Monday, June 23, 2008

Three weeks. Three continents. One carry-on bag.

We're leaving on a trip this week. A big trip. I know we just moved to the other side of the world, and generally that would be enough travel to tide us over for a while, but when opportunity knocks you'd best answer the door. So we are off. Vancouver. Scotland. Tokyo. In three weeks.

How did we arrive at this itinerary, you ask? It's a long story. Here it goes: Chris is presenting a paper at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland in mid-July. He figured he would use the opportunity to stop over for a few days and see his family in Vancouver on the way to Scotland. (I was way jealous.) Then his folks were nice enough to help us out with another ticket so I could go along. (I was way excited!) Chris's family also invited my parents up to Vancouver while we're there, so we are thrilled to see both sides of the family during our limited time in Canada.

When we were booking the tickets, the travel agent told us we'd have to connect in Tokyo on the way home from Scotland. Japan has been on our list of dream trips for a long time, and since the ticket price was the same whether we stopped over for four hours or four days, we added a four-day stop in Tokyo.

So that's the plan: family reunion in Vancouver, work trip in Scotland (for my darling Christopher, anyway ... I'm just going to be hanging out, touring castles and eating haggis), pure vacation in Tokyo. Three continents, three weeks. Crazy.

As far as the one carry-on bag ... it is true. Chris and I are limiting ourselves to one carry-on bag each. For three weeks. Stop looking at me like that. It's okay. Really. For one thing, we are taking lots and lots of planes, and some connections are involved, so checked luggage would be a catastrophe waiting to happen. For another thing, we can easily do laundry at Chris's parents house, and I am told they have laundromats in Scotland and/or Japan. (In my experience laundromats are also a good place to meet highly colorful locals. Bonus!) Finally, I like being married, and the odds of me staying married increase exponentially each time I manage to pack light. Chris lugging my heavy suitcases all around the world = cranky husband = less fun had by all.

Three weeks of vacation feels like a very long time. I remember when I took two weeks off of work to visit New Zealand in 2007 and that felt outrageously indulgent. People here -- at least the academics I've met -- don't seem to think twice about traveling for 3-4 weeks at a time, and all of the Kiwis I've met are extremely well-traveled. Maybe it's because it takes a long time to travel anywhere from here, so if you're going to take the time and money to go all the way to North America or Europe you'd might as well make the most of it.

I will try to post updates of our trip from the road but realistically I don't know how often I'll be checking the computer. Hopefully I'll have some good pictures and some exciting adventures to share. The good kind of adventure. We'll see how it goes. Talk to you soon!

As we sign off, let's all wish a very happy half birthday to Fox! I hear I missed a raging party.

Addendum: In response to reader concerns, let me assure everyone that the dogs are staying in a very fine, highly-recommended facility while we are gone, complete with numerous play areas and underfloor heating. No more doggie jail. Doggie resort.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


The week has zipped by. A recap for my devoted readers:

1) Professional development. It looks like I have found some work doing legal research for a new center (centre) at the university. I'm meeting with the dean again next week to talk about it further, but it sounds like they'll have me starting in mid-July. The work sounds super interesting, and I hope it will be a good opportunity to learn more about the NZ legal system and get to know some folks without taking the plunge just yet to get certified to practice law.

What does the certification process entail, you ask? I keep avoiding this topic because it is rather dry reading, and because it gives me an ulcer, but since you asked: I am told that it is six classes for most foreign lawyers -- mostly first-year foundation classes like property, contracts, blah blah blah. BUT technically there is no clear set standard that applies to everybody, and each foreign lawyer simply has to submit their credentials to the council that oversees foreign lawyers with a $1200 application fee. No, $1200 is not a typo. Yes, that's just the fee for them to tell you exactly what classes they want you to take -- not tuition. I'm told that a few very hardcore foreign lawyers who go to school full-time have gotten certified in a year, but most people take about two years. Ulcer.

