Iqon's New Zealand Blog

PSV

Taranaki, Wagamama’s and Eurovision

by on 18 June 2010, under New Zealand, PSV

Interesting fact: The following post the very first this semester receiving the tag “Me complaining”. That specific tag was one of the most heavily used last semester. In comparison “Ankles” has been used three times this semester and “Anti climatic endings” four times. Thank you, Wagamama’s for ruining a good run. You can see all the different tags I have used on the blog on the right, including old favorites such as “Public toilets”.

Wooh! It is time to actually (almost) catch up with the present on this blog after having been several weeks behind. Yay! And so much enthusiasm as well! Three exclamation marks in just two lines – and here is another one: !

This semester I have really wanted to go on some hikes but due to several different circumstances (waiting for other people to have the time and the car to be willing to drive) it didn’t happen until a couple of weeks ago. The trip went to Taranaki which had also been the plan a couple of weeks earlier. We were seven people who went in two groups: Skott, Tor and I (the Scandinavians) in one group and Ilana, Jeremy, Mickey and Max (Americans + a Frenchman) in the other. We, in the first group, left fairly early in the morning (especially considering it was a Saturday) while the other group followed some hours later since Max had to teach some tennis lessons before he could go. We were going on a two days’ hike where the first day was fairly short (about 4 hours according to Department of Conservation) while the next day was supposed to be much longer (7-10 hours). The plan was for the two groups to meet in the hut after the first day’s short hike. The first group had to buy and bring the food for the rest to minimize the risk that the second group had to walk too far in the dark.

Mount Tarankai/Egmont is fairly easy to locate on a map due of its very iconic cone shape, as I also mentioned in my last blog post. Unfortunately it was too late in the season to actually climb all the way to the top of the mountain without having to use ice axes and cramp-ons. It would be possible to rent them but you would have to prove that you actually knew how to use the equipment – such an unreasonable requirement. The hike we went on was therefore not straight up the mountain – we did have it in background for most of the hike, providing a pleasant scenery. I had been a bit nervous that the hike might be a bit boring with just an even-leveled path since we weren’t going up the mountain. Luckily I had no reason for such fears. It was actually a quite interesting hike; some places it was hard to see that it was actually a proper path since rocks were lying everywhere. When we realized that the other group was so delayed that they would have to do the entire first day’s hike in the dark, I called them and warned them not to do it. It didn’t really seem like a very good idea to climb around on those rocks in the dark with a scary chasm at one of the sides. We had enough trouble just crossing in daylight. They didn’t really seem to listen to me, though.

As is tradition: Haka before the hike
It has become a tradition to start our hikes with a haka

Tramping on the edge
A small example of some of the rock slides we had to cross the first day.

Norwegian, scouting for the path
Tor, scouting for the path.

We arrived at the hut exactly as it got dark which was pretty lucky since none of us had brought flashlights. We spent a good deal of time trying to light a fire which proved to be quite difficult since none of us had thought about bringing matches or a lighter either (I guess we weren’t really well-prepared). However, since we were three engineers we figured that we should be able to create fire somehow. Immediately Skott started trying the well-known “wood-against-wood-makes-fire” trick. Since the hut was lit by light bulbs powered by solar collectors we also considered the possibility of short-circuiting one of them, giving rise to a useful spark. We spent some time considering different options until I in the end chose to take the lighter hanging on the notice board and suggesting we could maybe use that.

4) Stab the piece of wood
Skott, trying to create fire.

When it was about 9pm we figured it was time to go to bed. At this point we had realized that the others had probably chosen to listen to my warnings and skipped the hike. They arrived at 10pm after having spent five hours on the same trip we spent two and a half to do.

