Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Wellington to Auckland via Hastings, Napier, Taupo, Rotorua and a load of small towns and villages

Too much to do, not nearly enough time to write. I have spent more time in McDonalds so far on this trip than ever in my life. McD’s here are nice, clean and offer free Wifi!! And their coffee is good…

I’m falling more in love with New Zealand the longer I’m here. We’ve done some good back-road tours and have also hit all the big cities on the north island. This weekend we’re heading to Auckland for the weekend to visit a highschool friend of Noah’s, catch the England vs. France quarter-final game (we have sweet seats!) and check out the city. Next week, we’re south island bound by way of Waitomo caves to do some caving under the light of the glow worms (riverfloat but underground, lit by glow worms? Paisley gang – I’ll be thinking of you all!).

Camper van living is hilarious and must be the best way to explore. We’ve mostly been doing freedom camping and staying in free spots. There are public bathrooms and showers everywhere here making it very easy to survive with just our little van.

Pictures!

They really know how to do museums here. Both the Wellington Museum and Te Papa (New Zealand National Museum – crazy high-tech, loads of fun and free!)

Te Papa

And because we’re both geeks, we spent a good part of a day at the New Zealand Parliament. They built an addition to the building and call it the beehive. This building mostly houses offices but we weren’t allowed cameras actually inside the Parliament buildings. Their debating chamber is considerably smaller than ours but generally laid out the same way. They also have beautiful committee rooms (The Maori affairs one is stunning!).

Beehive - New Zealand Parliament

East coast of the north island is cool; we got off the main route and drove a load of back roads and found some beautiful scenery and random locations.

Longest Place Name - Taumata whakatangi hangakoauau o tamatea turi pukakapiki maunga horo nuku pokai whenua kitanatahu

Crazy winding highway through a canyon (posted speed limit was 100 km/h!! We definitely drove slower than that in our old van...)

In Rotorua, we rolled down a hill in a big inflatable ball filled with warm water. Again, very random but it was hilarious and fun!

Rolled down the hill is this thing. Ogo - giant inflatable ball filled with water.

Yup - pretty random

I’ve run out of data in three different locations now…free wifi only gets you so far. I’ll post more pictures tonight!

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Sticks and Stones….

A recent occurrence (that was not directed at me but rather at someone whom I greatly respect) has me thinking about the way we treat each other.

In a world where freedom of speech reigns and we all, in some ways, hide behind our online persona, it is crucially important that from time to time, we sit back and remember that at the crux of things, we are all just human beings and we all have feelings. I am all for the right to speak your mind and the right to hold and express personal opinions but I also believe that we have lost a certain level of decorum in our society and have forgotten the sting, hurt and damage that can arise from the spoken or written word.

When someone stands up and speaks his or her opinion (either verbally or in writing – online or otherwise) they are showing bravery in not being afraid to put themselves on the line for their beliefs. If you disagree with a stated opinion, instigating thoughtful, respectful and provocative conversation is great. It can present different perspectives and can shed some light on the topic and allow everyone to be involved in a dialogue that can create a fantastic learning opportunity for all involved. However, a problem arises when the discussion shifts focus from the topic at hand towards the individuals involved. Different opinions are necessary and fantastic and it’s important to debate them and explain why we stand behind the position that we do. But in my opinion, there is no place within a debate for name-calling and personal attacks. Stick to the topic at hand and hold yourself to a higher standard than to take the easy way out and get personal. Every time I see or hear someone going on a personal attack, I assume they lack knowledge of the topic at hand and have gotten themselves into a discussion that is far over their head. Please keep in mind that it does not lend credibility to your arguments if you start attacking on a personal level.

Sticks and stones may break your bones but words and names can and do hurt people as well. Let’s all expect more from ourselves and those around us and demand that any discussion and engagement be approached from a position of dignity and respect. And from that ground, let’s educate each other on different sides of a discussion and participate in rigorous and intelligent debate. Let’s continue to cause each other to re-think our own positions, respectfully consider the other side, and defend where we stand with some intelligence and grace.

Paradise Found!

I’ve been thinking about what’s going on for New Years Eve this year and it has me reminiscing on last years NYE which was one for the books. On a last minute decision, Lee and I, along with another couple, flew from Detroit to Ft. Lauderdale to San Jose, Costa Rica and finally to Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica.

(*The plane we took from San Jose to Puerto Jimenez via Nature Air)

Upon our arrival in Puerto Jimenez, we convinced a local to drive us out to our rented house and began the  hour+ drive down a rustic “road” (I’m not sure you can even really call it a road…) into the jungle…….

(*the road)

I cannot even begin to describe the beauty of the place. The Oso Peninsula in Costa Rica is the tropical paradise you are imagining, only better! I fell completely in love with the area and have been trying to convince Lee to pack up and move down there ever since. Unfortunately, he doesn’t like snakes so while he doesn’t mind visiting, actually living in the jungle is something he is not keen on…….

We chose this location for various reasons but the main one was that we found an amazing house for rent and decided it looked like the perfect spot to spend 10 days. We rented a private, open-air 3-bedroom home called Casa Vida Verde and I cannot imagine a more perfect crash pad for our adventure. From the moment we pulled up to the house, we felt as though we had found absolute paradise!

