I officially hold a New Zealand driver’s license! Would you believe this required no more than my US driving record, and eye test and some cash? I was amazed that they would allow such when we don’t even drive on the same side of the road! When I got my license I was actually just given a little piece of paper as my temporary license. I am sure the bouncers at the local pub will love that one! At least I have taken one more step to being a little more settled in. Don’t forget to give way!


When I made the decision to come to the opposite side of the earth, I thought I was making things easier on myself by going to a country that speaks English.  Or at least I thought that they spoke English.  Overall, the language is the same, but there are a few differences that always make me pause and think, “What did they just say?”  Throw in the kiwi accent and sometimes I really feel like I am in need of a translator.

The accent is a lovely thing.  I really do enjoy listening to it.  The funny thing is that sometimes I don’t hear it anymore.  I have run into some American people here and I have to listen really hard to see if I can pick it up. The funny thing about the accent here is that words with an ‘i’ are often pronounced like a ‘u’.  My town has lots of wind mills, but you will hear wund mulls.  And if you like to drink milk, it is better to ask for mulk.  If you think something might be a tight fight, you might need to say tught fught.  Words that start with or  have the second letter ‘e’ often sounds more like and ‘i’.  I am often c alled Jissica.  If you want to send a text, you are really sending a tixt.

Of course slang varies by region, we even see that from north to south and east to west in the states.  But as I was shopping one day, a sales clerk approached me as asked if I needed any help.  I told him I was happy to just take a look around and he responded, “Sweet as”.  Thought to myself, “That was awfully forward” because I thought that he said, “Sweet ass.”  Then I learned that you can pretty much add ‘as’ after any adjective to make it the most that it can possibly be.  For example, that guy is hot as.  This town is flat as.  That girl is dumb as (not to be confused with dumb ass, but still the same concept).  I am hungry as.  It is kind of convenient because you don’t have to be creative and come up with a description to illustrate just how hungry you are.  Awesome as.

There are a couple of words that we use, but just not as commonly as they do here.  You hear the word keen all the time.  It actually has its own text abbreviation: kn.  Are you keen to go out tonight?  I’d be keen to go shopping.  She’s keen to meet a handsome bloke.  I find that it does suit many purposes and is a more efficient way of saying, “Would you like to?” or “Are you interested in x, y, z?”  The other word that you hear all the time is heaps.  They have heaps of money.  I have heaps of food at home.  There are heaps of people that love to say heaps.  It slipped out of my mouth once and I had absolutely no control over it.  It is another easy to use word.  And the opposite of heaps is ‘wee’ – used to describe something small or a little amount. Sounds kind of silly coming out of a macho man’s mouth.

There is one word that I never knew was so versatile.  That word is piss.  Here is a list of definitions:

  1. Noun – urine
  2. Noun – alcoholic beverage, typically beer
  3. Verb – To urinate
  4. Verb – To release quickly (pissing rain)
  5. Verb – To waste (piss away time or money)
  6. Verb – To tease (to take the piss)
  7. Adjective – Angry, usually followed by ‘off’
  8. Adjective – Extremely drunk

At first, it took me a while to understand the differences.  When someone told me they were just taking the piss, I thought, “Why would you do that, that is gross!”  Then, I was asked if I was pissed last night and I responded, “No, I was a happy drunk.”  It is always nice to know that if you are at a loss for words, you can usually use the word piss in one of its many forms and it would work perfectly.

Some other additions that have been made to my vocabulary:

If some one asks you to come over for tea and pudding, you aren’t going to get a cup of tea and a pudding snack cup.  You will be fed dinner and dessert, so don’t eat beforehand.  If they ask you if you want chips (pronounced ‘chups’) you will get French fries.  They don’t eat peanut butter and jelly, they eat peanut butter and jam because jelly is actually what we call Jello.  When you go shopping, you will park in the car park and use a trolley to put your groceries in.  If you have to piss (sorry for my crudeness, seemed appropriate) you will need to ask for the loo.  Tell them that you call a portable toilet a port-a-potty and you will get a chuckle.  If you have to go to the pharmacist, look for the chemist.  If you are really busy at work, you can say you are ‘flat out’ or work is ‘full on’.  You can let someone know that you are dealing with a difficult person by calling them a hard case.  When you want to order a pitcher of beer, be sure to ask for a jug.  The way to indicate that you are asking a question is if you add ‘ay’ to the end.  It is hard not to pick that one up.  Heaps of wee kids pick this one up really quickly.  The list goes on and on, but it is always fun to throw some American slang out there and get a look like I am an alien.  I am an alien after all.

