Wednesday, December 2, 2009


10.) Your Chariot awaits. When Mum & Dad (henceforth referred to as M&D) were here, we put just over 2,500 kilometers on my car driving all over the South Island, and almost every single one of those kilometers was beautiful! I have to tell you, I was awfully proud of the Chariot's performance. I had my doubts a few times along the way, as I heard more than a couple new--and somewhat ominous--sounds coming from under the bonnet (hood), but she came through like a champ and got us everywhere we wanted to go.

9.) Birds. Ulva Island is a wee little piece of land just off the coast of Stewart Island, which is a slightly bigger wee little piece of land just a few kilometers south of The South Island, which is a much bigger, yet still, relatively speaking, wee little piece of land). How's that for sentence construction? Ulva has been set up as a sanctuary for native NZ bird species, and has been completely predator free for many many years. As such, several species--that have been threatened with extinction--are thriving there. We took a guided tour there one day. Our guide? Why it was none other than Ulva--I think she was named after the island, not the other way around. On the tour we saw South Island Robins, Wekas, Keas, Saddlebacks, Tom Tits, and Tuis. And, while we didn't see one, we heard the call of the ever-elusive Kiwi. It was a fun day. Nice and relaxing.

8.) The Office. The one "must do" on M&D's agenda while in Wanaka was seeing where I work. Rippon Vineyard is a very special place, and I was so incredibly excited to share it with my folks. We had a brilliant blue-bird day when I took them out for the tour--couldn't have asked for better weather. We took our time walking all around the property, taking in the breathtaking vistas. I always like bringing people to the vineyard for the first time because I tend to take for granted what an awe-inspiring landscape my place of employment truly is. When newbees are on the scene, and taking it in for the first time, I kind of see the place afresh through their eyes and I'm reminded how incredibly fortunate I am to be surrounded by such beauty everyday.

7.) The Crew. Of course, while at my workplace, I got to introduce M&D to all of my coworkers. We hung out and visited with Shannon, Sione, Max, and Amy during their lunch break; Nick and Jo dropped in for a bit to say hello before heading to a meeting in town; Briar took us through a tasting of the entire range of Rippon wines in the tasting room; and Bret gave us the grand tour of the Winery and Barrel room, complete with a tasting directing from one of the barrels! This was an incredibly special day for me--introducing my folks to my coworkers--because my coworkers are more than just the people I work with, they are my very good friends, and it did my heart good for my parents to meet these wonderful people.

6.) Lunch time. One of my coworkers, Ned, had been recovering from knee-replacement surgery for the last couple of months, and I didn't know if he'd be back to work by the time I brought M&D out to Rippon. But it was very important to me that my parents meet Ned, and that Ned meet my parents. You see, Ned is the same age as my father, and he is the resident father figure at Rippon. He immediately took me under his wing upon my arrival at the vineyard, training me up on all the different aspects of the art of grape-growing. He's patient and kind and just simply a joy to be around. So, I was thrilled when I called him up to ask if we could pop by his house just to say hello and he responded by inviting us all over for lunch. We spent a delightful afternoon over at Ned and Gwenda's (his wife) house eating good food, drinking good wine, chatting, and just enjoying each other's company. That was another very special day for me.

Coming soon: 5-1.

What happened to November?

It sure flew by awful fast didn't it? For me, that's probably because, for the first two weeks of the month, I was tiki touring all over the South Island with my folks who came over to NZ for a visit. Then, as one does when removed from their normal routine for a bit, I spent the next couple weeks just getting back into the swing of things. Oh, and I moved into a new place to boot. So yeah, it was a busy month, and one without a single entry from this here blogger, you might have noticed.


As I said, my Mum (moms are mums down under) and Dad (dads are still dads) came for a visit. It was fantastic in every way, and we saw and did a whole heckuva lot of really cool stuff, but I've been struggling with how to write about it. "Why's that?" you inquire. Well, I'm glad you asked. So here's my dilemma: we saw and did so much I wanted to write about that my pre-blogging brainstorms just got too stormy. You see, I write all my blog entries, more or less, in my head during the work day (much of the work in the vineyard is solitary in nature affording many hours of quiet contemplation) long before I sit down at the keyboard. And for the past couple weeks I've had about five or six different entries vying for thinking time all at once. Basically, I've been suffering not from too little material, as one might assume from the complete lack of entries as of late, but from too much! It's funny how sometimes when one feels completely overwhelmed with too much to do, instead of doing what one can, even if it's just a little bit, one ends up doing absolutely nothing at all. That ever happen to you? Well, that's what happened here on the ol' blogspot.


