Holy smokes, I Live in New Zealand.


The Apartment Post.
October 31, 2007, 8:47 pm
Filed under: Establishing

My Apt 010

Oh my goodness. I still haven’t told you about where I live!

I allowed myself three days to get established. In that time, I managed to look at four apartments. Auckland is a tenant’s market, so there are lots of places to look at. But of course, there are lots people looking. I was in a competition for two of the four units. I “won” both of those. Score.

The one was a super small loft on a quiet lane off the main street. Party nights would have been very loud. The other had a great view of the skyline, but came with a $1000 “letting fee.” It’s a charge unique to New Zealand. It’s basically paying $1000 for the privilege to rent somebody’s apartment (this is on top of the bond/damage deposit). The third had a small ocean view, but was about as large as my kitchen back home.

And so I’ve defaulted to apartment number four. It’s in a 17-storey building with a landward view. It overlooks a quiet little park, with my office building poking overtop of the treed canopy of that park. Yes, that is a 500 metre walk to work. A loft apartment building frames the rest of my view (me watching them and them watching me). The streets out my window are small local roads, so it is a generally quiet spot…in the middle of a metropolis of 1.3 million. Oh – and the Canadian consulate is just up the street.

I had really been hoping for an ocean view without really knowing where to look or how much it would cost. Turns out that my budget allows for an ocean view defined by roadways only, not sweeping panoramas. Plus, those apartments are about half the size – unlike waterfront apartments in Barrie, which are the same size as those with a landward view. There are also two significant arterial roads between my building and the ocean, chock full of diesel-powered buses and tire squealing teenagers. Instead, I turned my money into a relatively large studio apartment (600 sq.ft) with a quiet view of a serene little park.

I’ve moved all the furniture and vacuumed underneath everything. Just like home…except that everything is in one room and fully furnished. It’s like a glorified hotel room, but at a lesser cost.

A photo tour.



The Best 55 Minutes Ever.
October 28, 2007, 9:50 pm
Filed under: Happenstance | Tags: , , ,

After an hour of refreshing the Auckland Marathon results page, I finally managed a successful hit.

55 minutes.   Estimated.

See, it all started with me not being able to read my race ticket.  Turns out it was a 7 AM start, NOT 7:30 as planned.  Lucky for me I allow myself 15 minutes of pre-race time, and I was “running early”.  By the time I checked my bag in at the rest station and returned to the start line, it was 7:12 AM.  I was in last place.  Dead last.  I mean, it was only me and the still-drunk-this-morning in that area of the Viaduct.  They cheered me on for the most part.   The lesson I imparted on each of these individuals (as well as the police and St. John’s attendants lining the route) was to set their alarms properly.

I caught up with the walkers at the 2 km part.  The good part about being in last place is that you don’t get passed by a lot of people.  I quickly began moving up from 2098th place into the pack.  My updated playlist and adventures in energy drinks were working very well, bolstered by some water drunk poorly at 3 km.

It started drizzling a bit as the weaving between runners began.  Not much fancy to report.  Most people were wearing their Auckland Marathon shirts – I had my (Barrie) Canada Day Series shirt on.  The hecklers made note of the giant maple leaf on it.  Mission accomplished.

My new pacing worked very well, judged by how I only had to walk for 10 seconds because other runners braked at the water station (and I’m too polite to tell them to keep moving, especially when I’m so far back in the pack).  So we’ll stick with it and the associated music.

Anyways, the weaving and passing continued up to 9 km, when I realized that I wasn’t in the least bit tired.  So I upped the pace and chugged past silent spectators who didn’t seem too interested in cheering on me (I like it when strangers cheer for me).  I actually crossed the line in 1:07:39, but I started roughly 12 minutes late.  That’s a 55 minute 10k.  Goal obtained, and with only a raw spot where I usually blister on my right foot and a little stiffness in my right (long) calf.

Highlight of the day: walking home, the cop on traffic duty stops me and asks how I finished after my delayed start.  We had a good 10 minute chat about life as a traffic cop at special events, the benefits of reading your race information kits and proper nutrition, and how lovely a country New Zealand is.

1:07:39 is good for 731st overall (out of 2098 times registered), 370th amongst males, and 213th amongst the under-34 crowd.   An actual 55 minute finish would have put me in the mid- to high-200s (250-300th overall).

NZ Herald writeup.

NZ Herald pictures.

NZ Herald video.



