Sunday, March 28, 2010

Kiwi 101

Hey gang!

After a relaxing weekend, I am looking forward to being active again during my fall break, which starts next weekend, and lasts for two weeks. I am sure I will have plenty to talk about and tons of pictures after that, but for now, I thought I would take this time to do something I haven’t really done yet with this blog. New Zealand is very much like the United States in many aspects, but in others it is very different. First, I’ll share with you all some of the common phrases used in NZ:

“Sweet as”

The Kiwis add the word “as” to the end of pretty much anything they say, and when I first got here, I found myself saying “Sweet as…what? Cool as…what?” The answer is nothing. Just “as” whatever you want it to be. The most common version of this phrase is “sweet as,” which is basically Kiwi for “cool,” and you will hear it hundreds of times on any given day, because everything here is, well, sweet as. :-)

“Bro” and “Mate”

Everyone here is your brother, even the women. The Kiwis are both an extremely friendly and extremely laid-back people, so everyone here is just “Bro.” Also, if you’re not someone’s “bro,” you’re their “mate.” Which makes me wonder…is the process of “friending” someone on Facebook called “mating” in NZ? Hmm

“No worries”

I haven’t seen a New Zealander worry about anything the entire time I have been here. They are the most laid-back and relaxed people I have ever met, and frankly, it is a refreshing change of pace from the fast-paced, high-stress world of the US. Lose your keys? No worries. Get in a fender-bender? No worries. Honestly, they just do not get upset about anything. Probably because they realize that life is for living, and nothing is worth getting that upset over. I think we could all do to take a page from New Zealand’s book. Along this same line is the phrase “she’ll be alright.” As in "hey bro! Your boat is sinking!" "Oh, she'll be alright."


The New Zealand alphabet ends not with the letter ‘Z,’ but the letter ‘Zed.’ To me, this is hilarious, especially when you apply it back to some common American things. For example, some popular American musicians would be Jay-Zed and Zed Zed Top. If you wanted to relax, you might sit in a La-Zed-Boy recliner.

Some other US/NZ words:

Chips – Fries

Fizzy drink – Soda pop

Flat – Apartment

Knackered – Exhausted

Lift – Elevator

Mobile – Cell phone

Petrol station – Gas station

Pissed – Intoxicated

Queue – Line

Sandals – Thongs or Jandals (Japanese sandals)

Swimsuit – Togs

Vege - Vegetable

Whinge – Complain

The one word I have found that will elicit a lot of laughter and/or strange looks if used is the word “root.” Back in the States, if you cheer on a team, you root for them. Over here, if you root for a team, you must REALLY love them, because in New Zealand, to “root” means to have sex.

You can imagine the looks I got the first time I asked a restaurant if they had any root beer. Oops.

I have mentioned how laid back the people here are, and with that, comes a LOT of understatement. Kiwis don’t get really excited about anything except rugby games (during which they go NUTS). Most of New Zealand’s humour is based on understating things, and often the deadpan manner in which a joke or story is told is funnier than the actual tale itself. Kiwis love to “take the piss” out of you (make fun of you), and if they do, it’s a sign that they like you. If you react badly to being made fun of, they will jump at the opportunity to continue to take the piss out of you until you finally lighten up a bit. :-)

Also, Kiwis tend to have pretty foul mouths. Swearing just isn't considered that big of a deal over here. Their TV is completely uncensored, and I have seen advertisements downtown with words on them in big bold letters that would make a sailor blush. One advertisement I saw that was promoting a service in which one did not have to wait in line simply proclaimed "F*** Queues!"

I have consistently been surprised at how well I am treated as a foreigner here. Kiwis LOVE Americans, and they want to know all about the US, which is very different than the reactions I have gotten in some of the other countries I have been to (I’m looking at you, France). They can tell by my accent that I am from the States, but it is not usually the accent they were expecting, as they seem to think everyone from the US either sounds like they are from the South or from the East Coast (thanks a lot, Texas and New York).

Food here is similar to the US, but I have found a few distinct differences. One of the most noticeable ones is that Kiwis don’t use any preservatives or artificial ingredients in their food, at least from what I have seen. This means that even the unhealthy food is better for you than American food, but at the same time, with no preservatives, food goes bad really quickly if not stored properly. This health-conscious attitude may be the reason I haven’t seen a single overweight Kiwi the whole time I have been here. Seriously, this whole country is skinny. Another difference is that there is no ketchup, and Kiwis instead cover their fries in tomato paste. Weird.

