Iqon's New Zealand Blog

Archive for 25 August 2009

Money problems

by on 25 August 2009, under New Zealand, PSV, Other blogs

The following is probably one of the most serious posts so far.

I am usually quite good at handling my finances if I may say so myself. For my stay here in New Zealand I had also drawn up a fine budget and I had planned that it should be financed by a bit of savings, a scholarship from the government paying the tuition fee and a couple of other scholarships. Before I left Denmark I had received a fine amount of money from scholarships from the following foundations, which I want to take the opportunity to send a kind thought to:

Otto Mønsteds Fond (12,000 DKK = 3,370 NZD)
Knud Højgaards Fond (9,000 DKK = 2,525 NZD)
Oticon Fonden (7,000 DKK = 1,960 NZD)

These scholarships was a contributing factor to a nice big plus on my bank account a couple of weeks ago. Therefore I was naturally a bit surprised when I logged into my bank account via the internet and saw that most of my money had suddenly disappeared. I do spend a bit of money down here but I still had trouble explaining a small hole of about 14,000 DKK (approx 4,000 NZD).

It turned out to be due to some weird transactions to (among other things) WWW.NIKESTORE.COM as it was nicely printed with capital letters in my account history. I told this to my bank which of course closed my Visa card – the only card I brought with me to New Zealand. So now I don’t have any way to get hold of what is left of my money, and I’ll have to borrow from friends which is not quite optimal, contrary to what some people might think. It doesn’t help that Skott and I decided to buy a car yesterday for which we’ll have to pay tomorrow. I was supposed to get the rest of my part of the cash payment today but the ATM declined it.

I have now opened a bank account here in New Zealand which I can transfer some money to, a new Visa card should be on the way from Denmark (although it will probably take some weeks to get it) and PBS (the company that handles credit cards transactions in Denmark) has been contacted so that I can hopefully get my money back soon. In other words: It’s all going to be OK, but I think I would rather not have had this particular experience.

To end on a positive note I want to continue referring to other blogs. This time it is my American friend, TJ, who has started a blog which can be found at TJ is yet another of The Village People (i.e. he also lives in Parnell Student Village – PSV) and his blog already contains extremely exciting posts about his shopping trips to the local supermarket, Foodtown. And if that is not positive enough I can mention that I tomorrow am going to watch Quentin Tarantino’s newest masterpiece, Inglorious Basterds, which I am really looking forward to. It is a well-known fact that the guy is a genius and I have only heard good things about the movie so I’m sure it is going to be a successful trip to the cinema.

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A small reminder

by on 24 August 2009, under Other blogs

This is not something you see very often: A short and concise post on my blog! I just want to remind you that I try upload all the photos I take to Flickr – just click on the link before the dash. I try pretty hard to put everything up somewhat sorted but it isn’t always easy since it doesn’t seem like iPhoto is geared to work with an internet connection as slow as the one I am in possession of. Therefore some photos seem to missing here and there.

I also want to use this opportunity to remind you that I do link to other peoples blogs at the bottom of the page. I have already mentioned Skotts blog a couple of times but there are some other interesting ones. For instance my sister has a nice photoblog which I have been told can easily be found by googling “Jonas Ahmt” and click on the appropriate link (at least I know that this was at some point the way most people got to the blog and I wouldn’t mind if this became the case once again, so please go ahead and google my name and go to my sister’s blog). Of newcomers I can mention Josh’ blog which has an appropriate name (The Internet is Slow in New Zealand). Josh is an American friend from PSV so naturally he writes in English. For a rather small group of the people reading this blog (the people from DTU and Ea) I can refer to Pauli’s blog about my DTU friend’s and work colleague’s (is there supposed to be an “s” at the end of both words in the genitive here? I asked the same question in Danish) experiences with his studies in San Diego, USA.

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The climbing trip

by on 23 August 2009, under New Zealand, Climbing, Hiking

Warning: Skip the first TWO paragraphs if you are in a hurry or just don’t want to waste a couple of minutes of your life reading a bunch of sentences which lead nowhere. I cannot give you those minutes back afterwards.

