Saturday, April 19, 2008

So long ...

Before we begin, let's address a couple of housekeeping issues.

1) I must correct a mistake in the previous entry, "New Zealand: Now You Know! Part III." It turns out the time difference is currently eight hours (or, more specifically, 16 hours) between EDT and NZ time, not six as I originally reported. This is because the U.S. sprang forward in daylight savings time when NZ fell back an hour. But then in October NZ will spring forward and the U.S. will fall back, and it will be back to six hours (or, more specifically, 18 hours). Does that make any sense? I kinda don't think so.

2) Thanks for the comments. Especially the ones that praise me and talk about how great I am, but also the snarky ones (I'm looking at you, Elizabeth). I love these as they make me feel like I'm not just talking to myself. From now on, if you post as "anonymous," please also sign your name. It's more fun that way, and it lets me rest assured that you are not my axe murderer stalker.

Okay, now that's out of the way. Let's get to the brilliant prose.

It's my last week in Atlanta. I'm riding some insane waves of nostalgia, excitement, and denial, with the occasional nervous breakdown thrown in for good measure. My primary goal this week is to eat as much Mexican food as possible. (Chris tells me there is one Mexican restaurant in Dunedin. His exact words were, "You will not be impressed.")

I spent a fantastic week in Texas visiting my parents. Some good Mexican food was involved. A lot of people ask how my parents are handling this move, and I have to give them heaps of credit for being astoundingly and consistently supportive. Perhaps on occasion you have said to yourself, "Gee, I have the best mom/dad in the world." Perhaps you have sent a mother's day card to this effect, or maybe you've given your father a "#1 Dad" mug that he uses to hold pens on his desk. I am sorry to say that you have been misled, because on a completely objective basis it turns out that my parents are, in fact, the best in the world. (Yours are still good, though. You really should call them more often.) I already miss them like crazy.

Now I'm back in the ATL, feeling rather chubby from all of the Mexican food and overwhelmed with everything that has to be done this week. The big thing will be getting the dogs on the plane, which will almost certainly require sedatives. (For me, not the dogs.) I'm also trying to say goodbye to everybody, which is impossible, and I can't help feel that all of the lunches and dinners and happy hours in the world can't possibly do justice to the unbelievable friendships I've had in here in Georgia. I'm seriously going to miss you guys.

All this is to say that my nerves are pretty raw right now, and I'm sad and excited and in utter disbelief that this is my last week in my adopted home state. The thing that's getting me through is just being so ready to see Chris (best husband in the world, objectively speaking) and getting our new life started after so much talking, so much planning.

Barring any unforeseen events that I just have to share (let's hope not ... no news is good news, this week) I think this is my last post before I leave. I'll see you in New Zealand, devoted readers!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

New Zealand: Now you know! Part III

At long last, readers, we've reached the exciting conclusion (at least for the time being) of our informational series "Getting to Know New Zealand."

Q: Are the seasons opposite from those in North America?

A: Yes, NZ summer is roughly November-January, winter is roughly June-August, and so on. The school year for students at Chris's university runs from February-November.

Q: Weird! So does that mean you'll have two winters back-to-back?
A: Basically, yes. It sounds nicer to think I'll have a sliver of spring and a little dose of fall in between the two winters.

Q: What does "Kia Ora" mean?
A: From our friends at Wikipedia: Kia ora is a Māori language greeting which has entered New Zealand English. It means literally "be well/healthy" and may also be regarded in a more formal sense as a traditional greeting of "Good health." It is used for both "Hello" and "goodbye" and as a general exhortation or acknowledgement when listening and responding to a public speaker.

Q: What is the time difference over there?

A: Normally NZ is 18 hours ahead of EST (Georgia time). They observe daylight savings time on a slightly different schedule, though, so that fluctuates by an hour for a few weeks each year.

It is easiest for me to calculate by thinking that they are six hours behind, but one day ahead. For example, if it is Wednesday, 6 pm in Atlanta, it would be noon on Thursday in NZ. For pacific time, it is 3 hours behind, one day ahead (i.e. 3 pm Wednesday in Vancouver is noon Thursday in Dunedin).

Q: How will I be able to contact you?
A: I'm keeping the same email address, and I've recently gotten into Google instant messaging. Chris and I have talked almost every day at no cost through IM or by using Skype. I'll also get a cell phone, though I have no idea what it will cost to dial it from North America. Chris got a very reasonably priced international calling card in NZ, so that will help us make conventional phone calls to you guys. And you can always find me here, my darling readers.

