Thursday, May 29, 2008

New house

We had a ton of good times in my Lions Park house.

I think it was a really great place to live, especially just getting to the island and not knowing anyone. But, there were always problems with the house and they just kept getting worse and worse.

Well why didn't you just have the housing department fix those things you might be asking? I tried; they don't even get the lawn mowed. This is no exaggeration: housing mowed my lawn the day before Christmas Eve. They had still not mowed it again by the time I officially moved out on April 1. How do they still have a job you ask? I have no answer.

Here are some other things I won't miss about my house:

My new house is clear on the other end of the island. Before I would start in Tafuna and drive east to Utulei, now I start in Avaio and drive west to Utulei. There are a few drawbacks about my new place:
- Everyone except Nate lives on the other side of the island
- Most of the stores and restaurants are on the other side
- I have to drive through the canneries every day
- The road is a little more filled with potholes on the way to work

- Most of those restaurants and stores even on that side suck
- I still make it over to hang out with people either there or here every weekend
- There is way way way less traffic. It took me over 2 hours yesterday at lunch to drive from work, go to the bank and try to pick up my Samoan suit for Moi's wedding (which OF COURSE wasn't even done yet-- I should know by know that if someone says something will be done a certain way and/or at a certain time and/or AT ALL, it isn't true)
- I don't even really notice the cannery smell that much anymore. Wait, maybe that is bad.

Anyway, the house is many many times better than my Lions Park house:

It is SOOO much better. Look, some days I'm even happy to go to my "work"place (that's been pretty frustrating lately, but that's another story):

Djali likes the new digs:

We finally get to use the hammock that Naomi got me for Christmas:

Here's what you see from my porch (and out my front door):

Right across the street is the ocean. Because this is Samoa, the water is mostly shallow everywhere, including here. However, there is a nice hole right when you get into the water that is about 3 feet deep with a sand bottom. Three feet sounds pretty sad, but when the water is warm, super clear, and you can see bright blue fish swimming around you just with your bare eyes, it's pretty nice.

If you walk (or swim if the tide is high) about 100 feet from there straight to the left, you get here:

If you instead went straight out, you get to a nice little snorkelling hole that is up to about 9 feet deep (that's pretty deep for most places here) and there are even some rocks that you can jump off of into 5 foot deep water. Honestly, right across the street is one of the better beaches on the island. We're pretty lucky to have found it.

Coming home to this place makes it so much better than coming home from work and going from one rot-hole to another.

Moi's wedding is tomorrow. So no update til at least Saturday...unless my internet stops working. I'll try to get caught up relatively soon.

I got my suit today. They didn't do what I asked them to do except use the correct fabric (that I provided) but at least it sort of fits; which is a lot more than I can say for Naomi's outfit. Apparently between the time the measurements were taken and today she's lost about 50 lbs; or that's what you'd have to think to make sense of the outcome. Or maybe I'm just not used to getting things tailored. Is it normal to have to cut a dress apart and sew it back together yourself in order to make it fit?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Amazingly, the internet is still working!

OK, so when I last posted about this, we were in Nelson, which is a town on the north end of the South Island of New Zealand.
First, I want to go back a little bit. The night before we got to Nelson, we had camped in the most sandfly infested place in the country (as far as I experienced). It was just a little campground on the side of the road, but it was better than the other ones we passed and at least there was sort of a spot available. Some campgrounds in New Zealand that we saw were really nice. Most though, left a lot to be desired. This campground for example, listed something like 45 sites. If you parked cars on the lawn and left just enough space for your tent and a camp chair, you could have probably fit up to 60 cars there. But there were 5 fire rings and picnic tables and they were all taken. There weren't 45 cars there; probably 7, but no facilities for us.
I'd picked up a BBQ in a box though so we were set.

The bad part of the BBQ in a box was that it sucked. Our dinner of kabobs took about 2 hours to finally get cooked. Naomi wasn't a really big fan of that product.

So we got up in the morning and drove to Murchison, which is a pretty nice little town. Naomi is not a fan of extreme sports including almost running out of gas, so she was a little worried whether Pixie was going to make it to Murchison or not. Actually we were heading for another closer town to get gas, but it turns out that there is no gas station in that town. Oops! We made it. Extreme!!!!!!!!!

So in Murchison we went to a cool little coffee shop. Naomi ordered and then had me wait for the coffee while she approximated a shower in their bathroom, since there wasn't a shower at the sandfly lawn. While I was waiting, this crazy guy is waiting next to me. He actually was about 20+ feet from me at all times, but since he apparently had vowed to remain 20+ feet from a shower at all times, it was like we were in a phone booth. This guy was talking about how he had picked up a hitchhiker and was telling the clerk all about her, and then she appeared. She looked like she was thinking, "wow! this guy is F!ing weird! (and stinky)" She didn't really look like she thought anything about the stink since she may have been a member of the anti-shower cult also. While listening to him, I can hear that he is American too; great. Anyway, Naomi comes out and we just wait there for something like 10 minutes listening to this guy torture the poor clerk with all his hippie agenda and telling him he was going to get them some paintings he'd made so they could hang them up. When they gave him the polite nod (meaning "no way, please leave Mr. Crazystinky") he told them, no a better idea would be for him to just hang his pictures up himself. This guy was hilarious. He then went into how he was playing a show up north but'd be back to play a show there in a couple days. "Have you heard me play? Its like nothing you've ever heard. Pure, soul music; all original by yours truly. You'll love it."

