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Monthly Archives: February 2012

February: Takapuna

Just thought I’d share a few Takapuna days with you all.

Let’s see…Erica and Rob invited us over for a house party poker game with a few of their friends.  Very brave of them to invite us, but my loose “all-in” style balanced Mark’s professional skills, so they took all my money and Mark won most of it back. Though Erica was the tournament champion, beating Mark in the last hand.  Come to think of it, she also won the role of “President” the most times in our game at Tupou–she’s got some skills!

The next week was Superbowl, and Erica’s friends were kind enough to host a Superbowl party at their place. We brought all the food, making sure it was a proper-American menu: hot dogs and apple pie, nachos, guacamole, chips and dip, and margaritas. Well, I suppose it was a Mexican-American theme. 🙂  We had a blast watching it with them. Mark explained the rules (some of them knew the game quite well) while I made batch after batch of margarita.  Then we stumbled down to the beach to play a quick touch game of grid iron (what Kiwis call American football).  Mark had a blast calling the plays, though all the “old men,” including Mark, were sore or injured by the end of the day.

Mark ran the Beach Series 5K last week, and did well (7th overall!).  It was fun to watch and hopefully by next week I can run myself ( my foot is healing finally).  Though he’s still nursing a calf-injury, Mark’s in good shape again and working out everyday, which as you know, is so important to him.

We saw our first rugby game (well, it was rugby league, which apparently is WAY different than rugby union, what they play in the World Cup). It was fun to watch and I definitely like it more than football, though Mark thinks I’m just being a contrarian.  Maybe I just like the shorter shorts the players wear. Plus, there are no time outs, so the game moves incredibly fast.  Fun night!

Been getting a little bit of culture, since who knows when I’ll live in a big city again. Last week I saw a great Shakespeare performance of Macbeth at a beautiful lakefront outdoor amphitheater. The actors were incredible, though I chuckled a bit to hear the relaxed cadence of the Kiwi accent out of the mouth of Banquo and King Duncan. 🙂 Today I’m going to an opera performance right down the road. Should be fun! (Suffice it to say, I’ve been doing these things solo, Mark is not that curious about Kiwi arts and culture).

Erica brought me along to a Hen’s party last night, which is the Kiwi term for Bachelorette party. It was a great night, starting with a cocktail making training at a local bar. The bartenders were great. When we showed up they had arranged drink stations and divided us into teams, then taught us how to make first mojitos and then Sex on the Beach, and we competed on which team made the best drink.  We had a lot of fun drinking and tasting, and designing creative looks for the drink toppers:

Still lots to see and do. This week I hope to get over to Waiheke Island, where I can bike around to different wineries.  Also need to check out the surf on the west coast, and definitely need to see the zoo.

That’s all for now!

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Posted by on February 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

January 22: Takapuna, New Zealand

Finally back to the first world, which we appreciate for three main reasons: medicine (I go to a real doctor and get my foot seen, cleaned, bandaged) internet (high speed and bulletproof, god bless it!), and creature comforts (American sports on TV, every kind of cuisine within a one-block radius, and English-speaking people!).  So, as soon as we land I load minutes on my New Zealand sim card and get a text from Erica. She’s having a party tonight with all her coast-to-coasters. Can we come? Of course!

We check into our new “home” at the Spencer on Byron Hotel in Takapuna, a north shore beach community of Auckland.  I’ve always fantasized about living in a fancy hotel in New York City, and I think this is as close as I’ll ever get.  They put us on the 19th floor with gorgeous views of Rangitoto Island, and we finally have a door between the bedroom and living room, which gives us a bit of a break from each other.  We also have a little kitchen and washer/dryer—basically everything we need.  The hotel is beautiful and has a great pool, hot tub, gym and tennis court, which Mark is using every day (I will as soon as my foot gets better).  Plus, we are just a couple blocks from the beach and Erica’s.