One of the best parts of this whole trip for me has been embracing the Kiwi mantra of “give it a go.” Basically, the people here will do pretty anything, and you are always encouraged to try something, even if you are scared or think you won’t like it. This semester for me has been about expanding my horizons, and anyone who has followed my blog can certainly see that I have been doing just that. Another great thing is that the people here are incredibly friendly, and any stranger on the street will say hello or ask you how your day is going, just because they are genuinely interested in the welfare of their fellow human beings. It is very refreshing, especially having seen how people are treated in some of the larger cities in the US. I wish that the people back home were this polite all the time.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this little glance into the Kiwi lifestyle. Next weekend I am off to the South Island for a week, and I will update soon after that! See you all then!

Much love,


Monday, March 22, 2010

There and Back Again

Hello friends,

This past weekend was one of the most physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing of my entire life. I did things I never expected or wanted to do, and I pushed my body to its breaking point. It was a harrowing couple of days, but I had experiences that I will remember for as long as I live.


After classes were done for the day, a bunch of us rented a car and drove to the town of Tarangi, where we stayed the night at a local campsite (we did this two nights without paying, but no one ever said anything, so it must not have been a big deal). We just kind of hung out for a bit, and then headed to bed. It was interesting riding on the left side of the road, but our drivers got the hang of it after a while.


We woke up early to try to catch the bus to Mount Ngauruhoe, but it had already left. Forced to change our plans at the last minute, we decided to do what anyone would do in our position: go skydiving. We drove to the nearby town of Taupo, and passed the time by visiting the beautiful Huka Falls park. Around 2:00 PM, six of us headed to Taupo Tandem Skydiving and prepared to jump out of a plane from 15,000 ft. in the air.

Now, as many of you know, I have had a deathly fear of heights for most of my life. I mean, I have turned down roller coasters cause they were too high for me. So you may ask, what was I thinking jumping out of a plane? The answer? I wasn’t thinking. When I came to New Zealand, I decided that I was going to let go of all of my inhibitions, and welcome any opportunity with open arms. Now, that’s not saying I wasn’t nervous as the plane was ascending and my instructor strapped himself to me. Are you KIDDING me?

I was scared out of my mind.

Did I let that stop me? Hell no.

I was the last one out of the plane. After watching five of my friends plummet to their certain doom, it was my turn. My instructor asked if I was ready, and before I could reply, he shoved us out of the plane. For a moment, I didn’t have a single thought in my head. Then, it hit me. I think I may have sounded something like this:


I was flying. I couldn’t believe it. It was without a doubt the biggest adrenaline rush of my entire life. I was in free-fall for a full minute, and when my instructor finally pulled our parachute, I was instantly snapped back into reality. We floated leisurely down the rest of the way back to Earth, chatting the whole way down. After a perfect landing, I re-joined the rest of my comrades, and we screamed in celebration. It truly was the scariest and most exciting experience of my life. I would do it again in a heartbeat, and it was the first significant step in conquering my fear of heights.

Me realizing I am no longer in the plane


Sunday morning we got up even EARLIER than we had on Saturday and caught the 6:00 AM bus to Mount Ngauruhoe AKA Mount Doom (it is the mountain that was used as Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings films). The bus driver told us that the forecast was for strong winds and bad weather, and that after he left us, whatever happened to us should we decide to climb the mountain was “between you and God.”


At the base of Mount Doom, ready for the longest trek of my life

The nine of us set out around 7:00 AM toward Mount Doom, with the intent to climb. And climb we certainly did. Like a merry band of hobbits, we scrambled up the rocky face of the mountain with no gear whatsoever, but a fire in our hearts. After about an hour and a half or so we reached the top of Mount Doom, and our spirits soared. The view was incredible, and we could look down into the volcanic crater that formed the cone of Mount Doom. Simply amazing. I never in my life thought that I could one day call myself a mountain climber.

Mount Doom, in all its glory

The rest of the 19.4 km walk was equally beautiful. We passed by several thermal lakes that were heated by underground vents, and travelled up and down a few more smaller mountains. After we finished the hike, we drove back to Auckland for a good night’s sleep.

All in all, it was one of the most challenging and most amazing weekends of my life, and I am so glad that I pushed myself to be stronger than my fears. It’s times like these that I am incredibly thankful for all the opportunities I have been afforded in my life.

I love you all, and I will write again soon. :-)


P.S. Here are the links to this week's Facebook photo albums:

Miscellaneous NZ

The World According to Stuart

Huka Falls

15,000 Ft. and Falling

Doom Patrol or There and Back Again


Thursday, March 18, 2010

...Special News Bulletin...

