A Travellerspoint blog

The Exciting Life

These past 5 months have been very busy! As many of you know, I have started using Picasa to store/display photos from my adventures. I have been kayaking, working, laughing, and using my DIY skills as often as I can. My ex-co-worker, Joya, was promoted to Manager of the South Auckland shop which means I get more hours and Russell has been teaching me more and more skills so I can be self-sufficient in the shop as much as possible, including all the previously "Russell-only" jobs like kayak repairs and permanent roof rack installation. It's actually quite exciting! I have also started going through our "Winter Training Programme" which means that I will get my NZKI One Star qualification by then end of the winter and be able to lead kayaking trips on my own.

In January I made a low rolling table with plants and a solar light for my front porch area. It turned out really well! I also had an excursion to the Auckland Art Gallery with Isabelle and Joel, which was interesting considering my views on art. Joel is very realist and it's difficult getting him to appreciate anything else. And of course, Isabelle being a 10-year-old, only wanted to look at the interactive exhibits (not that I blame her, they were awesome!). Lol.

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My kayaking has taken me on many adventures as well! In January I did Brown's Island and Hadfield's to Wenderholm. Both were Beginner's level trips, but they were beautiful and perfect for getting my skills up and enjoying the New Zealand summer.

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At the end of January, Joel and I had our 2 year anniversary. Can you believe it's been 2 years since I first came to New Zealand!?!?!? I can't. I still feels so new and wonderful. Anyways, to celebrate we went on a hike in the Waitakere Ranges to Fairy Falls with a bottle of champagne, and then got lost coming back, lol. It was a lot of fun just being us and being active and silly all at the same time. A perfect celebration of our relationship and my relationship with New Zealand all in one.

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In February I kayaked St. Helier's Bay to Okahu twice, once on my own and once with a Beginner's group. We also visited the Lantern Festival in Auckland Central, and I practiced my kayak surfing skills. :)

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March was an amazing month. Extremely busy (of course), but amazing. First of all, I was busy preparing to be a Henna Tattoo Artist at WOMAD in New Plymouth (the coolest music festival I have ever been to). In addition to that, Jacquie and I won a free trip for her to come to WOMAD with me! So she took a week off of university to spend in New Zealand with me. It was her first time here and I wanted it to be special. On the first day she got here I took her to Waiheke Island for a wine tour (which I have never done either!). We drank a lot of wine, enjoyed the hot sun and the scenery, and then came back to Auckland in the evening for a quick pop in to club night at the shop and then a welcoming party (prepared by Joel) at our place. And that was just day 1! The next day we got going on our road trip and stopped for lunch at a Blueberry Orchard with a cool little cafe/restaurant on it. We continued on our journey to Waitomo Caves and spent 5 hours rafting, caving, climbing waterfalls, gazing at glowworms, and having an amazing time! (Thank you mommy for paying for us both to go!) That night we went to our campsite, set-up camp, and then walked down the path to the Otorohanga Kiwi Reserve where a guide took us to the nocturnal viewing house for the kiwis! We sat in the quiet, mostly under the ground, eye-level with the 3 kiwi birds who would come to feed less than 3 meters away from us. One of the birds (Kevin) got curious and ended up sniffing it's was to Jacquie and poking it's nose into our hideaway! I have the cutest image in my mind of Jacquie with her hands clasped over her mouth, trying not to laugh or smile or breathe too deeply, and Kevin's incredibly long beak inches from her making cute little sniffing noises. It was amazing. Until this point, the closest I had come to a kiwi was seeing a furry sleeping mass in the corner of a glass exhibit stir a little. This was like something out of Animal Planet. :P Unfortunately, no pictures were taken as I didn't want to scare them away!

