Tuesday, 18 December 2007

What's taking so long:(

We submitted my spousal visa six weeks ago tomorrow. Most people get their request to go for medicals within the first month, but I haven't heard anything yet. I'm hoping it's simply because it's close to Christmas, but boy is it a hard thing to wait on!

Saturday, 15 December 2007

A weekend in Wellington

Another city with no Christmas decorations...boy I hope Adelaide does better than this! Anyhoo, Steve has been away for work on and off for the past three weeks, so I hopped down to Wellington last weekend to see him.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Happy un-Christmas

I bet you will find this same whinge on the blog of any North American who is spending their first Xmas Down Under. It's warm and sticky here in Auckland, with lots of rain and fog, but temps in the high 60s, and the occasional hot and sunny day, few and far in between. People here have mostly fake xmas trees, many of them being...white and pink!! That is when you actually see a tree, or outside lights on a house. And there certainly aren't any in the downtown...they don't even have a tree up! I am so making up for all this once Steve and I are back in our house in Adelaide.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Post happy Wednesday

Ok, 3rd post in one day. Has anyone watched, or even heard of, The Sarah Silverman Show? It's so crap it's hysterical. That's probably why New Zealand has imported it...it must be cheap. They seriously have some of the worst American television on their FIVE channels;) Anyhoo, despite it being crap, she did have a useful epiphany this episode, and developed a new word...Memosexual. After deciding she was a lesbian, then failing at it (just as she says she failed at being a heterosexual), she decided she needed to be a memosexual first. How true.

Now for something completely different, I totally did a stupid white person thing the other day, or perhaps just a stupid white American thing. I went out for Mexican food. Nah, that's not the stupid white person thing. There's a fairly decent Mexican take away near work, so I've been three times in the past week:) The first day I went there was this black guy behind the counter taking orders, and when I heard him talk, I was like..."Oh wow, a black African-American!" Now, this was simply because I've been living in what I feel is mega non-diverse land for over 9 months and although there are tons of Asians here, I miss the diversity of being back home. I miss black people, and I miss Mexican people, and Adelaide especially, where I'm going to end up, feels super white and like it's lacking something. But back to the Mexican restaurant...I think the "oh wow, a black African-American!" showed on my face because although the guy smiled when he asked me what I wanted, as soon as I spoke...he turned me over to someone else and stopped smiling:/ I could be totally over-reacting out of my white person guilt or whatever, but I felt like a total schmuck.

Another reason not to vote Hillary

Is she serious?


"It's one thing in politics to cite an opponent's record when criticizing him.
But it’s quite another to cite his Permanent Record—the legendary, indelible and largely mythical account of all that we do as schoolchildren.Yet that’s just what the campaign of Democratic presidential contender Sen. Hillary Clinton did Sunday, issuing
a spitball of a news release that alluded scornfully to an essay that primary opponent Sen. Barack Obama wrote when he was in kindergarten.Referring to an old Associated Press story that quoted Obama’s former teacher, the release informed us that, “In kindergarten, Senator Obama wrote an essay titled ‘I Want to Become President.’"

By the way, I'm reading Barak's book, Dreams from My Father, which I'd highly recommend.

5 months in a hostel

Well, we've been living in a hostel now for about five months. It comes with it perks and drawbacks, but you can never call it uninteresting. There are always people around to chat with, have a drink with, etc, and they're from all over the globe. And there is always someone to wake you up in the middle of the night at least once a week, making tea or a phone call in the hallway at 2am. My biggest pet peeve is that for some reason, it is obviously not a universal assumption that bathroom door shut means bathroom occupied. Thank god I've learned how to properly do the lock. Last night I had an amusing incident while sitting on the porch, which reminded me how much fun hostelling can be, if only for the diverse persons aspect. It was a nice night, and we have a gorgeous view as the hostel is at the top of a hill, so I was sitting on the porch when I heard what sounded like a rustling noise. I thought perhaps someone was having a joke. It went on for a little longer then out of the darkness came an old man with a big ole walking stick and a small plastic bag of groceries, approaching the hostel very very slowly. When he eventually got to the front door, he said in a breathless voice: "That walk up the driveway is a killer, especially at night. It's kind of spooky in the dark." What's spooky? Just an example...it takes all types and you'd be amazed who stays in hostels.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Home Alone & Sexism Down Under