There are plenty of other words that I am sure to learn, but that is just a crash course in the kiwi version of the English language.  Sweet as, ay?

When I first decided that I was going to be moving down under, I was asked by many people, “What kind of food do they eat there?”  I couldn’t answer this question at all.  I didn’t even have a good feel for that after reading some guide books about New Zealand either.  After arriving, I was on a quest to figure out kiwi cuisine.  The first thing I had when I arrived at the airport was a pie.  Not a cherry pie, not a pizza pie, but a meat pie.  They seemed to be everywhere, so this had to be something worth trying, right?  I was everything but impressed.  It was hard to eat and there was a lot of gravy and not a lot of meat.  Yuck.  If that was what I had to look forward to I was on my way to being skinny.  Unfortunately, luck never stays in my corner in that fight.  I then discovered sausage rolls!  These have a meatloaf –like sausage center wrapped in puff pastry.  Yum.  Those have to be maintained as a special treat only every so often.

There are bunches of American restaurants around if I ever feel like noshing on a cheeseburger or a sub.  There is McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, Subway, Pizza Hut, Domino’s Pizza and Wendy’s (which I have yet to see).  I spent many meal times at McDonald’s at the beginning because I didn’t know really where else to get something fast.  I never ate McDonald’s when I lived in the States, but there was something drawing me in.  I felt like it was a little piece of home on a bun and I had forgotten how good their fries are.  Subway is still disappointing all the way over here.  I am shocked and amazed at how global that company is with such a crap product.  Beyond me.  Pizza is not the same.  At all.  The cheese doesn’t quite melt the same nor does it string.  I guess that reduces the occurrence of cheese stringing off and then hitting you in the chin with piping hot pepperoni attached to it.  Don’t act like that has never happened to you.  Speaking of pepperoni, the pepperoni here is almost like hot dogs sliced up.  Not yum.  There are odd toppings like prawns and sweet chillies.  I guess odd to me and not so odd to the kiwis.

The other restaurants in town are often from other places in the world.  Lots of Thai, Korean, Kebabs, Japanese, Chinese and Indian.  Not anywhere in that list do you see the word Mexican, do you?  I’d die for a chimichanga or a gordita any day.  The closest I get is an Old El Paso taco kit.  Not quite the same, but it will do in a pinch.  I have been working on trying new things while I am here and I was an avid hater of Indian food.  Wouldn’t come within 50 feet of any Indian restaurant.  My team at work decided that we should go for Indian.  I wasn’t going to be the person that changed the plans for the entire group, so I said, “Tell me what a starter Indian dish would be.”  I got Butter Chicken and I fell in love.  I couldn’t get enough and I craved it every day thereafter.  Luckily they offer meals to go, so I can have my naan and eat it too.

Let’s not even get into the bacon discussion.  Well, let’s.  Bacon was my staple at home.  I ate it on everything.  I realize I may have been taking a year off my life with every crispy strip I ate, but I love bacon.  Maybe even more than that dog on the Beggin’ Strips commercial.  I ordered a breakfast the first morning here with bacon, thinking, “Awww, yeah, this is going to be awesome”.  Fail.  The bacon here is what I call Canadian bacon.  I am not partial to anything Canadian.  Who cares if their side of Niagara Falls is way cooler.  The bacon was not cooked enough and there were huge pieces of fat hanging off the sides.  I was so disappointed.  I did later learn that if you want bacon like I want, you have to buy streaky bacon.  It is freaking expensive, but worth the treat every now and again.  I am saddened now that every time I go out and see bacon on the menu that it is not going to be MY kind of bacon and I will be disappointed.

There are loads of fruits and vegetables here to pick from.  Too bad veggies and I are not BFF’s.  I will take the fruit though.  Very common to this area is the feijoa which most people have a tree in their yard or they snag them from their neighbour’s yard.  They taste kind of like a mix between a pear, a sweet tart and a Flintstone vitamin.  Still haven’t decided if I like them yet.  Kiwifruit is everywhere, of course.  Passion fruit, which I am not passionate about, is quite common as well.  There is a great selection and I don’t think I will have any risk of developing scurvy any time soon.  Especially since I have lemon tree in my yard!