Even though she doesn't yet know it, my Mum helped me come up with the solution to my 'too much material' problem. By the end of my parents' trip Mum had taken 1,400 some-odd pictures. I don't say that as exaggeration--she literally had over 1,400 pictures stored on her camera's memory card. I remember her wondering aloud how she'd ever be able to share them with people in a meaningful way (whether posting on facebook, publishing a picture book, or just scrolling through them on the computer) without boring them to tears. As gorgeous and interesting as her pictures are (especially the ones of me--totally kidding here), nobody wants to sit and sift through hundreds upon hundreds of someone else's vacation photos. Like me, Mum had the 'too much material' problem. Her solution? I remember her saying something to the effect of "I guess I'll just have to come up with my Top Ten from each subject." She chose her ten favorite pictures from Kaikoura, then her ten favorites from Fanz Josef Glacier, then her top shots from the Milford Track, and so on and so forth until she successfully winnowed down the entire collection into a more condensed and manageable format. Brilliant! I decided I'd take the same tack with my memories. So, coming soon, my ten favorite memories from Mum & Dad's visit. Stay tuned.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Eat your heart out Colonel Slade

In the spirit of not getting too complacent in my cozy little routine, I've decided I need to continue to find things to do that I've never done before. In that vein, last night I attended my first (of 6) Tango lessons. Yeah, you read that right.

Now, I know I've only been to one class, but, if I do say so myself, I'm not half bad. Seriously! Kasha, our instructor, seemed fairly impressed when I responded in the negative to her query about whether or not I'd ever had a lesson before. She said I did extremely well for a complete beginner. And, trust me, she doesn't just say that to all her students. The majority of the class certainly didn't elicit such praise. In fact, there are a couple of folks I think will require Kasha to dig pretty deep into her teaching bag-o-tricks to find the pearls to get 'em moving with even the slightest modicum of grace.

I don't know if I'll ever get a call to appear on Dancing With the Stars, but I imagine I'll do alright. We'll see.

Hold on. Now that I think about it, thanks to my 15 seconds of screen time on Country Calendar a few months back, I have actually been on television--and in the kiwi version of DWTS, I think that's pretty much all that's required to be considered a "star." I'm not kidding, apparently the guy who won it last season is the weather man on the morning news program. Maybe, I'll have my people look into it--after a few more lessons that is.


Monday, October 12, 2009

One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor!

Let me tell you about my relationship with tequila. I have no relationship with tequila. We had a falling out one night during the summer of 2001 in San Miguel, Mexico; and our feelings for each other ever since could best be described as silent loathing. I tried once to patch things up between us one evening at a bar in Montana in September of 2004, but to no avail. I'm afraid our differences then were as irreconcilable as they were immediately following the itinial rift. And, I'm afraid they remain so to this day.

All that being said, I can (and do) still appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into making a good quality tequila. So, when I saw my friends 'shooting' some Herradura the other night down at Barluga, I was utterly aghast. Despite my personal feelings toward the sinister liquor, I know that a good tequila (such as the likes of Herradura, Cazadura, or Don Julio, among others) is not supposed to be 'shot,' but rather sipped. I explained all this to my amigos, after thoroughly chastising them for wasting such a fine tequila by throwing it as quickly as they could down their gullets. I then introduced them (by way of explanation rather than demonstration) to a particular method of serving/drinking tequila that I picked up during my time in Mexico. It's called 'la bandera,' which means "the flag" in Spanish. La bandera is a shot glass of tomato juice (red), a shot glass of tequila (white), and a shot glass of lime juice (green) served together side by side so as to resemble the Mexican flag--which is red, white, and green. One then simply takes little sips, in turn, of the three parts of the flag.

My friend Mike, the bar manager at Barluga, was quite impressed. He said he might even add 'La Bandera' to the drink menu. I won't be enjoying any banderas myself, mind you, but there might be a discriminating tequila drinker or two in the future that'll appreciate this little Kiwi bar's efforts to serve up the quintessential Mexican quaff with some authentic Mexican flair.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Why is the ground rushing so quickly up to my face?

There are two standard questions that serve as conversation starters when you meet someone for the first time in Wanaka during the winter. They are: "So, you here for the season?" or "Been up the hill much?" They're kind of the equivalent of the "What's your major?" question asked by oh so many college freshmen. But I digress. Anyway, I received some strange, uncomprehending looks when I responded in the negative to those two queries over the last few months. The 'never summer' crowd of skiers and snowboarders--those that pop back and forth between the northern and southern hemisphere chasing winter year-round--who descend upon this little berg? burg? burgh? (I really must look that up sometime) every winter seem utterly perplexed by the fact that people actually live here all year and might not actually be here solely to ski (or board). In all fairness, I guess this is technically considered a ski resort town. And in more fairness, even most of those who are not here solely to ski (or board) go up the hill at least a couple times during the season.

