After the world was introduced to New Zealand and the Queenstown region in films like The Piano, Narnia, Wolverine and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, it should come as no surprise that there is a thriving film industry in New Zealand. What I was surprised about was how many "filmies" there are actually based in Queenstown. During slower periods, some engage themselves in personal projects like film competitions. Here is one that a friend did for a short film competition, Nikon Festival. Clever concept I think. (You might recognize my voice and hands.)
So I'm off to America in two days. This will be my first time traveling with my new New Zealand Residency. I think that means a different queue upon my return to New Zealand, but not sure if it means anything going into America.
Anyway, a friend of my brother, who just happens to be a Kiwi apparently has said he would make it worth my while if I can bring back a few things for him and his wife. Apparently their bags were too full to bring back a few of their NZ favorites after their recent trip to their homeland. So I'm off to the New World after posting this to pick up cans, yes CANS, of Wattie's Tomato Sauce. They figure cans will get me through Customs, rather than plastic bottles. A bit apprehensive I am, but willing to give it a go.
So if I don't post anything in the next few weeks, please send someone to look for me in Security at the Los Angeles International Airport. And don't be surprised if I've eaten all the sauce by then. Which reminds me, I suppose I'd better pack a can opener as well ... just in case.
The American TV show, The Bachelor, filmed in New Zealand last season. Part of this filming took place in Queenstown. As gorgeous as Queenstown is, they were able to showcase beautiful areas and made them look even more spectacular ... if that's even possible.
I'm pretty close to this industry now, having relationships with many involved in it. Ever since Lord of the Rings, filming has done so much for New Zealand's visibility worldwide, and therefore, its economy. Fortunately, it just continues to grow.
I think Tourism New Zealand does an incredible job of capitalizing on this as well. But then again, I think TNZ does a great job all around. The 100% Pure Campaign has been recognized as one of the best in the world and has been built the NZ brand over the past 10 years. But I love advertising, and I could go on and on about this.
This was the view from the Taufua Beach Fales in Lalomanu, Samoa, where I attended the wedding of two new friends in June 2008. I've been wanting to blog about the recent earthquakes and tsunami that killed many in the Samoan Islands, but had no idea was to say about such a tragic event. Then after this terrible event, there were other natural disasters in Indonesia and the Philippines. It has been a terrible last few weeks for the South Pacific.
Samoa is a major holiday destination for many in New Zealand. After the events, there continue to be many stories of loss and devestation. The first-hand accounts of the waves hitting are amazing. Today I had lunch with my friend who was the bride at the wedding in June 2008. She and her husband have organized a group donation to go directly to the family who owned and operated the Taufua Beach Fales. Tai and Sili both made it through the disaster, though they both spent time in hospital. However, they lost 13 members of their family. The bride told me Sili's account of being hit by all three of the tsunami waves. He is very, very lucky to be alive.
Taufua Beach Fales no longer exists, and from all accounts, Lalomanu no longer looks anything like it does in the photo above. But to the credit of this one Samoan family, they plan to rebuild their resort and open again one year from now.
I spend quite a bit of weekend time in Glenorchy, the township at the head of Lake Wakatipu, about a 45 minute drive from Queenstown. It's a different kind of place, even the locals from Queenstown will tell you that. Yet no one can quite explain why, so you're never sure if they mean it as a dig or a compliment. Either way is fine. It's a beautiful small community where you can totally relax.
Last weekend the town held a regular community event, the Glenorchy Flower Show. A $5.00 entrance fee got you into the town hall to view all the entries in all the multiple categories, plus afternoon tea. I was sold! (I love a good tea, and this one included various little sandwiches, a banana-like loaf, and pikelets with whipped cream and strawberry jam. Yummy!)
To my delight, there were also categories for photos, crafts and baking. There were 3 sub-categories in the photo and baking competitions - image of a rooster, image of a particular long-time Glenorchy local, and a kid's competion of an image of their school play area. The baking sub-categories included an iced chocolate cake (I thought I'd arrived in heaven till I found out that we couldn't actually taste them!), a Belgian biscuit and a scone.
