Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Thinking of living or retiring in New Zealand?

New Zealand City map
According to MintLife, click here for the entire article, New Zealand would be a great place to do it.  I can't disagree.  This is what they have to say about it.

New Zealand

Looking for a place to retire where you don’t have to learn a new language or try and decipher what people speaking English as a second language are trying to say? New Zealand might just be the place for you.
If you’ve ever seen Lord of the Rings you know just how beautiful New Zealand can be. The land of the Kiwis also appeals to the active health nut. It’s also one of the least-polluted countries in the world.
Got money to throw around? Split your time between the U.S. and New Zealand — it’s winter here when it’s summer there and vice versa.

 Here are some resources I have used in order to move and live here.

Working Holiday Visa and logistics:
Bunac:  I paid a smallish fee for them to facilitate the paperwork for my visa and another fee for the mandatory traveler's insurance.
IEP: is the organization who partnered with Bunac, so I am worked with them once I arrived. 
IRD: They helped me secure my tax number.  This is a must for any worker looking to make money in New Zealand.  After applying, it will take 7-10 business days to have to created.  Be prepared to sit on the phone for a long time in order to get it.  They do provide call backs, but only to land lines.
Bank Account:  You'll need a bank account as most employers pay by direct deposit and most transactions are done by their ETFPOS system.  I am using KiwiBank, who offers a free account and they will exchange US dollars for free and they gave us the best rate for exchange. 

Finding Employment:
Backpacker board a mix of jobs all aimed at travelers that range from Au Pair to Waiter/Waitress. 
BBH World travellers jobs at BBH hostels and jobs aimed at travelers can be found on their notice boards.
Helpx typically work for accommodation on family farms.
Seasonal work if you want to follow the weather, then this is for you.  Will show jobs like kiwi and avocado picking to training vines at one of New Zealand's numerous wineries. this is the best place to find skilled work or work in retail or an office setting. a cross between Craigslist and Ebay.  They have tons of postings for all types of work in all the regions.

Finding housing: Can find rentals and flatmates (roommates) for any region.  Check for how the payment works.  Most places are on a weekly rental fee with some asking for several weeks up front.

There are also a variety of real estate agencies that work in both the selling and rental of properties.  Some time properties will only list with one so if always be on the look out for some kind of sign about who is listing the property. 

Start saving.  Start planning.  Make the move abroad.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Achievements Unlocked So Far

Achievement whore? Maybe.  Did I get the man on man points in Dragon Age?  Yes.

From my previous post: Bucket List for New Zealand.  I have completed the following:
No longer such a mooch -> 15
No Place Like Home -> 50
How much does that bike weigh? -> 100Put this one in a wheel chair will ya -> 5
Is that a shark? -> 10

Our deck, easy to pass the SUP over the railing.

Quick recap for those who want to play the achievement game.  I have eaten heaps of lamb since I got here.  I knew that was going to be an easy victory, but all games have them.  From my previous post, I would recommend putting an animal wheelchair on Kickstarter pretty quick.

Next, we got settled into a place called "The Atlas".  The 34 apartment building is in a prime location with both Pilot's Bay and the ocean one block away.  Of these apartments, many are filled with working holiday visitors like myself.  However, they work on the seasonal job front of picking kiwis and pruning the orchards.  If I had a car, I would have probably been working there.  Instead I have this beauty.
Avanti Cadent in the TDF color scheme.
The Avanti Cadent that I picked up has been called a flash bike that is fresh.  I'm assuming that flash is awesome and costs a boat load.  While fresh means costs a boat load and is new.  I'm not disagreeing with those adjectives.  Its a fun bike that I have been putting on the kilometers.  However not all of which have been tracked as I have participating in a weekly spin class that runs an hour.  Phil the man who sold me the bike runs this at Maungatapu Primary School.  He has been kind enough to say we can stay at this bach, vacation home, for free which is up in the Coromandel Peninsula. 

I got a part-time job.  My co-workers are fun and interesting.  Its really laid back and chill.  I get to play with tons of outdoor gear and after 3 months my discount kicks in and then it will be on like Donkey Kong.  I try on stuff daily and I am making a list of what I would like.  Goodbye pay check and hello mooching.

Swimming has happened on a few occasions in the Pacific, but Beth is missing the smell of chlorine.  So she has been searching for a master's class to attend.  I brought my brand new, never been worn before wetsuit along and I've been putting it to good use.  I have swam without it as the water is still warmer than the water temp for TriBuff.

