Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Utterly and Completely, Needlessly Excessive

Reading on another friend's blog, "I had a bad day yesterday" reminded me it's okay to have them. Granted, she's been living in Nigeria for the past seven months or so sweating it out in long skirts in the dust and hospitals. Check her out here: No Zebras Here!

It's sinking in. I'm back in New York, in the house I grew up in. And I answer truly honestly to the question, "So, are you glad to be back?" (I feel like everyone who knows me holds their breath in anticipation and anyone who doesn't lets it out assuming my relief to be here). The answer is no. I am not glad to be back here. It's been wonderful seeing people again but coming back gets harder every time. I did not cry. Okay, I cried for an hour once the Currans put me on the bus, but I haven't cried. It's more like despondency.

I have this friend living in Argentina and he's homesick and I have a hard time sympathizing.

The pressure of getting school done is in full force, especially saying goodbye to my classmates and friends at their graduation last weekend. The need to get a job is guilting me.

On the up side, it's almost totally safe to say that the lice have been demolished at last and my hair is bug free! I've been away from New Zealand for a little over three weeks now but it feels like that was another life that happened ages ago. It was really. It doesn't feel real.

I sleep on three beds now. I might add my futon on top tonight just to make it four. After sleeping in a damp bed, freezing tents, on cement, in a car, on the floor, on planes... And now I sleep on four beds stacked so high it's hard for me to climb up.

Stepping back for a moment-

What is this? Four beds? A washer and dryer down the stairs? Where am I? Seriously. The world of problems like disease, exposure to the elements, and children dying right now seems so far away and unrelated to my life. How does that relate to my life in any way? My own problems from the last eight months don't even seem like a possibility.

I literally have almost nothing substantial to do. This entire Wednesday of the 30 May 2012 was, in my life, devoted to making a package to send a friend of mine. I made cookies and packaged it with care and duct tape but that was pretty much what my day amounted to because, well, what's the rush?

Part of me wants to get out there and get busy and find a job and rush around again but mostly the other part of me is winning the daily battle for time. That side has been spent re-connecting with people and considering what all I can get rid of. When you live out of a backpack for a large chunk of a year, a dresser of t-shirts, hoodies, pants, scarves, and two full drawers of socks becomes wildly excessive. That's how I feel life is right now. Needlessly excessive.

*P.S. Pavlova OWNED ME. We needed a break from each other after five attempts so I tried making New Zealand cookies called Afghans. Laugh it up. Go ahead. An American making Afghan cookies. Those cookies rocked.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Life Less Seriously

Last week I'd been back in NY a whole two days when I decided to jump ship and head north to Canada with my dad. Our two dogs hopped in the truck with us and we drove up to our cottage. My dad taught me how to pump water up from the lake to the house so we could flush the toilet and wash the dishes and how to run the generator so darkness doesn't mean bedtime. It was probably the only chance to get up there before the crash of work and school fell on me.

There's this thing going on right now that I hate. Well, two things. Firstly, anyone I've been friends with from RIT is graduating this weekend and scattering around the country. Secondly, my friend Kate is also moving.

There was this whole idea of coming back and seeing returning as a challenge to take on and tackle but after leaving multiple times now for extended periods of time, I can honestly say it: I don't miss Rochester and I am sad to be back. Happy to be with people I love again, but it's hard to explain. It's just not me here. Lately I've been finding myself reverting back to more of who I am. Experiencing and experimenting with music, food, people, and situations has been one of the greatest parts of my life so far. But even after getting into Mozart and Beethoven, I still love Linkin Park and Eminem. Having been a busy bee living the college life, I love when everyday life's a challenge and still simple.

When things get frustrating or difficult and one is in a place one desires to be doing something they feel purposed to be doing, the other stuff becomes doable. Without those factors, a heart can start to lose hope.

I'm afraid of losing hope. Losing ambition and the confidence that anything is possible. That I disappoint my family by not being a lawyer or a doctor or wanting to start a career as soon as I step off the graduation stage.


