Happy Holidays to all our friends and family and greetings from New Zealand!
2014 has been a great year. We moved to the Auckland area from our small town Thames last December when Kaleb started a new job. He works doing programming and BI for BCS, a company that builds and runs baggage handling systems at airports and package handling systems for shipping companies. Chances are if your baggage was lost on some vacation, BCS systems weren’t at the airport you were travelling through. Kaleb’s first week on the job was spent in Kuala Lumpur. He now works with cities all over the world. We keep hoping he’ll be sent to America for work, so at least the flight there is covered.
I’ve been working on my master’s degree in predictive analytics from Northwestern University in Chicago. The program is completely online, so it’s all possible from here. I went full time until August, and now am just doing part time. I have only 2 classes and a capstone project or thesis until I’m done. I should finish up in August this year. I’ve also found employment as a Geek (yes this is my job title) for Datamine. I do predictive modeling and data analysis for a variety of New Zealand and Australian companies. It’s a company with a great many smart people working there, so I’m learning a lot.
Kaleb and I are not the biggest fans of living in Auckland. Though we live in a nice house in a great area (and have a pool), we find living in the city a bit defeating of the purpose of living in another country and we miss the sheep in our yard in Thames and the beaches of the Mount. For this reason, we may look to work remotely for at least part of 2015 from somewhere else in New Zealand, likely by a beach or mountain. We are lucky that being IT geeks this is possible.
So, what have we done in 2014 you ask? We started the year with a visit from my parents. Luckily, we were in between houses, so we were able to spend some time in Auckland, some time in Thames, and some time in Akoroa at a timeshare. We did a lot of hiking in the time they were visiting. We hiked the lava fields of Rangitoto Island, around the Coromandel peninsula, up the Pinnacles track on Christmas, and in the hills of Akaroa. We also made time to visit Hobbiton.
After my parent’s visit, it was my friend Angi’s turn to come for a visit. Her and I spent some time in Auckland and took a road trip, hitting up the beaches in the Mount, the mountains in Taupo and Tongariro National Park, the wineries of Napier, and the small town of Te Aroha. Angi got to experience hostels for the first time and we had a blast. We were also able to see my friend, Kat, finish her 41 km swim across Lake Taupo. Yes, that’s 1 km short of a marathon in pretty cold water without a wetsuit. The other reason we miss Thames is the town has an abundance of nutters like Kat who make us look normal and who do Ironmans as training days.
Two days after Angi left, Kaleb’s dad came for a visit. He was there in part to watch Kaleb do his first Ironman race at Ironman New Zealand in Taupo. Unfortunately, Kaleb broke his foot earlier, so running was out of the question. Still, he finished, though walking the marathon portion was incredibly boring and took him longer than the swim and bike combined. Predictably, Kaleb was not satisfied with his performance and wants to do another one at some point. In a month from now Kaleb will be doing the St. James Mt. Man race on the South Island. It’s not exactly an Ironman as it has only 2 km swimming (in very cold water), 100 km mountain biking, and 50 km of running up and down a mountain.
April and May were packed with busy weekends. Kaleb got his certification for scuba diving, so we can finally dive together. We both got our advanced diving certs later in the year, so we can go deeper and cooler places. We went cave tubing in Waitomo where the caves have glow worms. We went up to Northland over Easter weekend and enjoyed staying on a house boat, climbing some dunes, kayaking and seeing where the Tasman and Pacific meet. May brought the 50th Rotorua marathon. I managed to sprain my ankle, so had to drop down to the half marathon, but Kaleb was able to complete his first marathon where he got to run. He is a nutter as he didn’t train.
2014 was one of those magical years that included a World Cup, so naturally Kaleb and I had to be in Brazil to watch some of the games. We flew through and stayed for a few days in Santiago, Chile. We explored the city and even got to take a trip into the Andes. That’s when we realized that we don’t miss snow or its ability to get buses stuck on mountain roads. In Brazil we first stayed in Fortaleza, then Natal. We went to three games. Driving in Brazil was quite an adventure, as was navigating the mishaps caused by FIFA and Brazil’s ill-preparedness for the games. Despite this, we had a wonderful time and were sad to have to leave South America. We were almost getting to the point of simple communication in Portugese.
In late August and September, I took a trip back to the States. I planned things brilliantly so my birthday lasted much longer than 24 hours. I left New Zealand at 11:30 pm on my birthday, and landed in Honolulu at 10:30 am on my birthday (also my nephew’s birthday). I was able to spend a week with my sister and her family in lovely Honolulu. We did a lot of swimming and made a trip up to the North Shore. After that, I spent a few days with Kaleb’s brother and his family in Minneapolis, and was able to see many friends. Then it was on to Milwaukee, with a brief day trip to Northwestern University where my cousin Pauline, a freshman there, showed us around the school I had been attending for more than a year, but never been to. After that, Angi and I spent a few days in Vegas visiting friends and luckily, not losing all our money.
This Spring (Fall in the US) has been fairly uneventful, with both of us working and training most of the time. We went to Queenstown last month for the marathon. I made it a whopping 5 km before suffering a stress fracture and having to pull out. Kaleb was using the marathon as a training day, so did it with a full pack on. Despite the cold and torrential rains, he had a pretty good race. The week after this, Kaleb went to Taupo and did the cycle challenge, an 85 km mountain bike ride (not a race, as most is done single file). Kaleb has been in Rotorua and Taupo several weekends in prep for his race next month. We’ll be driving down to the South Island and found a great Russian cruise ship wreck we can dive along the way.
Earlier this month, we went on a dive trip thanks to Air New Zealand and DOC. I had won a competition they had, and we got a free trip to Northland to go sailing and diving. We were even able to invite two of our friends to go with. We went sailing with two of New Zealand’s Olympians and dove some beautiful areas in the Poor Knights marine reserve. We even had a DOC (department of conservation) representative to tell us about all the wildlife we saw. The weather was brilliant the whole time. Pictures and video should be up on Facebook soon.
Beth & Kaleb