Thursday, 17 November 2011

32 & No Further Ahead

A small victory can be claimed I guess, in the fact it only has been a month and a half since the last entry.
In saying that, that 1.5 months has had a few achievements and milestones. I had intended to write something sooner, so I could be more philosophical, rather than listing off what I have been up to week to week, because if it's boring me, chances are it's boring you too.

And so it begins...
The weekend following my last entry (15/16 October) I decided that I would head to Auckland and check out the Fanzone for the Rugby World Cup while I a) still had a chance, and b) it got really wild for the final. I stayed the Saturday night at Nana's in Huntly, to spend some time with her, but also because it was half an hour closer to Auckland.
We watched the semi-final between Wales and England that night, and then the next day I drove on up, parked in a car park building at the top of Queen Street, and walked on down. It was kind of interesting, as I had stayed at the top of Queen street multiple times during the period when I was living in Kaitaia. On my way down the street I came across the couple I worked with at Pacific Aerospace in a souvenir store, so I got to catch up with them. Once I got into the fanzone, I decided the first thing I would check out was the big 'New Zealand 2011' despite the hour and a half wait, mainly because it seemed I had chased it around the globe, and hadn't manage to catch it - it was in Paris under the Eiffel tower in 2007 during that World Cup, then it went across to London, and spend some time in Potter's field next to Tower bridge - which is where me and Campbell, my then-work mate from Wellington ate our lunches for 8 months. The other place of course it went, was Japan. It wasn't really worth the wait to be honest.

Once I came out of there I went to find my old school mate Simon (who you may remember from the Doughnut shaped island adventure). By the 'Cloud' a long building built for the RWC. Simon and I walked through the fanzone, seeing what was there to see (not a whole heap), and then went down the road (and happened to bump into Suzanne and Bevan) and checked out the big plastic waka (boat) complex that had gotten media attention due to it's ridiculous cost to build, and the fact it would only get 11 days usage. By that stage it was about 3pm so we went and had lunch at a Mexican place which was awesome- I'm pretty sure I'd been there once before. Right next to the Mexican place is the Ice Bar - which Adessa & I have sworn to go to when she comes out to visit - as we intended to go the Absolut Ice Bar in London, but never got that far.
That night, the All Blacks convincingly thrashed Australia in the semi-final, however I was a bunch of nerves at the start of the game, as I knew they would be some-what of a challenge.

The next weekend was Labour weekend, so Mum, Dad, and I all went over to Papamoa. That weekend's project was organising my currency collection, and attaching pictures to the relevant data in my family tree. Because of the Rena crashing into a reef, and the subsequent oil spill, I couldn't go swimming which was a bit of a downer.
On the upside however was the RWC final against France. If I was nervous about the Australia game, I was petrified about the France game. In theory we should nail it, as we'd already beaten them fairly convincingly in the pool games, however theories don't mean anything on game-day. They would also have the adrenaline from being in the running to win the cup. I had intended to enjoy the game with a beer or two, but because I was so on edge about it, I ended up not bothering. We won by one point, and the nation rejoiced.

The following week I went to a couchsurfing meeting, which once again was cool - enjoyed the pizza.

The weekend following was the mile-stone of all mile-stones, Adessa & my One year anniversary - despite the distance, the detractors, and the distractions (Ok, there aren't really any distractions because I only have eyes for Adessa, but I needed a third 'D' word) we did it.

The next day was my last Wananga for my Maori class, where I finished off the last assessment. That was rounded off with the usual food.

The following week started quietly but on the Wednesday I celebrated another birthday. Me and some friends went to 'The Dinsdale Office' for dinner, and they were also having a quiz night. Our team, to our surprise came second-equal, although there was no prize.

Thursday there was a Contiki night at the House on Hood (where I go for the Couchsurfing meetings) co-hosted by House of Travel, which are the people I went through to go to the UK. The night was good, free pizza, 3 glasses of boutique beer and a couple of drinks bought for me it was all good.

Friday night was the training for the Elections- as I have decided to work on the Elections, since it is fairly decent money.

Then we get to this week, Monday I went out to Dave & Sandra's for dinner. Tuesday was our Maori class end-of-year celebration, where they took us out to Valentines (a smorgasbord restaurant) where I hadn't been in nearly a decade (I had to clean the numerous windows there in one of my past student jobs, which probably put me off).

Today I went to the gym - there had been promotions for this gym several times, where you pay $3 for 30 days, but I was always too slow, however this time I got it. It was nice once I got going to not feel like I was going to die. Tonight I also managed to change the seat on my bike - something I wanted to do, as I have biked into work a couple of times, but the seat was a bit small and hard, so I decided my old seat would improve my motivation.

This weekend I am house-sitting for Suzanne and Bevan, and baby-sitting my blond nephew (puppy) Jordan, which should be fun.

