October 30, 2006

Kia ora

Today was the last of the "handover" events, seeing our ex-boss Mark go to his new workplace (the pics are from his weekend party with most of my colleagues!). We had a Hare Paniora ritual today, that, I guess, is a form of powhiri. A group of people from Unitec "brought" Mark to his new workplace to show support, clear his "baggage" from the old place and bless the new workplace. As far as I understand, it has to do with the sipritual world, making the spirits/ancestors aquainted (?) + removing the obstacles in the new place. We were taken into a room where TangataWhenua (hosts) were already seated. Our group was seated against them, men in the front row, women behind them. Our "leaders" gave speaches praising Mark and those were followed by songs and prayers. Then Mark was taken by the women from "our" side to the "other" side. The whole ceremony was extremely emotional, most of the people on "our" side nearly cried. I was tearful as well (seeing another good boss going...), on the other hand, I was very immersed in the ritual, - there couldn't have been a better way to make us realise that Mark is leaving us!!! He was seated on the "other" side and then we went on to do hongi with all the "others". Hongi is the famous nose touching greeting that is so fascinating for the tourists and looks something like this.

I had a brewing feeling about this whole NZ, as a place and the revelation just stroke me with amazing clarity today (watching Utu, an epic movie about NZ wars of 1870 helped!). NZ is actually a completely different place from anywhere I've been before and anything that I've experienced before. It is deceivingly similar to European countries and cultures, as it is full of Pakeha (white people of European descent) and everybody speaks English. But what this similarity does to you, it makes it harder to go through all the culture shock issues. Seemingly things are the same as what you know, but they are not. In a way it was easier to deal with it in Singapore, because everything was completely different: the culture, the customs, the smells, the food, the weather, the languages, the clothes, etc. You don't even try to recognise those things, you just keep your eyes open in amazement.

Obviously NZ is geographically very close to the Pacific Islands and therefore there is a lot of mutual political involvement (immigration, development of democracy, etc). What I haven't really realised until today is just how important Maori culture is here. In many ways NZ is quite close to the Pacific Islands, culturally and sipritually too, not only geographically. Its not really another UK. Simple? You'd think... But it took me 2.5 months to realise!

What it may mean for me from now on, is that I will try to "keep my eyes open in amazement" and maybe just stop comparing this to other places that I know of. Obviously things work differently here, because people are different, because its history is different, its cultural norms and religion is different, everything is different! It is not a greaner and cleaner UK. Not at all!!! It is a different country!

Posted by gkligyte at 07:08 PM | Comments (0)

October 22, 2006

Foggy Surf

This is gannet colony at Muriwai beach.

I checked it out while Kaj was surfing at Muriwai beach... During low tide... With waves up to 3m high... Bad idea...

Obviously I didn't take good care of him, so he fell off the board and sprained his ankle. It doesn't seem too bad, but surfing, walking, running, basically everything is off for us at least for a while... :(

There are warnings everywhere about dangerous rip tides in all Western beaches, but its not all that bad. You just hear/read stories about people barely making it to the shore, being swept away by massive currents, etc. The conditions yesterday were even more interesting because of the fog. I could barely see people some 50 meters away from me. It would have been a miracle if the lifeguards would have noticed a lone surfer carried away from the shore in whitewater...

Its a long weekend here because of Labour day on Monday, but we stayed in Auckland. Kaj sprained his ankle, so we're staying home. Quite bored, I have to say, cooking, browsing the web and reading newspapers. For kiwis, as far as I know, this weekend is the ultimate gardening weekend. The tomatoes have to be planted today - its quite amazing here, just stick anything to the ground and it will grow, nature will take care of it. Its so humid here and the temperatures are pretty moderate most of the year, so everything grows like crazy! I noticed that my potted tomato is about to bloom already!

Summer has yet to come though... We really really really really wait for these 3 weeks to pass soon, so that we can move into our new house and life should start about then. I don't feel like cleaning our deck or windows, planting anything anywhere, basically doing anything to "beautify" our current home. I just can't wait to move!!!

Few more weeks and we should even have our stuff from Finland delivered!!! Aaaaah... Our futon bed... In the new house... A REAL house!

Posted by gkligyte at 09:44 PM | Comments (24)

October 19, 2006

What happened here?

Just when you thought that things are ok with us. Guess what?!?! They just got better! This is our new house! We signed a new tenancy agreement today and we'll be escaping the bush on 13th of November! This is really amazing luck. We found this house on TradeMe, where else. The landlady apparently received hundreds of calls and for some reason she thought that we fit her "profile" (obviously, no kids, no smoking, no pets, we didn't even have to mention that we're "designers" and that we like "japan" and that our hobbies are "gardening, movies and reading" :) So we just walked in, had a look (looked great!) aaaand... got it! So in 3 weeks we'll have a 3 bedroom home (that is in fact 5 rooms, because they don't count the lounge and the dining room as rooms, they count only bedrooms!) in a quiet street within walking distance to my work!!!! Yeah!!!! Did we just step on a golden patch in our lives, finally?!?!