When I titled this blog, it was more about physical perspective. How we tend to look down at our feet to see where we're going and straight ahead but rarely up. True though, that many times that action gives such a view of the seemingly limitless blue that conceals the night's splendour of truly boundlessly expanding stars whose light may reach us though they died ages ago.

It's like this: I'm a small human being. I read on a blog recently that we're akin to a single grain of sand on the shore in view of the universe. Of town, country, continent, ocean to ocean, earth, stars, the milky way, and further than we can map. We just shrink and shrink and shrink. Even our planet is a blip or grain of sand. We can't even comprehend that! At all! And we get so stressed about life so fast- what's the big deal? Seriously. But what else do we have and know?

So here's what I love about life. It can change. Your perspective. Your location. Your sad sack situation  of a relationship you don't want to be in. People say people don't change but I sort of wonder what those people are like. They don't seem like they'd be...well, very fun to hang out with. "Let's go get coffee!" Great, where should we go?" "Are you really asking that? The same place we always go." I think we choose to not change. One of my favourite quotes is, "If you keep doing what you've always done you'll always get what you always got." Closely related to the casual definition of insanity: "Doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result."

“Life has become immeasurably better since I have been forced to stop taking it seriously.” 
-Hunter S. Thompson, American journalist. (Who, ironically, committed suicide in 2005 at only 67. Should have taken his own advice. )

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tragedy on Pavlova Day

After failing miserably last night twice in a row whisking eggs into peaked submission for pavlova, I woke up determined today. I should have know it would be bad when I went to Sure Fine (what a crock) and managed to drop an open carton between the rows and the fridge so the laughing stocking lady had to come help me. "Don't worry! I'll take them to deli and they'll make deviled eggs!" Still laughing. 

I'd decided to hand-whisk the eggs this time, convinced it was the wronger kind of electric beater I used before, and spent a solid half-hour trying to whisk them into fluff when my mom blurted out, "Is this the white vinegar you used?" And held up a jug of white vinegar. I hesitated. "Yeah. And I broke your first whisk." I'd been wondering what the stringy bits were that appeared in the fluff. It was glue.

"This is water. See how it's next to the water? I put the white vinegar back." OH. That's one carefully measured 1/2 tsp. of water to not make the eggs whisk any better. She then, to my utter defeat, retrieved the same kind of mixer Tracey had used in New Zealand. The kind we'd never owned until now that I'd been dreaming of while hand-whisking. 

But fourth times a charm. After whizzing the sugar and whisking those eggs it resembled something like the makings of pavlova. As I pulled out a cracked and oozing pavlova attempt #3 from the oven, there were higher hopes for the fluffy goodness I poured onto the cookie sheet. After an hour, I shut off the oven and announced, "It looks beautiful! Look! I'm going to leave it in overnight." As in, it's staying in the oven because that's what you do and it's what the recipe calls for and we have two ovens. I even thought, "It's in the lower oven. It's safer there." And promptly made a sandwich, read about psychopathic children in the NYT Magazine, and fell asleep on the porch. Mom even joined me for a few minutes. Fast forward.

"Jesse. Look at me. Hey, look at me." Ian nudged me awake holding his ipod touch over my head. Never a good sign. 

"NO. I'm taking a nap."

"Come on, look over here."

"Noooo." I moaned pathetically. "Get away from me you little prick. You're videoing me or taking pictures and I want you to go away." 

"I'm not taking video. Hold still." 


"Huh. It says you're a 3.4- dark and handsome. It's an ugly meter app. You're only a 3.4. I must have hit the men meter. It says you're handsome in the dark. Hold still again."

"You're taking photos of me to test your ugly meter app?"


"3.4 again! I was a 10."

"On a scale of what?"

"Ten being the ugliest." (Ian is convinced he's smarter and more attractive than me. He's more everything.)


"3.4 again! Something must be wrong."

"Get away from me."

"OUCH!" He shrieks as I pull his leg hairs. "OUCH! Mom burned your pavlova!"

"...she what?"


"Get out of here! What happened to the pavlova?"

