A disgruntled librarian packs it up and leaves fabulous New York City behind,
going on random adventures through South America,
while simultaneously promoting literacy
and spreading the love of the written word.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

new zealand wrap-up

we are currently in the town of Waipu, which i had picked for the specific reason that it had nothing to do.  that's not entirely true ... i thought there would be a few activities, but enough boredom to force me to do some schoolwork and finish up my novel.  well, there is certainly no shortage of boredom.

there is one bar in town, which is conveniently attached to our hotel and is populated by old men gambling on horses, beginning from the early hour of 11 am.  there is one cafe called "y-not" and then an odd take-out place boasting "magic tasty" chinese and european food.  what exactly is "european food?"  i am imagining pierogies topped with spanikopita wrapped in a pizza on a bed of paella.  anyway, the only "fancy" sit-down restaurant is called the "pizza barn," however, when we tried to eat dinner there at 8:30 on a sunday, we found out that they were no longer accepting new dinner customers.  walking the streets, the entire town was abandoned.  i kid you not, the bolshevik shouted "helloooo?" down the street and it just echoed back at us.  8:30 pm.

anyhow, we will be off to melbourne, australia to visit my aunt and uncle!  but before we head over to OZ, i'd like to do a brief summary of some of our adventures that i had not previously discussed.  here goes:

we spent a couple of days in christchurch, despite the fact that the rugby games were cancelled because of all of the earthquake devastation.  i think it's important to continue giving business to areas that are struggling after a natural disaster.  while we were there the entire center of the city was fenced off due to the reconstruction work.  however, i've heard that they will soon be offering tours through the city center to see the devastation and the money will all go to rebuilding the city.  here at the city gate there was a memorial of sorts where people have left flowers and notes to their loved ones.  it was quite sad actually, but i'm glad we went.
we also went to a place called waitomo, where they have a system of caves that are full of glow worms.    we did this thing where we rappelled into a cave, went tubing inside the cave, then climbed out.  this picture doesn't really get the full effect, but you can see there are these little glowing dots behind us, which are in fact glow worms.  it was actually quite cool when we shut off our headlamps and then all of a sudden the cave was filled with all these brightly glowing dots that hadn't been there before.





while we were in dunedin, we visited baldwin street, which is the steepest street in the world.  (even steeper than in san francisco) ... which leads me to comment that new zealand loves to proclaim that they have the most superlative something: steepest street, tallest rock arch, most voluminous sea cave, etc etc (we have in fact seen all of these sights).  it was difficult to really photograph how steep it was.  this was the best we could do.  but it was seriously steep!

alright ... that is all i need to report on new zealand.  on to australia!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

bay of islands and The Rock

relaxing in our room on The Rock
(please note awesome bay of islands
 island in background)
i am not one to endorse products and/or services, but i'm going to give a little shout-out to The Rock cruise in the bay of islands, nz.

first off, the bay of islands is a big bay in new zealand with something crazy like 150 little islands in it.  it's quite beautiful.  and the bolshevik arranged for us to take an overnight boat cruise through the bay and i must say that it was awesome.

the boat itself was kind of like a huge house boat with a big bar/dining/lounging area on the first floor and then bedrooms on the second floor.  i was quite pleased with our bedroom because it had a huge window, sliding glass doors onto a shared balcony .... and best of all it was private.  the bolshevik and i have been staying in hostels to save money, which i do not care for as i do like my alone time with my man.

moving on!  so the staff on the rock were all young people who were very friendly and were very enthusiastic about having the opportunity to get paid to hang out on a boat.  they were great though, they really went out of their way to get to know everyone.

i think the best thing about the boat was how many activities there were.  as a children's librarian, i love activities.

first we did some target shooting, which consisted of shooting a paintball gun at a floating plastic duck.  no plastic ducks were hurt during this activity.  then we did some fishing and amazingly, with no fishing experience, the bolshevik was the first person to catch a fish.  as a reward he was given a free drink, but not before having to kiss the fish he caught.  the fish was ultimately thrown back because it was too small.

after fishing we had a big bbq dinner, and then we went night kayaking.  the night kayaking was absolutely amazing.  once you got far away from the lights of the boat it was really dark and you could see millions of stars.  and apparently in the bay of islands area there is a strange plankton that lives in the water so any time you touch the water in moonlight the plankton let out this luminescent glow, so it looks like you're making the water shimmer and glow just by touching it.  it was pretty magical.  sadly this was impossible to get a picture of, but it will be in my memory forever.

the following morning we had a big breakfast and then went out to one of the islands to do a little hike up a hill (all the islands are quite hilly) and get an amazing view of the bay.  then we did some snorkeling and diving for sea urchins, then some more kayaking, and then we headed back to the dock.

