Thursday, April 29, 2010

Week 11: Hero Wor-Ship

Hi gang!

I am so sorry I haven't been keeping up with this very well. I have fallen into the halfway-through-the-semester slump, and I had to shake myself out of it and remind myself I am in NEW ZEALAND. That having been said, I have done quote a few interesting things lately.

Last Saturday, my friend Mallory and I went to see a comedy show featuring one of my comedic idols, Rhys Darby. If you're not familiar with the name, you may know him as the bumbling but lovable manager Murray Hewitt on the HBO show "Flight of the Conchords," about the eponymous Kiwi folk-comedy duo. The show that he was doing was a live version of a local New Zealand podcast, "The Cryptid Factor," which is hosted by Rhys and journalist David Farrier. The show centers around cryptozoology, the study of strange and/or mythical creatures. I have been listening to the podcast since I got here, so I was very excited to see how they did the show live. It was hilarious. Rhys and David are both natural comedians (though really, most Kiwis are. I just love their sense of humor), and the other people involved with the show, specifically their producer (a man known as "Buttons"), were equally comical. At one point a mobile number flashed on a screen, and the audience was asked to text in questions for them pertaining to cryptids or cryptozoology. I was the first one to send in a question, and Buttons asked it aloud for Rhys and David to answer. I felt pretty cool being involved with the show like that.

After the show was over, Mallory and I decided to wait around to see if Rhys would come out to take pictures. We waited for a bit after most people had left, and it wasn't looking good. Just then, Rhys came out to talk to a couple of women who he obviously knew. We felt incredibly awkward just standing there, and almost decided to leave, but with my hero standing not more than two feet from me, I was determined to meet him. He finished his conversation with the women and turned to go. I called out "Hey Rhys!" and he turned around.

"Erm...great show! Loved it! Do any t-shirts I could buy?"

That was my best excuse for hunting down this poor man. I am not generally one to get all starry-eyed in the presence of a celebrity, but I honestly could believe that this guy who had made me laugh so much was right there in front of me. However, instead of looking annoyed or dismissive, Rhys lit up with a great big smile. He motioned for Mallory and I to come back into the auditorium, and he told David that we wanted a t-shirt. Everyone in the crew got really excited, and Rhys and David were beaming. They were genuinely excited that anyone would want a t-shirt of their little podcast (which they assume no one actually listens to), so much so that they never even considered putting out a merchandise table or anything like that. I bought the shirt and made small talk with Rhys and David, and then they graciously posed for a photo with both me and Mallory. They were two of the nicest guys I have ever met, and incredibly genuine. It made me happy that here was a guy who was incredibly popular among people my age, and he was so humble that he probably doesn't even realize it. As we were leaving, we heard a voice call out to us. It was their producer, Buttons, asking if we wanted a picture with him too. And by asking, I mean he stood there until we came back and took a photo with him. I guess he wanted in on the fun too. :-) They were all wonderful guys, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. They say you should never meet your heroes for fear of disappointment, but in this case, that just wasn't true.

Me, Rhys, and David after the show

Side note: I asked a total of four questions during the show, but only one was read. About an hour after the show had ended, I was sitting in my flat, when I got a text message on my phone. It was from Buttons, apologizing for not having read my other texts during the show, and saying that his phone had been acting up and he hadn't received them till after the show. The fact that he would do something so courteous when he had no obligation or reason to whatsoever really gave my faith in the good of humanity a huge boost. :-)

Sunday morning I woke up early and headed out with a bunch of my friends to go for a boat ride. We rode the ferry to Bayswater to meet John and Ankelien McIntosh, some old friends of my grandparents. My grandpa taught for a year in New Zealand back in the 1960s, and John was one of his students. They have remained in contact since then, and John was very excited to meet me. John and his wife were wonderful, and very welcoming and hospitable toward us. We set out for Motuihe Island, and it was a beautiful day. We had lunch on the boat, and then took the dinghy in to explore the island for a bit. We headed back in the late afternoon, and we finally got enough wind to put the sails up. All in all, a very relaxing and fun day at sea.