My sexy husband is away for work on and off for about three weeks. So far I have accidentally turned off my alarm clock and ended up over an hour late for work, discovered that steak pies taste cook spread on salt and vinegar potato chips...and been totally bored off my friekin arse. Perhaps it would be different if I wasn't living in a hostel, but I think I've forgotten how to live on my own;)

The Christmas season is gearing up here, and while someone mentioned to me yesterday that the day is in fact about three weeks away, I'm not feelin it. It's getting warmer here and the days are longer so I'm home well before dark and don't even notice any Christmas lights. Then again, I've had no sense of what time of year it is for about 9 months now. My workplace does now how to celebrate, and we had our Christmas party on a yacht last week! And...we can call it a Christmas party and put up trees in the office (I forgot about how everything changed from 'Christmas' to 'Holiday' in the US a few years ago). The one thing which the workplace is doing for the season I don't agree with. We all got an email last week with the subject "Ladies Christmas Shopping" saying something to the effect of:

"We're again giving all the ladies in the office half a day off to do their Christmas shopping. Please advise your manager when you will be taking your half day."

WTF?! I was told this is due to the fact that most of the 'ladies' are in lower level positions and the men get taken out for golf etc by their clients. Hmmm, how about re-working the hiring processes instead of a 'throw the dog a bone' half day off. And why do they think I need half a day to do my Christmas shopping, as opposed to something a bit more worthwhile??

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

A view inside

Technology is wonderful. As I've posted before, buying books off the shelf down under is a definite no no for me, as it's far too cost prohibitive. I've stared a wish list on amazon.com so that I can store books I eventually want to purchase (otherwise I don't have a chance at remembering them), and will buy them when I'm planning a trip back to the States. Nothing like discounted costs and free shipping, as well as...a view inside the book. It's almost as good as being in the book shop (minus the comfy chairs and coffee) and pretty much, I won't add anything to my wish list before being able to 'browse'. Trips to the book store now only consist of the coffee, comfy chair and a stack of magazines.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Momma Down Under

Well, my mom's just finishing up her week-long visit to Auckland, and we're both totally worn out from running around like chickens with our heads cut off all week seeing things. So far, we've seen:
  • Eden Gardens (which I totally agree is one of Auckland's best kept secrets and one of the must do things here)
  • Mt Eden
  • Sky Tower
  • Downtown Auckand & Viaduct area
  • Waiwera & nearby areas on a Saturday road trip
  • Mission Bay
  • Auckland Botanic Gardens (a SERIOUS disappointment to me, although Mom liked it, but I put that down to her not seeing the Sydney & Adelaide Botanic Gardens first)
  • Newmarket & Auckland Museum (the Museum being another Auckland must do)
  • Waiheke Island on a day long vineyard tour (where by the end Mom was "make sure-ing" her glass was empty)

Amazingly, the weather has been the best it's ever been since Steve and I arrived here, with almost no rain after a week of rain every day. I'm learning what the sun down here is really like, as I burned bright red after two days of being out and about in it minus suntan lotion. Won't make that mistake again.

Pics, from top clockwise are: my sexy husband and I, a view of the city from Mission Bay, the view from Sky Tower, two photos of the Botanic Gardens, Eden Garden, and four pics from the vineyard tour.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Guy Fawkes

Guy Fawkes Day is 5th of November, but the fireworks were the weekend before. We could see these from the front of our hostel. Strangely, this holiday is celebrated in New Zealand, but not in Australia, although they're both still commonwealth countries with the queen as the head of state. Guess there's less chance of a fire starting here, as the fireworks have been banned in Australia for about 30 years. Anyway, the holiday celebrates the unsuccessful plan of Guy Fawkes, a Catholic, to blow up the English Parliament a lot of years ago. He was executed, and although I think they sometimes burn him in effigy on top on bonfires as part of the holiday, I don't remember how.