Hey gang,

I recently came to the realization that not all of the people who read my blog necessarily have a Facebook, and therefore you are being deprived of all of my pictures (minus the few I post here). Luckily, Facebook allows you to view whole albums, even if you are not on the site yourself, so here are the links to all of the pictures I have posted thus far:

In the future, I will post the links every time I take new pictures. :-)



Sunday, March 14, 2010

Pucker up!

Hello all,

It's almost midnight on a Sunday night, and I don't feel like reading my Latin chapter, which means it's time for a nonsensical blog!

I like lemonade. A lot. Since I arrived in New Zealand, I have found many different types of lemonade available for my drinking pleasure. Here I will chronicle my thoughts on each one, and how they rank against one another. This post will be updated periodically whenever I find a new brand of lemonade, but right now, here are the candidates:


Allganics Organic Lemonade

One of the first lemonades I tasted in NZ. It was good, but a bit too sweet for my taste. I tend to prefer lemonades that are more tart than sweet.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Schweppes Traditional Lemonade

I would definitely consider Schweppes to be my go-to drink when I am in the mood for a nice traditional lemonade. It has just the right mix of carbonation and lemon flavor, and it makes for a very refreshing drink, especially on a hot day.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Frank Sparkling Zesty Lemonade

Not my favorite of the bunch. It was tolerable, but it was a bit too "zesty" for my taste. I can't quite pinpoint the reason, but the flavor just seemed a bit off to me. Probably wouldn't have this again unless nothing else was available.

Rating: 1 out of 5

Phoenix Organic Lemonade

A mediocre brand. Not terrible, but certainly not the best I have tried.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Fizzarchi Sparkling Lemon

At first sip, it is very tasty, but it left a bad sort of aftertaste and really dried out my mouth. Overall, a decent flavor, but the after-effects left something to be desired.

Rating: 2 out of 5


Lemonade +

The Original L&P: Lemon & Paeroa

This drink is an interesting combination of lemon juice and mineral water from the town of Paeroa. It is only made in New Zealand, which makes it a bit of a novelty. Overall, not bad tasting, except when it gets flat, at which point it just tastes like sugar water.

Rating: 3 out of 5

deepspring lemon + lime + orange fruit drink

This is the holy grail of New Zealand lemonades. The combination of lemon and lime is delicious enough, but then someone had the audacity to throw orange flavoring in the mix as well, and the results were phenomenal. I will be hard pressed to find a drink as tasty as this one in NZ, and I will be very sad when it is no longer readily available to me after I leave.

Rating: 5 out of 5


That's all for now! I will update periodically as I find more brands to try.



Thursday, March 11, 2010

Backstreet's Back, Alright?

Welcome to my comprehensive review of the Backstreet Boys concert I attended at the Vector Arena in Auckland, New Zealand on Thursday, March 11th, 2010. Feel free to skip this entire post if you have no interest whatsoever in this band. :-)



1. Everybody (Backstreet's Back)
2. We've Got It Goin' On
3. PDA
4. Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)
5. As Long as You Love Me
6. This Is Us
7. Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely
8. All I Have to Give
9. She's a Dream
10. I'll Never Break Your Heart
11. The Call
12. The One
13. Bigger (included a sample of "True" by Spandau Ballet)
14. Shape of My Heart
15. More Than That
16. Undone
17. Incomplete
18. Larger Than Life
19. All of Your Life (You Need Love)
20. Bye Bye Love
21. I Want It That Way
22. Encore: Straight Through My Heart

Song Count Per Album:

Backstreet Boys - 6
Millennium - 4
Black & Blue - 3
Never Gone - 1
Unbreakable - 0
This Is Us - 8


My friend Haylee and I set out for the show around 6:00 PM, as the tickets said the doors opened at 6:30. About halfway to the arena, we just happened to come across a fellow named Alex who is in the Greek class that I dropped a few days ago, and whom I had only met in passing. He remembered me, though (I mean, come on, who WOULDN'T), and he was eager to help us get to our destination. Turns out he lives right down the street from the Vector Arena, so he showed us a shortcut and sent us on our way. It was most fortunate, especially because it was raining, and neither of us had thought to bring an umbrella.

We arrived at the arena to find a massive crowd of people, all standing in the pouring rain, waiting for the doors to open. If anyone thinks that this group isn't popular anymore, they are dead wrong. Shortly after arriving (around 6:20 PM), we were informed that the doors would now be opening at 7:00 PM. Great. That meant another 40 minutes of standing and soaking in the rain. Haylee and I amused ourselves by making ugly faces (one of my favorite pastimes), and commenting loudly on how disgusting we found the women who were smoking behind us (three cigarettes in 30 minutes is a LITTLE excessive, people).