2) Social development. I had two lunch dates this week with people I met at a luncheon for women lawyers, so it has been fun to meet some new folks. Yesterday I hung out with this really hilarious Australian lawyer who introduced me to several of her friends, also lawyers. (My K&S readers may be interested to know that based on this limited exposure, I have concluded that lawyers around the world basically complain about the same things ...)

3) Physical development. Yoga is the only thing that consistently helps my back pain. I took a long-overdue level-one iyengar class this week and have concluded that Kiwis practice a very sadistic form of yoga. My back now feels great but every other muscle in my body feels like it has been pummeled with a cricket bat.

Also, after much searching, the dogs and I discovered a really awesome dog park hidden less than a mile from our house. It's huge and it's got some short walking trails and bush areas within the fenced area that they've enjoyed exploring. By the time we walk up there, play, and walk back, they are blissfully passed out for the rest of the day.

4) Marital development. Chris and I celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary this week on the 19th. (Woo hoo! I love you, honey!) We celebrated on the 19th, but since technically it was the 20th in NZ on the day we got married, we dragged out the celebration an extra day. Gotta love the international date line. I fully plan to have two-day celebrations for all birthdays, holidays and anniversaries in the future.

5) Cultural development. We're about to go on a big trip. This post is already getting way too long and chatty, so I will write another one in the next day or two to tell you all about it. I'm way excited.

I miss you guys!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Beach Day

To say the dogs like the beach is an understatement. They go crazy. They lose their little walnut-sized minds.

These aren't the greatest pictures (again, Owen's camera phobia forced me to be discreet so he wouldn't go running over the dunes, never to be seen again) but it gives you an idea.




Livy action shot.

I like that they include "public toilets" among the list of destinations. That is practical. (In case you have trouble reading the "New York" arm, it says 14893 km. 14893km = 9254 miles. Can that be right?)

Before we sign off, a great big congratulations to devoted readers Lauren and David, who are getting married in Georgia today!!! Here's to many happy, loving years ahead!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Some stuff you won't see in New Zealand (Part I of ???)

1) Central Heating. I believe I already covered this in "Some stuff you won't see in the U.S. (Part I of ??)." I'm still fascinated, though.

2) Tipping.
People don't tip here. As a tourist visiting NZ last year, I felt extremely weird about this. I somehow made it through my 20s without ever waiting tables (I was a more of a retail/office rat ... be kind to your Barnes & Noble sales clerks, people!!!) but I have had enough friends in the American food service industry to understand the unadulterated wrath directed toward bad tippers. This wrath made me very afraid. This wrath made me a good tipper.

It's a little different here. Unlike the U.S., where servers earn less than minimum wage and make up the difference with tips, the waiters here get a decent hourly wage which is built-in to the menu prices. Pro: The price on the menu is the total price you pay. No math. I like that. Con: Service is generally slow and less attentive (but still friendly enough) by American standards. In any event, I've gotten used to it and no longer feel like a cheap loser every time we go out to eat.

3) Napkins.
Okay, they've got napkins, but count yourself lucky if they give you one and it's bigger than one of those cocktail napkins you get with the little passed hors d'ouvres at wedding receptions. I've concluded that Kiwis are extremely neat eaters. Or perhaps I am an extremely sloppy eater. Or perhaps Americans just have a wasteful love affair with excess napkins. I suspect all three of these factors are in play.

4) Drip coffee. The coffee here rocks pretty hard. It's pretty much all espresso-based, and it comes with its own unique lingo. "Long black" = espresso shot with extra hot water. "Flat white" = espresso shot with milk. "Cappuccino" = you already know what that is. These options keep me pretty well caffeinated, but sometimes I want just a regular old cup of coffee made with ground coffee beans, and it does not seem to exist in cafes or restaurants. We make it at home with the french press.

