Ralph Waldo Emerson

The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Great Scooter Adventure

Okay, this is a CRAZY long one, but, eh, I needed it. So read what you feel like and maybe head over to look at some new pics.

So it all started with a bus trip to Pai. Along the way our driver was hailed down by a cyclist. Fortunately for me, I had a seat to myself and a keen interest in making a new friend (aka he had nice biceps). Yesiree, this seat is available. Right.

Sebastian's the guy I briefly mentioned in the last blog who's been traveling for 15 years. Just set out from Holland on his bicycle and has been wandering around ever since. After his initial inspiring monologue about lifetime travel I started quizzing him about if he thought it would be safe for a woman to do the same thing (theoretically speaking of course). "Of course", he replied. Sometimes it's fun to be with people who know what you want to hear. He then mentioned that there was a ride from Pai around to Mae Hong Son and then back to Chiang Mai that's great to do solo. Lots of gorgeous scenery and winding roads to muddle through. So, buzzing off Sebastian's awesomeness, I decided that immediately following the jungle trek I'd head off on my solo scooter trip.

Now, as you may have noticed, I'm not really one to keep my mouth shut. So when the time came to actually hop on my scooter and ride off on my solo trek around Thailand; I had several people signed up to come along. Candidate #1 was Peter, a sweet Stanford PhD student who I'd met the night before. I told him he was more than welcome to join and looking around the crazy backpacker bar he nodded in agreement, "Yeah, let's go get lost". The next morning when I woke up his words were still ringing in my head. Yeah. Sounded good. So I did.

I felt a twinge of guilt when 7pm arrived and I sat in a tiny town when I should've been walking into the restaurant Peter and I had allotted to plan our trip. But as Pim, the cook's daughter, told me her story and I ate her mother's delicious Pad Thai, I got over the guilt pretty quick. Sometime you just gotta do what you gotta do.

Many of the people that I meet find it very strange that I prefer to travel alone. Though I might link up with people for a few days, I always wind up leaving them to go and do my own thing. But honestly, travelling solo is a very freeing experience and has some very valid plus sides. For example:

1) Avoid hating people you found completely charming at home.
--It's incredible how many life long friendships crumble after one too many travel spats. I like my friends. I want to keep them.
2) Meet more locals.
--Packs of foreigners are scary to everybody: the mass force of otherness is overwhelming. But one person is manageable, so the locals find you charming rather than frightening, especially as you painfully struggle through the tones of their "Hello" and "thank you".
3) Think.
--No more having to go through awkward attempts to keep your travel partner entertained. Like the old point-out-the-window-and-say-"Wow-isn't-that-pretty?" Yes, he's seen it Eagle Eye, and yeah, it is pretty, however did you ascertain that. And of course the getting-to-know-you-better-chats are great, but sometimes you just need to poke around in your own head for a bit and see what comes up.
4) Do what you want when you want how you want.
--And now I'm starting to sound like a crotchety old man.

Okay, tangent aside, the next day I zoomed off into rice fields and rolling hills. I was digging the bright red manual scooter I'd rented and enjoying the feel of it as I winded around bends and curves, stopping at intermittent caves and waterfalls for a look.

After a couple days I'd made it to Mae Hong Son. Even before I left Pai I'd staked out Mae Hong Son as the place to get a map. Yes, of course getting one in Pai would probably have made more sense, but the ones I'd found were less than reliable and I just wanted to get the hell outta dodge. Sebastian had mentioned a particularly detailed cycling map that was the gospel of people doing the loop and knew I couldn't leave Mae Hong Son without it. This, however, was easier said than done. Four hours of wandering, two downpours and no map later; I sat in a cafe in the middle of town sipping an overpriced, oversugared iced latte feeling disgruntled. Should I just turn around? Stay the night in this busy little border town and get out?

Then, across the room, there it was.

A round German couple had just unfolded the prophesied testament from their bags and were studying it at their table; the newly ordained disciples of my pilgrimage to Mae Hong Son. Though I considered grabbing the thing and running, they informed me (after my sweet and subtle "Hey, where'd you get that?") that they'd bought it a few blocks away at their scooter rental. I chugged down the latte, threw down my cash and ran to the place.