while in the bay of islands we also did this "hole in the rock" boat tour which is just a few hours and they drive you to this very tall rock in the middle of the sea which has a large hole in (hence the name) and then the boat drives through the hole and it's pretty cool.  however, this was really nothing in comparison to the fabulousness of The Rock boat tour ... so if you're in bay of islands and you can only do one thing ... go on The Rock.

bay of islands, nz (i have learned how to stitch together many shots to make a panoramic shot!)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

what would George Bernard Shaw do?

so we went to this town called Rotorua where they have a crazy amount of thermal activity ... there are hot springs everywhere, and hot mud pools and random steam escaping from the ground in various parts of town.  in fact, we were told that some people have even had to move their homes multiple times due to a dangerous amount of steam and activity on their land. i think after i moved my entire house the first time, i might consider moving my house to a less thermal town the second time.


anyway, we went to this place called "Hell's Gate" which is a barren rocky wasteland with huge thermal mud pools, many of which are so hot they would actually cook you alive.  others are just like a really nice mud jacuzzi.  a maori tribe used to live in the area and they used the pools to cook in, create medicines, have a bath, commit suicide, etc ...  very useful these pools.  but it makes me think of how shocked they must have been when they went to visit other tribes and found out that other people had to actually start their own fires in order to create heat.  suckers.


moving on!  apparently, although europeans visited from time to time, the only white man the maori tribe seemed to accept with open arms was George Bernard Shaw.  random, no?  i don't know, maybe they  were all big fans of Pygmalion.


so GBS visits and he is really taken aback by this crazy thermal area that the maori's live in, and he dubs it "hell's gate."  and then as he's being toured around he proceeds to rename all the different areas as he sees fit ... "oh this pool is now called  'sodom' and this muddy area here is now called 'gomorrah.' 


can you imagine?  he just renamed half their land, and they allowed it.  strange.  they must really dig irish playwrights.


anyway, it is in the spirit of George Bernard Shaw that i have coined my first rugby term.  now, if you have ever watched a game of rugby (and i assume most of you haven't) there is this thing called a "scrum" in which the players get into a huddle sort of formation and then slam into each other and whoever has the better scrum gets control of the ball.  (this may not be an accurate interpretation of the rules)  


but then there is this other thing they do when someone with the ball gets tackled, their teammates make a train behind them, passing the ball between their legs until finally the player on the end of the train is able to take the ball away from the area.  the players are all very very close and there is a lot of ass on groin action, not to mention some head in ass action as shown here ... well, it's all very homoerotic.


i feel that this move is different from the scrum used at the beginning of the game, however, as it is a means of getting the ball from the tackled player back into play.  with that said, i hereby call this move ... "the ass train."


yup, you can thank george bernard shaw for that.  he was my inspiration.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

you won't get my chocolatey secrets: a cadbury factory tour

apparently, here in new zealand everyone thinks you're going to steal their recipe for everlasting gobstoppers.  so it wasn't a big surprise when we went to tour the cadbury factory that we weren't allowed to take our cameras.    but if you are wondering what it's like inside, it's pretty much exactly like this ... http://youtu.be/RZ-uV72pQKI (please ignore the strange 10 second anime intro)

one thing i have to say about cadbury is that they know how to run a tour ... a woman in a purple oompa-loomap-esque jumpsuit led us around the factory, her pockets laden with mini cadbury bars.  sometime she would pose a question to the group, such as, "where does cadbury get their milk from?"  the answer is right here in new zealand, and if you answer correctly, you get a piece of chocolate.  and if you answer incorrectly, you also get a piece of chocolate.  and sometimes you get a piece of chocolate just for climbing several flights of stairs or holding the door for someone.  brilliant.  i love the reward system.  i am way more prone to actively participate if chocolate is involved.

this actually would've been very helpful on a 4x4 excursion we took in tahiti.  our tour guide would stop for easily 15-20 minutes at a time and ramble on about various tahitian things, asking us questions that we didn't know the answers to and then waiting an uncomfortably long time before finally telling us the answer.  this process could've been made much more pleasant if there had been miniature cadbury bars involved.

the highlight of our tour was when we watched the chocolate "waterfall" inside a large chocolate silo (the silo housed chocolate and was not actually made of chocolate) ... the waterfall rapidly dumped one ton of chocolate in a rather spectacular cascade.  the tour guide told us that one ton of chocolate is worth about $5,000 NZ ... when asked what purpose this waterfall served in the chocolate making process, our tour guide said, "none ... it's just really cool." ahhh, new zealand.

by the end of our tour we had accumulated quite a large variety of cadbury products, not to mention all the chocolate and/or marshmallow-centered items we ate along the way.  (i think there is an unusually large amount of marshmallow here in NZ)  needless to say, we felt a bit ill upon exiting our tour.  and then we were suckered into eating an unprocessed cocoa bean, which tasted absolutely awful, and only got more repulsive the longer you chewed it (as shown here at right)


