The ski season started in mid June, and it’s about the time I stopped sleeping as well. I had not intended on having two jobs, but I couldn’t give up either. My job on the slopes as a lifty was ideal because I got a free season pass as well as free lessons, and discounts on all kinds of stuff both in town and up the mountain. I couldn’t give up the Mint bar job though because I absolutely loved everyone I worked with and the place had been my home since I arrived in town, and it felt like a little family there. The hours I was maintaining seem impossible, I’m not sure how I survived. I worked a sched of four days on, two days off up the mountain, waking up at 6am every day to get ready and catch my shuttle in town at 7. The trip up the mountain took anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half depending on the conditions. Wanaka itself never got any snowfall in town, but it was like a whole different world up at Cardrona. Even though the lifts closed at 4, by the time we closed everything down and made the journey back down the mountain it was often 6pm before I was back. Then 3 nights a week I worked at Mint bar, starting at 10pm and not getting home til about 4 or 4:30am. Waking up 2 hours later to go back up the mountain was killer, but as soon as I caught that fresh mountain air it was all worth it. As a lifty we started the mountain going in the morning, so we’d catch fresh tracks each day to get to whatever lift we were working on, or if we were on Captains lift we’d get a ride on a ski-doo just as the sun was rising up over the mountains. Never once did the view stop taking my breath away.
Working a desk job with those hours would have been enough to make me hurl myself over the side of the mountain, but spending my days out in the fresh air was heaven on earth for me. I was working (though you can hardly call it that) with the coolest people from around the world, and with about 5 people working at each lift we just rotated “jobs” with someone always free to go on a ride break. We got hour lunches so we’d all just pop some bread and cheese into the toastie maker in the lift hut while doing up our boots, eat the sandwhich on the ride up the lift, then use the whole hour to ride instead of going to lunch. Having front row seats to the fashion show of pro skiers and boarders as they got on the lifts all day wasn’t half bad either. I definitely saw improvements in my skiing, and I learned to board over the course of the season as well. I still managed to mangle my body up quite a bit though.
Since the mountain was pretty small, most of the lifts gave you a pretty good view of whoever was riding on-piste, which made it just that much more painful to have a wipe-out. Even worse was messing up in uniform. I once was speeding down a slope racing to get back in time from my lunch break and had to make a super fast stop and turn in order to get past the lines of people waiting to get on the lift I was working and maneuver through the corrals to the lift hut. Well, I came to a smooth stop right next to the HPC lane (high performance center, think instructors on steroids–these are some of the best skiers and boarders around) when I decided to look up at the crowd mid-turn and lost my balance and just fell over into the next lane. I then drew more attention as I ended up having to pop my skis off to untangle myself, only so I could return to work doing what? oh yes that’s right, guiding the people I just fell on into groups of four to help them get on the lift. I believe I said something like “and that folks, is how NOT to stop in line”. Smooooooth like butter baby.
But that was just Cadrona by day. Cardrona by night was a whole different story.
As the mountain was relatively small, all the different departments mingled quite a bit, and the people running the mountain loved to encourage that by hosting loads of themed staff parties. Judging by my pictures, it would seem like more of an oddity had we had a party where we just dressed like ourselves. One party was heroes and villains and I dressed as Captain wheat-a-bix (its a popular NZ cereal) and beat my friend Brigitte with a bag of white bread all night because she was gluten-free girl. Another party was a “C” theme so there were Christmas trees mingling with clowns, crayons, coat hangers, cougars and more. For another theme party I walked into the British brothers’ room and emerged as “my housemate Leroy.” The best was when they’d keep the mountain open for staff after hours. We didn’t have night skiing there, so the lifts would shut to customers (or “puntas” as they were so affectionately called) at 4, then the good folk at Cardys would provide staff with beer and barbeque food in the snow as we all got free reign of the slopes until the sun set too far below the mountains for ski patrol to let us continue in good conscience.
On the few nights when I wasn’t working at Mint bar or at some themed party or another, it was entertainment enough to just stay home. I loved coming home and sitting around the fire in the living room to warm up. Central heating and insulation seem to be foreign words to the people of New Zealand, so we spent a lot of time being very, very cold. As there were so many roommates there was always a good crowd around to make a night in just as fun as any night out. With a few musicians in the house and as friends there were many a fireside jam to entertain us as well. Having people around me playing all the time I made some huge strides in my fears of playing in front of people, and before I left town I did an open mic night at Mint. The bar was pretty packed, but so many of the people were my friends so I had loads of support. I had always promised myself I would do it in Paihia but I chickened out so this was a big obstacle for me to overcome. Granted I did leave the country a week later…
As the season came to a close, springtime was in full force in town. It was amazing to be sitting by the lake one day basking in the sun then up snowboarding on my lunch break the next day. Wherever (if ever) I settle in this world I am pretty sure I want to be somewhere similar to Wanaka with the best of both the snow and water. Before I left the country (and not without loads of tears, as immigration and the expiration of my flight said it was time to go more than my heart did) my house had a huge bbq. It started in the afternoon and went well into the wee hours of the night, and eventually even to another house as the police ended up shutting our party down. It was a great way to say goodbye to a year of great times as I left early the next morning. I was not a happy camper getting on that plane (nor a pretty sight to behold as I had hardly slept and was painfully hungover). But all good things must come to an end right?