Not as rare as you think

It's bad enough people did it in the 40's and 50's, but this reminds me of a Halloween party I went to about 7 or 8 years ago in which one of the attendees came in wearing an afro wig, face covered in dark brown make-up, and shouted while waving a toy gun: "I'm a n----r with a gun!!" What the fuck is wrong with people? (These are probably the same dudes who tell you to Vote Republican to Keep America Safe!)


Sunday, 4 November 2007

A kitty stuck under the house, obnoxious Americans & Anti-American-isms

Woke up at 3,30am on Saturday to a strange scratching noise, stumbled over to the french doors to hear meowing, and a couple of minutes later a paw sticking out from...the floor! In the 1-inch gap between the wall and carpet tack two eyes peared up at me. One of the hostel cats has been stuck under the house now for 2 days. We've ripped a not enough big hole in the floor, called out the SPCA, taken some bricks out of the outside wall (which should be a big enough hole yet the cat is only peeking her head out for food), and as of this morning, I don't hear any more meowing, but I'm not sure if she's out. Positive thoughts needed.

The other night, I was introduced to a new hostel stayer who is from the East Coast and told he was another of my country-men. About 50% of the Americans I meet on the road are horrendously annoying, and this is one of them...talking about how much money he makes, asking others about their financial situation, being too loud and know-it-all, etc. This being said, it still hugely pisses me off when people make comments about all of us Americans based upon their experiences with a few. I've had a few of those experiences this weekend, and it's really just enough already.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Halloween Down Under

Although most people here think Halloween is an over-hyped American holiday corrupting the youth of Down Under-lands, they're always keen to join in on a Halloweeny drinking session or pumpkin carving, and they typically find out the latter is surprisingly enjoyable (example: Steve last Halloween). This year we're doing it proper style...started off with staying up late to watch Exorcist last night, pumpkin carving at the hostel Tuesday night, another at work lunchtime Wednesday, going to see 1408 later that night, Halloween drinkies Friday night, and perhaps more drinkies Saturday night. Bring it on! The only thing missing is Linus in the pumkpin patch:(

Happy Hauntings Ya'll!!

Friday, 26 October 2007

Why I love my husband

We're trying to get out and about and see more of Auckland, so last weekend we went to the Auckland Museum. I had read beforehand that the $5 admission was a 'suggested donation' but wasn't sure I had the guts to say I wasn't paying. Am now used to English museums being free, and the ones in Australia also seemed to be, so I didn't reall want to spend the $5. Anyhoo, when we got to the entrance, Steve just started to breeze through and the cashier stopped him and asked if we had tickets. He just said: "It's only a suggested donation." so she gave us two tickets which said $0 on them and off we went. Fab museum by the way, surrounded by a huge park and some gardens, and connected to the War Museum, so could be a whole day out....for free!!

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

The difference between the US & Australian Consulates

US Consulate:
Wait in lobby of building until 8am
At 8am, make mad dash to lift as all others waiting, even those who arrived after you, will be rushing ahead of you (tip: last one in, first one out!)
Get in line for security on 3rd floor (see above re: mad dashes)
Take out mobile phone and any electronic devices before putting bag through xray machine, and hand to guard to keep while you are inside.
Put bag through xray.
Walk through metal detection machine.
Proceed inside.

Australian Consulate:
Go upstairs anytime (they open at 9am) and get a number.
Go back downstairs until 9am and have a coffee.
Go back upstairs, wait til you are called...and take care of yr business.

Monday, 22 October 2007

It's almost that time!

We (fingers crossed) will be submitting our spousal visa for Australia this week. Wish us luck!
Modified to add: Turned in in today (Wednesday)!