This last Sunday, for the first time this season, I 'went up the hill'; and for the first time in my life, I strapped on a snowboard and hurled myself down a mountain (read, the very gentle decline of the learners' slope at Cardrona Ski Resort). With Shannon's board, helmet, and goggles; Mike's gloves and boarding pants; and a hookup on free boots at the rental shop from Amy I was ready to see what all the hubbub was about.

I'll say this: I can see how snowboarding could be enjoyable. I wouldn't go so far as to say that I, however, enjoyed it. I mean, falling down (sometimes quite hard) and picking myself up again a couple hundred times over the course of a few hours is not how I'd describe a particularly enjoyable day. Now, I think with a little bit of practice I might eventually get good enough to find some enjoyment in the activity, but for now, uhhh, not so much.

I don't mean to imply that I was completely hopeless. I mean I did show some (however slight) progress over the course of the day. For instance, I actually got pretty "good" at falling. What I mean is, I figured out how to fall, when I knew a fall was imminent that is, in such a way as to keep the potential damage to my body to a minimum. Sad to say, I never figured out a way to do the same for my pride. Still, I am glad I went and gave it a go, and, the soreness I've felt for the past four days not withstanding, I do actually look forward to getting back up on that horse, so to speak, and trying again.

The only thing is, my first day of the season happened to fall on the resort's last day of the season. Looks like I'll have to wait until the mountain reopens next June for my day two. That reminds me, did I tell you I was staying in Wanaka and making it my home for the foreseeable future? I didn't? Hmm, that's weird. :-)


Sunday, September 27, 2009


Scattershooting while wondering whatever happened to Dirk Benedict. A few random thoughts, observations, and ponderings that were just rattling around upstairs:

-At the bar the other night, I saw a man who bore a striking resemblance to "The Most Interesting Man in the World" from the Dos Equis commercials. He was drinking an Amstel.

-For the most part, I thoroughly enjoy the Kiwi version of the English language. There are, however, two notable exceptions that I find incredibly annoying. They are:
1.) pronouncing the words known, mown, and grown with two syllables.
2.) using a "t" rather than "ed" for the past tense of certain words, i.e. spilt and learnt.

-Bazooka is such a fun word to say it's a shame one doesn't have more opportunity to drop it in normal conversation.

-As exciting as the courses entitled 'Agri-chemical Application Safety' and 'Agri-chemical Equipment Calibration' sound, I can assure you they are nothing of the sort.

-The book I just checked out from the library has an honest-to-goodness library card still attached to the inside of the back cover. You remember those, right? The librarians stamped it with one of those little dial-a-date stamps every time a reader checked it out. I found it fascinating to study the book's circulation. It got checked out two or three times a year, every year between 1978 and 1986. Then it apparently sat on the shelf untouched until 1992 when, all of a sudden, it resumed it's previous pace of two to three checkouts a year until 2002. At that point the date stamps disappeared altogether. I assume that's when the library abandoned the card system in favor of the present electronic one.

-Speaking of the library, when I first got my library card I had to pay a $40 bond that I was told would be returned to me if I stayed for six months. I forgot all about it until this Saturday, when the librarian told me the six months was up and I was due back my $40. SCORE!

-I had Rippon's '07 Riesling for the first time last week--liquid gold!
-When I learnt that the Jumbotron at the Cowboys' new stadium is seven stories high, I had to smile. That "television" is four stories taller than the tallest building in Wanaka. And the tallest building in Wanaka isn't even suspended 85 feet in the air.

-I wonder why nobody wanted to read Brave New World from 1987 to 1991.

-I love it when a plan comes together.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Hello stranger

As a few of my readers have recently pointed out to me, the blog entries have been fewer and farther between as of late. So I'd like to take this opportunity to explain myself.

See, what had happened was...

Actually nothing much really happened to cause the precipitous drop off in entries; and that's precisely the point: nothing much has really happened. At least nothing much worth blogging about. I think it was inevitable, really, that I got to this point. You see, after six months in this town, my life has shifted from more of a 'tourist' mode, where everything is new, exciting, and different to more of a 'local' mode, where everything is more routine, familiar, and comfortable. That's not a bad thing, mind you--I rather enjoy the laid-back little life I've carved out for myself here--it just doesn't make for very scintillating reading is all.

However, the hew and cry about my virtual blog abandonment (ablogdonment?) have served to remind me that, while a comfortable routine is nice, it's most important that I break out of it every so often and revert back to my touristy ways, even if only for good blog-fodder. So, dear readers--if there are any of you left out there, that is--I will make it my charge going forward not to get too comfortable in my routine.