The second day was very nice with a view of the mountain most of the day. About halfway through the hike, which ended up taking about eight hours, the nature of the path changed dramatically. While the first part had consisted of either stairs or level ground, the second half offered almost vertical drops which made for some quite interesting climbs. There were also a couple of rivers we had to cross by walking around on slippery rocks. During the last half hour I managed to throw away my lens cap for my camera and twist my ankle (as I had predicted I would do in the beginning of the day – I love my ankles) – these were two separate occurrences. Just as we were done with the hike it started to rain. It kept raining for the six hours it took to drive back to Auckland. Such a nice end.

Traditional pre-hike haka. Max (and partly Ilana) didn't get the idea
We tried to introduce the other group for the idea about starting the day with a haka. Max (and to some degree Ilana) obviously didn’t manage to grasp the concept.

Mount Taranaki and a group of posers
Mount Taranaki with Max, Skott and Tor posing in front of it.

... and still climbing down
As I mentioned, some places the path just went straight down. Luckily, ladders were placed at the worst parts

Some places the track was hidden pretty well. This sign says "Track", quite helpful
The path was sometimes quite hard to find. The sparse markings with signs did however help us find our way.

The suspension bridge where I threw away my lenscap - and minutes after twisted my ankle. Yup, I am a genius
The suspension bridge where I chose to throw my lens cap away.

The following Monday I went to Wagamama’s for the first time for the dinner which is held for the PSV residents once every semester. It was a very chaotic and messy dinner. We were split up at three long tables and the dishes arrived in an order which appeared to be fairly random to me. A lot of people got their main before the starter and long before a lot of other people at the table had received any food at all. We quickly found out that you just had to eat whatever you were served when it was served since you had no idea when anything else would arrive for either you or the others sitting around you, staring hungrily and jealously at your food. I think our table got the desserts before those sitting at the last table got their starters. The serving of the dessert was also disappointing. Many (including me) had ordered cheesecake which the waiter didn’t have any problems with. When the others around me started getting their desserts and I could see I wasn’t about to have any, I asked the waiter where my cheesecake was. Apparently they never had it. One of the alternatives, a chocolate cake with ice cream, they only had five pieces of. Not too organized when you know a big group is coming. The food was fine, though.

Tuesday I went (alone) to the cinema to see Kick-Ass which I am really happy I did. It is an amazing movie about a relatively geeky guy who wonders why nobody has tried to become a superhero in real life. After this realization he naturally decides to try it out himself. The movie develops into something completely different by the end – almost as if it is three different movies of different genres, each extremely entertaining. The end of the movie contains action sequences which reminded me of some of Tarantino’s amazing movies which is probably one of the strongest recommendations I can give.

Thursday I had been invited for dinner at Jocelyn’s, one of the two Frenchmen who I went to Samoa with. crêpes were served and wine was drunk in a truly French manner. It was a very enjoyable evening.

Sunday I got up at 7 to watch the Eurovision with Tor. Unfortunately we missed about 10 songs in the middle of the show because the stream died. We did get to see the random stuntman running onto the stage during Spain’s performance (I thought he was part of the show until the hosts pointed out that Spain of course would get to sing again since their song had been ruined), Moldova’s amazing attempt to one-up last years winner by not only having a fiddle, but a glowing one (with a lot of other craziness added). We also got to see Germany’s winning song and Denmark’s performance. I was very happy when Denmark received top points from the first two countries after which Lena from Germany started getting all the points which in the end resulted in her winning. Tor was happy that Norway managed to (only just) beat Moldova and I was amused about the fact that the UK, which is secured a spot in the final each year since they put so much money into the Eurovision, ended dead last with only 10 points (Denmark had 12 points after the very first of 39 countries had given their votes). Tor and I agreed that we were content with Lena winning, though, since that resulted in a memorable interview with an extremely nervous 19 year old girl who didn’t look comfortable on the stage at all. It didn’t help that she had to be interviewed in English which was obviously not her language of preference. Classic moments such as a very cautious “Hiiiii” as answer to a number of questions she did not understand or “I… I don’t think I am strong enough… to carry this… the whole time” about the trophy she had just been handed immediately appear in my head. The same does the image of the poor German girl who tries to hide by wrapping her head in the German flag when the whole situation becomes too much for her and at last her surprised expression when she realize she has to sing again (“Do I have to sing… NOW?”). Luckily the stream continued for a bit after her song was over: They just let her stay on the stage without anyone helping her. She had no idea what to do or say and in the end she had to switch to German in order to at least manage to mumble something remotely coherent until they unfortunately turned off the stream.