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Fast Americans

No, I'm not talking about that girl you went to high school with;) I'm having to do a list of every trip abroad I've taken in the past 10 years, for my visa application, and what strikes me most is how short some of these vacations were. Five days in Mexico in 1999, another five in France, three in Canada, and so on. I wouldn't even think of going somewhere for such a short time anymore as a matter of course, but then again, sometimes as an American, on American vacation time, one has little choice. It was an absolute luxury to spend an entire two weeks on the beach in Rarotonga for our honeymoon, and to think once we move to Australia, we'll be able to take vacations of that length without any eyebrows raised from employers, is...awesome!

The height of poor Customer Service

Today we got a letter at work from a vendor in response to a complaint we had about their customer service recently...poor response time, no acknowledgement of enquiries etc. The letter read something like this, with a bit of exaggeration:

Dear Sirs,

In response to your comments regarding the customer service you have received recently, we have this to say:
Your staff is ignorant.
The answers to the questions asked of us are something they should already know, therefore we saw no need to reply.
Your handover from leaving staff to new staff was crap, and as a result your new staff have no idea what they're doing.

Kind regards,

Um, I'd hate to say this is an accurate example of customer service down under, but....

Death & Taxes

Only two things in life are...ah wait, I wanted to talk about the two most stressful things in life, which are supposed to be death and moving. Add the nailbiting process of applying for a spousal visa while in a country other than your home country or your new home country to the move, and moving might get up there close to death in terms of stressfulness;)

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Xmas in Christchurch and New Years in Queenstown

Very original city names aren't they? Anyhoo, we're finally going to see some more of New Zealand. Flying in and out of Christchurch and then renting a car to drive down to Queenstown and back. My dumb ass booked our flight home at about 9am though, and it's a 6 hour drive from Queenstown to Christchurch:/

Monday, 15 October 2007

Who's your daddy?

My old man won't let me call him my old man because he says that would mean he's my dad...and he calls his dad his old man and his mom his old lady, the latter of which kinda weirds me out...

He also doesn't want me to call his mom and dad...mom and dad...the only time I've ever seen him be possessive;)

Saturday, 13 October 2007

The F Word

Who cares about Al Gore; Doris Lessing won the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature. I wonder what she would think of the end of the car race I watched last weekend. Although I think car racing is a bit dull in itself, my only real issue with it is the way the industry objectifies women, and the fact that many of the men who are so into this sport, think nothing of it. Two examples--- 1) at the end of the race, there were two young women, who looked as if they were dressed up as cheerleaders, standing behind the winners/anouncers and...oh wait, they were just standing there, barely dressed and shivering in the cold. I asked Steve what they were doing, what they were there for. Nothing, he said. So, I said, they're just there to stand and look pretty...they don't really exist? You're not offended by that? 2) On these car formus he's on, many members have as avatars half-naked women, two half-naked women in bed together, etc. I think the car racing industry and those who support it should be ashamed of themselves, but of course, they would allo say "It's no big deal. What are you, a feminist? Typical woman, over-reacting..."

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Hard to break old habits

Every single time I go to the Post Office here to buy stamps for my international mail, I have the envelopes out in my hand, forgetting that they simply give you the stamps and point you outside to the mail box.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Name changes

Well, it's official. I'm no longer a *****. No, that's not me calling myself something off-colour; I've simply changed my surname. Picked up my new passport today. You should see how hideous the new ones are---pictures of mountains and cowboys and the statue of liberty adorning the pages, along with little quotes, and surprise surprise they managed to put god in there, grrrrrrr. I keep thinking of that hillbilly country song...I'm Proud to be an American. Thank dog I'll have an Australian passport in a few years. Just when I feel my nationalistic pride picking up, something like this...

Sunday, 23 September 2007

I want to vote!