Pshhhhh. Ya right. So I started out with a plan to do New Zealand for a year, maybe a bit longer, then come back and get my career going. Well, I’m just addicted to travel right now, so I got my visa and after my brother’s wedding January 23rd I am taking off again. I am going to San Fransisco to visit my friend Mari whom I met in New Zealand, then I fly to Sydney beginning of Feb. On the third I am meeting up with some of my fellow liftys from Cardrona and we are going to check out the powder in Niseko Japan. Apparently its some of the best in the world. Then after a few days in Tokyo I’ll head back to Oz with Katie, my Scottish friend and fellow lifty, to start another year of travel, work, and adventure. Who knows what after that, but I’ll still be blogging along the way!
So on my days off from Cardys I still tried to get up the mountain to ride. I didn’t have a car myself, so I would go to the hitching post where the road leads out of town toward Cardrona. After about 10 minutes or so, I get picked up by a guy and girl, and as is standard procedure we all get to talking about where everyone came from, what they’re doing, if they have a job in town, etc. etc. As I’m talking to the guy, I start to realize our stories are very similar. He is American from Boston, we both got to NZ around similar times, and he lived up in the Northland before making his way down to Wanaka for the ski season as well. I ask where in the Northland he lived and he says Piha.
Then I say “Oh, when I was first traveling I ended up in Piha for a night and couldn’t find anywhere to stay so I stayed at this random surf shop/farm place….and I met these guys from America who were WFFOfing there, and I’m pretty sure I actually remember they said they were from Boston, and oh my gosh if you tell me that is you I am going to be so freaked out!”
Of all the cars that drive by, of all the days he decided to pick up a hitchhiker and that I happen to be off work, of all the chances that I happened to be trying to catch a ride at that particular time, it it just so crazy to me that it would turn out to be Mike. It’s no surprise I didn’t recognize him because I am absolutely terrible with not just names but faces as well.
But this gets weirder. So after the initial shock, I’m wondering where the girl in the passenger seat comes into play because I only remember five guys at the farm, so I ask who he was traveling with, and if the other guys had come down to Wanaka as well. He then informs me that he was with one other guy who got a job at Cardys. I’m like no way, what department. Oh, you guessed it, lifts. Turns out Josh and I had been working together for two weeks at this point and neither of us had realized who the other one was.
I intended to make Wanaka my home, but turns out I didn’t have to try very hard at all. The town basically reached out, grabbed me, and has been giving me a big ‘ole bear hug ever since I arrived.
I realized I could not keep paying for hostels, so I moved from the Purple Cow to the Base Hostel so that I could work for accommodation at the Mint bar. Working at the Pipi Patch base bar to get settled in town had worked so well for me in Paihia before I got my job with Excitor and Fullers so I figured why not do it again. This time I really fell in love with the job. I had planned on doing some more traveling then coming back to town, but I soon realized just how competitive the job climate was in town. Apparently loads of people head to Wanaka and Queenstown every winter for the ski season, and there is nowhere enough work to accommodate everyone. I fell in love with working at Mint bar and the people there were awesome so I decided to take on a paying job full time there and settle down earlier than I expected. People were flocking to town in droves looking for work so I was lucky to have gotten in when I did. The Pipi had been more of a chilled out little beach dive bar, but Mint bar was more like a club, with dark mood lighting, a sick sound system, and different Djs and performers from Oz and further coming in to perform most nights of the week. De la Sol was one of the highlights. Working nights works out well too as it left me my days to go on hikes, explore town, and also saved me money I would have been spending out at night drinking.
My parents came to visit in early May, and my dad and I did the third highest bungee jump in the world: AJ Hackett Nevis in Queenstown. It was incredible. I’m pretty sure the highest bungee is in South Africa, so looks like I’ll have to make it there soon! The jump is from a cable car suspended in the middle of a canyon, and 134 meters below is nothing but rock and water to catch you. My dad is deathly afraid of heights so this was a huge triumph for him. I remember growing up when we’d go skiing he would always say “momma daddy momma daddy momma daddy!” when we were on the lifts, and we always thought he was kidding. I’m pretty sure that was no joke now. I hate to admit it, but his form was better than mine. In fact its partially what helped me to jump. Damn that man looked graceful jumping off that platform.When you waddle up to the edge with your feet tied together and look down its hard not to panic. I made myself focus on jumping out and attempting a graceful swan dive so that I wouldnt just be thinking about whether or not I would feel any pain before I died if my rope broke and I crashed head first into the shallow water below. I always imagine Zach Braff yelling “EAGLE!” when I watch the youtube videos of our jumps.