Later that day Ilana, Max and I went on a small trip to Rangitoto Island, a small volcanic island close to Auckland. It was a nice little walk up and down the volcano. We had a very nice view of Auckland from the top. The weather was perfect with the sun shining from a cloudless sky. I am still amazed that it is possible to have such beautiful weather, now that we have officially entered winter here in New Zealand. I don’t get where the annoying, bitter cold, the persistent darkness and the horrible snow, that completely ruins your chances of going anywhere without getting your feet wet, have gone. It is definitely not winter, as I know it, and I am quite happy about that.

DSC_1896
View from Rangitoto. Auckland is the city in the world with most boats per capita.

As I also mentioned last time I have been quite bad at writing blog posts this semester (thereby not implying I was doing a good job of it last semester either). Hopefully I will manage to write at least a couple more before I leave New Zealand. However, it has started to dawn upon me that I will have to leave soon. Students all around me are busy with exams which is usually a sign that the semester is about to end. At the same time a lot of people have started talking about leaving resulting in the mandatory invitations for goodbye parties. Indeed, some people have already left which of course is very sad. Unfortunately that is how it always goes with these studies abroad, as I have now started to get so accustomed to.

Coming up: A post about what it is I spend my normal weekdays on down here!

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Wine tasting, comedy and rugby

by on 6 June 2010, under New Zealand, PSV

I have been pretty bad at writing blog posts this semester; to the disappointment of a lot of people, I am sure. Last time I teased about stories about wine tasting and a failed attempt to go on a hike – but wait! There’s more! Included in this month’s edition of my blog post is also comedy and rugby, amongst other things. Very interesting indeed.

But we start at the wine tasting which at this point took place more than a month ago; proof that I have been horrible at producing these amazing blog posts people have become so used to. On the other hand, there is always guarantee for quality, fun and clever remarks. The first weekend in May was the one I spent so much time on last time: The one with air guitar, kiwi fruits and quidditch. A quick side note about quidditch: I will probably not get to see it in NZ. The people who arrange the tournament have chosen to place the matches at a school a bit away from here. I think it might look a bit suspicious if I showed up at a school, in the middle of a weekend, to watch a bunch of kids playing quidditch. But back to the wine tasting: Kirsty, Ilana (again, people from Flat 15), Max (French guy who at this point is as big a part of Flat 15 as I am, without any of us actually living there) and I chose to complete an amazing weekend by going to Waiheke Island on a sunny Sunday. Waiheke Island is located about 30 minutes by ferry from Downtown Auckland. It is (by my personal experience) a sunny island, filled with fantastic beaches and a very laid back atmosphere. The island is well-known for its plentiful wine production and is a popular place for people to go visit and taste the different wines each vineyard has to offer. It was a very enjoyable way to end the weekend. We went to three different vineyards which all had different approaches to how they presented the wines. At Stonyridge Vineyard we bought two glasses of wine to share among the four of us. We enjoyed these wines while sitting outside, enjoying the sun and the green fields surrounding us.

Tasting wine at Stonyridge Vineyard. We all quite enjoyed "Luna Negra"
Stonyridge Vineyard – it was here we found our favorite wine on the trip, Luna Negra.

Wine notes or lyrics creation...
As the the true Frenchman, Max is, he felt a sudden surge of inspiration with the first taste of proper wine. Here he is in the midst of writing lyrics for his song.

From Stonyridge Vineyard we continued to Te Whau where we got to taste the same wine from different years. Here they did do a better job of actually presenting the wines. The wine reminded Max of his home region, Bordeaux, to such an extent that he had to invest in two bottles of wine.