Me with John and Ankelien McIntosh in front of the Katariana

Last night, I went to see John Mayer in concert, again at the Vector Arena in downtown Auckland. It was a fantastic show, and I'll give you a brief rundown here:


1. Belief
2. Crossroads (Robert Johnson cover)
3. Waiting on the World To Change
4. All We Ever Do Is Say Goodbye
5. Perfectly Lonely
6. No Such Thing - Bigger Than My Body (Medley)
7. The Heart of Life
8. Who Says
9. Heartbreak Warfare
10. Friends, Lovers or Nothing
11. Almost Paradise (Love Theme from 'Footloose') - Half of My Heart - Dreams (Fleetwood Mac cover)
12. Why Georgia
13. Vultures
14. Gravity

Song Count Per Album:

Room for Squares - 2
Heavier Things - 1
Continuum - 5
Battle Studies - 7

Mayer is a natural showman, and he engaged the audience several times by playing with the lyrics of his songs (at one point he changed the line in "Who Says" from "'s been a long night in Austin too..." to " Auckland too..."). The man has an excellent voice, but the real star of the show is his guitar. I honestly believe that Mayer is one of the best living guitar players in the world, and he certainly showcased his talents last night. Almost every song began with his just improving a few bars on the guitar before launching into the familiar melody. A few of the songs became showcases for his solos, expanding from a normal 3 minute runtime to a 10+ minute extravaganza. His band was exceptional as well, and in light of Mayer's recent public woes, you could tell that he has made a concerted effort to get back to his music and stay out of the spotlight. All in all, a fantastic show, and one I would see again and again.

John Mayer, doing what he does best

That's about it for now. I am off to Wellington this weekend, so I will blog again next week.

Till next time!


This week's photo albums:

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The hills are alive with the smell of Meusli

So, I have put this off long enough. It’s time to get down to business. Two weeks ago I embarked on my two-week fall (yes fall) break from uni. Here is a recollection of my adventures:


On Saturday I flew into the little town of Queenstown, located on the South Island. I was all set to meet up with my friend Jenny (also from Albion) who studies at the University of Otago in Dunedin when I realized that I had no way of getting in touch with her. I caught a cab into town and managed to remember the name of the hostel we were staying at, and as luck would have it, Jenny and her friends walked out of the hostel exactly when my cab pulled up outside it. We got all checked in, and then went to explore the town for a bit. Queenstown is a beautiful city. It is located in a large valley surrounded by mountains on all sides, and the scenery is breathtaking. After hanging downtown for a bit, we met up with some more of the Otago gang, and we all went to a place called Fergburger for dinner. The burgers there were the size of my face, and oh so delicious.

The following day, we hiked up a small mountain on the edge of Queenstown. I rode the gondola back down, and the view was amazing. Later that afternoon, several of us headed out to the Nevis canyon to do the famed 134 metre bungy jump. I signed up for this on a whim, and didn’t realize what I was actually doing until I was hanging in a small cage from a cable several hundred metres above a tiny river. Yeah. Not the smartest idea after all. But, there I was, strapped in and ready to go. I couldn’t quit then, or I’d look like a fool in front of everyone. With a huge scream, I jumped headfirst off the platform, and for the next few seconds, I was flying. It was by far the scariest and most intense thing I have ever done, but I am glad I did it. I am slowly getting past this fear of heights I’ve had for so long, and I plan to continue pushing myself to fight it whenever I can.

I regret nothiiiinnnngggggg!!!!

After the bungy we headed for a campground outside of town a little ways. Our friend Tim drove us there that night, but in the morning, Jenny, Liz, and I had to hitchhike back into town. This was my first time ever hitchhiking, and it was less than successful. It’s something I would never do back in the States, but here it is seen as perfectly acceptable, and if often encouraged by the locals. We hiked about 6 miles until FINALLY getting picked up by a nice young guy only a mile or so outside of Queenstown. The rest of the day we just relaxed, and went to bed early at a local hostel.