5) Krispy Kreme. Do me a favor, loyal North American readers. Get in your car, right now, and drive to your local KK. It's okay -- I'll wait. Is the red "Hot Doughnuts" sign on? Good. Perfect. Park the car, and go inside. (If you're at the one on Ponce in Atlanta, take care not to get assaulted by one of those colorful characters loitering in the parking lot.) Inhale the sweet sweet glaze aroma. Close your eyes and really breathe it in. Is it as beautiful as I remember? Yes? That's what I thought. Approach the slightly haggard-looking doughnut proprietress and order two
hot original glazed (Ah, what they hay? Make it three. I'm certainly not going to judge you.) and a small bold roast coffee.

You have no idea how good you have it.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Snow Day!

Woke up this morning to snow! It all melted by about 1 pm, but it was pretty. It seems unreal that it was 90 degrees F in Atlanta yesterday.

View from our living room window

Dusted backyard

Owen enjoying the snow while fleeing from the camera.

On a little walk. This isn't a great picture but I love the hills behind our neighborhood ...

Primary school near our house

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Some more stuff you won't see in the U.S. (Part II of ???)

1) Netball. From what I can tell, it's a lot like basketball, only you don't dribble the ball, there's no backboard behind the hoop, and it looks like there are some kind of rules about how far you can move with the ball. I haven't seen anything about men's netball -- seems like mostly a women's sport, although astoundingly they still show games on TV.

I will add that sports in general are quite a bit different here. For starters
, they refer to collective sports as "sport" rather than "sports," as in, "Please hand me the sport page." Rugby has got to be hands-down the most popular sport, and there are more leagues than I can keep up with.* Cricket is probably the second most popular, but I fall asleep just thinking about it. There is a pro basketball league but you don't hear much about it. No baseball or American football to speak of.

2) Music videos.
Before you get all huffy and argumentative and try to tell me that the U.S. does have music videos and, in fact, America invented MTV, ask yourself: When was the last time you turned on the television and actually saw a music video? Hmmm? I think they still used to come on when I was in college, but since then both MTV and VH1 have been devoted solely to crappy reality shows about B-list celebrities, crappy reality shows about spoiled rich teenagers, and crappy countdown shows like "I Love the '90s, Part 29" and "Top 100 Craziest Hair Band Moments." For the record, I'm not saying I haven't enjoyed watching some of these shows. I'm just saying they're crappy.

So it's interesting to see music videos again. About half of them are bands I've never heard of, which is probably partly cultural (there seem to be a fair number of Maori hip hop artists -- who knew?) and partly because I am old and out of touch with what the kids are into these days. Much of what they play is not really my kind of music (Does anyone else feel an urge to impale the lead singer of Panic at the Disco?) but interesting enough to have on the TV for background noise while you are making silly blog lists for your friends at home.

3) Pineapple Lumps. Apparently, they are chewy, pineapple-y, and chocolatey, all wrapped into one convenient candy morsel. They are widely touted in commercials as a distinctive Kiwi treat. I saw a very sane-looking 20-something woman buying these at the grocery store yesterday, so this confirms that someone is, in fact, consuming them. They make me very afraid.

* Realizing I need a rugby team to cheer for, I have chosen the Crusaders because 1) the only full rugby match I've watched is a Crusaders game, in a bar full of Crusaders fans in Christchurch; 2) the Crusaders' colors are red and black, which are obviously the best team colors one can choose; and 3) some of their players are extremely cute, even when blood is spewing from their noses. I have subsequently learned that being a Crusaders fan will not earn you any friends in Dunedin (home of the Highlanders) -- it's something akin to marching down Milledge Avenue in Athens singing "Rocky Top" or making that obscene Florida gator gesture. Thus, I will likely keep this newfound Crusaders devotion to myself.

ADDENDUM: The Crusaders won the 2008 Super 14 championship. I didn't realize I'd picked a good team to cheer for.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Honeymoon. Over.

