Ralph Waldo Emerson

The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon.

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.