must stress it really is  the most important meal of the day. Ang & I went back to the place we went my first day there. I ordered a soy latte in a bowl. I thought "bowl" was a figurative term, indicating a large mug. It was actually quite literal, meaning a bowl - no handle. Ang stuck to her standard Diet Coke. Boring. 

I had a variation of my new favorite breakfast over hash browns. This time it was toast, cream cheese, tomatoes and basil. Again the toast was warm and everything else was cold. Again, it was delicious. Sharron met us in between her brunch and lunch appointments - it was an honor to be squeezed in to her schedule.

After breakfast, we shopped. Rather, Angie brought me to the cutest place where I was bound to spend a lot of money - The Garden Party. I went crazy. Everything was just adorable. Did I need nesting doll measuring cups? I actually think I did. And it made sense to get the matching spoons. I totally needed a business cardholder. Who could resist the tray that made kiwi shaped ice cubes? Not this girl. And the magnets were a must. A woman asked me if I needed anything wrapped, as it was nearly Christmas. 
"Nope. It's all for me."
"Good on ya!"
Apparently that kind of unabashed selfishness is rare in Ponsonby. It takes an American such as yours truly to show it's okay to splurge. 

Let's see. 

I dumped my purchases. We stopped by Angie's job to print something. I saw a workplace Christmas tree, which had all the airs of being workplace - halfhearted, even with the pohutukawas. That afternoon we went to watch The Squash Player actually play squash, or actually tennis (since it was outside). The Ladies' Man (+1 lady) was also there, as was Grumpy Gus and Sharron. The gang was "lit-trally" all there. We womenfolk watched the menfolk play, while we giggled and drank. I immediately saw the appeal of spending afternoons at the squash club. 

O.M.G. (Pronounced Boo - lay)
The best of the worst.
I asked The Ladies' Man to bring a lemon bar, just so I could have a taste. What? I like dessert. He obliged and actually brought plenty. Don't worry, I shared. The +1 had some and enjoyed it. Grumpy Gus took a bite, spit it out, drank some water and said something about a trip to the dentist. Again, maybe he's not always grumpy. But the evidence suggests otherwise. Also on the courts, Karl Urban. You would know him as Eomer, a Rider of Rohan. He's from New Zealand and apparently is learning to play squash / tennis. We knew it was him because he was wearing a jersey with his name on it. I didn't take any pictures of him. It seems like he wanted it too badly.

Men playing tennis.
This was to be my last foray with the group. Ang & I did our thing and went to Chapel Sundays. It had been days since we had been there you know. We sat. We chatted. We drank. We mingled. I passed up a bottle of whiskey won for knowing all the words to "End of The Road" by Boyz II Men. I noticed a boy on my person. This boy had intentions. He wasn't the adorable bartender I'd been ogling since day one, or the hot bouncer who was "guttered" to hear it was my last weekend in town. If we're being honest, he was just there. I mean he was nice and "a bit taken aback by it all." We had good conversation before we were those people making out at the bar. Every now and then I came up for air and checked on Ang. She and I actually conferred on this matter. Our consensus being simply that I was on holiday. I resumed.

06 February 2012

New Zealand Chronicles | Fun With Friends

10 December 2011

I had breakfast in New Zealand. I had breakfast in New Zealand and I took a picture of it. We packed up and cleaned and hit the road. We were still doing that thing where we wee dressing for the weather we wanted, instead of the weather we actually had. Saturday was colder than Friday, which had been colder than Thursday. We were right to be heading back to Auckland. We still stopped plenty along the way. We took a scenic drive and hoped against hope the sun would appear. It did not. It got to the point where I didn't even want to get out of the car. 

I got plenty of shots from inside the car. To the right, you see Ang doing her thing. Below you see my attempt at capturing the ferns, which added to the Jurassic Park-ness of it all. We sang. We hypothesized. I demanded Angie stop biting her nails. We saw a dog riding in the back of what was not exactly a pick up. This help our attention for kilometers. The dog was THRILLED. We were TERRIFIED. The back of the vehicle had no walls. The dog was pacing back and forth, and sticking his head around the side of the cab. The road was windy. There was dozens of things that could have gone wrong and hurt the dog right in our faces. We couldn't handle it. We kept a safe distance and a watchful eye. The dog was oblivious to us and our panic.