I was in the backyard with the dogs this afternoon, watching them run and frolic and basking in the general loveliness of it all. Then Livy (the smart one, the one who does amusing tricks and is not deathly afraid of cameras) rolled in a big pile of poo. I saw her roll on her back and wiggle around, as she is known to do, but it did not cross my mind that we had a poo situation because she has never before been so vulgar as to roll in poo. But when she ran back to the porch from the top of the hill, it became clear we most definitely had a poo situation. A three-alarm poo situation. As if Livy and Mother Nature were conspiring against me, it promptly started to rain.

Instinctively I ran inside (leaving poo-ridden Livy outside) and grabbed 1) our cheapest bottle of shampoo and 2) a cell phone to call Chris because I had no idea if we have a hose. After being apprised of the situation, Chris helpfully responded, "How much money did we spend to bring them over here, again?"

You will be relieved to learn, my concerned readers, that I did find a hose. And that the water was cold -- miserably, freezing cold -- and thus Livy not only learned an important lesson but now smells like Sunsilk Moisture Therapy shampoo. I cannot be entirely sure, but I believe she is still giving me sulky sideways looks.

Otherwise, life is fine. I'm starting the job interview process in earnest tomorrow with a couple more leads next week, so hopefully something will pan out soon. We are set to take a very large trip at the end of the month (details to follow, eager readers!) so it would be nice to be able to start something when we get back, if not sooner. The suit is drycleaned, I got a haircut last week,* and my face is mostly cleared up from some inexplicable episode that left my skin looking like a 13-year-old boy's. (Not the fresh-faced, soccer-playing kind of 13-year-old. The kind that eats chips and nachos and plays Ninendo Wii in a dark room for 12 hours at a time.) So I'm all set to take the Dunedin professional world by storm. Sha-zam! Wish me luck, darling readers.

* "Bangs" does not mean the same thing over here as it does over there. You will be giggled at in the salon if you do not know this.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Animal Liberation

It was a big weekend, loyal readers!!!

Marathon. Chris ran the SBS Christchurch marathon in 3:43, thereby completing his first sub-4 hour race AND smashing his previous best time by 20 minutes. Furthermore, he wasn't at all limpy when it was over. Not too shabby.

I am a terrible wife who didn't get any finish line pictures of Chris, mostly because I didn't expect him to finish so quickly and didn't seriously start looking for him until he had already crossed the line. Then it turned out the camera batteries were dead. Yes, I know. Terrible wife. So you'll have to use your vivid imaginations, loyal readers, to envision him looking sweaty and victorious. Chariots of Fire, kind of thing. (Addendum: go to this link, click on SBS Christchurch marathon, and type in our last name to see Chris's race photos. Apparently the 10k crowd didn't warrant any photos, or maybe it was just me. Hmph.)

I was considerably lamer but had fun in my 10k. Had previously planned to run the half marathon but back trouble and laziness got me off the training schedule a while back so I decided to keep things simple. (Here's to regrouping for the Dunedin half marathon in September ... ) We went to Christchurch with Chris's boss and his wife. Chris's boss is a running coach for a local track club so it was more than a little humbling meeting some of his runners and acquaintances who actually run these races to win. Way beyond my comprehension.

Dogs. The second objective for our Christchurch trip was to spring our furry freaks from quarantine. As you may know, loyal readers, I am not big on the whole "mushiness" thing, but this was truly a warm and fuzzy experience. They were just beaming joy the whole car ride home. You could tell they were both exhausted but Owen would NOT close his eyes ... he just stared at us the entire time.

Once we got home they sniffed out the house and enjoyed the backyard. I tried to get a picture of both of them but Owen still has this bizarre, crippling fear of cameras and ended up hiding under a bush until we managed to coax him out with some snacks. (I think we are resigned to taking the one decent photo we have of him [see "In Retrospect, Pet Fish Would Have Been a Good Idea"] and photoshopping it into all of our future family photos.)

Now I'm covered in dog hair and they've splashed drinking water all over the kitchen floor and all is right with the world. At times this has been an unbearably frazzling process, but the payoff today was huge.