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Lauren
18 July 2010 @ 10:30 am
Hey guys. So much for being better at updating, huh? Three months have flown by, and I've just had no time or will to sit and write. However, I've got a slice of time now, so I'll try to fill you in!

Well, I stayed in Nelson until the end of May as planned. The ski job on the North Island did not pan out; however, I got offered the very same potion down in Queenstown. The timing was better, a lot of my friends from HOA were planning to move down there, and it ended up working out perfectly. Leah arrived just as I needed to make my way down, so we drove together down the west coast, stopping to climb a glacier before getting to Queenstown. We went bungy jumping too, which was awesome. Unfortunately, sky diving never panned out, thanks to the uncooperative weather. Ah well, I'll jump out of a plane one day! All in all, it was so awesome to have Leah around. It was relaxing and fun and comfortable, and I was really happy to get the chance to share New Zealand with someone close to me. It's a long trek for anyone, so I feel really lucky to have gotten the opportunity to have her here for a bit.

Now I'm in Queenstown. You may remember that when I was here in the summer, I didn't really fall for the place. Well, that hasn't really changed; I wouldn't ever want to stay here for an extended period of time. However, there are many factors that have made this time around so much better than the first. Most importantly, I came here with Mel, Nell, and Bailey, three of my good friends from Nelson. Along with Bay's brother Zack, we managed to get a house all together, and having them around has been so fun and comforting. I absolutely love these guys, and I feel lucky again to have found such amazing people to be around and live with. It's made all the difference and is definitely the number one reason I've been enjoying my time here.

I also have a job. I'm a barista at Coronet Peak, one of the many ski slopes around the area. I get a free season pass, which means all the snowboarding I want. Admittedly, I had a hard time getting comfortable with the job. I was less trained than the other baristas (NZ is SO picky about its coffee, as it turns out), and I wasn't into the college-y way that everyone was trying so hard to be buddy buddy and cliquish. Luckily I had my friends to come home to when I was feeling rough, and after a couple weeks, I started to really like it. We're super busy, and I make hundreds of coffees in a day, but I've really clicked with some of my co-workers (if not all 100 or so in my department; so weird working for such a huge operation). I work a lot, somewhere between 8-10 hour days, 5-6 days a week. It's good though, although with parties and such, I'm not saving as much as I should...

Saving for what? The swiftly coming trip to Europe for Alex's wedding! I can't believe it's so soon. I'll be doing a lot of traveling and spending for about a month, hitting up Sweden, Finland, Spain, France, and the U.K. Then I'll be coming back to NZ, specifically Wellington. It seems kind of crazy (and expensive) to come back, but I can't imagine getting back to this side of the world again, so I want to make the most of my visa and leave with no regrets. I should be able to manage, although it will be on a shoestring. Still, I'm happy with my decision. Admittedly, I'm starting to feel a little sad about leaving Queenstown so soon, or at least the people here, but this has always been the plan, and so it shall be.

That's about it! I work a lot, so when I do have time, I rarely want to be on the computer. Thus I'm not sure when I'll be motivated to make another entry, but I will at least fill you in on my Europe trip! Much love to you all.
 
 
Current Location: Queenstown, NZ
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
Current Music: Hombre - M.I.A.
 
 
Lauren
03 April 2010 @ 07:47 pm
It's Easter! Let me tell you, it's really weird to be celebrating in the fall. I never realized how much I associated holidays with the seasons in which they occur. Luckily it's still warm and sunny here in Nelson, so I can pretend it's spring, hee hee. I located the Catholic church today, so I'll be checking out mass tomorrow, then making myself some deviled eggs and eating some ice cream (I gave it up for Lent; SO excited to eat some tomorrow!) before going to work. It feels sort of wrong to go to work on Easter, but the way they handle it here is so bizarre. Both the Friday before and the Monday after Easter are public holidays, and House of Ales is closed for both of them to avoid giving holiday pay, but Easter Sunday itself is not considered a "public holiday," so there's no bonus pay. I don't really get it.