As for the title above, I guess I have felt the rollercoaster of emotions that go with being fortune's fool. Let me explain... I have found an amazing woman, but she is on the other side of the world. In some ways I haven't worried too much about getting a full time job because I wanted some flexibility for when she comes out to visit, but now that looks like it will be next August. I had also thought that my job would finish shortly so I had gone as far as pricing out a cheap ticket to the UK for Christmas, however then found out that if I want it, I have a job until June, which is nice, but conflicting obviously. Now of course, I am sticking with the job, but every time it gets me down, I get negative and think about how I could be in the UK with Adessa.
Turning 32 didn't get me down so much, possibly because this year I have at least got closer with one goal, finding Miss Right, in saying that though, I also didn't get the other feelings in the spectrum either, none of the 'birthday euphoria'. So, anyway, that's me for now.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Same old insanity...

I last left this mid-July. It appears that not much happened until the first week of August, when we went down to the Hawkes Bay to celebrate Bevan's dad's 60th birthday.

Due to a bit of a stuff up on the part of our hotel, I was lucky enough to get my own room, and not have to share with mum & dad, which was quite nice. The Saturday was Adessa's & my 9th month anniversary, so she called me up, I sat with the ranch-slider open facing the beach (with the venue of Suzanne & Bevan's wedding reception from 6 years earlier in my peripheral vision) that was kind of awesome.

That afternoon, for lunch we went to Bevan's parents, and met his sisters' boyfriends. And later on we joined them all again at the restaurant for the birthday celebration. Awesome food, but the courses just kept coming, so it was hard to pace myself, or know whether to save room or not.

The following week I went to an information evening on African travel, which was OK, but aimed at older, more affluent people, and the presenter was an Australian who thought his jokes were the funniest things ever.

That Sunday we were reunited with Bevan's family again to celebrate Bevan's 30th birthday. This was achieved by eating lots of Chinese food and homemade pizza, in Bevan's recently finished outdoor pizza oven.

A few weeks later I spent the day at the NZ Family History fair at the Claudelands centre. It's probably hard to convey the interest in words, but I had a good time, and managed to find out several things about various ancestors. For example, my Irish ancestor - John Reardon (my Great-Great Grandfather) turns out wasn't born in Ireland, but rather Chelsea in London. It appears his parents married in Essex, and would have moved across initially to escape the effects of the Potato Famine. His daughter (my Great Grandmother Burley) it looks like, was named after a street intersecting with the one he lived on (Burleigh Street intersects with Exeter street in Covent Garden, London.)

For those of you who know my parents, would you agree that John Reardon (jr.) here looks like Dad when he was young, say in the late 70's, early 80's? (ie when he shared the same sense of style of facial hair) John is pictured here with his wife Sarah Ann (nee Bruntlett). One last piece of interesting family trivia, Sarah Ann's younger sister, ended up marrying their son-in-law's (my Great Grandfather's) brother (Albert Bartz - who died when the Ranui sank at Mt. Maunganui in 1951 - ironically topical at the moment).

Anyhow, once I finished up there (after catching up with the workmate I covered for when I was working at the Wananga) I went around to Scott's to hang out with him before he headed back to Kuwait on the Sunday.

The following week Adessa had her birthday, so again we had a special phone conversation. On the Wednesday Suzanne, Bevan & I went to see Te Movie (about Billy T James) after a dinner and the Cock & Bull. The movie was OK, but not super awesome.

The second weekend of September was opened with the Rugby World Cup opening, and on the Saturday morning I found myself walking 6kms for a fun walk along the river.

Several days later, Suzanne, Bevan and I shared some drinks and dinner in town, making use of a deal Bevan had got off the internet. On the Friday I dropped into the NZ Institute of Chartered Accountants for a drink and piece of cake, and that evening S, B, Mum, & I went to the All Blacks vs Japan game which was being played here in Hamilton. It was pretty awesome. I was actually grateful that the night was quite cold, as I had on a thick All Blacks jacket, and didn't want to cook. I checked out the Hamilton museum and some cultural festivals they had on in the weekend.

The next weekend I went to another family tree thing, happening to meet up with an old Toastmasters colleague, and also a lady who I'd met at the first fair, who'd subsequently found heaps out about a line of my ancestors. I then went to Huntly to have dinner with Nana and my Great-Aunty and Uncle, to watch the rugby, but also find out more about my Popa's family, as my Aunty is the only one left.

The end of September brought the Hamilton Fringe festival - I managed to make it to one thing (I would have liked to also have checked out some of the stand-up comedy) a play about the Massacre of the McDonalds of Glencoe, which, of course, happen to be my ancestors...

Saturday was the Parish fair - I went late, which saved my from the temptation of buying anything. It was actually good in the sense of I managed to clear some of the clutter from my life, and in recent weeks, me and my parents have made good headway on tidying up the house.

And that pretty much brings me to the present day. I'm still working, still trying to work out what I want to do next with my life.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Op-Thomas Prime

So it appears I have slacked off again with my writing. However I have a valid excuse - I haven't really been up to much.

The weekend following where the last entry concluded was Queen's Birthday weekend - which was a welcome 3-day weekend, but is always the last bastion before the long-haul to the next holiday, Labour day in October. We went to the beach, Dad and I replaced the driver's seat in my car (it was wearing out - a steel bit had worn through). And my mate Baz & I investigated an issue with my heater. Other than that, I laxed back.