I took my parents for a 10 day road trip showing them the incredible sights around the South island and also demonstrating my mad driving skills on the left side of the road and right side of the car. Its a miracle we all made it through unscathed. My mom might be a little emotionally scarred but no serious damage was done.
We started out in Christchurch, and ended up back in Wanaka, where I showed them around what would be my new home. Before they left I got more good news, I had also been hired at Cadrona, one of the biggest ski fields in the Southern Hemisphere. Which says a lot considering it only has 3 real lifts (though the website lists seven? I believe calling the magic carpets on the learners slope a “lift” is a bit of a stretch of the imagination.). Looks like I was going to be a very busy little lady.
I moved out of the Base hostel at the end of May once I started getting paid at Mint bar and moved into a shack down the street. You really can’t call it a house. There were 8 of us in total, five in the house and 3 in the vans parked around it. Classy eh? All sharing one kitchen, one living room, and yes, you got it, one bathroom. It had everything I wanted though, great people, a great location just minutes walking to town, and cheap rent with no bond. I moved in with Brigitte (Canadian) and Dave (British) who were my friends from Paihia up in the North island, and then in the house were also two British brothers Ben and Lee. Then Danny and Matt both lived in campervans outside the place and were both kiwis. The 8th roommate changed a few times. First it was an Aussie stoner named Kirin who turned out to be unintentionally hilarious. Kirin lived in the van out back, which was an actual van, not a campervan, without heat or any real space so he didn’t last long. He left us and in his place we got another Aussie, but hardly a replacement. We got a 40 plus year old man with no family, no job, and no credibility to make me feel at ease with his ever-so-shady presence in a house filled with 20-something travelers. The British brothers also owned a real beaut of a campervan (heavy sarcasm included) which they preferred to park in the front of the house to fully encompass the place in a square of vans and glory. Brings a tear to the eye to think of it now, mainly because it was such an eye sore it’s still a painful memory for the retina. The Brothers Grimm like to tag me as the van in their facebook pictures as for one reason or another I slept in the thing half the season. All in all, the house was a constant party and a brilliant good time.
I had a blast settling in to my trashy rat-infested house (yes, believe it or not I LOVED living in that house) and my job at the Mint bar was a amazing. My manager Roz is literally the funniest woman I have ever met. If I ever meet Ellen I bet she might give her a run for her money, but I’m not sure; Roz had me in stitches literally every night I worked. Tam and Abby were two other bartenders who ended up being two of my best girl friends, and the guys were a laugh as well. Sexual harassment was more a part of the job description than serving alcohol, dished out and and happily encouraged by the guys and girls alike.
For Abi’s birthday one of the Security guys offered up his monster trucking adventure park for a staff outing. We all got to go out and drive a GIANT school bus on monster wheels. He took us four-wheeling and demonstrated some of his skills as a show stuntman. I think it will be hard to top for Abi’s next b-day. Not every day you get to go monster trucking is it?
But this is still all before the ski season even started, oh my the stories I have to tell…
April 11, 2009
Don’t worry, this will be short and sweet. Well, shortER. So I’m sitting writing this blog in what I think will be my new home for the next six months. Wanaka is a small town in the South Island of New Zealand that thrives in winter time with skiers and boarders hitting the nearby slopes. I am sitting on a bench outside my hostel staring out at beautiful Lake Wanaka, which is guarded magnificently by towering mountains. How could I not want to make this place my home?
I finally left Paihia, as my job was only seasonal and the town had slowly been filtering out the past few weeks. I am so happy to be back on the road again, but it is weird to pick back up again, piling this life I created for myself in Paihia into a backpack to head off on another journey. I can’t believe I have been here for six months already, but then again I can’t believe I get to stay here for another six! From Paihia I made my way down to Wellington, crashing on couches of new friends I have made along the way. Travelers can be so generous with each other, offering up their homes, friends, and often times their food, knowing one day they will need the same favor in return. I visited Tessa and stayed at her parent’s farm in Paeroa and then stayed at her flat at Uni in Hamilton. That was the first time I really started to miss college (not that I havn’t been missing my friends like crazy). I just turned 23 on March 20, and I can’t believe how old I suddenly felt there. But I am still so very young! I must remind myself sometimes.
If anyone has seen Lord of the Rings, the South Island is where most of it was filmed. It is home to stunning landscape after stunning landscape. I first went to Abel Tasman National Park, where I did a 7 hour hike to take in all the beauty and get some great views. This was a much more comfortable hike than the Tongariro Crossing I did in November which basically beat the crap out of me. Then two days later I found myself at Franz Joseph Glacier, where I went on a guided 8 hour glacier hike. We walked for about 45 minutes through rainforest to reach the foot of the glacier (if you think about it it makes sense), where we attached crampons (metal spikes) to our hiking boots and began scaling the ice. It was one of the coolest things I have done in New Zealand so far. The pictures don’t do it justice, but none of my pictures here ever do.
