Saturday, 30 May 2015

It’ll Be Quiet They Said...... And So Ended 2014

Wellington pretty much closes down between Christmas in mid January. So when most of my staff requested leave I happily granted it knowing that at least one person from one of the closed stores would be looking for shifts. In the end I had two of my usual staff and one borrowed and boy did we earn our pennies.

Yes Wellington was quiet and there were very few people around however this meant that most places were closed making out little cafe very popular with those left in town! Thankfully my borrowed member of staff (as well as being a very good friend) is an excellent barista so I could happily leave her on coffee leaving myself and the other two to look after the serving, running, clearing and everything else. It was a hard week but we survived and had the satisfaction of knowing we had all worked hard and well. If I was in any doubt of this reading the reviews online the following month confirmed that we had performed our jobs excellently making me one very proud manger. I was also one very tired manager so when New Years eve rolled around I was more than ready for my next two days off. And this time I was definitely resting!

Friday, 29 May 2015

Yet An Other Different Kind of Christmas- 2014

Last year Christmas day was a day of rest. I was finally on holiday and all I wanted was some time to myself before going on a fabulous adventure with my friends. This year I was all for the quiet approach, knowing that two days of peace and quiet would be much appreciated after the hectic pre-Christmas hospo craziness. My friends though had other ideas. Christmas Eve saw us at a Mexican restaurant indulging in a tequila night. Two of us made it to 9pm when we called quits and left the others too it. It may have been Christmas Eve but I’d been up sin e 4am and for once my body and my brain were in complete agreement,it was bed time!

Christmas day dawned dull and overcast so from the start I knew our planned jump in the sea was not happening. Instead I spent the morning skyping my family and making the world’s most nostalgic happy playlist, appropriately named Yay! Finally friend #1 appeared and I could open the wine. She was slightly hungover and soon made great friends with the couch but only so much that it was amusing. Soon after friend #2 appeared with friend #3. Now friend #1 is from Denmark whilst the rest of us are British born and bred therefore though I had made my playlist for my own amusement but it was quickly clear that it would do for the rest if the day. In between the nostalgia of old tunes we managed to cook a group dinner and empty a few bottles. It wasn’t Christmassy and it certainly wasn’t quiet but it was fun. It was a day I thought I didn’t want but was delighted I had given in to. Friend #1 and #3 left leaving myself and friend #2 to skype with our friend in the UK, with a final glass of chocolate Baileys. Once again Christmas in New Zealand surprised me in the best way. Is it any wonder this is the place I decided to settle in for my extended stay whilst saving experiment? I’d say it was a successful experiment but I am looking forward to 2015. So much to do and so little time. Who knew that the wreck of a person that struggled to exist in March 2009 would grow to have this most amazing life. I’m sure I’ve had some help along the way and whilst I miss him I know that Josh is proud of me, even if he is as baffled as he ever was by some of my choices.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

December 2014 – Dancing & Friends

Ceroc had brought up a lot of good memories and whilst it was difficult by the third class I managed to give freestyle a go and I was glad I had persevered. The taxi dancers were great at making sure the beginners got a few dances so we could practice our moves and with so much spinning it was hard to stay sad. In fact it went so well I decided to give one of the salsa socials a go and managed to enjoy that as well. I’m not sure I can convey the pride I felt in managing to find joy in dancing again and I have to confess I didn’t do this one on my own. The friend I took with me was extremely supportive. She dispensed hugs and encouraged me to stay when I would have left. Her love of our new hobby kept me going back when I was tempted to give up. It is in a large part thanks to her that I managed to enjoy and eventually fall in love with dancing again. I know that this is yet another friend that Josh would approve of and like anyway but for this I think he would love her a little too.

Despite the fact that work was crazy busy with loads of packing of Christmas products and the associate loads of customers coming in to buy them I managed to continue to spend quality time with my friends. Whilst weekend drinking with them was out I was discovering there are plenty of other ways to stay in touch with good friends. I managed to make it to the cinema to see the remake of Annie which I found thoroughly enjoyable. Whilst I had been looking forward to a repeat of last year’s mac ‘n’ cheese day my friends it seemed had different ideas. So the month was spent alternating between trying and refusing to compromise between them wanting to celebrate and me wanting to hibernate. Despite this disagreement about the day itself I didn’t go completely Scrooge on them... I happily agreed to a tequila xmas eve and a few days before took a friend to the show Empire which was similar to circ de soli. It was on a much smaller scale but still awe inspiring and humorous. It wasn’t cheap but it was worth every cent and the night was finished off beautifully by my friend announcing that her present to me was a local dive trip. I was starting to think that maybe this Christmas malarkey wasn’t too bad after all which is possibly how I ended up agreeing to host Christmas dinner at my flat. Scrooge?! Who’s that then??


