Iqon's New Zealand Blog

Archive for 24 March 2010

Sunset, cricket and surf

by on 24 March 2010, under New Zealand, PSV

My todo list for every week always says “Write a blog post”. I am consistently a couple of weeks behind and for some reason it always takes me a war to write (I am quite sure that expression does not exist in English, however, I feel it is so self-explanatory that I will try to introduce it into the language). Where I am going with these considerations, I don’t know. With this post I will hopefully be able to catch up with the present. Because I feel a little sick (well, I did at the time I wrote the Danish text, and I am certainly not going to change it all, just because I am translating it into English the day after) there might be a chance it will be fairly short. One can always hope (it is ironic that, since I translate the English text after I have written the complete post in Danish, I know for sure that it is not what most would consider “short” – however, I am trying to give you the most literal translation of my initial post… except for these stupid comments).

In my last post I mentioned that I have moved back to PSV. I can see my old flat from my room and I have also spent a good deal of time with the crew from Flat 15 where I used to live last semester. Since I, for some reason, have made it a habit to list people, I will continue that trend, listing the people from the flat that has almost become my “second home” down here. Since I am a bit tired the list will only mention name and nationality:

Øystein: Norwegian
James: Canadian
Ilana: American
Kirsty: English
Esther: German

I met Øystein last semester although we seldom met or spent time together – that has changed this semester. The rest are all “new” to The University of Auckland. They were so kind as to let me sleep on the couch in their living room the day I before I could move into my own room in PSV (the day after the fire at my hostel) even though it was barely only Øystein that knew me at that point. I was of course quite grateful for that.

From my room I can see my old flat
The view from my room – I can see my old flat from here.

A couple of weeks ago (yeah, I am still a bit behind with the blog) we (Flat 15, Stefani the Canadian, Jeremy the American and I, the Dane) went to Mount Eden, the highest natural point of Auckland, to enjoy the sunset. It was a nice trip which once again gave me an opportunity to play around with my new camera.

What makes this picture great: The random guy choosing to simply _skip_ past as I'm taking the picture
Random guy skipping past in the background.

Enjoying the sunset
The group enjoying the sunset.

James posing
James posing.

Another picture of the sun setting
Sunset at Mount Eden.

The next photos I have are from the surf trip last weekend. However, before I get to that I want to mention that I have also been to my first cricket match ever. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures from this drama since I had no idea I was going to a cricket match when I went to the university in the morning. But I could not say no when I got the offer to go which meant that I went to the cricket match with all my school stuff and my squash cloths which I didn’t get to use that day. We arrived a couple of hours into the match but apparently that is no big deal. I didn’t have any clue about what was going on for the first couple of hours but slowly the game started to make sense. Some of the other spectators helped us understand some of the finer details of the game which was quite kind of them. I have trouble coming up with any other kind of sport where everybody seems so relaxed. Curling might be close. I have been told baseball might also be kind of similar. Tour de France does have a pretty relaxing feeling to it as well but it does have some periods of intense drama which doesn’t really seem to exist in cricket. We were at the cricket match for seven (7!) hours. We did have a break of about one and a half hours between the two innings where we left the stadium to get some food. I have never tried to leave the stadium during a sports match just to come back later without having missed any part of the game (the players also had a break when we were eating). The guy who invented cricket must have been a man of great patience. Not only does the original cricket rules allow a game to last up to five days; if there is the slightest bit of rain, the rest of the match will be put off until half an hour after the rain has stopped. We did get to see that rule applied… hooray! We spent seven hours looking at men throwing a ball about 500 times while some other guy tried to block it with his bat, followed by one of the other ten players on the field walking to the ball to give it to the guy who threw it in the first place. We watched that, and then also an hour of some vehicles dragging a big “towel”, trying to dry the field after the rain while the crowd kept hoping that one of the guys on the field would be tripped by the “towel”. Unfortunately it did not happen. A very interesting experience indeed.

Since this is a post filled with randomness: I also want to mention that I am trying to be a bit active down here. I have played squash and run a couple of times. I have signed up for “Handball for beginners”, the only handball thing they offer at The University of Auckland. Unfortunately it is probably a bit too much a “beginners’” thing for me even though it is about seven years since I last touched a handball (which seems a bit scary to me). I was offered to join the “advanced” team for their games so I will probably do that if my feet can survive it.

