Saturday, December 15, 2012

Things I've learned while in New Zealand:

We've only been here a few weeks, but I've already learned several useful things while traveling through New Zealand:
  • Rugby is not something to joke about. Example: Me: Those All Blacks sure got a beating by England, eh? Kiwi: When is your flight back to the USA?
  • "Crikey!" can actually be used to exclaim excitement or shock, not just to mock Crocodile Dundee. Example: Crikey, these weeds are out of control!
  • A moko is the tradition face tattoo of the Maori people. Women had them on their mouths and chin while men wore them all over their faces.
  • A "pozzie" is a space. Example: Do you see a pozzie to park the car?
  • In Rotorua shops close at 6pm, or 2pm on weekends. This is because New Zealanders like to enjoy life and not be stuck at work all the time. Good on ya, Rotorua, good on ya.
  • Kiwis use the expression "Good on ya" to express a liking. Example: see above.
  • I quickly pick up new expressions (a little too quickly). Lance has forbid me to use the phrase "good on ya" for at least 2 days. I decided typing it does not count.
  • Its amazing how difficult it is to break a habit.  Despite being here for several weeks, I still try to get in to the "wrong" side of the front seat of a car. Riding on the left side of the front seat makes me feel like I'm in a robot car.
  • Topography on maps is important in New Zealand. Topography on a map is not important in Ft. Lauderdale because everything is flat, however this is not the case in NZ. I'm convinced that constant uphill walking uses specific muscles that no one in Florida has (unless they hit that button on the treadmill). 
  • It is incredibly important to know your Maori vowel pronunciation (click here to hear). It will (slightly) help you sound like less of a complete idiot when telling the bus driver that you need to go to Ohaeawai, Kaingaroa, Kaukapakapa, Oromahoe, Paekakariki, Te Anau or Waipukurau. Despite daily efforts, I am still in the "sounds like idiot" category of tourist.
  • It is also important to know that Maori pronunciation of "wh" is pronounced "fu". Also quite frequently used in city names, such as Whakatane, Whakamaru, Whananaki, Whangamata, Whangamomona, Whanganui, Whangarei. Best of luck.
  • A very common breakfast for Kiwis is muesli, a combination of uncooked rolled oats, small bits of dried fruit and nuts. Some have it with a bit of milk while others have it with milk, yogurt, and cream and more canned fruit, all together, in one bowl. Yes, milk, cream, and yogurt. 
  • Kiwis love their dairy. We stayed with a couple who had ice cream...with cream poured on top. The top three ice cream flavors are: 
    • #3 Hokey Pokey - vanilla with honey comb bits
    • #2 Jelly Tip - vanilla with raspberry jelly and chocolate flakes
    • #1 Vanilla - from New Zealand cream, as if there was any question. (So far Lance has only tried 2 of the 3, but there is still time.)
    The Shweeb
  • Buying fish in New Zealand is expensive because they export it all over the world. The market says that if fisherman can sell a fish for $40USD in the US, then the locals should pay that too. 
  • Toe-may-toe / To-mah-toe
    • I say cookies, they say biscuits
    • I say beets, they say beetroot
    • I say cilantro, they say coriander
    • I say fries, they say chips
    • I say chips, they say crisps
    • I say bell pepper, they say capsicum
    • I say entree, they say appetizer
    • I say dinner, they say tea
    • I say 7-up, they say lemonade
    • I say lemonade, they still say lemonade (and yes they have both 7-up and lemonade)
    • I say swiss chard, they say silverroot
    • I say ketchup, they say tomato sauce
    • The Zorb
    • I say kiwi, they say kiwi, but sometimes they mean the fruit, sometimes they mean the bird and sometimes mean themselves. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Reminders from Rotorua, New Zealand

Lance and I were caught in the rain the other day while walking home in the city of Rotorua and I had a flashback to a night when I was about 11 years old. My dad and I were driving home on a rainy night and he pulled over to pick up an old man who was walking with his groceries. Dad pulled over and gave the guy a ride to his house which was only about a mile away. It was just few minutes to drive, but I'm sure it felt like an eternity to walk in the dark rain. I don't even know if my dad would remember this small gesture, but it obviously stuck with me since it was about 20 years ago. No one offered us a ride when we were walking the other day, but the next time I'm driving and see someone who obviously just needs a quick lift out of the rain, I'm going to follow my dad's example and lend a stranger a hand. 