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Days 3 to 5 were spent at WOMAD. Joel and Ray met us on the way there and helped me set up before whisking Jacquie off to see world bands, dance, eat awesome food, and meet cool people. :) I did really well as a Henna Artist, although it was very stressful and tiring. Jacquie took care of me and trained the boys on how to be my assistant so that they could all take turns making sure I was fully stocked on supplies, food, and cider. We stayed in the glamping (glamour camping) accomodation that came with Jacquie's free ticket and it was absolutely beautiful.

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On our way back up to Auckland we detoured to the East to visit Hobbiton and Rotorua. We did all the touristy things! Posed with hobbit-holes and signs, had a pint in the newly reconstructed Green Dragon Tavern, went Zorbing, smelled the smells of bubbling hot pools and mud, and finally soaked in hot mineral pools at our campsite while the rain started down around us, just talking. :D Then we made our way up to the Coromandel where we spent WAAAYYYY too much time at Waterworks, having an absolute blast! And then just made it to Cathedral Cove for a sunset visit to the famous rock formation. Unfortunately, after spending so much time at Waterworks we didnt' get to Hot Water Beach in time and the tide had come in... but that's okay, we had a lot of hot water pools in Rotorua. We spent the night driving back to Auckland so we could spend Jacquie's last full day in NZ kayaking. We wanted to go to Rangitoto, but the weather was not cooperative so instead we did a Waterfront tour from St. Helier's to Okahu and beyond to Judge's Bay where Jacquie and I swam out to docks and I let her push me off way too many times. (Don't worry, I got pay back in Hawaii...) Then we said our goodbyes and barely had time to pause for tears after such a whirlwind trip.

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As soon as Jacquie left I went into panic mode because Joel's birthday was in two weeks and I had nothing planned!!!! Luckily, being the over-achiever I am, I managed to pull off an outdoor-themed surprise birthday BBQ with games, prizes, water balloons, drinking games, and flower leis. Yup. :P He was super surprised too!

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In April things calmed down again and I got to focus a bit more on my kayaking and work. With Joya gone, I had lots of hours and lots of things to focus on at the shop. I did one sea kayaking trip from Eastern Beach to Whitford Cafe with Alistair and then a white water kayaking weekend in Taupo! It was amazing fun and I'm a little addicted now, but there just isn't as much opportunity for White Water kayaking as there is sea kayaking. Russell and Larraine went on their two-week holiday to Abel Tasman on the South Island which meant I was working 14 days in a row. And then, at the end of such a busy time, I went on my 10 day holiday to Maui, Hawaii!!!! Mom, dad, and Jacquie all flew in from Canada and we had a great time! We learned to paddle board, went swimming, I found some kayaks and taught them how to kayak surf, we went snorkelling, hiking, jumping off waterfalls, played games and ate waaayyy too many corn chips. I discovered that running into someone on a stand up paddle board with your kayak after they have been splashing you makes them fall off. (Hehe.) We celebrated my birthday by going to this amazing restaraunt called Mama's Fish House.

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When I got back to Auckland, Joel took me dancing for my birthday, and then the next night Courtney, TJ, Joel, and I went out on the town and to a comedy club for my birthday. It was great fun! We went to this little bar in the city that has "teapots" which you pour into shot glasses to drink. :P Also in May I completed one of the roughest trips I've done so far: sea kayaking from Army Bay around Tiritiri Matangi, and yet it seemed so much less stressful than my first big trip to Kawhia! (This means I'm improving!) It's getting much colder here now that it's winter-timre. It was higher winds and more chop than I had ever been out in a sea kayak, but I still enjoyed myself even though it was challenging. :)

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Finally, if you would like links to my photos on Picasa (so you can see them ALL) let me know and I'll send you the link. :)

Posted by mtlewis 12:40 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

Major end-of-year update

So I realize it has been quite some time since I wrote a blog entry. Now that it's almost 2013 I'm trying to get everything wound up and ready for a new year, so here's an update on the last 4 months.