Monday, October 3, 2011

dorking out in new zealand: auckland library

you may or may not know that as a librarian i have the extremely dorky habit of wanting to visit public libraries when i come across them in foreign countries.  i like to look at their books, see how they organize things, check out their teen room, scrutinize their seating choices, etc etc.

yes, i am that much of a geek.

i was very impressed by the auckland library, and i'll tell you i don't go easy on these foreign libraries.  i really scrutinize them.  first, they have a variety of excellent seating options.  there are cushy seats with special little laptop tables, comfy couches, study tables, etc.  everywhere you turn there's a little seating area with a different type of furniture, all of which were being utilized by the patrons.  while we were there they implemented a high "express" counter that people could stand at and use their laptops or read books while drinking coffee.   it was almost as if they designed the library with patron-use in mind.  crazy.

there is also a very nice cafe attached to the library with a surprisingly good selection of food.

the library also implemented a variety of eye-catching displays.  when we first arrived there was a rugby display.  by the time we left town they had changed it to an exhibit of banned books.

of course they had the typical computer labs that you need to sign up for with your library card, but they were pretty liberal about how much time they'd allow you.

when i went to the circulation desk to see about getting a card i noticed that they had labeled the desk "issues."  i really like the honesty in this labeling, because really, that's what the circulation desk is: dealing with a bunch of random often ridiculous issues.

i happen to be taking a couple of online classes, and i found some materials in the library that i wanted to take out.  i thought it was a long shot, but i asked if it was possible for me to get a library card.  amazingly, all they wanted was a letter saying that i am staying somewhere in auckland (accompanied by a photo id of course).  now, they didn't want anything with official letter head, anything proving that i will be staying in auckland for any sort of extended period of time, or anything which would allow them to track me down after i left auckland (which actually was only days after my card was issued).

so i got a very shady letter from my hostel and i am now a member of the auckland library!  oh the people of new zealand are so trusting!  i could've walked off with hundreds of dollars of library materials never to be seen again!

one thing i do not approve of is that the new zealand public libraries seem to charge you in order to take out certain items.  for example, i needed to take out two dvds and they were $2 each.  cheap, sure, but it should be FREE!  there were also charges for new books and selected paperbacks.  audiobooks are free though which is strange because they are way more expensive than dvds, but i guess fewer people want to steal them?

anyway, there were many other things i would've liked to take pictures of but i was told by a librarian that there's no photography allowed in the library due to privacy issues.  oh, auckland library, so considerate of the patrons!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

this is not a picture of hobbiton

this photo was taken outside
of the tourist office in matamata, nz
it is NOT part of the hobbiton tour
a friend recently asked me, "hey miss dewey decimal, where are the pictures of hobbits?"  well new zealand is more than just hobbits my friend.  shame on you for thinking otherwise.

that's a lie.  new zealand is all about lord of the rings.

so i did go to "hobbiton" which is the sheep farm that peter jackson turned into The Shire and will be filming the upcoming film, The Hobbit starting next week.  however, in order to be let into hobbiton i needed to sign my life away, promising not to post any of my pictures on the internet.  SO, if you know me in real life and would like to see my pictures of hobbiton, you will have to come over my house and look at them in a private, personal, non-commercial way.  like, maybe i'll leave my laptop open and then while i am fixing us some tea and finger sandwiches you will happen to locate my pictures in iPhoto.

but here is what i can tell you without fear of peter jackson suing me ... hobbiton consists of many hobbit houses built into the sides of hills.  they look really cool, i swear.

the tour consists of walking around hobbiton on a fenced-in path so that you can't ruin the set.  apparently they have had some problems with visitors climbing on stuff and killing plants and doing other damage to the very carefully crafted set.

but you do get a very nice view even though you can't go right up to the houses and pose in the door frames like they did in America's Next Top Model.

our tour guide told us many interesting facts about the making of the set, none of which i can share with you here, as i am sworn to secrecy.  then afterwards we got to watch a sheep shearing show.

yeah, that's right ... a sheep shearing show.

there is something i realized being here in new zealand ... it has always been my dream to shear a sheep. i think i must have seen some little clip about it on mr. rogers or sesame street, and now i really want to take those crazy shears and shave a sheep.

i finally get to hold a sheep ... almost as good as
shearing one myself
they do NOT let random tourists shear sheep in new zealand.  even though they have SO many sheep available.  and trust me, i have tried.  we have seen many a sheep show advertised and none of them let audience members shear the sheep. wtf?!

however, in hobbiton, after watching a trained professional shear a sheep (apparently it takes four years of training to be allowed to shear sheep) ... we were allowed to go into a penned little area where the nice sheep farmer released a whole bunch of lambs.

ps.  i think more villains need to shout "release the lambs!"