[Enter mom]

"Hi honey. I just burnt it a little bit. We can probably scrape off the burned part."

"You cannot scrape it off. It was perfect!" 

I run inside but she calls out that it's been put outside.

"That's where you put things to die, Mom! That's where you put your toaster ovens when they catch fire."

"It wasn't on fire." She calls. "I was making bread. Your dad thought it tasted good when he walked by and broke a piece off. He didn't know what it was. I'm sorry, Honey." 

Before I dumped it in the compost bag my mom took some of the remnants to feed her worms. She keeps a worm farm in the laundry room. 

Days like this I look at how my day went and it makes me just sit dumbfounded and go, really? That's how it is, then? 

Starting the Bucket List: Pavlova

Thought I'd get a jumpstart on this year's to-do list and pavlova seemed like a delicious way to start. So far I've wasted 8 eggs and have watery whipped eggs to show. Tomorrow I'm getting a legit whisk and my own carton of eggs to waste. Also, the electric beater is starting to smell burnt and is hot...

 (Being a night person I naturally waited til midnight to start when everyone's asleep. Hence the bathroom situation. It's the most secluded I could get.)

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Epic Adventure-Filled California Redwoods Road Trip

We're flying down California on 299 with haze and the dust lifting and hovering like slow clouds of locusts. I wish Carole would stay off of the little speed clickers  and divest but you can't have everything. We're in farm country and the Ford Fiesta reads 96 degrees Farenheit. 

Day One
Steph misses her flight and I meet her friend Carole in the San Fran airport and we just melt onto the floor and pour out our emotional guts till Steph arrives. We pick up the rental, I spot a red Camaro rental with the window down and Steph and I can't resist hopping in for the photo op. Carole starts driving and we get pulled over almost immediately. Carole explains she's swerving all over because we're not sure where we're going and we're looking for a parking lot to sleep in. As Steph and I conclude all is lost the nice young man offers to escort us to a Safeway grocery where we sleep in the car.

Day Two
Starbucks, bagels, road. We find a small trail and before the car's come to a complete stop Carole has vanished into the woods in total wonder of being in nature. So we climb the small mountain, continue, hit up a beach, and continue. That's where it get interesting. We'd seen the guy walking out of the beach lot but now he was trekking with his little sleeping bag bopping on his back and we asked if he wanted a ride. He wasn't thumbing for one but his first question after, "Yeah, that'd be great" is, "Do you guys smoke weed?" It was all he'd had to offer. I'd lov e to go into detail but it there's too much for me to keep you. He's 24 and basically walked out of his grandpa's house in Ohio three weeks ago and has been hitchhiking and walking ever since. After a few hours we enter the Redwoods National Forest and set up camp.

*Sidenote, the current situation is:
Steph: Wow, my armpit is mad itchy.
Me: How's it look?
Steph: It's all red, but i've been itching it.
Carole (takes her eyes off the road): Whoa, it is red.
(Steph lifts her arm so it is directly in line with the A/C)

Day 3
Wake up, walk to the river, drive to get coffee from a strange man in town next to the "Two Tuna Can Grocery" as we named it, drive to Albee Creek to go hiking. The three amigos get distracted at the river, I wander ahead, wait, wander back, can't find them, pick up hardwood sticks and sharpen the ends (just in case), and go wait at the campground we parked at and call my mom. I read a sign that says hiking alone is bad and mountain lions can get you. I'd begun to suspect Gary had kidnapped and dismembered my friends when they appeared around the corner. We drove back made another fire and cooked hot dogs for dinner. Then things got really interesting. Steph had just come from Seattle to see a friend of hers and we were talking about them and I suggested we ought to drive up there and see them. You know, as long as we're in the neighborhood. The plan is adapted and Isiah and Alex decided to drive down and meet us further north at another California park. At this point we decide we need a shower. I hadn't showered since New Zealand and we discovered too late the camp showers are quarter coin operated. We only had enough for ten minutes between the three of us and we set aside .50 for Gary. So Steph and I opt for showering together and surprised ourselves by how long five minutes between two people can be. 