Wednesday, 27 May 2015

November 2014 - I Hope You Dance

The sad news of November was that I had finally reached the end of my tether with my laptop so once again it was off to be repaired leaving me internetless once more. I managed to keep entertained though. Despite the fact that I wasn’t quite as busy socially as October I felt I had finally found a good work life balance. My photography course had come to an end but I was managing to see my friends on a more regular basis. Whilst I still wasn’t taking as many photos as I would have liked the course had rejuvenated my interest so my friend and I made the effort to go see a photo exhibition at local gallery. Toward the end of the month I even managed to get a Saturday off work so the Friday before we had a girls night out like I was a normal person. Normal people get drink and dance on bars, right? Let us just say it was a good night and fun was had by all. Even better by the time my Saturday off came around I had my laptop back so I had something to keep me entertained as I slowly recovered from my hangover the next day.

The big news for November was that I purchased a grab one deal for 5 ceroc dance lessons. I talked a friend in to coming with me and one Wednesday night at the end of the month we went along to see what it was all about. The class was massive, there were easily 70 people there. It was completely different from the salsa classes I had attended in Wellington. They lined us up in four rows and the teacher explained the basics of dance to us. He discussed tension and the importance of following and leading and then he taught us four of the basic moves. The class was great fun. As well as the class being taught well the teacher had the girls change partners after every other practice of a moved so that we got to dance with everyone including some experienced dancers know in our class as taxi dancers. After the class we had 15 minutes of freestyle to practice our new moves then it was on to a smaller room to practice our new moves over and over with a different teacher and a few taxi dancers. It was great fun and once the lessons were over we had the option of going back to the main room for more freestyle. We had look but my friend was tired and I found that watching others dance the way that I used to with Josh was too much. I had though a different style would be easier but I found freestyle too much and found myself questioning whether or not the joy of dancing was worth the heartache it was still bringing me. Soul searching aside my friend loved it and I had a 5 trip pass so I was determined to go back the next week and try again. It would seem like December was shaping up to be another interesting an challenging month.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

October 2014 - More Photography

As much as I enjoyed planning future trips sometimes February seemed very far away which is why in October I finally signed up for a photography course and for the second time a salsa course. The salsa course was inspired by a friend who wanted to learn so I decided to go along with her whereas the photography course was something I had been hoping to do since I realised I would be staying in Wellington long term.

The photography course was a great success. I met some interesting people and learned lots of new things about my camera as well as new techniques. The main benefit was that it gave me a reason to take my camera out and practice. Our first assignment involved a day trip out to Makara where we concentrated on my favourite kind of photography, landscapes. Despite being my most comfortable area I felt that I learnt a lot and it was nice to be in a group of people who were as excited about photographing the same thing 20 different times in 20 different ways as I am.

Our second assignment was portrait photos of friends and ourselves. I roped one of my flatmates into being an impromptu model one afternoon then attempted to take some self portraits using my tripod and timer. The photos of my flatmate turned out a lot better than the ones of me. Partly this was due to the fact that it’s hard to smile when it’s just you and partly because I’m never overly fond of being on the other side of the lens! I was fortunate that another friend was also happy to pose. She like me is a keen photographer so she was happy to help me improve my skills and even lent me her prime lens so I could try it out. Our third assignment was low light which was much more in my comfort zone. There was a heavy emphasis on varying exposure times to see the effects of a shorter versus longer exposure times.

I think the photocourse helped rejuvenate my enthusiasm for life in Wellington as in October I managed to see my friends a lot more. Of course this could also have been due to the fact that one of my favourite people returned to Wellington later in the month just in time for me to help her celebrate her thirtieth birthday. The salsa course with my friend didn’t go so well and we both lost interest in it fairly quickly but we were happy that we had given it a go and it is always nice to spend time with my friends as finding the time could be difficult when I was working every weekend.

