Iqon's New Zealand Blog

Archive for 19 May 2010

Last couple of weekends

by on 19 May 2010, under New Zealand

As it so often happens with my blog posts I end up writing the introduction after I have written the rest of the post itself. This is a practice I use in order to be able to inform/warn about what is going to follow. Thus, I can reveal that this post on the one hand is kind of informative and on the other is completely irrelevant. If you have ever wanted to get a deeper insight into new ways to eat kiwi fruits, how excited people can get about air guitars or how other people have adapted a fictive sport which among other things involve flying broom sticks, feel free to keep reading. This was the blog post I teased about a couple of weeks ago.

I spend most of my weekdays on the project Skott and I work on from 9 to 5 every day. The weekends I try to do as much as I can to enjoy my spare time which I have definitely succeeded in doing.

Sunday three weeks ago it was Anzac Day. This day is used as a remembrance day for the people who died and served during military operations for New Zealand. The day is a national holiday which made most of the shops close. It was funny to see how people went berserk in the local supermarket, Foodtown, just because they wouldn’t be able to buy groceries for one day – a Sunday, even. It was like seeing people trying to stock up on yeast during a strike in Denmark!

The day itself was celebrated with ceremonies and parades. By Auckland Museum, which is about two minutes from PSV where I live, there was a ceremony at dawn and one a bit later in the morning. I did not manage to get up in time for the first one (six o’clock a Sunday morning did seem a bit unrealistic) but I did go to the ceremony at 11 o’clock.

Red (and shaky) museum
Auckland Museum is always lit in some color during the night. On the occasion of Anzac Day the light was red.

In my oppinion a museum might not be the perfect screen for movie clips from old wars
The museum was used as a screen for movie clips from old wars. Apparently they had been edited by Peter Jackson. It did not make them that much more interesting, though.

More music
Parade before the ceremony.

I had been confused for weeks why I sometimes saw random people just standing and staring into this monument. They were practicing for the ceremony
I was so happy when I saw these uniformed men stare into this monument during the entire ceremony. In the weeks leading up to the event, I had walked through The Domain (the park in which the museum is located) and had seen some people standing right in front of the monument, just staring blankly into it. I thought that they (or I) had gone crazy. Apparently it was simply a part of the ceremony so everything ended up making sense.

The weekend after became much more interesting, weird and informative, mostly due to the following three discoveries which will be detailed below:

1) Kiwi fruits can be eaten with the skin on them.
2) There exist world championships in air guitar.
3) people play quidditch in real life.

1)
I was told by James and Ilana (both from Flat 15) that there actually is nothing wrong with eating the skin of the kiwi fruit which did surprise me a lot (I think it was new for them as well). I have never really been too fond of the kiwi fruit, mostly because they are not handy at all. Either you have to chop a lot of “sides” of them to get a respectable chunk of pure pulp or you have to use both a knife and a spoon (or alternatively a spife, which should be especially useful for eating kiwi fruits). After having eaten a whole kiwi fruit with skin and everything Friday night without feeling particularly ill afterwards, I decided to look up whether or not it had actually been a good idea. Wikipedia explains it pretty well:

“The kiwifruit skin is edible and contains high amounts of dietary fiber. In a fully matured kiwifruit one study showed that this as much as tripled the fiber content of the fruit. In addition, as many of the vitamins are stored immediately under the skin, leaving the skin intact greatly increases the vitamin c consumed by eating a single piece of kiwifruit when compared to eating it peeled. As with all fruit, it is recommended that if eating the skin, the fruit be washed prior to consumption.”

2)
I have heard about air guitar before, of course. The art of going berserk on a fictional guitar isn’t a completely new idea, I think. However, I had always thought that was something that happened behind close doors in rooms of teenagers with unrealistic dreams of becoming a rock star… I was wrong (which is something, might I add, which doesn’t occur that often). Apparently there exists championships where you have to dress like a fool and jump around on the stage like an idiot while pretending to be in control of the sounds of the loud guitar solo coming from the speakers behind you. “Championships” as in people actually going halfway around the world each year to weird places (this year Finland) to compete in being the best in the world at this! The concept has finally arrived in Denmark this year where the first annual championship in air guitar was just held. Of course Sidney Lee was the host… people reading this blog in English probably has no idea about who Sidney Lee is and that is probably for the best. He is one of those people who is famous for being famous. If you are really curious about him, I will suggest you go back to one of my posts from August last year where I made a post with a bad, bad Sidney Lee reference. Anyway, in New Zealand the phenomenon (air guitar, not Sidney Lee) has apparently existed for years. Friday some weeks ago Ilana, Kirsty (both from Flat 15), one of Kirsty’s friends and I went to the official finale of this year’s NZ air guitar competition. It was a very bizarre experience which I have trouble explaining better than the photos below will.

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Unfortunately I seem to have forgotten the names of most of the artists but I can deliver other info instead. Info 1: The participants had roadies! I have no idea what their job was but apparently it does take a whole team to setup fictional instruments.

