“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center.” Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The last day of the year

Summer Sacrifice

Weather is sunny, warm but not too hot, and calm. Nice day for killing chickens.

The Brown Shavers (n=4) haven't been laying for several weeks, so they have had their last meal. The hens will be transformed into dog and cat food, and new pullets (young chickens) will be acquired from my sister's flock. We also have the young Leghorn pullet.

I've pulled out the pork shoulder from the deep freeze to make sausages. I am thinking of doing half Italian sausage, half chorizo. We need to clear out the freezer to put the cow in. The cow, Angus 88 as she is known, has been very naughty and must be punished. She jumped the fence at my sister's property and went to visit the boy cow (neutered fortunately) down the road. I got a call on Christmas Eve for help herding her back home. We tried really hard, but she was not to be deterred. She jumped several more fences and managed to keep away from us. The neighbors with the boy cow allowed her to stay a few days to visit. We returned on Boxing Day to try again, yet we were thwarted repeatedly. The man who comes to perform the homekill has been called, and he's agreed to take her some time in January. Everyone is on holiday now, so nothing important gets done until the 2nd or 3rd week in January. She is going to taste delicious.

Our First Trip to the South Island: Christchurch

We took advantage of the cheap introductory fares of Pacific Blue to fly from Auckland to Christchurch. I snapped this woman's photo as she got off the plane we were about to board. Chch is located about half-way down the south island on the east coast. We arrived about 7 pm on a Friday and checked into our hotel downtown, the Millenium. Wow, pretty swank! The staff was great and the room was nice, so I'd recommend that for any visitors who want to pay about $175/night. We had a room overlooking the cathedral and adjacent square, and you could walk to all the downtown tourist sites, which included, for us, the Arts Centre (crafty, arty stalls and shops), the Canterbury Museum, the Botanical Gardens, and the Avon River (we went punting). We also had some great food. The Bismark imports kegs of German beer (HB Munichen) and makes its own bratwurst, and serves it in a hard roll with saurkraut and mustard. Saturday night we had an amazing meal at Sezn, about 7 min by taxi from downtown. We were so happy to see a California Zinfandel on the menu! They are not easy to find here in NZ. We had the fixed price meal, and it was without fault. On Sunday we took the bus to Sumner, on the coast, to have breakfast and walk along the beach. At the beach I saw a policeman walking his shepherd, and it looked like they were searching for something. The next day, a news article said a severed foot had been found on that beach, and the police had been searching for the rest of the body!! We visited the Antarctic centre before our flight back to Auckland, which was a relief from the heat that afternoon. The "snow and ice" experience was the best. They give you coats to go into this room where a "blizzard" rages every 30 min. There is an ice slide (yeah I did it!), an igloo, and a snow tent. I learned that there were once trees and dinosaurs on Antarctica. If you like to read, I recommend Cheating Death, about a woman doctor who diagnoses herself with breast cancer while working in Antarctica.

On the subject of sickness, I came down with the flu that Sunday we returned to Auckland. I had a fever over 100F for 3 days, a terrible cough, and was unable to work for 3 days. I managed to go to the office for 2 days before it closed for the holidays. Darin caught my sickness too, but he didn't get it as bad. I am still trying to recover, suffering with a lingering chest pain and cough. Still, we have had some fun. Darin and I hosted Christmas dinner, enjoyed with friends and fellow expats Adam and Roberta and my sister and brother-in-law. The following day, Boxing Day, we had dinner with a really nice family, from Ohio, who we met in Fiji, at their new home in Devonport (Auckland north shore). Roberta's birthday was Dec 27, so we went up to Goat Island Marine Reserve and snorkeled. The water is still chilly, so wetsuits were required. We had fish and chips at the pub in Matakana afterwards. Matakana is a lovely village on the way to Goat Island that has a great Saturday market. I went along to the market with friends Steve and Holly before Christmas, and we stopped for a picnic with the dogs on the way home.