Wellington is a brilliant city and my dissatisfaction in previous months was very much due to my inability to enjoy all it has to offer so I was delighted to find my enthusiasm returning just in time to go see the T-Rex exhibition at Te Papa. Finally as if dinosaurs, Dr Who and friends weren’t enough I ended the month on a great high. Lorde had returned to New Zealand and we playing a gig in Wellington on the very last night of the month. Since her music had been the soundtrack to our road trip the previous year I was really excited about going with the same two friends. She was brilliant live and came across as a genuinely lovely person. It was brilliant end to a much better month which I hoped was a sign of better times to come.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

September 2014 - I Took Some Photos

Looking back at my facebook posts (How else do you think I was remembering what I did more than two days ago?!) it is very clear to me that as the year progressed I was struggling a lot. Having said that life wasn’t all bad. September started off with an impromptu bingo night at a local pub where my friend and I had gone in search of burgers. We didn’t win the game but we won a couple of lines and got some free wine as a result. Of course back home the great independence debate was going on and my facebook was full of it but as I was not in the country and the referendum counted as a local vote I was unable to cast my vote. In the end the people decided we would stay together. To quote myself “Personally I am happy to be part of the UK but gutted that we missed out on a chance get rid of the broken political system that is Westminster. No matter I am still proud to be Scottish and I hope that we can all agree that we had our chance, we did our best and with any luck in 20 years the British political system will have improved or the next generation will do better!”

Whereas August was the month I started writing again September was the month I caught up with my photos. I uploaded a ton of them to FB and even managed to go for a walk one day to take some more.  So life in one place was wearing thin. There was too much work and not enough play. However life cannot always be fun and games in during my up times I had fun planning for my trip to the South Island the following year. As well as being a distraction it helped me to remember why I was working as hard as I was. In between the work and the planning I was delighted to see Dr Who return and rather took to the new Scottish Dr. In less happy news my laptop was playing up again so I spent a great deal of time installing updates in an effort to fix it. Thankfully the You Tube app on my phone was very useful at keeping me entertained which just goes to show I really should have been getting out more.


Monday, 11 May 2015

August 2014

After all the excitement of the last few months you might think I’d welcome a quiet one but I soon found the humdrum life to be a bit much to be honest. Work was same old, my friends were away or busy and I started to question the wisdom of staying in one place. However as always my friends near and far were there to send me encouraging messages and keep me going, not to mention a rather special charm from my mum.

When all else failed I turned to planning my holiday with my brother and sister in law. I had a countdown app on my phone and we had a list of places to go and things to do. Life might have been quiet in August but at least I had the reassurance of knowing that it wouldn't last. One advantage of a quiet month was that my slightly neglected savings account got a much needed boost and of course planning on spending money is a great incentive to save it. In order to remind myself of this I did allow myself one indulgent purchase, I bought a globe charm for my bracelet to remind me why I was living life the way I was.

So in retrospect despite the fact that it was one of my harder months in Wellington it could have been a lot worse and in the end life went on. There was one other advantage to a quiet life, with less distractions I started writing my blog again. It seemed strange that it was so long ago yet here I am still playing catch up. Here’s hoping I am all caught up by the time I start the next adventure, I guess only time will tell.

Ah there was one thing of note that happened in August, remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? Yes that old thing. I got nominated and whilst out for dinner with a friend I mentioned this plus the fact I didn't want to do it as I thought it was a waste of water. Well before dinner was finished I had agreed to go with her to the famous bucket fountain on Cuba street to help her with her challenge and being me I thought I would just do mine there to. Thanks for the idea hun, it was fun and a great memory to add to my happy Wellington collection. More importantly it made me aware of a deserving cause which I promptly donated money to. That would be research in to a cure for ALS aka Motor Neuron Disease in case you've all forgotten.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

July 2014 - Rotorua Roadtrip

My friend arrived at the end of June but we had to wait a whole 10 days before we could go anywhere. She was here to do a placement with the local SPCA as part of her university course so I kept on working and we spent the evenings together catching up and drinking wine. The days went past quickly though and before long we were on the road and on our way to Rotorua. Since we had hired a car we were able leave straight after work which meant we were able to make a very quick stop in Taupo. Sadly it was late so there wasn’t much to see and we couldn’t stop long as we were keen to arrive at and settle into out accommodation in Rotorua. We  a treated ourselves to a lovely meal at Dixie Browns though sadly we didn’t have room for one of their fabulous looking deserts it was still a lovely start to our holiday. Too soon we were back on the road again with the radio up full blast.