Work itself is turning out to be a bit of a pain. Barry, the owner of House of Ales, has been stiffing me on hours for the past few weeks. Combined with the general crappy attitude with which he treats me, I've been getting a little stressed out. As it turns out, most of the staff are getting screwed over in the schedule one way or the other, and most of them are thinking of cutting out as soon as possible. So while I planned to stay in Nelson until the end of May, when Leah gets here for our trip, I think that's going to change. I have an interview for a job at a ski resort on the North Island at the end of April. If I get it, and they want me to start right away, I am going to do that without question. Just the thought of being shot of Barry sooner has made it more bearable, so I'm looking forward now until the end of the month and that interview.

I am also very much looking forward to my trip with Leah! It will involve tramping, sky diving, and bungy jumping, and it's going to be pretty badass. Other than that, haven't been up to much. Spending time with the girls from HOA, watching seasons of The Amazing Race like a fiend, and trying to save money.

Anyway, I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday! Eat lots of chocolate!
 
 
Current Mood: okayokay
 
 
Lauren
14 March 2010 @ 08:53 pm
Just spending a lovely Sunday evening at home, so I figured I'd write up an update. I did a little baking last night: Aunt Liz's carrot cake. My flatmate went out drinking with a friend and invited me, but I had the 7:30 cleaning shift this morning, so I needed to go to bed early. So I watched American Idol and a movie and baked my cake, as I had promised my coworkers that I'd make it for them. The cake was a big hit today, which made me happy. One thing I like best about baking is that it's a sharing thing. Baking usually is in larger amounts, and no person (well, maybe some people, but I mean generally) is going to eat a whole cake or batch of cookies themselves. My coworkers are stars too. We all look out for each other and take care of one another. Mel only charges me $3 for a huge salad with cheese, sundried tomatoes, and smoked mushrooms. Whoever's on coffee makes sure we all have our caffeine fix. barry, my boss, can be a grump, but everyone else makes it totally worth working there.

My successor in Japan put up a status message today about one of the graduation ceremonies. It sounded like Nichu's, and it made me very nostalgic. I meant to send a message of congratulations on to my kids, but time flew by. I got so wrapped up in settling here that I totally forgot about graduation. I suppose it's okay to be moving on, but I'm sad that it skipped my mind. I hope it was a good ceremony for all my kids.

So I've been watching The Amazing Race while writing this, and man, I would love to do that. I even went to the website to check out casting. I missed it for this year, but if it goes on for another season, I would totally put in an application. You never know! But wow, that'd be such a crazy fun adventure.

Alright, that's all I've got really. My brain is kind of all over the place. Until next time!
 
 
Current Mood: relaxedrelaxed
 
 
Lauren
11 March 2010 @ 12:50 pm
Abel Tasman was a Dutch explorer who led the first European expedition to New Zealand. This was around 1642. A lot of places around here are named for this guy, including the town of Tasman, the Tasman Bay, and the Abel Tasman National Park, the latter of which I spent the last couple days tramping around.

I'm sure most of you have heard/read me complaining about how I hadn't had the chance to get out and do some of the Great Outdoors stuff that is New Zealand's signature. Well, as luck would have it, I had a couple days off in a row this week, and so I decided there was no time like the present to rectify that. So I booked a bus and a hut and on Tuesday morning, I headed out to Abel Tasman for a two day hike.

I started out by taking a water taxi north to an area called Bark Bay. Bark Bay is almost, but not quite, the middle of the entire Abel Tasman Trail, a tramp that can take 3-5 days depending on your speed. I didn't have that much time to spare, so I chose to start in the middle and head to the southern trailhead of Marahau, where I could catch a bus back to Nelson. On the way I stopped at Anchorage Bay and slept at a hut, affording a very leisurely couple of days to make the journey.

Needless to say, the scenery was absolutely gorgeous. The trail wound around the coast, providing lots of lovely views of golden beaches and rocky coastline. I took my time and checked out most of the side trails to coves and lookouts. The hike itself was surprisingly tame; the trail is well cared for and mostly flat. It reminded me a lot of a hike I often did as a kid on Signal Mountain, down to Rainbow Falls, for those of you who know it. Of course, that one is significantly shorter. As my most recent hiking experience has been mountains (Mt. Iwate x2 and Mt. Fuji), I guess I was expecting something more extreme. It was very pleasant, and I was pleased.