It made me think about how much parents' actions impact their kids. I don't remember what I got for Christmas that year, but I do remember my dad showing me how easy, and important, it is to be nice to each other, especially when someone is in need. I think this is a good little reminder around the holiday season. I hope the parents that I know show their kids what the holidays are really all about, and not just be another example to get obsessed with the crap-buying culture. I know its important to give back and volunteer at all times of the year, but it seems extra important around the holidays and yet it still can get lost in the shuffle of organizing recipes and planning parties. So this is just a friendly reminder to take the time and lend a hand to a stranger, and maybe encourage some of your friends and family to do the same. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Buenos Aires, Argentina

After a very long mess of a flight leaving Miami that included a 3 hour initial delay (until 2am), departing, and then having to come back because of an engine problem, we finally arrived in Buenos Aires on a Wednesday night, about 9 hours later than planned. Not surprisingly, our bags took another 12 hours to join us, but despite all of this we were in good spirits! After a very short months of planning and a few hectic weeks of packing and moving, I was just happy to finally be on foreign soil!

About 2 days before we left I had found us a place to stay in the heart of the city and we had been in touch via Google Talk to reserve our room. Ada y Valentyn Bed & Breakfast had suggested we hire a fixed-rate taxi, a “remis”, and we happily forked over $40 for a 45 minutes cab ride from the Buenos Aires airport directly to their front door. Completely erase your mental image of a stand-alone cottage with wrap-around porch B&B. This was a huge door on a typical large city street, with about 20 buzz-in buttons. It didn't look like much from the outside, but once Ada buzzed us in and we walked down a 20 foot long and very tall hallway we were greeted by a winding marble staircase an an old-fashioned metal door style elevator. We took the small stairs and arrived on Piso 2, Apt. B. finally finding our home for the next two nights. The foyer was grand with 12 foot ceilings, antique furniture and a beautiful light fixture. Ada, a lovely woman from Buenos Aires greeted two very weary travelers and happily showed us around. Her and Valentyn, who is originally from Europe, have remodeled this apartment into a guesthouse while they live a few stories above. It was meticulously clean, had charming antique furniture in each room and was perfect for our two short nights in Buenos Aires.

Since we now only had one day in the city we played complete tourists. We walked to Plaza de Mayo, one of the main squares and then strolled through San Telmo, the old town part of Buenos Aires. To be completely honest I wasn't as impressed with Buenos Aires as I thought I would be. Maybe because it was a weekday and the area was not as alive as I've read it to be on a Sunday during the market or a Saturday night when Tango is everywhere in the streets. We did find one square that is known for having Tango and there were a few dancers displaying their skills. We sat to enjoy a quick show and our first Argentian snack – a Quilmes beer for lance, a refreshing water for me, and a bowl of french fries. I don't even order fries when I'm in the states, but it was the best snack-like item on the menu. They came with two amazing dips though, one creamy garlic creation and one spicy tomato.

After walking for a few hours we jumped on the every-big-city-has-one double decker tour bus to see the rest of the city. We were tired, and there was no way to see so many things in just one afternoon and there wasn't any one thing in particular that we were dying to see. We wanted to get an overall feel for the city and with the time constraint this was the best option, and it was lovely. It was fairly cold since its just the beginning of Spring here, but the sun was shining and the view from the top was well worth the chilly wind. We plugged in our guide headphones and learned all about the city through the voice of an English gentleman. The neighborhoods drastically changed every 20 blocks or so and the evolution of the city was evident from the old construction in the Boca neighborhood to the shiny new glass buildings in Puerto Madero. After riding along for a few hours, we walked around the city center, and found another snack. Our mealtimes were completely off schedule, but a coffee for Lance and empanada de humito (like a cream corn) for each of us were perfect.