Everyone talks about the smell when you tell them you are going to Rotorua and sure enough as we drove in it was pungent. Throughout our stay would get used to it only to go on a day trip or fall asleep then it would be back as strong as ever. It was certainly distinctive!  On arrival at the hostel we were shown to our room. We had booked a twin but were given a family room with two single and two double beds. After ten days on an airbed it seemed only fair to let my friend have the double bed whilst I took the two singles, one for me and one for my luggage and Zack, of course. Our evening the previous weeks had been well spent planning trips and days out so the next day we were all set to start exploring.

We started with a walk through some parklands before heading to the Agrodome. It is worth mentioning at this point that as an animal science student my friend is interested in any and all things animal related but especially farm related. This would be why her grandmother insisted we had to visit the Agrodome. There we took a tour of the farm and then saw a show where we were introduced to the many varieties of sheep and the skill of milking a cow. Now this might not be my first choice of a way to spend the day but I actually enjoyed myself quite a lot. The tour was fun and we discovered a lovely kiwi wine, as in kiwi fruit, not Kiwi people in case you are confused. During the farm show I was most amused by the sheep and made sure to get a photo of Zack with one of them before we left.

For dinner that night we booked a spot Mitai Maori Village where we were experienced the delights of a traditional Hangi meal but only after seeing an entertaining cultural performance which managed to be both informative and quiet humorous. The host had excellent comic timing which made learning about the Maori history much more fun than one would expect. I also got to see my first Haka in real life and it was every bit as impressive as I expected. The Hangi meal was tasty and plentiful and if that wasn’t enough we finished the experience with a walk through the forest to see some glow worms. It was a great nigh and though not something I would want to do again it is something I would recommend to any other travellers as a one off experience.

The next day we drove out to a buried village which used to be a major tourist destination back in the 19th century before the eruption of Mt Tarawera in 1886 buried not only it but also the famous pink terraces which made the village so popular. Funnily enough being buried there wasn’t much to see but there was a lovely walk and I did get to practice my water photography some more. We finished our visit with some morning tea which included some delicious scones before it was time to head to the main event for the day.

We drove to Waimangu Volcanic Valley, the youngest geothermal region not just in the country but in the world.  It was like nothing I had ever seen before. There was steam everywhere and it felt like we were in prehistoric times. We walked all the way along the valley using the map provided by the information desk. I photographed everything in sight and my friend narrated the information provided by the map at various points of interest. It was a relaxing and enjoyable walk which ended at a jetty where a boat was waiting to take us on a tour of the lake. The lake used to be two smaller lakes but became the large lake we sailed during the same earthquake that buried the village we visited earlier that day. It was a little cold on the water but our guide was great and kept us entertained and of course there were many opportunities for me to practice with my camera.

By Tuesday we were feeling a little overwhelmed with walks and learning so we contented ourselves with a trip to Rainbow Springs. Here we decided that despite it being the wrong time of year for hatchlings we would take part in the kiwi experience. We did see some adult kiwis in the nocturnal enclosure but whilst it was interesting to see their nursery and learn how they are attempting to revive the native kiwi species (there are 4 of them!) there were indeed no baby kiwis to be seen. Despite the lack of young it was a worthwhile experience and we were happy to contribute to their conservation efforts by paying the extra for it. After a restful afternoon we decided to make use of our car and take a drive north of Rotorua. Being winter the weather was less than great but we enjoyed the drive and once we reached Mount Maunganui I did brave the cold and wind to attempt a few photots. Of course well wrapped up I felt less brave once I spotted the crazy people surfing in the sea. With such a strong wind I was unable to get any decent photos but as always it was fun trying. My friend sensibly stayed in the car so we didn’t hang about for long but it was s fun way to kill an hour or two. We had plans you see, after dark we returned to Rainbow Springs and to the outside kiwi enclosure where we saw more kiwis! Even though they were in an enclosure it was still exciting as I knew the chances of seeing them in the wild were extremely low. Also it was somehow more exciting to see them outside as opposed to in the nocturnal enclosure we had visited earlier in the day. All in all it was a good end to our stay in Rotorua.

