Saturday, May 30, 2015

Summers End - Part Two

Alas, the time has come. One chapter is coming to an end and a new chapter will begin.

Change is hard and as we write this we remind ourselves that when we started this blog over 5 years ago- yes it has been five years- we were facing the end of one chapter and the beginning of another.

Looking back we remember how difficult it was saying goodbye to all our family and friends, packing up our home, and moving across the planet. Of course it was also exciting. Going to a new country with lots of unknown ahead. When we left we thought it would only be for a couple of years. Little did we know how much we would love New Zealand, what amazing friendships we would make, and how utterly entrenched in a life here we would become. 

We did not know it was possible, but we honestly have two homes now. New Zealand will always be a place we travel back to. To visit and to see friends. We may even return again in the future; we can. We now have Permanent Residency status. We will have to renew our drivers licenses in 2020, -lol. But it is time that we head back to the States. Time to reconnect with our family and friends there. Our parents are not getting any younger, and we wish to be closer to them at this point.

Our return plans are still being sorted, but we are looking to be back the end of June. At this stage, we do not yet know where we will be settling back in. We don't have jobs lined up and that will eventually determine the where. We will start with landing in San Diego for a bit and start the search from there. Perhaps a job offer will come between now and then and we will adjust the plan. There are a few irons in the fire, but nothing for certain.

We have Myztyc our kitty  to transport along with some of our belongings. We will be selling a lot of our furniture and our 220v electronics (as they are useless in the states) and starting fresh. We are looking forward to that. 

We are expecting this to be a bit of a shock to the system. Similar to learning to drive on the other side of the road and understanding the kiwi accent. It takes some time...

While we have continued to visit the U.S. over the last 5 years, visiting and living are very different.  Eric and I have shared a single car for the last 5 years. We will now need to get 2 cars upon returning.  And we have no idea what the current rate is to insure two cars and drivers, but I bet it's not $350.00 NZD per year. We will have to sort out medical insurance - certainly not looking forward to that.

So we find ourselves thinking about all the differences, all the things that we will miss about New Zealand. And we try to think about the things we will look forward to. Yes there are those too.

Neither place is perfect, they both have great aspects and both have their faults. We are often asked in our travels what they are. Some are small, little things; others are larger more significant things.
Here is a partial list- And I am sure we have left some things out.

We do not need pennies and nickels -they are useless
We can drive and parallel park (mostly) on the other side of the road
Traffic circles are better than four way stops
Meat pies are okay sometimes
Cicadas are cool, we love the sound
Bird songs are unique and cool
I wish I had a kiwi accent
Less is sometimes more
220 power is great when you want hot water/ electric kettle instead of 
stove top teapot
Insulation is better when not just a concept 
The Metric System is MUCH better and can be learned - eventually
Whitakers Chocolate is sooo good
High fructose corn syrup is evil
Reasonable Portion sizes
Eggs are brown and don't need to be refrigerated
Quality of life isn’t about things
Healthy priorities

The U.S. has a sense of entitlement, and decadence that can be embarrassing 
Too materialistic 

Too much time is spent sitting in traffic

We will look forward to:
Central heating and air
Double pane windows
Screens on the windows
Books!  And the Overall cost of goods being much less expensive 

And if course some our favorite foods- 
In-n-Out Burger - burgers in general
Mexican food
Frozen yogurt

But if you ever get the opportunity to travel and live someplace outside of the U.S. for a period of time. We highly recommend it. It gives you an amazing perspective, and will change your world-view and highlight all the various things you take for granted. You’ll notice things you never noticed before, and learn things about yourself you might not otherwise learn.

For our last few weeks we intend to soak in as  much of Wellington, New Zealand as we can.

The zepherometer has been repaired and reinstalled -a favorite local icon.

One last dessert (for now) feast at Strawberry Fare
A walk along the coast
Hot chocolate at Scortch-o-rama

We will spend as much time as we can with our remarkable friends and make plans to Skype them regularly although it won't be the same. 