Day 4
Wake up: 5:35AM, slow packers get us out of there by 6:20AM and I'm finally driving. Shortly before we meet up with the guys Gary abruptly asks that we let him off and we suspect he may not want to come into contact with Isiah who wasn't happy we'd picked Gary up. Anyway, we met at a gas station, continued to Prairie Creek State Park, pitched our tented, were caught by Ranger Rick's wife for not paying to register the site, amended it, and went on a hunt for firewood. We failed. Isiah stepped in and made that fire and cooked our pre-prepared grilled cheese (we waited a while for them to retrieve firewood) and Carole, Alex and I drove around the little prairie to where the mighty elk were wandering in and around the road for a photo op. The light was beautiful and Carole was eventually coaxed out of the car for a photo near them. She did voice her fears they might charge the car and bite her if she opened her window. She's been the motherly voice of reason on this trip. We fell asleep around the fire and I woke up to Isiah shaking Alex, machete in hand, telling him an animal was eating our chips and he needed back up. It didn't sound large so I asked if he'd put the rest of our logs on the fire and went back to sleep for about an hour when the fire went out and I spent the next six hours in and out of consciousness sleeping in the coldest conditions I've ever been in. Probably around 35F. Not one of the smartest nights spent outside.

Day 5
Wake up, hop to the car in our sleeping bags and sit with the heater on full until the ice melts off of the window. Alex, Carole, Steph and I drive to the nearest town for coffee and a bagel. When we got back we found the rare birds the ranger warned us not to leave food out for fighting over a bag of chips left out. Since Isiah was still sleeping Alex made a little trail towards his tent which they quickly devoured so I went out and laid a few out on his sleeping bag but just before they reconvened to go in he woke up and killed our morning entertainment. It took ages but after some reading and packing we headed out. Dream come true: Alex let me drive his '92 Jeep Wrangler the whole way to the beach. All 4 dirt mountain road miles of it. When we got to the beach Isiah hopped on the back and held onto the tire (Isiah's 6'5 and black as night) while I dodged the potholes. Except for this one… a 15x6' puddle. GOLD. Carole said the wave was "At least nine feet high!" And we were all wet and thrilled to death. We fell asleep on the beach for a couple of hours and said goodbye to the boys before we all pulled out. Unfortunately, just at the ranger station Alex's Jeep sputtered and promptly croaked. After several hours we determined AAA is the most useless roadside assistance company known to man, we were truly screwed that far inland, and the ranger in his hut didn't say jack to us the whole time the guys revved the engine, crawled under it, and lunged for water when it caught fire. Us women all realized our ex-boyfriends would all be excellent candidates to call for fixing the problem which was unfortunate since they were ex-boyfriends. Steph's ex Vinny was actually heaps of help.

While us ladies had our own rental car, Alex had to be back by the next morning for work in Seattle and it was almost 6 before we decided to go to town and get a screw driver to get the distributor cap off and let it air out. Alex and I bought cigars to smoke but Steph was keen as to get out so we said goodbye for real this time and headed for Redding. We had to make it to church by 10PM for the worship service. Half an hour later the Jeep had dried out enough and were on their way. I drove the next four hours through the mountains, we stopped in Bigfoot town for gas, met a cute hound dog named Tina in the bed of a fellow gas customer's truck, narrowly avoided hitting deer, and made it in time for the service. 

We know Jesus took us as we were and frankly, we were too tired to care about our hole-ridden, stained, and dusty pants, smell, and windblown hair. To sum up our appearance Steph dubbed us, "crusty". 

Eventually the lack of sleep caught up to us and we had almost crawled into our sleeping bags by the dumpsters in Bethel's parking lot when the security guard kicked us out. We slept on the sidewalk outside what appeared to be a Catholic old people's home. It was the best we'd slept in days.