Also! And this may come as a surprise, especially for me, I have started taking salsa lessons… I am not entirely sure how THAT happened but I guess it comes from some misguided idea I had before returning that I wanted to try some new stuff. Besides, both Øystein and Ilana tried to convince me and in the end it apparently worked somehow. So now I am going to have eight salsa lessons. Two of them have already been completed, although I have only participated in the first due to sickness (on my part) at the time of the second one. That probably means I will feel even more lost next time, as if my lack of sense of rhythm wasn’t enough.

I apologize that this post can seem a bit disconnected – I will once again use the explanation that I am kind of sick (even though the real reason is laziness). With that apology I will allow myself to take another weird jump. I spend most of my weekdays on my master thesis – the thing I am basically here for and which I have not mentioned on my blog so far. But now I HAVE mentioned it and then there can be no doubt that I am working hard on it with Skott. I assume that I will make a post at a later point, explaining exactly what the thesis is about and which might make people die from boredom. I can reveal that it is about containers… But that will have to wait till some other time.

While the weekdays are spent on the project, my weekends are fairly free. That means that I last weekend found myself on my way to Raglan, the surfers’ paradise in New Zealand. Going there was probably another one of those “let’s try something new” ideas. It was an extremely nice weekend with beautiful weather, a nice beach and a good group consisting of eight people, mainly from Parnell Student Village: Three Canadians (they are the new Germans this semester – they are everywhere), two Americans (although one of them claimed he could also be called a Kiwi), a French guy, a Norwegian and then me, the Dane. We lived at a hostel a bit outside of Raglan which looked like it was placed in the middle of a jungle in Colombia (or any other country in South America, I presume). It was really nice with free pool table, decent cooking facilities and then there was the sauna which we chose to use both nights. The surf went surprisingly well. With that I mean that I got through it unhurt; I did not drown (my initial criteria for success), destroy my ankles or hurt myself in any other way. I (and the rest of the members of the group) all managed to get up on the surfboards at least a couple of times. When I got home from the surf trip I realized that I had had another encounter with my arch nemesis. I am of course talking about the sandfly which had left a couple of stings at my feet which will now bother me extremely for the next many nights. I am considering trying to come up with some kind of scheme to take revenge. I do owe those bastards some kind of practical joke. But then again, I am not sure if insects understand practical jokes.

Me...
I actually don’t have any photos of the surf itself so you will have to just be content with a picture of me… and in the following photos, the other people that were with me on the trip.

Øystein with the final say
Øystein and Max in a friendly fight on the beach.

Sitting on a big trunk
Stefani, Laura, Robin and James sitting on a trunk.

A goat and the small tent it lives in at the side of the road
A goat and the small tent it lives in at the side of the road – it was actually NOT part of the group.

Max with the guitar
Max with a guitar.

After a well deserved lunch
And to also have a photo of the last person on the trip:: Ilana in the middle (Max at the right, me at the left) after a well-deserved lunch in Raglan before going back to Auckland.

In the end I want to talk a bit about the internet in New Zealand once again which I also did a couple of times last semester (as I am sure the people who have somehow managed to stick with the blog that will easily recall). However, I have also promised to not complain as much about stuff this time around, so I’ll just not mention the internet… and this way another post can get the tag “anticlimatic endings”.

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Back in NZ

by on 17 March 2010, under New Zealand, PSV

Now that I have finished writing the post I can see it is one of the more boring ones I have produced so far. It is almost completely void of exciting stories or my awesome humorous comments with a few (important) exceptions. If you are in a hurry just jump down to around the picture of a hole in the wall (or just search for “This is interesting”). It might not sound that interesting but trust me, it will be the most interesting thing in this post (which probably says more about the content of this post than about anything else). But here is the post as it was originally written:

After having been home in Denmark for the two coldest months of the year (fantastic planing by me, I really deserver praise for that) – actually the coldest January month in 23 years or something like that – I decided to go back to summer in New Zealand. But you already know all about that since my entire blog post last time was about my trip there through Boise. No, the reason people must have returned to this blog once again must be to hear about my first weeks in this “the land on the other side of the Earth” as the Danish name for the country ought to be if I had any say in it. At least it is way more descriptive than “Ny Sjælland”, the Danish translation of “New Zealand” which basically is the name of the Danish island where our capital Copenhagen is placed – it is very flat and nothing like New Zealand at all.