Now I am in Wanaka, feeling out the town to see if this is where I want to spend the next six months. I met up with a friend from Paihia who I will try to WWOOF (work on an organic farm) with until my parents arrive May 8th in Christchurch. Not sure what our plans are, but my dad, believe it or not, is going to go bungee jumping with me. And not just any bungee jump, I am doing the 2nd highest bungee jump in the world, at 134 meters. I’ll write more about that after the event happens, which is sure to be worth a few lines on here. I can only imagine it now…
So things have changed a bit since the last time I wrote. Tessa moved out and went back to Hamilton where she goes to school. She was my partner in crime, or as the running joke went she was my little protégé. I’m not sure I should have a protégé but she always joked that she was becoming just like me (doubt that’s a good thing), at the end we even started saying the same things and choosing almost identical outfits. I think that’s bound to happen to a certain extent when you spend so much time with someone. Well maybe it’s just narcissism missing my reflection, but the house is much quieter and less entertaining than it was with my mini-me. Before Tessa left however, we managed to squeeze in a few more adventures.
As our workplace is right on the water, a highly satisfying way of amusing ourselves when things get slow around the office is to gawk like randy schoolboys at the shirtless men who dock their boats on the wharf. Tessa and I developed a special fondness for the boys who work on the overnight boat called The Rock. Every day we would look forward to watching those beautiful creatures with their sculpted bods, bronzed skin and flowing golden locks rock up to the wharf. All summer we said we had to go on the boat, and finally right before Tessa was leaving we did just that. The trip starts at 5 pm one day and you get back at 3pm the next. “The Climax”, a long banana shaped boat used by the Rock to transport people and supplies back and forth from the big boat to the wharf, finally came in to get Tessa and I and our friend Dom. Throughout the course of the 22 hours, we fished, shot at fake birds off the back of the boat, went night kayaking in the phosphorescence (it’s a form of algae that glow, imagine a bunch of lightning bugs were fluttering around in the water at night), played pool on board, went night swimming, played music in the moonlight, had a BBQ, stopped at Motorua Island, went day kayaking, had a picnic, and, oh, yes, how could I forget? Fell in love. Now don’t get too excited, not real love, just “wow you are really dreamy” kind of love. There are four Rock boys and I fell in “you are dreamy” love with two of them. I’m pretty sure they loved me too. Yup. About 87% percent sure. Maybe even 92%, I don’t know I don’t have a calculator. The One of them, Chris, is tan with curly blonde hair and he looks as though he should be dancing around barefoot playing the loon for the Duke of Chestershire. Or something…
Here’s the cincher though, the fourth Rock boy turned out to be the hot Chilean DJ from my hostel in Auckland when I first arrived in New Zealand. It is amazing how small this country really is. His English has improved, but unfortunately my Spanish remains just as appalling as ever.
So blah blah blah some other stuff has happened and it was neat. Now that were all caught up, I’ll move on to present day. I have three weeks left in Paihia and then my contract with this job is up and I will start traveling again and move south for the winter. Remember though, contrary to what we are used to, south is further away from the equator so I am actually heading to the south island to hopefully work on the ski fields. Thousands of people apply for a handful of jobs on the ski fields every season so they are super competitive to get, but here’s hoping! Otherwise I will try to get a job doing something exciting again, like working for AJ Hackett bungee or one of the heaps of extreme adventure activities on offer. Who knows though, I havn’t even been to the south island yet. It’s so hard to know where I’ll want to live before I even go to each city, but because the south island is not as populated as the north island it is much harder to find places to work down there. Unless I just get a random job at a restaurant or something, I most likely won’t start a job until the winter season starts in June, so I am looking at two months of unemployment.
Seeing as how I definitely have not saved enough cash this summer to live and travel for two months without an income, I signed up to be a WWOOFer. WWOOFing stands for willing workers on organic farms. All the farms are different, some have chickens and cows and want you to be a farm hand, and some have recording studios or meditation centers and want you to tend to their herb gardens and help with their yogic retreats. I’m going to focus on the latter type, obviously. I have a book listing all the different farms, so basically I will just call around to the farms in an area before I arrive to see if they need help and then stay with them for a bit, learning about organic farming practices, and getting a truly unique and authentic kiwi experience while being housed and fed. I’m sure that will provide for some interesting stories. Do you remember when I first started traveling with the Germans in their campervan and I stayed in an ant-infested hut in Piha where I learned a drinking game involving hammers, nails, and a giant tree stump? (I wrote about it in maybe the third blog I think?) Well, that place was also an organic farm and the guys I met there were WWOOFing. I assume I’ll be having many more randomly awesome experiences of that nature soon.