Darin and I also made an overnight visit to my co-worker's batch (vacation cottage) up north in Mangawhai. We brought venison steaks, my homemade bratwurst, and salad with lettuce from our garden. We brought Fargo, and he was very well behaved with their two cats. They took us to the beach, Te Arai point, and Darin fished with Frank (caught a few small rock cod). They also pointed us toward some real estate offices, where we started thinking again about buying property. Barb and Eric are on the same page, so we will have to pursue this some more.

Happy new year, everyone!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Better to be...

Darin and I bought beer on Friday. So what else is new, right? Tui Beer is having a promotion, where they put $10, $20, or $50 bills in empty bottles in cases of beer. We got a case with $50, check out the photo. Cool, getting paid to drink beer. By the way, the $50 bill has a mushroom on it.
What did we do with our free money? Well, we bought an Xmas tree for one. Choice is pretty much limited to pine, but price was right- $30, for a 7 footer. Barb and Eric came over for dinner and helped us decorate it. We were pleased to see all our ornaments made it to New Zealand safely. We had to borrow Barb's tree stand though, because we got rid of ours before the move from San Diego. There are so many things we got rid of that I now regret, especially the wood folding chairs. Well it's fine anyway.

We also spent some money on fresh strawberries, now in season and grown locally. There's a place north of us that sells fresh strawberry ice cream, mmm. We're also enjoying fresh lettuce from our garden. I spent several hours in the garden weeding and mulching. It should be good to go now, at least until the bugs get it. I have been taking a free class called "gardening for migrants", and I learned of an organic pesticide: 1 litre of water, a squirt of dish soap or vinegar, and 3-4 smashed garlic cloves. Let sit in a sunny location for about 10 days, then load into the sprayer. Should be toxic to pests but safe for people.

Last weekend I took Fargo on a hike around Piha. Piha is a west coast beach community about 40 min drive from our home, very popular with surfers. As you can see from the photos, it was a beautiful day. The hike was challenging in parts, but the views were the payoff. Fargo still had energy at the end to chase the tennis ball into the surf. A playful dog I called David Bowie (one brown eye, one blue eye) hung out with us.

Book update:
The China Study was didactic, preachy, and depressing. I returned it to the library. Now I'm reading (when I have time) Collapse by Jared Diamond. Good, gritty stuff. Also on the agenda is Stephen Colbert's I Am America, and So Can You! Obviously, Americans are suffering tragically from the writer's strike- I refer of course to the mall and church shootings. What, you think they're not related? Bah.
Movie update:
We saw This is England at the swish Rialto cinema, and it was great. It reminded me of American History X, the brilliant and gruesome film starring Edward Norton. I like him almost as much as Johnny Depp. This is England is great for the 1980's noir and realistic acting. Another movie I've watched recently is Fido. This was ordered on eBay from Singapore or somewhere. It was released on DVD in the US in November, and no one seems to know when it will be available in NZ. So I imported it because it's about a pet zombie. Funny and dark, it is well worth a watch. The father is played by Dylan Baker, who is another great actor. He reached the highest "creep factor" in Happiness.
I've also re-watched Donnie Darko. Wow. If you haven't seen it, what are you waiting for? It is a classic in the vein of Repo Man.

Music update:
The most recent CD purchase was a 3 CD set of Queen's greatest hits. Ok I'm a geek, like I care. The other CD I've bought is I'll Be Lightning by a NZ artist, Liam Finn. Nice, mellow. The title of this post is the title of one of his songs, and I chose it because I'm planning some changes, I hope for the better. Let me elaborate.

I mentioned in my last post that my work is unsatisfying. My sister Barb has been working as a Clinical Trials Coordinator for a few months, and told me they have another position open. She said the work is interesting, the people are nice, and that I should apply. So I sent my CV and got an interview. They wanted my current supervisor as a referee (reference). I told them that he doesn't know I'm here. After the interview, I was told they'd offer me the job if my references checked out, and so I had to tell my supervisor that I wanted him to give me a reference. I was nervous about this meeting with him, but he was understanding and nice. Whew! I knew when I accepted the job I have now that I was taking a big risk and was prepared for a challenge. The challenge took a different form than I had expected, and this position has pushed me into a new direction. A direction which I think will be positive, a new learning experience, and I'm always up for that. The pay cut will be a drag, and it will be strange to work in the same office as my sister. I'm ready though for a change, for the better.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