Te Anau/Lake Manapouri

Tuesday morning the three of us got up nice and early and caught a bus to the town of Te Anau. From there, we had a 20 km hitchhike to the tiny town of Manapouri. We hiked for about 2.5 hrs, and we were finally picked up by a very nice guy who chatted with us the rest of the way there. When we got to the town, we had lunch, and then went to the kayak rental place to take the boats we had booked out for the remainder of the day. Unfortunately, our booking hadn’t been processed in time, so we were unable to go out until the next day. We found a lovely, rustic old campground to stay at for the night, and settled down for another early sleep.

We got up bright and early the next day and set out on Lake Manapouri for a gorgeous day of kayaking. The weather was sensational, and the scenery was equally excellent. We stopped at a small beach around noon for lunch and to stretch our legs a bit. After lunch, we kayaked around a small island on the lake, and then headed back to shore. We had a great time on the lake, but we were exhausted by the end of the day. I always forget how much energy a day’s worth of sun can take out of you. When we got back to town, we were less than excited for the journey ahead of us. Remember that 20 km hike into town from the day before? Well, in order to make our bus the following morning, we had to hike all the way BACK to Te Anau that night. Luckily, we hadn’t got five minutes out of town when a van pulled up and two nice young guys offered us a ride all the way to Te Anau. Needless to say, we were very relieved. We settled into a nice little campground for the night, and got a chance to shower and relax for a bit. We went to bed around 8 PM (this was a common theme on the trip, the earliest I have gone to bed in YEARS) and Jenny and I got up early the next morning to catch our bus to Dunedin.



After Jenny and I arrived in Dunedin, she gave me a tour of the University of Otago campus, which is where she is going to school this semester. It was a beautiful campus, and the city of Dunedin is unique in that there is a very good mix of nature and city life (an example being the natural river running right through the Otago Uni campus). It was a pretty sharp contrast to the Auckland Uni campus, which has a very urban feel to it. We ended the day with a walk through Dunedin’s beautiful botanical gardens, and then headed back to Jenny’s place for yet another early sleep. The next day we slept in (finally!) and around noon, we headed downtown, and visited the local flea market for a bit. We met a woman there who was selling jewelry, and she told us a story about one necklace in particular about how she was hitchhiking and ended up at the home of an old drunk Irishman who had carved the pendant by hand. It was a wonderful story, though I am not sure how much truth there was to it. :-) After the flea market, we headed over to the Cadbury Chocolate Factory for a tour of the facilities. It was really interesting seeing the inner workings of a chocolate factory (especially the huge chocolate waterfall—no joke), and we also got a bunch of free chocolate at the end of the tour. After the tour, we made a last-minute decision to try and hike to Baldwin Street before I had to make my bus to the airport that afternoon. When we did finally get to Baldwin, we saw why it holds the title of the World’s Steepest Street. The thing is ridiculous. I don’t understand how anyone could possibly drive up that thing in anything other than a tank.

That's a pretty steep hill...

After a quick picture, we were off again, and I made it to my bus stop just in time. Unfortunately, when I arrived, I was told that my bus didn’t exist. Uhhh…what? You mean the bus I bought a $20 ticket for online? THAT bus? Doesn’t…EXIST? Not sure WHAT happened there, but regardless, I was forced to catch a cab to the airport, which cost me quite a bit more than the bus ticket. At least I made my flight on time.


I arrived back in Auckland later that night (Friday), and hit the hay, as I was exhausted from all my adventures. The following night, I went to see James Taylor and Carole King in concert down at the Vector Arena (the reason I came back a week before break was over). The concert was amazing, and James in particular was in top form. The man sounds as good, if not better than he did thirty years ago. He was an incredible performer, and he laughed and joked with the crowd throughout the show. All in all, it was a very enjoyable concert, and one I have been looking forward to for a long time. :-)

The man himself, doin' what he does best

That’s all for now! Oh, I suppose there was one more event that occurred last week. Sunday the 11th was my 21st birthday. I spent it alone in my apartment, but it was enjoyable nonetheless, and I was thankful for the quiet alternative to MOST people’s 21st birthdays back home. ;-)

Till next time!


P.S. Once again, here are the links to my newest Facebook photo albums:


"The hills are alive with the smell of Meusli"

Canoe Dig It?

Doin' Eden