I have had a great time in New Zealand so far, but I can’t wait to get out of Paihia and start traveling again. Everyone says the north island pales in comparison to the south island, so I can’t wait to see it. I am also so excited to be a traveler again, when everything is so new and fresh and exciting. I suppose that is a funny thing to say, as I am in New Zealand and all. I’m not a traveler here in Paihia though, I live here. That was the goal– to really feel like I lived in a foreign country for once and wasn’t just visiting it, but like a true gypsy, I’m itching to move on to fresh pastures. As the summer season is pretty much done, the Excitor hasn’t been running as much, so getting up for work at 6 every morning to sit around the office is getting old. I have made some great friends here, many of whom are also heading south for the winter, but I am so ready to get to a new town with new people and fresh experiences waiting.
As I’m working on planning my travels, I also have to change my flight home, as I couldn’t book the return a full year out. This process has forced me to consider my post New Zealand plans, which is a daunting task. Here is what I’m thinking as of right now. My visa for NZ is up in October, at which point I will travel to Fiji or Samoa, and then get a work visa for Australia. Everyone says you need a few months at least in Australia, and it’s a shame not to go there when I’m so close, so I will clearly have to work there to manage that. Then I will have to return home around March or April of 2010 for my brother’s wedding. After that I will either return to Australia to finish out the visa (I think it’s a year visa) and then move to South America, or just move to South America after the wedding. I’ll stay in South America for at least a year as well (although I’m not sure about the visa process there) because I desperately want to be fluent in Spanish. South America is definitely happening, I’m just not sure about if/how/or when I’ll fit Australia into the mix. Before Maurits, my friend from Holland who I met earlier in the summer, left Paihia, we laid on the beach watching the stars on his last night. Together we saw seven, mark it SEVEN, shooting stars. We took turns making wishes on them (gag I know), and his last one was that in a year we would go to South America together. If the wishing power of SEVEN shooting stars means anything then adios amigos, estoy viviendo en Argentina!
(Note: upon editing this now that I am back in Pittsburgh I am aware that this plan is a bit out-of-date, but I left it in here bc its interesting to see my thought process along the way. I obviously should never try to plan anything more than a few months ahead, as you will see how things change as you read on.)
As always, life has been far from dull for me here in Paihia. After New Years, I had a day off
with my friend Tessa and our other friend Dom, so we decided to go kayaking as it was a beautiful summer day. I tried to lead us to the island that I raved about in one of my first blogs from here in Paihia, but ended up getting us very lost. However, my extreme lack of navigational skills ended up being quite a fortunate fault for us. Well, not so much for Dom, but for Tessa and I. I’ll explain…
So we row into a random shore that I hope I will recognize as the site leading to the amazing lookout from my last kayak experience for maybe the 6th time, and there is a dingy full of guys finishing up some fishing. So I row up to their boat and ask them if they know where the lookout is, and the guys end up chatting us up while poor Dom sits in his single kayak behind us twiddling his thumbs. They invite us to go have a bbq nearby, and at this point we don’t know where they mean but we have to return our kayaks so we decline, but end up hanging out with them out that night. After a few times hanging out the next week, we discover that the place They had initially invited us to for a bbq was Omata
vineyard, this beautiful vineyard on a small island that a lot of various tourist trips go to as a main attraction. Well, Rob, the guy who Tessa has been seeing, lives there because his family owns it. So basically he is loaded, and all his friends are staying at the vineyard with him. Well, they were, most of them except his other friend Ryan left town about a week after we met them. So my unfortunate navigational skills led to day trips out on Rob’s boat, weekend excursions on the family yacht, trips to Roberton island for snorkeling, free scuba diving lessons, and trips to the vineyard via boat for lunch breaks. Their house on the vineyard looks like something straight out of an issue of Town and Country or the cover of a wine magazine. Its amazing. Sadly for me, Ryan had to go back home, meaning all of these fun perks go solely to Tessa now. Oh well, it was good while it lasted.
On the weekend of th 16th, while Tessa was away on the yacht for the weekend, I went down to Auckland for a music festival called Big Day Out. I had so many friends who went down for it it was such a blast, and I also met up with friends i had made in my travels before Paihia, so that was really cool to reconnect with some people. There were tons of acts I wasn’t familiar with, but some noteworthy acts included Black Seeds, The Ting
Tings, My Morning Jacket, Lupe Fiasco, Prodigy (holy sh*t that was unreal), Pendulum, Arctic Monkeys, Neil Young, TV on the Radio, The Datsuns, The Black Kids, and many others. Prodigy had the last slot and was in a tent appropriately called the Boiler Room. Sweat literally was raining from the ceiling, and everyone was packed in to the tent like sardines. We all raved as one with everyones slimy bodies jumping up and down in unison. my bro asked me to write about it as a guest writer on his music blog saynoradio.com, so if your keen to hear more about the fest look out for that in the next week or so. Speaking of bros, I don’t know how I didn’t mention this in an earlier blog, but
BRIAN (my oldest brother) IS ENGAGED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He hit the jackpot with his awesome fiance Katie whom I adore, so I could not be happier for them! They set the date for April 2010, so thankfully I will be back home for the wedding and pre-wedding festivities. They both are amazing people and I am so happy that they found each other. I can’t wait to have a sister!