Takapuna is a really cute place. It is sort of a mix between Del Mar (walkable, great restaurants), Pacific Beach (mellow vibe with lots of athletic people wandering around), and La Jolla (cute shops, cafes, etc.).  The beach is lovely and every Tuesday night during the summer (which we are in now, btw) is the Beach Series, this wonderful event that encourages everyone to jump in.  At 6pm the horn blows and the race begins. About a thousand people participate in either a 5K run, a stand up paddle, a kayak, or a swim. It’s so exciting and everyone finishes through the same finish line about 30 minutes later—really neat!

So, we are relieved to unpack, buy groceries, work comfortably, and just “live our lives.”  We booked a month for now and then, we’ll see…both of us are trying to make an effort NOT to plan ahead and just focus on the “now,” which we haven’t been doing for the last few weeks.

This trip has really made me ponder those frustrating questions like, “Where do I belong?” and “What is the meaning and purpose of my life?”  I have a sneaking suspicion that there will never be just “one” purpose to my life, and that my meaning and focus will shift over the years, as it has already done.  It used to be track, then dogs and chimps, then traveling. Now what?  It would be nice to just check a box and say, “This is what I’m all about.”

And I am beginning to have an obsessive relationship with the expression “the grass is always greener.”  No matter where I am, it seems like I always want to be somewhere else. If I’m home, I wish I was on the road. If I am on the road, I wish I was home.  And now who knows where home really is? This is the ultimate question on my mind, and I’m working on figuring it out.

I have always thought that travel was the road to enlightenment. The best way to broaden my mind and grow as a human being. But in so many ways travel has mixed me up. With so many places and perspectives and lifestyles, it’s problematic to have to choose one. There’s no easy way to sift through these things, but I suppose time, contemplation, and reflection are a good start, right? Or if someone out there has already figured this out for me, please let me know!

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

January 16-22: Vanuatu

So, even though we are both ready to settle down, we decide to fly first to Vanuatu because it’s close and convenient.  It’s funny, because there’s something in me that craves travel and new places so much that it even trumps my exhaustion and need to settle down. So we find ourselves in yet a new country but limit it to just five nights. From here we will go to Auckland to set up shop for awhile.

So—we arrive in Port Vila at 7:30 in the morning.  Port Vila is the capital of Vanuatu, which is a small country of 250,000 people, located in the middle of the South Pacific.   It looks a lot like Fiji, though the people look a little different. They resemble East Africans more than the West African look they had in Fiji, and are a bit shorter than the mighty Fijians we had met.  Mark also notices that there are quite a few men that closely resemble Lebron James (just not as tall), so maybe Lebron has Vanuatuan heritage?

We step outside the airport and look for a taxi. Some men ask us where we are going and we tell them our hotel, and they say, “We’ll take you. I think all the taxis are gone.”  So nice of them. They drive us into town and tell us a little about Vanuatu. We stop at a gas station and they speak bislama, a pidgeon English which is very interesting to me.  We learn a few words from the ads, like “Me Wantem Tusker.” (I want a Tusker Beer!).  Funny!

We stay at the Grand Casino Hotel, which is modern and lovely and perched on the beautiful harbor.

We dive at Tranquility Island one day and both dives are very nice.  The soft coral isn’t as vibrant as Taveuni, but the visibility is great and we even see a Hawksbill turtle, which I love. At lunch they take us to the Turtle Sanctuary, where they keep turtle babies for 15 months before releasing them, to help increase their odds of their survival. They say their survival rate goes from 1% to 40% by letting them grow a little bigger before they swim out to sea.

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I am a bit under the weather for most of the week due to an infection on my foot which starts to get worse and worse so that I can barely walk. This majorly puts a damper on the visit. Mainly I mope around the hotel and Mark works out like a maniac, enjoying the hotel gym.  But overall we like the people and the vibe in Port Vila. It’s a walkable town with cute bars and restaurants and the harbor is clean and turquoise blue. Still third world here, but this place comes a lot closer to a livable beach town.

Here are a few more underwater videos from Vanuatu.  Did I mention there was an earthquake while we were diving? We didn’t “feel” it but we heard a rumbling sound. Pretty unique!

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2012 in Uncategorized