USA early winter, and New Zealand spring 2007

Thanksgiving came early at the Joppa household. Darin and I were back home in Fargo, North Dakota early November. We were so pleased to see everyone healthy and happy. Unfortunately, I caught a nasty head cold just prior to leaving San Diego. I did my best to keep my social obligations, but my brother and niece had to be missed, since I couldn't speak above a whisper for 2 days. I think they may come visit us here in NZ at some point.
The flights to and from the US were on Air New Zealand, and I got to catch up on some movie watching. Best film was Hot Fuzz, and a close second was When Night Falls. Perfect Creature was boring, and A Mighty Heart was long and just sad. Knocked Up had its moments, but was not that great.
Our visit to San Diego (the week prior to ND) was awesome. We ate mexican food almost daily,
caught up with our old friends, and did some shopping. The recent wildfires there caused several of our friends to evacuate, but fortunately none of their homes were damaged. We drove past our old house, and it still had our yellow sign on the fence, "Rottweiler Crossing". The garbage can still had the Lou's Records and Comic Book Legal Defense Fund stickers on it.

Now we are back in New Zealand, it's Spring, and our Feijoa trees are blooming. The birds really like to eat the flowers, and we watch them from our kitchen window above the sink. The cucumber plant died, but the lettuce and silverbeet are doing really well.
I've been cooking a lot lately. I like cooking because it's something I can plan, perform, and then enjoy eating. I am not happy at my "real" job (that pays the bills) right now, so cooking gives me job satisfaction. Tonight, Darin and I made Salsa del Norte, consisting of roasted tomatoes, onion, cilantro, garlic, chipotle peppers, and red wine vinegar. Necessary to make your own, because the only "salsa" you can get here is the El Torito brand- glorified tomato sauce. Here's an asparagus, blue cheese, and smoked salmon omlette I made this morning. Strawberries are in season. The weather is absolutely grand.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Nostalgic for the past

I've been listening to a "classic rock" station on the commute home from work now and then. It makes me miss the '70s. I was just a kid, but people seemed happier, and more rational. Just listen to ABBA's Dancing Queen, and how could you not smile? I had a rainbow print top and listened to Supertramp. I also listened to my brother's Van Halen and Ted Nugent records. Unicorns were popular. I watched the Muppet Show, Fantasy Island, and the Love Boat. After the gas crisis, I learned in school that petroleum was a finite resource, and the planet had a carrying capacity. The shift to alternative energy sources seemed like the way of the future, a logical no-brainer. What happened to our dreams?? Kermit, I miss your green frog face. Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) may not have been our best president ever, but he did win a Nobel Peace Prize. No one is going to be giving one to our current demagogue, GW Bush.
The 80's happened: Reaganomics, the Iran-Contra Affair, the AIDS crisis, and disco was dead. Yuppies were snorting cocaine and Miami Vice was a highly rated television show. Madonna and Michael Jackson rose to the highest level of popularity. Americans became obsessed with money and consuming like never before. The space shuttle Challenger exploded after take off, in front of our eyes, on the TV in our classroom. We used to watch every launch. The 80's gave us televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Baker, Oral Roberts, and Jimmy Swaggert sucking millions of dollars out of stupid people, all the while behaving like the opposite of a "good Christian". OK, to be fair, the 70's had its share of cults, most notably Jonestown. Worse was the hysteria over daycare sex abuse, some going so far as to claim satanic ritual abuse. Ah, the good old days, ha ha!
The 80's did give us some good movies though. Here is a list of my favorite 80's movies:

and of course, Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2.
As evidence of my nostalgia, I went to see the performance of We Will Rock You at the Civic Theatre in Auckland. It is based upon the music of Queen, and was written by Ben Elton, who is a very funny British writer. I've read This Other Eden, and Stark is on my shelf, to be read after I finish the other books I'm currently reading.
I'm reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle which came highly recommended by my sister. I have started Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier for the second time, but the Kingsolver book is more transportable. Both are good so far. I also have from the library The China Study, which has been criticized for over-reaching, so I may get disgusted and return it early. The other library book I have is a compilation of essays by Joan Didion, a California writer from the 1960's (futher evidence of my nostalgia) whose central thesis is, "things fall apart; the centre cannot hold" (Yeats)- referring to American Culture.
The photo of the horse with the foal is Fleur and her not even 1 day old colt. So cute. The bloke at the grill full of fresh asparagus is Slade, our Kiwi friend who recently hosted a lovely BBQ and gave us fresh juicy oranges from his tree.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Scary stuff