Now, you are probably wondering about the pirate ships I mentioned in this blog’s title. Or maybe you don’t care, but let me tell you all about it regardless. On one of my day’s off last week I went out on the R. Tucker Thompson, a sailboat that is more than just pirate themed, its a straight up pirate ship. Fullers helps sell trips on the R Tucker, so I got to go out sailing for the day for free. Technically, I think I could have gotten paid because its a “famil” but I had requested the day off so I didn’t want to push it. I spent the day climbing up the rigging of the boat, swinging of ropes into the water, stopping over at Motorua Island to bask in the sun and watch sailboats race by, drinking wine and eating a beautiful barbeque on the boat. I’ll put pictures up soon so you can see, but the coolest part of the trip was climbing the rigging, which was about 15 meters high. You can hardly see me in the pictures bc I just look like a tiny pink dot (thanks for the dress mom) but the view up there was unreal! It was one of my best days in Paihia to date.
Those are just some of the notable things I’ve done lately, but I think I’ll try to turn this into a few entries and include some of the random, but fun nights I’ve had in between the big stuff. Think Mexican nights, staff bbq at Haruru Falls, rooftop drinking, etc. I love and miss you all.
Happy New Years everyone! I beat you chumps into 2009. Wow, you are so stuck in 2008
guys, get with it. Sorry I suck so much at getting new blogs up, but at least I am still trying!
So, what have I been up to? Well, last time I wrote, I had just landed a sweet new job working for the Excitor boat. I was still doing the bar job when I started with Excitor, so I was working almost 60 hours a week at one point! I was absolutely shattered everyday, so I had to quit the Pipi and move out. I moved into a house right in town and it’s so nice. I love having my own place to come home to and being out of a hostel. That was the final step to make me feel really at home here. I live with two girls who work for Fullers as well (Excitor is part of Fullers). Grace does crew on some of the other boats, and Tessa works in the Fullers office. Both are kiwis, but Grace lives here permanently and Tessa is just in Paihia for the summer but actually lives about 4 hours south of here. (Paihia is the town I live in, though my mom’s Christmas letter would lead you to believe it’s Paipia. If she can’t see me I don’t think she cares what city I’m in.) We have huge windows that lookout onto the water and gorgeous flowers in our backyard. It’s also only 3 minutes from work and 2 from the bars in town. As I’m writing this I’m currently sitting in my backyard, which slopes upward making it a great viewpoint, watching my laundry sway in the wind and the boats fly through the water. I wish I were a better writer to really paint the picture for you, as it’s a beautiful one. There is also a white goat that keeps creeping up behind me to munch on flowers. Or grass. Or whatever it is that goats eat. Diapers? Nah I don’t think we have any diapers here.
My job hasn’t been quite as glamorous as I initially thought. At first it was amazing as I was getting paid to go out on all the trips we offer as part of my training, but then reality kicked in once I started training in the office. While I am the “Excitor girl”, when the Excitor isn’t busy I am expected to help out the ladies in the office, which is hell for me. It’s a totally corporate atmosphere where people walk around saying things like “didn’t you get the memo?” I didn’t know people actually said that in real life, but I was mistaken. The ladies who work there are super high strung too and my happy-go-lucky demeanor seems generally offensive to them. Before Christmas Excitor was not too busy so I spent way more time than I cared to working in that office, but now things are picking up a ton. Its an adventure boat so people will come back soaked a lot of times, so I get people all geared up to go, do safety briefings, and then get people on and off the boats. Sometimes I have to hop on the boat to go over to the nearby island of Russel to help the crew gear up the people they are picking up there. I love when I have to do that because I get to be on the water. Even though I am not out on the boat all the time as I would love to be, I work right on the wharf, so we keep the doors open and get the ocean breeze and I am only two feet from falling in the water. Things could definitely be worse.
Life here in NZ has started to settle into just that, life. Things can only be so incredibly unbelievably amazing for so long before the dust finally settles and you realize that even a million miles away from home on the adventure of a lifetime you will still face some of the same stupid issues you always have. But no one wants to read about that stuff, so I will just focus on the “ups” not the “downs’.
Christmas here was weird, it did not feel like Christmas at all. To people in NZ the holiday means barbeques and beers on the beach and maybe a few presents with family at some point. I worked Christmas day. I thought if I had to be there I would bring some American tradition to the day, so I made eggnog and spiked it. I thought I was being a little rebel but I got into work and got a glass of champagne handed to me. I guess everyone had the same idea. Christmas night I went to the “orphans” dinner at Pipi. Technically bars were not allowed to be open unless they were having a function, so they had a big Christmas dinner. Only people with tickets for the dinner could be at the bar, and you couldn’t get in anywhere else, so it was basically like a bar lockdown. That was a Christmas first.