Adventure and race time, but not adventure race time

Beth and I are getting out of Tauranga for a bit.  We will be hopping on Naked Bus to travel to Taupo and Wellington the week of Memorial Day.  My work schedule will soon become heavy as my manager is going on a month long vacation and I'll be working close to full-time hours for several weeks.  So we are taking this opportunity to get out and explore some other areas before Beth's parents come in July.
June 3rd half marathon in Mount Maunganui.
We are now registered for Mount Maunganui Hlaf Marathon and 10k.  I'll be doing the half and Beth will be doing the 10k.  I'm feeling pretty solid about my training as I decided on the race maybe 6 weeks before race date.  I put off my long run last week because of weather and doing other things, but I ran 9.98 miles in 90 minutes on Thursday of last week.  I felt like I could have ran a lot further as I had more in the tank.  My only other half marathon was during my 70.3 last year where I finished in 2:23 so I'm hopping for a sub 2 hour run on fresh legs.  I've been doing my long runs solo, but on some of my short runs I have ran with my co-worker Alice.  I might have convinced to run the half with me instead of the 10k.

Maybe our next adventure will be an adventure race or some other extreme New Zealand activity like para-gliding or riding your bike at night in a black rain suit.  I think I'm going to try finding a place to eat hangi.

Is sailing around the World next? Maybe...

Damn, I forgot my pipe that Koderick gave me. 
This last week we had some pretty serious weather.  We had horizontal rain and my co-workers told me a small tornado touched down in the central part of the region.  I have to get the video off of my phone as there were gale force winds whipping the trees around like rag dolls.  However, we did get to opportunity to meet up with Nicole and take Menagerie out for a spin on a fine day.  We boarded the 23 foot sail boat around 10 am and got a quick overview for her layout.  She is pretty similar to the boats that Jake and I have learned on.  It is kinda tricky to go from a rudder to wheel back to a rudder, but I only had to play with the rudder a little bit to get her in the direction I wanted.  With fore casted high wind gusts we opted to run only the main sheet and that provided plenty of power, but once we got closer to the shipping vessels our wind was blocked.   We rolled out the genoa and was instantly greeted with a surge of speed.  I got to perform a couple tacks but no jibes as there wasn't a need for it.  We were out for about 2.5 hours and to top of the day I forgot how to tie a bowline.  What would Vicki say?  Probably express her disappointment and make me tie one around numerous objects after she quickly told me what I was doing wrong.  I haven't tried tying a bowline since last September.  Oh well.    

I should really have the main sheet line in my hand.  Feeling like a rookie.
After sailing, we went to a Thai restaurant for lunch where I got the lamb shank in red curry with seasonal vegetables.  I eye ball it every time we walk past.
Personal insight/story time:
I get sad every time I eat lamb shank.  Don't get me wrong I love the stuff, but the meal itself makes me sad.  It was several years ago at Christo's in Minneapolis when my grandparents were up for a visit.  We had all ordered our food and when my lamb shank showed up my grandpa noted that he wished he had gotten mine.  I did give him some, but I could see the disappointment in his face that he didn't get it himself.  He has sadly passed away and I can't help thinking of that evening every time I eat that dish.  I guess if I eat 2 portions every time, its like I'm putting one down for him as well.  That could be a new achievement for me.  Cook/waitress/serving wench/bar maid/lamb temptress: I want 2 lamb shanks not one as I got to eat one for my departed grandpa.  A lamb missing a leg can still get around without assistance.  A lamb missing two will need a wheel chair.  New Zealand better invest in this company as I'm sensing a boom is about to happen.
I'll take 2 there George.
Personal insight/story time over.
I needed all my energy as I was going to be putting on my wetsuit and swimming out to the boat to clean her hull.  Nicole said she had been lax in the cleaning and its probably been a couple of months since it was last done.  So I put on my goggles and swam out to the boat with a bag full of cleaning implements on my back.  I came up to the swimming ladder and yelled "Hello" to 2 of Nicole's friends who were out there enjoying a romantic dinner.  Only to be ruined by me with my curly hair and long chops poking over the railing.  I stashed my bag and proceeded to clean about half of the hull before I could clean no more as my goggles were leaking and needed to be fixed.  The water temp was supposedly 18.1 degrees that day, but it felt fine until I walked back home and then jumped into the shower.  The typical shower temp felt scalding hot and I took about an hour long shower.  Oh joy I'm going out today to finish the other half as the weather is fine and the water is calm.  If there were waves I would take the surf board out.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Shut up legs