Map in hand I was reinvigorated to continue the journey. Though evening was coming and rain threatened, I filled up with gas on the outside of town and headed for a B&B the map seller had recommended. An hour later the rain had begun and I was pulling into a home stay that I had driven by twice. No one was around. With the rain beginning to come down and the light to dim, I started thinking of options. Overly confident from my jungle trek, I'd bought myself a knife and started thinking about where I could find banana leaves to make a shelter for the night. Fortunately the neighbor arrived to save me from myself.

He rustled up the elderly owners who were absolutely thrilled to have a guest--seems they're few and far between at this time of year. They set me up in my little bungalow and then served me a dinner that consisted of: lychee, roast peanuts, papaya, cabbage soup, roast corn, fried rice AND banana in coconut milk. Every time I thought the table couldn't get any fuller, they'd bring out another plate. God, I loved them. They even turned on an Australian radio station for me so I could listen while I ate.

As I curled up in bed that night I was more sure than ever that the Great Scooter Adventure truly was...well...great. Unfortunately it's at moments like those that I want to reach out and squeeze some one's hand to confirm how good things are. Solo travelling. Ahem. Right.

The next morning they stuffed me full of breakfast, filled my bike's front basket with lychee from their trees and sent me on my merry way. Despite the rain--which seemed not to have let up from the night before--I was feeling more than optimistic.

I do have to say, though, scootering in rain is a bit scary. I told myself more than once that such a practice was stupid; the roads are slick, the going's slow and I'm definitely no seasoned veteran. But what's the use of being young if you can't be dumb? The road was calling and off I went.

That afternoon I was rolling slowly down a steep turn on a hill when the inevitable happened. Yup. I lost control. Funny thing about accidents is that you know you're in trouble but at the same time there's not much you can do about it. I was on a bike careening for the bushy thicket and thinking, "Well this was to be expected".

I laid there on the shoulder of the road for a second and waited for my body to let me know just how much I'd screwed it up. The rain was still falling and the sky was gray but every color and detail seemed to pop in my adrenaline fueled eyes. The drops splattering on the red bike with the lychee strewn around looked more like a movie set than real life.

Then I looked down to inspect myself. 1) All bones were in their proper place. Hurrah! That was the biggie in my book--broken limbs put such a wrench in one's plans. It seemed my right forearm and foot had suffered the worst damage, bleeding from scrapes and tender at the touch. But other than surface wounds, I was fine. A bucking bronco ride into asphalt later and all I could complain of was soreness and scratches. I felt damn lucky--but not just that. I often feel lucky, I'm a lucky person. But this was the kind of luck that made me feel incredibly humble and inconsequential, I could've had it a lot worse. And I felt that. Deeply.

Trembling and a bit shaken, I was trying to work out my next move when another scooterist came trucking by. He pulled over to help, made sure I was okay and then righted the bike so I could saddle up. He rode with me a ways to ensure all was on the up and up and then zoomed off.

A couple hours and I'd made it to a town that my trusty map said had a guest house. As I got myself off the scooter I asked some locals guys about it (aka made sleeping gestures followed by curious shrugs of my shoulders) and soon the owner was brought round. Turns out he's also the local cop and regional tour guide; looked like the map had definitely been worth its 200 baht. Soon he and I were at the local hospital (whose only nurse had to be brought in to open the place up for me) where I got cleaned up while his about-to-pop-pregnant wife cooked us dinner. Some of the cuts were kinda deep, but nothing required stitches. Just daily cleansing and some pills. The hospital asked only for a donation.

The next day the policeman/guest house owner/tour guide insisted that he scooter with me to the national park so that he could watch out for me. Turns out he's leading a trek there and needed to pay a visit to the park director anyway (again, lucky as hell). We cruised through beautiful valleys, then up through the beautiful Doi Inthanon National Park: home to Thailand's highest mountain. After his meeting he took me to a local hill tribe village that specializes in coffee growing. They have a home stay deal there (as many of the hill tribe villages seem to do) where tourists can make an attempt at living a "rural" lifestyle. Seeing as they make you all your meals and set you off to wander around and take pictures of their livestock, it's not exactly roughing it but it's pretty damn cool.

Early the next morning the adrenaline had thoroughly flushed itself from my body and I was beginning to feel the more deep seated aches the accident had caused. Despite the family's kindness, I knew I needed to haul myself to Chiang Mai and set about some serious R&R. Luckily I'm in the land of $5 massages and $10 rooms that get you your own bed, en suite AND TV. Niiice.

