Iqon's New Zealand Blog

Tag: USA

Since NZ

by on 7 March 2010, under USA

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

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

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

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

And so I did!!1!11!oneone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Java, playing in water/mud.

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Lucky, the happiest dog in the world.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rarotonga airport.

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Rarotonga definitely looked like a place worth visiting.

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Rarotonga from above.

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

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Part 7: The rest of the rest

by on 13 February 2010, under Julekalender, New Zealand, USA

Well, let’s get this over with. There is not that much left to talk about, but you will get a couple of photos.

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After the eventful visit to Queenstown we continued to Christchurch, the “capital” of the South Island. On our way there we passed some beautiful blue lakes.

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While Caroline suddenly thought it was “too expensive” to do the proper bungy jump when we were standing on the platform in Queenstown she had no trouble doing this “bungy jump” in Christchurch.

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While Skott, Søren and Caroline tried to find somewhere to surf, Kristian and I met up with one of Kristian’s friends who lives in Christchurch. He gave us a guided tour of the outskirts of Christchurch. What you see above is a view of the city.

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We had been driving around with three surf boards on our entire trip. Still, the three surfers had not been doing much surfing on our trip. After Christchurch we continued to Kaikoura which is supposed to be the closest thing you come to a surfer’s paradise on the South Island. We had therefore planned to spend three days there so the poor surfers could finally get to do some surfing. Unfortunately there were no waves whatsoever so they had to come up with some other ways to have fun, illustrated by the above photo.

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Kaikoura is also well known for its spectacular bird and sea life. People come from a far to swim with dolphins, see albatrosses and watch whales. Caroline and I went on a whale watching trip where we got to see a couple of sperm whales. Unfortunately we never got a chance of getting the famous “tale shot” so we did get a small refund after the trip.

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Sunset in Kaikoura.

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We lived in a very nice hostel which had both a jacuzzi, swimming pool and a sauna. Here we met Matias, Samantha and their friend Lars. Matias and Samantha are two Danes we had met while studying in Auckland and it was a bit odd to just run into them like that. They joined us for our celebration of our last night on the South Island by camping with us near a beach a bit from Kaikoura.

Here it would have been nice with a photo which we unfortunately never took. However, it still appears pretty clear in my mind, even though I wasn’t even there. We had to get up way too early the next day in order to catch the ferry back to the North Island. Before we left, however, Søren had to be dropped off in Kaikoura since he was going to stay at the South Island. Caroline took care of that and she left Søren at a hostel, all alone and with all the rubbish we had managed to produce on our little camping trip, all his lugage, his surfboard and with “many, many hangovers” as he phrased it. To complete the picture it started raining as soon as Caroline dropped him off. We also had to say goodbye to Caroline that day. We left her in Wellington after having gone on the ferry from Picton.

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We took the ferry back to North Island in daylight so we could enjoy the fine view.

We (which now means Kristian, Skott and I) drove to Taupo to spend the night. We had planned to skydive the next day. Unfortunately it was too cloudy and windy. After having waited for a couple of hours for the weather to get better, we had to give up and continue towards Auckland which at this point felt a bit like returning “home”.

In Auckland we spent a couple of days saying goodbye to the last couple of people. The last night we had a barbeque and went to a big Christmas show (Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park) in The Domain. I have mentioned it before, but it still seems extremely weird to try to celebrate Christmas when the sun is beaming down. I associate Christmas with extreme darkness most of the day, and a coldness you just wish would go away immediately. Christmas is indeed a happy time.

Luckily I did manage to get into the proper Christmas mood after four days in Christmas decorated New York. It had all the stressed people you could dream about, a piercing and annoying coldness plus overcrowded streets and shops. Exactly my idea of Christmas. It was a big contrast after having spent some weeks traveling around in the beautiful, sunny, green and scarcely populated South Island of New Zealand… I have a feeling you might be able to guess which I preferred the most. New York was still as impressive as the last time I visited it 2.5 years ago, though, which the photos below are supposed to illustrate.

Some places people were queueing up to get to look at the Christmas decorations in the shop windows
A lot of the shopwindows were of course decorated for Christmas. Some places they had set up specific queues for people who wanted to get a glimpse of the windows.

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We got to see a Broadway-show, Chicago. Here Skott is excited about the show being about to start… this is just before we were told in a strict tone to put away the camera and not use it again while inside the theater.

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Of course we had to go by the Statue of Liberty.