Q: Is it true that the toilet flushes in the opposite direction in the Southern Hemisphere?
A: I'm told this is true, and that it has something to do with the magnetic pull of the poles . . . or something. Unfortunately, when I was down there, none of the toilets I used seemed to swirl. They had more of just a giant "whoosh" of water that seemed to shoot straight down the bowl -- kind of like an airplane toilet -- so I can't say I observed this myself. (After a while, I started feeling kind of deranged, eagerly staring down the bowl of each new toilet, and I abandoned the experiment after a couple of days.)

A friend of mine was very disappointed with this story when I explained it to her. She cleverly pointed out that I should have filled up a sink and watched it drain to see if the water swirled in the opposite direction. You will be glad to know, dear readers, that I have added this to my list of things to do upon arrival.

Q: Who are those child molester-looking guys in the photo?
A: New Zealand's sensational musical/comedy duo "Flight of the Conchords." (individually, they are Bret Mackenzie and Jemaine Clement.) I adore them and have developed a rather unhealthy crush, though Chris does not seem threatened.

They won a Grammy this year, and they've now got a show on HBO, descriptively named "Flight of the Conchords." You can also rent it on DVD if you don't have HBO. Watch it. It's funny.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


It's been a crazy week.

Friday marked my last day as an American attorney, at least for the foreseeable future. The folks on my team took me to lunch and then held a really nice party for me that night. (Thanks to Meredith for hosting and Ashley for organizing -- you guys are the best.) Some of you may be wondering exactly what I plan to do with myself, now. We will discuss this issue in another post, dear readers, probably when I am drunk and weepy.

Saturday through Monday I was in Memphis, visiting my wonderful friend Chris Allen (not to be confused with the other Chris, to whom I am married). We went to Graceland, Stax Records, walked around the Mississippi River front, ate oysters, ate barbecue, drank a lot of beer. A rather flawless Memphis weekend, if I dare say.

Monday morning I returned to Atlanta to find the proverbial feces hitting the proverbial fan. Okay, I'm being dramatic. Everything is fine. No one has lost a limb, or an eye, or even their sense of smell. It's just that with only two weeks to go before I leave for NZ, it seems as if all of the details are a little crazy. This is going to require bullet points.
  • I sold my car. This, in itself, is really great.* But because I was slack and sloppy and moved around a lot in my 20s and have no idea what I did with the title, I had to spend four soul-killing hours at the DMV's title office trying to get all of the paperwork together. I seriously aged about five years during that visit.
  • I've spent the last two days on the phone trying to correct a $500 overcharge by my vet clinic. (Issue is now resolved.)
  • I finally got my NZ permanent residency visa, but they issued it in my maiden name. Long story short, I think I should be able to get into NZ okay (cross your fingers) but I will need to resolve this upon arrival.
  • My back is all screwed up. This happens to me periodically, but I'm in a lot of pain and this is making my attitude rather sour. I also think it is some kind of cosmic retribution because I was so cocky about finishing the half marathon. Last week = best shape of my life. This week = hobbling around and smelling like Ben Gay.
  • I got a call from the vet clinic this morning that the brilliant lab workers in Kansas that were running the dogs' blood tests (Yes. The dogs' blood work has to go to freakin' KANSAS, or the NZ gov't won't accept it) actually LOST Livy's blood sample. Nevermind that both blood samples were sent in the same UPS package. So the poor little pumpkin and I are heading back to the vet this afternoon so she can have even more blood drawn.
  • Verizon Wireless is an agent of the devil. This is all I can manage to say about that incident.
I apologize, dear readers, for such a dark, whiny, self-involved post. Like I said, in the scheme of things, everything is rolling along -- just hitting a few speedbumps, ha ha. Next time: Bright and Sunny "Kia Ora, Y'all" posts will be back! Moving to New Zealand is a hoot!

* Devoted Atlanta readers, please note that I am now relying on you and the Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority to cart me around. Thank in advance.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

New Zealand: Now you know! Part II

Why, hello again, my loyal readers! Today we continue with the second segment of our educational series, "Getting to Know New Zealand."