I arrived in New Zealand the 23rd at 11 o’clock, exactly as planned. Contrary to my arrival in the US I had no troubles at the border even though I, honest as I always am, told them that I was going to enter on a visitor’s visa but planned to apply for a student visa when I had found a place to live: “No problem, welcome back, and have a nice stay”. A very good example on the nice attitude most Kiwis have to visitors and life down here.

Skott picked me up in the airport in a shiny Subaru Legacy ‘91 which is still in perfect condition even after our trip to The South Island a couple of months before. We dropped our stuff off at a backpackers close to the university and relaxed for a couple of hours. Afterwards we went to a quiz night for international students at the university bar, Shadows. I have never really understood jetlag; I have been told that it is supposed to be hard to arrive in the morning at a new place after having traveled through several time zones and that it can take some people days to get over. As I see it you just have to keep awake until a decent hour in the evening before you go to bed. That can’t really be that hard, unless of course you have just been through weeklong torture sessions with someone actively keeping you awake every single second of the day. I assume only a small part of the people complaining about jetlag has been through that. Personally I have never had any real problems with jetlag during my visits to USA or New Zealand, just so you know (and I know you are extremely curious to know about that).

I had planned to spend the rest of the week trying to find a place to live, something that proved to be a bit harder than I had initially expected. It actually only took me about a week to find something but it did feel like much longer. I guess I’m too organized to be able to live in a small hostel room in the middle of a big city for a longer period of time; it is horrible not to know exactly where all your stuff is since it is hidden away in all kinds of weird pockets in your backpack. I did look at a lot of flats during the first week, both quite central, only a couple of minutes walk from the university but also further away, about 30 minutes away. I discovered how some people live in awful conditions and also did meet a couple of quirky personalities during my visits to the different flats that were looking for new flatmates. Even though most people didn’t say it right out I could feel that most felt it was a problem that I was only going to be in the country for about four months. A couple of people promised to contact me when they had decided who would get the room (most places had at least twenty applications during the first couple of days) even if I wasn’t the winner of the popularity contest. However I never did get a reply from anybody – nobody liked me (or probably more accurate: Nobody wanted the trouble of having to find a new flatmate after just four months but the other formulation sounds so much more dramatic so I’ll let that be the one outside the parenthesis).

Everything worked out in the end, though. I ended up in Parnell Student Village (PSV) where I also lived last semester. It wasn’t the original plan; last semester I thought it was quite expensive for what we got, even though I kind of liked the place. But during my visit to other flats I found out that it was actually just the price. I saw flats in worse conditions that charged more, and in most of them the room was completely unfurnished.

This time I live in a flat which is a bit different from all the others in PSV since we are eight people (compared to the 4-6 living in the other flats). It is also meant to be only for post graduates, i.e. the more mature students. I am fine with that and the rest of the flat is luckily occupied by nice people. The gallery of characters is:

- Anna, German girl, studying law
- Naira, German girl, studying mathematics
- Gillian, Philipinian girl
- Jing Jing (or something like that), Chinese girl
- Jennifer, Canadian girl, studying education
- Isidro, Spanish boy, studying psychology
- Blair, Kiwi boy, studying film
- Jonas (yeah, I’m going to mention myself, just to make the list complete), Danish boy, studying applied mathematics

As you can see it is a good mix of international students which of course is quite exciting. It is almost like the flat is two flats put together since we have to bathrooms, two toilets, two ovens, two sinks, two microwave ovens, a single toaster, no glasses etc. – you understand what I mean. So far it has been no problem living eight people together.