The first day's hike was quite jungle-y. I took a stop at Sandfly Bay, which was at a river mouth. Very cool, but gosh, don't get me started on the evil of sandflies. I also got to make a low tide crossing from Torrent Bay to Anchorage Bay, something I was inordinately excited about. I had to take off my shoes to do it, and the mud was pleasantly squishy and gooey. So fun. I arrived at Anchorage at about 2pm, which left me the rest of the day to just chill on the beach. I took a couple side treks around the area as well. At dusk I wandered over to the far end of the beach, where a lady showed me a cave filled with glowworms. It was pretty amazing to see the rocks lit up with miniature constellations. I'm glad that lady was there to show me; I wouldn't have thought to look on my own.

The next day I got up about 8, and by 9 was bored of waiting, so decided to take off. I took a few side trails to some of the beaches along the way, although the ever-present sandflies limited my appreciation of the areas. At one of them, Apple Tree Bay, they weren't quite so bad, so I stopped and took a nap. Not really sure how long I slept, but it felt really nice just to lay in the sun for a while. After my nap, the signs told me I had about 2 hours to go until Marahau, so away I went. I don't know if it was because of the ease of the hike or the fact that I'm in better shape or a combination, but I had to take much fewer breaks than when I was hiking in Japan. Still, by the time I got close to Marahau, I was ready to be done. The end of the hike was not near so pretty as the rest, and I hoofed it to the trailhead pretty quickly once the trees started thinning out. I got there by 3pm. I was slotted to take the 5:30pm bus, so I went to the cafe right nearby and had a late lunch. I was done in time to catch the 4pm bus instead, and so made it home in plenty of time to make dinner and chill out.

All in all, it was a nice couple days away in the wilderness, and I would certainly recommend the tramp to anyone interested. I took plenty of pictures, so if you'd like to see them, they are here. Now, back to the typical work schedule and trying not to scratch these wicked sandfly bites!
 
 
Current Mood: itchy
 
 
Lauren
05 March 2010 @ 10:44 am
I believe it is safe to say that I have made myself a little nook here in Nelson. The flat that I mentioned looking at in the last entry worked out; I've been moved in for a week now and am quite comfortable. I have my own room with a queen-sized bed, I only have one flatmate who is pretty chill thus far, and I'm a mere 15-20 minute walk from the center of town and work, depending on the tempo of the song on my iPod as I walk. It's definitely a good set-up, and it will serve me well for the coming months.

Work is going well so far. I've had the last three days off, but I'm working literally all weekend. That's fine by me; my coworkers are now my social group, so going to work means spending time with them. All my hostel friends have now taken off, even Steve, the Aussie guy who had been at that hostel just as long as I was. The last few days of having the boys around was awfully fun. Travis and Jonathan, a couple Americans that now live and work at the South Pole, came back from their side trip, as did Tim, my wine tour buddy. Lots of BBQing was done and some good drinking as well. It caused a bit of a twinge when they all headed on their way, particularly Tim, as he and I hung out together quite a bit. I rarely find those people that I am instantly comfortable around, but he was one of them. Maybe we'll meet again someday, and if not, it was a wonderful NZ memory.

It's funny, I really do feel like what I'm doing can be described as nothing other than a "working holiday." Yes, I've got a job, and it takes up a good amount of hours, but on my days off, I've really not got much going on. I'm free to sit around in a garden and read all day if I wish, which is what I did yesterday. Once I get next week's schedule, I think I'll plan a day hike out at Abel Tasman, before it starts getting too cold. It's nice to not have any obligations besides showing up to work. I got my first paycheck too, so I can really start thinking about how I'm going to budget in order to get to some of the really cool stuff when Leah comes to visit in May.

I'm also starting to think about plans post-August. Nothing solid yet, of course, but I need to figure out before too long if I want to spend a whole year here or not. It's crazy, but August already seems so close. Only 5 months away! I mean, I've already been in NZ for almost 2 months! February straight up disappeared on me. Time just doesn't stop its rush in the least, does it? Ah well, I'll be thinking about it, and I'm sure it'll get written about here as well. It is exciting to plan!