A couple of weeks later, I went to the Fielddays - another one of those things that I had put on my To Do list, as I hadn't been there since 2005, before I went to Japan. It was nice to get back to my rural roots, got some cool stuff, some junk information, and a bit of food. That night was our church's 50th anniversary. That was alright too, afterwards a group of us that had been in the youth group circa 2000-2002 got to gather and had a good time catching up.

The following Monday night, there was a salsa lesson in our church hall. One of my ex-youth group friends is going (back) to Mexico to work in an orphanage, so to fundraise she has put on salsa lessons. I liked the idea, but initially was hesitant, as previously I would have jumped at the chance to meet women, but now I'm a taken man, I don't want to do anything to jeopardise that, and naturally my girlfriend can't do them with me, being 19,000 miles away from me. Anyhow, after consulting with her, she was like 'Yeah! go do it, and then you can teach me!' so I did.

I finished at the Wananga on the Friday, and received a nice afternoon tea and bag of goodies. I had lunch and dinner with my mate Dave, since it wouldn't be as convenient from then on, not being in Te Awamutu. In the weekend I caught up with Scott, who is home from Kuwait for the holidays, and Sunday went out for lunch for my mate Graham's 40th birthday.

The subsequent week I worked 4 days, and had an interview. Friday I had off. Saturday I went paintballing, and then went to the Salsa night - not so fun with sore legs and multiple paintball wounds. Sunday I had a Maori test, and then in the evening had dinner at my Auntie's with my cousins.

The following week I didn't work, and caught up with Scott at the pub on Friday night.

And here we are. Today I started a new job, there is a code of conduct that says I can't advertise where I am working, so I will suffice to say that it is a similar job to what I did the majority of last year in the UK.

So, where to from here? again, I just wish I was 19,000 miles closer to my baby. But in the short-term I have a few things to look forward to, two weeks off from my Maori class, a trip to Hawkes Bay, the World cup - although it's too expensive to get a ticket.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

The Alternate Reality

So in trying to keep to what I said at the end of that last entry, here I am, with a post not written so retrospectively.

I left off at the beginning of May, the beginning of that week was much the same as always, Thursday however work put on a staff lunch, so the CEO could give everyone a briefing, which was nice as always.

Friday night I celebrated our six-month anniversary with Adessa, albeit on opposite sides of the world (hence the reason for the important internet business to be done). We achieved this with eating a similar dinner (pizza) and watching the same movie (Hitch) simultaneously, whilst on the phone with each other, it was nice.

Saturday night I went out to my mate Dave's for dinner. Sunday I went to a Couchsurfing event at the House on Hood (formerly the Loaded Hog) which ended up being quite fun and interesting - and randomly I met up with Chelsey - a girl I went to Primary School with.

The following weekend I went down to Waitara, to my friend Cheryl's 50th party. Cheryl was the director of two of the plays I was in back in Kaitaia in 2007 & 2008. I ended up having a good time, catching up, laughing, and eating extremely well (and even taking some home to enjoy for days to come).

The following Tuesday, my job at Pacific Aerospace came to an end - it had supposed to have been for 4-6months, but ended up less than 2, so I was admittedly a little dis-heartened. However, as it ended up, when I got home after my final day I found out I had my next assignment, starting Thursday at the head office of Te Wananga O Aotearoa in Te Awamutu, and at a rate $3 more an hour, so things looked up again. The other good thing was my agency awarded me 'Star of the Month' which included a certificate, an Easter egg, and two free movie tickets.

Ron & Rachel (who I was house sitting for) arrived back from their trip on the Friday or Saturday, so I decided it was best to move out on the Wednesday night, in preparation for my new role (as it would be easier to get to Te Awamutu from home).

So far it's been good - there are several people working there that I know from Tech, so its been a bit of a reunion.

Friday, I had my Graduation from the Wananga in Te Awamutu - for the Certificate in Te Ara Reo Maori I did in 2008. Sunday I had a catch up brunch with some old classmates, and later on went out to Dad's cousin's house to talk about and share our findings on our ancestors - something I've been spending a lot of my free time on lately - but have made lots of progress, including being able to trace one line all the way back to 1490. One of the best stories so far though, is the fact that with a small bit of investigation, I discovered that a kiwi guy I had randomly met at my local pub in London, whilst watching the rugby - and subsequently accompanied to a leaving party for one of his mates - where I met my girlfriend Adessa - is actually a third-cousin. I don't know about you, but I think its kind of cool that I was brought to meet my love by a relation I didn't know of.

This week, much the same - had dinner with Dave again on Friday night. Tomorrow will probably go to another Couchsurfing meet up.

So - overall - feeling OK, really want some job security though, but more than that want to be with Adessa (in the same place).

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Back to the Future: NZ, 2 Years on

And so, having left Los Angeles at 11pm on the 14th, I lost the 15th flying and crossing over the international date line, so I arrived in Auckland at 9:50am on the 16th, met by my parents. Unlike when I came back from Japan, they didn't seem that much older, despite being away for longer. On the way to Hamilton we stopped and had lunch with Nana in Huntly, she also, hadn't really changed in two years.

