Sunday, August 31, 2008

Congratulations, Laura & Anthony!

My dear friend and longtime roommate Laura is getting married today at a swank resort in Mexico. As most of my devoted readers know, Laura is extremely important to me. We have seen each other through countless fun times and not-so-fun times. We laugh at the same things. She handles my moods. I count on her to tell me the truth when pants make me look fat, and I count on her to tell me this in the gentlest way possible. When Chris and I got married, Laura was maid of honor extraordinaire -- throwing fabulous pre-wedding parties, fixing my makeup, helping me use the toilet while I was wearing the most cumbersome wedding dress ever, etc. She rocked. For so many reasons, I really should be at her wedding.

Luckily, Laura is also very understanding about the whole living on the other side of the world thing, and has allowed me to serve as "honorary matron of honor" from afar. It's a nice thought and all, but I still feel like a lousy friend for not being there in person to help her get ready, to remind her to relax and enjoy herself, to have too many drinks at the reception and make a rambling speech about what a fantastic person she is and what a lucky guy Anthony is to spend the rest of his life with her.

So I guess this will be my speech. Laura and Anthony: I see the joy that you bring each other, and I am thrilled to see you come together in marriage! I send you all of my love and wish you many, many happy years ahead!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Yet another tool for procrastination on the Internet

Does this lady look familiar?

Yes, dear readers, it is me, transformed into a swell teen from the late 1950s. Freaky, huh? Chris and I spent waaaaay too much time on this site last night, imposing our faces onto yearbook photos through the years. I probably shouldn't have used such a smirky-looking photo -- it looks like I'm smelling something bad -- but it's really hard to find a photo where I'm staring straight into the camera and not wearing sunglasses. I'm elusive like that.

I'm kind of happy that the one above turned out the best. My current obsession is the TV show Mad Men (season one is now on NZ TV), partly because it has really interesting and complex characters and partly because it makes 1960 look like a crazy time to be alive. So there I am, kickin' it Mad Men style.

Here are a few other highlights from the decades:

1960s. My head is about to float off of my body.

1970s. Is this my militant phase?

1980s. I really did have hair like this in 7th grade. It was the first and only time in my life when people frequently complimented my hair.

Supposedly this is from 1996, which is the year I actually graduated from high school, but my yearbook photo looks NOTHING like this. And I don't know ANYONE who would be caught dead wearing a denim vest thingy in 1996. AND no one had the asymmetrical haircut back then. I'm not yelling, I'm just saying.

Some of Chris's photos turned out very frightening, in part because I don't think we cropped his face very well and in part because the photo we used was rather dark. Thus, he is somewhat deformed in the 1950s:

Rather dreamy in the 1970s, though. David Cassidy better watch his back.

Finally, I leave my darling readers with a photo I call, "Me in 30 years, on doughnuts."

I plan to pull this out whenever I don't feel like going to the gym.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Older. Crazier.

Every now and then, something happens that reminds me that we are veering, full-speed and out of control, toward middle age. We're not there yet. We are an unusually youthful and adventurous (immature and in denial, the haters might say) 30-something couple. We rock pretty hard, most days. But we're on our way.

Chris bought be a present this weekend. It was a vacuum. I don't know what is scarier: 1) that he decided to buy me a new vacuum as a nice gesture; or 2) that I was so thrilled you'd have thought he brought me diamonds. You see, most vacuums in New Zealand, including the first one we got, are these very wimpy things with flat, non-rotating heads. They are no match for two slobbery, mud-tracking long-haired dogs. Then yesterday Chris came home with a heavy, super-suction model that has a million awesome attachments and roars like a grizzly bear. The rest of the afternoon went like this:

Me (shoving the vacuum filter under Chris's nose): Look! LOOK at all of that dog hair and dust that the other vacuum wasn't getting!!!

Chris (not looking up from his laptop): Mmm.

Me: No, really! Look! That's like, an inch of dust! That was in the carpet! I'm going to be sick!

Chris: Mmm.

Me: This is the most fun! Awesome!!! Best present EVER!!! Woo hoo!!!

Scary, huh?

In other news, I made Carolina-style pork barbeque in the crockpot and some coleslaw today. Baked beans and potato chips. Beer. Apple cobbler for dessert. Yes, this is a butt-widening, stroke-inducing, nutrient-deprived pile of deliciousness, but I had been planning and dreaming about it all week as my Sunday treat. Totally worth it. The heart wants what it wants.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Crime in Otago

I feel safer knowing that this guy is now behind bars.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Pineapple Track Tramp

People spend a lot of time talking about the fact that New Zealand is an unusually beautiful place. They're right. For such a small country there is a ridiculous amount of scenery and outdoor activity. Beaches, mountains, vineyards, rolling green hills, farmland, geysers ... Whatever floats your boat. We have great intentions to get out and see every inch of it, but so far our round-the-globe trip has left us with limited time and resources to do much traveling within New Zealand.