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Info 2: The winner was found using three criterai: 1) “Technical merit”, meaning how well the participants pretend to hit the right frets, accords etc. 2) “Stage presence”, whether the participant has the charisma of a rock star and manages to capture the audience with his performance. 3) “Airness”, a very subjective criterion stating how much the performance on the scene is art in and by itself.

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Info 3: The competition consisted of two rounds. In the first round the participants get to decide which piece they are going to pretend to play guitar to. In the second round all the artists perform to the same song. This meant that we had to listen to the same thing ten times in a row (one for each participant plus the initial playing of the song so they had an idea about what they were going to pretend to play). Randy on the photo was our favorite and we had expected him to win. Apparently he did not which we did not find out until later: We left the show before the winner had been found.

3)
Quidditch is a fictional sport from the Harry Potter books. The participants fly around on magic broomsticks, throw balls through rings and after each other and try to catch a small magic ball with wings (the snitch) which flies around by its own volition.

In other words its a sport which fits perfectly into the real world and the laws of physics which govern it. Muggle quidditch is the fitting name for the sport where people run around with broomsticks between their legs, dressed in capes while they throw balls through custom-made rings which have been designed with that specific purpose in mind. The most important element is of course the snitch which role is played by a neutral player, dressed in gold and wings, who runs around in an area much bigger than the field and needs to be caught before the game can end. A fantastic combination of dodgeball, (European) handball, hide-and-seek, sometimes ultimate frisbee and an enormous amount of insanity.

The reason I mention this sport is because I a couple of weeks ago (same weekend as the air guitar competition) found out that it exists as a real life sport.Auckland Quidditch Association currently has 446 members who constitute 19 different teams which are now going to play in a tournament. I became extremely excited when I realized that they had apparently played their opening match of the season in The Domain (the park just two minutes from where I live) just a week before. I also became very disappointed with the people who had actually seen this going on for not having mentioned to me that people had invented this crazy game and were competing in it for real. Some people (Kirsty for example) did however share my fascination of the absurd fact that this actually exists as an organized sport. Unfortunately I have yet to see the sport live but hopefully I will get to see it before I leave New Zealand.

We could not find people playing quidditch in the Domain (which I was VERY disappointed by) but at least the sky was pretty
We tried to look for quidditch in The Domain… all we found was a weirdly colored sky.

So much nothingness… next time it will be about wine tasting and failed attempts to go on hiking trips.

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Samoa again

by on 8 May 2010, under Uncategorized

Just to quickly completely finish the chapter about Samoa, I want to mention three irrelevant and uninteresting points which I forgot to write about the first time around.

1) One of the reasons that I had an easy time deciding to go to Samoa was the fact that I would have to renew my visa anyway in order to stay here until July. Since I’m not officially studying at the university down here (I’m not paying any tuition fee this semester) I was not able to apply for a student visa. Also, since I’m not getting paid to write my thesis down here (besides the wonderful government grant (SU) everybody in Denmark gets for studying) I wouldn’t be able to apply for a working permit either. The easiest thing to do was to simply leave the country, return a week later and get three extra months as a tourist in New Zealand. This way I also avoided paying the about $200 it costs to apply for such a visa. This just made Samoa even more attractive. Even though I had been by the immigration office before I left, to get a confirmation that this would be a perfectly legit thing to do, I was still nervous when I came back to the airport in Auckland. There was NO problem entering the country though. They just smiled and let me in. And to think I have to be held back for an hour in Chicago, just because I want to visit my sister.

2) When you walk through the villages in Samoa all the locals (especially the children) screams “bye” after you. I don’t know if it is because they can’t tell the difference between “hi” and “bye” or if it is because they just want you to disappear as fast as possible which results in an immediate farewell.

3) In Samoa they drive on the left side of the road. They used to drive on the right side, right up until 7 September 2009 where they changed. The reason was that it is economically better to drive on the same side of the road as the majority of other countries in the area. A lot of people still drive around in cars with the driver sitting at the left. It is now illegal to sell spare parts to these kind of cars.

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They have arrows everywhere on the roads to remind people which side to drive on.

I do feel I had warned about the above points being uninteresting. I will therefore disclaim any responsibility for the boredom that might have originated from reading the above. I have also chosen not to write the quotations from my Samoa trip since I have concluded that it will be extremely uninteresting for the people who haven’t already heard about the stupid things especially Max chose to say during that week.

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Samoa

by on 4 May 2010, under Uncategorized

Normally I would probably start off with some nonsense like “it has been a while since I last wrote something on my blog but a lot has happened since then and now I think it is time for an update”. This would most likely be followed by some weird excuses for why it has taken such a long time, like “I have been busy with the discovery of muggle quidditch and air guitar”. But I won’t do that this time. Instead I will go directly to the essential part of this post: My Samoa trip.

A week was spent on Samoa. We were eight people on the trip: Øystein (Norwegian), Tor (Norwegian), Helle Kristine (Norwegian), Max (French), Jocelyn (French), Richard (English), Regina (German) – and then me, the only Dane. I have come to the conclusion that the trip is best described through photos.

