Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Woo hoo!

After all of the complaining I did yesterday about the weather, look what happened:

Yes, I know that's kind of a shadowy and sinister blue sky, but it's really hard to take a picture into the sun with my little digital camera. It's still sun! And blue sky! And not only that, but as I type this Dunedin and the surrounding region are the only places in the entire country that are not under severe storm watch. I was so excited I took some more pictures around town.

Road leading to our house (same shadow-y problem, but you get the idea)

The Octagon in downtown Dunedin (no raincoats or umbrellas!)

St. Paul's Cathedral downtown

The citizens of Dunedin can rest easy tonight, knowing that any violent weather-related tendencies I may harbor are subdued.

In other news, I am now not starting work until next Monday. (Kind of long story, but I really do have a job. Honest.) I'll keep you posted.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Grey Days

Hello, my lovely readers! What has been going on this week, you ask? Let's see ...
  • Rain, drizzle, overcast skies, and more of the same. The sun came out for about 20 minutes last Thursday, so the dogs and I promptly ran outside for a nice walk. It was raining again by the time we got home. The optimist in me says that those 20 minutes are better than nothing. The pessimist in me says that if I don't see the sun again soon, I'm going to cut somebody.
  • Work. I start tomorrow. Wish me luck!
  • High-brow cinema. The Dunedin Film Festival began Friday, and it could not have come at a better time, weather-wise. Chris and I each bought a pass and spent Saturday and Sunday afternoon holed up in the movie theatre.
Before we sign off, let's wish a very happy birthday to devoted readers Laura, who celebrates today, and Kristina, who celebrated while we were still in Tokyo. You keep getting better with age, you fine ladies!

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Moshi Moshi, devoted readers! We loved Tokyo. Loved Tokyo. There's no way I can sum up this part of the trip, except to say that for years to come many of my cocktail party stories will begin, "Well, when we were in Tokyo ..." It will be very annoying to everyone. I'm just warning you.

I have been to countries where I didn't speak the language before, but this is the first time we couldn't read street signs or make out any words on menus. Pictures came in handy in restaurants, and our record for receiving what we thought we ordered was a respectable 60-40. A very tasty place to visit, overall. Chris did a good job of memorizing some essentials from the phrase book, but I would just smile and nod furiously, saying "arigato" as often as possible. This strategy, coupled with a lot of pointing and gesturing, worked surprisingly well. Furthermore, if we stood in one place for a while looking stupid, someone would eventually approach and ask in broken English if we needed help. (Note to self: Be extra nice to non-English speaking tourists.) That said, I'd like to take a basic Japanese course before we go back and see the rest of Japan.

The sitting area in our Japanese-style hotel room

Shinjuku in the daytime

Visitors breathing "holy smoke" outside a Shinto temple in Asakusa. A Japanese man sweetly told us that if we inhaled the smoke it would make us "beautiful and healthy." No discernable improvements, so far.

There is an extremely busy Krispy Kreme in Shibuya. You'll be glad to know that the original glazed and the coffee are exactly the same as in the States, but they also have a few unusual doughnut choices:

Waiting in the long line for doughnuts, it occurred to me that everyone speaks the international language of deliciousness.

We talked to this guy for a long time when we were eating lunch in a soba noodle house. By "talked" I mean he gestured a lot and we gestured back as he only spoke a few words of English.

Me blending in with the locals. Tokyo has the most sparkly clean subways I've ever seen, though they were crazy during rush hour.

Shibuya at night.

Grounds outside the Imperial Palace

Chris grabbing a beer from the vending machine near our hotel. There are vending machines on every corner in Tokyo, selling soft drinks, water, alcohol, cigarettes -- you name it. (Incidentally, I think Chris was embarrassed that I made him pose for this picture on a very busy street. I argue that if there is any place in the world to feel completely comfortable as a camera-wielding tourist, it is Japan.)

Now we are back in NZ, completely exhausted but really happy and grateful for such a smooth and amazing around-the-world adventure. It has been wonderful to kiss the dogs and sleep in our own bed and eat food from our own kitchen. (Chris is making spaghetti tonight! Woo hoo!) I'd be lying if I said returning to Dunedin feels like coming "home," but I'm ready and excited to start working and regain a routine and a sense of normalcy that I really haven't had since we moved here. Let's see where we go from here ...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Scotland (Part II)

Last day in Scotland.  I don't have a ton of time, but here is a quick recap:

The Scots are friendly.  I like they seem to be very kind to their dogs.  Haggis tastes great, but I still can't eat more than a couple of bites without getting freaked out when I think about what's in it. (Furthermore, I still can't eat black pudding.  I just can't do it.)  Scotland has a lot of cemeteries.  