Auckland (Quarter) Marathon.
October 27, 2007, 10:52 am
Filed under: Happenstance | Tags: ,

As you are curling up in front of fireplaces after celebrating a successful morning of grocery shopping or lawn working, I will be gearing up for my longest race to date: the quarter marathon (10.5 km) component of the Auckland Marathon.

This is the event website.

In training, I have hit 16 km a couple of times but as of late have been pushing 11 km in my long, slow training runs.  In the Race Club series, I’ve been playing around with a slower race pace but an increased pace of my “break” interval.  The end result is a 5:15 kilometre.  Times ten plus a little bit more, I’m hoping that I’ll be around the finish line 55 minutes after the start of the race – just in time for another exciting Maple Leafs self-destruction.

My leg of the race winds along the south shore of the harbour, from the start line to almost Kelly Tarleton’s Aquatic Adventure and then straight back.  Not that you know where that is or anything, but it’s essentially the only long, flat stretch of terrain in central Auckland…and my evening run track.

In other words, wish me luck.



Labour Weekend in the Far North.
October 25, 2007, 11:59 pm
Filed under: Actual Travelling | Tags: , , , ,

Far North 003

For those of you who were wondering what on earth happened to me over the last week, the answer is…holiday long weekend!

Labour Day Weekend sort of snuck up on me and I didn’t have time to prepare the world for my disappearance. The holiday holds the same premise as it does at home: 8 hour work week and how the worker fought for improvements in living conditions. A great reason for a holiday, I will add, thereby ending all political commentary associated with this post.

I took Friday off to head north with my New Zealand boss, his wife and a friend of hers. He drove the four hours as I was useless to the trip. The roads are quite twisty in rural New Zealand and rendered me carsick after about 45 minutes. It was one long car ride. We stopped at a pharmacy just before our final destination so I could buy motion sickness pills. “Sea Legs”, they are called. They are wonderfully effective and 100% non-drowsy.

It was countryside at its finest. Wide open views and plenty of cattle and sheep around. There aren’t a lot of trees in agricultural areas, and it is not uncommon to see large, volcanic remnants completely sodded over as pasture for livestock. Some estimates peg the amount of forest cover in New Zealand at 25%, where almost the entire coast was forested prior to European settlement.

The bach (pronounced “batch” and synonymous with “cottage” for all you Canadians) was in the little town of Taipa, a cluster of a few hundred people at the end of a chain of four-or-so similar little areas. Evidence of recent growth was everywhere, with siltation fences ringing hills and new roads running along the hills to new home sites. I am told that most agricultural lands with good views have received subdivision consent and that quite the surplus of approved development sites exist in the area. Seems pretty Wasaga Beach to me, only few pesky teenagers around. Lots of families and retirees.

I spent most of day one recovering from the carsickness and the 5:30 AM departure from Auckland. Dinner was a barbecue feast, followed by a little ice cream and a straight-to-bed performance on my part. Day two was when the adventuring began, starting with a 5:30 AM fishing trip off the rocks beneath Rangikatipi Pa.

Far North 001

A “pa” is a historic Maori fortress/settlement. They were positioned on the flattened tops of hills and surrounded by fences. For an enemy to attack, they would have to wind through the fencing in order to reach the settlement. This made for a pretty unfortunate offencive disadvantage. Pas dot the New Zealand countryside, with my boss pointing out four from one particular vantage point later on in the weekend.

Seafood is a big part of the New Zealand culture. Our goal was to catch a Kahawai (lazily pronouned “cow eye”) in order to prepare sashimi (raw fish) for lunch. The boss caught two big ones that made for perfect eating a few hours later. Me…I caught two small fish perfect for throwing back in the water. Better than nothing, I suppose. To prepare the sashimi, the fish needs to be drained as soon as possible. This means killing the fish and draining the blood. This is about as wholesome looking a process as it sounds. I did not take any pictures. While this was going on, I was scraping mussels off of the rocks. They were fantastic. While I was fishing, my boss did the same. Just like the fishing, he is a better mussel harvester than I.

After fishing, my boss’ wife took me out to scoop shellfish out of the nearby estuary. Simply put, you stick your hand into the muddy bottom and scoop out live shellfish (pippies, cockles and others). Those were left in freshwater pails for a couple of days to get the sand out of the flesh in advance of their barbecuing. Delicious.