And we will be bringing back with us a little reminder of our amazing 5 year adventure - we have each gotten a tattoo designed that is our memento. Yes I- Ms. needle phobic, braved it. Yes it hurt! 
But I love it and am glad I did it. It is on my ankle and the tail wraps around it, and of course it is a dragon but in a style more traditional of New Zealand. (photo taken just after a few days so it is still slightly red)

Eric's is more Middle-earth/Tolkien focused  and incorporates both Dwarven and Elvish writing. Thank you to Daniel Reeve for his beautiful caligraphy work. It says "There and back again a Middle-earth adventure. The road goes ever on. And thank you to the talented artists at Sinatra Tattoo - Nathan and Damian.

So what will become of this blog? Not sure. Might continue it for a few months back in the states to be able to end it with where we land…or not. Might try to transfer it into a photo book to keep as a journal of our last 5 years. 

We hope that those of you that have been following along have enjoyed it. We have loved the adventure! 

We are looking forward to the future, to our next new adventure wherever it may take us.

Love to all,
Poroporoaki hoki inaianei
(Farewell for now )

Stacy & Eric

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Another NZ Summer - Part One

Alas, another NZ summer has come and gone.
Time has once again moved along and we find ourselves saying where did it go?

It was a good "New Zealand" summer.
Plenty of nice warm sunny days mixed in with the Wellington usual.
We did of course miss the single hottest week in Wellington as we had traveled back to the States to do our first show of 2015. 

The show was in Portland, Oregon so we were able to head over a little early and stop in Seattle. We had a great 4 days catching up with some family and friends. We even got to watch the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl from the comfort of Dad's sofa on Bainbridge Island. And what a game it was. Unbelievable...Truly insane final 10 minutes.

We then drove down to Portland to begin set-up for Portland Wizard World. The show went well and we had a good time. 

We stayed a few extra days and caught up with our good friends Shari and Cami who had recently relocated to Portland from Wellington. We visited Powell's Books and indulged in a dozen Voodoo donuts. (oooo belly ache) We also got to catch up with some of our other friends at a lovely dinner that Lee Moyer and Venetia hosted at their home. = Good friends + good food and much laughter shared.

We finally returned to Wellington to enjoy the remaining days of summer. Which included a fun evening of Star Trek in the Park. - "There are Klingons on the starboard bough" (you know the words)

At the beginning of March Eric sister Sheila came to visit NZ for the first time, so we took some time off to spend with her and showed her some of our favorite places. We met her in Rotorua and visited Hobbiton in Matamata, went Zorbing, and spent a few hours walking through Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. 

At Hobbiton we did get rained on a bit, but that didn't slow us down and were even treated to the appearance of a rainbow over the Green Dragon Inn towards the end of the visit. The Ale, Cider and treats were amazing as well. 

Sunday morning we dropped Eric off at the airport as he had to get back to work. Sheila and I drove the scenic 5 hours back down to Wellington with a short stop at Lake Taupo. 

In Wellington we got to show Sheila all around the Weta Workshop, the two of us spent a nice day shopping on Cuba Street, and she got to spend some time exploring the Te Papa museum. 

We then all flew down to Nelson for a long 4-day weekend. We had great weather and spent our time strolling around the shops and galleries of Nelson. We spent one of the days in the Able Tasman National Park. (one of my favorite places) Before heading back to the states, Sheila went on for a few more days exploring the west coast of the South Island and Queenstown on her own.

It has been really nice having our friends Cassie and Chris be able to take care of Myztyc while we have been traveling. They are really enjoying New Zealand and working at Weta Workshop. They also drove up to join us in Matamata for the visit to Hobbiton. Chris captured the best shot of the rainbow.

It has been a very busy start to 2015 for the Workshop and most of the crew has been working long hours, 6 days a week.

At the beginning of April we were once again off on travels. I headed to Melbourne, Australia for our first Supanova of 2015. This was the first show where I was training our new Events Manager. From there we went to Calgary, Canada where Eric also joined us. Both shows went well and we had a good time. Warren Dion Smith - one of Weta's Prosthetic/Make-up artists has been traveling with us and has  been doing prosthetic demos at the shows.