The chocolate cakes ended up being auctioned after the awards were handed out. I was good and didn't bid. But I also didn't win the huge, gorgeous chocolate mousse cake that was raffled. Perhaps this was because before I could buy a ticket, they ran out. I couldn't even get a photo of the piece of art before someone pulled it away and rushed it off. The beautiful creation was made and donated by Grant, the owner & chef of the Glenorchy Cafe. It's a cool caf with great food! Though Grant is from Australia, I heard he studied pastry making in Austria. You know what that means!
Enough about the cake. The flowers were gorgeous. Who knew there were so many types of daffodils and tulips?! Certainly not I. It does make you want to submit some entries for the next show. Oooooo, or better yet, I'll volunteer to be a judge! Then I'll get some chocolate cake!
Spring is really on us now in the South Island. Growing up in Southern California, I used to see photos of signs of Spring. These were obviously not taken anywhere near where I lived. I read this is in a book recently - Southern California has a climate. It doesn't have seasons. So I suppose I never really experienced what Spring means ... the blooms, the warmth, the sun, and the animals. Ah, the animals. Spring is gorgeous and so are the lovely things that come along with it.
Queenstown is not a big place, and I came to New Zealand from a city. A big city. So every now and then, I need that "city fix". I'd been wanting to go to Wellington, the country's capital, since I arrived in NZ. Mostly because I'd heard it was a cool city, similar to San Francisco, and seems to be the country's centre for technology, advertising and design. It's the home of WETA, which has been drawing comparisons to George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch in Northern California.
In September I had the opportunity to stay with some friends in Wellington - a Radio New Zealand personality, his wife and their kids. Soooo much fun and great people to sit down with for conversation over a glass (or more) of wine. From their lovely home, we moved to the Museum Hotel. This may sound weird, but I love nice hotel bathrooms. And the bathroom in my Museum Hotel room was gorgeous! It's a lovely hotel very central to the most popular areas most people want to see including the great Te Papa Museum.
If you only go into one museum in New Zealand, it should Te Papa. There's also a short cable car ride that you can access from one of the busiest shopping areas. It will take you up a hill past a university to the Botanical Gardens.
Wellington will definitely be a place I visit time and again. The only problem is that flying domestically in New Zealand is quite expensive - especially between Queenstown and Wellington. Recently, JetStar and Pacific Blue starting flying into NZ from Australia. I'm hoping that with this new competition, that the domestic airfares will drop in New Zealand.
New Zealand is known for its birds. Birds one doesn't find anywhere else on the planet. There's a huge story to tell here about how the introduction of possums, stoats, domestic cats and more have changed the land and the birdlife. Until I'm educated enough on the topic, I will refrain from writing further about it. In the meantime, I thought people would be interested in seeing this BBC footage of this gorgeous Kakapo. Incredible they are!
... that is what they're saying since I received the call a week ago from Immigration New Zealand that my Residency application has been approved. Woohoo! I don't know about that as most Kiwi women I know have some qualities that haven't yet surfaced in me, but I'm on my way.
One of the important things about establishing myself in New Zealand was to open a bank account. There are a few large banks with locations in Queenstown. I chose to go with Bank of New Zealand. Like a friend of mine said about herself, I guess the piggies reeled me in as well.
The advert above was first emailed to me from a friend, the General Manager of a local luxury tourism property. I love advertising! However, I do have to admit that the ad raised my eyebrows. But that is what good advertising does, doesn't it? We are bombarded every day by all forms of media to the point of being overwhelmed, where some of us are becoming desensitized. So when an advert provokes an emotional response and makes us remember the instigator, hasn't it done its job?
Apparently, the design firm attempted to create an emailable viral campaign that delivered the message that its client (the restaurant) uses the best local suppliers and provide people with "a wee giggle".
Considering the facts that it was emailed to me, that there is a Facebook group around the restaurant, and that the advert has made local news, I'd say it has been effective. Oh, and by the way, the advert has since been changed. The woman and carrots have been replaced by a deer with "Grown Down South" stamped on its rump.
