Sunday, 29 March 2015

We’re All Going On A Summer Holiday - Part One: Glowworms and Camping

Finally, after 6 months in New Zealand I was going to see somewhere other than Wellington! Two friends and I were heading up to the Coromandel Peninsula for some camping but first we had an overnight stop at Waitomo so we could go Black Water Rafting through the famous glowworm caves. My friend had a car so we packed it up and I made myself a mini-fort in the backseat which I pretty much claimed as my own over the next week. I was excited to be leaving Wellington and to be taking my first NZ road trip. The drive was long but the scenery was fabulous and we kept each other entertained well enough. Once at Waitomo we all happy for the chance to stretch our legs and relax. I took my camera out for a walk whilst my two friends took the opportunity to plan the second week of their holiday. I have to confess I was happy to leave them to it as their discussions made me a little jealous since once they were up north having fun I’d be back at work already, something I definitely didn’t want to think about!

The black water rafting the next day consisted of us floating down the river through the caves on a large inflatable tube. It wasn’t what I would think of a rafting but it was a lot of fun. The caves were fascinating and our guides were entertaining. We all agreed it was a great start to our holiday. We finished our day with lovely meal out and toasted a successful first day. The next day we were back on the road heading to our first campsite. We thought we’d be fairly safe considering it was summer but the sky had some threatening looking clouds so we parked and tried to get our tents up as quickly as possible. The campsite was basic but nice enough and we were happy to have somewhere to stay. Originally we had hoped for a hostel but by the time we tried to book they were all sold out, oops. In the end we got our tents up in time but knew we’d be in for a wet night. We crossed our fingers and hoped it would rain itself out overnight and the sun would come out the next day.

Our first morning camping we woke up to the sound of it still raining and I noticed a suspicious bump on the tent floor. We had two tents. Two of us shared one tent and the other had her own which she pitchedbeside us. I poked the bump and right enough it was decidedly watery..... I said as much to my half asleep friend who didn’t understand which became apparent when she reacted to surprise when our other friend shouted over a friendly enquiry asking if were we aware we were now camped in a large puddle! The puddle turned out to be more akin to a small stream. Eventually we resigned ourselves to the fact that the rain wasn’t going to stop and we both rolled up our trousers and exited our tent. I cannot describe our reaction on seeing the steam now running round, under and in places through our tent. I would say we coped very well. We got our stuff out of the tent as quickly as we could and stored our air mattresses upside down in our friends tent in the hope they would dry out by bed time. We then relocated our tent and left it open to dry out. By this time the rain was finally letting up and it looked like it might actually stop sometime soon so we were cautiously optimistic of having a dry place to sleep that night. Tent dealt with we sorted ourselves out and headed out in the car to Coromandel Town. It turned out to be beautifully sunny there so we enjoyed the sun whilst we could and I tried my very first cheese and steak pie. It was surprisingly tasty.

The next day we woke up on dry land, woo! The weather was much improved so we headed out to hot water beach. We got there at the height of the tourist invasion and failed to find any hot water as all the springs had been dug up and were currently occupied. After an hour or so of digging various unsuccessful holes we gave up and head out to Cathedral cove. The walk there was stunning and we took our time since we had nowhere else to be. Once at the cove we braved the water for a summer swim. I know people always say this but once we were in it was actually quite nice however getting out was less so! After months of hard work and Wellignton wind a day at the beach was a fabulous end to a busy year. Once back at camp I am happy to report our tent and surrounding area remained dry so we put them back together before making what can only be described as a backpacker meal before heading to our wonderfully dry tents. Even better the sky was looking clear and e were pitched on higher ground to though sleeping on a slight slope felt a little odd we were confident we would wake up as dry the next day.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

December 2013: Moving Out & Moving In

The first day of the month saw me moving out of the hostel into my very own room in my new flat share. I was packed and out of the hostel by 10am and a taxi soon had me at my new front door. I collected my key and dumped everything in my almost empty room. My manger was kind enough to offer me the use of her airbed so my first trip was a visit to my work to pick it up then a trip to a local store to buy bedding. Soon I had a room with an airbed and bedding and a chest of drawers. I didn’t have much stuff but what I had I could finally unpack which took all of 15 minutes and when I was finished I found myself at a bit of a loss. I had the whole day off work and whilst I now technically lived in the flat I felt very timid about being there and it was so quiet. There was no noise, no people, just me and an empty flat. So after being in Wellington for over 5 months I finally made the trip up to the top of Mt Victoria lookout. I must say it was spectacular and it was good to get my camera out again as it had been sorely neglected during most of my time in New Zealand. It was a beautiful day and a good start to my life in my latest new home.

The rest of the month turned out to be as eventful as the beginning. I managed to find a cheap bed at the local Salvation Army store and my family managed to be more organised than me and send me Christmas presents which helped to take up some space in my rather large and empty room. Work was going well but was I found it hectic as I ended up working between two different cafes. The manager of our newest cafe had the month off to go to Europe so their supervisor took over as acting manger and I was split between the two stores as supervisor on the quiet days. It was interesting to see how the two different stores worked but I did miss my work friends, especially in the week before Christmas which I spent completely at the other store.