Halloween is approaching, but here in New Zealand, I had to go onto the eBay website to be reminded of it. None of the shops are advertising candy and costume sales. No decorations, either. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, but you just can't get a carving pumpkin in the spring. I would throw together a party, but it's just prior to our trip to the US and I'm a little distracted. Part of the distraction is the fear that Americans have grown to live with these days. Last week, American author Richard Heinberg gave a talk at Auckland University, "Life After Oil". We attended and the place was packed. His book Power Down was one of the first books Darin and I read about "peak oil", and we also have read The Long Emergency. Seriously sobering stuff, and part of of the reason that we want to buy land and live a more sustainable lifestyle. How do we do that? We're not sure how, exactly, but we're working on the problem. Reading the Omnivore's Dilemma helped crystalize my thoughts about sustainable agriculture on a local rather than global level. NZ's Green Party has a petition to be submitted to Parlaiment requiring all food products be labelled with country of origin. Australia already does this, and I think it's a great idea. I've blogged about China sending contaminated food to other countries before, so I'll just attach the link.
The other scary thing is the secret concentration camps in the US, supposedly 800 of them. When I heard about them for the first time last week, I thought "no way". But in fact, they have been around since 1984, and known of at least since 1987, when Oliver North was questioned about the REX-84 program during the Iran-Contra hearings. Their purpose is unknown, and there are many conspiracy theories. "A Halliburton subsidiary has just received a $385 million contract from the Department of Homeland Security to provide "temporary detention and processing capabilities.""
This, with the knowledge that the US Treasury has the power to sieze and freeze gold, silver, and any other asset in the event of an emergency, leads me to think that paranoia is not such a bad thing.
The cemetery photos are from the Symonds Street cemetery, where a number of important historical figues are buried. The cemetery is in the heart of Auckland, and is obviously very old. The Grafton Street Bridge was built over and through the cemetery, and the motorway is at the bottom of the ravine. There are trails through the cemetery, and as I mentioned in my last blog, it is haunted. Haunted by big, brown rats, living in holes below the gravestones. I didn't see any zombies, unless I count the one apparently indigent guy I see hanging around the area. When I told my Kiwi co-worker I'd been there, she said the cemetery is frequented by drug dealers and prostitutes. I didn't ask her how she knows this, heh heh. Back in my hometown of Fargo, there is a cemetery on a road with a sign that says "Dead End", get it? Ha.

Here's a photo of the mural in Swanson, with an incorrect use of appostrophe (posessive). It looks old, so I like it anyway. The picture of Darin is from O'Neill's beach, just north of Bethell's beach. We went there after watching France beat the NZ All Blacks in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup. We'll get them next time, when the World Cup is held here in Auckland!

In other news, I got my NZ driver's lisence! I also got the motorcycle lisence, because although I don't have a motorcycle (yet), it's easier to transfer the US lisence to NZ than start over from the beginning. In my lisence photo I have an angry face, because their stupid eye exam machine wouldn't allow me to see the 3rd column of letters. I got really upset because I've had an exam recently and know my vision is good (with corrective lenses). Still, I had to go to the eye doc and get a 5 min exam and pay $20 for this certificate saying my eyes are fine. I'm feeling like a real Kiwi now because the local elections were just held, and we got to vote. Darin has joined a hunting group, Deerstalkers, and intends to do a bit of hunting here. Deer are only raised on farms here, typically for export. When they escape, along with the goats and pigs gone wild, they are fair game. To my knowledge there is no hunting lisence or fee to pay, so to hunt a wild deer, pig, or goat is to protect the NZ biosecurity and get "free" meat- a win/win situation.