"Take art off the wall and out of static display & adorn the body in wildly wonderful ways. Celebrate creativity in lavish and unique onstage spectaculars-that inspire all." - Susie Moncrieff, WOW Founder/Artistic Director
Fantastic!! I've wanted to attend WOW since I heard about it last year upon arriving in NZ. I've now missed two years worth of wearable art! Next year is the year!
"Lady of the Wood" by David Walker of Alaska won the top award at this year's event. Walker, a carpenter, apparently designed and made the 18th century-style ballgown entirely of all-American timbers. Walker's entry was the first international entry to win the competition, which began 21 years ago in Nelson. Click here if you want to read more detail of the event and Walker's winning entry.
Air NZ Fashion Week was held in Auckland a few weeks ago. What a huge event! It's New Zealand's largest fashion event attracting designers from all over NZ and buyers from all over the world. I find fashion in New Zealand very interesting. But this is an entirely different topic that I need to write about separately!
One of the big buzzes this year was that Pamela Anderson and designer, Richie Rich, who have teamed to create the fashion label, A*Muse, were launching at Air NZ Fashion Week. This was a huge coo and made the news for weeks.
Knowing that Pamela Anderson is a staunch supporter of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and that A*Muse touts itself as being environmentally friendly, I was curious how this would go over in NZ. In one article online prior to the event, the site showed Pamela Anderson alongside the photo of a NZ designer's possum skin bikini.
Possums are considered pests in NZ. Driving from Queenstown to Glenorchy, the road is often littered with possum roadkill. These possums are not like the ugly rat-like critters we have in the US. These possums are furry, bear-like critters that make a horrific devil-like sound that I often hear outside the house in the middle of the night. Yuk!
Here their fur is beautifully soft and is used for all sorts of things like blankets, clothing, and even hottie (hot water bottle) covers as pictured here. I've become a fan of using a hottie to warm the bed in the winter. Or maybe it just reminds me of being a kid. (I remember my mum using them all the time when I was a little girl.) However, I'm still not sure that I can get myself to use one of these possum hottie covers. These particular hottie covers are available at Glenorchy Fur Products.
I've finally made it ... a professional athlete, "talent", a model, a girl who didn't know how to kayak ... I'm gonna be a star! :-) hahahhahhaahahha (Don't blink. You might miss me.) This is the television commercial being used as part of Winter Games NZ that will air starting Sunday all around NZ.
Has everyone seen this? I hear he is making the rounds with his own Facebook and Twitter pages. The Crasher Squirrel is his name. I read about him on www.stuff.co.nz I just couldn't resist posting this. He is ADORABLE!!!
ReutersReutersReutersReutersReutersReutersReutersReutersReutersReutersReutThe All Blacks perform the haka before playing South Africa in their Tri-Nations match at the Absa Stadium in Durban.
I've become a rugby fan. Or maybe it's more of an All Blacks fan. The All Blacks played South Africa Southboks at 3am NZ time. That's the beauty of MySky, NZ's answer to Tivo. (Or so I assume since I never had Tivo in America.)
I watched the match today while eating breakfast. It was a BIG match. NZ always does the Haka (as shown in photo) after the national anthems. I always find it inspirational to watch. I suppose it's a warrior type of thing. Rugby is an interesting game ... in some ways similar to American football, in other ways, not similar at all. From what I've seen, the All Blacks appear to be, generally speaking, the poster boys of the sport ... fit, mostly all trim, nice looking, clean-cut ... not the rough, beer-belly, cauliflower ear players that you see on many other teams. Again, I'm saying generally speaking. (Don't anyone start giving me flack for my generalized observation.)
Don't be mistaken though. They aren't just pretty boys. A couple of them went down during this match, went down hard. But in true Kiwi spirit, those that went down hardened up and went back for more. As one of the commentators said about one player in particular, "Southlanders don't Hollywood it". Unfortunately, it wasn't a Hollywood ending either. The All Blacks didn't play their best in this match this go around and suffered some questionable calls from the official which resulted in a 31-19 loss to the Springboks.