Oh, finally, I got the pictures I've taken so far up. You can find them here. There aren't a ton, but hopefully you can get an idea of how goregous this country is!
 
 
Current Mood: hungryhungry
 
 
 
Lauren
21 February 2010 @ 01:54 pm
Well, it looks like I’ll be in Nelson for a while! Since the last update, I have procured employment at a local restaurant/bar called House of Ales. I actually have no serving or bartending experience, so I’m pretty surprised that they hired me. It will definitely be good to have such work under my belt, however; that kind of experience can be used just about anywhere. It was kind of questionable at first, because they were disorganized and making a lot of staff changes. I kept waiting for a phone call telling me when I’d be working, and it just never came. Finally I went in again and got it worked out. Then my first week I only had two shifts, so I was worried once again. This week, though, I have about 30 hours, so I feel much better.

Next on my to-do list is finding a place to live. I checked out a flat yesterday; I’d be sharing it with the one girl who owns it. She was nice enough, quiet. The place was small, but comfortable and clean. She’s supposed to let me know in a couple days if she wants me to move in. It’s not far from town and an overall good spot. It might be a bit lonely if she’s not social, but I’ll have my co-workers and other people that I’ve been meeting around town.

I will be a bit sad to leave the hostel. It’s been lovely here. I had some great nights out and made some friends, and the staff is great. We’re on familiar terms now, and I get to get away with some stuff that guests aren’t supposed to do. Still, all my friends here have left or will be leaving soon, as travelers are wont to do. It will be nice to be able to unpack and have my own space too. I’ll have to find a balance, however it works out!

Oh, I finally decided to splurge and do something fun. I went on a wine tour last Thursday. One of the guys I met at the hostel came with me, a Canadian ex-engineer named Tim. It was a half day tour to 4 vineyards and a wine tasting café. It was a great, relaxing day. We were on the tour with 4 other couples, which was pretty funny. The tour guide asked everyone how long they’d known each other, and Tim and I were like, “Uh, 48 hours.” There were some really nice wines, including some Italian grapes like Montepulciano, one of my favorites. Tim and I split the cost of a couple bottles along the way and had them with some spaghetti for dinner. It was quite a good day.

In the meantime, I’ve been watching the Olympics and relaxing and working! As I continue to settle, hopefully I’ll have more to share. Bye for now!
 
 
Current Mood: contentcontent
Current Music: Proud Mary - Glee Cast
 
 
Lauren
10 February 2010 @ 10:27 am
It’s been a little bit since my last update. Sorry about that. I’m in Nelson now, a quite nice little town on the north tip of the South Island. I rather like it here a lot; it’s cute and warm and full of pleasant people. Job hunting has, unfortunately, continued to be frustrating. Apple picking season starts here soon, and I was very much hoping to get onto that wagon. After all, it was such work that I was thinking of when I came here in the first place.

Getting reliable information on it is just a huge headache, though. I got a pamphlet which was out of date, and so I checked the website of the regional seasonal work coordinating office, only to find their information outdated. So on Monday I took a bus an hour away to go to the office itself, which was closed by the time I got there. I went again, earlier this time, yesterday, and all the lady had me do was write down my name and phone number and said she’d call when/if something came up. She said it wouldn’t be until around the 20th at the earliest. It’s all very discouraging.

So while I really would like to do apple picking, I’m going to have to start looking for work in town as well. I can’t rely on the possibility of getting work a couple weeks from now, although I can certainly support myself until then. So today I’ll be out and about with my resumes, something I really hate doing. Once I’m actually talking about the work itself or being interviewed, I do okay, but the initial marching up and asking gives me a huge pit in my stomach. I have no idea why. It doesn’t help that I get stuck in that unbreakable cycle where restaurants want someone with more waiting experience, but I can only get that experience if they hire me. Gah.

So yes, I’m frustrated, but I’m trying really hard to keep a bright lookout. And I really have enjoyed my time here. The hostel is great, and I’ve made friends with a couple of the people who have been staying here long term. One is a Japanese girl from Okinawa, so I’ve gotten to use my Japanese a little bit. Plus Nanae, my friend from Iwate, will be arriving in Nelson on the 15th. It will be great to see her, and hopefully negate some of my loneliness.

