February 27, 2007

Harvesting Delights

We're approaching the end of summer here. The good thing about NZ is that we have lots of local fresh produce here. Organic shops around town offer an amazing service of delivering a weekly organic veggie and fruit box to your doorstep. You may tell them your likes and dislikes and they will try to accommodate your requests. Otherwise, you'll find whatever seasonal stuff happens to come into the shop that week in your box. You can't beat the excitement of ripping the box open to see what's for dinner tonight (and there are always suprises!). The box brings a completely different dimension to planning your daily meals. Instead of sticking to the same old 3 recipes that you've been recycling for months, you realise that you have to act fast and break your old ruotine, or else your beatroot or corn may go bad! These days you'll find me poring over the recipe books in the evenings trying to find a recipe that would demand enourmous amounts of carrots (I just happen to have accumulated almost 2 kilos in my fridge!) or something combining cauliflower, beans and capsicums (as they're all about to go bad!) Eating 5 servings of vegetable and fruit a day becomes a piece of cake. Throw away the idea of shopping for vegetables in the supermarket and go with whatever is in the box! So exciting! And the apples in the box taste like real apples should taste - just take a bite and you'll have to say: "oh yeah, I remember apples tasting like that in my childhood..." So what have we been eating all those years?!?!

My tiny vegetable bed so far produced 1 ripe tomato, some basil, some lettuce and mint. Far from subsistence...

Posted by gkligyte at 09:46 PM | Comments (3)

February 24, 2007

Gong Xi Fa Chai again!!!

This looks suspiciously like Singapore, doesn't it? Red lanterns, crowds of people going up and down the escalators, glass and metal architecture... Could have tricked me too! But no, we didn't move back, neither we are travelling in Asia. You probably know that last week there was Chinese New Year (CNY) and Auckland has a significant Chinese population, so CNY could actually be felt in some places here. Besides that the highrises and the modern city architecture makes Auckland look very much like any Asian city to me...

We went to Sky TV Tower for dinner with Mae, the Canadian girl that I met at Tongariro Crossing few weeks ago. I've never been to the tower before, because I never really admired those urban landscapes too much and, of course, it would have been a terribly touristy thing to do. As I arrived to the tower, I was surprised to see huge crowds of people downstairs. It appeared that the Blues (the rugby team that regularly exercises in the stadium at Unitec!!!) were signing autographs for their fans. So we had a chance to take a picture with the Blues cheerleeders (unfortunately the small girl that took the picture almost cropped me out completely). But Mae really managed to position herself strategically!

Sky Tower is the tallest building in Auckland and it offers really stunning view over the city. You can do bungee jumping off this tower, but I think you have to have something seriously wrong with your head to ever consider doing that!!

The most shocking view was looking straight down and seeing those cars in the streets, right under your feet.

Sky Tower also has a casino that was patronised almost entirely by Asian customers! I guess Chinese New Year could explain something, or then there really must be something about Asian people being more prone to gambling. There was a huge Chinese restaurant right at the casino and it was completely booked out for the night!

The restaurant that we went to with Mae had amazing views and was revolving around, making a full round in 1 hour. It was nice to go out and I was lucky to have company, because I don't believe that I could ever drag out Kaj to a place like that.. I started realising though, that there's a connection between Chinese New Year and Uzgavenes/Laskiainen/Ash Wednesday. Its maybe a second or third year that I notice these festivals going together on the same week. Must be the lunar calendar. In Lithuania, you're supposed to eat really fatty food on Tuesday (lots of pancakes!!!) and then start Lent fasting on Wednesday. All in preparation for Easter, the rebirth. For the Chinese, I guess Chinese New Year already marks the spring... New year, new clothes, new hopes... It is interesting to see these things coming together, I guess there has been much more interaction and cultural exchange among far away places throughout centuries than we are aware of! I mean, Chinese and Europeans could have picked different weeks of the same Lunar calendar for their celebrations, couldn't they? Why this week? It must be some significant time for the whole of humanity then?!??!!?! I forgot about the pancakes on Tuesday, so I'll make some tomorrow, on Sunday.

