Iqon's New Zealand Blog

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.

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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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).

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.

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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Irrelevant update

by on 9 April 2010, under New Zealand

As my previous post probably insinuated I don’t really travel around a lot at the moment to “experience New Zealand”, when I have time to sit and watch a one year old Danish standup-show on a Friday night. It is of course because I don’t feel I need to rush to see a lot of stuff this semester (I apologize for using “a lot” twice and “stuff” at all – they are such vague terms – but it is late and I really don’t want to spend too much time formulating proper sentences). I was pretty efficient last semester. Obviously that doesn’t mean that there aren’t numerous other places I still want to see before I leave, and that is definitely also the plan. However, sometimes it is nice to just have a relaxing weekend at “home” instead of going on a 22 km hike across mountains, jump from planes from 15000 ft and celebrate the end of the week by cutting your foot on a surf trip. My wallet agrees. Øystein, Tor, Laura and Stefani will know that this is not a description of a set of random events but I didn’t join them for that trip so I really don’t have anymore to say about that.

The above does of course not mean that I will spend my entire semester in Auckland. Tomorrow I will leave for Samoa, one of the islands in The Pacific. It is placed in the middle of nowhere and I assume it just lies there, looking gorgeous with its tropical climate and nice beaches. It will be fun, although we still don’t have any idea about what we are going to see or do on the island during the seven days we are there. I’m sure we will figure something out, though. I also plan to do a couple of hikes before too long; the hiking boots I invested in last semester needs to be used again soon.

Now that there doesn’t happen too much exciting stuff I feel is worth telling about on the blog I might as well explain a bit about the project which I have gone to New Zealand to write (hm, even when I translate it it is an extremely bad sentence). Unfortunately I have chosen to finish this blog post just minutes before I have to go to bed in order to be “ready” (if that’s possible after less than five hours of sleep) for the Samoa trip. The story about my project will therefore have to wait for another time. That’s twice in a row I have posted a blog post without any pictures. I will make up for it next time, I assume. Anticlimatic endings” tag achieved once again.

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A single sentence

by on 3 April 2010, under Uncategorized

I have often complained that I write too long posts. This one is essentially a single sentence (however, it needs this introduction and an explanation afterwards) but some might still consider the post too long. The reason should become clear shortly. And now… the sentence:

“Even today I am bitterly annoyed that I have ever supported such a bunch of moccasin-wearing half-naked loincloth-wrapping face- and body-painted bison-grease-as-an-early-alternative-to-Dax-Wax-in-the-hair-rubbing-and-afterwards-with-eagle-feathers-decorating growth-of-beard-lacking hardly-photogenic fond-of-finery-not-to-say-androgynous-bordering-gayness the-outright-metro-sexuality-trend-foreseeing-Village-People-inspiring but also with some more masculine and warrior like sides and on that account tomahawk-wielding knife-throwing bow-thrusting fast-riding scalp-taking torture-practicing smoke-signal-up-sending “ug ug”-expressing stagecoach-robbing cavalry-slaughtering beaver-skin-for-firewater-trading rain-dancing cactus-eating peace-pipe-in-a-circle-around-the-bonfire-sucking painful-sun-dance-ritual-performing hooknosed and with the-hand-over-the-eyes-for-shade-far-out-in-the-horizon-scouting bear-hunting canoe-sailing paddle-paddling shoe-fucking tepee-slash-wigwam-inhabiting ill-fated-treaty-signing-and-henceforth-for-ever-at-a-reservation-placed Manitou-also-called-Wakan-Tanka-worshipping dream-catching soul-traveling horse-whispering wolf-dancing and by-and-large with the wild-animals-on-the-prairie close-communicating drum-playing and at-certain-special-ceremonies-around-ingeniously-carved-totem-poles-wildly-in-trance-dancing for twenty-four-dollars-and-a-bag-of-glass-beads-one’s-own-native-country-to-the-palefaces-away-giving once-at-the-Littlebig-Horn-River-winning-but-subsequently-tribe-for-tribe-via-the-Gatling-gun-greatly-eradicated flute-tooting mesacline-tripping spirit-conjuring gibberish-speaking and at-especially-stupid-occasions-with-even-more-special-and-stupid-bison-headgear-wearing even-today-with-rugged-but-dexterous-fingers-bird-feather-animal-bones-stupid-jewelry-with-sale-from-this-year’s-Roskilde-Festival-in-mind-producing and subsequently straight-away-for-the-profit-casino-buying sweat-lodge-frequenting pathfinding dart-throwing self-sufficient in-the-forrest-shitting and last but not least with the Greenlandic-Eskimos-about-sad-cultural-heritage-and-inclination-to-addiction-to-drinking-tightly-competing BASTARDS!”

That is, in fact, a single sentence. And now the explanation: I cannot take credit for that beautifully constructed sentence, unfortunately. Instead the credit should go to the Danish comedian Anders “Anden” (“The Duck”) Matthesen. He is basically the biggest genius in Danish show business, having created brilliant CD’s, radio shows, movies, stand-up shows etc. Everything he touches turns into gold, he always reinvents himself and come up with new approaches to entertaining people which have never been seen before. The sentence above proves that the man is brilliant. Not so much because of its content word-by-word – it is a fairly racist and complicated way to say “Native Americans” – but the fact that he actually manages to remember that one sentence and express it without a single pause is just mind-boggling. And he is not racist – the sentence is taken out of context from a joke which goes far deeper. Even though everything he does is hysterically funny he always manages to also have a morale behind his shows which is also impressive.

And that is what happens when I have a quiet Friday night where I watch a bit of standup. I don’t want to know how long I spent writing that sentence down (in Danish) and just to translate it afterwards.

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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.

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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