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Monday, January 30, 2012


I attended my first ever cricket game over the weekend. It wasn't the big leagues, but I didn't know the difference.

I sat on the lawn with the other spectators - a family day out. The sun came out for a bit, but then hid behind some menacing rain clouds. Luckily, they never quite followed through on their threat.

I watched for three hours, trying to understand what was happening. Mostly it seemed like a lazy day for the players as well. The fielders hung out & watched as the batters jogged from wicket to wicket. Children gathered at the fence line for autographs from the closest player. & after 50 overs, they all broke for lunch, at which point some of the spectators went out on the field to play their own cricket games.

I didn't stay to the end - that would have taken another four hours after lunch. Aparently, this was a very short game. Many cricket games can go on for four or five days. You'd have to take days off from work to see a whole game!

Although I didn't really understand much of what was happening, it was a nice day out in the park. I'm looking forward to catching a rugby game while I'm here in New Zealand as well. It won't be the All Blacks because their season won't start until after I leave, but I won't know the difference.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Photo of the Week: Balloon Over Waikato

Hamilton is world famous for its Balloons Over Waikato event. One morning, I saw this seemingly random balloon over the roof tops of my suburban neighborhood. I'm looking forward to seeing more of these at the festival at the end of March.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

10 Things I love about Hamilton

1. You can walk down the street without navigating through a sea of people.

2. There are never any more than five people on the public bus at one time.

3. The cashier at the grocery store asks me how my day is going.

4. There is a restaurant for almost every type of cuisine you can think of.

5. Riding in the left-hand seat as a passenger in a car is fun!

6. Since New Zealand dollars are so close in value to US dollars, it seems like I'm spending more than I actually am, which makes me more concious of my spending.

7. Since there are lots of Chinese people here, I can still eavesdrop on conversations in Mandarin. 

8. There are birds & insects & plants growing everywhere.

9. The tap water tastes better than any bottled water I've ever had.

10. It smells like grass.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Being a very interesting obelisk

There are lots of cool monuments & plaques all over Auckland commemorating the early settlers & their deeds, many of them stationed in peaceful parks around the city. This one made the editor in me laugh & laugh. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Local Tastes: NZ

You may recall the wacky potato chip flavors I found in Shanghai. Blueberry, mango, numb & spicy! Some of them weren't bad, actually.

Here in Hamilton, they have their own local tastes. I found these delights at the grocery store the other day. I skipped the lamb & mint flavor, but the lime & black pepper was pretty good.

What's the craziest potato chip flavor you've ever seen?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Once were warriors

If you've seen the film Once Were Warriors, you might think that the Maori (the 'mao' part is pronounced as in Mao Zedong - 'mao-ree') population in New Zealand is suffering disfunction. But that movie was made almost 20 years ago, in 1994 - a lot has happened since then.

Although that story might still be true today in some Maori homes (as well as in the homes of families from every background, in every country), in the short time I have been in New Zealand, I have noticed that there is quite a strong sense of pride in the Maori culture here.

Maori culture & traditions can be seen everywhere - from the arts festival, to film & television, to a huge section of Maori language books at the library. & at many public spaces, the signs are in both English & Maori, reflecting a respect for the Maori language & people.

It's a good example for places around the world where minority cultures are forgotten in favor of progress. Our history is who we are. If we lose that, what do we have left?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

What is this?!

I checked on my garden the other day & saw
these little buggers hanging out in my beets:

Take a closer look:

What *is* that?!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Riff Raff

Hamilton has a pretty interesting history. I saw a little of it when I went to the Waikato Museum in the city center (sorry, 'centre'), where they had a unique exhibition on the local rugby team, & a beautiful collection of Maori articles.

But possibly the quirkiest little bit is that Richard O'Brien worked on Victoria Street as a hairdresser at one point. Who's Richard O'Brien? Why, he's the iconic Riff Raff from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. In fact, he wrote the screenplay.

Hamilton has erected a statue in his honor, & last December Mr. O'Brien was granted New Zealand citizenship. He now lives here, & as luck would have it, he's going to be present at the Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival in February. I can't wait to see this guy in the flesh!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Monday, January 9, 2012

100 Things: An update

Ever since I left the US to travel the world, I've been trying to be more conscious of how much stuff I own. As a traveler, the fewer things I have the easier it is to move from place to place.

Before I left Arizona, I had four large yard sales to get rid of my stuff & donated the leftovers to charity.

I spent just seven months in Vietnam, & when I moved to China, I found another huge pile of things to leave behind. Another layer of the onion peeled.

I spent two years in Shanghai, where I lived in a small apartment with a Chinese couple. I tried to stay aware of my stuff - to keep my belongings to a minimum. As I was packing to move to New Zealand, again I found a pile of stuff to leave behind.

It sounds like I've been whittling my possessions down to nothing. I should be getting frightfully close to the 100-thing mark at this rate, right?

Not so. When I left the US for Vietnam, I had about 350 things. I took about 350 things with me from Vietnam to China. & I packed about 350 things to bring with me to New Zealand.

After all that leaving-stuff-behind business, how could this possibly be?

Instead of a pile of books, I have a Kindle - less stuff. Meanwhile, I've acquired an assortment of clothing appropriate for all kinds of weather - more stuff. Instead of movies on DVD, I now download movies to my laptop (China's great for that) - less stuff. But I've collected a variety of SIM cards & currency from five different countries - more stuff. I haven't been reducing my possessions - I've just been exchanging it for more travel-minded things.

At least my stuff weighs less each time I move. I paid $120 over-weight fee on my first move, & $35 on my second. This time, I came in 10 kilos under weight. Small victories.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

My New Zealand house sit

Not bad, eh?

They were selling vegetable plants at the grocery store, so I got a few & planted them in pots on the side of the house.

Hamilton is a quiet town of about 200,000 people. You can hear birds chirping in the morning & everyone is super friendly. It's a nice change from the big city.