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We had a “tourist day” where we visited the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Bodies – The Exhibition, American Museum of Natural History (where the above photo is from), Leonardo da Vinci’s Workshop and ended at high up in The Empire State Building.

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The view from The Empire State Building was excellent, just as it had been two and a half years ago.

Just to end this blog post in a weird way (which isn’t actually that odd for this blog) I want to give some advice about buying burgers in the US (well, it might be more of a warning). See, the burgers sold in the US apparently don’t have to contain any of the ingredients which usually make that particular kind of food interesting. A burger can, according to the Americans, just consist of a boring white bun and some beef without anything else. No salad, tomato, cucumber, avocado, bacon, egg or whatever people normally try to put in their burgers. Luckily, you do get to add ketchup to your burger if you wish to and it is usually apparent if the burger comes with cheese or not (usually indicated by the small word “cheese” in front of the word “burger” in the menu). And this bun with some beef they had the nerve to charge $12 for.

Actually, I would be able to continue complaining about stuff in the US. For example I don’t get how you can have a system where you can’t trust the price tags on things since they always add taxes afterwards. Or the mandatory tips which would be included automatically in the salary if you lived in a normal, civilized country… I think, however, that I have complained about this stuff before, back when I studied at Caltech in California and also wrote a blog. Therefore, I will stop complaining about the States (for now) – this blog is supposed to be about my experiences in New Zealand, and therefore also my complaints about that country. Luckily there will be a lot more room for that the next half year since I will be returning to the other end of the world, this time to write my thesis.

So… stay tuned!

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The return of the blog!

by on 17 December 2009, under Julekalender, New Zealand

As I promised in my last blog post I have held a long break from writing anything on this great blog. Now, I can’t keep that promise anymore. I have been traveling around New Zealand for almost a month (finishing with a couple of days in New York) and there is a lot to tell about. Of course I don’t want anyone to miss out so the next week will be filled with exciting new and frequent blog posts if I can pull myself together to actually write them.

There might be several reasons why you read this blog in English:
1. You might not have found out yet that you can change the language of the blog on the right hand side which would make me kind of sad since the function of those two flags should be pretty self-explanatory.
2. You might have found out that my English versions of my blog posts contain even more nonsense (such as this whole paragraph – you would have no idea it existed if you read the Danish version) and for some reason you tend to prefer that.
3. You prefer my English formulations.
4. You simply don’t understand Danish (which I feel is the least valid reason for reading my blog in English. Personally I have been able to understand and speak Danish since I was very young, so why shouldn’t you?).

Anyway, if you belong to the (very limited) group of people who read my blog in English due to Reason 4, you might not know what a julekalender (Christmas calendar) is. Which means I will have to explain it to you, even though Wikipedia does a pretty good job. It is a Scandinavian invention (apparently the Swedes were first with the idea in 1960, followed by the Danes in 1962). It is basically a TV show split into 24 episodes (kind of like 24 with Jack Bauer, just not as action packed, and usually with a bit more Christmas mood and more child friendly) aired from the 1st of December till the 24th where we celebrate Christmas in the evening here in Scandinavia. It is actually a pretty good tradition and it makes sense it is Scandinavian since we really don’t have anything else to do than to watch TV when we come to December – it is way too dark and cold to go outside.

Now you can add:
5. You get amazing lessons about Denmark/Scandinavia.
to the list of reasons to read my blog in English.

But now you know what a julekalender is, and you accept that it doesn’t have to be a TV show but can also be a written 24-part story, we can return to my blog post as I was translating it from Danish:
My blog can now be seen as a kind of julekalender, even though it won’t be in 24 parts, there is no guarantee that the finale will come on the 24th (which basically was my complete definition of a julekalender, but you must learn to live with it), there will be considerably less interested people following it and way less uncertainty about the final outcome than usual. Still, it is a story in multiple parts written and told during several days in December so it has a bit to do with a julekalender.

At the moment I am sitting at a hostel in New York and I am just about ready to return to Denmark. I am leaving tomorrow and I hope that my parents will be able to get through the climate chaos (not only due to the Climate Meeting ending and Obama having to leave the country from the airport but also since it apparently snowed in Denmark which I am not too fond of) so they can pick me up at the airport.

But I should stop here – if I don’t I will fuck up the chronology of my blog, and we can’t have a julekalender which starts with the end (no matter how anti climatic that end might be). Talking about anti climatic endings: At this point I was considering giving you some teaser for what you can expect in the upcoming blog posts but I won’t.

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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.

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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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