December 29, 2006

How to be Tough

Since yesterday I'm wasting my holiday with a stomuch bug. Besides the usual symptoms (you know what), I'm having a headache, chills and aching bones (feels like being tortured by Spanish inquisition!) How annoying it is that it hits you on your holiday, when you're supposed to do all the fun stuff (walking, drinking latte in trendy cafes, visiting art galleries, shopping for books, etc). I'm spending my 2nd day half way in bed, half way on Internet. And I haven't started my home improvement projects yet (such as baking a carrot cake, baking muffins, finishing cleaning the windows, etc). The holiday will pass and I won't even notice it... Arghhh....

Photo by Jad 23

Since I've been spending unproportionate time on the web, I came accross haka pictures. Just in case you thought life in NZ is all normal and the sense of exotics has faded away, look at this! Careful with that, tongue waggling and bulging eyes may become addictive. For a while we with Kaj did that to emphasise our points to each other (after watching the Utu movie). It really helps to drive your point and holds the potential to improve any couple's communication.

No wonder that NZ national heros All Blacks, the rugby team (don't tell me you never heard of them!), perform haka before each rugby match. Few weeks ago there was a huge row with Wales, because All Blacks were not allowed to perfom haka just before the game. All Blacks claim that by doing haka they connect with their herritage and the dance itself is full of spiritual meaning (the slitting throat movement at the end is actually not slitting throat, but drawing the breath from one side of the chest to another. Yeah, right...) The Welsh thought that the only reason why All Blacks do it, is to intimidate the opponents (you don't have to have much brain to figure that.. just look at the uneasy faces of the opposing side in the video!)

Photo by Bring Back Buck

Its pretty interesting. Living here you find out that there's a whole new level of being tough. Rugby is the most popular national sport in NZ (all boys have to play it at school!) and if you've never seen a rugby match, you'll be very impressed - 130kg of meat flying accross the field clenching a ball crashing into another 120kg of meat... Sweat, curses, broken teeth flying around... You get the idea?

Photo by Bring Back Buck

After that, 140km cycling tour as a favorite weekend past time seems pretty moderate. Also our whining about cold homes, "heroism" of paddling in 13C degrees water for hours (wearing wet suites, of course!) seems pathetic, doesn't it? By local standards we're complete sissies, I'm afraid...

Photo by Bring Back Buck

Since I started with All Blacks, another very famous team is Tall Blacks. This is a basketball team and being Lithuanian, I should know better, but I never really heard about them before coming here. Apparently they are a very very good team. We'll see at the Olympics at Beijing if they're any good. Aaand.. The Black Caps is another very famous cricket team. When it comes to women, the biggest sport is netball and the most well known team is Silver Ferns. The netball players are also known to marry rugby players. Its quite amazing that out of 4 most popular sports here, 3 are completely obscure and virtually unknown to the rest of the world, so they can be played only with the other countries from the British Dominion: Australia, South Africa, Britain itself, India for cricket... Any other? So far we've been throwing away the Sports pages before even putting the newspaper on the table and I think we'll just continue doing that!

Photo by Bring Back Buck

Posted by gkligyte at 01:06 PM | Comments (5)

December 27, 2006

Mashup Christmas

This year we've been drawing inspiration for our Christmas from this guy... I don't think this is Buddha though, it must be some happy Chinese saint that brings prosperity and happiness. This Christmas we would have been hard pressed to locate the real hero of the occassion (baby Jesus, obviously).

We are on the opposite side of the globe, so no wonder that things are slightly different. For example, Santa's little helpers take funny shapes here.

Lots of food on Christmas lunch table, but... Rice balls and soba noodle salad? Hmmm...

Many people around the table, looks almost like Christmas is supposed to look?!?! But no familiar faces? Look! What is this guy in shorts and Tshirt is doing? Looks like a BBQ! Under a winegrape vine...

The closest we got to baby Jesus this year was this cute baby Santa helper.

This year our Christmas was a complete mashup of traditions and different people, and a very happy mix indeed!

We went to Endless Summer Lodge in Ahipara just to get out of Auckland and, hopefully to do some surfing. We found a completely flat ocean, but a happy bunch of people and a real Christmas lunch party organised by the wonderful hosts Anna and Blaine.

The weather was great and we had lots of fun. It has been our 4th Xmas in Tshirts and with no snow. Although it never feels like "real Christmas", because its not cold and dark outside, we're not with our family and we're always in places where we don't have friends, but have to make new friends, all the 4 times Christmas was something to remember.

So yes, there are good people on the other side of the globe and Christmas can be quite a special thing, although with no kuciukai, poppy milk, lantulaatiko or Christmas ham/goose. BBQ and beach somehow still goes cross in my mind with Christmas. But if you think about it for a while, you'll realise that it is also a very nice thing to do!!! :)

To add more insult to all things traditional, Santa himself makes his rounds in Ahipara with fire brigade on a real fireman's car, throwing candy at people. First you hear the fire alarm from far away, then Santa comes with 2 cars flashing red and blue lights and then you get bunch of "lollies" raining over your head. Spectacular!!!

