Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Exploring Auckland

So it was July 26th, because I skipped a day by jumping over the international dateline. Anyway, I woke up from my nap, and by that time the sun had came up. It's winter in NZ, so I'm still getting used to the much fewer hours of daylight. Anyway, here's the first view of New Zealand, from my hostel window. Isn't it beautiful? Ha!

I had an entire day to explore Auckland. First item of business was to book a bus ticket for Matamata for the following day. I learned that the bus terminal was located at the base of the sky tower, which is a lot like the space needle in Seattle. I walked down Queen Street and Victoria Street, which are known for their shopping. Something that I'm not used to is how open everything is to the elements. That day was about 40 degrees F, and it really doesn't get much colder than that, so there were many open air malls. Another thing I noticed was the influence of Japanese culture. I soon realized that there were a lot of Asians. I wasn't sure if they were tourists or residents, but I remember reading that many Japanese imigrate to New Zealand, so the culture was definately visable.

I realized during the day that because I didn't have my cell phone anymore, I had no clue what time it was! So, second on my list was to find a watch. Problem was, I was in an area known for it's upscale shopping. Eventually, I found a mall, and I was told there was a "Warehouse" on the top floor. I figured out it was Kiwi Wal-mart, so I bought a few other things along with the watch. And in true Wal-Mart fashion, they were out of what I wanted, so I ended up with a huge, ugly man watch. Oh well. The food court at the mall was awesome- lots of good food. I had a kebab, which I thought would be a kabob, but instead was a pita filled with meat, sauce, and a bunch a vegetables.

I went to a Barnes & Noble type bookstore, and literally spend a couple hours there. I've been known to do this, so when I realized I should get going, I had a mini freakout because for a second, I thought I was really at B&N in Appleton or Green Bay, and when I realized where I was, I thought to myself, "holy crap... I can't beleive I'm here!" So it's still setting in.

I noticed that a lot of the clothing was expensive, but then I realized that the clothes I was looking at were of good quality, and made with natural fibers. It was quite a change from the mostly synthetic or cotton that I'm used to. So once I got over that, and looked at quality, it didn't seem too bad. I also found a really cute store that sells paper and organized products. Kikki.K

I also made a huge mistake that even holds true in the US. I went to the grocery store on a Sunday evening. I found out later that most stores, except for grocery stores, close at 5pm, so of course, I went right after 5pm. I decided I needed to save some money, so I went to
FoodTown. I wandered around the store for quite awhile, getting used to the different brands and food, as well as looking for items that won't have any leftovers. So there I was in downtown Auckland, wondering around like a lost puppy in the grocery store, with a big stupid Holstein cow on the back of my jacket. Pretty much a big target on my back. But everyone was in a huge hurry to get home, so it wasn't a big deal.I even found a little bottle of wine to drink. And yes, those chips are poppy seed, garlic, and feta, and they were delicious! After I ate them, I hoped there wasn't a work required drug test because of the poppy seeds!

The Scuzzy American

So I finally got a somewhat reliable internet connection. I've been jotting down some random things in a notebook during my journey, so let's back up a few days...

24 July 09

I'm eating at a restaurant at the San Fransico airport. You can tell I'm at the international terminal because everyone is dressed so well. You can tell I'm an American by the way I'm dressed- track pants, a free t-shirt, and running shoes. I can see some Kiwis near me by their accents, and they're dressed well too- darn! So I'm looking out the window and I can't tell if it's hazy or if that's smog. From my view, I'm not impressed with SF. Oh wait- is that Danny Tanner and Uncle Jesse up on that hill driving a red convertible? Hahaha...

So I'm waiting at the gate... I guess this mother I'm looking at never got the message that rat tails are out. Or maybe they're all the rage in New Zealand. Nevertheless, her kid is still cute, saying "papa" instead of "paper." Note to self to fit in: wear a scarf. I'm beginning to understand why my friend from high school, Paula always wore scarves. She spent some of her childhood in NZ, so some of the fashion must have rubbed off.

On the plane... Well, it's good to know that Kiwis love their dairy products. In flight meal included cheese and crackers, spicy chicken in a cream sauce topped with Parmesan cheese, bread and butter, and cheese cake. Nevermind the not so good potato salad (with lettuce?).

After five to six hours of sleep, watching three movies and two episodes of "Army Wives," I landed safely in Auckland at about 5:00am. First thing I did was find a computer kiosk and check my e-mail and facebook, of course! So the exchange rate is pretty much NZ is double the US. Currently, it's not, but it's a good rule of thumb when seeing how much things cost. I paid NZ$30 for a shuttle to take me from the airport to the Aspen House, which turned out to be a hostel/hotel/bed and breakfast.

Oh a quick note on the shuttle. Prior to leaving, I had this thought that I would be hearing this new, cool British music, ya know, way before the US hears it. When I got in the shuttle, the radio was going. I was excited to hear what was planning, but what song did I hear? "Born in the USA" by Bruce Springsteen. Welcome to New Zealand, haha. I laughed a little to myself at how funny that was.

At the Aspen House, my room was just a bed with linens and a desk. Bathroom facilities were shared on each floor, and there was a central kitchen that everyone could use, and they also had continental breakfast. I didn't mind the simple accommodations, I just wasn't prepared. So after a much needed shower, I took a two hour nap.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Life just got more interesting...

Let's throw an engagement in the mix for good measure. Yup, it's official, the boy and I are getting hitched. I know some of you are thinking that it's about time.

I had a hunch it was going to happen because I opening my big mouth a few days ago about a ring. Craig tried to play it off, but I suspected something, and he knew it too. So as soon as he got off the plane and walked to the parking lot, he did it right then and there. Nothing too fancy, but like he said, he didn't want the ring burning a hole in his pocket the whole weekend either. So we were able to enjoy the time talking about plans and get excited. Also I did now realize that July 3rd was exactly 4.5 years to the day that he had asked me out on our first date. I felt silly that I didn't realized that!

The date is going to be pretty hard to determine because we don't know where Craig's first duty station is going to be. If it's in the continental US, then it'll be easy to travel home. If it's overseas, or Alaska or Hawaii, then things could get interesting. We assume it won't be until Feburary at the earliest that he will know where he'll be stationed. We definetly want to get it done before he has to do any pre-deployment training and deployment, if that does happen. He'll at least have a little while to settle in at his first duty station before we have to worry about that.

Now I'm pretty sure my return date for New Zealand won't be too much later than my orginal plan of the end of January. I know I'll be fine as far as planning a wedding goes. I know what I want, I just have to work hard to get it and to get it done.