So now it's a few days later and I've gotten myself down to Koh Tao, a gorgeous island famous for its scuba diving. I've hooked up with a crazy group of Americans including: 4 marine biologists, 1 novelist and a knight for Medieval Times. I'm not kidding. This oughtta be good.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Kepunka=the only word I can say in Thai.

Alright, kids, I don't have much time but I posted up some pics so I figure I should give you some reference points:

1) Bangkok

I arrived to people flinging water and smearing this weird muddy stuff on each other...and me. Turns out it was the last day of their 5 day celebration of the Chinese New Year. The tradition began with people peacefully sprinkling water on the Buddha for good luck. It's now a no holds barred, 5-day water assault. Not water fight, that sounds too playful, this is a massacre. After a few hours of laughing and playing along, I finally put up the white flag and slunk back to my guest house to hide.

Though the I'm waiting on getting pics from my buddy Adam, the rest of the week was a blast. Met up with some NZ friends as well as my brother's best friend from high school who is from Bangkok. Lots of live bands, eating and drinking. Sweet action.

2) Chiang Mai

Opting to go north to try and experience some "culture" before I head to the tourist saturated beaches in the south, Chiang Mai seemed like the way to go. Took a cooking class which I RULED at (this of course is hyperbole: I was the worst in the class. But definitely front runner for "Most Spirited") and will be very willing to give you a demonstration when I get home--though I'm quite certain that when a chef and his 4 assistants aren't around things are gonna look quite a bit different.

Met a couple travel buddies who then went with me to...

3) Pai

A hippie village to the north west that's chock full of farangs (again, the name for tourists) but a good time anyway. Met amazing people including a dude that's been on the road for 15 years and still has remained un-weird (a great feat in my book) and went on:


That's in caps because it deserves them. It deserves every exclamation point ya got. We ate freshly sling shotted squirrel and other mystery meat, helped construct a bamboo/banana leaf hut in a driving rain storm and clambered about on some sweet waterfalls. Ooh and got leeches. That was fun. The second night was the best--spent it at a rural Thai village whose towns men were just a little too ready to shove rice whisky down our throats...and of course, in order to be polite, we acquiesced. I still feel sick.

Okay, that's the quick and dirty, but enjoy the pics and I'll try and be more verbose later!!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Oh no you d'int...

Woo yes indeed things have been moving full force. Where shall we begin?
Ah yes, I’m in Thailand.
I know, I know, you’ve probably lost all faith in my competency as a autobiographical narrator, but listen, it took me this long just to figure out what the hell happened this last month. You're as up to date as I am.

So my mom mentioned in the last post that they dropped me at Lakewood Lodge to make a little promo video for their website. I was then going to hop back on the Flying Kiwi bus and do a little editing stuff for them before returning to Wellington and meeting up with my buddy Damon…

But then Hollywood came a-calling. Yes, my friends, I was lured into the trap of celebrity one day after arriving at the Lodge.

Way back in September I had gotten myself an acting agent in Auckland who had then proceeded to make promises of getting me a spot on Power Rangers before dropping out of communication for the better part of 7 months. Having totally forgotten about our little arrangement, it came as quite a shock when I received a call saying, “Kari, Lili here, have I got an opportunity for you! Give me a tinkle when you get a chance”. Ha. Tinkle. I love that they say tinkle in New Zealand.

Turns out she’d gotten me an audition for the leading female role in an ABC TV series that’s going to be filmed in NZ. Now, let’s think about this one: the role calls for a beautiful, long-haired brunette with an athletic body (read Evangeline Lily), excellent acting skills and, here’s the clincher, an American accent.

Now let’s not kid ourselves: in Hollywood a casting agent would read this description and think, “Oh, maybe there’s a cute best friend character we could slip Kari in for”. But no, we are in New Zealand, where the sole fact that my American accent is pretty damn believable made all the other “requirements” quite a bit less important.

So, after finishing my film for the Lodge people I got myself into Auckland to prepare for the audition I should not have gotten. It was actually quite a nice time, I stayed for the majority of the two weeks in a jungly area outside of town with a couple of guys who employ backpackers to do odd jobs around their house in exchange for accommodation and food. This, by the way, is a brilliant idea and one that I hope to mimic back in the states: you throw some sweet young backpacker into whatever corner of the house has some space and, in turn, they make you dinner, bake you tasty treats and do whatever crap job you’ve been putting off doing yourself. Yes. Everyone needs a backpacker.