Last night I went to the Queenstown Adventure FilmFest produced by local couple David & Kirstin (he originally from South Africa, she a Kiwi). I know David & Kirsten because a year ago, when I was unemployed, I did a few days for them promoting last year's FilmFest. I dressed in a hodge-podge of outdoor clothing and walked the town handing out promotion flyers to drive attendance. Something I could never see myself doing in LA, but why not here? I was starting a new life. Anyway, I digress.
Last night's program was a series of short films. All inspirational, as always, when you're watching people do things you would only participate in from the sidelines. One of the most memorable films was Red Bull's "Uncharted" about Queenstown local, Chuck Berry and Americans Shane McConkey and Miles Daisher ... all world-renowned BASE jumpers.
I met Chuck a year ago at a dinner party. Nice bloke, full of enthusiasm and very entertaining. I remember watching his BASE jumping videos on his iTouch and talking about cooking in a cast iron frying pan. Now I wish I would have chatted with him more about what drives him to jump off cliffs. Maybe that desire that so many of us have to fly?
Anyway, if you ever have the chance to see the film, check it out. These are definitely interesting people, and you'll see some beautiful scenery of the Queenstown area as they drive to Milford Sound.
Check out this beautiful TV commercial for the Lexus LS 460. Much of it was filmed in the region around Queenstown - the kayaking in Milford Sound, the drive on the road behind Lake Wakatipu is the road from Queenstown to Glenorchy. It looks even better on TV than it does on YouTube.
Say the word "pie" to an American, and one probably thinks apple, pumpkin, banana cream. Or if you're from New York or Chicago, maybe you're thinking of pizza. But in New Zealand, a pie is a wonderful smaller savory thing filled with a variety of things such as mince, mince and cheese, steak and cheese, steak and mushroom, venison, lamb ... am I starting to sound like Bubba in Forrest Gump? The closest thing I can think of to resemble a New Zealand pie in America is those horrible frozen Swanson's Food pot pies. (I have to admit that I loved those as a kid though.)
Jimmy's might just be the country's most famous pie. Jimmy's is based in Roxburgh, not far from Queenstown. They're probably terribly unhealthy for you. But I can tell you that nothing, but nothing, beats a warm, flaky, hearty pie when you're cold and hungry. I'm definitely a fan.
But probably my favorite is the chicken and apricot pie made by Arrowtown Bakery in Arrowtown. Over the weekend, I stood in the rugby paddock watching Arrowtown play Upper Clutha. I was a bit hung from that Friday night birthday party I previously blogged about. It was cold, and I was wishing I was wearing my Sorels that are currently in storage in California at my brother's house. But I had a pie in my hand and that made me cosy and kept me warm. Mmmmm, pie ...
Friday night was another great birthday party, this time in Arrowtown. It was held at New Orleans Hotel. I saw people I hadn't seen in a year ... which is an odd thing considering Queenstown's population is only around 20,000 during its busiest time of year. Another great party with the first public appearance of a band that includes a woman I met a year ago who has never sung for a profession. Queenstown is like that. You can re-create yourself here. Queenstown hosted a poker tournament this past week. Players came in from all over the world, but mostly from Australia and other areas of New Zealand. I know a few of the local players, most who advanced pretty far. Unfortunately, it was an Aussie that eventually won the NZ $87K 1st place prize during Saturday's final. Saturday was also the North Face Peak 2 Peak competition where teams (or really fit and ambitious individuals) skied or boarded, kayaked, mountain biked, ran, and cycled from the top of Remarkables down to Queenstown and back up to the top of Coronet Peak. All I have to say about this is that I'd have to train for a year to do even a portion of this event, and I have a few non-athlete friends who did it. Those are Kiwis for you. Today I used my seasons ski pass for only the 2nd time this winter. Shameful, I know. And I have new ski boots! It was fantastic! Social Sunday, incredible snow, not crowded. What a great day, and what a great weekend!