Edinburgh is a nice city. Edinburgh Castle is overrated. (In the interest of full disclosure, we arrived at the same time as a massive cruise ship group, so that may have skewed our perspective.)  St. Andrews is my kind of town.  High school student groups are the most annoying tourists.  A pint of beer is always a good idea.

Here are some pictures from St. Andrews.  (We took a few in Edinburgh as well, but none to get excited about.  I think we are starting to get photo weary.)  

View of St. Andrews from St. Rule's Tower (the remains of the St. Andrews Cathedral and cemetery are below)

St. Andrews self-portrait.  Chris was working all day and I don't know how to work the photo timer, so this is all you get with people in it.

Ruins of St. Andrews Cathedral.  

This marks the spot where George Wishart, a Protestant reformer, was burned at the stake outside of St. Andrews Castle in the 1500s.  An Audi was parked almost on top of it.

The ruins of St. Andrews Castle.  This was very cool and I would recommend it or Sterling Castle over Edinburgh Castle.  Any day.

Here's where they'd keep you at St. Andrews Castle if you were a lucky prisoner.

Here's where they'd keep you at St. Andrews Castle if you were an unlucky prisoner.  (Yes, that is, in fact, a pit.  Lots of morbid stuff went on in Scotland.)

See you in Tokyo, devoted readers!!!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Scotland (Part I)

Okay, now we're in Scotland. It reminds me a lot of our little neck of New Zealand if it had more interesting architecture, less interesting food, and more complicated accents. We started out with a day in Stirling (home of the Braveheart guy and an impressive old castle - very cute town) and then met up with some of Chris's colleagues for a whisky tour in Islay.

Stirling. So cute. It felt like a little Disney village designed to look old, but in actuality it was just old.

Some annoying tourists outside of the old Stirling Jail.

Chris suffered a sudden and serious bout of jet lag during our first afternoon in Scotland

But after a quick rest he recovered to resume his posing tourist duties

Stirling Castle, stomping grounds of Mary Queen of Scots. I took a ton of pictures and none do it justice.

The lighthouse in front of our B&B in Islay. The cemetery down the road had two graves of a father and son who drowned at this lighthouse in 1916, so that made it a little spooky. (As you will probably tell from the pictures, Islay is seriously the most rustic, middle-of-nowhere place I've ever been, and I live in New Zealand. As my guidebook said, however, it does have "a certain rugged beauty.")

Rams in front of our B&B in Islay. There were about a dozen of these guys always hanging about. They really freaked me out. I came back from a jog one morning and about 8-10 of them had completely blocked the only path to the B&B and a few of them were actually butting heads and acting crazy. After panicking for a minute at the idea of being impaled in jogging shorts, I mustered up all of my courage and continued down the path, mostly because there was absolutely no other option. As it turned out the rams are actually big sissys around people and they all ran away from me while I was still about ten feet from them. I still think I'm pretty brave, though.

The ruins of a very cool church that dates to 1200 (Islay's other tourist attraction, besides whisky)

We have taken a lot of rustic beach pictures this year.

This is how they make your Scotch whisky

Pretty view from Caol Ila distillery

Chris enjoying Islay's most popular tourist attraction. (Now may be a good time to disclose that although I was the designated driver and did not drink the whisky, I STILL managed to get in a minor fender-bender, completely sober and in the middle of nowhere. Luckily our car was fine, the other party's damage was super minor, and she was very nice and took cash instead of haggling with the car rental agency. Still, the whole thing was quite a blow to my ego after I had so bravely confronted the rams. Sigh.)

We're now in St. Andrews for Chris's conference. I'll post more soon ...

Saturday, July 5, 2008


Just a quick note to check in, loyal readers, and post a few photos. Aside from a series of airport snafus that made us miss the flight from Auckland to Vancouver, it has been a flawless trip so far. Great time in Vancouver catching up with the family and a few of Chris's high school friends. Never, ever enough time.

We're now in Scotland, touring around just a bit before the start of Chris's conference. More to follow ...

My packed carry-on bag (for your reference, Dot). It broke for the second time on our way out of Vancouver and I ended up dumping it at the YVR airport and getting a new one.

Chris enjoying snacks in the lounge while we were stuck at the Dunedin airport

Nephew Jake, a splashy fellow

Nephew Pete, up close and personal

My hair never behaves

Mom & Dad enjoying English Bay

Chris, Mom and Butch with some new friends at Queen Elizabeth Park. Such tourists!

Maria and Lisa enjoying the awesome weather