But I digress…finally the big day came, I got myself as cuted up as I could while still looking “athletic” and “American” and gave my performance. Whereupon they said thank you, well done, next please. Sure, yes, you changed all your plans and schedule and dropped quite a bit of cash for these 15 minutes in a back room with a camera, but yeah, shoo shoo. The next girl looks like she’s done some Hawaiian Tropic modeling and you need to deal with some frizz issues.

How the hell do actors maintain any sense of self respect?

Oh that’s right. We don’t.

So off I flew back down to Wellington to stay a couple days with some friends before meeting up with Damon and cruising around the South Island for a couple weeks in a campervan. All the while I kept my cell phone on in case Hollywood decided to call…as of yet it seems they must be having some phone issues.

But I wasn’t fussed, I was busy hiking around and seeing many of the places that I first experienced back in September, October and December. How different they all were when I was just passing through and not trying to earn a buck. It was a really great way to say goodbye to the country that I had grown to love and definitely fun to eat at all those restaurants and do all those hikes I’d been meaning to.

Two weeks and lots of hikes, learning to drive stick shift, hours of Flight of the Conchords watching/mimicking, fishing for the first time and watching sunsets later; Damon was off on a hellish journey back to Boston and I was setting my sights on Bangkok.

Oh dear god. I will save you from the grisly details of the 40 hour journey but let me just say: planning ahead may actually be a good idea. I’m looking into it. I’m now out a few hundred bucks but have built lots of character from the journey. Lots of character.

But it’s now nearly 8am on Tuesday morning and the new adventure has begun. I’m a bit wary because I know it will be a very challenging place, but that’s exactly what I want. New Zealand was so safe and accommodating and familiar; thus far Thailand has been none of the above. But the stories will be good, and I guess that’s really the point, eh? So I’m off to follow my nose, to ride an elephant, to sample as much curry as humanly possible and have a freaking amazing time. Much love to all.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Guest Blog: the Reign of Mom

So what you might not know is that the inspiration for all this writing stuff comes from my mom. Yup, nature vs nurture: it's gotta be a little of both. We've been keeping in touch through e-mails for years now, and from Spain to Costa Rica to good old Malibu, a huge part of our relationship has been based on the ridiculous stories we send each other over the internets. Always hyperbolic, ever entertaining, my e-mails with my mom have always been a huge part of my travels. Now with the whole blog thing, I've become a little less verbose in our correspondence (sorry ma), but to give you a sampling of the awesomeness of the e-mails I receive from mom I asked her to do a blog about she and my dad's experience here in NZ. Certainly our "public face" requires a bit of cleaning up (it was with great disappointment that I discovered no off color remarks in this entire passage) but this is still great stuff. So, without further ado, here's NZ-mom style:
{oh and get your fine-ass over to here for more pics}

The ‘rents are back home from another stunning ChaiBait (recently redone, buya!) adventure and what an adventure it was. Imagine a roller coaster ride that lasts three weeks winding thru idylic green pastures filled with fluffy white sheep stopping periodically to walk peaceful tracks through glens of tree ferns or cycling along deserted beaches or a quick rush at adrenaline laden tourist sites.

As usual we left home with only a fuzzy image of what the next three weeks held and landed in Christchurch two days later. As we were completely sold on the Flying Kiwi from the awesome promotional video we had seen on their website we had arranged to meet up with them there for a quick tour of the south island before meeting up with Kari. With a great group of people from all parts of the world (and 30 years younger than we are) we camped out, rode bikes, hiked peaceful trails, visited Mt. Cook, went white water rafting and spent a night in an old road construction camp left from a public works project back in the 1920’s. It was an excellent introduction to New Zealand and how things work down there, including the finer points of driving on the wrong side of the road.

As you read in the previous blog we were occupied the afternoon we had arranged to meet up with our next tour guide(Kari) in the adrenaline capital of Queenstown. Just for clarification from the last blog, one is never too old for peer pressure. Before leaving the US I was aware that New Zealand offered sky diving, bungy jumping and other adrenaline laced activities. I was more than sure that I didn’t need to participate in said activities. However once surrounded by innumerable outrageously adrenaline loaded activities offered in a relatively small village and being surrounded with people who all thought these were perfectly normal activities to pick from, skydiving seemed a rather tame choice. After all I was not strapping myself to a 60 horse power air craft engine with a set of bicycle breaks and a throttle or jumping off a bridge with a rubber band tied around my ankles. Everything went smoothly watching other skydivers float effortlessly down from the sky landing in the pasture next to the hanger full of parachutes and gear. It was even fun putting on the jump suit and goggles and meeting the pro I would be trusting my life to for the next 20 minutes. As we headed out toward the plane I began to feel the first hint of anxiety. Nothing I couldn’t overcome but reality was beginning to settle in. Now I understand the real reason for being tied to someone who knows what is going on. It is not only that he knew when to pull the parachute cord but before that was even a possibility he was going out the door of the plane and therefore I was going out as well. Everyone made sure to mention to keep my eyes open as I went out the door so I could watch the plane disappear as I fell away. Now why would that make anyone feel better? Fortunately none of us spattered on the ground or wandered off to other adventures and by evening had happily reunited for the first time in six months.