Anyway, here goes nothing!
 
 
Current Mood: nervousnervous
 
 
Lauren
03 February 2010 @ 09:25 pm
It’s been a couple days now in Christchurch, and I have to say, I’m liking it much more than Queenstown. I mean, Queenstown was fine in its way, but after nearly a week there, there was no getting around the fact that it really is a tourist town. There are a lot of cool things to do there, but it just feels so transient. Christchurch, on the other hand, feels like a place where people actually live. It’s not too big or fancy, but it’s got lots of open spaces and cafes and shops. I even found a swimming pool about a mile away, and thus have gotten to get some laps swum for the past two days. It felt really good.

Still, while I like the city, I still really have my heart set on at least trying something in the fruit picking/vineyard sector. So come Friday, I’ll be packing out to Nelson, a city at the north of the South Island. It’s nearly apple picking time, supposedly, so I think I’m going to try and follow up on that. Wine country is right around there as well. Also, my friend Nanae is supposed to be in Nelson at some point soon for three months. I hope our stays will overlap; it’d be nice to have a friend around.

However, this hostel has been a vast improvement on the other as far as friendliness (although the internet setup is a huge ripoff). It is smaller and shabbier, but it’s been so much easier to talk to people. The people I’m sharing a room with have all been fantastic, and we’ve had some good conversation. It does wonders for me, as after six days of not really talking to anyone in Queenstown, I was getting a bit gunshy about approaching others. Luckily, it’s been a comfortable transition here in Christchurch. I definitely don’t regret leaving Queenstown, despite getting some job offers there after all.

Anyway, tomorrow I think I need to do some laundry, and then I might check out the beach or a suburb that Jemma recommended (Christchurch is her hometown!). Still on that traveling trail for now…
 
 
Current Mood: okayokay
 
 
Lauren
28 January 2010 @ 06:48 pm
It's been a couple days on my own now here in Queenstown. It's a cool little town, surrounded by beautiful, soaring mountains and a picturesque blue lake. The scenery is to die for, certainly, and it's no wonder it's got its reputation for being touristy. However, it doesn't really feel the way tourist spots in the States feel. It's more like a city of drifters, people who have wandered here from every corner of the globe to rest or explore as they see fit. It's smaller than Dunedin, but livelier. All in all, very cute.

I've been dipping my toe into the waters of employment. I signed up at a temp office and put my resume in to three different places: a boutique dress shop, a cafe and chocolate shop, and a little French restaurant. None of them seem all that rushed about hiring someone; their pool is wide, and they've got room to paddle. This is not great news for applicants though. They've all said they'll call if they need me, so I've had my phone pretty much glued to my hand since the moment I bought it. No rings yet, I'm afraid. There are a couple places I'm going to try tomorrow, including ones that seem to specifically want Japanese speakers.

I know it was really too much to hope that I'd find employment within two days of being here, but it's still a bit of a letdown. I get so nervous about going in and talking to people about hiring me. It feels like a wet blanket settling on my spine everytime I do it. I know it won't be the end of the world if I can't find anything here. I can always move on to Christchurch or Nelson or Wellington. I just worry about resources and how long I can make them stretch. I'm also starting to get lonely, and I really just want to settle and start building something of a life somewhere.

It's just the beginning, so there's really no need to mope. I just got a craving for a hug, that's all. And American girl from Maine just came to the dorm, though, and we had a bit of a conversation. Maybe I'll see if she wants to get dinner together. Some conversation would be nice.
 
 
Current Mood: lonelylonely
 
 
Lauren
25 January 2010 @ 12:04 am
Yesterday was the wedding, and it went off beautifully! Let's see if I can manage a decent recap.

We all got up pretty early so that Dan and Emma could go on their separate ways. Emma and I went to her parents' house, and Dan went to his. The morning was really icky and overcast, but as I had been assuring anyone who brought up the weather for the wedding all week, I was completely confident that it would clear up in time. The other worry was about Emma's grandmother. She had thrown out her back trying to help a neighbor and was bedridden. It didn't look like she'd be able to come. Emma was understandably upset, but we had to push on regardless.