"She'll be right" is a New Zealand saying. It's also an attitude. A popular Kiwi comedian, Te Radar, recently based his entire comedic routine, Eating the Dog, on the New Zealand attitude of "she'll be right". Last weekend I went to a HUGE party of a father and son both celebrating milestone birthdays. It was great party at a house than was more of a compound. There was a band, a mobile open bar, and fireworks. A few of us staggered out about 2:30am-ish and stumbled our way down the dirt road, only by the light of my mobile phone, to meet our taxi on the main road. The husband of the woman in the taxi couldn't be bothered to walk all the way down the drive. So we left him. She said he'd be right. And I guess he was, because I saw him this weekend, and he had come right. This weekend I heard that another friend's husband got home around 4:30am-ish. He walked home from the party in 24 degree Farenheit temperature across neighbor's paddocks. Paddocks with electric fences for the sheep. He apparently got zapped ... more than once. He came down with the flu during the week, but when I saw him at the top of a blue run today on Coronet Peak, he had apparently come right and "needed some fresh air". But probably the funniest story I heard about last weekend and another fine example of a New Zealand saying and attitude is this. Apparently someone was not right at the party. Too much of the drink, no doubt. His friends asked for help. Someone volunteered to take a look at him. The diagnosis - take a shot of "harden the f*#% up". Yep, don't expect sympathy if you're just whinging. I learned this personally last winter when I complained about cold hands while skiing. I try to remember not to do that anymore.
So ... from 13 June till 26 July, much has been going on. A lovely visitor came from America for a visit for a few weeks. On the agenda was parapenting, Milford, Queenstown WinterFest, parasailing, skiing, a spa visit, bungy jumping, eating. Lots really. And lots of eating. It was great fun! She is a lovely, bright teenager, and is one of those teenagers that made me feel better about getting older, knowing that she is part of the future. One of my nieces in America also graduated from high school in the past 7 weeks, and there were some birthdays of very special people to me in the past month as well. Some of which I didn't acknowledge with phone calls. (I'm still feeling guilty about that.) Anyway, next are some photos of the last 7 weeks. I hope you enjoy ... I did!
... well, I didn't really go away, at least not physically. I didn't go on holiday, I didn't go bush. I just simply got busy with life, and as Kiwis would say, I just couldn't be bothered ... or I just couldn't be f*^#'ed. Visiting family from America ... busy, busy work in a crazy work environment. (But this is another story.) Anyway, I'm back. And I've got lots to say ...
Ski season started for me today. Last week before leaving for Auckland, I geared up for the season. I'm going with a helmet now. It isn't a law in New Zealand, but I figure why not be safer. Coronet Peak opened last weekend, and I heard it was great on opening day. It wasn't so great today, but was still great fun. If you've skied in North America or Europe, you may be used to larger ski fields. The ski fields on the South Island aren't nearly as large as many you'll find in other parts of the world, but they're still great fun. It's very social, and because the ski fields are so close, you could ski in the morning before going to work if you wanted to. I'm sore tonight and hoping that my brand new boots won't be so incredibly painful next weekend.
I spent this last week in Auckland working at TRENZ, New Zealand's largest tourism industry event that aims to keep New Zealand in the minds of international travellers. It was a tiring 3 days of 15 minute appointments and lots of socializing every night. It was a great opportunity for me to network and learn alot more about the industry. The mood was hopeful despite the world economy, and I see the opportunity for me to add value because of my previous experience working in technology. It makes work even more exciting now.
Tourism New Zealand was celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the 100% Pure campaign. I LOVE this campaign! One of the videos produced as part of this campaign is what was one of the driving factors in bringing me to NZ. Take a look in my "Must See Videos" section (on the right side of the page). Because of the anniversary and the tourism commitment of the new government, New Zealand's prime minister, John Key addressed us during lunch. He also visited our stand where I had the opportunity to meet him. Yep, my mum would have been proud. (My brother & sisters will understand this.)
The week ended with a farewell event on Thursday night. HUGE party with 3 bands ... one of them being OPShop!!! Fantastic! Great music, great food, great drinks, and can these people have a good time! I love how much everyone sings along when they're dancing. It was a big night which ended for me at 4am. Yep, and then I had a business meeting before flying home. I was soooo happy to get home. But I do want to go back ... to actually see Auckland this time.