Te Whau Vineyard
People sitting, enjoying their wines at Te Whau.

The final stop of the day was Mudbrick Vineyard, one of the most popular vineyards at Waiheke. Here the presentations of the wines were a bit more like we had expected before the trip, with six different wines in six minutes, with a brief description of each attached. We got the abridged version of the wine tasting since a wedding reception was about to take place. That someone would choose a place like that to host their wedding did make a lot of sense – the surroundings were amazing.

Bride and groom arrives at the wedding held at Mudbrick Vineyard
Bride and groom arrive at the wedding reception at Mudbrick Vineyard.

The plan for the following weekend was to go to Taranaki to do the first hike of the semester. Taranaki is an area 5-6 hours drive Southwest of Auckland. The destination was Mount Taranaki/Egmont, a very iconic volcano which is easy to spot when looking at a map of New Zealand since it is almost perfectly shaped like a cone, meaning it appears as a clear circle (or, to be correct, a disk since a circle technically only refers to the circumference of the complete area) on the map. The plan was that Ilana, Mickey (Ilana’s friend), Tor (Norwegian whom I know from last semester and sometimes play squash against) and I had planned to leave early Saturday morning in order to go on a two day hike near the volcano and still be able to be back before the weekend was over. The trip never took place, though since the dear Subaru Legacy, which has been acting so loyal ever since Skott and I bought it last semester, chose to simply stop after having driven a couple of hundred meters. It happened in the middle of The Domain, the park Parnell Student Village is placed right next to. After having tried to start the car for a couple if hours (which among other things involved asking random runners for help with pushing the car) we had to cancel the trip. In the end the battery in the car had been so drained that not even the hazard lights functioned anymore. I had to pay 80 NZD to get the car towed back the 500-800 meters we had managed to push it through the park. The membership Skott and I bought from AA (Automobile Association) was only in his name which meant he had to be present if we were going get anything out of it. Skott and I met at my place the following Monday to get the car repaired somehow. Before we tried anything else, Skott wanted to try one last time to start the car. None of us were very hopeful, though, as it is seldom very easy to start a car with a dead battery. It worked, though. We drove it to a repair shop where we were told they couldn’t really find the problem until the car wouldn’t start again. Since then, the car has been working fine.

That week in general was pretty eventful with plans for every day. Tuesday meant yet another of my weekly salsa lessons. I still don’t really know why I did take those lessons but I did manage to survive the eight lessons I payed for (although I only showed up for six of them). After Salsa, I went to see Iron Man 2 with Skott and Vegard. I have almost completely neglected going to the cinema this semester which is stupid of me since the tickets here are extremely cheap (10 NZD) compared to what I would have to pay in Denmark. I must try to correct that mistake during my last month in the country. I feel like using the good old cliché “OK, without being anything special” to describe the movie (at least, something similar is a quite well-known phrase used over and over for movie and video game reviews in Denmark). However, that does not really say anything about it. I remember the first movie to be much better and more entertaining, resulting in a slight disappointment about the sequel; a bit too much empty-headed action and a completely irrelevant side story only used to try to setup the upcoming Avengers movie which I do look forward to, mostly because Josh Wedon has been chosen as the director. Vegard complained that the movie was too unrealistic – I’m not quite sure what he had expected when he walked in to see a superhero movie.

Wednesday I participated in a sports tournament (interres) for the second week in a row. This tournament has taken place during most of the semester and requires the different student housings to compete against each other in different kinds of sports. I represented PSV for two weeks by playing handball for them. It was very interesting since nobody down here really knows about the fantastic (Danish) invention, handball is. Those who have been following my blog ridiculously closely might remember that I in the beginning of the semester signed of for “Beginner’s handball”. Contrary to the salsa lessons I only showed up for the very first handball lesson where I realized it was a bit too much “beginner’s” for my taste. I was offered to play matches for their “Advanced” team. Unfortunately I never did pull myself together to contact the relevant person about it. I also think their matches were placed at bad times, though. The interres tournament was a good opportunity for me to get to play a bit of handball again. It was very entertaining to see people’s take on the sport. Naturally it ended up looking more like basketball than normal, European handball. Most people seemed to enjoy it, though, which I guess is the most important part.

