Thursday, 31 January 2008

Yoga!

I went to the best yoga class I've been to in years last night. I'm convinced that yoga is one of those activities that can be as satisfying as sex, if done the right way. I still feel good today. And to top it off, it came with free dinner & dessert afterwards. The place I went to is run by a Hari Krishna group, and I think part of the beliefs/tenets have something to do with service, so it's a non profit run by volunteers, who cook for and feed you afterwards. I just have to find a 'sister' location in Adelaide now! (If you know of one, let me know;)

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Boobs on the beach







Yesterday Steve and I spent the day on Waiheke Island, as it was a bank holiday here (Auckland Anniversary Day). Went on the ferry (pics later) then hiked around the island to a couple of vineyards, the main 'city' and the beach. I had forgotten that in some places it is (?? legal) commonplace to see a few (*cough* skanks) topless women laying about. Seriously shocking to the sensibilities, to be quite honest, when you're not used to that. I wouldn't mind most likely, if it was just me walking along the beach;) I'd probably be thinking "yeah more power to ya ladies...the men have their tops off so why shouldn't we" but somehow when one's young impressionable...er, husband is getting an eyefull, I develop teurette's (*see above*).

I think what upsets me most about moving overseas is that I feel at times I am expected to adopt new values just because. I don't mind accepting the fact that people have different values, but NOTHING makes me fiestier than all of a sudden being expected to accept that tits on the beach, flip flops being called thongs, and ketchup on hotdogs are the norm! To each his own, and empathy for all, as always, but agreeing to disagree and different does not always equal better has to be the rule imo.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Snapshot of Australia

Wow, did you know 43% of Australians were born overseas or have one parent who was? I have to read this for my visa:

http://www.immi.gov.au/living-in-australia/values/book/english/lia_english_full.pdf

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Medicals requested

Well I finally got my request for medicals in the mail and am going tomorrow, where I assume I get to have blood drawn etc, and know I have to pee in a cup:( I hate going to the doctor, unless it's my doctor back home. I also have to have a chest x-ray, to make sure I don't have TB:/ Fun stuff, but at least it will be over and we are one step closer to getting our visa!

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Morning Tea at a Kiwi office

They often have morning teas here when a staff member is leaving (I think more people should leave so we can get free food more often). The combination of foodstuffs on offer, however, is always very strange. Keep in mind these events (which consist of more than just tea by the way) happen at about 10am. Today we had meat pies, bacon & egg pies, muffins, brownies, sausage rolls, ginger squares and apple pie square thingies. Odd for a nation that reals back in horror when it is suggested to mix sweet and savory together:/

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Social Security...what a joy!

Ok, so back when I did my name change I got, among many many other things, a new Social Security card. In order to do this, I had to visit my local US Consulate with verifiable documents in hand, which meant I first had to get my new passport (also done by the Consulate) to show some ID with my new name. They then sent in my documents, and a few months later, my brand new SS card came in the mail (to my mom in the US, as I requested for security reasons)...with my middle name spelled wrong. She then had to call our local SS office, who advised they would send out a form for her to fill out (which I now know is easily downloadable from the internet...as it is the same form I initially filled out for the new card with name change!). When she received the form, it also said I needed to send documentation of the name, which of course they had in the first place. Upon trying to call the local office, the line was busy...for weeks, so when she called the SS 800 number they said "Oh yes, we get many complaints about that office. Best to go in person or have your daughter go to her local Consulate." Yeah, like going in person would be any better...she would have been there all day I bet and they wouldn't have known anything. Took me almost a week, 2 phone calls and 2 emails to get a response from the Consulate here. They're crap at responding to phone and email enquiries, but very helpful when you finally reach them. Hmmm, the best of Kiwi and American customer service combined? Anyhoo, the Consulate said they had to forward my request to the regional office, in.....wait for it....the Phillipines! So I have been 3 way emailing back and forth for about a half an hour between myself, Auckland and the Phillipines, the last of which still has my paperwork on file. They're sending me a new card. Um, thanks Mom by the way.

Gold coins only

There is an ad in the staff kitchen today for the Heart Foundation, which is having its annual 'pick yer pocket' week in February (the week of V day to be precise). Having worked in non-profit for many years, I never give money to charity, hence my annoyance at the fact that I am solicited more on Auckland streets for charity than I was back in Chicago by the homeless (this held true in the UK as well). The thing that strikes me Down Under (noticed this in Australia also), is that they specify 'gold coins donations', which for those of you not familiar with the currency down here, means $1 and $2 coins only...no 10, 20 or 50 cent pieces wanted. You would think they would take every cent they would could get, rather than be fussy about coinage:/

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

An update on the visa

Since everyone is always asking (now we'll see who actually reads the blog), I just spoke with our case officer. My call was unsolicited, and although she was very professional and efficient, I got the impression I shouldn't call too often to check on progress. That being said, from checking others' timelines, I know she's typically quick (the amount of time we've been waiting is the amount of time many people have their visas approved in). Seems we submitted at a rather busy time. They are backlogged, partially due to the Christmas holiday (which means about a month off work for many people here) and she is only up to applications submitted at the beginning of October, so hasn't even looked at ours yet:( Once I get my request for medicals, things could progress rather quickly, if she doesn't need any additional information (fingers crossed!).

Monday, 7 January 2008

Down with Hillary

And yet another reason Hillary Clinton should and will lose, is her recent statement that she will require Americans to not only purchase their own health insurance, but that they will be forced to do so or be penalised. One thing about Americans, whether negative or positive, is that no one tells us what to do. Perhaps Hillary should be thinking a bit harder about who she is speaking to before throwing her plans for healthcare reform out there. This plan for healthcare reform is not only impractical (although hey, it may create jobs, as there’ll be openings for those people needed to chase up payments and penalties) in that it will create more debt for Americans who can’t or won’t pay for healthcare, but is also fundamentally against our cultural mindset. Look at how wrapped up people get in taxes. If we are to have universal healthcare at any point (which I don’t necessarily believe is appropriate or practical), it’s going to have to be a slow go.