OK, this is going to be tough to do in English, since I suppose no one will know who Sidney Lee is. I did consider for two seconds to actually translate a YouTube clip with him but then realized what a horrible action it would be to expose the world outside of Denmark to Sidney Lee. You just need to know that he’s a weird Danish guy who’s participating in every possible Danish reality show on TV and speaks Danish with a weird American accent occasionally using random English words in the middle of sentences, possibly to appear more “cool”. He’s a “professional video gamer” and a wannabe wrestler among other things. And now on to how the posts starts in Danish (but of course translated into English):

I know a lot of people have been looking forward to this blog post… Or, actually I don’t know that, I just imaging that… To be honest, I don’t really trust that a lot of people want to read a lot of the bullshit I’m writing here and therefore I do not even imaging that. Possibly it is something I want to imaging. I am probably the only one (maybe along with my my sister) who has been looking forward to seeing how Sidney Lee could possibly ever get mentioned on my blog about my stay in New Zealand. As you might remember, dear reader, my last blog post did end with a teaser for a future Sidney Lee reference. This was mostly done in order to give some kind of illusion that I actually have an idea about what I’m going to write when I sit down to write my blog. Sometimes stories get better if they are told by an all-knowing narrator who can hint about future events. The stories on my blog are hardly improved this way, though, especially when I tend to use teasers about something as irrelevant and simple as a Sidney Lee reference. It becomes even worse when I use sentence after sentence to build it up like it is something which is definitely not – just like I’m doing now. But I did promise a Sidney Lee reference so I will deliver it! Therefore, without further ado, let’s begin on what could have been one of my shortest blog posts so far, had it not been for the above nonsense (which isn’t really true, I can see now after having written it all).

The thing is that the two last weeks haven’t really been filled with a lot of excitement, fun and adventure to talk about as some of the previous weeks. I can mention that I last Tuesday went to the cinema once again (the weird one with the large amount of room for your legs) to see Public Enemies. It is really nice that it is so cheap to go to the cinema down here compared to in Denmark (especially on Tuesdays), and I could easily see myself going to the movies more often back home if the price was just somewhat near the 10 NZD it costs down here. Maybe I should consider to resume my previous job as a movie reviewer at Movieglance when I get back home. Public Enemies is definitely a recommendable movie. It tells the story of the famous American bank robber John Dillinger who had his days of glory in the 30’s. I didn’t really like the beginning of the movie which contained a lot of short, quickly cut scenes which were sometimes a bit confusing. As the movie progresses, though, the focus shifts more towards the characters which makes it a lot better, although you newer get to learn as much about them as you would really like to.

Wednesday I decided to go to Aurac’s (the climbing club, you might remember) weekly “club night” to try climbing at the climbing walls at the university’s Recreation Centre. I must admin it wasn’t exactly a roaring success. It started with me arriving a couple of minutes late which meant all the club’s climbing shoes and harnesses were already taken. However, I found a group of friends with whom I made an agreement to take turns to use the gear. We hadn’t really needed this agreement since I already during the first climb did something wrong with my left arm. It is at this point in the story that I regret having talked so much about Sidney Lee since I will now have to follow up with the following Sidney Lee quote (since I obviously can’t delete what I have written above):

“It’s one thing to hurt your body, right? If you hit your neck or something, right? [But] if you hit something inside of you, “internal”, then it’s fucked up.” [note: he actually uses “internal” and “fucked up” instead of Danish words].

However, it was not this way for me… and this way I complete my worst follow up to a teaser so far on my blog which may be seen as some kind of (sad) achievement. Sometimes I wonder if this blog could be used as the Internet’s answer to an old Danish TV show called TV Sluk (TV Turn Off) which was a series of really boring shows broadcasted in order to get people to turn off their television (which I for some reason found to be pretty funny).

I am assuming that I had just suffered some kind of minor strain and I kept away from the climbing walls the rest of the night. My arm was fine a couple of days later (thanks for asking). That was lucky (I assumed) since the climbing trip to Froggatt Edge with Aurac, which had previously been cancelled due to bad weather a couple of weeks before, was rescheduled to start the following Friday. However, Thursday I was told that the trip had been delayed yet again. Once again the lovely New Zealand weekend rain cold proudly take responsibility. The trip was only delayed until the next day at 7 o’clock in the morning which meant I had to get up at 5:30 – my favorite time to get up a Saturday morning (at this point I might need to remind the reader(s) that I do occasionally use what is called “irony”).