Q: Do they speak English in New Zealand?
A: Yes, English is the predominant language. (I am shocked and appalled that I have had to answer this question on more than one occasion, but I am here to educate. Not to judge.) Right now I can't tell the difference between an NZ accent and an Australian accent, but I am assured I will learn in no time. The Maori language is also an official language of New Zealand.

Q: What is "Maori?"
A: The Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand. From what I understand they basically got screwed for years by the New Zealand government (hard to imagine, huh?) but in recent years there has been more of a push to preserve Maori culture. I saw a lot of Maori in Auckland but don't remember seeing any on the South Island.

Maybe you saw the move "Whale Rider" a couple of years ago? The family in that movie was Maori. (Sweet movie by the way. Rent it with the kids, or grandma. Fun for the whole family!) There is another movie about the Maori that got quite a bit of acclaim in the U.S. a few years ago called "Once We Were Warriors." I have not yet seen it but understand it is considerably less grandma-friendly. Depending on your grandma, of course.

Q: How many people are in New Zealand?
A: New Zealand has a little more than 4 million people. (By contrast, metro Atlanta has a little more than 5 million.) 3 million live on the North Island, so the South Island (where we will be) is much more rural and remote.

Q: How big is New Zealand?
A: I have zero sense of scope, but Google tells me it's about the size of Colorado. I'm guessing that includes both islands.

Q: Didn't they film the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy in New Zealand?
A. Yep.

Q: Did they film "Lord of the Rings" near your town?
A: Some of the filming was done on a few hours' drive from Dunedin, closer to the southwestern part of the South Island. I think some of it was filmed in the North Island, but I'm not sure of all the locations. They have "Lord of the Rings" tours, but even Chris and I aren't dorky enough to sign up for something like that. I fell asleep during the first movie and did not get around to seeing the second two.

Q: What is a kiwi?
A: A kiwi is a flightless bird native to New Zealand. People from New Zealand also call themselves "Kiwis" as a synonym for "New Zealander." The brown fuzzy fruit Americans call "kiwi" is, in fact, native to New Zealand. From what I understand they call it kiwifruit.

Q: I guess you'll get to see kangaroos, huh?
A: No, that's Australia. If there are kangaroos in New Zealand, I'm guessing they are in zoos. New Zealand is known more for sea animals than land mammals -- whales, seals, penguins, dolphins. There is a wild penguin colony just outside of our town.

Q: No way!
A: Seriously. Chris took this picture when he was at the beach north of Dunedin about a month ago:

Believe it or not, dear readers, there is still more ground to cover! Stay tuned for Part III!

(Thanks to the folks at Backpack New Zealand for use of the lovely map above.)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Take that, Coach Villott

This may come as a surprise to you, devoted readers, but I have never been known for my athletic prowess. I have been described in a number of ways ("smart," "tall," and "weird," immediately come to mind). "Athletic" has never really shared a sentence with my name.

Growing up, running was a particular form of punishment. I was slow. I did not have a lot of endurance. I dreaded the annual mile run in PE class.

For the past couple of years I have watched Chris run marathon after marathon, dotted by a couple of half marathons and 10Ks. Proud as I was, I thought he was insane. Then about two years ago, I was on the sidelines while he and his mother ran the Peachtree Road Race, and I felt kind of ashamed. All of these people were running by, lots of them older than me, lots of them heavier than me, and they weren't scared of running. Perverse as it was, some of them seemed to be enjoying themselves. I figured if they could do it, I could do it, and I decided that I would run the Peachtree 10K the following year. Even as I was making that goal, 6.2 miles seemed completely unfathomable.

It took a long time to build up to three miles. A long time. My first 5K took forever, and I wanted to die at the end. But after that, building up to a 10K was not so bad. I ran the 2007 Peachtree, and had the time of my life. And I ran another 10K, and that was pretty fun, too.

So this gets us to last weekend, when I ran the ING Georgia Half Marathon. Me. Slow, uncoordinated, last-picked-in-gym-class, usually-carrying-an-extra-ten-to-twenty-pounds, me. My adorable mother came from Texas to watch, and she did a fantastic job as coach and cheerleader. With the exception of some extremely tired legs around miles 11-12, I felt pretty great through the whole thing. I am still not fast, but I ran the entire 13.1 miles and did not die.

I realize this isn't the kind of thing that generates Oprah-levels of inspiration, but it was pretty exciting. I'm planning to run another half marathon in June in New Zealand. (Chris is doing the full marathon. I still think he's insane.)