This is interesting. And this is another sentence which seems to just appear out of thin air. The first sentence (“This is interesting”) is to make it easy for people to get to this point in the post quickly because it is now that it becomes “exciting” (there is no reason for the second sentence “And this is another sentence (…)” – it is not the one that is the interesting part). I have spend my first time back in New Zealand on other stuff besides looking for a place to live. For instance I woke up in a burning hostel the night before I was supposed to move out of there. To make that story complete, however, I will have to start some time before that at The Chinese Lantern Festival (there is no such thing as chronological order to this post). It is a festival in Auckland which gathers a ridiculous amount of people on a small area. These people can they walk around and enjoy all the cheap paper figures (often looking like animals) which lights up everywhere in the grass and the trees, buy Sponge Bob Square Pants balloons which the Chinese people apparently love, eat all kinds of different Chinese food and (most importantly) listen to karaoke sung by some of the worst “singers” in history (I didn’t participate in the latter even though I might have been able to qualify for it with my beautiful singing voice).

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When there are so many people gathered in one place there is a good chance that you’ll meet some of God’s most beautiful children. Here two of them are posing.

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Dragons belong to every chinese celebration

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Long dragon.

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Everybody went crazy (in a joyful way) when this man started stealing babies. At first I thought it was some kind of weird Chinese ritual (they do have problems with too many children being born in China, hence their famous one-child policy). He did hand back the babies, however. I was afterwards told it was the prime minister of New Zealand. Now I can check the meeting with him off of my todo list.

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Me and some kind of Buddha look-a-like with a big Swastika symbol on its chest.

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Colorful tiger.

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More colors.

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Woman looking like she’s about to commit a crime.

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The whole thing ended with some fireworks.

You could also buy all kinds of useless crap which Vegard and Skott utilized to buy a waving golden cat which was going to be decoration for their new flat which they were moving into the next day. Apparently this cat is supposed to bring fortune but we quickly agreed that it would try to kill them in their sleep. Its treacherous smile and the uncanny continuation of the waving seemed to be a bad omen.

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Vegard og Skott were so happy just after they had bought the indispensable cat.

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It is always a great sign of quality when the packing contains “alternative” English. The text on the box reads:
——————————————————————————————————————————
WARNING:
1. Please don’t place the unsteady and solid place.
2. Please do not touch or move at will.
3. Please do not use the overdue battery. the overdue battery may make the product electric circuits damaged because of the electric leakage.

THE USAGE MUST KNOW:
1. Please don’t use to refresh battery.
2. Please don’t throw battery away in the fire the in order to prevent occurrence explosion.
3. Please don’t new old battery hybrid usage.
——————————————————————————————————————————

They had not had the cat for many hours before our fear about the cat’s evil intentions were confirmed. We had placed the cat on some shelves in one side of the room where it could sit and stare directly at Skott’s bed in the other end. He didn’t feel completely safe about this when he went to sleep. After an hour’s sleep we were woken up by this really annoying alarm clock. I thought it would be really nice if the people responsible for that would hurry up and turn it off – it was almost like someone tried to wake up the whole hostel. Someone even had the indecency to start hammering on our door which completely ruined any attempt of going back to sleep. But now when the smell of smoke had become so bad it wasn’t really the nicest place to sleep anyway, I thought. As you might have already figured out a fire had started at our hostel. There was no big panic and no flames to see, but you could definitely see the smoke. Even as we were walking down the stairs firefighters were coming up to put out the fire – extremely quick response time. I was quite impressed by the show. The whole street was filled with firetrucks, ambulances etc., probably around 15 in total for this very small fire where you couldn’t even see any flames. We had to spend about two hours outside, waiting for them to put it out. Everything was filmed by a film crew who were there to record stuff for an upcoming TV series with the working title “Fire Investigation”. They performed a couple of interviews but I have a hard time seeing how it can ever be edited into anything which will be just close to exciting to watch. The cameras even followed us into the hostel when we were led back to our new rooms – we couldn’t get back to our own room and our belongings until the next day. I don’t know if they are going to add some kind of special effects later on with us walking through the flames as the hard working students we are, only thinking about sleep so we can concentrate on our studies. It would probably be a better story than what actually happened: Some electrical components short-circuiting. To make a short story even longer than I have already made it, I can report that all my belongings were fine although they did smell a bit like smoke.

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This is how our room looked the next morning. Skott’s bed was placed right next to the wall with the big hole in it. All his stuff had been moved to the middle of the room, without any damage, meaning that the firefighters had been able to take it fairly slowly.