Firstly, Lauren and Julia came to visit me! They spent time in and around Auckland, and a bit of a day trip to Northland, then I took them to Waitomo for Black Water Rafting, to the geothermal parks in Rotorua, Zorbing, Hot Water Beach in the Coromandel… all the great tourist-y attractions that we could fit in 1 week. :P I had a great time and it was really nice to have visitors! (Hint hint…)

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After Lauren and Julia returned home, I finally got a job!!! I am now I Kayak Shop Assistant for Canoe & Kayak Auckland. My bosses (Russell and Larraine) are absolutely wonderful and Joya (co-worker) and I get along really really well! Plus it's a fantastic place to work. Not only am I getting hooked on kayaking, but I get to either talk to amazing friendly people all day, or be working with my hands doing modifications to kayaks or installing roof rack systems onto vehicles! I'm learning sea kayaking from some of the best instructors in the industry, and having so much fun too!

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Early September Joel, Isabelle and I went for a picnic in the park with Courtney, TJ, and TJ's two boys. Joel and I spent a day walking up (another) volcano (Mount Eden and through the domain to the free photography exhibit at the Auckland Museum. Also, ice creams in the city and Courtney's amazing alien cupcakes!!! :P

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Courtney's birthday was in October, and TJ, Joel and I surprised her by kidnapping her from home and taking her into the city to meet TJ for lunch at Eliott Stables. Then she was treated to an evening in a hotel in the "big city" by her man. Her birthday party was the following weekend and was angels and devils themed! Hehe.

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In November, I discovered the wonders of reclaimed pallet construction. My first major project was my pallet desk!! The finished product is 12ft long and 3ft deep! I love it! Also, I've created a vertical garden out of a pallet!

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Also in November was my first day kayaking trip for our company/club Christmas party! That's right, we kayaked over to a secluded cottage that you can only get to by tramping or paddling. It was great! Joel and Isabelle walked over and met me there for our Christmas BBQ.

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Mid-November Joel and I visited an art exhibit that took place at night, in a park. It was called "Art in the Park" or "Art in the Dark" or something like that. SO COOL! It was all lights and sounds and really really neat. There was this board that you could use your cellphone to go to a website where you could draw on the board! (LEDs lit up where you drew) Also, a very very cool tree COVERED in little LED lanterns. There were wind chimes on coloured ribbons that you could pull, and a cool 3D box tunnel thing that lit up in time with music. And people riding bicycles synchronized with lights on their wheel spokes and lit up letters on their backs! And a white sheet wall that was backlit so you could dance behind it as shadows! Lol. None of my pictures do it justice.

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ALSO during November, both Isabelle's (Joel's daughter) and Ros's (Joel's mom) birthdays. And ice cream.

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In December I did my first 2-day kayaking trip to Kawhia Harbour. OMG! We did 22ish km the first day and I was sooooo sore! But it was definitely worth it! We paddled out to some little-known pancake rock formations and paddled amongst them for two hours before having lunch and heading back across the habour into the wind.

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Then it was CHRISTMAS! Woohoo! I had an amazing Christmas! Joel and I spent "Christmas in the Park" with Courtney, TJ, and Scott. Then later in the month we took Isabelle up to Orewa beach for a "Christmas on the Beach". Joel and I spent Christmas Eve together and I brought him to midnight mass, and spent Christmas day with Isabelle and at Joel's parents' place in the beautiful Waitakere Ranges.

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And that's all folks! I'm hoping to actually update this blog more often in the New Year. I just got my new roof racks for Christmas from Mom, which means I can borrow kayaks from work whenever I want. Plus, summer is here in this part of the world, so lots more kayak adventures to be shared! :D

Posted by mtlewis 00:23 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Sorted.