Road into Welcome Bay.  Look at that elevation change.
If you will allow me to steal a quote by Jens Voigt as I had to use that mantra a lot yesterday.  To recap, I left work at 4 pm knowing that spin didn't start until 6:15.  As I didn't feel like heading home first, I opted to ride up until class time.  I donned my rain gear as it was on and off pouring all day, which happens to be all black.  If you saw my pictures from a couple days ago, I don't quite fall into the visible category.  Within 6 blocks from work the skies darkened and the faucet was opened.  My chrome messenger bag, previously untested in downpours, held up awesomely as all my gear was kept dry.  My rain gear also being newer, kept me dry but it was kinda swampy inside as it didn't ventilate very well.  My shoes were soaked, but it didn't much matter as I was sockless.  
I was looking for the pot of gold.  All I found was pain.
I headed out to Welcome Bay, where we bought a surfboard.  On the previous trip out, we took the bus and all I could do was think that Koderick would hate the area.  It was nothing but false flats and quick ascents.  Looking at any road off the main road and it was either a quick ascent or descent.  I knew that I would have to bring my bike back for a leg burning workout.  I didn't really expect to do it in the rapidly decreasing light with on/off rain, but I didn't have much choice.  I wasn't going to miss spin and if I would have gone home, I probably would have blown it off.  So the roads are not that nice for a biker.  Some roads are well sealed,  but slick.  Others feel like large rocks held in place with a loose adhesive.  It feels like if you were to slam on your brakes the rocks would become dislodged and you wouldn't slow down.  The on road bike lanes are nice, but cars don't pay much attention if you ask me.  Cars clip along at 50 - 100 kph depending on which roads I am on and I don't dare wear my mp3 player.  Back home, I will ride with my music in one ear on the lowest setting in the ear away from traffic.  So if I'm on a left side bike lane, the ear bud would be in the left ear.  Then opposite on the right side bike lane.  I don't ride with both in ever.    
Even their driveways are steep.
My hill workout consisted of finding every right turn off the main road in Welcome Bay.  I would alternate between standing and sitting efforts in the big ring going to the end of the hill or road.  I must have done this for 45 minutes.  I don't often do workouts wearing rain pants, rain coat, white wind breaker, and a full messenger bag.  Needless to say, my legs were nice and tired going into spin class.  

Phil must have known that I just gotten done doing hills and my legs were tired.  His workout focused on cadence and single-leg efforts.  For good measure he also tossed in a 20 minute section of descending increments of time but increase of gearing with random standing efforts.  All gearing uses the big ring and goes up from the hub with gear 5 being topped out.
Hot and sweaty.
5 minutes gear 1 rpm: 90-100 with the following standing efforts 10 sec, 20 sec, 30 sec
1 minute gear 1 easy
4 minutes gear 2 rpm: 90-100 with the following standing efforts 20 sec, 30 sec, 20 sec
1 minute gear 1 easy
3 minutes gear 3 rpm: 90-100 with the following standing efforts 10 sec, 20 sec, 10 sec
1 minute gear 1 easy
2 minutes gear 4 rpm: 90-100 with the following standing efforts 20 sec, 30 sec
1 minute gear 1 easy
1 minute gear 5 rpm: 90-100 as following 30 sec standing, 30 sec sitting

All I could do was think of was my winter trainer sessions that starts off with pedaling technique.  I'm glad that Phil always has a good selection of music playing that I can sing along to.  It keeps my mind off of the pain that my legs are going through.  I wonder if I can get him to play Best of Bootie during class and how many people would understand what that is.

Oh I get my first paycheck in over 2 months tomorrow!  Also going to clean the hull of the sailboat for some cash and sailing adventures!  Take a look at the photos from my bike adventure of Welcome Bay.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Dream Job?

Who wants to come to New Zealand?  Dream Job.  "So we've decided to offer a two-month, all-expenses-paid position to an outgoing person, who will get out there and try all that New Zealand has to offer – food, wine, adventure, nature. This isn't your average relax-on-the-beach holiday – we're looking for someone with guts and a sense of adventure who is willing to show off their experiences to the world."  This might be enough to get me on FaceBook so I can register for this job.  Good news is I wouldn't have to fly over for the job.