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Through the hole.

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The stairs.

And here I probably have to stop. I have (once again!) somehow written way too much about too little. I have actually experienced a bit more down here (or, I at least have some pictures left I still haven’t presented on this blog) but that will have to wait until next time. Before I end it completely, however, I have promised Øystein, the Norwegian who now lives in my old room in PSV, that I would mention James, a Canadian who also lives in my old flat (not in the same room as I used to live in, obviously – it would have been weird if both Øystein and James lived there at the same time). So now I have mentioned him. Both him, Øystein and the rest of the people from that flat will probably appear again later on this blog since I have been spending some time with the crew from Flat 15 (this could be seen as an alternative teaser, aimed at a specific and very small group of people, if they even care about reading about themselves on this blog).

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Since NZ

by on 7 March 2010, under USA

I have now spent a couple of month talking about what happened a couple of months ago. “What has happened back home in the meantime?” I hear the impacient reader asking. “Nothing special”, is my answer, “but I can tell you anyway – and I will also stop writing my blog as a weird, imaginary conversation since it becomes tiresome to read extremely fast”.

After a couple of days of Christmas hell in New York I went back to Denmark which at that point was covered in snow, ice, coldness and darkness on one of the very last days of the now so (in)famous climate meeting in Copenhagen. Yes, I was in the Danish airport at the same day as President Obama arrived! Wow! Christmas was celebrated in the traditional way. Afterwards I returned to the apartment in Copenhagen I have been living in for more than four years now. This time, however, I had to live in the smallest of the three rooms since the two others were occupied by one of my brothers, Rune, and Robert the German who had rented a room while I was abroad. During January I worked as a teaching assistant in a course (Mathematical Programming with Modelling Software) at my home university, DTU – so now I can check that off my list of things to do. I also spent January enjoying being back in my small homemade nerd world, with the big tv, video game consoles, Blu-ray movies and I-don’t-know-what. To the collection I also added a new Mac Mini which now functions as a mediacenter which makes it possible for me to watch Danish TV from abroad plus a fancy remote which can control everything at once, replacing my collection of five-six remotes that I needed before. Very interesting, I know…

That is an example of how you can tell about two months: Brief and precise – something very atypical for this blog, and if I know myself the blog won’t continue like that in the future either. Therefore, let me start to tell you about the last couple of week in much more detail just to show the contrast (don’t worry, there will be some photos mixed into the text in a minute as you have probably already noticed unless you are equipped with unusually focused eyes with no peripheral vision – or if you just haven’t scrolled down yet).

I went abroad once again on February 15 (or is it the 15th of February, 15 February or something completely different? I can never really figure it out in English – and nobody ever answers these questions I pose in my blog posts). This time to (initially) visit my sister in Boise, Idaho. I had managed to get my hands on some fairly ok tickets, especially considering I only booked the flight about a week before I left Denmark. A seat at an emergency exit (lots of room for the legs) in the plane between Copenhagen and Chicago where I had a short stop before continuing directly to Boise – it could hardly be more efficient. It is always an “experience” to arrive in the States since their border control (or whatever you call it) can seem ridiculously strict at times. Upon my arrival in Chicago I was led into a small room, mostly filled with Spanish speaking people it seemed. Here I had to wait for an hour since they found it strange that I was visiting my Danish sister who is now living in the US. In the end they let me continue my meticulously planned trip which suddenly didn’t seem as well planned as I had thought in the beginning. I had to get through the fairly large airport in Chicago in less than half an hour.

And so I did!!1!11!oneone

I will let the above linger (I don’t know if you can let text linger but I will anyway) for a bit so it is possible to calm down a bit after all that excitement.

You can enjoy a photo of Obama on the road to help you calm down before we continue:

Obama on the roadThe Obama figure in my sister’s car had its picture taken plenty of times during my visit in Boise.

I arrived safely in Boise. My baggage chose to stay another half day in Chicago since it apparently didn’t think we had seen enough of the city. I stayed in Boise with my sister, Mie, and her husband-to-be, Keith, for almost a week. Here I was introduced to the two hyperactive dogs, Lucky an Java who proved to be brilliant models for my new, nice camera which I chose to invest in during my visit to the Sttes (Nikon D90 with an awesome18-200 mm lens if anyone cares).