It worked out well with the timing of my flight and getting 5 hours sleep on the plane, as it meant I was able to stay up the rest of the day, and went to bed at a respectable time like 9 or 10pm (although totally ready for it by then).

Thursday, the next day, I woke up at about 6am feeling fresh, and went about my business, unpacking etc.

Friday, was our family friends' Monique & Brent's Wedding. As much as I didn't want to be coming home, the benefit of coming home when I did, meant I could go to this. Originally I had intended to be teaching in Spain and travelling around Europe at this time, however there were too many variables, and not enough money. I was grateful that when Monique heard I would be home in time, let me know there was still a place available for me, despite being after the RSVP date.We got picked up by bus from Suzanne & Bevan's house, and got shipped out to the venue - on State Highway 29, not far from the turn-off at Karapiro, near Hinuera. I thought it was an awesome place, very New Zealand Natural. The wedding was good, made me miss Adessa a lot. As to be expected, around about 9/10pm my energy levels started to crash, so I went up stairs and had a sleep on a couch until it was time to go home.

So, the following weeks were about getting back into New Zealand life, and catching up with people. The following Tuesday I caught up with my old school mate Dave, his wife Sandra, (you may remember their wedding in 2007) and their son Luca, who had been born in the time I'd been away. In fact it was this day that the Christchurch Earthquake hit, and because Dave is a branch manager at AMI Insurance, he had a particular interest in it, above your natural patriotic concern. Thursday I re-enrolled at the Wananga in the next stage of Maori - for something to do, but also to keep the brain working. Saturday was my mate Ron's (whose house I am currently house-sitting) birthday, celebrated with a massive amount of KFC, which was all good. I also got back into driving - which after two years was slightly scary - especially when it wasn't in my car. I think my first attempt was in Dad's car, 3kms away to the pub to watch a Chiefs' match (that sounds bad, but I didn't drink any alcohol, just L&P).

The next week was mainly about registering with recruitment agencies, although I also went with Mum & Dad to a dinner at which the mayor of Hamilton spoke at. When she jumped the queue getting in, I piped up with "So much for a classless society" much to my mother's embarrassment.

From that Friday until the following Tuesday I went to the beach at Papamoa for a bit of relaxation time. Thursday I had a job interview, and Friday I took Suzanne and Bevan to Auckland Airport, as they went to Sydney for their 6th Wedding Anniversary. On the way home from the airport I stopped at Nana's and received a phone call, letting me know I had got the job - a 4-6months temporary role doing Accounts Payable at Pacific Aerospace Ltd. That was an awesome feeling - knowing I had reasonably secure work for most of the next half a year, at the same rate I was on when I was in Kaitaia, which was career relevant, and local. Not only that, planes are pretty interesting too.

The following week was spent preparing, picking Suzanne and Bevan up from the airport, and going down to Mokau in Taranaki to attend a funeral for a family friend.

The next week I started work, which was a nice feeling. I'm in an office with a lady who is roughly about Mum & Dad's age, but we get on well, turns out she had done the Maori course last year, so we had a bit in common. The first week I spent boxing stuff from the filing cabinets, and had completed that by the end of Thursday, so they gave me Friday off, as my desk and computer hadn't come yet.The week after that was when the air balloons have their annual festival in Hamilton, concluding with a night-glow on the Saturday night. I rang up my Auntie to see if I could leave my car at her place and catch the bus from there, turned out she was going with my cousin and her daughter, so I ended up going with them, which actually made it a bit more interesting. When it finished we went back to my Aunty's and watched The Last Samurai, which was good, although I did fall asleep right near the end.

The following weekend, my Maori class had a Noho Marae - basically a stay on a marae, Friday night, and Saturday until after dinner. The logic behind this is to spend the day revising our course work so far. We went to Waimakariri marae - which is in Tauwhare, near Cambridge. It was awesome, I had been feeling overwhelmed in class, having not been remotely exposed to Maori language in two years, and being the most Pakeha (white person) however, I gained some confidence back, and was feed tremendously.

Sunday was Dad's birthday, but also was our Thomas family reunion in Pukekawa. It was interesting, I didn't really converse with any relation's that I didn't already know, but did learn some more about our ancestors, which was really interesting. Some of our ancestors came from Cerne Abbas, which is famous for the Cerne Abbas Giant, I was really fascinated with this as I had intended to visit that while I was in the UK, but never quite made it. No one else in my family knew what I was talking about, so my enthusiasm fell on deaf ears. After the reunion we went to Nana's for a birthday tea for Dad.

The next weekend was the Hamilton 400 - V8 racing around the streets of Frankton, (the old central business district of Hamilton). King Street, on which Mum & Dad's business is on, was one such street, therefore to make lemons into lemonade (as it means their street is pretty much closed off for at least a week) they fashion a balcony to watch it, and invite clients, staff, and friends. Its rumoured to have better views than the paid stands. This year, the council decided that it would be good to have a couple of bands come and play in the evenings on Saturday and Sunday, ZZ Top, and Good Charlotte. Also because they were on the circuit, Mum & Dad received free tickets for the inconvenience, so Bevan, Suzanne, & I went and watched Good Charlotte on the Sunday.