The ADHD portion of the trip was about to begin! The next two weeks were filled with driving on the wrong side of the road, trying to remember that the turn signals and windshield wipers are reversed as well and split second decisions on where we would go next. For the most part we found everything we headed for with the exception of a really cool vineyard that evaded us for several hours. After the third call we decided it was far too embarrassing to show up and as we never did find them anyway it was just as well! Perhaps receiving a cell phone call from the side of the road asking where we were encouraged them to think we had been to a few too many vineyards already. We didn’t mean to sound that dumb, we just are.

Kiwi’s are a fun lot making even the most mundane experience a hoot. Such as the Waitomo glow worm caves. I imagined sitting on a log in a dark cave thinking “Yep that’s glow worms alright” and walking out 10 minutes later. Glow worms Kiwi style involve wet suits, gum boots, hard hats and an inner tube. One dons said attire, clambers down inside a cave, plunks down in the tube and floats along in the underground stream admiring the glow worms stuck to the ceiling of the cave. All the while the guide told us about the giant carnivorous eels that inhabit the cave. I think there was something about the glow worms as well but as my wet suit had a hole in the left cheek area it seemed the carnivorous eel might be something I should pay attention to. Fun times!

Also on our list a chance to see a sheep sheared. It seemed with that many sheep it would be easy to find one in need of a hair cut but everywhere we went it was the same old story “wow, you should have been here last weekend or yesterday or even this morning”, humph. Just as we were getting discouraged and about to give up we passed a little tin shed with a big sign on the side “rabbits sheared daily”. Well okay, if there were no sheep to be sheared a rabbit was the next best thing. We made a quick turn around and had a wonderful tour of the shop with lots of beautiful, soft knit stuff. A quick tour of the outside lean too revealed several rabbit cages each holding a fluffy Angora rabbit patiently waiting for what turns out to be a quarterly haircut! This was starting to be really fun. At the appointed time one lucky rabbit was chosen and set up on the shearing bench while a disappointed sibling was placed on a pedestal for photos. As the shearer trussed up the shearee a narrator entertained us with a running monolog all about the rabbits and the fur and the products produced by local knitters. What started out as a big, fluffy rabbit ended up a very appreciative wee little bunny! That was way better than sheep who always seem slightly confused and vaguely violated.

After dropping Kari off at the Lakewood Lodge for a few days of filming Read and I headed off to Auckland and one last day in New Zealand. Following our tried and true no plan tour we dropped our rental car off and caught the ferry to Waiheke Island. We stopped at the local information center and within 10 minutes had found a room at a Bed & Breakfast place on the ridge between the two harbors. Off the deck we had a relaxing afternoon watching the sailboats bob gently in the afternoon sun. Then we headed over to the other side of the island and walked along the beach and among the tide pools. At dinner we toasted the sunset and a wonderful adventure overlooking the bay with a lovely local wine.

ahhhh. Alright, who is currently looking up plane tickets? Good work ma.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Growing up’s weird.

A few more fun pics at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8151765@N03/sets/72157604058006937/

So my parents have spent the last few years filling up their passports with cool destinations. The latest country on their hit list: New Zealand. Convenient, eh? As one friend put it: “How far do you have to go?”

No, but really, I’ve been looking forward to the old visit from moms and pops. After all, they did give birth to me and I’ve grown quite fond of them ever since.

So with the idea in my head that these two lovely people had come all the way across the Pacific just to spend time with their favorite kid (that’s right, Wells and Cameron, we’ll battle this out when I get home), I shouldered my pack and headed to Queenstown.

I was imagining a prodigal daughter type reception: I’d step off the plane, toss my hair and pull the shades from my face just as my two most devoted fans ran to me, flinging their arms around my neck as I cracked a world-weary grin.

