Friday, January 11, 2013

Just Stay Left

I've got a little bike ride to do and I am, of course, procrastinating (the official party line:  I'm waiting a little longer until it's midday so I can get some heat training, which sounds so much better than procrastinating, right?).  In the mean time, here's a quickie post on the latest and greatest from New Zealand.
Picnic overlooking Auckland
  • Driving All Backwards-Like
Yesterday I learned how to drive a car. 

Yes, I actually learned how to drive in 1995, but switch the directions of travel (Kiwis drive on the left), and it was like I'd never been in a damn car before.  Hosts Adam and Pip are very, very, very generously allowing me use of a car, and Adam accompanied me on my first voyage, a 5 minute drive to the pool, yesterday morning.  Remember those days in drivers' ed when your instructor was clearly more than a little frightened of your lack of driving ability, but was trying to be patient and provide helpful tips that wouldn't scare you too much?  It was just like that.  ("You might want to get into the car on the side in which the steering wheel sits."  "OK, try to drive a little more to the center of the road, you're about six inches from the curb."  "You probably want to speed up a little; my grandma drives faster." "Why don't you pull over and let this string of cars behind us pass?"

Fortunately, once you get your brain switched around a little, driving is still just driving, and I got the hang of left-side driving pretty quick.  Good thing, too, because once I got back from my swim and realized that I'd locked myself out of the house, I had to drive about a half-hour to Adam's work to retrieve a key.  Baptism by fire!

  • Swimming All Backwards-Like
 Kiwis don't just drive on the wrong side of the road, they swim on the wrong side of the lane.  I hit up the local pool for the first time yesterday.  It's nice.  Heated, outdoors, can't complain.  But, they circle swim counter-clockwise.  Doesn't sound like a big deal, but having to switch the direction in which you twist off of a flipturn when you've been flipturning pretty regularly since age 7 (minus about a 14 year complete swimming hiatus but who's counting?) ....not as easy as you'd think.

And, the pool is 33.333333 meters long.  So, there's math.  Yuck.

  • Damn CFCs
CFCs, for those of you that were asleep during the 80s and early 90s, are chlorofluorocarbons, aka destroyers of the ozone layer.  And that hole in the ozone layer?  Right above New Zealand and Australia, so the sun is extra intense.  I was warned to always wear sunscreen, in fact, it was suggested that I bring a good stash from the States as sunscreen is really, really expensive here.   I've worn SPF 50 anytime I've been in the sun between the hours of 9 AM and 7 PM...might as well be wearing armor, right?  Nope.  My albino skin is already several shades darker in just a couple days.

Mission Bay
  • Middle Earth
Here's a confession....I have never seen the Lord of the Rings movies.  Or the Hobbit.  Just no interest; none whatsoever.  What I'm finding is this sort of makes me unqualified to be in New Zealand (where the movies were filmed).  I'm lucky I even got through customs.  They are crazy about the Lord of the Rings movies down here.  Air New Zealand is "the official airline of Middle Earth" and the safety presentation video starred a bunch of hobbits or something.  There are tours and all that stuff.   Every evening, I intend to sit down, download one of the movies, and watch it, but I never do.   I'm a disgrace as a New Zealand visitor.

But, I have seen a lot of Flight of the Conchords, so I think that counts.

  • General Happiness
It's warm here, it's beautiful, it stays light until 9.  There are hardly any bugs.  People aren't big on wearing shoes....anywhere.  And they're remarkably friendly.  I do fun things like going to the beach, kayaking, exploring.  I'm still taking things a little slow and easing in (travel takes a lot out of me), but I'm content.  New Zealand feels a lot more like home than anywhere I've been and while it's always good to go places that are different, some familiarity is remarkably comforting.   Life is good.

Me "kayaking" near the Harbor Bridge (mostly just going round and round in a circle as I have no kayaking aptitude)    
Found the Mother Ship, what else do I need?

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