Luckily, there are a lot of great tramping tracks ("tramping" = Kiwispeak for "hiking") right around Dunedin. The weather was awesome this afternoon so we packed up the dogs and hit the Pineapple Track, which amazingly is only about a five minute drive from our house. As you can see, there was lots of snow on the track as we ascended to the top. The dogs were in heaven.

Start of the track

Pretty stuff

Mountain man

More pretty stuff

Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula

Mmmm. Snacks at the top.

Don't I look outdoorsy?

As you can see, Owen was completely mesmerized by this snowman. Owen is very lucky to be so cute because he would not get very far on brains alone.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Out and about

First week of work went well.

Here is the view from my office (yes, the window is a bit dirty):

View continued

My rather naked-looking office. I need some books, or something.

My building from the outside:

Some campus shots. Chris's building is just a two-minute walk in this direction, so we will be able to get lunch and whatnot.

We went to the market this morning and got a bunch of bread and meat and cheese and veggies. Here is Christopher:

The Cadbury factory is right in the center of town. The nice thing about having a Cadbury factory is you can buy those Cadbury Easter eggs all year round. Treat!

That's about it for pictures for the time being. What else?

The weather has been absolutely insane, ranging from sunny and so warm you don't need a coat (Thursday) to sunny but cold (Friday morning) to rainy and cold (Friday noon) to sunny and cold again (Friday early afternoon) to hail (Friday late afternoon) to snow (overnight) and back to sunny and nice (Saturday afternoon, as I write this). In the past I have gotten annoyed by people who want to talk about the weather all of the time and secretly thought that these people really need a hobby, but suddenly living here I am totally obsessed with the weather and completely at its mercy.

What else, what else ... I saw an older Maori guy at my gym this week who had the full facial tattoos, which apparently are called ta moko. I'd seen full-face tats on TV but this was the first time I'd seen somebody wearing them in person and let me tell you, it is trippy. I was trying not to stare at the guy but this is just not something you see in Georgia. I really wanted to ask him if that tats mean something, or if they're just decorative, but I was a little intimidated to talk to a guy with full-face tats while he was lifting heavy weights. So I just came home and looked up Maori tattooing on Wikipedia. I know. I'm a wuss.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Raindrops on Roses

I'm not going to lie to you. It's been a rough week.

Nothing bad has happened, exactly. It's just a severe case of the blahs and my insomnia is acting up and I've been really homesick and missing my devoted readers. I can't blame it on my new job, since the work promises to be interesting, everyone treats me well, and I can pretty much come and go as I please. Maybe it's that I'm still coming down from the vacation high. Maybe it's that there's no end in sight to this dreary grey winter (though we did get another little glimmer of sun today ...). Maybe it's simply that after three months in a foreign country, you tend to stop marveling at how delightful and interesting everything is and start noticing everything that bugs you.

Whatever the cause, I am determined to beat the negative voices into submission. Let's take a cue from Julie Andrews twirling around in the drapes and make a list of a few of my favorite (Kiwi) things:

  • Unlocked doors. I never thought I felt particularly unsafe at home (even though, at times, we lived in a "transitional" neighborhood), but it astounds me how much safer and more relaxed I feel here. Half the time I forget to lock the car doors, just because I'm not thinking about it. When I hear things that go bump in the night, my automatic response is, "Gee, our rental house makes some weird noises," and not, "Agh! A meth-head is breaking in with a gun to murder us in our sleep!" Another American couple here in Dunedin tell us how their 12-year-old daughter is allowed to walk or ride the bus pretty much anywhere she wants around the city centre -- something the family would not have considered anywhere else they have lived. This is not to say that New Zealand is crime-free -- like any place, it's got it's share of wackos -- but for one reason or another there is not the same culture of fear.
  • Scarfies. This is the long-running nickname for the university students here in Dunedin, because of their penchant for scarves. Especially now that I'm working on campus, I get the biggest kick out of observing their antics and especially their often extremely questionable sense of fashion. The girls seem to favor black leggings or the tightest jeans they can possibly squeeze themselves into,* paired with some sort of hoodie and/or elaborate scarf arrangement. But the most amazing thing is the total disregard for matching footwear to an outfit. Brown cowgirl boots and black leggings? Check. White Ked-like sneakers and black jeans? You're good to go. As for the guys, about 90% of Dunedin men under the age of 25 have unapologetically horrible hair, which I find endearing. Lots and lots and lots of hair gel. White guys with dreadlocks. Faux hawks galore. Reading this, I realize I'm sounding kind of mean about the Scarfies, but I truly think they are adorable and fun and in the prime of their lives. I'm slightly jealous I can't rock the faux hawk, myself.
  • Commuting is awesome. It's a five minute drive (or 30 minute walk) from our front door to the campus and downtown. I can drive to the other side of town in 15 minutes. Aside from some congestion on the main road in Christchurch, I have yet to see anything that resembles heavy traffic anywhere on the South Island. Bite me, I-85!
Okay, I think I really am feeling better. I actually have more to add, but this is getting kind of long and I may need to save a few more for another rainy day. When the dog bites ...

* An aside to the 99% of Scarfie girls who have hips or any body fat whatsoever: Buy bigger jeans. I'm saying this as a friend.