It’s also interesting to me that Hillary is ahead of Obama. As much as he has my vote above anyone else, I really wasn’t sure if America was ready for a black president. I am pleasantly surprised that it seems to be a non-issue for the majority of Democratic voters. And to be honest, I don’t think Hillary being behind has much or anything to do with the fact that she is a woman. That being said, I do think women in general can be much less forgiving of other women’s weaknesses in the workplace and that she has to work even harder to get ahead. A given, right?...on either side of the voting gender, but I would guess to bet she has to work harder to get the female vote than we might think at first. How many of us have worked for women we hated? I’ve had many more male supervisors I could tolerate, even if I didn’t love ‘em, than women. There’s unfortunately a catty nature to many female supervisors, whether it be from bitterness resulting from the harder work it takes to break through the glass ceiling and gain respect from male peers in the workplace, or simply because they’re class A bitches (in the negative sense of the word). And we expect a bit more from women, unfortunately, in regards to nurturing or sympathetic tendencies. If Hillary is going to get my vote, she's going to have to try much harder to convince me my gut feeling is wrong and that she is not going to be one of those female bosses I hated.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Steve's canyon swing


My husband is insane...here are movies to prove it. The pic is the height he jumped from.

video

video

Pics from Queenstown














Thought I'd make things easier and separate the pics into three separate posts, as there are so many.

Notice the bungy jumper in the top right corner of the pic taken from up on the gondola. Those top two pics are the view from our hostel.

Friday, 4 January 2008

First Xmas Down Under










Got back yesterday from our holiday down South. Despite the fact that I missed having a white Christmas, I gotta say that Christchurch and Queenstown were spectacular. Christchurch and Adelaide were planned by the same person, but Christchurch is much more pedestrian and tourist friendly, as well as asthetically pleasing. We actually went to midnight mass at Christchurch Cathedral just to make the holiday seem a bit more festive, as they had carols for about an hour before the service. I thought it was an interesting mix to have the city's Christmas tree right on the church grounds, and no nativity scene in sight. Go New Zealand! Steve had gone to Christchurch for work the week before and when I asked him about the Christmas decorations, he pretty much shrugged his shoulders. I was disappointedly thinking things would be as bleak as Auckland, but his lack of description was due to the fact that he wanted to surprise me;)

Queenstown, although having beautiful scenery, has unfortunately been spoiled by the saturation of tourism there. It is the only place in New Zealand where there is late night shopping and shops open on public holidays such as New Year's day. In my opinion, New Zealand as a country has absolutely prostituted itself for the sake of tourists, although I have to admit they have created quite a brand as the place for adventure tourism. Steve paid a ridiculous amount of mind to jump off a cliff, as do many of the younger tourists who go down to Queenstown (or Taupo, or Rotorua). It was wonderful, however, to benefit from the huge fireworks display New Year's Eve...although not so wonderful to find someone trapped under our car the next morning, still drunk, after falling backwards over the wall it was parked next to.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

3rd try is a charm, or problems come in threes?

I seem to have become the queen of complaints. Mostly in regards to important things, but I feel lately I'm always trying to throw some muscle around to get things done, fairly. The subject line isn't quite right, as there are more then 3 things I'm trying to sort at the moment. First off, my employer is trying not to pay me for the New Year public holidays, stating some loophole in the Holiday Act which supposedly states that if I am on unpaid leave, I am not allowed to be paid for the bank holidays. Yes, I inadvertantly used up my holiday (vacation) time earlier than I should have, but this rule was never stated to me when I was told I would be paid for public holidays, nor have I seen anything while combing through the Holidays Act to indicate it is true. The Department of Labour advised me I should be paid, yet advised my employer they do not have to pay me, so I have sent in a complaint to the Labour Inspectorate. If the company is wrong, they could be heavily fined, which would serve them right, in my mind, for their pompous and inflexible attitude.

I've been going back and forth with our wedding planner, who decided to use our wedding photos on her websites without letting us know. Had she asked us ahead of time, and let us send her pics we would have been comfortable being displayed, we might have been willing (and may have given a positive recommendation as well as she's new to the business), but I had to find them by surprise, and after asking her to remove them (some of which she did), she's told me they are technically property of the photographer, who has given her permission to use them. Now, to my mind, that's just a bit callous, as this is something personal. I can't tell from the latest email if she is going to remove them all, or use some...we'll see. Legally, I think she can get away with it, as some don't have us in them and are photos of objects (such as our rings and jewelry), but as I said, it seems a bit cold to me.

I am at least making progress on getting us a refund for our very mediocre (to be kind) Christmas dinner (we're up to a voucher, which won't do us much good as the restaurant is in Christchurch), but no luck on Steve's airline miles with United from last March for our trip down here, which will be invalid in a little less than 2 months, and fingers crossed I will receive my absentee ballot on time after a follow up email.

I don't feel bad about complaining about any of these things, as they're all valid, but boy do I feel like all I am doing these days is pushing at people.

Modified to add: Ok, light at the end of the tunnel...we've received a full refund on our Xmas dinner, the wedding planner has agreed to remove our photos (and hopefully not replace them with any others of ours), and after 20 minutes on hold with United Airlines, I think we may actually get Steve's miles, 10 months later. Of course, those were the miles from the US to Australia...I still have to follow up on Australia to NZ, but I thought I shouldn't confuse them with more than one thing at a time!!