Day 6
 Up at 5:45AM, found Starbucks and stayed till 9 when I begged we stop at Taco Bell for a bean burrito (no food in the world is like them) and we went back to church for a "healing service" which weirded us all out a little and we left early. Around noon we headed out to Redding for lunch at Lim's Cafe which is really an American diner that also serves Chinese food and has red promotional Chinese beer lanterns hanging against the grease stained Chinese wallpaper. We got grilled cheese, a BLT and a burger. The strangest store on earth was next door harboring rifles, revolvers, pistols, saddles, gold jewelry in cases, guitars, and old Native American artifacts. We split. We've been on the road to San Fran ever since and are going to spend the night in the airport. 

A week ago right now I was in a hot tub on the coast of Whangamata after riding on the back of a crotch rocket around the Coromandel Peninsula all day. Now I'm in a car driving down California after a week of camping; sleeping on the cement and in cars; picking up Gary the sad hitchhiker, and laughing a lot. I'm a little depressed already at the thought of going back to normal life and definitely miss New Zealand. *written 12 May

 *That night we found a Barnes & Noble, I rushed in utterly delighted and bought  Chris Matthews' Hardball Handbook, we drove to the airport and found a convenient spot and slept til 4:30AM when we checked our bags ($25 to check a bag! Way to be lame America). I met a handsome Spanish man while waiting at security but had to scram since we barely caught our flight. Our old roommate picked us up, I showered at Steph's and she dropped me off at my family's mother's day dinner for my grandma and I got to surprise everyone. Except my mom, the one person I wanted to surprise, because my dear, sweet little brother tattled like a weasel. We definitely made a stop at Target for new underwear on the way home. That's it. The anticlimactic end. 

Well... This morning I hopped in my car with my dog and after my dad said, "You can go for a little ride anyway down the driveway." But I was feeling adventurous so I went around the block (4 miles around) and then down into Lakeville where I saw a guy knew in 8th grade walking shirtless and shoeless with his mom. It was a little weird being back.

 I'd left with no ID, registration, title, or (as I discovered when I got home) any license plates. The adventure continues :)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Motorbikes & How Netball Really Went

Things are wrapping up here! I will never have another Tuesday on this farm. 

I fell off the motorbike tonight and nearly crashed it. What happened was I went out on the bikes to the end of the farm (in motocross boots, helmet, goggles, and my new Kathmandu thermal shirt!). I'm not exactly adept at controlling motorbikes yet and hills are the bane of my existence. It would have been fine if I hadn't managed to stall half-way down. Adam and Sam were already eons ahead of me down the hill and  it went like this:

Oh no. Maybe if I just let out the clutch and the brake and add some gas…Oh NO that is not the way to do it. I could probably get going but the grass is wet and I'll slip braking. If I get going I will hurtle down the hill and crash. Hm. But you can't be afraid of trying things forever. Okay, let's go. 
Something like too much gas and a successful release of the clutch happened and the bike lurched sideways and freakin' went off the edge of the hill and wondrously fell over. I wasn't too embarrassed about falling but I was hoping the boys hadn't heard my pathetic girl scream. They did. I may as well have alerted the media and that's when Adam came up to help me drag the bike to the top. After another minor incident where the bike got stuck I practiced turning on the top paddock and left Adam and Sam to be awesome on their own. I was happy to practice though. It wasn't like last time I rode a horse and I wanted off because it wasn't enjoyable enough anymore to put work into practicing. I decided before I move closer to the equator and buy a motorbike that I'll need to have practiced up in the States. 

Speaking of equatorial habitation… after the netball game last night (which has way too many rules to be of much interest) it was freezing cold outside. Tracey watched my head make it's typical retreat into my jacket and shoulders and I commented how I had a headache coming on from being so tense from the cold. She lovingly responded hadn't I grown up in New York and shouldn't I be used to it by now?

"Tracey," I began emphatically. "Just because I lived there doesn't mean I adapted or like it. I gave it a good shot for eighteen years. I've put my time in!"

"You need an African desert, man." 