After Calgary, Eric and I got a short break and headed off to Los Angeles and San Diego to see some family and friends (and grab some In-n-Out Burger) before heading to Minneapolis, Minnesota for another show. Apologies to those we did not see. It was a quick visit and we will be back again in July.
We also managed to miss another Wellington earthquake (5.8 - 6.2)while we were stateside. A good shaker but no damage we were told. And completely overshadowed once the Nepal quake hit. 

Next stop was Minneapolis. We got to catch up with a friend and his his family. We originally met in Seattle and then he and his family managed to visit us in NZ our second year here. It was good to catch-up and see a little bit of the city. 

Someone will have to explain this one to me at some point

The show here was a smaller show, but very well received by the fans. The media had some fun as well.

Before leaving to go back to NZ, I did make a stop to see the Mall of America. The thing is immense. Even Peeps has it's own store. Really?

I learned that Charles Schulz was born in Minneapolis, MN

I have now returned to Wellington. However, Eric will be back around the 27th as he is doing two more shows. One in Philadelphia and the other in St. Louis. He will have a short break between the shows and will head back to San Diego for another quick visit and no doubt a few more In-n-Out Burgers.

Wishing a Happy Mother's Day to all of the amazing Mom's we know.

Stay tuned for new news and Part Two.

Stacy & Eric 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Happy New Year! Hello 2015.

Greetings and Happy New Year to all.
We wish you a very healthy and happy 2015.

The end of the year just flew by - as we knew it would. With all the travel, Hobbit festivities, and the holidays it was a whirlwind.

We managed to squeeze in an early Thanksgiving Dinner with our Ex-pat friends before heading out to our various destinations. Sweet Potatoes and Pumpkin Pie are always the highlights.

All of Eric's travel went as expected. Even with the demonstrations(riots) in Mexico City, they managed to get it all done, and the Premiere there was a big success. They even had a day off to explore Teotihuacan.

Eric was then off to Korea for the last pack down there.

                 Korean dinner - you won't see this too often in the states (thanks OSHA)

As for my trip to Brisbane, it also went well. Overall the weather was nice and warm. The only exception being the freak storm cell that came through while we were setting up for the show on Thursday. It only lasted about 20 minutes, but it was a storm like I had never before seen or experienced - It was unbelievable. Hurricane force winds and golf ball size hail. Windows were smashed, cars were dented, and there was lots of flooding. We watched it all through the large glass windows of the convention hall. I stood back a bit, and was surprised at how many people were close to the windows just to watch. We were very lucky that the leaking roof of the convention center did not reach our booth. Our friends at Popcultcha were not as fortunate, but the show opened on time and was a good fun.

Then we were on to Hobbit fun!
Our friends Cassie and Chris have joined us here in Wellington. They will be staying with us for a bit and are now working at Weta Workshop.We all attended the Red Carpet Tour Costume Party at the Roxy theater and Midnight Screening. Eric and I had already seen the film once at the cast & crew screening a few days earlier. Chris had seen it in spanish in Mexico. So Cassie was the only one seeing it for the first time. But it did not matter as we all enjoyed it. It was great to see Eric's name up on the screen again. And it was only slightly bittersweet to know that it was now all coming to an end.

The following week we had the Weta Workshop holiday party and Eric and I had tickets to a performance of Jethro Tull here in a small venue. It was a great treat. Unfortunately the theater did not have working air condition and it got uncomfortably hot inside. But other than the heat, we really enjoyed the show.We had seen them many times before over the years and this was likely the last time they will tour. The show was great. Ian Anderson can still play that flute like nobodies business, but he can't quite get his voice to do 2 hours of lyrics. They had an additional performer -Ryan O'Donnell that helped out on vocals and he sounded identical to Ian when he was younger. You had to watch carefully to be able to discern when one stopped and the other started singing.

We had a small (just the 4 of us) Xmas Eve dinner -round two of the sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie and a simple Xmas morning opening stockings and gifts.