I had the oppportunity to have some good chats with Tourism New Zealand people. Great advice I received from one of them when I asked how to best acclimate to living in NZ, which I think says it all ... "Be yourself and let your personality show through. If someone doesn't like it, f*^@ them." I knew I liked them for a reason. :-)
Lucky, lucky, lucky me! Friends generously invited me to join their family on a road trip to Mount Cook over the long holiday weekend (Queen's Birthday). Mount Cook is New Zealand's highest mountain at 3754 metres (or 12313.12 feet) and only one of hundreds that make up the Southern Alps. There is a Maori legend of Mount Cook that is the story of Aoraki and his brothers that were stranded upon a reef while on a voyage around Papatuanuku (the Earth Mother).
You can view the story of the legend and learn more about the area in a wonderful short 3D movie that plays in the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Center in the Heritage Hotel. They also have a great museum in the Center and provide the opportunity to learn almost anything you ever wanted to know about Sir Edmund and fellow mountaineers.
The Heritage Hotel is where we stayed for the weekend. While we were there, the hotel was celebrating its 125th year by holding a reunion weekend for all former employees. The hotel is very large, but very comfortable, with three restaurants and a huge shop. There seem to be many walks in the area for people of all fitness levels, and there are heaps of other activites to engage in in this incredibly beautiful area. My only disappointment of the weekend was that we arrived just after the boats of the Glacier Explorers had stopped running for the weekend. Ah well, another time, as I'll certainly be going back.
My boss flew into work today. Yes, in a helicopter. She is, afterall, the company's chief pilot. She had been away for the Queen's Birthday holiday on Monday. She had been to Fiordland and returned with heaps of fresh blue cod that they'd caught and some crayfish which they dived for. Everyone was treated to a bag of blue cod fillets, and before we left work for the evening, everyone picked at the fresh crayfish (lobster in America). What a treat!
I bought a car in May. It's a little used, 4-wheel drive Subaru Impreza coupe with a killer stereo and ski racks. Since I'm now living at the top of a hill, the 4-wheel drive was a necessity. I found it on TradeMe.co.nz and bought if from an Aussie couple who live 6 months in Australia and 6 months in NZ. Winter was coming, so they were going. The process was surprising simple. One quick form dropped at the Post Shop, and I became the new owner - registration/ownership within a week. Don't remember it being so easy in California.
I got my NZ drivers license in February. NZ law says you can drive for one year with your country's drivers license if you hold a US drivers license. So many people have asked me if it's weird to drive on the "other" side of the road. Steering wheels are on the right side in NZ, and they use roundabouts (like in the UK). That took getting used to, as did the right of way rule which is opposite that in the US. That one still confuses people, not just me. But it really hasn't been that difficult to adjust. I'm just grateful that my car is an automatic. I'm right-handed, so driving a manual car in a roundabout was something.
One morning a few weeks ago, I was pulled over for an alcohol breath test while in on my way to work. I suppose because Queenstown is such a party town - it has some outrageous number of bars - the police make it a common practice to do these pull-overs. In fact, back in April, while driving home from a company farewell dinner on a Friday evening, I had to stop at one of these road stops. I was so happy that I'd made the decision to stop drinking those gin and tonics earlier in the evening. :-)
2 June on the South Island, NZ. If I was in Southern California, I'd be running around barefoot and in shorts experiencing "June Gloom", that summer month in the region when fog hangs in the air much of the day. Instead, it's currently -1 Celsius, the fire is going in the stove, and in the morning I'll be carefully making my way down the frosty stairs to the car and grateful for the fact that my newly purchased "used" Subaru Impreza is all-wheel drive. I live in Fernhill, the highest house on the hill to be exact. I probably live in the warmest house in one of the coldest places in Queenstown. It's known for staying frosty and icy during winter.
What a difference a year makes. I did hear today that the month of May was the 2nd coldest May in Queenstown since 1939. I now understand the value of sensible shoes, the need to have multiple pairs of gloves, hats and coats. This California girl can't seem to come to grips with the fact that she has to wear something on her feet all the time now.
The past six weeks have been what they call in the tourism industry here, "the shoulder season". It's been pretty quiet in town. But with each passing day, I'm seeing more and more what look to be jibbers, or snowboarders, showing up in town. It's almost ski season with Queenstown's main mountain, Coronet Peak, opening this weekend. It's looking to be an incredible ski season with the majority of visitors coming from Australia for ski holidays. I'm not coughing regularly like I was a year ago, so I'm looking forward to having a better time skiing this year.
