Saturday, June 13, 2009

Ski Season Has Arrived!

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.

Tourism in New Zealand

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. :-)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Aoraki Mount Cook Road Trip

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.

Fiordland Seafood

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!

Driving in New Zealand

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 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. :-)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

June in the Southern Hemisphere

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.

C'mon Larry King!

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.