Posted by gkligyte at 11:04 PM | Comments (2)

October 16, 2006

Great News, and yep, some Annoyances

We just discovered the prettiest walk in Waitakere ranges yesterday. This is Karamatura loop.

1 hour of easy walking in the bush along the stream with a couple of tiny waterfalls and nicely carved cliffs.

Its really great to live in the West of Auckland (although our house is funny and small...). We have all the nice walks just behind the corner in Waitakere ranges and the Western beaches are next door.

The weather has been extremely changeable lately and the surf forecast not too good for almost 2 weeks. So we've been walking in the forest instead of going to the beach. Some of the views here are just magnificent.

Lots of things to explore, especially, if we're lucky and the weather will get better... Yes, yes, we still have +13-15C degrees most of the time and rain. If this is subtropical climate, tell me, what is Finland? So far it seems that 3/4 of the year we'll have some sort of mid-season... autumn or spring with rain, grey skies, though very green and lush... No winter... But so far no summer either... :) My colleagues say that spring is usually very long here, because ice in Antarctica is the thickest now (after long winter). So it will take some time for it to melt and retreat. Only then the weather will get warmer... When oh when?!?!

My colleague with his wife dropped me off to our home over the weekend and it was funny to see their reaction when they saw our house: "its small..", "well if its all you need...", "I would like to have something like this as a holiday home", "its a bit like a batch", "its a box".. "what a tiny deck you have!!", "oh, I see what you mean about your floor..." Hmmm... I don't think we'll put up with our current residence for too long...

The good thing is that we can take our time looking for something better, sunnier, with wooden floor, closer to the shops, closer to buses and trains... And maybe up on the hill with a view?.. :)

It seems that we'll afford something slightly better soon. The good news is that Kaj got a full-time job as a promo graphic designer at TV3, a local commercial TV channel!!! The news came last Friday (hence the bubbly!) and he'll be starting on Wednesday! Yep!!!

Next weekend is Labour weekend here. Something like 1st of May in Europe, I think. Without parties, drinking, riots and burning cars, but still a long weekend. We thought of going to Ahipara again, but the Endless Summer lodge is completely booked (obviously we're not the only ones trying to get out of Auckland on a long weekend! So I guess, we'll stay here...

Just when you thought that its all good and positive, here's another not so nice thing that happened to us - the long scratch from front till end on our car. Some ***hole must have scratched it while we were parked at the mall or in the city. Its really really annoying (we own this car maybe a week and a half!) and I can't understand why it had to happen to our car. It is not flashy, it is really ordinary and doesn't look anything special. It already has scratches and even some dents! You wouldn't think that there's anything enjoyable vandalising this car... There's far better looking ones around that scream for attention and to be scratched. But no... Somebody has to pick our modest car... This is something that I'll never get used to - someone can just come and mess up something that is yours... No excuses, no apologies, no reasons to do so!!! Why then?!?! argh...

Looks good on the surface, right? :)

Posted by gkligyte at 05:52 PM | Comments (3)

October 09, 2006

We're Living in a Bloody Western

Just came back from our most convenient and frequently visited shopping mall at New Lynn. As we finished grocery shopping and were walking back to our car, we heard loud bangs somewhere behind us. Then we saw people running. Then Kaj pushed me to start running too. Not knowing whats going on, I took off clumsily and some people bumped into my back. Were those gun shots? Should I dash into some shop? Should I continue running and whats behind my back? Then we saw a lady in uniform running from one shop to another asking to call the police. Then we ran some more. Then we sat in our car (I hoped that we wouldn't have to stop at any traffic lights around the mall) and drove home. When we reached home we heard on the radio that there was a bank robbery in Lynn Mall, gunshots were fired, nobody was injured and its safe to continue shopping. :)

Its the first time in my whole life that I had to run, because I thought that someone was shooting. It was weird, because you don't really know whats going on, maybe something big just fell on the floor. But on the other hand, could it be a maniac serial killer? Thanks to Kaj for fast reaction... Apparently it was worth running. Bloody hell! I really don't like this at all!

And here's a sketchy news item in New Zealand Herald about this incident.

Posted by gkligyte at 07:05 PM | Comments (1)

October 08, 2006

Cowboy Country

Quite amazing, today is my birthday. A birthday somehow lost all significance once I turned 16. I can't remember my age from the top of my head anymore (maybe that's the best indication of my age? :) I had a discussion with my sister a few days ago, she said that I'll notice my age, when everyone will start addressing me as "madam". I said that it won't happen as long as I'm wearing my sneakers and hooded jumpers. "Just you wait", my sister said. "One day they will say: what a nice pair of sneakers you have, madam". :) Can't wait for this to happen... :)

We didn't do much on my birthday - coffee and cake were in the program, but were canceled because of a long walk we did in Waitakere ranges (2 hours only, but apparently we're in pretty bad shape, I couldn't catch my breath going up those muddy slopes). No pictures of that... But here's a picture of our pizza that we cooked on our brand new pizza stone!!! Better than any restaurant pizza you can get around here! I got sunglasses for a present, exactly the same kind that I lost in Lithuania last summer... Thanks, Kaitsu!!!