And against all odds we managed to find half-decent surf on the East Coast of Cape Renga.

So we spent a few hours on the Christmas day paddling in crystal clear greenish blue water, catching some waves. As the waves were rising and crashing, I saw a fish of my arms length swimming along the wave. It was pretty unbelievable, the water was so transparent, I could almost see the sky on the other side of the wave. And most likely it wasn't a shark, but a kahawai, an ordinary fish... :)

Choice! A beautiful Christmas! The first day we were the only 2 people with surfboards in water (I don't even want to imagine how Auckland beaches must have looked on Christmas!!!)

And if we're lucky, there will be more of this... :) And for everyone out there, we send our greetings and best wishes for the New Year. I'm planning to make a list of resolutions for the next year and it is likely to contain: diving in Poor Knights Islands, trekking the Tongariro crossing, going to Womad festival, etc.. Hmmm.. Does it have to be about self-improvement, slimming down or giving up bad habbits? I do intend to self-improve though: I wouldn't mind becoming a better surfer.. :)

Posted by gkligyte at 07:01 PM | Comments (3)

December 22, 2006

We Wish You Lots of Presents Under a Pohutukawa tree!

This is pohutukawa, the New Zealand's Christmas Tree. Another kiwi icon, completely unfamiliar for anyone coming from the northern hemisphere. It is a pretty tree that grows all along the coasts of (at least North Island) of New Zealand. And, yes, you guessed right, it blooms just right in time for Christmas.

It is our 4th summery Christmas (2003 Indonesia, 2004 Philipines, 2005 Indonesia, 2006 New Zealand). So nothing new about snowless sunny long days and lack of anticipation. The difference now, I guess, is that the days will start to get shorter from now on. :) The summer has barely started and already the autumn is already coming in... :(

We haven't been good wih keeping up with the Xmas traditions of Finland and Lithuania. No Xmas food, no long fasting and special meals, no future telling, no family around the table, no candles, no long wait for the presents and no Santa Clause coming in (just had a discussion with Kaj: in Lithuania the presents come on Xmas morning, so you have to wake up early and race to the tree to see what has been brought to you on Xmas morning. And in Finland Santa Clause would come on Xmas Eve, while everyone would be in church. So now we have hard time deciding when and where our presents should appear. We're going to Ahipara in the North over Xmas. You may remember, we were there before. So its not wise dragging the presents with us, I guess we'll have to exchange them tomorrow morning (if I have it my way!) or tonight, if Kaj wins... In any case, for everyone, who is diligently waiting for the real Christmas, Merry Xmas and have peaceful and beautiful holiday!!! And meanwhile I'm on a "compulsory" holiday till the 8th of January! Yeah!!!!

Posted by gkligyte at 07:23 PM | Comments (7)

December 15, 2006

The Cost of Freedom

The great freedom of owning a car comes with great responsibilities... :( The mysterious oil leak resurfaced again and this time we're told it is "oil ring seal leaking between the block of the engine and timing chain cover" and given a 1200$ quote for fixing it. It will involve taking the engine out completely and will take 2 days to put it back together!!! Holy s**t! That's besides "CV boots leak" that we were told our car has by another mechanic (after he quoted 2000$ for fixing the oil ring...) Slowly, but surely our maintenance expenses are approaching the original cost of the car. It could have been expected... :( The mechanic said that "this leak is pretty unusual in this sort of engine". So basically it means that we're just very very very unlucky with the car. What a "nice" Xmas surprise! I can't think of a better way to spend this money... :( What happened to feng shui of our house?!?!

Posted by gkligyte at 11:10 AM | Comments (2)

December 13, 2006

Aging in the sun

Things are quite perfect, but not entirely, since I wrote last blog entry 1) our car started leaking oil again, 2) our car gave us hard time starting up last Saturday, 3) our 2 boards have small dents on the sides, because we had them on the roof while driving in very windy weather, 4)... So yes, I'll knock on wood once again and stop boasting how good things are... :) Because, if things are perfect, there's only one way down... :)

On Sunday we went to Helen's for lunch and had a walk in her lovely gardens again. The weather is slowly warming up and even though it may feel chilly in the shadow, the sun is really scorching. If you're not careful, you may get burned very easily, even if you're not directly in the sun. New Zealand is so close to Antarctica and the ozone layer is so thin that the sun is really vicious. Many of my colleagues had numbers of cancerous skin growths removed at some point and no one seems to be particularly scared or worried about that, its part of life: once in few years you get moles "plucked out" and get "stiches". You are also not supposed to go to the beach in your bikinis, you should cover yourself as much as possible. Also advertisements of undressed children running freely on the beach should be banned, because you shouldn't give an idea that children can run around naked in the sun - it is dangerous!