When the doors FINALLY opened, Haylee and I ran upstairs, where we found another set of closed doors, and were forced to wait another 15 minutes before we could be seated. We eventually reached our seats, and around 7:30, the opening act came onstage. He was a local fella named J. Williams, and while he had some decent singing skills, he was not nearly as good as any of the people he was very clearly imitating (Chris Brown, Akon, etc). I felt that BSB could have found someone a little more polished to open for them, but I give them props for supporting a Kiwi act, and, clearly, the locals in the crowd really dug this guy, cause they went NUTS when he came onstage. Plus, he had a dance crew, which is always cool to see.

Around 8:45, a giant countdown clock appeared on a projection screen onstage, and we knew it was time. The Boys made their entrance in a cloud of smoke, and launched right into an excellent rendition of one of their first hits, "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)." They sounded fantastic, and they only appear to have gotten better and more skilled with age. The show continued with a mix of old hits and new songs, and they just got better and better with each one. Some highlights were "Shape of my Heart," "Show Me The Meaning of Being Lonely," and the eternal crowd-pleaser, "Larger Than Life." The staging consisted of a DJ who provided the backup beats and music, several female dancers, and the Boys themselves, who moved about the stage and at different points sat on stools or chairs.

One interesting and entertaining thing that I enjoyed about the show was that during the costume changes, the audience wasn't just left to sit in darkness, but rather were treated to a video of each of the boys featuring them spliced into a popular film. They were as follows:

-The Fast and the Furious (Howie)

-Fight Club (A.J.)

-Enchanted (Brian)

-The Matrix (Nick)

Nick had a fantastic line in his segment, which I believe went like this:

Morpheus: You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I'm talking about?

Nick: N*Sync?

Maybe I'm the only one who laughed out loud at that, but I can always appreciate a little friendly rivalry between boy-bands. :-)

The boys finished the show with "I Want It That Way," arguably their most popular song (As A.J. said, they saved the best for last). They left the stage, and returned shortly for an encore song, "Straight Through My Heart," the catchy hit single off of their newest album. After they took their final bow, the show was over, and I was left deeply satisfied.

All in all, it was an excellent show. I got to hear all of their hit songs, plus a few of my favorites that I was not expecting but was pleasantly surprised to hear. If I had to find any fault with the show, it would be that they only played one song from "Never Gone," which I personally consider to be their finest work, and a really excellent example of adult contemporary pop. However, the album didn't do that well when it first came out, and a lot of people complained that it strayed from their more dance-pop sound, so I s'pose I understand their reasoning.

I would gladly see BSB in concert again, and I think that anyone who has written them off because they aren't "hip" anymore should take a another listen, cause I feel like their music holds up surprisingly well even now, and the bottom line is that these guys have true talent. They didn't lip sync a single song, and they sounded incredible, which is more than you can say for a good percentage of the acts out there today (especially considering that A.) they have had to rearrange every song into four parts ever since their fifth member, Kevin, left the band back in 2006, and B.) these guys are all in their mid-30s. That's pretty impressive to me).

If you made it this far, thanks for reading, and I promise I will get back to regular updates on New Zealand soon.

Much love,


The Backstreet Boys:
A.J., Brian, Nick, and Howie

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Week 3: Uni-Verse

These titles are getting bad already.

This week my endless break finally came to a screeching halt, and I began taking classes at the University of Auckland. Here are my classes and what I thought of them (so far):

ENGLISH 109 - Drama on Stage and Screen

Should be a fun class, and pretty self-explanatory. We read plays, we watch movies. We compare the two. Might be a little beneath my skill level, given all the theater classes I've taken in the past, but I could do with an easy class or two, so I'm not complaining. :-)

MARINE 202 - Principles of Marine Science

Thank goodness I spent all those years in my youth playing "The Magic School Bus Explores the Ocean" on my computer. This class should be lots of fun, especially because we get to go on a field trip later on in the semester. I haven't been on a field trip since I don't know when, so I am definitely looking forward to it!

GREEK 100 - Introduction to Ancient Greek

This class was very interesting, and the prof was cool, but it was just not for me. I decided to switch it out for Intro Latin for a few reasons. It was difficult and tedious having to translate the Greek letters first into English ones, and then translating those words into their English meanings. I figure that Latin will be more fun because it uses the English alphabet, and still has a few uses in the modern world, whereas Ancient Greek, while cool to know and speak, has very few modern uses outside of Classical Studies. We'll see if I like Latin any better...