As expected in hospitality the run up to Christmas was crazy busy but I didn’t mind as I was counting down to Christmas. That’s right I was looking forward to Christmas! Not because it was Christmas but because it marked the start of a whole week long holiday!! The day itself I spent in my pj’s on the couch watching cheesy films on the TV. I did skype home and in the evening I went back to my old hostel to have a drink with a friend who was due to leave the next day but mostly I just relaxed and it was awesome. I especially enjoyed my Christmas dinner of microwave mac’n’cheese and complete lack of any Christmas decorations in our flat. To most people it probably sounds incredibly depressing but for me it was exactly what I needed. After years of ‘doing’ Christmas because I was supposed to / it’s what Josh’s would have wanted / it’d make everyone else feel better and all the other reasons I had made the effort in the previous years I finally got to ignore it and just relax. Don’t get me wrong I love my friends and family and I know they only ever want what is best for me and I really appreciate the fact that friends have previously taken me into their homes to share the day with me. It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed Christmas in the past, I have, it was just nice not to have to be ‘on’ for the day. It was nice to curl up and ignore the world. In fact it was so nice I thought I might just have discovered my very own Christmas tradition and looked forward to continuing it the following year.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

November 2013 – Lyn Goes Flat Hunting

By November I had been in New Zealand over four months and whilst I was enjoying life I was missing moving around. Thankfully the month started off with my brother announcing that he and his wife were thinking of visiting in 2015 and one of my good Aussie friends mentioned a possible trip even sooner.  As well as being excited at the prospect of taking holidays I was extremely excited at the thought of spending time with some of my favourite people. Of course whilst the thought of travelling with friends in the future was exciting it did bring out the desire to travel sooner. Work was fine but I was finding the responsibility and commitment a little overwhelming. I also found out that my manger was leaving in the beginning of the New Year which made me question my agreement to stay for the full year I was allowed to work, even more so once the possibility of me taking over her job was mentioned. After much soul searching I decided to give the ‘proper’ job/life a real go. Therefore after 5 months of living in the hostel I decided it was time to move out of my four share room and find a flat share instead.

Being me once I made the decision within a week I had set up some viewing, gone to said viewings and found somewhere to live. I have never flat shared with strangers before and found the thought of being ‘interviewed’ slightly intimidating. I was aware that I should also be assessing them as much as they were me but had no idea where to start. I figured questions about the rent, bills and cleaning schedule were obvious but then ran out of ideas. I did try asking my friends via the wonder of FB but several Shallow Grave references later I regretted it, thanks FB friends. The first place I saw the room was large but just off of the lounge and with 6 or 7 other younger working holiday tourists I felt that it was not for me. Thus it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I attended my second viewing.  This turned out to be much more successful. It was a smaller flat much closer to my work and gym. The flatmates were 3 kiwis who were in there twenties and thirties with proper jobs. I was completely honest about having no idea how long I was staying (hopefully at least 7 months, possibly longer but maybe less if everything went tits up!) but they decided that I was the best bet out of everyone they saw and offered me the room. I was very excited, after months of sharing and living in a hostel I would once more be living in a proper home and have my own room. All I needed now was some furniture and I was set.

Apart from the not-so-great-flat hunt it was quite a month. There was the bizzzare feeling of settling into my new life of responsibility (yeauch!) and was planning on trying to make it even more ‘normal’. Eventually I even managed to start writing again. It had been months since I had written anything and finally I was inspired. I realised that by staying put I had allowed myself to process another stage of my grieving. I was angry at Jonathan and finally I was ready to admit and confront that anger and in confronting it I was able to start moving on from it. After months of not writing I finally wrote a very long essay on my feelings which in itself started the healing process. Unfortunately after writing and posting this essay I went online to discover that my brother had been in a pub in Glasgow when a helicopter crashed in to it. Thankfully he and his friends were fine but it was a sobering moment. So many people hurt, so many families suffering the loss of their loved ones starting on the journey that I even now am still travelling. It shook me. It upset me. Mostly though, it made me thankful. It made me thankful for the family and friends that I still had.  It made me thankful that for all I lost I have so very much left.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

October 2013 - An Almost Normal Life

By the time October arrived I was firmly settled in to my anti-social hours. My days off were spent watching favourite films and sleeping. There was some excitement when we acquired a new roommate. She was a returning guest so was well known and it soon became clear that having her as a roommate would be a very good thing. In fact she ended up being one of my two roommates who convinced me to have a cheeky Friday night out which despite having to work the next day was definitely a good idea! A quiet life working and saving for the next adventure is all very well but it was good to get out for once and enjoy some of my hard earned money. October was also the month I discovered two for one steak at a local pub. It turns out that life in one place was beginning to have some unexpected advantages.