The weather still did not look promising this early Saturday morning and unfortunately it didn’t get any better as we went south. Therefore we could easily see that we couldn’t do any outdoor climbing Saturday. The course was instead set for Otorohanga which was supposed to have some nice indoor climbing walls. Otorohanga is a small town, approximately 2.5 hours from Auckland. I have now visited that town three times. It is like something has to go wrong or has already gone wrong whenever I arrive there. The first two times was in connection with our Waitomo Caves adventure which was drowned in water at our first visit and was therefore replaced by a visit to the disappointing Kiwi House (which was mostly populated by ducks). This time something went wrong again, of course. The club was closed at Saturdays due to “financial problems” – thank you very much world spanning recession. I don’t really like that town anymore…

In frustration, people tried to climb anything they possibly could get near to.

Instead we took a small hiking trip and played a bit of frisbee and football in the rain by some paths close to Waitomo Caves. It was quite fun but not exactly what I had expected when I signed up for a “climbing trip”. About 4 o’clock we drove to some nearby camping grounds and set up tents and a shelter above the one bench at the area so we could get a bit away from the rain. It kept raining all evening and night but due to the good company it wasn’t that bad at all. Unfortunately the rain kept going the next day also so we chose to split up: Some people went to some hot water springs a bit outside of Auckland while the rest of us just went straight home. I was getting a bit tired of water so I went home from the climbing trip without having climbed a single thing.

On the hiking track there were a couple of caves we climbed into. Here it is Morten (yet another Norwegian) coming out from a cave.

Throwing tubes at poles… that’s how bored we were.

At some point we considered renaming the club “The Standing Around Club” – we spend a lot of time STANDING under cover to avoid the rain.

That was the week two weeks ago. The week which has just past haven’t really contained anything exciting except for my upcoming car purchase. However, I will wait with that until I get the car this Tuesday.

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The Pinnacles & Hot Water Beach

by on 18 August 2009, under New Zealand, Hiking

I keep trying to create a new post for the blog every week but it seems like I get further and further behind. It could be because I have started to hand in my first assignments while I still spend the weekends in the New Zealand nature. In order to make my blog posts seem a bit shorter (although they are already too long), this post will only be concerned about the week which took it’s beginning two weeks ago. The week which has just past will follow in another thrilling post.

We will begin this amazing journey back in time two weeks ago with a quick jump past Tuesday (Quiz Night, once again winning for best name, once again ending between the worst teams) and move on to Wednesday. Wednesday was supposed to be the last day I had plans to go to any of the International Student Orientation stuff. Every participant in the event was supposed to bring some food from their home country which meant I had bought some pork and potatoes in order to make “frikadeller” (basically fried pork meatballs) and mashed potatoes. In the end, I didn’t go to the event, though, which meant I had to eat the terrible Danish food my self the day afterwards (and of course, it wasn’t even close to the quality of my mother’s version).

I had a good reason for not going to the event, though. I had been invited to a dinner at David Ryan’s house. David Ryan is a professor I had had in a course in June before I left for New Zealand. Every summer he comes to DTU in order to teach a three weeks course and we (Skott and I) had talked a bit with him before we went down here. David Ryan is kind of a big star when it comes to Operations Research (OR) which is the area I’m focusing on in my studies. He is one of the main reasons The University of Auckland is so well known for it’s OR courses. Therefore it was a big honor for us to be invited for dinner at his house along with two other Danes: Matthias, who is writing his Ph.D with Ryan as one of his advisors and Matthias’ girlfriend, Samantha, who is also studying at UoA in this semester. It was fun to see how “real” kiwis, who are not poor students, are living. Ryan’s close connections to Denmark could clearly be seen from the Danish design which popped up here and there. All in all it was a pretty nice evening.

Friday I succeeded in getting a lift to the Extreme Edge, a big hall filled with lots of climbing walls. It was the first time I met my new buddies in Aurac, the climbing club, which I had then been a member of for a couple of weeks without having climbed on anything. Not surprisingly I was kind of horrible at climbing since I have never done much of that previously in my life and my thin arms haven’t really been trained for anything like that. However, it was still quite fun even though it was also a bit humiliating to see certain people who were almost as inexperienced as me quickly climbing up walls I had big problems with.