Gandalf no no it is Sir Ian McKellen

Photo bomber, me, Beth, and a jovial Ian.
On Sunday (Happy Mother's Day) afternoon in the Tauranga CBD, Beth and I sat at Steakout eating a quick lunch.  I looked up to see a bright blue jacket and hat.  I quickly reached for my phone so I could snap a photo.  Right outside the window was the man who portrayed Gandalf and Magneto.  Coincidentally, we were in Tauranga to see his one man show that wasn't slated to begin for over an hour. 
Sir Ian decked out in blue, supposedly my favorite color.
 At Baycourt Theater Sir Ian took to the stage to benefit the Isaac Theatre Royal in Christchurch which was damaged in last year's earthquake.  I would say he performed for about 2 hours, but it wasn't necessarily a performance.  Yes, he did recite several monologues from his large repertoire of work.  These were delivered with the seasoned experience of a stage performer.  He held the audience as he paced the stage or sat in his chair and transformed himself in body and manner into a different persona.  I was amazed with his vocal range as he described the pages of life from infant to a person on death's door.  He told stories about his personal and professional life as well as answering many a question.  Sir Ian also talked about the challenges of filming "The Hobbit" as well as when principal shooting was wrapping up.   
Still needs to read lines?

The audience was invited on to the stage a couple times.  Once was to come play with Gandalf's sword, Glamdring.  I'm glad that WETA allowed him to take one of the sword versions for his show.  The other was to help perform his final monologue.  The audience roared with applause when the final curtain fell.  Sir Ian did come back out and performed a quick song before signing autographs and posing for photographs in the lobby.  I'm sorry Mike, but I didn't know that this was going to happen or I would have done myself up like Wolverine.
What is the deathly hallows doing here?  McKellen as Dumbledore?

It was a sweet as afternoon.  The Isaac Theatre Royal is located in the red zone of Christchurch, but they are predicting that the theatre can open before the end of the year.  I hope that the other shows go as well as this one as it was sold out. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I am the rage

I dress like the left and I'm still here.

So we finally got Internet through a different provider, actually it is the same as our mobile carrier here.  The other company was dicking us around for weeks.  First said it would be less than a week.  Then another representative said it would be 10-14 business days.  3 weeks later we opted to do something else entirely, but the first company kept texting and calling about an impending set up.  We canceled as they were being morons.  That being said we are using an USB modem for our fast Internet and a crappy wi-fi signal from our apartment building for everything else.  What does this mean?  We have a pay as you go data plan which will be cheaper and we will NOT be using our Vonage phone.  So if you need to get a hold of me, email or comment and I'll get in contact with you.

(Picture explanation) New Zealand Bike advocates have a campaign for high visibility for bike riders.  I generally fall into the not so visible.  I use lights and actually kept the reflectors on  my bike, but most of my clothes are black.  I have been wearing my light weight running jacket that is white, but looking for an obnoxious color reflective jacket/vest.  I have been riding safe and only received one middle finger so far.  I was in the bike lane (left side of the road) going straight and a car in the lane to my right decided to turn left.  I had the right away, but he was pulling a boat and crossing my lane so I braked.  I then received the finger.  WTF.

Pulling plastic and getting wet

Sunset over Tauranga as seen from Bayfair trail.
First off, we viewed the Super Moon this past weekend on the top of Mauao.  It was a chilly evening on the summit, but the view was worth it.  There was a pretty awesome sunset on one side and a massive moon on the other.  I kept switching back and forth taking pictures.  Probably would have helped to have a dSLR, but I spend my money on other toys and adventures. 
Sunset as seen from Mauao.
Super Moon over Tauranga Harbor
Beth and I got to take out the SUP a few times as the weather been really calm.  I had some initial difficulties with my balance.  We started off in Pilots Bay where the water was awfully choppy so we ended up at the Matakana Island Beach.  It was a lot more pleasant and the water was only a little chilly.  I have to say that it is similar to snowboarding in the sense that my legs were working like a shock absorber and then paddling from the core.  Just make sure you don't paddle to hard and throw yourself off balance. 
Taking a break in Pilots Bay

On the work front, I've had a couple shifts and a couple training sessions.  My co-workers are pretty fun.  Michelle, from Scotland, only lives a couple blocks away so we were commuting to work together, but alas she is moving back to Queenstown for a winter job on the mountain.  I'm going to try to get down there in August with Skog for snowboarding.  Alice and I went running in the dark around the base track of Mauao.  Not once but twice.  It was probably the stupidest thing I have done since getting here.  On Tuesday, we went to the rock house for some indoor climbing.  The last time I climbed was some bouldering down in Jasper during my WFR course.  I think we did problems for about 3 hours.  My hands are still a little sore.  It was good to pull some plastic though and do some top rope climbing.
Menagerie, friends' sailboat

Someone didn't need a break.
 The last couple days it has been pouring out and I had to go into the CBD to meet up with Sara the tech recruiter I was working with before I left the US.  She is still optimistic that she can get me a contract for a tech role. I'm pretty much indifferent.  Today is a sunny day with a good surf report for the next couple days so we finally get a chance to go out and get our second hand boards wet.  It should be fun regardless if I get up or not, but I'm optimistic that I'll get up at least once. 