A safe distance.

Not too close.

Eventually the driver passed another car and was really far ahead of us. We never saw anything splattered on the side of the road, so we posit both dog and driver arrived safely at their destination. We stopped for lunch. 

One of the most awesome things about us, is our love of simple foods. We stopped in Kerikeri, not the same as Karikari with the white sandy beaches. It's also not Kawakawa, with the pretty toilets. Kerikeri is a full on tourist town. We ate at Rock Salt, which is such a brilliant rip off, I can't even be mad. They serve you raw food on a slab of volcanic rock. You sit there and watch your food cook. You pay them to do this, to cook your food to own preference. Genius. 
Obligatory cocktail. There was passion fruit involved.

Ang had lamb & steak I think.

A seasoned chicken breast on a slab.

Can I sue if I give myself salmonella?

I cooked and ate it all.
I then wondered how these slabs get cleaned.
It was still might hot.
Overall, lunch was enlightening. People paying to cook their own food at a restaurant. It just boggled my mind. Our spirits picked up a we  headed toward civilization. Maybe we had spent too much time on empty beaches. Maybe we should not have sang the entire Adele CD. Maybe we are really flowers who absolutely need sunshine. Whatever the reason, we were happier as we headed back toward people, and people were happy to have us meet them. 

We caught up with The Ladies' Man and Sharron, who were just sitting on the side of a river with a 12 pack of beer, chips and dip. It was the most perfectly random sight I could have imagined. I mean it wasn't that random, we knew they were there. And I am in no way saying The Ladies' Man is a perfect sight (because I could see him misunderstanding that), but it was nice to familiar faces, even if they had only been familiar for a few days.
"Have you plaited your hair?" - The Ladies' Man
"I was just looking at that."  - Sharron
I had indeed formed a braid as a headband, which I am wont to do simply if I feel it. My mom used to say "come on let me plait your hair," which I'm sure her mom used to say to her. I guess I thought it was a word or saying from the south. I was tickled to hear it in New Zealand. This is in no way to say The Ladies' Man tickled me, as I can see him boasting that as well. 

The spread, and The Ladies' Man.
And what do you know? The Squash Player just popped over,
you know, to tell Ang everything was going to be alright.

We hatched a fine plan, where we would all meet up later and cook dinner. Well, Sharron & TLM were going to cook dinner. I was going to make lemon bars, because let's be honest. After a week of no work, no errands and no cleaning, I was itching to do something domestic. Angie actually shook her head at me about it. We raced home and got ready and waited. We got hungry. And we waited. We watched a little television. And we waited. 

Our hosts are apparent dawdlers. They do not know the hostility from an hungry Angie. And The Squash Player also needs to keep his blood sugar on the regular. By the time we arrived, and saw the distinct lack of groceries, I knew the night was in danger. I mean a hunk of meat cooked on a slab of volcanic rock can only take one so far. Sharron & I shopped. TLM was there too, but he didn't really appear until the end. Back home they made Fettuccine Alfredo Lite. That's very much like Fettuccine Alfredo, but with the mushrooms off to the side because of picky pallets. 
Lemon bars.
Plus powdered sugar.
I made lemon bars using the metric system and Degrees Celsius. It was a gamble. But it was fun. I like to bake. I knew Ang wouldn't eat it. I knew TSP couldn't it. But I made it anyway, mostly because TLM had been so excited when I described it. Baking for someone who appreciates it makes me all warm and fuzzy. This is not to say The Ladies' Man made me... you get the idea.

We sat and ate and drank and had a lovely time. We talked about words and how "Black" is taboo in New Zealand but "Negro" is proper. We talked about Sharron's time in the states and about that one time I went through TLM's wallet and saw his real name. 
Also -  I'll let you in on a secret. The Ladies' Man takes a lot of heat, but I don't think he entirely deserves it. Not entirely. You can tell a lot about a man by the state of his kitchen. And while we were shooting the breeze, TLM did the dishes and tidied nicely - though we disagree on the need to properly rinse dishes after they've been soaped. Still, a clean kitchen. Swoon. A man after my own heart.