As well as the odd drink out I thought it might be a good idea to try give my brain a work out by taking up tutoring. I though final school year or first uni year physics or maths might be easy enough for me to remember and help out some struggling students. I put my name and details on a tutoring website and soon I had a few interested parents contacting me. I met up with a first year unit student who was struggling with calculus. I quickly realised I was out of my depth. At various times in my life tutoring has been suggested to me but I felt like I had been out of the brain look to long.  I did actually manage to help the student but I felt that the time and effort on my part would be too much on top of my increasingly heave work load at the cafe. So after two sessions I took my name off the site and decided to stick with what I had.

As the month came to an end work did manage to throw me a curve ball, they started making their Christmas mince pies. I had been struggling a bit with missing Josh and the thought of Christmas starting already threw me a bit but it did have one upside. It reminded me that I would need to get my Christmas shopping done early if I wanted to get it posted early enough to arrive in the UK in time for Christmas.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

September 2013 – Settling into Life in One Place

Life soon settled in to something distressingly normal. My boss was fairly easy going and I managed to learn the cash up and ordering easily enough. I also got to go to yet more coffee training which was really interesting. As well as a refresher in how to make a decent shot and steam good milk I learned about the keeping the grind just right and we got a tour of the roasting facility where ampngst other things I learnt that coffee starts out green, who knew?! The rest of the staff continued to be friendly and after work drinks at a nearby pub soon became a regular thing, one I occasionally regretted when I had to get up at 5am the next day, oops.

Of course between the bread, pastries and wine I found my weight creeping up again so on the basis that it looked like I’d be around for while I joined a local gym. I found one that was a 5 minute walk from either work or the hostel which would at least not let me use the excuse it was too far away from either which I hoped would help me in establishing a new fitness regime.

One of the down sides of being a supervisor was that though I was full time my days off were Wednesday and Thursday. I thought this would be good for my attempt at getting fit as when there was nothing else to do and no-one to talk to surely I would want to go to the gym?? The down side of this was that it did make it rather difficult to socialise with my friends at the hostel. There were times (usually at 5am on a Saturday as I was leaving for work passing my friends coming in from their night out) when I did wonder if it was worth it. But there were instances that reminded me that though I didn’t get out much I still had friends around me. There were the numerous coffee ‘dates’ with a hostel friend who also worked in a cafe and therefore had similar hours to me. Yup you read that right. At the grand old age of thirty one I finally discovered the joy of coffee, as long as I was allowed to put chocolate of vanilla in it of course. Then there was the random day trip to Weta with a hostel friend, being included in the one of a kind hostel version of the game Guess Who and of course the amazing roast dinner cooked for me by two of my friends who wanted to show their appreciation for the daily fresh bread I shared and the odd bag of pastries and muffins that appeared, often on days I happened to be closing at the cafe. Life in one place might take some getting used to but overall first impressions were good. I was starting to think that maybe, this just might work out.

Of course being September there were going to be hard days. On the 17th I couldn’t help but remember Josh, remember our life together and as always the life he never got to live. My life and I are very different now, the now that was the month this post was set and different again in the now I write it. However this blog started with a journey that started when Josh’s life ended. These words are as true today as they were then. Which is why even though it was a year and a half ago I will end this post with the words I wrote on that day:

“Glad to have known you, so very sad you're gone. Miss you every day but especially on days like today. You were taken too soon. Love you always xxx”

“The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men”

On arriving back in Wellington I was delighted to discover that I now had a bed in a four person all female dorm in the hostel. It was small but we all got on well so we managed to work around each other and it was infinitely better than any of the 6 person dorms I had stayed in previously. It also had the added bonus or being closer to the nicer bathrooms which made getting ready for work at 5am without disturbing my roommates much easier. Yup, once I had settled in to my new room I was straight back to work to get my hours for the week. The owner was there and seemed surprised to see me. I’m not sure if she was surprised that two weeks had passed already or that I had come back at all. I know a lot of backpackers might not have but for me it was guaranteed paid work and right then I needed that. I had debt to pay off and a whole new country to see.

I got my hours and said hello to everyone then it was back to the hostel to recover from my jet lag. It was strange to return to so many familiar faces, it was like coming home in more ways than one. As well as settling straight back in to hostel life the weather was cold and wet, just like my true home on t’other side of the planet. My first day back was very quiet as everyone else was at work but as all I wanted to do was sleep the weather and lack of people didn’t bother me.

On my return to work my manager approached me and asked if I still wanted to go full time and take on more responsibilities. My response was yes but not really, I just want to learnt more stuff because just serving people is boring: apparently this translates in to “would like more responsibilities”. The upshot of the conversation was that I would be go to yet more coffee training and learn cash up and become a supervisor. During my absence the previous supervisor had left and there had been a staff shuffle which ended with the current supervisor leaving in just over a month to become manager of the new cafe opening on the other side of town. It was more money, hardly rocket science and all my objections were answered or ignored so lone behold I started training as a supervisor. All they asked was that I stay on place for the whole year I was allowed to work on my visa. I could totally do that. I could stay in one place for 12 whole months, couldn’t I? After all the longer I worked there the longer I could travel once I did leave. It sounded like a perfectly sensible plan.......Shit. Oh well I could give it a go and if it didn’t work out no harm no foul, I’m sure they could soon replace me.