Instead dad informed me about half hour before my flight that I’d have to keep myself entertained for the afternoon; they’d be busy skydiving.

Now hang on a minute: I’m supposed to be to cool one. I go on the adventures. But apparently they didn’t get the memo and rather than assuage my delicate ego, flung themselves from a plane at 12,000ft.
Oh how I love them.

My ego having been firmly set back into its proper place, mom, dad and I said goodbye to the friends they’d made on their Flying Kiwi bus (yup, my marketing video worked for at least two people) and headed off to travel luxury style aka completely blowing the $5/week food budget by breakfast. Again, loving the parents.
The funny part of meeting up with them after all this time apart is figuring out how the whole parent-child thing works at this age. The weirdness begins when you get to college—you go off and get settled into the college routine. Then you bounce home for your first winter break and expect to keep the same hours as you did back at school. But for some reason your parents don’t really appreciate hearing you stumble in at 3am every night. Sure they know that you think you’re all cool and independent now, but in my personal situation, they were also very aware of the fact that my monetary situation was almost wholly contingent on their happiness with me. Thusly, the apron strings were somewhat loosened throughout college, but still securely in place.

But now, for the first time ever, I’m completely independent and on my own. So though there’s certainly no way I could afford traveling to my parents standards, it still feels uncomfortably juvenile to have my mom hand me $20 so I can get us munchies at the gas station. At the same time, there are moments when I feel like the responsible adult in the triad as I play diplomat to the inevitable travel spats: “Now mom, why do you feel we should stop here for the night?” “Ok, dad, why do you feel it’s more advantageous to keep going?”

But hey, we’re figuring it out. And having loads of good times in the process. Spent a few days in the South Island; bumming around Lake Wanaka, driving kamikaze style up the West Coast and doing a 2-day kayaking trip in the Abel Tasman. I then left mom and dad in the south while I headed back up to Wellington to help with the Fringe’s grand finale (and what a help I was amidst all that free wine). We’ve since met up again and are cruising around the North Island…to varying degrees of success. Between the three of us, we manage to remember to stay on the left hand side of the road, but the damn windshield wiper’s where the turn-signal should be and so every time we indicate you’d think we’d hit a freak storm.

Next stop on our journey: Rotorua. Though it suffers from sulphur-stank, it’s loaded with hot springs, deep tissue massages and tasty Maori-style dinners. I’m thinking the psychoanalysis of parent-child relationships will seem incredibly unimportant in the midst of my daddy-funded facial.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

blah blah blog.

More pics at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8151765@N03/sets/72157603836465565/
New ones start from "Freddy"

As per usual, the insanity continues.

First order of business: the show. Caravan of Amazement, or as we lovingly came to call it, Train Wreck of Amazement. Yes, it was one of those shows that you told your friends to go and see just so they could experience it in all its horrific, gruesome glory. Though I had fun leaping about on our grass stage, there were times when I whole-heartedly agreed with the cat calls of passing punk-teenagers: "Hey jackasses, your show sucks!" Why, yes, ear-plug bearing cretin, you're quite correct.

But in recognizing and embracing the utter mediocrity of our show, the cast bonded together in our 4ft high tent (thusly constructed so that it would not suffer the same fate of our first "caravan", which snapped in half due to the gale force Wellington wind). I would attempt to describe this nightly 1/2 hour of utterly abysmal theater, but I think the attached pictures speak for themselves.

In other acting news: I finally got to do that extra part for Avatar which was loads of fun. It's amazing how much effort they put into making you look good as a "background artist"; especially seeing as my greatest hope is to catch a glimpse of my left foot as the lead character gets pummeled on the floor in front of me. Two days of hanging out, wearing ridiculously red lipstick and being fed like a queen ain't bad though, I tell you what. The next acting gig I actually got to be the one being pummeled in an overwrought student film where I played the wife of a split-personality psycho. My part consisted of: lovingly embracing split-personality 1, lovingly embracing split personality 2, getting choked and dying. Move over Meryl Streep.

Beyond those gigs, I've also been practicing my rather impressive temping skills. No more door to door crap for me. Oh no, I'm half way respectable as a thoroughly efficient office-minion machine with filing, data entry and typing speed skills that could stun a yak. If there is anything positive about being a temp-bitch it's definitely getting to work in vastly different office environments. One day I was in the top floor, corner office of a life insurance executive in an office that had 5 of its very own espresso machines. The next job I was in the Ministry of Education, winding my way through the varying shades of second-hand cubicle walls and under the overgrown office plants of underpaid government workers. Ah, contrasts are fun.