The Ladies' Man also has a bus. Yeah, there's no way to transition to that. This bus - which is actually an RV - was parked outside his home / Sharron's office. I do not recall the exact reason why, but we all piled inside to play a game. I don't remember the name of the game, but it is a proper game, complete with head gear. 

Getting it sorted.
The Ladies' Man.

You raise those little red hands and reveal who you are.
Then you ask yes or no questions of the other players until
you figure out who you are.
The game was fun. Sharron & TLM really liked the lemon bars, so I felt validated. TSP was there, so Ang felt "comforted." Sometime after TLM laid out and lit candles, the rest of us decided  to get going. I mean is that some sort of hint? I don't know. After a rocky start, It was a great night. And even now, it still has me smiling.

New Zealand Chronicles | Peaks & Valleys

9 December 2011

My hair is not typically that color, in case you were curious.
There we were. Sitting on the beach we had planned to visit with hardly any one else around. I would have dared to have said we were living the dream. It was sunnier, if not entirely sunny. I was reading and mostly oblivious to just how much sand was blowing into my curls. For a day a beach going, I thought we had done pretty well. I was about to start fully enjoying that "mission accomplished" feeling when guess what? It was time to move. We were off to the beach. But first, a little more Maitai Bay, because it was just so lovely. 

Testing the water.

We merrily continued our tour of Doubtless Bay by going to Karikari. It's a white sandy beach that's also a five mile track. You have to drive on a gravel road and walk through what we hoped was a controlled burn area just to get close. After navigating the brush in your flip flops (or jandals, as the Kiwis say), you then have to climb the sand and walk down the other side of the hill. But once you arrive, it's breath taking. Think about it. Within a week, I had seen black sand, windswept sand and white sand. There had been regular sand, wet sand, sand that had trees drawn into it and flying sand. I would find sand in my apartment for weeks after my return, and it would make me smile every time. 


The sun started to come out. Angie always waits for the sun.
And now I totally understand why.

Sand + Sun
It was overcast and a little windy.
But  I was there, and you need to know that.
Karikari was another almost empty beach. If someone told me there was one beach per Kiwi household, I would believe them. We found exactly one family or couple per visit.  I mean it's possible people had to work on a Friday in early December, but who can be sure?  

We made our way back to bach, stopping at any scenic area Angie deemed worthy. I think I've shown you the best though, though there are some really pretty shots with boats. 

We continued our eat / beach / eat / beach pattern by deciding on Thai for dinner. Angie likes Thai. Don't bother asking me why a woman who won't eat a tomato will eat Thai food, because I can't explain. All I know is that we put on pants and got ready to go. That was kind of the last of the real fun. Just before dinner, Ang had her hopes dashed. I could almost feel the weight creep into the windows of the bach and settle back upon her shoulders. At the same time, the light mood danced away, leaving us with nothing but a pretty view and an uncertain future. Dinner did not help.

We went back to the one street town and had dinner. It was the worst dining experience of the entire trip really. The customer service was horrendous. Ang had her food at least 5, if not 8 minutes before I had mine. I had to ask three times just to get a take away box. The food was okay, but the experience soured it. Back at the bach, we just sat. Ang talked to The Squash Player, who said everything was going to be fine. She actually said that to me. 
"[The Squash Player] said it's going to be okay, and that everything is going to work out." 

"Really? So it doesn't matter that I said it first? '[The Squash Player] says it's going to be fine.' Well then. If he says it, then it must be true."

"Well Danielle you don't know..." 
Do you see that people? Do you SEE? Good. Let's never forget. 

We had considered staying another day, if the weather was going to improve. But with the fun sucked out the room (and with The Squash Player as the only source of comfort), we opted to leave the next day. I showed Ang the full moon and we listened to the water. It was breathtaking in a way that was heartbreaking. A day before it was a world of possibility. That night, it was a treasure on the brink of being ripped away. It was pretty and it was sad. We went to sleep.