This is the first time I actually have strong enough feelings about the candidates to actually want to vote, rather than feeling obligated to vote out of a feeling that if I didn't, I'd be embarrassed to admit it. I feel just as strongly about the candidate I want to win as the one I would hate to win. I'm voting for Barack Obama, and I'll be gutted if Hillary Clinton wins. A woman with no respect for herself, who only stood by her husband after he cheated on her in order to further her political career, has no place as the first female president...a role model for the young women of America. That being said, I also feel the desire to attack Jesse Jackson for the first time ever. I've typically overlooked the fact that he seems to dislike white people, given the fact he has done so much good in his life, but his comments about Barak Obama not being black enough really make me sick. What right does he have to demand one man should take certain actions just because of the colour of his skin. Isn't it enough that by running successfully for president (whether he wins or not), he's paving the way for greater progress? Anyway, that's my vent. I'm off to get my absentee ballot.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Our Wedding

(Remember you can click on the photos to make them larger.)

We're just back yesterday from our honeymoon (and marriage) in Rarotonga. Everything was fabulous and much better than I'd expected. I was nervous about speaking/vows in front of other people (even though there were only 4 - the marriage celebrant, two witnesses and the photographer) but to be honest, when it came time, it was all good.

We had our wedding night dinner at the Crown Beach Resort down the road, in a private gazebo. The waiter would come by in a golf cart with each course, then leave us completely alone for a half an hour or so to eat etc. As you can see, when we came back from the wedding ceremony, there were beautiful flowers in the room, shaped into a heart on the bed. It ended up, all in all, being mellow, pleasant, and just overall perfect.

Just a note that the photos have been reduced in size, so if anyone is interested in having copies to print, just leave a note in the comments or email me and I'll send you what you need.


Here are some pics from the holiday in Rarotonga. Pictures, clockwise from top, are: our accomodation, myself on the balcony, Island Night entertainment at the Staircase , a pic from Steve's diving, Steve on the bike, sunset in front of our accomodation, a pic from Steve's snorkelling, a Cook Island Christian Church and cemetary, another snorkelling pic, Muri Beach from Wedding Island, having drinks at the Crown Beach Resort (where we also had our wedding dinner), Steve and I overlooking the lagoon while on the Raro Safari Tour, and Steve cooking dinner on the bbq.

We spent two glorious weeks here, renting a bike to get around the island (it only takes about 45 minutes to drive around the entire thing). When we first arrived in the middle of the night, I was a bit concerned as it didn’t look like much, and the only thing you could hear was roosters crowing (to my surprise, they do it more than once and not just at dawn!). The hostel we stayed at was fantastic, and our beachfront unit was more flash and gave us more privacy than a lot of the other places we saw when going around, at a quarter of the cost. Mt first piece of ID in my married name ended up being my Cook Islands driver’s licence. I got it for the novelty factor, rather than practicality, as I suspect many tourists do. It’s obviously just a ploy to bring in more tourist dollars.

Burials here often take place on resident’s personal land. I was struck by this at first as I wondered what happens when the land is sold, as it would seem unusual for the same family to own the land generation after generation. They have a different system, however, for land ownership. Land can only be leased for 60 year periods from the original owner, with the option to renew, but not the right. This is quite brilliant as it ensures that this place can’t become overrun with tourists buying up holiday homes and pushing up costs for the locals.

Having an entire two weeks on a beach island was incredible. I definitely like the attitude towards taking vacation time in this part of the world. People go on ‘holiday’ for anywhere up to a month or more…and workplaces are ok with it! It’s actually a bit sad to be back in Auckland now, as it has yet to warm up much and we just miss the beach. We went snorkelling (me once as I found it a bit alien feeling and scary…hey, I’m a city girl), Steve went diving (note the underwater pics in a deeper blue are from the dive), did a ‘safari tour’ and got far up in the hills, and just hung out on the beach. What struck me about Rarotonga was the fact that it so much less built up and touristy than any other beach holiday I’ve gone on. At first, I thought it might not be all that, but as time went on, I enjoyed it more than anywhere else I’ve been, largely due to this aspect.