FTVMS 100 - Media Studies

Another class that will be fairly easy, but also informative and entertaining. This course focuses on the way information is presented in different media formats, such as TV, print, radio, and the Internet. The big thing about this class that I am not used to is that there are about 500 people in the class. It is held once a week for two hours in a giant auditorium, and the prof stands down at the front with a microphone. It's a really strange experience for someone who is used to an average class size of twenty people or so.

Another thing I am not used to is having a different prof lecturing each class period. My classes back home always have one set professor, but here it seems like there are at least 3 for each class, and sometimes even as many as six rotating professors (not including guest lecturers and the like). This makes it a little difficult to settle into a routine, but I am sure I will catch on quickly. Uni classes also have tutorials, which are optional (but HEAVILY encouraged, so basically required) study sessions that happen once a week. Hopefully I will find this helpful in studying for my classes, since I tend to be a bit lax on studying on my own when someone isn't telling me to get my work done.

On Saturday, a group of us took a ferry to the town of Devonport, which was nice, until we got rained out and had to head home. Other than that, not much adventure for me this week.

Stay tuned for a special report following next Thursday's Backstreet Boys concert. And for those of you who will choose to mock me for going to this concert and finally fulfilling the dreams of my 12-year-old self, you clearly are in denial. We all lived through the '90s folks; some of us have just chosen to embrace it, while others simply pretend that the entire decade never happened. I pity those joyless souls who have forgotten already the gleeful and mindless bubblegum pop of yesterday...

I'll write again soon, "As Long as You Love Me,"



Monday, March 1, 2010

Week 2: Electric Boogaloo

Hello all!

Well, week two in New Zealand wasn't as eventf
ul as week one, but it was nice to just lay back and relax a bit. We started the week with a trip to the beach, which was great, minus the horrible sunburn. I guess I shouldn't complain though, cause the weather here is BEAUTIFUL. ALL THE TIME. It's great. :-)


A bunch of us took a ferry to Mount Rangitoto, which is a small island off the cost of Auckland. It was a long, arduous hike to the very top, and I was exhausted by the time I got there, but Man, was it worth it! The view from the summit of Mo
unt Rangitoto was incredible, and I could see all of Auckland and the surrounding area in crystal clear detail. A truly breathtaking experience.

Another gorgeous view...this place is full of 'em.


Orientation. Kinda boring, and a waste of time (in my opinion). After orientation, we hiked the coast-to-coast walkway, all the way out to the Tasman Sea. On the way there we hiked up Mount Eden again, and got yelled at for climbing halfway down the crater, apparently ignoring the not-well-posted signs forbidding it.
Oops. We then walked to a place called One Tree Hill, which, surprisingly, was not crawling with sexually promiscuous teenagers, as the show would have you believe. After that we continued walking until we reached the Tasman Sea, which we were not able to jump into, which severely furthered my fatigue. All was made well, however, with a spot of Hokey Pokey ice cream and a bus ride home. The whole hike was something like 10 miles, and I was beat by the end of it. If there's one thing this trip has done for me it's forcing me to exercise. :-)


Everyone went to the beach, while I rested and watched LOST. Everybody deserves a break now and then, eh?


A group of us got up at the crack of dawn and headed down to the Sky Tower to meet our
guide. We then traveled to a place called Piha Beach about 40 minutes out of Auckland for a fun-filled day of SURFING! Now, mind you, I am not at all athletic, and I had never once surfed before, so I was prepared for a challenge. After a 15-minute lesson, it was time to hit the water. The hardest part was timing the wave correctly and knowing when it was time to jump up on the board. Once I got that down, I actually got a couple of pretty smooth runs in. All in all, the weather was great, the waves were gnarly, and it was an awesome day; something I will definitely do again. :-)

Killer waves, brah!


I can't remember what I did Thursday or Friday. Must not have been very exciting.


The gang left early in the morning for Motutapu Island, ready to camp out for the night. I, being the genius I am, didn't bring any food or camping gear. Talk about roughing it. I had a great day just hanging on the beach, looking for shells, and climbing all over big rocks, but by the end of it, I was tired and hungry, so I wimped out and took the ferry back home. Good thing I did though, cause the next morning, a tsunami hit New Zealand. Of course, when I say "hit," I mean a wave smaller than the ones I surfed leisurely strolled into Auckland Harbor. My heart goes out to those places that actually WERE affected by it, but the "tsunami" that hit us was not worth all the hype.

Panoramic shot of the bay at Motutapu.
Thanks to Joline for helping me make this. :-)


Another lazy day hanging around the apartment. Didn't do much, but I figured I deserved one last break before school started on Monday, right?

That's all for now! I'll update again this week to let you know how my first week of Uni went!