Archive | June, 2009

The familiar situation

29 Jun

Ahhhh, the familiar feeling of arriving in a foreign town and trying to set-up up roots for a new chapter. The past five days have been spent negotiating the bus systems, beating the foot path in search of a place to call home. As with all ski resort towns at the start of the ski season, competition is fierce for housing, with the demand well outweighing the supply. Lucky for me I have Mandy on my side with her fluent Spanish and her responsible appearance, two areas that I’m not that strong in………to put nicely.

I have also been looking at Spanish schools, as I plan to do a 1 month language course, and Mandy has been trying to find English teaching work.

While doing all this we have been lucky enough to be staying with Alisa and Nate, a friendly couple that we met through couchsurfing.com. Couchsurfing.com is a great website that acts as a meeting point for travellers and hosts. Basically a host will give you somewhere to stay, maybe a mattress on the floor, a couch, a room, and in return you will give a gift, or just help out around the house, cooking meals etc. And then when the host goes travelling they then are able to go and couch surf with other people in the couch surfing community. This is our first time doing this and it’s been a great experience.

Hopefully next time I write a post we will have a house, myself a Spanish school and Mandy a job.

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Bus to Bariloche

27 Jun

As far as bus rides go, this was awesome. It was 24 hours of bussing bliss. A double decker bus with a hostess that served meals, and not too mention wine with dinner – now that’s what I call a bus.

We had prime position seats, on the top level of the bus right at the front. It was basically just a wall of glass giving us an unobstructured vantage point. All the photos on this post are taken from where we sat.

Not only was the bus a luxury liner, but the scenery came to the party as well. We woke to beautiful blue skies over the Argentinean lake district. The landscape felt familiar to me, a mix of the baron Australian outback covered in New Zealand alpine scrub, trailing off into South Island lakes with the Southern Alps or the Canadian Rockies towering in the background. It was truly beautiful, we couldn’t of asked for a better welcome.

Waking up on that morning travelling through the little towns of the Lake District enroute to my new home of Bariloche I had a smile on my face, I felt like I had to write something down:

A foggy sunrise through condensated windows, like rain drops on the lenses of life

Looking out over a foreign land that has a fondness of home,

The birds, the trees, the waking workers all have a welcoming allure,

A sense of the beautiful unknown that can only be found in a foreign land,

The bus glides on the asphalt clouds,

The first pages of the Bariloche chapter are being written.

The city of the dead

22 Jun

Hello my good friends from the beautiful city of Buenos Aires. And what a beautiful city it is, not only in its very European first world feel, but also with the wonderfully friendly people that fill its bustling downtown streets.

It’s great to be in a city where you’re not a tourist, but just another face in the crowd going about your daily business, even if that business is just getting lost in the unfamiliar maze of foreign streets. It is definitely a welcome change from Thailand where you stand out like president Obama guest speaking at a KKK meet. In Buenos Aires you don’t wear the tourist tag that is accompanied with a big dollar sign hat that reads “please hassle me with your taylor-made suits, or cheap tuk tuk tour or a stupid Chinese made wooden souvenir that I probably couldn’t get through customs”. Umm, so yeah, I think I’m trying to say that I’m please I’m not being treated like a tourist.

But guess what, I am very much a tourist and have been taking great delight in exploring the tourist wonders of Buenos Aires. Attending a tango show was a definite high light for me. Not only the bottomless red wine available, but also the amazing performance where the tango dancers perform so gracefully with a sensuality a stripper could only dream of possessing. What makes you appreciate it even more is the tango lesson prior to the show where most people realise they are born with two left feet.

Next on the agenda was a walk through “La Camineta”, which is basically pedestrian streets filled with oddly painted houses. Music is being played in the streets, the tango being danced, the onlookers sit at the street cafes sipping their coffees, a great place to watch the world go by.

In contrast to the lively streets of the “la camineta” we wandered the clean pathways of the city of the dead, the “La cementario de Recoleta”. This is a 5 star cemetery for the Buenos Aires elite. Well kept lanes lined with marble and glass shrines to the famous. Elaborate statues and old trees tower above the lanes. It’s a funny feeling wandering and peering into the shrines through the glass windows and seeing the coffins. I was just waiting for some dead president from last century to pop his head up and tell me “piss off you dread lock hippy, I’m trying to die in peace here”.