Darin built me an herb garden using the wood from the old fence in our front yard, and we're supposed to plant the garden today. The wind is blowing so hard, I really don't want to go out. Also, I'm recovering from a minor food poisoning. Yesterday we ate at a purported "Mediterranian" restaurant, where I ordered moussaka. I have ordered this at another restaurant in Auckland, and it tasted nothing like real moussaka. Again, I was disappointed- no eggplant, made with potatoes, topped with tomato sauce/katsup. Moussaka is a classic dish, and I'm just offended that Auckland restaurants serve this pathetic excuse for the dish. But, yeah, I ate it anyway, I was hungry. Based on how I felt the rest of the day, the dish was obviously sitting around for awhile. I'm feeling better now, so I should get some other things done.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

One year in New Zealand!

I've just returned from a trip to Napier, in the region known as Hawke's Bay, where we celebrated the one year anniversary of my arrival in NZ. The drive is about 5-6 hours, depending on how often you stop. We stopped in Taupo at the Hot Springs there, where we soaked our muscles and got prune-skinned. There are pools of varying temperatures. Unlike the Polynesian Spa in Rotorua, the water here appeared clear and didn't smell. The setting is nice, but can't compare to the view at the Polynesian Spa (visited back in Feb).
Our lodging was in Eskdale, about 15 min drive north of Napier. I found the Cornucopia Lodge through doglinks, and I chose it because she allows dogs. The owner has 3 Border Collies and competes in agility trials. She made us breakfast and a lovely evening cordial and handmade chocolate. Her property has plenty of lawn for ball chasing. Fargo was well behaved and got on well with the youngest collie who was cute as can be. We left Fargo in his crate on the covered porch on Saturday so we could enjoy the gorgeous sunny day touring around. We visited Esk Valley, Kim Crawford, and Clearview wineries. There are dozens of wineries in Hawke's Bay, but 3 was all I could manage tasting. We stuck to the whites, because the reds are a bit weak in our view. We can get really good Cab Sauv and Merlot from Australia. We had lunch at Te Mata cheese cafe, then visited the Arataki Honey center. Napier, I should mention, is a beautiful seaside city with many gardens. We picked a good time to go because everything seems to be blooming now, and the flowers are just lovely. Also, the baby lambs and cows are gamboling about the grassy pastures. We'll plan another visit to Hawke's Bay sometime in the future, for a longer time.
Last weekend, Fargo and I met up with sister Barb and her two Ridgebacks, friend Holly and her Ridgeback, and new friend Hsin-Yi (from the Expats in NZ yahoo group) and her Great Dane at Waiatarua Reserve, where the dogs can get off-leash exercise. Afterwards, Holly and her partner Steve joined Darin and I at Hallertau Brewery, where we had some delicious beer and small plates (see photo). Holly's blog is CaliforniarefugeesinNZ, linked here on my blog. Sadly, I had to say goodbye to one of the Americans I have met here, Rhonda. She intends to come back in a few years, probably for good. I hope she can manage the transition back to the US, in Kansas, of all places.
In the next blog installment, I promise to post photos of the Symond Street Cemetery, which is really cool. And haunted. With what, you ask? Check back in about a week and see!

BTW, the NZ All Blacks Rugby is continuing to totally rule the 2007 World Cup, woo hoo! They are great fun to watch.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Chardonnay, Waitakeres, and French Market

Margarita Brain Freeze- Oh, the pain!!! We have adequate Mexican food here, at Mexicali Fresh. They have black beans, woo hoo! Have to say, not a fan of the margaritas here, too sweet for my taste, but then I've been called a tequila snob. Hey, I have no problem with that title.
Spring is definitely on the way. I see leaves sprouting on the trees (oak?) in the Auckland Domain, and the Magnolia tree in our yard finally bloomed. The lemon tree is heavy with fruit.
Saturday turned into a lovely, sunny day, and we tried to make the most of it. Darin and I returned to the French Market in Parnell, where we bought sausages, vegetables, and creamed blackberry honey- yum!! then looked at motorcycles. We found a nice Honda Shadow for a good price, but the question is, is this the best use of our money? The house needs work, and we went to the home show on Sunday, which only inspired desire for upgrades. The weather is less ideal for motorcycling here than in San Diego, due to the rain and cooler temperatures in NZ.