So it's been quite a while since I wrote a blog entry. The main event in the last month has been Joel and I finding a place to live and settling in. It's a great two bedroom unit with a big new kitchen and a backyard and front deck area. Lots of beautiful plants and great neighbours. Plus it's only a 5min walk from Joel's work. :) I'm very happy here, despite my moments of doubt because I still don't have a job. My money is running low and things are getting a bit tight, but I'm definitely happy -- and I guess that's what really matters. To help with the whole money situation I started up my henna business again and I'm attending markets. I don't make very much doing that right now though -- mainly because it's still winter. But come summertime I think it will be a very useful form of income.

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In between searching for jobs, I've been working on fixing this place up so I can live the life I want to on our measly little budget -- which requires a lot of inventiveness on my part. For example, I've been making cardboard furniture. I know it sounds weird, but seriously, cardboard is free from supermarkets, and look at my inspiration:

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So far I've made a "children's stool" from a template, that is going to be the bedside table in our guest room when I've finished varnishing it; a shadow box which didn't turn out the way I wanted it to, but it was a learning experience; and a stand for my guitar so I don't have to keep it in it's case. :) I have big plans for a bookshelf now that I've mastered the basic techniques.

Other things I've managed to accomplish around the house include getting two $20 lounges for our living room, a new mattress and bedspread and lamp for the bedroom, and a half wine barrel that now has beans, garlic, parsley, strawberries, and spinach planted in it.

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In the social side of things, TJ's birthday was in the middle of July and Courtney threw him an awesome surprise party! We all dressed up in Mexican attire and went to MexiCali on the waterfront for dinner, and then bowling! Good times. Now apparently there is a birthday war going on (Courtney's is in October… shhh!!!) lol.

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Courtney, TJ, Scott, and Kelly moved around the same time Joel and I did, and was started gaming at their place (almost) every Sunday. They also had a house warming party, where we all got to paint little canvases to go on their feature wall! Every time we go over there we get fed delicious baking because Courtney is practicing up her already superb skills with an icing bag. (Sometimes we get pretty flowers, sometimes it's alien brains on a cupcake, but always delicious.)

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That's all for now! Lauren and her travel buddy are going to be here in 3 days, so I'm sure I'll have tons to talk about next time I write. :D

Posted by mtlewis 12:32 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Birds and skates!

After getting my new car, I spent the remainder of June trying to get a job. And failing. I still haven't lost hope, but eventually I came to the conclusion that although I really need a job, my life doesn't have to suffer because of it. I've decided that I will continue searching for jobs, but in the mean time I need to stop waiting. I found someone who was selling a SwimP3 and bought it from them, and since then I've been going swimming at least 3 times a week. It's wonderful! I can listen to music while swimming! The first time I tried it, 45 minutes passed before I even looked at the clock -- I was submersed (haha) in my music. I've also decided to give Henna a go here as a secondary/temporary source of income. (I hope.)

Joel and I had his girls for Canada Day weekend, so we decided to do something Canada-esque -- and took them ice skating! It was a lot of fun. :) Elizabeth brought her new boyfriend (who I strongly approve of, not that I really have a say... but he's a jazz flutist!!!) and we had a good time laughing as everyone took a good fall or two.

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Later that evening I attempted to make a Canada Day cake by covering a chocolate cake in cream cheese icing and using canned raspberries to make a maple leaf on top (fresh fruit is not in season here). That was a disaster. The raspberries just leaked all over the place and I couldn't control it -- so I ended up smooshing them into the icing and leaving it at that. Lol. It looked like crap, but it was red and white and tasted amazing. :P

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Courtney and TJ invited us for dinner again -- and Courtney made the most amazing Chicken Cordon Blue! Mmmmm. We talked about geeky stuff and played this awesome board game called Zombies.

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I had another interview for a company called SKM. I would love to work for them -- apparently their graduate program is spectacular. But unfortunately, someone else was better suited. Oh well, they wanted me to move to Wellington anyways. The next weekend Joel took me to Muriwai which was an amazing beautiful beach and cafe. There was a short walk up the cliff to a lookout over a gannet colony! The gannets are beautiful white birds with black wings and golden heads. They live on the rocks on the edge of the land where there is the most wind, precariously perched between crashing waves and cliffs. It was a beautiful sight. Their flight was effortless because they literally just ride the wind!