I'm still quite busy at work, but there are lots of nice things happening and being planned for the future. Yesterday I went over to see the Interior Design students first project of the year. They had to design temporary huts and sleep overnight in them to prove the concept.

Unitec campus unexpectedly turned into a shantytown with all kinds of temporary shelters erected around the Design School. Apparently they attracted lots of different kinds of public - cyclists, joggers, homeless, etc, so there was a lot of interesting interactions going throughout the night. All the participants survived overnight and in the morning everybody joined for an amazing BBQ breakfast. I was happy to be invited. Nice way to start the semester!

Posted by gkligyte at 09:21 PM | Comments (0)

February 18, 2007

Regular Good Times

Life goes nicely. Although nights are turning to be a bit chilly, we still can enjoy our dinner on the deck outside. One of the bigger events last week, I guess, is my haircut (really, could it get even more mundane than this? :) It was a 15 dollar 20 minute haircut, the girl didn't even use scissors for this! But looks ok, I think. Compared with my previous 65 dollars haircut (booked 2 days in advance, with magazines, green tea and still cut badly!!!), I think the outcome is not bad!

We didn't take our camera with us this weekend at all. So this picture from our walk at Huia Dam in our long sleaves is at least 4 months old!!! It was taken the weekend when we moved to our new home in mid November. Things have definitely changed for the better!!! Great weather at the very least!!! Oh yes, and today we missed the oportunity to meet the local Lithuanian diaspora (I was invited to the Independence Day party by our consul!!!), but we were late to return from our surf session in Piha... So... I guess, it will have to be next year!!!

Posted by gkligyte at 08:43 PM | Comments (0)

February 13, 2007


I'm back to work. It is very very very busy. The semester has almost started and there are plenty of new things and initiatives to worry about. But we had another pleasant 3 day work week last week and we went surfing to Raglan. The pictures are of Bridal Veil Falls not far from Raglan and this waterfall just appears out of nowhere in the forest and falls 55m!!! This was our 4th visit to Raglan and its as good as the first time!

6th of February is Waitangi day in NZ. It is kind of NZ national day, but full of controversy: who is to celebrate, why to celebrate, what flag to fly, etc. Given all the major activities happening in other countries on their national day, Waitangi day is very very very low key. For example, Singapore rehearses for about a month before the national day, there are fighter planes in the sky, a huge military parade, major singing and dancing, waving flags, etc. Finland, on the other hand, has a huge reception where the president shakes hands with all the guests for some 6 hrs and that is screened on ALL TV channels real time!!! Different TV channels have a different scope of comments. The national TV channel focuses on the guests' achievements, while commercial channels talk about fashion, who appears with whom, who steps on who's dress... well, you can imagine... Major fun and lots of stories for the gossip magazines for months after!!! I have to confess that I haven't seen the latest Lithuanian Independence day celebrations (LT independence day is 16th Feb!!! it is this week!). There must be some tradition by now?!?! I'm sure there's some singing and dancing?!?!?! And in NZ? Nothing! Maori TV broadcasts the festive speeches, but the day makes very little impact on ordinary citizens. Everybody just heads out to the beach. A good day for surfing, as any!

On the other hand, the difference may be that it is a National Day (whatever that means). Not the Independence day. NZ is not independent yet, you see. It is not a republic. It does not have a constitution. There's no president. We're still under Crown you see... Gaining independence from the Queen may anyway not be a cause for grand celebration. It would be more like "Oh, ok, so we're on our own then. Big deal." And there would be people who would immediately start pushing for a new federation. The new USA. USA 2. United States of Australia!

Posted by gkligyte at 04:59 PM | Comments (0)

February 03, 2007

Around the Island

This picture pretty much sums up what has been going on here for the past couple of weeks. I was on leave and accompanied my mother and her partner on their short trip around the North Island.

During our 8 week trip in April-May we somehow managed to miss a few of the major parts of NZ. This trip was a great oportunity for me to catch up.