The Easter holiday was the following weekend - the five of us went over to Papamoa for the weekend. Unfortunately most of the weekend was wet, however Sunday turned out not too bad, so the three of us went down to the Mount main beach and had a surfing lesson, something I had intended doing since the Summer of 2007/2008 when I was in Kaitaia (had planned to do it before going to London at the mount, and then had planned to go to Cornwall to do it too). Apparently Suzanne & Bevan had had similar aspirations, so it all worked well. Admittedly, it was rather exhausting, especially because I think I hadn't really swum in the ocean as much as I normally do in the last two years, and also getting stuck in a rip took it out of me. Conversely I managed to read two books over the weekend, which was nice and relaxing.

Which finally, brings us to this weekend. Once again, I ended up having Friday off, as there wasn't enough work for me to do. It worked well however, as it meant I could join Suzanne at lunch to celebrate her birthday, help Mum and Dad out at their work folding invoices, and knocking off a few personal jobs. Yesterday, Saturday, I did a whole of washing of clothes and dishes, and then went around to home, and Dad and I replaced the heating unit in my car, as one of the levers had broken. Today so far has been writing this, after this I need to do some important Internet business, and then will be concentrating on my Maori assessment due on Tuesday.

And so, in the first time since mid-August, I have got this blog up to date. Where to from here? as of this coming Friday (6th) I will have written 3 blogs spanning 6 years of my life (See where it all began.) Funnily enough, it also happens to be my 6 month anniversary of dating Adessa. I'm not sure whether to start a new blog to document this new chapter of my life. I think I probably will, I just need some inspiration on what to call it. Also my life has reached the end of the 'plan' and now it is into the unknown.

Unfortunately, one of the downsides of writing a blog retrospectively is that I haven't included much emotion into it, something which reading back over the previous two blogs, was part of the core. So I will try and sum my feelings up at the moment.

Things are going well, having a decent job really helps, and an amazing girlfriend, despite the fact we are on opposite sides of the world. If anything, the thing getting me down at the moment is uncertainty - where to from here? - when will I see my girlfriend again? what do I do with the rest of my life? how do I get to be in the same location long term as my girlfriend?

I do think I have grown over the last 6 years, not just smarter, but have managed to work through issues, found love, and don't sweat the petty stuff anymore.

The LA reprise: Hollywood, Take Two

And so, I made it to Los Angeles, once again, two years on - strange in some ways, that I was back there the same day I left there, two years later. But anyway - I had decided, like always, as much as I wasn't ready to head home, that I should make the best of the situation, so had 3 days booked for LA.

My plane got in at about 6pm local time, and I got a shuttle to my hostel (Banana Bungalow) on Hollywood Boulevard. Once I got there, I was absolutely stuffed, after a long flight, with a little bit of sleep, but not a great amount. After acquiring and making my bed for the night, the next thing to do was to secure some dinner before retiring. I took the opportunity to have a walk around the locality and survey the options, in the end settling on a Philly Cheese steak roll - something I'd discovered the last time I was there.After a good sleep, I found myself awake at about 6am, so I had a shower etc, and went and had a talk to one of the staff for ideas on things to see, and locations of the various things I wanted to do. On the flight trip I had made a bit of a list of must-dos, based on things I had enjoyed last time, things I missed last time, and things I hadn't really thought about last time.Number one on the list was cheese in an aerosol can (pictured above) which I found at a supermarket. I have to say it wasn't an experience worth repeating, its pretty much the same as spreadable cheese. Also at the supermarket I spotted cookie dough in wrapping similar to luncheon sausage, and picked up some small tubs of ice cream - one cookie dough flavoured, the other peanut butter.

After returning to the hostel, chilling a little bit, and doing some planning and investigating, I went for a walk to a nearby Taco Bell - which was another definite thing I had wanted to do. Following this I then walked to the Planetarium/Observatory (pictured below) you may recognise it from such films as "Yes Man" and "Rebel Without a Cause". It was a bit of a hike, but worth it - I got there just on sunset, so got to enjoy the view in both light and dark. On the walk up, I think I may have seen the actress who played 'Darlene' on Roseanne - Sara Gilbert. The observatory didn't shut until 10pm, so I spent a decent while there, although a good portion of that time was waiting in line for a telescope. The show at the planetarium was good - I think the only other time I'd been to such a show was in Yokkaichi in Japan, which of course was not in English.Once that was all done however, I had the mission of walking back to my hostel, which couldn't be done the way I came along the track in in the park, so I had to walk along the side of the road down the Hollywood hills - in some parts there was no lighting, and/or footpath. Eventually I made it back, and had a well deserved dinner of the below - basically a burger and chips, with chili con carne on both.The following day (Sunday) I headed to Universal Studios - as it was only a short walk and two Metro stops from my hostel. (In case you are wondering why not Disneyland, it's because that's in Anaheim, which isn't particularly close to anywhere) The previous day I had looked at the website and discovered for the price of a day pass, I actually got the second day free - so I decided that was worth taking advantage of.The above photo is of the roof of the Hollywood & Vine Metro Station. I made it to Universal Studios, the first thing I did was get some breakfast, I think this time it was Subway - a Pesto Chicken sub, which I don't think I've seen elsewhere. Following this I had a brief look at the shops, but wasn't particularly interested. I went on a lot of the rides, in the end (after the second day) I think there was only two I hadn't been on, but wasn't fussed as they involved big drops and I'm getting a bit old for that... I found it interesting, especially as I was comparing it to my experience of Universal Studios Japan. I think the biggest difference was less characters - i.e. it wasn't all cute-sy and trying to be like Disneyland - which if you wanted that experience, you could go to the real thing. This meant also there was no Hello Kitty and friends. The other thing was also it did show how movies were made, which was good. For the next few photos I'll just captionise. Marilyn Munroe, made out of lollies, at the lolly shop. The Pit Bull Hoverboard - from Back to the Future II Apollo 13Shrek Thought this was rather humorous.The Nissan Skyline from 2Fast 2Furious.