I work for a dairy company, so I can’t bash too hard on the dairy products.  BUT, since the cows here are grass fed, the milk tastes like grass.  So does the cheese, butter, yogurt and anything else that was milk at one point in time.  You can often get hints of cow in there as well.  I hate to say it, but there are aromas that are reminiscent of poop.  No lie.  I shared a fondue meal with some people I was living with temporarily and, I kid you not, I thought someone stepped in dog poo and tracked it inside.  That cheese smelled so much of poo that it was a bit difficult to get past the nose.  I did eat it and it tasted fine, but man did it reek.

I swear by reading this, you’d think I was a picky eater and hated everything that was offered here.  That is the farthest thing from the truth, but  I have to admit I am miss the familiar comforts of food from home.  I think there are still many things that I have not yet discovered and hope to be pleasantly surprised in the future.

Now, back to those pies.  Although timid, my experience with those meat pies has been a bit better.  I think I might even be able to call them my friend, well, Facebook friend at least.

Mine should be revoked.  Serious.  In New Zealand a driver’s license from the US is valid for a year and then when you get a New Zealand driver’s license you only have to pay a chunk of change and voila! license to drive.  Oh the humor…

When I first arrived, I was going to postpone getting a car for as long as possible. Then I realized that taxis are really the best form of public transportation and that just wasn’t going to work.  I got a car.  When I was at the car lot, I didn’t even want to test drive the car because I was so nervous to drive on the wrong side of the road.  I drove around the block and promptly hopped out of the car and said, “I’ll take it” because I just couldn’t muster the courage to do that again.  Then I had to drive home.  Ack!

Sitting on the wrong side of the car and driving on the wrong side of the road has probably been the most stressful thing I have done since being here.  I walk to the passenger side of the car almost every time I go to get in the car.  Not to mention that the car is a stick shift.  My left hand is really only attached to my body so that I can count successfully to ten; other than that it is pretty much useless.  Trying to shift gears with my left hand was a challenge to say the least.  Me not being mechanically inclined, I thought for sure that if I have to shift with my left hand then the shift pattern would be a mirror image of what I am used to with first gear being closest to me.  Not so.  It is exactly the same, you just sit on the other side of it.  Whoever decided that is obviously not a logical thinker.

Driving on a straight road wasn’t a problem.  I got that one down pretty quickly, but at times I would freak out because I couldn’t remember what side of the road I was supposed to be on.  The best piece of advice I got was that the driver should always be in the center of the road.  Ah!  It all makes sense now.

Unfortunately, the town I live in isn’t just one straight road, turns would eventually have to be made.  First attempt at a turn was a left turn.  Similar to a right turn in the US, so not that hard.  I felt good about that rather quickly, but a right turn was just not going to happen.  For the first while I just drove in a circle around the city only making left turns to avoid a right turn.  That can make for a long journey to the grocery store that is just one right turn away.  Internally, I was giving myself a pep talk, “You can do this Jessica, just make a right turn”.  It came time that there were no more left turns to make and I had to make a right turn.  Sweaty palms.  Heart pounding.  White knuckles.  I signaled. Shit!  The windshield wipers came on.  Are you kidding?  How is that on the wrong side too?  After that little episode of being flustered and confused, I slowly eased into the turn and I couldn’t help but pause and look over my shoulder because I am certain that someone is going to come slamming into me as I cross the right hand lane.  Shoo…made it.  Finally it was time to get out of that beast of a car, that is enough stress for one day.

I would look at the car in the parking lot and it sure looked nice, but I didn’t want to get in it again.  I can walk!  So that’s what I did every weekend.  I parked the car and only drove when absolutely necessary.  It is slowly getting less stressful.  Thanks to the little blue circles that have arrows pointing to the lane that you are to be driving in, especially helpful when turning and having total memory loss of what lane you are supposed to turn into.  I don’t know what I would do without those.  But those little circles don’t help out much with this one stupid, stupid, stupid law that you have to ‘give way’ to the car crossing traffic when you  are both turning at an intersection.  Not sure whose bright idea that was, but it certainly doesn’t light up the sky.

Roundabouts.  Roundabouts every where.  I struggled with those when I was driving on the familiar side of the road.  Am I supposed to signal if I am going straight through?  Okay, I will.  Damn, windshield wipers again…

Could someone build a train in this town please?