Far North 006

I also went for a long distance run that became a hill run because of all the hills along the road. Still a solid 8k. I did a swoop through Manganui (Maori for “big shark” because of the sharks in the nearby bay), where I received a tour from my boss on day two. Manganui is the tourist centre of the Greater Doubtless Bay Area (my moniker for all the shoreline communities in the area) and features a New Zealand-famous seafood restaurant and several tour buses parked at any given time.

I also made it to Kaitaia, the last stop on Intercity’s coach line and home of a terrific steakhouse. We had dinner with my boss’ parents, although I did a much better job when they came over for dinner at the bach the following night. Which is where the story gets interesting…

Far North 024

As the most urbain person at the table, much fuss was made over my squeamishness over certain aspects of the rural culture of New Zealand. Having served my time on an estate residential lot in Puslinch Township, I was not completely ignorant of the situation. But I certainly had never seen or heard of a sheep’s head making for a good meal. What you are looking at in the photo above is me eating sheep’s tongue, with everybody having a thorough laugh at my expense. Sheep’s tongue can be best described as tofu gone hard, or sausage of a fine consistency but lacking much taste. It is best eaten immersed in the tastiest sauce imaginable so as to distract you from the fact that you are eating a sheep’s tongue.

I told this story to my fellow urbain coworkers, whose first collective reaction was “ewwww”. I feel initiated now.

You can view the best of my weekend photos here. I will be going back to the Far North over the Christmas break as part of a camping road trip.



The Fixtures Question.
October 25, 2007, 9:06 am
Filed under: Ask a Canuck | Tags: , , , ,

Chris, Isaiah and Scott asked: Which way does the water flow down your drain?

For me, it’s clockwise. 

To preempt your comments, no, that is not my sink.  It was the first Youtube video to come up for my search on Southern Hemisphere Sink.  Plus, I think it’s funny.  Hopefully you were watching at work with the volume turned up high.

Apparently, though, the forced rotation of water in either hemisphere is dependent upon the volume of water present.  So in my little sink and shower, the clockwise rotation is a result of circumstance, design and plain ol’ good fortune.  Here is a video attempting to explain this.

Therefore, in a perfect world with no variables or design flaws, my fixtures would drain clockwise and yours counter-clockwise.

Jason and Matt ask: It would be a better challenge to find the point on the earth where water drains straight down.

Youtube has a bundle of videos showing sinks on the equator draining straight down.  The airplane toilet went straight down too, but I’m told that’s because of a vacuum…Jason (yes, you did already inform me on this, hence why it appears here)…

And if it says so on Wikipedia, it must be true.



Run Club Victory.
October 17, 2007, 6:22 am
Filed under: Establishing | Tags: , , , ,

wine bottle 005

So, Race Club was far more successful tonight than last time. For one thing, I ran the pace I hope to compete at for the next big run (more on it later) and didn’t collapse, strain or pull any muscles. I am on track to not flop on the 30th!

Better still, on the stretch leg, this guy wearing a red shirt and red bandanna (remember that I usually wear a navy shirt with red shorts…and always seem to stand out in a running crowd) pointed at me as he ran past me. I was all, like, “huh?” Anyways, he SPRINTS by me at the end laughing and congratulates me at the end for a good run. I said the same to him. His name is Phil. We are now friends. I have a potential pace buddy at Race Club!

Even better still, I follow Phil to his table at the after party – most people stick around for one drink, which is included in the $6 admission. I must have met a dozen people: Glenn, Jill, Jessica, Harold, another lady, the lady who kept making eye contact with me and I her, … . I have running friends who like to socialize in Auckland!

Even better still, they have spot prizes after the run. It’s where they draw everyone’s race number (you get a number at Race Club) and give the winners stuff. The big prizes are usually quite big, such as $100 bar dollars or a pair of shoes. I won a bottle of wine! I will drink back my first two weeks’ admission at Race Club!

Even better still, I went back to the restaurant I have been making appearances at to make arrangements for more friends. I’ve befriended a waitress there who “knows all sorts of people” in town. So now when I go out, I won’t stand around awkwardly next to a pillar hoping for something to happen. I may even have a social life in Auckland!

Best day thus far.



“Adding a Kiwi to the annual turkey commotion”
October 16, 2007, 10:06 am
Filed under: News from Abroad | Tags: , ,

From today’s Toronto Star:

One night at dinner, Brad and I opened a bottle of wine. Marc valiantly thought he and his guest should have some. I laughed at him. And then I thought of something.

“Oh, sorry, Craig. What’s the drinking age in New Zealand?”

“Sixteen,” he lied, without missing a beat. So much for the party manners.

Read the full article here.