The next day we were due to leave but we weren’t heading home. We were going north again but this time to Matamata, also known as Hobbiton. My poor friend was by this point feeling quite unwell but she persevered and despite a few wrong turns and a disturbing lack of signposts we finally got there. Apparently lost tourists are something they are used to and they happily moved us to a later tour. I had a great time geeking out and placing Zack all over the recreated hobbit holes including a cheeky photo at Bilbos gate. Part of the tour was a stop at the Green Dragon for a complimentary drink, ginger beer in our case since one was ill and the other driving. For a change I took many photos including some of the resident cat, of course.

After a most enjoyable tour it was time to head south and home. My friend agreed to going home the long way as I had a desire to see the famous Mt Taranaki. It was impressive but by the time we got there my most pressing concern was finding the nearest burgerfuel so for once the camera was ignored in favour of finding food. Despite only getting a quick glimpse or the mountain as were drove through the town it was still a worthwhile detour. My friend was excellent company even though by now her cold was obviously taking its toll on her and I felt the drive was a fitting end to our trip. We arrived home late and tired but satisfied that we had gotten the most out of our short trip.

Thursday morning and the day to say goodbye had arrived. It had been a completely different trip to my last one but every bit as enjoyable. Whilst I love travelling on my own I am also happy to spend time with other people and travel with them for a while. When I travel with others they introduce me to new experiences that I would not have considered on my own. My friend expressed concern that we were doing what she wanted but as (probably noted by now) there were a lot of photography opportunities and I genuinely enjoyed our walks and tours. I can honestly say I was sad to see her go and not just because that meant that once more it was time to head back to work again.

Monday, 4 May 2015

June 2014 – A Month of Birthdays

June was quiet a big month for me right from the start. My mum turned 60 (sorry mum!) and I may have gone a little overboard in sending her presents because I was sad that I couldn’t be with her. Right at the start of this blog before I’d even booked my first flight I realised I would be missing many birthdays and other occasions (A Ramble Ending in Thoughts on Occasions if you’re interested) but realising this and experiencing it are two very different things. As much as I love and miss all my family and friends I am unashamedly a mummies girl and I really wanted to be there but only if I could teleport, which I couldn’t. So I stayed put and sent presents and wrote a bad poem and let her know in every other way I could how much I loved and missed her and how happy I was that she had made it to 60 and could she pretty please keep on going.

Just over a week later and it was Josh’s birthday. Now him I can’t send presents to. Though I did send his family flowers it’s nothing like the same. Him I’ve already written bad poetry about, much more than I care to remember. So I did what I always do. I changed my profile photo and thought “God, we were so young”. I went to work and thought “God, I feel so old”. I spent time with my friends and though “Thank God I met these people” and as always when his birthday arrived I missed him and I grieved for all he never had and never got to do, then I was thankful for all I have and all I have yet to experience. And as always, life went on.

Josh and me when we were 18!
Life did indeed go on and the next big thing was my work visa being approved. Immigration decided that I could stay another year as long as I stayed put and ran the cafe for all of it. Despite my continual anxiety and crisis of confidence in my ability as a manager this was a deal I was willing to take, after all how bad could it be? Decision made that was it. I now officially lived and worked in Wellington, New Zealand. And work I did, a lot. Thankfully every hour spent at work meant more money on the bank which I put to excellent use at the end of the month when my Australian friend arrived. That’s right, less than 2 months since I returned from my mini break and soon I would be off again! Of course life is full of ups and downs and whilst I was celebrating the arrival of one friend I was sad to see another leave. One of my closest friends was leaving as her visa was up, the good news was that she was in the process of applying for a work visa similar to the one I had just been granted and so I was hopeful that she would be returning sooner rather than later.

To end the month the was one more important occasion, my dad also had a birthday but he was only 65 so all he got was a plant for his garden and some bubble wrap. Oh ok I may have sent a voucher as well but for anything more exciting he’ll just have to wait until he’s 70. Sorry dad, you’ll just have to keep going to get better presents.