Whenever entering a new situation, I often take on the role of observer.  There have been some great observations made within the first two weeks of being here.  I don’t even know where to start!  In this case, most people talk about the weather.  The weather here is actually something to talk about.  When doing some research about this town known as “Palmy” to locals, I read it was windy.  Okay, I can handle some wind; I’ve been to the beach once or twice in my life. Upon arrival, it started to rain and the wind was blowing so hard that it was difficult to walk and at times caused me to lose balance. I am from North Carolina and I know what hurricane force winds feel like and this was it.  The first thing that popped in my mind was, “If this is normal, I want to go home!”  Luckily, those were just storm related winds. Then the winds settled a little and the sky was filled with ominous looking clouds.  Then, a little ray of sun peeked through those clouds.  Then the clouds were gone completely and it was the most beautiful day.  AND then the clouds came back and the rain was spitting and the winds picked up.  The conclusion from this is that the weather is absolutely unpredictable here.  Although unpredictable, you can pretty much put the following in any order that you choose…  Clouds. Wind. Rain. Sun. Repeat. The last week has been absolutely gorgeous.  Sunny and highs in the 70’s.  I would convert that to Celsius if I were capable, but unfortunately, I am not.  That just makes me more oblivious to the prevailing weather conditions.  I honestly didn’t think that was possible.  Regardless, it is pretty uwuhsome that it is summer in February.

After a whirlwind tour of North Carolina saying my final goodbyes, I stuffed all my belongings that were strewn about my parents’ house into my suitcases.  Three suitcases to be exact and a backpack for good measure.  I have a luggage tag that was given to me by a friend who knows me all too well that says, “Packing light is so last season”.  I followed that mantra as if it were my job.  I like options and as one that never pays attention to the weather, I have to be prepared for any thing that may come my way.

Once the suitcases were ready to go, my sister and I were off to the airport (after a great night’s sleep in a hotel-Thanks mom!).  The travel plans looked something like this: Raleigh –> Chicago–> Los Angeles –> Auckland –> Palmerston North.  Staring down the barrel of a 30+ hour travel day with uncomfortable sleeping arrangements, bad food and a disdain for public toilets does not a happy camper make.  With my suitcases packed to the brim, they exceeded the 50 pound limit.  That meant some things had to be rearranged or tossed because there was no way that I was going to pay $150 per overweight bag.  I always guessed that jeans weighed at least one pound when I step on the scale and I was right!  Secretly, I was hoping they actually weighed 10 pounds.

The domestic flights went rather smoothly except for a terrible movie playing on the flight to Los Angles.  I regret even attempting to watch that movie because as I was getting my headphones from by bag, I lost my iPod somewhere in the process.  Meh.  Someone that followed behind me had a lucky day.

As we made our way to the gate for the flight to Auckland, we came upon a waiting area dominated by 20 year olds buzzing with excitement to start their study abroad semesters.  I felt like I was a chaperone of a school field trip gone bad.  As we loaded the jumbo plane, I was delighted to see that we all had individual TVs with on-demand entertainment.  Tetris!

Luckily, my good friend Ambien came along for the ride and I passed out for a solid 12 hours.  I did manage to raise myself from the dead when the food cart came around.  No surprise there.  We arrived in Auckland and had to go through customs and all that jazz.  I giggled at all the hiking types that had to have their boots inspected.  I, on the other hand, breezed right through the line.  Sometimes not being the outdoorsy type has its benefits.

We were one flight away from the town I was soon to call home, Palmerston North.  It was a quick flight down and we were greeted with expansive green farms with little white specs of sheep from afar.  It was pretty cool (pronounced: kewh).  Having crossed over the International Date Line, we lost a whole 24 hours.  We left on Thursday morning and arrived on Saturday morning.  What a haul.  It was good to finally be here.  I have to say that Air New Zealand is an exceptional airline.  When you come visit, be sure to book with them 😉

A cab took my sister and I to the place  I would be staying for the next month.  I took in all the sights along the way and couldn’t quite get a feel for the town just yet.  Tipping is not customary here, so as we left the cab I felt a pang of extreme rudeness by not leaving a tip.  It is so odd.  As we arrived at the hotel, a friendly kiwi man checked us in, gave us our key and said, “Let me get you some milk”.  He said this in a way that suggested, “Of course you will need milk, above all other things.”  We went to the room and the first thing among many was to take a shower.  I’m sure everyone that was to come within a 10 foot radius of me was thankful for that.  Perhaps after the shower I would drink some of that milk.