Random guy ready for the ferry to arrive at Savai'i, the west island of Samoa.
The first day we took the ferry to Savai’i, the most western of Samoa’s two main islands.

Every night we slept in fales (huts) like these, right next to the beach
Each night we slept in fales (huts), placed on or just by the beach. Amazing experience. These fales are build without walls so you get cooled by the wind during the night. This was also needed with 30 degrees (Centigrade) day and night and about 80% humidity (except for when it was pouring down).

Sunrise the first morning in Samoa
Sun rise my first day in Samoa.

"Paradise in He(...)" - try guessing the name of the bus before going to the next picture. People tend to get it wrong.
We chose to continue by bus the second day. The bus was filled with locals who were all returning from the biggest town in Savai’i with their newly bought groceries which were spread all over the floor of the bus. They were extremely nice and friendly, squeezing even closer together to make room for us tourists. Try guessing the full name of the bus (people are often wrong).

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Jane’s Beach Fales where we stayed a couple of days provided some entertainment the first night. They postulated it was “traditional” Samoan dance. Here they are dancing to the sound of Grease Lightnin’ (also note the gigantic speakers in the background).

We went to church Sunday. Everybody seemed grateful that these Europeans had chosen to visit their church. Here two girls are posing at the entrance
People in Samoa are very religious. Every village (which can easily consist of just a couple of houses) has its own church. At some point we considered renting bikes to go around the island on a Sunday. We were warned that people on especially the northern part of Savai’i didn’t like to see people doing any kind of exercise, including biking (that I, as a Dane, see biking more as a means of transportation is something completely different) on a holy Sunday. Sunday morning we went to church to get insight into what the locals spend their Sundays on. They were extremely grateful that we had bothered to visit their church. They all thanked us after the service, which was partly held in English so we could understand it.

Tree growing inside the a church covered by lava about 100 years ago
To complete the Sunday we went to another church, this one of a somewhat different kind, though. It was overflown by lava about 100 years ago and is of course not used any more (except as a tourist attraction).

Me, not posing
The Lonely Planet book about the Pacific contains only about 20 pages about Samoa which probably says a bit about how few tourist attractions are actually located in the country. The Samoa experience is mostly about relaxing at beautiful beaches, perhaps with a bit of snorkeling. Which I am not going to complain about. The guide book does mention a few places worth visiting, though. One of them are these so-called “blowholes”, special rock formations which makes the water splash meters into the air when the waves hit against them.

Richard swimming around at the Afu Aau Waterfall
We also went to the Afu Aau Waterfall. Here Richard is seen swimming around.

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We spent a single night at “The Author’s Choice” from Lonely Planet from a couple of years ago, Virgin Cove. It was by far the most expensive place we stayed and seemed a bit too “touristy” and “protected” for my taste. Of course it did not help that it rained constantly the day we had there. I was rather productive, though, as the photo above proves. The day did not become a complete waste of time, after all.

Me and my new pet crab
From the most expensive place we could find in Samoa, we went to the cheapest one. In the village Tafatafa we stayed three days at some fales owned by a woman who had spent about 40 years in New Zealand but had now returned home to enjoy the relaxed Samoan lifestyle. She seemed extremely happy to have visitors from Europe – apparently, we were the first ones to visit from that part of the world. The place had been hit by the tsunami about seven months earlier and they were still rebuilding. Since tourism is a big part of the Samoan economy, the family had been promised money if they quickly rebuilt the facilities so they could keep attracting tourists. Seven months later they still had not seen any money from the government. Oh, and the photo is one of me and a crab.

Me enjoying coconut milk
Accommodation for three nights and eight meals ended up costing about 55 NZD per person. Not bad at all. Among other things we were served coconuts, as it can be seen on the photo above.

Me presenting Robert Louis Stevenson's house (the guy who wrote Treasure Island and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Richard, Øystein and I went past Robert Louis Stevenson’s house which is now a museum. Robert is probably best known for two books: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Treasure Island. He spent the last five years of his life on Samoa.

To make it feel more like home, Robert had a fireplace installed. It was obviously never used (there wasn't even a chimney) since Samoa is way too hot
In order to feel more at home, Stevenson had a fireplace installed in the living room. Of course it was never used (there wasn’t even a chimney) since it is way too hot in Samoa to have any kind of fire lit inside.

Richard with his new battle axe
Before we went back to Auckland with the plane we visited a market in the capital Apia. Rhichard invested in a giant battle axe.

Me and colors
”Me and colors” – after a week without shaving.

I appologize for this very “fact”-based post (“then we did this and then we did that”) but I hope some of the nice photos can make up for it. As always, all my photos from my adventures in New Zealand (and now Samoa) can be seen at Flickr. I also have some quotes from the trip which I will probably put up at some point. I think they might only be funny if you know Max in particular – but I’ll still put them up. Also! I will tell you about quidditch soon (see, that is an excellent teaser).

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