I couldn’t’ help but think while walking through the manicured lanes how backwards this world is sometimes. How is it that these chosen few are laying dead in luxurious houses and yet on the streets I have passed families of 5 struggling to exist on the begged money of passerby’s as they lie on their mouldy double mattress outside a shop on a busy main street that they call home?

 

Hola from Argentina

19 Jun

We arrived safe and sound in Buenos Aires a couple of days ago.


There have been a few funny moments, waking and trying to remember in which country we are. The body clocks are still all over the show, was up at 4.30am this morning!


But apart from that, love this city. It feels so very European, walking around the streets and eating at the little street corner kiosks I could swear I’m back in Spain. 


New Zealand Photos

19 Jun

Photos from my New Zealand trip, click here

Loud and proud

17 Jun

No this is not a gay pride post, this a kiwi pride post. But this is relevant to all.

It’s not until you go overseas and travel and see the rest of the world that you can truly appreciate home. Growing up surrounded by natural beauty, a caring family, a first class education and health system and friendly people, you just take it for granted. Well, not so much take it for granted, but as a kid/teenager it is all you know, it is life.

Going overseas, you see the poverty; you see the concrete jungles of overcrowded countries, modern day slavery, pollution, corruption and even the simple things like having to buy bottled water as you can not drink the tap water.

So coming home I realised how fortunate I have been and saw all my surroundings in a new light.

It wasn’t just all the above that made me appreciate New Zealand, it was the people also. Being back home reminded me how down to earth and relaxed people are. Here are a few classic kiwi moments I found quite amusing.

I was at the Puhoi country pub, an iconic kiwi pub located in a small North Island town. There was your stereotypical weathered kiwi bushman drinking from a crate bottle (tall boy, long neck) in front of the open fire. He looked like an alcoholic Father Christmas that had just won a Salvation Army make-over. Over the radio came the news headline, “13 year old boy skulls bottle of spirits in 20 minutes and is admitted to hospital”. The old kiwi bushman in his gruff voice looks at me and says “sounds to me as though he needs to toughen up”.

We were on our flight from Auckland to Nelson, there were no security checks, lining up or checking ID, we just walked out of the gate over the tarmac and onto the plane. The funny part was that the plane was nearly empty; it only had 11 people on it. But instead of the air hostess standing at the front of the plane and going through the robotic movements explaining the in-flight procedures, she walks down the aisle with a welcoming smile, picks up the on board safety card, and says “you won’t be needing this, you can use it as a fan if you want”.

The Kiwi Experience

16 Jun

Well it was a whirl wind trip back home to Nelson. One week of hanging out with the family and giving Mandy her dose of kiwiana (general term used to include all things typical of New Zealnd). It’s all been go, an action packed kiwi experience and it didn’t involve a green bus full of drunken rooting tourists (don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with a bus load of drunken rooting tourists).

Mandy, myself and sister Jarnia did an overnight tramp (trek) into Lake Rotoiti, which was awesome, Jarnia and I relived our childhood and Mandy got to experience New Zealand’s native bush. The rain didn’t hinder our spirits but rather added to the Lord of the Rings middle earth feel with the mist hanging around the mountains. The battering rain on the tin roof of the hut made us appreciate the wood smoked heat being pumped out by the huts fire.

We finished the tramp by jumping in the lake, and oh my god it was cold, I’m still peeing ice cubes! I suppose we should have expected it to be cold considering there was a sprinkling of snow on the surrounding mountains.

After coming back from Lake Rotoiti we were off for an old fashioned family road trip. Mum and dad up front and the kids in the back seat, only difference being, we didn’t have to stop for me to spew and we weren’t complaining about the driving, but rather savouring the beautiful green landscape unfolding before our eyes.

Golden bay was the stage for Mandy’s kiwi experience road trip. The main actors in the kiwi experience play were: sheep, a venison pie, a good ‘ol kiwi farm bach (holiday house), seals, hokey pokey ice cream, an All Blacks rugby game, greenstone and paua shell jewery, and numerous local beers and wine etc. The Golden Bay landscape of rolling green farm land falling away into rugged coast line being consumed by the crashing waves was the perfect setting.

Before we knew it, it was time to pack up and head back up to Auckland for our flight to Argentina.