Goodbye is not a word that I like.  It seems so final.  I prefer to say, “See you later”.  Perhaps not in the physical sense, but in my memories and in my heart.  The days leading up to my final hours in North Carolina have been filled with many “See you laters”.  Some with no question that I will see them later, some tearful, some with a secret longing that I would really see them later and some accompanied with the voice of that grumpy, old lady that lives in my head saying, “Thank God!”  Side note…her name is Ethel and she always has lipstick on her teeth.  Be happy if you have never been exposed to her channeled through me.

Of course, my “See you laters” were not only expressed to people.  I found myself a little choked up when I shut the door of my little apartment.  All the memories of the good and not so good came back in a flash.  Then the thought of someone else living in my space made me a little possessive.  Someone else hanging Pearl Jam posters on my walls?  I don’t even have the words…

I said, “See you later” to the mall, my favorite bar, Bojangles, my familiar walking route (necessary for reversing the effects of my many “See you laters” to Bojangles), my sister’s pre-party highball glasses…okay, so when does this become ridiculous?  All too quickly.  While driving along I-85 a waft of a familiar, yet unpleasant, smell came floating into my car.  My mind asked me, “I wonder if they have skunks in New Zealand?”  Then quickly, I thought with odd sadness,”If not, that may be the last time I smell a skunk”.  Timeout.  Zack Morris style.  This is getting out of hand.  I can honestly say that I am perfectly happy saying goodbye to skunk stench.  Not to mention, I did smell it again about 10 miles further down the road.

As I get closer to take off, the “See you laters” are getting harder and harder.  Thank you to all those who showed their love in various ways; my favorite being, “Don’t Go!  This place is going to suck without you?”  The hardest “See you later” is yet to come.  That won’t happen until my sister, my partner in crime, leaves New Zealand to come back to North Carolina after she helps get me settled in a bit.  But I assure you there are many adventures to be had between now and then.  I will truly miss my life in North Carolina and all the great people and places that made it so special. I feel excited to see what is on the other side of all those “See you laters” and am prepared with a few timid and curious, “Hellos”.  Perhaps to a cute rugby player or two?

See you later!

Goodbye skunk.

Since accepting the position in New Zealand, I have experienced every possible emotion imaginable.  Some days I am riding on a wave of excitement and can’t wait to get there.  Other days I wonder what the heck I was thinking to have done such a silly thing.  Originally, I was slated to leave on January 3, 2010 and start work on January 11, 2010.  During the process of applying for a work visa, I realized that things were not going to move along quite as quickly as I had hoped.  After realizing this, my start date was pushed back several weeks and now the proposed departure date is February 11, 2010.  I am taking my sister along for the ride to get semi-settled in.  Bless her for her willingness to travel across the globe with me!  That is no small undertaking…especially with the mood I have been in for the past couple of weeks.  Ack!

As January 3rd came and went, the reality of the situation kicked in…along with the anxiety.  I’m not talking about little butterflies.  I’m talking elephant standing on my chest kind of anxiety.  I am still trying to convince that elephant to move along and find his rightful place in the circus.  I think I might be making some progress…

All I am left with now are questions and, as much as I hate to admit it, insecurities.  What is this place going to be like?  What are the people going to be like?  What will my job be like?  I have to learn to drive on the other side of the road???  They are going to think I talk funny.  Will I make friends?  Will my friends forget about me?  Is there such a thing as Latin night where I can dance a little Bachata when I feel like it?  Are they going to make fun of my clothes?  How many weekend nights am I going to have to spend alone?  Am I going to have to pretend that I like to hike, camp and kayak?  I probably should, otherwise ALL my weekends will be spent alone!  At 5’8″ am I going to be an Amazon woman?  Shoot, give me a good pair of heels and I tower above the crowd here (maybe that is more due to my tendency to hang out at Latin night).  Heaven forbid we even discuss the topic of dating…I can’t even do that successfully here.  The list goes on and on and on.  I hope that as time goes by once I am there, these questions will be slowly be answered one by one.

Aside from the questions and insecurities, I am really excited to give this a shot.  I am hoping that this will be an awesome experience.  Hopefully, there will be some positive surprises and character building along the way.  I’ll certainly miss my family and friends and all that is familiar and comfortable for me, but I have a feeling that this elephant is going to keep me company for a while.  I guess on any given day I am an elephant short of a three ring circus, so hell, maybe I’ll start selling tickets!

Meet the Lion

Kia Ora! I am only a lion according to the stars. I am nothing nearly as ferocious, unless I haven't been fed. Welcome to my outlet of random brain rattling sparked from the process of moving to, settling in and living among the sheep in New Zealand.