For example, last time we stayed in Rotorua, we didn't visit this thermal valley. We thought that it was a terribly touristy thing to do.

And it was touristy, yes. For example, this geyser eruption was induced by pouring 300g of soap down the geyser crater. The soap apparently thins the water surface and helps the hot water build-up from the bottom to break through the upper layer of cold water. Pure physics and chemistry. Extremely spectacular at that!

Living in Auckland it is easy to forget that we're on the major geoplate faultline and earthquake zone: the Pacific geoplate meets the Indian Ocean plate just here. So we have lots of (extinct, dormant and active) volcanos around here. All this hot stinky water (I wish the camera could capture the sulphur smell!) comes bubbling straight from the depths of the Earth. This Champagne Crater is 65m deep!!! It makes Rotorua a very special (though stinky) place. The landscape looks like from another planet! Mineral residue in water creates the amazing pallet of colours in the pools. Beautiful!

My mother was delighted to find all the thermal volcanic activity here. For her it meant hours of scorching in hot natural baths - all types of hot water pools and springs are abundant around NZ. She managed to find hot springs in most remote and forgotten places in the North Island and from what I know, soaked at least in 5 different locations. We with Kaj gave the Hot Water beach in Coromandel a pass. The hot springs on the beach are exposed only during couple of hours in low tide, so the human activity is very concentrated during these 2 hours. It didn't keep my mother away. She dug a small pool in the sand and stayed till the tide came in and washed the hot water away... :)

My favorite place in the whole trip (and right now in the whole of NZ) was Gisborne on the East Coast of the North Island.

During our long and cold spring in here we've been checking weather forecast and Gisborne seemed to be basking in sun when the rest of the country soaked in never ending rain. This was the place that had +25C degrees while we were shivering under our blankets at +17C in Auckland. And after visiting the place, I think it was one of the most liveable cities that I've seen in NZ! Gisborne also has first class (and empty!!!) surfing beaches (I had the best surfing session of my life in Gisborne, catching the cleanest waves ever!!! The waves looked like they were drawn with a ruler!!!).

Besides beaches, beautiful scenery and wonderful climate, Gisborne is also the chardonay capital of NZ.

There are lots of vineyards around and we managed to appreciate that during the tour to local wineries (we hired a driver/guide so that we could fully appreciate that!!!) The wine kept pouring, the sun kept shining, we couldn't have asked for more...

The bonus souvenir from Gisborne was the dent at the back of the rental car. Some girls rammed into us at the gas station. Completely unneccessary and extremely stupid of them. But, I guess, this kind of crowns the kiwi experience for my mother. Driving style is atrocious throughout the country!

Another thing that we missed out in April was Tongariro crossing.

When we arrived to National Park ready to do the 6 hours walk last time, we learnt that there was a major snow storm the night before and the crossing was closed for the season.

I couldn't miss the chance this time.

Even though it is only 6 hours walk and you climb only to some 1880m height, the scenery is breathtaking.

You pass the Emerald lakes of the most amazing green colour.

And the Red (and black) Crater of a dormant volcano (blows your mind away!!! Too beautiful!!!)

So in this short trip I managed to see some of the most spectacular sceneries in my life. I was happy to see my mother gasping at the landscape, stopping every 5 minutes to take yet another picture. I kind of felt proud that we live in such a beautiful place.

The first day in Auckland felt like a nightmare (to certain extent Auckland reminds Singapore a lot!). After spending a week in rural areas and small towns I was shocked by traffic, noise, polution and amount of construction happening in Auckland. Why do we have to live here?!?!

My mother has left yesterday (with an extensive collection of seeds and plants to smuggle to Europe), I'm back to work and things are slowly getting back to normal. I enjoyed having guests a lot and I think they really liked this trip. So if you are pondering on the idea of coming here, get yourself together and do it!!! You won't regret it! NZ is a truly amazing place and you'd find something you'd like here: hot springs and forests for my mother, surf beaches and mountains for me... I'm sure there'll be something for you as well!!!

Posted by gkligyte at 07:42 PM | Comments (2)