Well, Kaj got his share of fun at Piha on Saturday. I stayed on the shore, so I could take some pictures. Kaj's pretty good already, isn't he? Kaj is extremely happy with his surf board. Now he is asking me to write that "I saw him dropping down these really huge waves (6ft.. yeah yeah:) and he'd emerge still standing on the board like a pro". Well, more or less this is how it was.. :)

I guess I have to "toughen up" and dash into water next time I have an opportunity. "Toughen up", I was told when I was complaining about never ending "spring". We had southerly winds last week and the temperature dropped by some 10 degrees... Yah, people are pretty tough here, you see crazy kiwis (even kids!!!) running around in T-shirts and barefoot (!!!!) at any weather. It seemed to be exotic at first, now I don't know what to think... It just seams that people here don't feel cold the way we do...

I did some driving today (at 35-50km/h speeds) on the way to Huia. The road looked pretty empty, but within 30 seconds of me sitting down at the steering wheel, I already had some 6 cars queuing up behind me and very anxious to pass (ha ha.. the roads are so winding that noone dared to dash to the opposite lane!). I thought next time I go driving, I'll print out a sheet of paper saying "I drive slowly" and put it up on the back window. Kaj said its completely unneccessary, obviously they notice that... :)

We still can't get over kiwi driving style. There's plenty of boy racers speeding in their cr**ppy old little cars with massive exhaust pipes, every second person will tailgate you and breath on your neck (completely ignoring the "2 seconds rule" explicitly explained in the Road Code), people take over anyhow, no problem.. winding road? sure, bring it on, just cut the corners on the opposite lane. Kaj's favorite past time is reading newspapers and quoting all the horrible statistics.. deaths on the road, burglaries, murders, etc. I still suspect that the newspapers are playing it up to sell more copies, but obviously, tolerance for crime and misbehaviour here is something we haven't seen in Singapore, Finland, or not even in Lithuania... Its a cowboy country... :)

Posted by gkligyte at 08:58 PM | Comments (50)

October 02, 2006

Weather, Cars and Networking

This is all very blue and pretty, but all my pictures are one week late. In fact we haven't seen sun for 2 days already! We're having the worst rainfall I've ever seen. There's land slides and mini-tornados tearing the roofs across the country. Luckily we live in a bush, so our hill is secured by entangled roots of the trees. Land slides usually occur in re-landscaped de-forested areas. Its quite amazing to see how much water there's all of a sudden in all the usually tame creeks, there are also tiny waterfalls going down by all the roadsides.

Last Saturday we had our first breakfast on the porch, it was sunny and warm. Today I felt like staying in bed the whole day wrapped in blankets, - its dark, cold and damp... The weather can be extremely unpredictable here.

Unfortunately we spent our Saturday sitting in a car and checking out some cheap "japnese" car sales in industrial outskirts of the town. No luck there, so Saturday was basically wasted. It seems that "our" car was waiting all this time in Trademe auction. We found this Nissan Primera and we're almost buying it (should be finally picking it up on Wednesday, if all goes well, fingers crossed).

We already had one visitor from Finland! Well, not really OUR visitor, we just saw Teemu for couple of hours last Monday before dropping him off to the airport. He was heavily involved in the Future of Learning in the Networked World conference and traveled half of this country visiting different schools and educational institutions, having conversations and workshops.

Besides visiting our Titirangi cafe, we dragged this pour soul to Piha. It meant about 1 hour driving and 5min looking at the beach... Sitting in a car. It more or less sums up the experience of living in Auckland, so I guess Teemu had quite an authentic experience of this city... :)

And then I joined the FLNW people. Maybe its a good chance to actually tell something about my work, because people have been complaining, that I'm not writing anything about it. Well, things are going really well. My job is to work with different schools and lecturers at Unitec, look at how they're using technologies for their teaching (or maybe they're not, but could) and then suggest/show/help with some ways to do some interesting things with technology. Yeah, the usual web 2.0 thing, blogs, flickr, wikis, etc. But this blog is not work related and I'd like to keep it this way, so I'm about to start some more organised way to write/keep track of all my work related things. Stay tuned and, if you're into that sort of things, I'll let you know where to look for me online. :)

FLNW was great. I regretted not being involved in this event much more.

Its quite late now, so I'd better go to sleep now. Last weekend we changed the clock to summer time, so we have to wake up 1 hour earlier. Its dark in the mornings again... :(

Posted by gkligyte at 11:08 PM | Comments (5)