My extremely photgenic sister
The very first photo taken with my new camera. It is easy to see that my sister is used to working with portrait photos. She knows exactly how to show off the best side of herself when a picture is taken. Being extremely photogenic is something that runs in my family.

Lucky, a happy dog
Lucky, my sister’s polar bear.

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Java, playing in water/mud.

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Lucky, the happiest dog in the world.

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So you say that a dog has and its owner are alike, and this might prove it. Notice how photogenic Lucky is (the saliva actually hangs all the way from his mouth to the ground) and compare it to my extremely photogenic sister.

I also got to ski for the very first time in my life which I was extraordinarily good at (I will try to put a more positive spin on my blog in the future after I have noticed that the most used tag on my posts is “Me complaining”, albeit I for the most part am fairly sarcastic whenever I complain on this blog). My sister was especially impressed of a situation where I, after having lost one ski after a spectacular stunt, managed to place myself in such a position that I started sliding backwards down the mountain on a single ski. I am definitely a natural at skiing. It was just such a nice feeling to see all the small kids speeding by me as if it is the most natural thing in the world to attach two extremely smooth (or whatever the word is) long planks to your feet and race down a steep mountain without any thought about what danger they put themselves in – while I was once again lying in the snow with my skis spread all over (or at least in two different places). I think that I, with just a bit of practice, will be able to participate in the next Winter Olympics. It should not be that hard to perform that much worse than the other Danish participants. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of my amazing achievements on the mountain so you will have to imagine those yourself.

Now when I am talking about skiing I remember that I haven’t been talking about my ankles for a while. Those who have been following my blog closely (which I think can be counted on one, normal, five-fingered hand) will probably remember that I have mentioned my ankles a couple of times but never during my seven part story about my trip to the South Island. And I even did a couple of hikes on that trip which should have put my week ankles at extreme risk. The thing is that I never did twist/roll my ankles on that trip. Paradoxically (I love a good paradox) I instead managed to twist my ankle on the middle of a street in a completely flat street in New York – something Skott and (a bit later) I thought was quite funny. I also did manage to damage my ankle on my skiing trip, actually a bit more seriously than I usually do. Everything seems fine now, though, thanks for asking. And that will be the last time (for a while) you will have to read about my ankles.

I also got to see a random basketball match in Boise. The best part was the entertainment in the breaks. Most of the time it was small kids performing stuff (crawl through hula hoop rings, drive around on plastic bikes or perform gymnastic moves) but the biggest standing ovation (during the ENTIRE night) was provoked by six free Domino’s pizzas which were handed out in one of the breaks. The crowd went nuts and the lucky winners seemed to be the happiest people in the world when they received their free pizza – I love USA.

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It might be a bit hard to see on the small picture but I will tell you what to look for: The woman calling somebody to tell that she just won a FREE pizza… and the man trying to do the Mexican Wave all by himself.

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Pepsi! I don’t even drink it that often but it was just an opportunity that couldn’t be missed.

Sunday I sadly had to leave Mie, Keith, Lucky and Java and continue towards New Zealand. It was a trip which did not offer as much excitement as in the airport in Chicago. However I did have to spend 10 hours in horrible LAX (which was planned from the beginning, though). Also, I had a fairly random short stop in Rarotonga, one of the Cook Islands in the middle of the Pacific. My guess is that it must be one of the smallest airports in the world (the population on the island is less than 15000) and I don’t even know if it can be classified as an airport. It did seem like an incredibly nice place and definitely not the worst place to have a small break, although it was only about an hour in a small closed off section of the “airport”.

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Rarotonga airport.

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Rarotonga definitely looked like a place worth visiting.

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Rarotonga from above.

Here, just before my arrival in New Zealand, I will leave you, dear reader, craving for more stories from my amazing journey. Since I know that I am slowly becoming somewhat of a “Master of Suspense” (one person has found this blog via Google by searching for “anti-climatic endings”) I can tease that my first week in New Zealand among other things included intense flat hunting… and, a bit more down to earth and closer to my everyday life: me waking up in a burning building. But that will have to wait till next blog post which hopefully will be put up before too long.

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