Sunday, February 28, 2010

The shortest month of the year

February may be the shortest month of the year, but it may have been the busiest for me. A wedding, a huge birthday party, work, being outside ... here's a random sampling of some of the month's activities.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Your Big Break

I had a very unique opportunity a few weeks ago. Tourism New Zealand sponsored a contest called Your Big Break where amateur film-maker competed to make short films targeted at the North America audience. The purpose of the films is to raise awareness of New Zealand in North America. I was invited to watch and photograph the shooting of one of the finalist's films.

What an incredible experience and opportunity this contest provided for the finalists! They were able to work with production crews and shoot in locations that were used for such films as Lord of the Rings and Wolverine! How exciting and intimidating this must have been for the finalists.

In my attempts to get a few nice scenic shots for TNZ (and in order to not disrupt the shooting), I went for a little wander away from the action. In the tall grass, I came across this skull overlooking Rees Valley. Probably a sheep. We also got fed really well as evidenced by this HUGE pavlova that was served to finish off lunch.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Fore! ... (Don't Say I Didn't Warn You)

My first serious relationship was during my first year at University. He played golf ... so did his sister ... so did his father. Apparently, they were all pretty good golfers ... 72 ... is that good? During the course of our relationship, his family would go off to some of the nicest golf courses around the US, and outside of the US as well ... Pebble Beach, the multiple courses in Palm Springs, even St. Andrews, the home of golf, in Scotland. I was usually invited to come along and learn to play. Something I never did because I was too scared of embarrassing myself, or worst yet, injuring someone ... namely, me. So I had plenty of opportunity to learn. I even gave myself the assignment of photographing the University Golf team so I could experience walking the course during a game to try understand what the draw of golf is.

In January, I helped with a hole-in-one fundraiser at the golf course in Glenorchy. During the down time, I would pick up a club and try my hand at putting. It was then that I realized, hmmm, there is something here. Maybe I can see why people get hooked. And when people watching me started to say, "How long have you been golfing? You look like you know what you're doing.", I decided it was time to give it a go.

So yesterday afternoon, I took my first ever golf lesson with the golf pro at Millbrook Resort in Arrowtown, just outside of Queenstown. It was only half an hour, but wow, what you can learn in 30 minutes! The Pro explained that we'd be taking baby steps in learning because it can get too overwhelming in the beginning. It was fun! But ... I had no idea how much technique is really involved. And I had no idea how much your body gets stretched. I got home last night feeling slightly stiff and my back aching. Don't ever let anyone tell you that golf isn't very physical or isn't exercise or fitness!

I actually hit the ball ... multiple times. And at least one of those times it was a pretty good whack, almost an effortless feel, which I understand is how it is supposed to be. I think I'm going for another lesson next week. But I'll have to try to fit in some practice prior to then, because as the Pro told me, "Another lesson won't do you any good unless you practice."

Golfers, birds, tree and anyone in the surrounding area ... beware!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Toto, I'm not in Kansas anymore (or should I say California)

I've been feeling like this for quite some time ... and planning to write about it. Funny how I never seem to get around to this topic. It's probably because as soon as I write about it, it will be out there. It will be public. It will mean that it has finally sunk in ... I'm not on Holiday anymore.

This has to be a common feeling shared by expats around the world, right? You've left your home country to try living somewhere that you fell in love ... probably during a Holiday. But at some point, you're no longer just "visiting". At some point you realize, this is my new life that I've chosen to live right now. You have to start thinking about the things you don't have to think about while on Holiday ... things like when is my car payment due, did my paycheck get automatically deposited into my bank account, how do taxes work in this country, and more importantly, do I owe any taxes in this country? It's about a different mind-set, about a different attitude.

When you're on Holiday, you're an observer really. You're generally pretty happy and carefree. And why wouldn't you be? This is your Holiday, your time to escape your day-to-day life and get from a Holiday whatever you choose. But then you go back to your "normal" life. Well, this is now my normal life. And even though I have to think about those things you don't have to think about on Holiday, I know I can literally step outside my house and be on Holiday for even 5 minutes a day with this view I'm so incredibly fortunate to be enjoying on a daily basis. That's the beauty of living in Queenstown, New Zealand.