But now it looks as if I'm leaving Wellington sooner than expected: after 3 months here and I take off tomorrow to meet up with my parents in the S. Island before picking up a couple more filming gigs. Yup, the parental unit decided to come for a visit and baited me with a ticket down to Queenstown to meet up with them a bit earlier than expected. As excited as I am to get on the road again, I know I'm leaving behind some incredible friends and some tasty opportunities. Last night was such an example of what I'll miss about Wellington: after the cast party I met up with my buddy Nathan to go to a gig in Thorndon, the most historic part of the city. After winding up circuitous roads we came to massive old town house with a couple artsy types smoking out front. "You know where to go, man?" They asked. Nathan nodded and led me through two huge entry rooms that seemed haunted by faded grandeur. And then suddenly the chords of good, kitschy folk music brought us into a pack of people gazing down at a sunken dance floor inhabited by an eclectic crew of musicians--complete with a piccolo player. Century old wall paper peeled from the wood-slated walls and port-holes peeked out into the lights of the harbor. Turns out this 1850s house used to entertain the sailors when they got into town. It has been handed down through the generations from one family member to the next and now boasts a rag tag crew of inhabitants who take care of the place and bring in home-grown New Zealand artists to entertain their buddies at small, word-of-mouth parties. As I gazed down from the gallery into the dance floor below I could just imagine the bawdy parties that went on 150 years ago.

And that's why I'll miss Wellington. And why, if one day I can think of nothing else to do, I'll be very tempted to come back.

But now's the time to leave and I'm looking forward to getting out in nature again before heading off to Bangkok on April 14. So wish me luck friends, and all the best!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Holy Schneikies

Well this certainly has been an interesting week...okay month...okay 6 months.

But we'll just stick to the last few days shall we?

So the whole "flinging myself at a job" thing wasn't exactly a drop in the bucket. But damn have I kept myself busy. Exhibit A-- cutouts of Carly Ann and I in various newspapers (the "hell" things are our fridge magnets). Though I am useless and jobless, I still managed to make it to press covered events...sounds very Paris Hiltonesque. Oh holy mother I need a job.

But it's not as if I'm lacking in things to do. Besides the opening parties, volunteering at the Fringe headquarters, rehearsing for our play (which is actually gonna be pretty freaking cool), overhauling the website so I actually look semi-legit (the results of which you'll see after the computer guy comes and works his magic on my ailing laptop), interviewing with various temp agencies/cafes/bars, going to callbacks, hanging out with random friends, running in the nearby park, writing bad poetry and the like...this particular week was interesting for three reasons:

1) The Kari and CarlyAnn $10 Budget for Food Challenge

2) The Sevens

3) My sales job

Okay, let's get started the Food Challenge.

So last Sunday CarlyAnn sat at her computer working through student loans and the like and by the end of her calculations laid $5 in coins on her desk. "This", she said, "Is all I've got for food for the week". Seeing as I'm a great roommate--and haven't really included tallying up a budget into my busy, unemployed lifestyle--responded, "Okay, then, me too." On our walk through the hills around our flat we discussed how it would be possible to spend $10 between the two of us on an entire week's worth of food. By the end of the walk, we were so excited about the challenge that we celebrated by blowing half the budget on ice cream cones.

We then wandered to the local grocery store, bought $4 worth of this lentil soup stock stuff and a lemon. Things were looking good. Let me tell ya, lentily soup stock can take all different forms: mix that sucker with cornmeal and you got yourself a patty. Stuff it between bread and it's like a tasty spread. Add some extra water and it's a very brothy soup. It certainly helped that we allowed for "found items"...such as the free bread that our roommate brings home from work every day and the meat in the freezer that I'm sure no one cared if we used.

I do have to admit, on day 2 I tried to sneak a $3 diet coke but the guilt so overwhelmed me that I broke down on day 3 and told Carly Ann of my transgression. I tried to argue that due to its lack of caloric density, it should not, in fact, count in the "food" budget. It was also bought for "medicinal purposes"--you see my stomach was slightly upset and I had to walk a full hour across town to get from the dvd printing studio to rehearsal and...and...yeah, even I was unimpressed. Fortunately CarlyAnn made a whopping $3 tip at her bar job (nontipping countries...pah) and I found $2 on the ground over the course of the week, so that cancelled things out. By day 4 Penelope, the other roommate, jumped on the band wagon with her $5 and we were just rolling in dough! And creative uses of random kitchen supplies. We're now so excited by the way things are going that we've decided to keep up the $10 a week challenge (well, now $15 with Pen on board) for as long as possible...and hoping to God that our various gigs will include many a dinner party.