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Joel has a job now!!! I'm so proud of him. It's for a cafe in Mount Albert called Triniti of Silver. They wanted him to be their new head chef for nights, which the owners hadn't fully planned yet, so originally Joel was in charge of getting ready for the cafe to open at night. Now, however, he's found so many issues with costing and logistics that the owners have asked him to work up to full-time daytime manager! He is so ready for this and it's a huge responsibility -- but he's stepping up to the plate (hehe) and proving to the owners, and himself, that he can do this. And he has a new haircut, lol.

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This last picture is a view of the morning sun over the Waitakere Ranges, all rainforest. This is the view I get to see every morning. Just to brag a little. :P

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Posted by mtlewis 03:26 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Update on the search

Well, my last blog entry was a little depressing, so I just thought I'd start this one off by saying that I'm doing much better now. Good people like Courtney, TJ, Joel, Joel's parents, and of course support from home definitely help. Thank you so much.

My first week and a half back in NZ has been wonderful. Joel and I are staying with his parents to the west of Auckland -- and it's absolutely beautiful out here. Their dog, Stacks, is a crazy un-controllable puppy... but he listens to me now! We are staying in the 2-story "sleep-out" that Joel lived in when he was growing up, and it's such a cool little building. It's tiny, with a spiral staircase that you have to duck to get up, and vaulted ceilings. We've been working towards improving it a bit: Joel and his girls put chicken wire over the wooden/stone steps down to the sleep-out because they get really slippery when it rains (which is all the time right now), and today I installed a wardrobe rod in between the ceiling banisters on the upper level so we could hang some clothes. :)

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Winter here sucks. It's not like Canadian winters with beautiful white blankets of snow covering all the dead stuff (okay, maybe I'm idealizing it a little bit because I'm homesick). It's cold and wet. And because of the humidity, it's the kind of cold that gets right to your bones. I'm just sleeping on an air mattress as well, so the cold comes from underneath. I'll survive. Joel bought me a hot water bottle the other day, so that's helping! (No microwave, so I can't use my wheatbag bear I got for Christmas.)

I've spent the last while diligently applying for jobs (sometimes in cute little cafes, of course). There's been a few interviews, and jobs keep popping up online, so I haven't lost hope yet... But Joel on the other hand just had a trial for a Head Chef position for a beautiful little gourmet cafe in Auckland called Jones the Grocer. It's an international franchise with cafes in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Quatar, etc. I hope he gets it. It seems like the perfect job for him, and he deserves a Head Chef position. Plus the wage is good, the owner is really nice and honest, and it comes with a car park (it's usually really expensive to park in the city)! I'll update more once we know for sure that Joel's got the job, but he's pretty confident.

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And of course I've forced myself to wait until the end of this entry to post the best part of my week so far: my car!!!! :) Mostly as a present from my parents for grad, partially from me, I bought myself a beautiful 2007 Honda Civic Hybrid! (And don't worry, did all the research to go with it.) Joel and I spent a lot of time visiting auction lots and car dealers to find the perfect car. I almost bought a used Smart ForFour, but the mechanical inspection revealed water leaking into the engine oil. :S Eventually we found the hybrid at a lot about 3 hours drive from Auckland. We had been using a rental car, so we drove down to check it out, and then drove down a few days later for the auction... and I got it, after a bit of a bidding war. Still, my new hybrid has only one previous owner: a city council, which means that it has had regular maintenance and is in near perfect condition. In the end, I only paid about 60% of what that car is worth. Plus, with the price of gas being so high here (209.9 per L) a hybrid is totally worth it. I'm so happy! She's smooth to drive, fuel efficient, reliable, and pretty. :) A worthy graduation present.

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Posted by mtlewis 21:36 Archived in New Zealand Comments (3)

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