Thursday we went to see a comedy show. It was the last week of the three week’s comedy festival so it was one of the last chances we had to get to see one of the many comedians who performed during those weeks. The biggest difficulty was deciding on a show since there were so many to choose between. They all had descriptions which basically stated that the show was funny and since we didn’t know any kiwi comedians it was very hard to tell which shows would be good and which would be bad. Kirsty and I spent a whole evening cutting down the big list of candidates to just one person. The process of elimination included removal due to unforgivable traits such as “being British” (Kirsty’s request), “being a woman”, “having a bad description of the show” or “appear so far down the list of candidates that we cannot possibly include anymore for the next round”. Of course the process did not stop here. Thorough YouTube research was applied along with the creation of a complex point system based on e.g. show length, price and extra features such as being able to sit around tables. We ended up being a group of eight who went to see Brendan Lovegrove who is apparently a fairly well-known Kiwi comedian. He had a couple of jokes which were quite funny but in general it was a bit disappointing. His show seemed to aim at the lowest common denominator (intelligence wise). Most of the jokes had some vaguely racist tendencies or included silly masturbation gesticulations. Our group had been spread around most of the room since we were told to fill up all the tables in front. They didn’t want empty spaces since the show was being recorded. Even though we had been spread out like that, Brendan still managed to pick out almost every single member of the group. He kept returning to me which wasn’t really that surprising since I had managed to place myself on the first row, directly in front of him. Unfortunately the man seemed to be too unintelligent to be able to come of with any kind of relevant jokes concerning me (that should be quite easy, I would say). He did keep returning to the subject of Denmark, clearly not knowing the slightest thing about it. At least I wasn’t accused of being in a boy band which has happened twice before (out of three times) when I have gone to see standup in Denmark. I guess that is progress.

Friday it was time to celebrate Esther (another Flat 15 member) in occasion of her birthday. This was done with dinner at an Indian restaurant followed by a variety of cakes back in Flat 15. I have become pretty used to going there for cake or other baked goods.

Saturday we went to see rugby. Auckland Blues against Hamilton Chiefs. Going to a rugby match was still left on my list of things I needed to do before I leave New Zealand. It was fairly entertaining (the home team, Blues won) and it was nice having Max by my side so he could explain the rules as the game was progressing. I don’t think it is a sport I will ever really get. There are too many breaks and far too many situations with men who throw themselves into a big pile to hug each other.

Another scrum
I feel this situation is very typical for rugby: A lot of men hugging each other.

That's one popular pole!
At times the rugby players also share their love with different objects. Here they are cuddling with a pole.

Being thrown high into the air
Throw-ins in rugby are quite interesting. They are not only throwing the ball but also each other.

I am still a couple of weeks behind in telling about what I’m doing in New Zealand. I also need to post something about my thesis. But that will be another time since I have already spent far too much space writing about (for the common reader) fairly irrelevant events. I’m not certain this sudden end qualifies the post for the famous “anti-climatic endings”. But it is my blog, and I decide, so of course this is another post with that tag attached to it.

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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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Nothing new

by on 15 October 2009, under New Zealand, PSV, UoA, Hiking

It has been awfully quiet on my blog recently and I know a lot of people must fear that something has happened to me. I can understand that, I mean, we have had a couple of tsunamis here. In this connection I would like to thank everybody for not sending me a single concerned message. It is nice to know that you are loved… I hope you, my dear reader, catches the double sarcasm used in the remark above but down here I have learned that not everybody gets my humor which probably does not give the right image of me as the fantastic guy that I really am.