Now Christmas is a very sentimental traditional holiday that was hard to be away from home for, especially somewhere that celebrates it so differently, but New Years was a different story. I had my best New Years to date this year. (Sorry Kathy and Christine, it was a close race but it did actually beat getting drunk off of amaretto sours and eating caramel corn on my back porch). I went to the Pipi to start off and drank with all my friends there, then we all headed to the beach for fireworks. The whole beach was packed with people and the fireworks were set off from a barge on the water. Then a bunch of us had bought tickets to this drum and bass DJ playing at a small out of the way bar. If you aren’t familiar with drum and bass, you should check it out. Its huge down here, and so much fun to dance to. Everyone was just out of their minds (sorry mom and dad) and having the most amazing time. New Years day I payed for it hard though, and I had to work as well! I thought I was going to die all day, but after work I turned my first day of 2009 around. I went to the beach in the evening to meet up with some friends for beach cricket, and then as it got dark our friend Puggsie, a Maori chic, busted out her fire poi. The poi is a traditional Maori dance of the females involving a tennis ball sized ball at the end of a string. You may remember me talking about it from the blog where I stayed in a Maori meeting house and learned the dance. Her version was much more impressive, as she had two massive pois that she lit on fire. It was the coolest thing to watch as the fire blurred circles around her with the moon and the glistening dark water as the backdrop. Then these two random guys joined us and one started playing Katchafire songs on his guitar. Katchafire is the band I went to see about a month ago. That was one of those “how cool is my life” moments. I think I have started to get into a bit of a rut lately, just settling into life and getting back to the problems of everyday existence, but moments like that make me sit back and appreciate how good I have it.
Kelly and Reagan had some dramas recently and both left town, which is sad because I got along really well with them. I am missing my friends like crazy lately, as now I’m noticing more and more how rare it is to find people who really get me. I am lucky that I can make friends and meet new people pretty easily, but to find those people who I really connect with and can be myself with is a bit more of a challenge. So, to all my friends and family reading this, I may be having a great time here, but I love and miss you all tons and think about you often.
Woah bro, where do I begin. I am now back in Paihia, and I am having the time of my life. I have been back for about 3 weeks now and it just keeps getting better. The weather is still getting warmer as summer hits and the place is really picking up more and more as it is a big summer tourist spot. I came back to the warmest welcome, validating my reasons for wanting to return in the first place. Even though I had only told one person I was returning, I came back and even people who I hadn’t met yet knew about my return. I immediately just felt like I was back home. The party began immediately that night, and hasn’t stopped since.
I started my job within a few days of returning, and it’s so much fun. I work at the bar at the Pipi Patch hostel. While most hostel bars are usually filled only with backpackers, the Pipi has local clientele as well because the town is so small there are only a handful of bars. It’s so fun working there, meeting people from all over the world, hanging out with friends and getting pissed, and paid! It’s funny because sometimes people take pictures of me like I’m a tourist attraction or something. I know I’m a backpacker just like them, but to travelers its like hey here’s a picture of my hostel and hey here’s a picture of this person that served me drinks in New Zealand. The lifestyle here gets pretty wearing on the body though, as we literally drink every single night. It’s not because we are alcoholics, there just isn’t much else to do here. But I don’t say that in a bad way, it’s still a freaking awesome town with the best people and the best vibe, but every night you just sort of wait to it seems reasonable to begin drinking. Or you don’t wait.
About two weeks into being back I got tonsillitis though, and it knocked me out hard. I was in so much pain and backpacking alone and living in a hostel it could of have been so miserable, but I am so lucky I have met the friends that I have. I stayed at my friend Bobby’s house for about 4 days. If you have ever stayed in a hostel you know you can’t actually get good sleep there, it’s just impossible. All of my friends would come by and visit me and watch movies with me and make me food, and I was just so thankful to have made such awesome friends so quickly here. I know my mom was happy to know I was being taken care of as well. That’s the kind of stuff that makes me feel like I really have a life here and am not just a tourist anymore.
I still hang out with the people I met when I first went to Paihia, but the group has expanded a bit as well. I hang out a lot with these two girls Kelly and Reagan who are from Wellington. They are cool as hell and allow me to be a little more of the weirdo that I normally am. I mean pretty much all of my friends at home call me weird on a regular basis, but I don’t think anyone here has seen the half of it. It just takes certain people to bring it out in me, and foreigners especially seem to be a little more frightened by it. I figure it’s best to sort of ease them into it, like just slowly start getting weirder and weirder. It might be too much of a shock if I hit them with it all at once. I think I’ll hold off on talking about Megalodons (um only the coolest prehistoric mammal ever, 60 feet of prehistoric terror!), street creds, in-depth analysis of indie hipsters, extreme picnics, etc. etc. My housemates at school (I miss you Flanny’s) signed leases so they had to deal with me, and me with Christine is like a one two shut the fuck up/you are so annoying punch.