The weekend was as usual where the real adventure was waiting. The group that this weekend went on a trip this time consisted of Josh (American), TJ (American), Sebastian (German), Skott and myself. We went to Coromandel, a peninsula approximately 2-2.5 hours drive east of Auckland. More specifically, our goal was to go to The Pinnacles which rises 759 m above sea level. Once again we had rented a car (hopefully Skott and I will buy our own next weekend) and we ran into some troubles on the last part of the road to the parking lot from where we were supposed to start our climb. The road was in an extremely bad condition, filled with holes. We had not be driving for long before the car started saying weird noises. It proved to be a low hanging pipe which kept hitting the ground every time we hit a hole. We decided to drive twice, decreasing the weight on the back seat of the car. Luckily two of us got a lift from a car behind us so we only had to go once on the crappy road.

The climb to the hut where we were going to sleep at night took about three hours. We had an incredible view the whole way, and of course it only kept getting better as we climbed higher. The track lead us over narrow suspension bridges and rivers. Luckily the track was not as muddy as the one in Karakare since it was mostly built of rocks. I really appreciated my new hiking boots. We dropped our packs off at the hut and continued for about an hour more to the top of The Pinnacles. On the way to the top we had to go up 554 steps (at least that was what I counted on my way down), a couple of ladders and a do a bit of rock climbing before we stood at a platform from which we had a view of both coasts of the peninsula and the route down to the hut which suddenly seemed very small.

I think we’ll just have a rhetorical pause (if that is the right word) in order for people who usually complain about how hard it is to go up to the fifth floor when they visit me at home to do some reconsideration (am I really not supposed to put any commas in that sentence?)…

All those stairs…

On top of The Pinnacles

View from The Pinnacles – my camera has a hard time doing it justice.

The day after we went back to the car. We took another route down and on the way we got to a river which we were told we could go along in order to come to the top of a waterfall. We never got to the big waterfall but we did climb down some rocks with water running down them, from where we had an incredible view.

A bit down the rocks.

Fortunately, the car did survive the trip back the road filled with holes and we continued to Hot Water Beach which is also placed at Coromandel. This beach has a small area where hot springs runs underground. This means that you can dig your own little Jacuzzi just by digging approximately 20 cm into the sand. One has to arrive at the right time (two hours before and after low tide) since the area is covered by the sea most of the day. Usually you can rent a shovel to dig your own water hole but we were invited to join some people who had already dug a giant hole with the perfect depth. They had been there three days in a row so they new where and when to dig. The water was surprisingly hot and it was actually impossible to stay in certain parts of the hole for long, if you wanted to avoid being burned. It was a weird feeling lying on a beach in what the kiwis call “winter”, thinking that it was actually a bit too hot while people were standing around the holes in jackets, feeling a bit cold. I can now call myself a “winter swimmer” if it counts to go into the sea for a couple of minutes and afterwards run back to the steaming water holes. It probably doesn’t count.
Hot Water Beach

That was pretty much that week. Look forward to next blog post about a climbing trip without any climbing and a Sidney Lee reference (I guess no one reading this blog in English would know who that guy is – maybe I’ll try to explain it next time)!

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Waitomo Caves

by on 6 August 2009, under New Zealand, Caves

The amount of school work is slowly increasing, and now I have received my first assignments. It is still pretty manageable and therefore we still have time to experience more than just mathematical formulas.

Tuesday is not only “Quiz Night” in Auckland but apparently also “Movie Night” where it is cheaper to go to the movies (10 NZD). Therefore we went to see The Hangover on Tuesday, my third visit to the cinema in under a week. While the two first movies were quite disappointing, The Hangover definitely fulfilled my expectations: A solid comedy which didn’t try to be more or anything else than it promised to be. Afterwards we went to Quiz Night at a bar/café under The Empire, some student apartments close to the university. We one a bottle of champagne for the best team name, “Do it!”.

Wednesday we went to a wine tasting event arranged by the international orientation group. It took place in a big wine store a fifteen minutes walk from the university. It was pretty interesting and you could definitely tell that there was a big difference between the wines we were presented with. However, it was a lot of information at once about different places and ways to produce wine in New Zealand so it is limited how much actually stuck with me afterwards. I did learn, though, that it is called taking a “sniffy-sniff” and “tasty-taste” when you smell and taste the wine respectively. At least, those were the words used by the guy presenting the wines so they must be some fancy technical terms, I reckon.