Post motorcycle shopping, we attended a Chardonnay wine tasting at Kumeu River Winery, just north of where we live. Not normally fans of Chardonnay, we were impressed by this winery's products. The winemaker told us they use only 20% oak, and only French oak, as opposed to American oak- I suspect the taste difference is partly due to this. After a bite to eat, we took Fargo for a walk on the Auckland City Walk in the Waitakere Regional Reserve. We were in awe of the gorgeous fern forest and old giant Kauri trees. Later, we saw the film the Bourne Ultimatum, which was good, and then watched the All Blacks pummel Portugal.

The NZ All Blacks
The All Blacks are favored in the World Rugby Cup, being played presently in France. I've been lucky to have pulled their team in the rugby pool at work, standing to win $50. Before every game, the team performs an intimidation dance called the Haka, which is incredible to watch. You can see one of their performances here- though not their best, still good. One of the great things about watching rugby here is the absolute absence of ANY commercials! And there's few breaks for time outs, penalties, etc.

Movies and Books

We saw the Simpsons movie a few weeks ago, and as anticipated, it was funny and typical. We LOVE Matt Groening. We used to enjoy his comics in the Reader, in Minneapolis, Life in Hell. I also have two of his books, Love is Hell and Work is Hell. Highly recommended!!!

I've just finished reading the book The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon. It was a good read, but still I prefered his book, the Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. I had to renew my book checkout in order to finish the latest book. Though it was a fun read, it's hard to make time for reading. Next, I have the Omnivore's Dilemma (also from the library. It is really well written, much better than Diet for a Dead Planet. Very readable and impressive, so far.

Here's a couple photos from the Home Show. Barb is planning to remodel and add on to her kitchen, and she's got a lot of planning to do! The stove is apparently already chosen.

Unfortunately, I accidentally shut the door on Latte's tail while I was holding him, and he freaked out. Good thing I was wearing a padded bra, because my t-shirt was shredded on the chest. I have like 5 bandaids on my arm and chest, and was in a lot of pain. A good stiff drink and a couple of tylonol have helped. Latte is fine.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

My US president vote goes to...

Barack Obama, because he went on the Daily Show and told Jon Stewart that he loved the show. I love the Daily Show, too! That's good enough for me. Although it's not as funny as the Colbert Report, it is broadcast here in NZ and keeps us current with the current US politics. The current king/emperor of the US is visiting Australia this week, and it is causing me 5 kinds of annoyance. The Aussie and NZ populace seems dismayed at Bush's extravegance- the most security ever for any foreign dignitary. One of the many bizarre security expenses was a water cannon to use against protesters, despite the fact that Australia's suffered the worst drought ever, in that country, and water restrictions are in place. Oh the irony. I'm so proud of these students, protesting King Bush's visit- great signs!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Marking time with an anniversary and birthday