Then we huddled in the back of the bank bus (their bank manager, who is a month younger than me by the way, brought a bunch of clients to the game) and absconded with the cashews. Once those were requested we commandeered the Greek tsatziki chips and refused to surrender them even when someone asked where they'd gone. Instead we maturely giggled and snuck stealth handfuls out of the bag and hid the bag when it was our stop. 

Rugby, Motocross & Netball

If we're Facebook friends be sure to check out the photos my friend Kirsty posted. There's an awesome one of me and a massive Australian tree and other camping related things. 

It's so hard to keep you abreast on all that's going on in my life sometimes! I write blog posts every few days but they get left on my desktop because a day later something else is more relevant and that's old news so I write another post which gets left on the desktop…this is the third one in the pile. 

On Saturday we saw the Waikato Chiefs play Hamilton and I got to see the legendary Sunny Bill Williams in the flesh. We were in the front row and could see their sweat, even if it was hard to tell what was going on. Waikato won too! I could've seen Sunny Bill shirtless a few weeks ago when Glen spotted him in the mall but couldn't really be bothered. I wouldn't want people bothering me while I was shopping. It's stressful enough as it is. 

Sunday was another motocross event, this one in Cambridge and to make things a bit confusing Adam's girlfriend Jess came along. 

Tonight is another legit game but this time it's netball and we get picked up and chauffeured around to the game and back with free drinks and food. 

Ian left for New York City today. He'll get there tomorrow morning, find his NY pizza, stay the night and be home by 2 May. He was waiting by the door at 7AM which is about five hours before we were leaving.  I think he's glad to be going home. 

In the same vein, I feel almost the exact opposite. There's really nothing in me that wants to go back. I'm not sorry. I used to miss Wegmans and…Wegmans (anyone from western NY will understand this). But now the only physical entity I can't wait to get back to is my Jeep. It's not that my Jeep is super-cool, it's just that it is rather cool and it provides me the freedom to get in my car and "git outta dodge". 

Anyways, I'm out of here a week from today myself. It's a weird feeling because I love New Zealand and I don't want to go back to the States, but I also want to move on to somewhere else. 

I randomly selected a magazine for vacations today; you know, for future reference, and realized it included a feature about Kilimanjaro. Story of my life. I promise. These things on that continent just find me. It was a pretty dull article altogether but I was stunned to read (in print! In edited print!) how there were vacation packages to travel in an RV around the United States. All fifty-two of them. If you're not American and are geographically challenged, let me fill you in: there are only fifty states in the United States of America. As there seems to be a general measure of confusion about this here, I promptly e-mailed the editor and editor-in-chief that for future reference, they were entirely incorrect. I'll let you know when I get a pat answer that covers up their real thoughts of GET A LIFE. 


"Im not going out there to put myself in an early grave but I am going out there to make a difference." - military serviceman on TV last night

I want every part of my life to be something memorable. In a good way. Like (and this makes me grit my teeth a little to admit) my mom's always said and I refused to work with, "be content wherever you are".

The first three months of the trip I've blocked out most of because it wasn't exactly a happy time in my life. If it wasn't for photos I probably wouldn't remember much unless I read my journals.

Even though my initial feeling is dreading returning to NY, the follow up thought has become, "Okay, you don't have to stay forever. It's only for a relatively short period of time and there are people you miss when you're gone." There are a couple of perks of being in America like cheaper gas than everyone else on the planet and Starbucks at most rest-stops on long road trips to see friends. So I also made a positive list of things for while I'm there. And there's always my 2012 bucket list to keep me busy. 

"Okay, positive view:
- I get to see Steph
- I'll have a car
- I have the ability to work and will find a job (or two)
- It will be summer (to lessen the initial blow at least)
- I have three months before school to get into a routine for healthiness
- I'll see Kelsie & Nate
- I'll have people willing to help me sort out the crap in my life and help me grow. I hope.
- Kiwi (my dog) is there
- Salome and Yall Wall from Mary's Place are there
- I don't have to live at home
- I've learned a lot of skills

Followed by: "I'm not super-ly looking forward to wifi and the stress of being in touch all the time." 


Adam & Jess