In the afternoon we headed over to our friends house and had a nice potluck meal. The weather was not as nice as we had hoped for, but it was dry so we sat outside in the front yard enjoying everyone's company.

FINALLY! Lewis Road Chocolate Milk! We managed to luck out at the market and get a hold of the ever elusive bottles of Chocolate Milk. This is the chocolate milk that has been the latest craze. And we finally managed to be at the store when the new stock had just arrived. Limit 2 per customer! This milk is very rich in flavor and almost has a malt thickness to it. It is delicious!

On a separate note those "flat white" coffees that are now all the craze back home… they  have been here for a very long time and are nothing new. - LOL

We had a few days to rest, gather ourselves and pack for our trip.We were very much ready to get away for a week… And what a week it was!

Our room was great - quiet and private. and with air conditioning. NO wifi/internet!
the staff and fijian people were incredibly friendly. They all spoke english, but we soon learned that they did not quite always understand it as well. But they always tried to be helpful.

This was our little place, Garden Bure #6

The traditional Fiji Greeting. (hello)

...with indoor/outdoor shower

Apparently falling coconuts can be dangerous.

The diving was also wonderful. We cannot say enough great things about KoroSun Dive. Janine and Collin were fabulous hosts as was their great staff - Steven, Lai, Sarah and Kate. The conditions unfortunately were not as ideal as we were hoping for, but that was out of everyone's control. Water temp was a bit cooler than the norm for this time of year, but I was still quite comfortable in my wetsuit. Mostly, it was the rougher ocean currents and lower visibility that were the issues. We did get in all 4 of our days of diving -2 dives each day. We saw turtles, sharks (white tip reef, and faint shadows of hammerheads off in the distance), a moray eel, some other varieties of small eels, and an incredible amount of beautiful coral as well as plenty of tropical fish. Here are just a few of the highlights...

The dive boat.

The food was very hit and miss. Our best meal was the dinner for Eric's birthday. Even if they had timing issues… Okay, so I had tried to surprise Eric with a romantic dinner for 2 on his birthday. I had emailed the resort prior to our arrival and had arranged the dinner. They had described the romantic garden setting that included dining on mats. I explained that we would prefer a table with chairs that had back support and was told that that could be arranged. I also tried to arrange the menu complete with chocolate cake but was told to finalize that with the chef once we were on site.

Managed to even do that without Eric finding out about the surprise. Unfortunately, the night before, one of the dining room staff slipped and Eric figure out I was planning the surprise. He was a bit concerned with the heat and the bugs that the "outdoor" dinner might not be ideal for a b-day dinner, so we asked the staff to show us where we would be dining. It was a nice little hut in the middle of a lilly pond -they called it "Orchid Island." It was apparently featured in an episode of The Bachelorette.

Anyway, so much for table and chairs with backs. - more of a low padded sofa type seat. But Eric was a trooper and said it would be fine (once we sprayed down with bug repellent). We were to meet the staff at 7:00pm to then be escorted to the hut. You know what they say about island time… so at about 7:45 we were escorted to our hut where we sat for another 15-20 minutes watching the sunset while we waited for our food. The salads arrived and they were very good. We then waited another 10 -15 minutes for them to come clear the plates away. We are now sitting in the mostly dark except for the table lanterns waiting for our entrees, when the lovely singers and cake arrive. Apparently they were not notified that the meal was running behind (LOL)
So we had cake! - "Life is short - eat dessert first" must also be the motto here in Fiji.

They finally brought out the entrees which were also delicious - the best food we had had there.
All in all, it was a very nice evening and we laughed a lot. (I think Eric enjoyed it too - I did!! It will certainly be memorable.)

What's next?
We are off again - this time to Seattle/Portland…Looking forward to catching up with some family and friends, and running the Weta Workshop Booth at the Wizard World Show in Portland Jan. 23-25.

We are looking forward to whatever adventures 2015 will bring.
Hope to see many of you at some point this year.

Love & Hugs
Stacy & Eric