We left Murchison and headed to Nelson (about a 3 hour drive), stayed there a night and then we headed up to Abel Tasman National Park and Takaka, a little resort/hippie town next to the north end of the park.

Just outside of Takaka (maybe 2 hours from Nelson), was the thing I most wish I'd have taken a picture of but couldn't because my camera was out of batteries. There was a roadside stand selling homemade jerky, sausage, and bacon out of vending machines. There was nobody manning it, just a sign and then a little building with the machines in it. I thought it was hilarious and awesome. So we're in there trying to figure out which one to buy and the crazy guy from the coffee shop walks in and buys some stuff, while commenting on how great it is. I asked what we should get, he told us what he thought was best and offered us some of his that he just bought, while telling us he had to make good time to make a show he was playing. We got some and it was really good. I just wish I had a picture.

So after much difficulty, we found a place to stay (the place I booked on the internet was no longer in business) and headed to the northern most beach on the south island. Along the way, it was a lot like Willipa Bay... mud.

We also passed a spring that purports to be the world's clearest fresh water.

I don't know about that claim (maybe head of the Metolius River) but it was clear.

We made it to the beach before sunset.

saw a seal

hung out in the blowing sand

saw the sunset

walked back through the sheep field that we came in through, and made it back to Takaka, stopping at a little place that made its own beer and sold it in plastic jugs on the way.

The next day we went and picked up a kayak to paddle into Abel Tasman Park and camp there for a night. We had pretty great weather.

I jumped off some rocks into the water here. The ocean isn't warm like Samoa, but it certainly isn't cold like the NW ocean either.

After a few hours we made it to our camping spot.

There was nobody else there, and nobody else came to camp there that evening. It was really pretty great.

There was a little hill on the point that we climbed up and found a clearing that was described to us by our kayak rental guy.

There was a bird that kept harassing us for food, and wouldn't go away. It even let us pet it.

The next morning, still taking advantage of having access to real food, I attempted some eggs bendadict at my stick kitchen.

That day was great weather too.

We saw another seal on a rock.

After we returned the kayak, we headed back down the coast to the Blenheim area and camped along the beach there at a nice campground (with picnic tables!).

The next day was Valentines Day and we lucked into the nicest place we stayed the whole trip. It was fantastic.

The town is in the middle of one of their main wine regions and they rent bikes to go wine tasting. There were about 30 in fairly easy riding distance. I think we made it to 7 of them.

Some were pretty good.

Some, not so much:

Next, it was down the coast towards Christchurch. Kaikoura is supposedly a nice beach resort town, but it was horrible weather and freezing there and we didn't stay long. After much difficulty we ended up staying in Hamner Springs, which is a big spa resort town built on hot springs. We went to the pools and were not impressed. I have to say that Hamner Springs sucks. The pools are kind of like any municipal pool setup except someone tackier and dirtier than you'd expect. The town is ridiculously expensive and I'm not really sure why it is there.
The best thing was this roadside goat:

The next day we went to Christchurch, walked around town, got completely soaked by 58 degree driving rain, went to a movie and then went out to some bars and to the casino. It was really fun getting to go out in a real city.

and Naomi got to hang out in a real cafe:

The next day we went to a zoo.


They let you feed and pet the giraffes. That was super cool.

We also saw some more donkeys.

The next day we flew to Auckland.

Auckland seems like a pretty nice city, though we didn't get to see all that much of it. We did have dinner at a Brazilian barbeque place and ate too much.

Then we had to fly home.
I was really dreading having to go back. When we got to the airport there was a HUGE line for our flight. No other flights, just the one to Samoa. Tons of people with tons of kids and tons of luggage (coolers) who are amazingly unprepared to check in. "you want what? My ticket? Oy, sole! Bring the tickets over (yelling to one of their kids). You need all of the parties flying? Oy, sole! Come up here." (and 14 people of that family amble...sloooooooowly up to the ticket counter. Then they have to go back to their luggage because they want to see the passports. Then they have to go back to get the luggage. You didn't figure they'd need those things?!!!???

I was really really dreading going back then.

When we got to Apia, of course we couldn't check in early or get on another earlier flight to Pago without paying extra, so we just waited and took a taxi to the nearby Aggie Grey's beach resort. Of course leaving our bags was a hassle (even though we were going to eat there) and they acted as if nobody had ever wanted to spend their layover there. It is the only place nearby!!!!

But, once we sat down, I had a Vailima and I went out into the water (which was really warm and clear), and the weather was nice and hot, I didn't feel so bad. Once we got back to Tutuila, I was actually happy to be back, much to my surprise. I was recharged and happy to be in Samoa like I hadn't felt in a long time.

Of course I need another break pretty badly by now.