Many kiwi females also seem to have prematurely aged skin. It must be the sun, I gather. So I'll try to do my best and use as much of sun screen as possible... Wear hats, big sunglasses and long sleaves... Which is a bit difficult, if you're on a surfboard. At least you have a wetsuit on, so only your nose risks to get wrinkly...

This is Fairy Falls in Waitakere ranges that we walked to couple of weeks ago. I'm sure you had enough of lush green bush, waterfalls and raging ocean pictures, but there's really not much else to take pictures of!!... :)

We're planning some small trips during our Xmas holiday, but mostly we will be at home. Its nearly impossible to get any accommodation anywhere during holiday anymore. But we'll see. Apparently Xmas holiday is the major house break-in and burglary period, as everyone leaves their homes. We have an alarm at home, but knowing Auckland, I'd be surprised, if it would keeep determined thieves away. This morning we talked with Kaj about him cycling to work. As I came home after work, there was no car in the parking lot. My heart sank. "Oh, c**p. The b**tards took our car!!", I thought. Only then it occured to me that Kaj may have taken the car to work, as he was working late. Good grief! This is how paranoid you get... :( To protect our home and our car and ourselves, we were told by Atma to visualise a burning blue triangle around our stuff. Thats about how much you can do... And take the insurance, of course. Everything else is plain luck... :) I am diligently visualising the tirangle every time we leave our car in dodgy areas at night and so far our stuff is more or less with us. Aaand.. here's one more blue triangle around us for tonight. Good night...

Posted by gkligyte at 10:45 PM | Comments (2)

December 09, 2006

Good Living

There must be something written in the stars... Or did we enter an ascending moon phase? I can't really explain, why everything all of a sudden goes so well! (knock on wood!) I think ever since we moved to the new place, our life goes wonderfully. We're happy!

The weather could get a bit warmer and the westerly winds could stop so that we could enjoy some less messy seas on the West Coast. But other than that? Couldn't ask for more!

Last weekend we went for an unplanned trip to Raglan. The weather was great, the surf so so, but still ok, cafes and lazy holiday town atmposphere didn't fail us again! We've been thinking about the freedom that owning a car gives you. We never really had that before. Any time on the weekend, you can just pack up and go as far as your fancy. Throw as much of stuff in the trunk as you wish, pack up as many surf boards as you have... Stop for a coffee break whenever you please... Its not worth owning a car to sit in traffic, but nothing can beat getting out of town whenever you please!

Talking about surfboards... since last weekend, I guess, we'll be travelling with 2 of them. Have a look. Kaj is a proud owner of 2 boards now and it is good news for me, because I won't have to worry about board rentals and (hopefully) will get to ride the lovely Mickey T shaped Bear!!! You wouldn't believe how fast that board is and how easy it is to catch waves on it!!!

The Raglan trip is to blame for a long delay with blog updates. Sorry about that. Ever since moving to our current house we have so much other stuff to do in the evenings that I rarely get my hands on Internet anymore. The latest project is washing the windows. Its fun, but time consuming, especially as my hand inevitably reaches out to brush a couple of house weatherboards and once you start, you can't stop as other boards look very dirty compared with clean ones, so last week I've been more or less scrubbing a large part of the exterior of the house with a handkerchief. Hence the delay with my blog... :)

I'll have more time for projects like this over Christmas. Its a major holiday period and my school will close for almost 3 weeks. As Kaj doesn't get much holiday then, I guess, I'll spend most of the time on home improvement, cooking, reading, etc. Once you live in a house, you'll always find things to improve on. The downside of living in a 3 bedroom house is that cleaning it takes forever! I don't even want to know how OWNING a house would be compared with renting!

And yet more good news is that my mother will be coming for a visit in January!!! And thats pretty official, tickets bought, itinerary being planned, etc. I'm sure it will be great fun, we with Kaj find ourselves always putting a note: this would be fun to do when my mother comes, that also... we should send her there... It'll be a pretty intense experience, I'm afraid (considering the jetlag after 30 hour flight!) and a lot of indulgence planned - winery trips, thermal pools, etc. There's not much history and culture here, but plenty of good living!!!

Talking about indulgence... Kaj cracked the recipe for mussles in creamy lemongrass/caffir lime-leaf sauce! Nam! You can basically pick your mussles on the beach, or you could buy a fresh bunch for some 2.5 dollars (a bit over 1 euro!) and whip up an amazingly delicious feast! Come here, if you want us to show you what good living is! (Come while its summer, the winter is plain misery!!!:)

And today we walked on the Bethel's beach. The sea was raging wild, pumping massive amounts of water up the beach. We saw a couple of surfers out there, but they must have been plain mad. It looked painful just watching from the shore - its a washing machine out there!!

I hope I'll be able to write something more insightful sometime soon (once the window cleaning project is over). Right now, I'm just lazy... And happy... :) Cheers!!!

Posted by gkligyte at 09:43 PM | Comments (3)