At closing time, I went grabbed dinner at the Taco Bell on the Universal Studios campus.

The next day I organised my gear, checked out, and went to the La Brea Tarpits. I'd had a look on Google maps, and decided the best way was to catch the Metro south, and then walk West, but it turns out I misjudged the distance I had to walk, so it took about two hours - however, on the bright side, I got to enjoy a breakfast of McGriddles (see other entries).Basically the La Brea Tarpits are pits of tar, that managed to trap numerous animals over 1000's of years, and preserved their skeletons well - so in the museum you can see skeletons from Woolly Mammoths and Sabre-Toothed Tigers etc. Cool stuff. Next door was the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) - I didn't go in, however took a photo of this outside as it looks pretty cool.So from there I went to a local IHOP (International House of Pancakes) - basically all you can eat pancakes for US$4, and then bused it to Hollywood Boulevard again, and caught the Metro back to Universal Studios to finish off seeing stuff there. Once I finished there, I headed to the airport. No dramas, although they got me to check in my hand luggage (i.e. have it put in the hold) as it was obviously heavier than usual, which worked OK for me, as it didn't cost me anything. Eventually we were let onto the plane, and I had about a 5 hour sleep.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

back in London for the finale,

And so, I arrived back in London, for the finale. I got a little bit of a hard time at customs, as the guy saw I only had less than a month left on my visa, basically told me I would struggle to get back into the UK after my visa expired, even if I had an onward ticket, as just because people have onward tickets, doesn't mean they will use them.

Anyhow, any negative feelings were quickly forgotten several minutes later when I got outside the arrivals gate and was met by my totally awesome girlfriend Adessa, whom I had missed like crazy.

The following 3 weeks were a series of small adventures and hanging out. The first weekend back we went to Canary wharf with Merinda to see the Ice carving festival (below) and followed that up with dinner at Jamie's Italian (as in Jamie Oliver) - which ticked off another London must do - go to a famous chef's restaurant (eg Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsay).Adessa & I also ticked another thing off - Going to a filming of a TV show - 2 in fact. The first was a children's show called 'Dick & Dom' which was kind of funny, filmed in a small studio on the outskirts in a place called Teddington. The other show was about Favourite books of famous people, which was to be shown during book week. The host was the lady who also does 'The Weakest Link' and 'Rogue Traders' (like NZ's 'Fair Go') in the UK, So I was expecting her to be a total grouch, however, she even had a bit of a chat to us, the audience beforehand, and gave us a background, such as this was episode 6 of 10, rather than doing what she could of, and been posh and not talked to the plebs.
In the second week back I went to the Brixton Academy and saw the Manic Street Preachers - which was good - I didn't really know many of their songs, only the one "If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next" - so was surprised to see how different their other songs were - i.e. that song made me think they were like a sad REM, but they actually were more like a band like Petra (80's rock ballad-style, although not actually an 80's band).

The following week I joined my Aussie friends on an excursion out on the town in Clapham for Australia Day. That Saturday night Adessa and I went along to a meetup - someone's Chewing gum art project - basically we got free gum, and just had to chew it, and put it on a board. Later the artist would paint on it I think.

Another major event was the Waitangi pub crawl. My mate Scott who had gone to Kuwait to teach had come back for a fortnight, so he was there also. It was nice spending the day with my 'crew'.

The next day was Adessa's and my 3 month anniversary, as well as being Chinese New Year, so we went into Chinatown and checked it out, and naturally had some Chinese food - which was nice, and authentic - not the budget generic stuff.

Unfortunately, the following Friday I had to board a plane and conclude my London adventure. But the adventure continues... and I will be back...