Around 9 we headed out from her parents' house to town to get hair and makeup done. We looked stunning by the end of it, although I don't believe I've ever worn that much makeup in my entire life. All prettied up, we got back in the car and headed back to the house for lunch. It was a pretty full house what with Emma, her parents, her brother Des, his boyfriend Russ, and me. Around 2ish we decided it was about time to start getting dressed. Emma's mom and I helped Emma with her corset and dress. It was an absolutely gorgeous dress: strapless with a pleated bodice, form-fitting with a slight flair at the bottom, and delicate silver beading. The photographer arrived just as we finished dressing her, and while she got some photos with her family, I ran into the bathroom to put on my dress.

I ran around quite hectically trying to make sure my dress wouldn't fall down (it was also strapless) and my shoes wouldn't fall off (strappy sandals). Double sided tape became my best friend, although it left a rather nasty welt under my left arm. I digress. I finally got done just about when it was time to go. Emma and I got some pictures together, and then it was off to the woodland garden ceremony in these two cool 1930s era Ford Hot Rods. By this time, all the clouds had gone, and it was a perfectly beautiful sunny day. I knew it!

Upon arriving at the garden, we barely had time to take a breath before the ceremony started. Emma's cousin Carina led the procession as flower girl, I followed behind, and then here came the bride! Dan looked very nice and nervous up at the altar, and the atmosphere was just lovely. The cermony was short, but very sweet and personal. I almost cried, but managed to stop myself, as it would be no good to have smudgy eyes the rest of the day. Nathan, Dan's little brother and best man, and I signed as winesses to the marriage, and it was official! Mr. and Mrs. Stocker! ♥

After the ceremony, there was a quick round of greetings, and then photo time! The photographer took tons of family photos, then led the bridal party around the gardens for some posed shots. Once she was satisfied with what the gardens could give us, Dan, Emma, Nathan, and I jumped in the bridal cars and headed to a beautiful bay not far away. Emma, Dan, and I had checked out the place earlier in the week (and saw wild penguins heading to their nest!), and they had decided that was where they wanted wedding photos. We had quite the photo shoot before heading back for the reception.

The reception was quite lovely. There was lots of good food and wine and a nice, easygoing mood. Speeches included Emma's dad Steve, Dan's dad Hank, myself, Nathan, and Daniel, in that order. I was nervous about giving my toast, but I got through it without too much stumbling. Once the meal and speeches were finished, Emma and Daniel cut the cake and had their first dance. I have these on video, but I have not uploaded them quite yet. Please be patient!

The bride and groom's first dance just barely broke the ice for dancing. Supposedly it is common wisdom that Kiwis don't really dance. The bridal party boogied a bit, and I danced with Emma. A few people got onto the floor, but eventually it trailed off, despite all efforts. Now, I'm a brave, but not particularly talented dancer. My moves include the Lawnmower and the Shopping Cart. However, Dan told me later that quite a few people mentioned that I was a great dancer. They obviously just haven't seen really good dancers. I definitely impressed Emma's grandfather though. He told me all day today what a good "mover and shaker" I am.

After a long day, the party started breaking up around 11:30pm. Emma and Dan went up to Larnach Castle, a Dunedin historic spot, for a night at the inn there, and I came back to their house to promptly fall asleep.

Today I had a lazy morning with a large barbeque at Emma's parents' house in the afternoon. It was nice to see some of the attendees at the wedding in a more casual atmosphere. I got to get friendly with people and had a couple offers to come stay at people's homes during the year. I also played with the kids, including two adorable Japanese children whose parents make their home in Dunedin.

I have one more day here, and then on Tuesday, I will be making a move to Queenstown. Supposedly the adventure tourism capital of the world, I'm hoping to pick up some work pretty easily, either in a shop, cafe, or somewhere in the surround countryside. Vineyards have become a booming industry in Central Otago in recent years, according to people around here, so I figure I'll try my luck!
 
 
Current Mood: exhaustedexhausted