Watching Close Up (a news show) tonight, American Larry King, was being interviewed by the presenter, Mark Sainsbury. Larry and Mark were discussing sports. Larry asked Mark, "Do they play cricket in Australia?". Mark said, "Yes, we do in NEW ZEALAND." C'mon Larry! Not from you as well! Even from a newsperson like Larry King? How does New Zealand differientiate itself from Aussie in the minds of those in the Northern hemisphere? Any ideas people? At least when Larry thanked him for the interview, he got the country right. I would have written him off if he hadn't gotten it correct by then.
I work for a helicopter company. To be exact, I'm the Marketing Manager for a tourism operator who really is more of an entertainment company. We provide extraordinary (and yes, they really are), interpretive excursions by helicopter. We also happen to be "the" luxury helicopter operator in Queenstown. As such we are very much involved with the local tourism body, Destination Queenstown, and the national tourism body, Tourism New Zealand. This past two weeks, I've been working with both groups on what are called "famils". This is short for familiarization. Basically, budgets and logistics get worked out to bring in influential people to visit Queenstown and NZ. On Friday we flew 3 very influential journalists from New York who write for a world famous publication. I drove to town to pick up these 3 interesting and well traveled people, 2 women and 1 man. They were nice people. Definitely people you would love to chat with for hours to hear of all their experiences, stories, and people they know and have interviewed. In fact, one of the women is the author of Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Storyteller. This is the book of which one of my favorite movies was based on, Out of Africa, starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford.
Anyway, after their flight and what I heard was a fantastic lunch at a local exclusive golf clubhouse, they returned to our hanger, one of them claiming to have just had a life-changing experience. (Proudly I say, this is quite a common comment from our guests.) Luggage already loaded into the boot of our company Jeep, I drove them to the airport for their return flight to America. After loading their many bags on trolleys, they all thanked me for the experience and gave me hugs wishing me good luck in NZ. Then quite by surprise, the gentleman leaned toward me for one last farewell placing his face so close to mine that it quite surprised me. I thought, well, this is a bit much, but many it really was a special experience for them. So I kissed him every so lightly. Immediately I was horrified as I realized that he was attempting to do the hongi. The hongi is a traditional Maori greeting expressed by the rubbing or touching of noses. In the words of Homer Simposon, "DOH!!!!!!" One of the women must have seen my embarrassment as she approached me to do the hongi as well. This time I got it. Thank the Maori Gods!
Honestly, as worldy and educated as these 3 clever people are, I never suspected that to come from them. They were so "city" and so "New York". Shame on me, I know. Anyway, that was probably embarrassing moment #2. I'm still trying to decide if I want to share my #1 moment which has now apparently earned me the comment, "Now Carmen has finally arrived", from local friends.
Come on, really. Watching TV tonight, an ad came on for the LFL, the Lingerie Football League. Really? With crap like that ... can you blame the world for what they sometimes think of America? It's embarrassing. I would have found it embarrassing when I was living in California. Now I'm almost ashamed. I'm sure there are some women involved in the LFL that really want to play sport, but while wearing bra tops where their boobs are going to pop out and wearing boy shorts where their cheeks hang out? Nice role models.
New Zealand is experiencing a polar blast today. Snow has been predicted for the next 3 days. It's May. Mid-May to be exact. I wore tights, tall boots, skirt, sweater, wool pea coat and gloves (while driving) today. My new car has a great heater. The main room I work in at the helicopter company I work at was toasty warm, but by 4pm this afternoon, I was freezing! Shivering. Even a hot cup of tea at tea time didn't help. I'm actually a bit concerned about this winter. This will be my second winter living in New Zealand, and only my second cold winter ever. About this time in California, I'd be starting to walk to the beach a block away from where I lived to lay in the warm sunshine on weekends. Instead, this weekend, I'll probably be shopping for more pairs of boots and a warm dress coat for a business trip to Auckland in a few weeks. Ahhhhh, how life has changed.