The Grass Isn't Always As Green As It Looks

I made a post earlier about being positive versus negative. If you are reading this and haven't read that post, I suggest you read that entry as well. That will explain why I decided to write about this.

I changed my life almost 2 years ago now by moving to the other side of the world. To a town much, much smaller than what I was used to. To a different culture. With no friends except my new friend who is now my partner.

In all my entries, I've tried to be super positive. Why shouldn't I be? I've changed my life, rather dramatically it turns out. In some ways, it has been like I've been reborn. It's just that I've been reborn in my forties, not in my twenties. So for anyone who thinks that my life is all hunky dory, just remember that the grass isn't always as green as it looks. And let me tell you why ...

1) It's hard to build a career over when the town you live in doesn't have the industry you worked in. And not many understand what you used to do or how it can help them in their business. The upside - lots of opportunity to reinvent yourself.

2) It's hard to get work when you're over-qualified for at least half of the work available in town. The upside - a chance to try your hand at something new.

3) It's not so easy to make close friends when everyone has established friends, and most people are busy with their families. It's not like you're going to go out drinking all night at one of the 100+ bars in town and make a new life friend.

4) It's really expensive here ... at least in Queenstown. No upside whatsoever.

5) And my current income is less than half what it used to be.

6) Shopping. It's not great. Expensive, limited selections ... especially shoes. The upside - you spend less money on things you don't need anyway.

7) It's super dry here, especially in the Winter. I scared the hell out of myself the first time I went skiing and took off my goggles when I went to the loo. Holy Hell! It was like I'd gone through a time warp. The upside - it forces me to drink more water.

8) It's cold here for a California girl. I'm talking freakin' cold in the Winter. I'm still enjoying it, but am starting to wonder how long the novelty will last. The upside - beautiful.

9) No good, cheap Mexican food. Pretty hard for a girl from LA. The upside - my partner cooks, loves Mexican food, and knows the only real place in town that makes and sells real flour tortillas.

10) Domestic air fares are not cheap. Neither is petrol for your car. This is why I check Air New Zealand's web site daily for their Grab-a-Seat offers. The upside - maybe it will force me to walk more.

Should We Feel Guilty About Being Positive?

Recently I was chatting with a friend who has become really good at using Facebook to market his business. He has learned through experimentation and likes to share the positive and cool things about what he does. And lets face it, as a fly-fishing guide outside of Queenstown, he has got to love his work and have a lot of good days. Lets make that, incredible days. So just about everything he posts is positive and makes others think, "wow, what a life this guy has".

Apparently, he started getting comments from people who were getting f&*^#'d off that he was always bragging about his life. So he did his own poll asking people if they thought he should comment about the cool stuff in his life or all the things that get him f*#$%'d off? He got an overwhelming "post the cool stuff".

This made me wonder how people feel about me always writing about the good things in my "new" life or posting photos of beautiful locations. I got a couple of similar comments, all in jest, I'm sure. But then I started feeling guilty. Guilty about the fact that not everyone I know is having such a good time of it these days and here I was talking about cool experiences and beautiful places.

I resigned myself to the fact that in times that have gone to poo - and they have for all of us - I'm going to try to be as positive as possible. Because isn't there enough negativity around us anyway? I'm hoping that by being positive and sharing the good things, that people who aren't having the best of times right now can see that there are good things. I'm hoping that in some small way, being positive helps others.

And for anyone who thinks I'm just talking crap, I'll post a not-so-positive entry in the next few days. Because remember ... the grass isn't always as green as it looks.

"Go Out & See My Country" - 36 Hours in Paihia

I'm always whinging about the fact that I've been in New Zealand for this long (almost 2 years now) and haven't seen much of the country. And since I'm such a planner, I'm thinking I should start planning some short excursions. Here is an article that appeared on this morning. I thought I'd link to it as a suggested itinerary for some of you that are planning to come to New Zealand later this year. I might consider this itinerary myself.

(The story is by Mitchell Murphy from the Sunday Star Times, and this photo accompanied the story.)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Monday, February 1, 2010

Summer Has Finally Arrived

Locals are saying this is what we've been waiting for. Summer has finally arrived in Queenstown. It has been stinking hot the last week, and everyone is out and about enjoying it, including the many visitors to town this weekend ... mostly because of the Bollywood film in town filming and because of Michael Hill's NZ Open. Here are some photos of the weekend.