The bed and breakfast had a few other guests while we were there, a couple from Germany and a guy from South Africa. He was kind of stuck in Argentina because his country wouldn't let him back in without a Yellow Fever vaccine. His overdue stay worked out well for us though because he had several restaurant recommendations. We bundled up with coats and boots and walked about 6 blocks back to San Telmo to a restaurant called La Brigada. The d├ęcor was filled with historic sports memorabilia, but in a historic way more than in a casual sports bar kinda way. Finally I could have some great Argentinian wine and Lance could discover if all the rumors about Argentian meat were true. We ordered what turned out to be a wonderful Argentian Malbec – Cabernet blend, it was really delicious. I had 2 small plates, a grilled eggplant dish that was served cold and drenched in olive oil and delicious spices. It literally melted on my tongue. And a house salad which was a huge, and very pink, with a mix of spring greens, celery, beets, potatoes, hard boiled eggs, green beans, peppers and just enough oil and vinegar. Lance had what we now know to be a common side dish, a cold potato salad with celery and carrots and a sirloin steak. He didn't quite cut it with a spoon like they do on Food Network, but he said it was quite delicious. So it was a quick stay in BA, but just enough to get a taste, and we had a great time.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Beware of the "Beyond"!

It all started with a trip to Bed, Bath & Beyond...where we bought this seemingly innocent shower curtain:

...and here we are 6 months later planning a trip around the world! 

Technically it was a Saturday in July when we'd been working nonstop at camp and were in need of some true relaxation. We went out to brunch, saw a movie and then decided to take a scenic drive up A1A. (Actually I blame this all on my mom really because before our drive we called her to see if she wanted to have dinner, but she already had plans, so our date with destiny began...)

We drove about 30 minutes north and ended up sipping mojitos at a beach front restaurant. Maybe it was the way the sun was making the horizon glisten, but somehow our conversation went from normal chatter to “Hey, let's go travel the world”, "Ya, that sounds like a great idea!"

I'm too logical to pretend I didn't mentally think“Reasons Why We Should Travel the World (now)”:
  • We don't have kids yet
  • We have about 10 months left to finish our masters degrees in order to pursue new career goals
  • All we need is internet for school (and thanks to that guy featured in the London Olympics opening ceremony, the internet is everywhere!)
  • We can kinda afford it as long as we do work exchanges along the way
  • Most importantly, why wouldn't we!? Missing loved ones quickly came to mind and still pull on my heartstrings daily, but those loved ones are the people who have always encouraged me to follow my heart, even if it leads me miles away.
Fast forward and somehow its now August 30 and in these fast few weeks from that fateful night we have made some major moves toward departure. Unfortunately we still have way too many things to get done. Our To Do List is about as many miles as it is from Ft. Lauderdale to Patagonia, our first stop. We've given notice at work, broken our lease for our apartment and have been madly investigating travel details:
  • Where do we want to go? We think Patagonia, Argentina; New Zealand; Thailand; Italy; Prague, CR; Helsinki, Finland. Why these places? Why not?! We're traveling in this order to follow the seasons so that we basically avoid Winter.
  • Can we afford it? Thanks to fairly frugal spending habits and a touch of student loans...sure, we could do this.
  • Where do we even begin?
    • Research hosts – we need places that we can work in exchange for lodging, meals and internet. My go to websites for this kind of travel in the US was WWOOF,, Couchsurfing and WorkAway. Some of these are better than others depending on what county you are looking in, so we'll see what we can find.
  • Research visas - how much paperwork is really required if we want to stay 6 weeks in each country?
  • How long do we want to stay in each location? We decided 6 weeks was long enough to get to know the culture and see the sights while also working and going to school.
  • How do we get there...and there...and there? We're still looking into Round The World (RTW) airfare which supposedly is cheaper than individual flights. We may use individual flights/trains within Europe though. Lance has happily taken on managing the travel from here to there and I'm working on where is the “here” and “there” (AKA hosts).
I keep reminding myself that while planning this adventure, we also need to...pack apartment (what to sell? Keep? Donate?), start fall semester of classes (which I should be doing right now), work 8 hours a day in order to save every penny we can, and enjoy the several weekends already booked with travel within the next month for family/friends weddings, etc. I'll admit I'm a bit overwhelmed, but the excitement far surpasses any worry that we won't be able to get it all together!

That shower curtain should've come with a warning label "Beware: Staring at this map of the whole wide world may cause a strong, innate desire to rover or travel about, also known as "Wanderlust"