Walk (Sail, Climb, Swim, and Run) like an Egyptian

Monday 27th December 2010. I left Heathrow sometime in the afternoon, got to enjoy a proper aeroplane for a change ie. one where you have a TV screen and no ongoing sales pitch. I didn't get into Cairo until 23:40, so I saw Cairo's lights which was kind of nice. Once I got to the hotel, I was bemused at the room - I wasn't sure what I was expecting, but I should have been expecting what I got - a room that looked like it had once been luxurious, say circa 1940, but hadn't really been maintained. It was what I imagine from movies like Indiana Jones or The Jungle Book, and half expected some English toff with one of those ridiculous safari helmets to walk into the room. Tuesday 28th December 2010. When I woke up, I found myself on top of my bed with the TV on - how I fell asleep. What actually woke me up was the Porter guy knocking on the door, to let in my roommate. After a quick chat, my roommate and I decided to check out Cairo together, after some breakfast, and freshening up. I was entertained at breakfast, when looking at something like mince, I asked one of the waiters what it was. I'm sure he said "Penis" so I looked at the waiter next to him, who said it was beans. I was very proud of myself for being mature and not laughing in front of them, however did have a quiet chuckle about it later on.We walked a big loop, quite a way, but really didn't see anything spectacular, didn't stop anywhere. The above photo is on the Nile, note the smog.The Cairo tower.No caption needed - although remember this is pre-riots.And of course - remember junk food has no calories if it is deemed ethnic - hence the McArabia. That evening we met the majority of the rest of the tour group, did the administrative stuff, and then went out for dinner. Wednesday 29th December 2010. After breakfast, we met the remainder of the tour group, the ones who got there late the night before, or early that morning. The first stop of the tour was the Egyptian Museum. It was interesting, but we soon discovered that over-crowding is not a concern, one room got so full that some Italian guy lost his cool.The next major stop was the Giza plateau - where the pyramids are. This really is only just outside the city limits, not far at all.It was interesting, but it was kind of ruined by the souvenir & camel ride sellers, and the guys who would offer to take a photo for or with you, then demand a tip. One cool thing was going through the littlest Pyramid, although not quite as adventurous as in the movies.That evening, we were allowed to go back to the hotel, shower and get some food. I ended up going with someone else and got KFC - one of the highlights of the trip - it turned out that the store I went to was run by deaf people, at the time I just thought they were really friendly and lateral thinkers, knowing the best way to communicate to a foreigner was through sign language. This however was followed by the low point of the trip, the 12-hour overnight train from Cairo to Aswan. When I saw it in the itinerary I assumed it would be in sleeper carriages, it wasn't. I'm not a really fussy traveller, I guess I just expected more for my money. The worst thing was the toilets, which stayed clean for all of about an hour. Thursday 30th December 2010. Anyhow, we got to Aswan at about midday, had a bit of time to have a look around - I had a bit of a look at the market, and got a feel for the prices of things. I got myself an Egyptian flag - to add to the collection. Later that evening we took a boat trip to a Nubian village, which included a camel ride, which was kind of scary as it was already dark. We had dinner at a Nubian house, it was nice, and also learnt that the Nile had been cleared of Crocodiles, however, the Nubians kept baby ones as pets (which doesn't seem logical, what happens if a boy and girl crocodile end up back in the water, meet, and do the crocodile rock?)We went back to our hotel, and then had to be up again at 1am- in order for our tour bus to join the convoy to Abu Simbel at 3am. Friday 31st December 2010. After about a 3 hour drive through the desert, we made it to Abu Simbel (below). It was good, and what made it even more interesting was the fact it had to be moved at one point, when they built the Great Dam. Apparently we also visited the Temple of Hathor before returning to Aswan, and hopping onto the Felucca boat, where we celebrated New Years. Saturday 1st January 2011. This day was spent sailing along the Nile. I mainly just read, and tried to keep warm, and stop the boat's kitten from urinating in my sleeping bag. I tried to go without going N.o2, but gave in that night, because all I ended up doing was trying not to think about not wanting to go. Sunday 2nd January 2011. We departed the felucca, and took a trip to Kom Ombo, and then to our hotel in Luxor. We then saw the Temple of Karnak, and the temple of Luxor, both were good, and our guide was cool and funny.Above - This is one of the statues outside Luxor temple - they are uncovering them - basically there is an ancient road between the two temples, with these on either side. Below - A Mosque had been built on the site of the Luxor temple before they uncovered the surroundings and realised that it was in fact the site of the ancient Temple. Monday 3rd January 2011. We headed to the Valley of the Kings, via this (below) the Colossi of Memnon, which apparently are 3400 years old. The valley of the Kings was awesome, the closest the trip got to the Indiana Jones fantasy - we explored a couple of tombs, one was just totally amazing, several levels, including one part with a bridge.After that we visited the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut (below) which was also quite impressive, and hard to imagine that it is actually as old as it is.Late that afternoon, we farewelled some of our group, and then headed to Hurgharda - we had to wait until we got clearance to leave Luxor from the Tourism Police, as it was around this time when the troubles began with a bombing in Alexandria. Anyhow, we got there without too many dramas, from memory I think it was about a four hour trip, not too strenuous. Tuesday 4th January 2011. The hotel in Hurghada was one of the best I stayed in in Egypt. Complimenting this was the best Egyptian breakfast too - lots of choice. Following breakfast I went down to the beach with all the others, and laxed back on a deck chair and read my book. The others went and did something else, and I took a swim - as I had been hanging out for one for over a year (the last ocean swim I had taken was in Alicante in September 2009). It was definitely nice having a chilled out time after the mad rush of sights we'd seen up until then. That evening, we headed off on our way to Dahab (below). It was an overnight trip, made longer by the fact the Tourism Police made us go the longer way. However, once we got there we were allowed to access our rooms, which technically we shouldn't have been, and got some sleep. Wednesday 5th January 2011. I don't think I did a whole this day, other than catch up on some sleep, eat, and read. As you can see by these two photos - the cleaning staff took pleasure in doing cool stuff with our towels when they made our beds and stuff. The love heart was a bit much for my single bed in the room I shared with another guy, however, full marks for creativity. Thursday 6th January 2011. Dahab was located about an hour or two away from Mt Sinai - the famous mountain climbed by Moses, where he received the Ten Commandments - so I thought it was worth climbing. Most of our group did it overnight, but one of the girls and I thought the daytime would be the more logical choice - at least then it wouldn't be freezing cold, and we could see where we were going. I still think that was the best choice. So I got up rather early, hence the sunrise photo.After an hour or so's drive we reached St Catherine's Monastery - which houses the bush which is supposed to be the burning bush that talked to Moses. The Burning Bush on the left. With Fire Extinguisher conveniently located to it's right.It probably took us at least a good two hours to climb Mt Sinai. This photo below was nearing the top - hence the ice forming (this was January - Winter)We got to the top in time for Sunset, which was nice - having climbed up in a t-shirt and trousers, I put on my thermal shirt and jumper for the climb down, as it got dark and cold rather fast. Climbing down wasn't as strenuous, but harder as I couldn't see my way all the time.Once we got back to Dahab I had a bit to eat - although I was not really feeling like eating, and headed home to bed early to sleep and recover.