But what has happened these last couple of weeks since I have been so busy that I haven’t been able to look after my exciting blog? Not much, actually. After the break there has been a bit more focus on the school work but it is not too bad. I have already completed one course by giving a single presentation about an article that proved to be completely wrong (I did suspect that when I read it but might not have been too clear about this in my presentation). In my other courses it is going pretty well also (thanks for asking), at least I have gotten full marks in all my assignments (although I have received no extra marks for the new ones as I did in my first assignment), except for one where marks were deducted since I hadn’t been able to fit an introduction and conclusion into an assignment which was limited to three pages.

To illustrate how little is going on down here at the moment I will now tell you about me and cleaning (I could also call it “me and the encounter with other cultures” but that would make it sound much more thrilling than it actually is). I do have a couple of places where I don’t represent the typical Danish man. Some might call me a nerd; others call me “special” which I have chosen to take as a compliment (you only get the compliments you claim yourself – at least in my experience). One of the things that makes me “special” is apparently my attitude towards cleaning or at least washing-up. Apparently it is quite unreasonable to ask your flatmates to clean their pots, pans, dishes etc. after they have used it. Instead, this is a task that rests on the next person who wants to cook something (i.e. me). I make it sound worse than it is but after a couple of discussions with my flatmates about this matter I have concluded that I must be wrong – although I have still not realized why (this might be one of the drawbacks of living with three girls, I suppose). I guess I will learn why at some point.

A couple of weeks ago the flats in PSV were inspected. They were going to check if we kept our flat in a nice condition. This was a good excuse to do some proper cleaning which was definitely needed. I will let the picture of the area behind the oven speak for itself, although I can mention that the top of the shelves didn’t look much better.

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Behind the oven before the cleaning.
It is funny that the only one who seems to agree somewhat with me down here when it comes to cleaning is the other Dane in PSV, Skott (or, I think another Dane also lives here but I never meet her). When I was studying in the US I encountered the same phenomenon. The kitchen was extremely gross and useless. One of the first things us four Danes did when we moved in was to clean the disgusting fridges. When we spoke with the international office about the matter later on they mentioned that it was weird that it was always Danes who complained about the lack of cleaning – as if they had encountered that exact problem before without doing much about it. Cleanliness is apparently a very Danish thing which I haven’t valued enough so far.

The dangerous fridge
The fridge in my dorm in the US.

That must be enough complaining for now. To continue on a more positive note I can mention that I once again have become quite good at twisting my ankle. My left foot seems particularly happy to place itself at wrong angles at the moment, which is usually followed by delightful pain. One of the times I twisted my left ankle was on a new trip to Waitakere Ranges, which I also visited one of my first days down here. This time we went on another hike which wasn’t as impressive as the first one to Karekare. This was probably because of the fog which made it impossible to enjoy the nice views from the hilltops we climbed. The most exciting part about the hike was probably the last half hour where we almost got lost. The path we were supposed to follow was marked off pretty badly. Or to be more precise, the markers were put in one direction, the path was continuing in another. We chose to follow the path even though it kept going upwards and it started getting pretty windy. It was at this point that my left ankle decided that it would be perfect timing to twist. And so it did, just as we had reached the top and had started to climb down, still not knowing if we were on the right path. Very exciting last part of the hike indeed.

The other times I have twisted my ankle have been while playing squash. When you live in one of the student accommodations provided by the university you get free access to the university’s recreation centre which includes two squash courts. I often play against my American friend, Josh, whom I beat regularly – it is always fun. A tip for pros: Don’t step on the walls since this is when you can most easily twist your ankles. I am sure that it takes professional squash players much longer to learn this lesson than the week it took me to realize it. Of course it can be debated whether or not I have learned it yet, seeing as I today, many weeks after the first incident, chose to step on a wall again…

I hope that the above is enough about “everyday life in NZ” as was requested by my readers (or at least one) – I can’t really come up with much more ordinary things to bore people with.

I will try to improve my segues for my later blog posts so the paragraphs will not be connected by me complaining and talk about my bad ankles.

But now it is my birthday! And with that, I will end this post (yeah, I should try to improve the way I end my blog posts also).

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