Iqon's New Zealand Blog

Tag: James

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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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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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).

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.

Dragons belong to every chinese celebration

Long dragon.

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.

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

Colorful tiger.

More colors.

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

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.

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

It is always a great sign of quality when the packing contains “alternative” English. The text on the box reads:
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.

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.

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.

Through the hole.

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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