Friday 7th January 2011.

The following day our group went snorkeling at the Blue Hole - which is kind of famous in those parts for diving and snorkeling. It was quite cool, although we did have a little bit of drama when one of our group fainted in the water.

Saturday 8th January 2011.

Some of our group decided to walk down the beach and go snorkeling again at another spot, which again was fun, not so many dramas this time.

Sunday 9th January 2011.

The various members of our group had various plans - two of us decided to go snorkeling again, at yet another spot. Because the other two days sessions seemed too short, I spent the best part of 4 hours in the water, but also had to fight the current to get out of the water - as the spot had only one way in and out.

Monday 10th January 2011.

We finished up in Dahab and headed back to Cairo via Suez (although didn't get to see the canal as we went under it).

On the way back to Cairo. I believe the city across the Red sea there would be Aqaba - Israel.Once back in Cairo, we settled back down, went out for dinner, and then I returned and went to bed after packing, as I had an early flight the next day, back to London.

Avebury: Stone Fun to Snow Fun

The weekend after my job at the CPS finished, I joined Magical tours once again, this time to Avebury, and Bath, for the Christmas markets.Avebury is the less famous, yet slightly cooler and bigger brother of Stonehenge (which admittedly I never got to see to compare it to). Avebury was great, because you can walk around the stones, and it is massive - it is several circles, some inside another, and the biggest circle encapsulates the whole town.Some of the smaller stones, like this one, had been shaped. Others, were in their raw form.A stone hut in Avebury, and below, a frozen-over pond - which gives you an idea of how cold it was that day.Our walk around Avebury was concluded with a lunch at the local pub - the Red Lion, which I grinned at, thinking of the NZ beer - Lion Red. "We're all brothers, but come from different mothers..."From Avebury we hopped back on the bus, and headed to Bath. Along the way we participated in a "pub" quiz, the topics being Avebury and Bath. I'm pretty good at pub quizzes, but this one was very specific, so I didn't do so well. On an aside note, I was reading yesterday that quiz as a word came about, as an Irish guy had a bet with another, that he could make up a word, and spread it so it was known overnight. To do this, he paid lots of children to go around the town, and graffiti it in chalk everywhere.This door is the one into Bath cathedral. At Bath we just walked around looking at the markets, concluding with dinner at the Wetherspoons pub - I had the Christmas dinner, which was delicious.The following week I had Monday and Tuesday with no work, and then Wednesday & Thursday I worked, doing accounts payable for an I.T. recruitment agency - I was supposed to be there for a week, but then got another longer term job starting on the Monday, doing Accounts payable for a media company. The photos above and below are from Oxford street, which I took whilst on a date with Adessa.This particular day I think was after we had been to Hillsong's (church) Christmas service, where they put on their annual Christmas show/play - which was awesome, and very professional. The below picture, although silhouetted probably doesn't need much explaining.That job I started, took me right up to Christmas eve. The weekend before Christmas it dumped a whole lot of snow in London. Some of my friends ended up not being able to go away on part of their trip because of it, and I was praying that it didn't snow again before I went to Egypt. But in the meantime, me and Adessa had some great fun playing in and with it. Below is a picture from my back garden, looking at the Mosque behind my house - an unusual sight to see, a Mosque with snow on the top of it. Our snowman that we built, and below, an amorous snow angel. I had never made a snow angel before, so it was on the must-do list.As you can see, there were some massive icicles coming down from the roof, which worked well as arms etc for our snowman. That night, because I hadn't met her family yet, and hence couldn't spend Christmas with them, Adessa made the two of us an amazing British Christmas dinner - afterwards we tried to burn it off by trying to converting an old coffee table out the back into a sled. Unfortunately it didn't work, but still provided some entertainment.