Darin and I had our 17th wedding anniversary on August 16th. We used 20,000 United Airlines frequent flyer miles each to fly to Nadi, Fiji on partner Air New Zealand. Fiji is to NZ what Hawaii is to the US- a tropical island vacation destination, only 3 hours flight from Auckland. Our destination was Beqa Island, south of Nadi on the main island of Viti Levu. The ride from Nadi to Pacific Harbor, where we meet the resort’s boat, is about 2 hours. The boat ride over to Beqa is about an hour. When we arrived at Beqa Lagoon Resort, a transfer boat took us to the shore, where we then waded into the shore to be greeted by the singing staff with a handmade lei. We had been to this resort before, in 2004, with our friends Jan and Jerry Hemme. The resort has had some upgrades since then, mainly to the beachfront bures and the swimming pool. We stayed in a garden bure, surrounded by a pond full of water lilies. There are no telephones or televisions in the rooms. Meals are prepared by a very talented local chef, and served in the main bure that also houses the bar, the office, and a lounge area with games and books. The resort is on a small island with only footpaths between villages- no cars. During our 8 day visit, we did 6 days of 2-tank boat dives, one shore dive, had a picnic and snorkelled on a small, remote island, kayaked, visited the local villages, had a massage, napped, read books, learned to weave coconut palm into a basket, and met some really nice people. In one of those “hey, it’s a small world” moments, we met an American family moving to Auckland. The mom and daughter finished their scuba certification there. I was really impressed to see them doing so well, considering the wind was blowing up some big waves.
Of course, this vacation was reality and not a dream, so it was not perfect. The downsides of this trip included numerous itchy mosquito bites, cockroaches in our room, occasional rain- with likely sewage runoff from the villages- preventing us from shore diving at night, and the stinky smoke from trash and sugar cane field-burning on Viti Levu.
My sister Barb turned 41, I mean, 28, on August 26th. She had no idea I was planning a surprise party for her that day. She thought she was coming over for a BBQ lunch, but instead I had 19 people (and 2 kids) at my house that day, our first party in NZ! My friends are awesome and cool and helped with food, set-up, and clean up. The food was delicious; especially the pound cake I made with the flower-shape pan Roberta gave me for my birthday. I made a strawberry sauce and whipped cream to top it. The orchids on the cake Holly had made were found growing below the steps to the backyard. Darin’s lips and hands turned purple from the balloons he blew up (made in China, yikes!). His homebrewed beer was popular, and the weather was sunny and comfortable. We had guests fill out a True/False questionnaire titled, “You don’t know Barb”, with a prize for first and second place. Some of the true statements about her were funny or embarrassing stories, and Barb got to comment on each one as we went over the results. There was lots of laughing, so the party was a success.
Last night was the lunar eclipse, or luna rosa. We had a thunderstorm blow up about 6 pm, so I had no expectation that we would get to see it. By 9 pm, the wind was blowing clouds across the bright moon, and they were moving past swiftly. We could see a dark dent on the bottom of the moon. By 10 pm the moon was indeed red, and the light from the moon was gone. What a beautiful sight! You can see a photo of it on this website http://www.stardome.org.nz/ or this one http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0708/S00371.htm

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Caves of Bethell's Beach

My friend Janine and I took my dog, Fargo, and her landlady’s dog, Buster, to Bethell’s Beach on a recent Saturday morning. We had an exceptionally nice sunny afternoon and time to walk around and explore the sea caves accessible at low tide. Buster is a 1 year old Huntaway, a herding dog, and got along well with Fargo. He is younger and faster, so when they chased the tennis ball, Buster could beat Fargo easily. Apparently there is some hound in the background of this breed. I have a short video of Buster teasing Fargo with a piece of kelp, and the two of them running around us.
Later that day, I tortured Fargo with a cold bath in the yard. There’s no way for me to get him into our bathtub, because it’s a clawfoot and rather tall. There’s no way he’d jump in there, and I won’t be lifting his big Rottweiler butt anytime soon unless it’s an emergency. Actually he’s looking quite trim and healthy, but he’s still heavy.
Fargo is enjoying the company of our friend Rita's puppy Reagan, who I like to think of as "Raygun" because his name reminds me of one of my least favorite presidents.

He is 3 months old, and staying temporarily while Rita gets the retaining wall in her backyard repaired. We visited her friend Angela today after the dog show, and saw her 2 week-old Dogue de Bordeau (French Mastiff) puppies. The photo of the large Dogue is a 10 month old puppy.

Angela's husband recently accepted a highly coveted position at Cornwall Park, overseeing the care and maintenance of the sheep and cows there. A house next to the park comes with the job, with kennels for the herding dogs. He said he has to obtain a firearms license for his job. The staff of the park have to shoot any loose dogs in the park that are worrying the stock.

There is a theater here called "the half pipe" with bean bag chairs! I really want to see the Simpson's movie there. But, I just spend half of last month in theatres for the Telecom Film Festival, so haven't done it yet. I made a friend at the films, another Kiwi, and we're going to hang out with him and his partner tomorrow.