(*Casa Vida Verde)

The house was unbelievably gorgeous and I don’t think these pictures even begin to do it justice. We pulled up and walked around with our mouths agape. We were stunned at how cool it all was.  The furniture throughout the house was beautiful and unique and had been hand-crafted by John, who is also the caretaker of the home along with his wife Jamily (warmest, most friendly amazing people we’ve ever met on vacation. They moved there from NYC and gave us the grind. John builds furniture and surfboards. Jamily designs clothing and teaches yoga.) John crafted the dining room table from a single tree and it curves along with the contours of the tree and the base has been crafted from a piece of the trunk, cut lengthwise into three pieces so that it maintains the curvature of the tree – unbelievable craftsmanship!


(*I wish I could sleep in this bed every single night!)

The hammock room rocked the monkey (literally – BEST place to watch the monkeys put on their show!) and was a great spot to chill out and relax in the afternoon if the sun was just too much. Also great spot to lay and read a book while recovering from the evening/day before or to start into the blender drinks (since it’s steps to the kitchen!).


The kitchen was a cook’s dream! I loved it!



Our first morning, I woke up at 5:00 a.m. to what I swore was King Kong coming to get us! The Howler Monkeys start as the sun starts to rise and they are SOOOOO loud!! They make a sound unlike anything I’ve ever heard and can’t even think of the proper words to describe it. It was a great wake up call every day though – got us down to the surf nice and early to catch the morning break and made sure we didn’t miss a moment of daylight. It gets dark early in the jungle (pitch black by 5:00 p.m.). The Oso Peninsula is only 8 degrees from the equator so you get exactly 12 hours of daylight. Whenever the waves were cooperating, we spent time out surfing. This was our first time surfing and it is something I had always wanted to learn how to do and I loved it. Another thing I wish I could do every day…..


(*this is one of the locals and what I aspire to be able to do!)

The beaches in the area are beautiful and deserted (the most people we ever had to share the beach with was probably 10!) and the water was so warm!

We saw monkeys everywhere along with tons of other interesting animals, reptiles and bugs!

We spent New Years Eve at Martina’s, the local bar. It was an hour and a bit walk up the road to get there but we managed to hitch a ride in the back of a truck at about the 45 min walking mark. Food was amazing, beer was cold and the atmosphere was electric! The place was packed by midnight and the beats were pumping, the beer and tequila was flowing and the party favours were in abundance. Definitely a night to remember!

(*these were taken EARLY in the night – the camera went away when the party really got started!)

Ok – looking through these pictures as I post them, I want to go back right now!!! I’m heading home to convince my hubby we need to go back!! Maybe I can convince him we should go for my birthday in February – that would be a great gift!! haha….

Other cool things not mentioned yet:

1- 3G wireless internet in the middle of the jungle (THIS was the big push behind me deciding we should live there – I could work from the beach in the middle of nowehere!!)

2-whole house is run via solar energy. There are panels up above the house on the ridge and water is heated by the sun as well.

3- banana trees, plantain trees, mango trees everywhere = love!

“Live your dreams or live your excuse”……

Awesome message about pursuing your passion!

Delivered by a poetic artist through Dan Perez Films.

Check it out here

Very timely with my thought process lately……

 

Shopping is a contact sport….

I’m home from our second annual girls weekend and Black Friday shopping extravaganza in the US, exhausted and broke. This year I blew my budget but pretty much completed my Christmas shopping, added a ton of new items to my work wardrobe and bought a few little extras; like a new t.v.

A t.v. was not on my list of things to buy, but Lee and I have been talking about the possibility of getting a new one and I came across a deal I couldn’t pass up. This is what I bought:

I know absolutely nothing about t.v.’s or what makes a good picture or whatever but my Dad recently got one of these and he seems to really like it. Apparently there is an extra colour in the sub-pixelation (yellow) which improves the contrast or something of that nature. I’m not a huge television watcher so I’ve never been very picky about the device but I am excited that that this new one is significantly larger than the one we currently have (it’s a 46″ compared to our existing 32″) which means I can hopefully watch the game or a movie without having to squint! I’m a little on the blind side so I look forward to giving my eyes a bit of a break with a bigger picture. Mostly I’m just proud of myself for buying my first electronic!! Other than my computer, I’d never bought anything before so it was kind of an exciting purchase.

T.V. aside, we mostly shopped for clothes (hello 50% off EVERYTHING in Banana Republic!) and Christmas gifts (kids clothes and toys for my nieces and nephews and a what I believe to be a kick-ass gift for my Mother-in-Law). We started in Erie, Pennsylvania, traveled to Grove City to the outlets (and no tax on clothing) and then up to Buffalo, Amherst and Niagara Falls. Throughout our shopping, my biggest observation was that despite the insane number of shoppers, the sales staff were exceptionally friendly, helpful and kind! I was really blown away by the amazing service we received in every single store and we made a point of telling the sales staff how impressed we were and giving them feedback notes to submit to their head offices. Shoppers were also generally very considerate. We ran into a few of the “elbows up, I’ll tackle you if you touch that item that I want” kind of people but they were very few and far between. Most people kindly held doors, excused themselves as they tried to get around us in the packed stores and  chatted amicably about who and what they were shopping for. You go into Black Friday assuming the worst and we definitely got the best. So kudos to all the patient people who were working the Black Friday weekend sales for setting a positive tone in their stores by being so friendly and helpful. And kudos to all the shoppers who realized that a sale is not worth inflicting physical or emotional harm on another person for.

Possibly for the first time in my entire life, I’ll be done my Christmas shopping before December (normally I’m scrambling to finish it up the day before Christmas…). All I have left to do is pick up a few items from the local shops in Paisley to ensure I support them (plus they all have cool stuff that is very unique and can’t be found in the big name stores anyways) and I’m done! That means I can sit back, relax and enjoy the holiday season without having to battle any more crowds as the countdown clicks away towards the 25th!