The weekend was a more eventful. The original plan was to go on an orientation trip with Aurac: Auckland University Rock & Alpine Club – the climbing club at the university. I have never been climbing before but I was told that that shouldn’t be a hindrance for participating in the activities of the club and thought it would be a nice way to get to try something different. Unfortunately the trip was cancelled due to bad weather. Apparently rain isn’t the best weather to go climbing on some slippery rocks. Instead the trip has been postponed for two weeks.

The bad weather didn’t hinder me in leaving Auckland this weekend, though. I joined the group consisting of Kristian (Norwegian), Borghild (Norwegian), Chris (German) and Skott who had also planned to go on a trip in the weekend. “Rainy weather”, we thought, “must be the perfect oppertunity to go to the famous Waitomo Caves. Waitomo Caves are, as part of the name implies, some caves approximately 2.5-3 hours drive suth of Auckland. It is a giant system of caves with about 400 fully explored and a lot which still haven’t been fully mapped. The caves are especially known for their Glow Worms small larvae which glow in order to attract prey. The brighter they glow, the more hungry they are. Of course we wanted to experience this phenomena so we rented a car and drove south on Saturday in order to explore the caves. Sunday, where the weather was supposed to be fine, should be spend on the beach and to see a bit of nature close to the caves. Naturally, this plan was not supposed to work out.

It turns out that rainy weather is not always the perfect kind of weather for going into some water filled caves. Apparently the caves can become flooded and this was of course what happened Saturday afternoon just as we arrived, quite excited about the trip into the caves after three hours of driving. It was not the best piece of news, especially because it kept raining cats and dogs and the nearest town wasn’t very exciting. We were told to go to the nearby Kiwi House (a house with kiwi birds, not New Zealanders) which is supposed to be one of the best in New Zealand, so we went there. It costed approximately $15 to get in and it was kind of a disappointment. There were only two kiwi’s in a dark room (the kiwi is nocturnal) and it wasn’t allowed to photograph them since the flash would upset them. They looked funny, though, walking around in their funny fashion, constantly trying to find food among the leaves on the ground by pecking it with their long beaks energetically. A very peculiar bird, indeed. The rest of the “park” was filled with a lot of other birds from New Zealand. Unfortunately, the duck seems to be a pretty common bird in New Zealand as well which meant that the park was filled with those. I think it is a testament to how bored we were that we spend almost an hour looking at ducks before we went on. The best part about the park might have been that they lent us some umbrellas for free so we at least didn’t get wet while looking at ducks. The horrible Saturday ended pretty good, however. We went to a dinner in Hamilton and ended the evening back in Auckland watching Blinkende Lygter (Flickering Lanterns) which both the German and the two Norwegians enjoyed.

Skott seemed to enjoy his pink umbrella – Saturday wasn’t a complete waste!

Sunday we went down to the caves once again. The atmosphere wasn’t as positive as the day before (at least not for me) but as the sun kept shining even as we drove down south, the mood slowly changed. We even had time to go on a quick visit at Marokopa Falls, approximately half an hours drive from the caves. It was a beautiful sight, especially with the little rainbow at the bottom of the falls. It must indeed have been beautiful since we all fully enjoyed it, even though it was more water falling and we had experienced that a lot the day before.

The Marokopa Falls

The trip inside the caves was incredible. After dressing up in wetsuits we were ready to go for the approximately two hours of climbing, swimming and “floating” through the caves. We had chosen the trip which included “black water rafting” or rather “black water tubing” where we at certain points were seated in a donut shaped tube to float on the water. We had expected it to be a bit more action packed than it proved to be. The tubing part only consisted of sitting in the tubes while the guide dragged us around in a line in the dark so we could see the glow worms illuminating the ceiling as stars on a clear sky at night. Sunday was definitely a much better day than the awful Saturday.

Tumu 2.30pm 2 August - Louis (7)
Sitting in the tubes. From left: Kristian, Borghild, Chris, Skott and me.

Tumu 2.30pm 2 August - Louis (5)
Me… in a wetsuit… in the caves… looking handsome

A drawing of our tour through the caves.

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