Kelly and Regan work at the juice bar down on the wharf and they live in the bush. “The bush” in New Zealand is pretty much the woods. But because everyone is so intense about outdoor stuff you hear things like “you going bush?” or “any good bush around there?” But living in the bush also implies you live in a hut. Which they do. They lived with me at first, but then got the juice bar job so they moved into this little shack in the woods owned by their friend’s dad. They don’t have power or plumbing or anything, its just like a roof with a bed, but the view is sick and its so fun to go out there have bonfires and party in the woods. You walk down to the waterfall to pee, and you shower (aka pour creek water on yourself) on this open wood plank where cows and sometimes wandering farmers can watch you. Hard core eh? One of their neighbors (neighbor means they live in a hut about 5 minutes away) killed a guy because he stole his four-wheeler. He didn’t go to jail. Woah. Stay away from that guys yard.
I think I have put off getting new blogs up because there are so many things I could write about I get overwhelmed, but it just gets worse the longer I wait. I end up just summarizing things and then it’s not funny or juicy so it’s just like blah blah I did this and you guys are probably like blah blah I don’t care. But I want you to care. I need you to care. Oh baby, oh baby. So grab a carpet square kids, it’s story time!
Recently I went with about 10 friends to a Katchafire concert in Opononi. Katchafire is a
I should mention that Opononi is Tribesmen territory. By this I don’t mean that it is Maori land, I mean it’s Maori gang territory. Maoris are called black here, and some groups of them can be very aggressive towards white people. Regan, Kelly and I tried to grab some food at a takeaway place near the show, and even though it was full with people waiting for food, hanging out in front, and a couple people cooking, they looked at us and told us it was closed. I wasn’t really feeling a gangsta brawl so we just resigned ourselves to the discrimination and left. The concert was absolutely sick though. Dancing at a Reggae show in my opinion may be as fun as trance dancing. And ya’ll know how I love a good trance dance. You just like throw your legs up in the air and sort of rhythmically convulse and I’m not sure how it would look on a video later but at the time its saweeet.
Now, if the title of this site hasn’t inspired you yet, now is the time where you should get jealous. I’m jealous of myself, and hell, I’m me! Woooaaaaah that’s trippy. I just scored a DREAM job! The bar thing is awesome and super fun but it just covers accommodation, and I’ve been looking for a full time job here. I had a few offers for random things, but I have been holding out for what I really wanted, and I just got it! I am working for an adventure boat called the Excitor. It’s this super extreme boating experience where people get completely suited up break their vertebrae and stuff which makes it awesome because it’s dangerous. I will be down on the wharf every day with all the boats and tourist adventures and I’ll be getting people ready and on and off the boats and doing safety briefings and whatnot. Excitor is a part of the Fullers empire though, which is a company that runs all of the major tourist trips in New Zealand, so I am also a Fullers employee and will be working on sales and marketing with them. It is an awesome company to have gotten in with and I am still in shock that I managed to get this job.
As part of my training, I have to do my “famils”, which basically means I get paid to go on all of the different tourist trips that Fullers offers. I had my first day today, and here’s what that looked like. I went to work, and my boss Ryan took me around and introduced me to people, then he took me down to the pier and sent me off on the Cream Tour. I spent the day on a boat, stopping at various points along the way to watch the dolphins swim and jump all around our boat on its way to different islands. I saw at least 20 dolphins today, and then we went and saw penguins too! Then the skipper was like ok for those of you who want to you can get out in the net and we will basically see how much saltwater you can drink. Then he’s like Shannon you are required to do this as part of your training, so I got in a wetsuit and jumped off the boat with about 10 other brave souls into this net attached to the side of the boat. We held on to the sides of the net, and then the boat took off, basically scooping us all up like fish in the sea and dragging us along. It was hilarious, and even funnier looking up and seeing the other 100 people on the boat with their cameras just laughing at us as they recorded us holding on for dear life. I went back to the office when the boat returned and my boss was like ok see you tomorrow! Wow, tough day at the office eh? Tomorrow I get to go on the Excitor, which I’m super stoked about. I get to do all of the different tourist adventures, but I’m most excited for the Dolphin Adventures tour later this week, where I get to go out and swim with the dolphins in the wild. Swimming with dolphins at Sea World is one thing, but that is so commercial and manufactured. Swimming with them in the wild keeps a level of danger involved and makes it so much more of an authentic experience. These trips are all pretty expensive, so I hadn’t done any of them yet, but now I get paid to do them! How am I so lucky?! It’s Thanksgiving back home as I am writing this, and all I can say is wow. I have so much to be thankful for.