Now on tooooo....The Sevens!! According to the website: "Staged at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium over two days and nights, the NZI Sevens involves 16 international teams competing for points that go towards the International Rugby Board (IRB) Sevens series...blahblahblah"

Okay, so essentially hot men from around the world duke it out in a stadium and the whole city dresses in ridiculous costumes to go watch. Yeah. Costumes. See exhibit B (those Borat costumes were actually banned this year for...well...the good of the community).

Everyone then stampedes out of the stadium and straight on to Courtenay Place aka downtown aka 5 minutes from my house and parties it up all weekend long. Exhibit C is the hat that I commandeered from one such reveler who insisted that I take it from him. I agreed. In a city this small, the excitement is everywhere and you can't turn a corner without seeing a whole herd of people dressed up in some insane costume. Yeah, so I like rugby.

And now for....the job in sales.

Okay, so I'm looking in the Job sections of the newspaper as I do most Wednesdays and there's this ad for a sales and marketing job: no experience necessary, travelers welcome. That right there told me--this job is gonna suck. When the employer lacks any kind of standards for your employment, that is a bad sign. But desperation breeds compromise and off I went for an interview.

I walked up the stairs of a shady looking auto-technical supplies warehouse to be met with booming pop music emenating from the second floor. The cool looking, open plan office was teeming with attractive 20-somethings busily filling out paperwork, chatting and disappearing into important looking rooms. I immediately looked around for the paddle and wondered when the hazing would begin.

Instead I filled out a very short survey that essentially asked if I had a pulse and what my interests were. 5 minutes later a very toothy and attractive James #1 led me into his office. Turns out the company is run by three Jameses who all have an affinity for pastel colored shirts and hair gel. After an interview that was essentially a competition to see who could hold eye contact the longest, he invited me to go on an observation the next day with a girl that I would "really like. She's really bubbly". Bubbly. That meant he thought I was bubbly. I hate it when people call me bubbly. Even if it is true.

The only information I was given was to "dress professionally and wear comfortable shoes" as we were going to meet with "clients". That right there made me wary, but seeing as they offered free lunch, I was game. A dinner roll stuffed with ham later I was dumped in old-people-ville-suburbia to sell a new energy company to bored retirees. Yes, my friends, I spent the afternoon as a freaking DOOR-TO-DOOR-SALESMAN
...and I kinda liked it.

House #3 included a lady that had actually just retired that day from four decades as a nurse, so as we helped her fill out paperwork she buzzed about ensuring the cake and bbq stuff was all set for her party. House #20 had a newborn baby that I rather awkwardly attempted to entertain while the "bubbly" Kelly clinched in the deal and House #32's 12-week-old border collie and I definitely will be keeping in touch. It was actually fun getting to step into these people's lives for the afternoon--especially since I just got to chat with them while Kelly took care of the business side of things. By the end of it I was thinking: Hey, I could actually see myself being okay at this...that is if I was able to make it to more than two houses per afternoon. I tend to ramble on a bit.

...but then, with a job, how could I maintain my flashy unemployed lifestyle? Yup, despite my peaked interest, the killer hours (12:30-9pm) would completely conflict with my Fringe show obligations, and that just wouldn't be cool of me. But I gotta say, the people element of sales really does capture me. You never know, maybe I'll be bringing a revolutionary new vacuum to a door near you.

Yet despite all these stops and starts...I don't feel as if I'm in the wrong place. In fact, all of this is somehow clarifying. When I came to NZ, all I knew was I had to get here. I didn't really know what I wanted out of life and didn't have much in the way of future goals. But all these crazy jobs, friendships and adventures later, I feel like I finally have some clarity. I'm getting a good grasp of who I am, what I want and it's becoming clear that I really can get there. Even if it does end up I have to sell a few vaccuums along the way.

Oh and there are a few more pics up if you feel the need to take a gander: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8151765@N03/sets/72157603836465565/ They're not nearly as exciting as the south island stuff, but there's some cute shots of CarlyAnn.