Monday, March 12, 2012
While the most important reader of my blog (my grandfather) is already aware of this because I had lunch with him yesterday, I thought the rest of you—whomever you may be—might like to know that I am currently in Washington State. Just in case you were wondering.
Monday, February 20, 2012
A while ago I suggested that the Tongariro Alpine Crossing was the best day hike in all of New Zealand. I now think I may have to qualify that statement—it’s still the best day hike in the North Island. But the South Island? I think the Rob Roy track outside of Wanaka could give it a serious run for its money.
The Rob Roy track cuts through valleys and fields, winds its way through a forest, and ends beneath its namesake: the hanging Rob Roy Glacier. I’m told it got its name from the first European to see it. Apparently, he thought it looked like a Scotsman in a kilt, and Rob Roy was the only Scotsman he could think of off the top of his head. I, personally, think he must have been on the old poppy seed, because I couldn’t make out a Scotsman with or without a kilt.
Anyway, hiking the Rob Roy track made for one of my all-time favorite days in New Zealand. And it was made more so by the company of a lovely Scottish girl who I met at the Queenstown airport. That’s the thing I love about travelling alone—you never really are. In fact, most of the time you’re surrounded by truly wonderful people. But it’s not ‘til you’re alone that you’re fully receptive to meeting them.
Sunday, February 19, 2012
I recently went on a trip to visit my friend Jane in Christchurch. And while I had heard that the city was pretty damaged from last year’s earthquakes, I was not at all prepared for the reality of it. For some reason I just thought there’d be a lot of cracked walls and messed up roads. Maybe an empty lot or two. But my mental image didn’t even come close to the true picture of a devastated city.
However, despite all the physical damage wrought on Christchurch, its spirit of community seems to be thriving. Every place we visited was teeming with people. Jane told me that it wasn’t always like this. But I got the sense that any excuse to celebrate is now a welcome distraction from the ever-present visual sadness. In fact, nobody there seemed very sad at all, which gives me every confidence in the city’s resilience. I hope to return again one day to see Christchurch as it should be. Whole.
Saturday, February 18, 2012
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Last weekend, Ashley and I took a tour of Parliament and New Zealand’s version of the White House. It’s called The Beehive for obvious reasons, and Prime Minister John Key has his offices in the top two floors. It was all pretty standard governmenty-type stuff—statues, fancy displays of china, portraits of old men with creative facial hair, etc.—except for the bronze replica of hobbits hiding under a tree from the Nazgul. That was weird.
Things I learned:
—New Zealand was the first country to grant women the vote.
—The handshake originated as a way to show others that you came in peace and weren’t going to reach for your sword.
—No matter what they say on Flight of the Conchords, the Prime Minister is not some dude named Brian.
Monday, February 6, 2012
If there’s one thing all Kiwi’s love, it’s their rugby. But I discovered firsthand that the popularity of Wellington’s Rugby Sevens tournament actually has very little to do with sport—unless dressing up in a 6-foot inflatable penis costume has finally been recognized by the Olympic committee.
So here’s the deal with the Sevens: it’s a two-day tournament featuring qualifying teams from around the world. I have no idea what they have to do to qualify. Compete in the Rugby Three-And-A-Halves? It’s a mystery. What’s not a mystery is why they call it the Sevens. Basically, rather than 15-a-side like normal rugby, in this tournament each team fields seven. And a match is comprised to two seven-minute halves. It makes for pretty fast-paced play. I found it quite exciting.
Somewhere along the line, though, people decided that the Sevens needed a little something extra. Some spicing up. An element of audience participation. So they started dressing in drag or as legos or as sexy (insert any occupation known to man here). It’s pretty much New Zealand’s equivalent of an American Halloween, except the drinking starts at about 1 p.m. on a Thursday and doesn’t end until after brunch on Sunday morning.
My friend Max managed to wrangle us some tickets for Saturday afternoon. It was completely last-minute, so the best I could come up with costume-wise was a bottle of Steinlager beer (fascinator beer cap coupled with a bottle green shirt). It was kinda lame, but I tried—that’s what counts. Max went as the farmer from Footrot Flats—a Kiwi comic book that I’d never heard of.
Anyway, aside from being forced to spend the day as an anthropomorphized hangover waiting to happen, my initial clue that rugby was just a convenient excuse for debauchery was when I was pelted with ice cubes by assholes sitting on a bar balcony in a rude attempt to get me to flash my boobs. (I didn’t.) My next clue was at the stadium itself, where a grand total of about 17 people actually showed up to watch the tourney. Of course, this number increased throughout the day up until the final match between New Zealand and England, but I couldn’t help but feel bad for all the teams that had travelled from far off places only to play to 30,000 empty seats. I do have to admit, though, that I was actually glad there weren’t many spectators when we—meaning the US— got our asses handed to us by Scotland. Rugby is most definitely not our national forte.