Hope those living vicariously through us are having fun because we are.

Added new albums of pictures:
NZ Scenes
Stand Up Paddle (SUP) Boarding

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Pie Obsession? More like I love food.

Mad Mexican Pie from One Tree Bakery
Pie obsession?  More like I love food.  It just happens to be pies at the moment.  It could be worse.  I could be lobster or something else really expensive like Kobe Beef.  However, it all started while traveling around from country to country.  Looking around to see what are the locals eating.  Argentina they were eating mass amount of awesome meat, but they also put that meat into nice little empanadas.  We were soon on the lookout for the small mom and pop type empanada stands or store fronts.  The best empanadas we found were in a bus terminal.  I was always on the prowl for another empanada and probably ate 1 or 2 a day.  Back in Minneapolis, I get my empanada fix from Carlos who runs Chimborazo on 29th and Central.  He only has 2 on the menu one sweet and the other savory.  On special occasions he makes others. 
Chimborazo: sweet empanada in the upper right.
In Japan, I was addicted to eating onigiri.  Typically a rice ball filled with a savory filling and then wrapped in nori, or sea-weed.  These make great snacks and are super cheap and filling.  When Skog and I went to Yamagata last year, we were treated to fresh onigiri each morning for breakfast.  They were warm and moist and would melt in your mouth.  We also had spicy salmon roe potato salad, but that is a different story.  Onigiri is like a blank canvas it can filled with fish, chicken, plum, or nothing.  It can be dripped in sesame seeds, or even grilled and topped with shredded nori or mayo.  They are just delightful little treats that are readily accessible and incredibly tasty.

Here in New Zealand they have pies.  Pies come with a variety of fillings and are topped with a pastry top or mashed potato.  To list a few, I have eaten mince pie, steak and cheese pie, steak and vege pie, chicken and corn pie, lamb pie, smoked fish pie, seafood pie, and plenty more.  I don't want to compare them to frozen pot pies as they typically suck.  Their appearance may be comparable though.  They are fast to order and come packed with flavor.  They typically have a flaky pastry top crust that crumbles in your mouth and melts on your tongue.  The non-top crust is a solid structure holding back the savory filling goodness.  I have made the mistake of puncturing the bottom of the pie with the tongs only to have the meaty filling start to seep out.  The fillings are varied and it seems to me only limited by the baker's imagination or culinary skills.  You can find small bakeries all over the place that sell their own creations or stop by a convenience store to by a mass produced pie.  I have found several places to be a repeat customer, but I will continue to explore the area for new places to eat.  I have yet to find a pie I did not like, but you know that is not likely to happen.  I love to eat.

Holy Hell

Part of my work uniform.  Mike they would probably let me "wolverine" my hair as well.
Last night was my first day of "work" in just under 2 months.  Well lets back up a couple days.  I got a phone call on Monday about an application I submitted on Friday to schedule an interview for Tuesday.  The interview was very short and informal.  She liked my cover letter as it high lighted my love of being outdoors and wasn't generic I want a job.  I was offered a part-time job after about 10 minutes or so.  For those that didn't click the link in the previous post, "Cool Bananas", go read it.  The store is similar to REI.  I'll be trying not to spend my checks on outdoor gear for Beth and I.  There is tons of merino wool and some slick packs.  The cool thing is the macpac line is all designed here in NZ and up until a couple of years ago constructed here as well.  If you want more history of the company check out their site: 
Ready to roll the bones.
My co-workers so far are Alice, Sara, Michelle, Jesse, and Jolene (manager).  All seem like cool, laid back folk.  For a couple hours, Cam (product rep) went over the new products the store has gotten in.  Some of the products aren't necessarily new, but new to the NZ market.  I didn't get a Jetboil, but I did get a handful of GU and GU Chomps.  While we were listening, we were treated to some awesome Hell Pizza.  Here is the Hell Pizza Menu.  The Pizza Roulette slogan is: It doesn't cost.  But someone pays.  Here is a video of it!  "I need some more fluid."  Basically they put on 2 drops of the hottest pepper sauce on a single slice and its up to you to find out which one.  Would be a fun prank when catering a large amount of pizzas say for a work function.  My favorite last night was the salmon pizza with cream cheese and avocado.  Tonight they are having a dinner at a Chinese place in Tauranga, so Beth and I will most likely attend.  We have to get some lights for Beth's bike though.  I start my official training tomorrow.  Now its time to go outside and enjoy the sun, surf, beach, and other things we moved here for, the Pies!!!