Saturday, February 15, 2014

My Obsession with Washi Tape

Last year when I found out I was heading to China, I knew I had to keep a journal, and I knew I had to make sure I remembered as much about the experience as possible. So I bought a Smash Book for journalling. I also bought washi tape, because, well, I needed tape to hold stuff in the journal. Now, I have been journalling since I was a teenager.... And I always keep a travel journal, but this was well, a new approach to the previous ones.

Not only did I fall for Smash Books completely... Love love love... But washi tape changed my life. From a couple of rolls just to hold stuff in, I then went crazy.... I bought so many.

Now I pretty much use the stuff for everything.

Need to decorate a card.... Washi tape.
Need to journal.... Washi tape.
Book too similar to everyone else's... Washi tape.
Hold a gift closed.... Washi tape.
Set a theme.... Washi tape.

The tape is smooth, and totally easy to use, it can be moved, repositioned, and still stick down.

I imagine I'll be using if forever... And probably buying far too many rolls.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, January 27, 2014

Exploring The Weta Cave

Now, I am a mad keen movie fan. I could happily see movies all day. Especially sci-fi and fantasy movies. I love stories and impossible worlds, so of course, a trip to The Weta Cave is always a highlight.

I've been before. And it was awesome. And now I went again. Yes, this is being posted to two of my blogs, because, I think it fits.

Richard Taylor and the team at Weta have put together and amazing experience at the Weta Cave. From a free 25 minute behind the scenes look at the various wings of Weta and the movies they have been a part of, to the museum, to the replica props, to the quality merchandise, it's all great. Now they even have a paid tour as well. (And that's only $20 per adult!) it does get busy, so go early, avoiding 11:00am-2:00pm which seems to be the busiest time.

Now, why on the Guru sight? Well... I've been wanting to knit dwalven hats for a while... And now I have a picture of a real one up close. But they also have the prop replica knitting pattern and kit... From the same yarn as the one in the films! Yes, I bought one.

And a chain mail kit!

Such a nerd, I know. Watch this space to see the hat and the scarf take shape... And go visit the Weta Cave in miramar if you are in wellington! It's amazing, even if you don't like Tolkien.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Living in Changchun, China

I spent 5 weeks living and working in Changchun, Northern China. It was an amazing time and one I will cherish forever. During my stay I worked in mainly middle schools, and had a chance to live a truly Chinese lifestyle.... Albeit an affluent lifestyle.

The first thing to note was that because I travelled with money, I had more than most people in the city. Food and entertainment was cheap by western standards, though the Chinese complained at rising prices for things. Admittedly I did not go and buy a Bentley, or Prada shoes, but I definitely did not go hungry or wanting for anything.

Food was cheap. I ate my way through different street and snack foods with gusto. I loooooooved hot pot and pancakes, and candied hawthorns. Gorgeous. However, I did find buying foods a matter of trust. Learning "su" or vegetarian was essential, as was handing over money and hoping that it was enough to various stall holders. I was amazed that products such as bananas in a freezing northern winter were still cheaper than in New Zealand.

Restaurants generally had picture menus to choose from, which was ideal. Beer was also really cheap- working out at about 50 cents a can or bottle.

Changchun isn't a tourist destination which made it so wonderful. People were always keen to talk, or touch, or photograph, and would happily chatter away in mandarin even though I couldn't respond in anything but English. I thought I would feel more lonely, but the general non-sensical conversations staved off loneliness well.

The city is filled with wonderful public spaces and parks, which people use. I spent a lot of time wandering in the parks, which filled me with tranquility and joy.... Rather than the malls that I found stressful.

Things to note about travelling to china..... And really, take heed.

The bathrooms are.... Ummm.... Not western. Squat toilets. Often without flushing or doors, and always without paper. It only took one day, a laughter filled conversation with a 16 year old girl teaching me how to use the facilities, and a massive package of tissues that I would stuff in my pockets or bra, before I mastered the toilet. I did get a wee spot of delhi-belly, once in Changchun and once again in Beijing (which was waaaaay worse, thank you Beijing water supply for that)... So splurging on a hotel room with a western toilet is well worth it, or just asking as most accommodations had both options.

Laundry is also an issue, no laundromats or automated machines to speak of for me, but living longer term I would have probably done something else. I always travel with laundry liquid capsules, rather than powder (travelling through airports with unlabelled white powder never seems like a good idea), and these dissolve quickly and easily. Washing in the sink, rinsing in the shower, and leaving to dry in the bathroom on the shower rail and a travel clothes line worked well. There was no humidity, so things dried quickly.

Carrying an address card from the hotel was also genius. This way if I got lost I could get an easily recognized taxi to or from the hotel. All taxis were 2 coloured, with beige. Also, really cheap. Generally 10-20 RNB would get you anywhere you needed to go. Public transport in Changchun was much harder to use as generally people did not speak English. The train was an experience, but required booking tickets a week in advance, and flashing the thing around to every conductor I saw to be sent to the right carriage and seat.

I will be blogging about various sights in Changchun, so keep and eye out here for changes and activities.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Back from China

Well, 6 weeks in China passed quickly in the end.  It was certainly the experience of a lifetime, and I spent a lot of time feeling either surrounded or lonely, or both.  But I learned a great deal about myself, about others, and generally what I have to be grateful for.  I had hoped to blog more while away, but the internet was slow, intermittent, and I had to keep setting up a virtual private network just to log in to blogger!

The food was amazing.  Mostly.  My favourite thing was the roasted tofu, which was served up pretty much anytime I sat down to eat.  Vegetarians the world over get the same comments,
"How do you not eat meat?  You are missing out on some good food."

Well, given how many wonderful vegetarian options are available in China, no one needs to eat meat if they don't want to.  I was served gorgeous dumplings and wonderful soups, as well as my favourite new meal, Hot Pot.

We were staying up in Changchun, which is in Northern China, up near Mongolia, Russia and Korea.  The food has influences from all these areas, and becomes really spicy.  The town is famous for ginseng, and they try to sell it to tourists.  Then we came down to Beijing which was a completely different lifestyle and food.  Finally, Guangzhou, where everything was again tropical, and much more like food I am familiar with while overseas.

Those of you who know my love for Blackmilk Clothing, well, I have never been so thankful for their leggings!  I wore them every day in sub-zero temperatures, kept warm, looked awesome, and they wash and dry by hand overnight!  So good. There will so be a series of travel tips for being overseas for extended time periods, as well as dealing with travel in China.

The worst experiences I had were in Chinese airports.  Here being different wasn't such a good thing.  Being drug swabbed, felt over for all sorts of things, removing shoes for scans, and being man-handled as no one spoke enough English to tell me what was going on.  I felt like crying going through this twice in one morning, so I went and found a European toilet and sobbed my eyes out, then put on my metaphorical big girl pants, and just got on with it.

Over the next week or so, I will write up my food experiences in China.  I will be sharing my food experiences on my other blog, "At Home with the Lunchbox Guru", so feel free to browse both.  And I'll be tagging the posts with "The China Experience" just to keep the series together.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Heading to China!

It's been a long time since I've updated "Beyond Island Hopping", and there really hasn't been much reason for it.... Except a lack do doing anything except working! However, this is set to change.

In a few weeks time I'll be jetting off to China! I'm of on a teaching exchange to Changchun, in Northern China. What is cook about this, is as a History teacher, I have taught about the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, which had the seat of government in Changchun. It's also super close to Mongolia and Russia, which makes it seem really exotic.

On the way there will be a stopover in Ghangzcho, just north of Hong Kong in Southern China. And after 4 weeks of teaching I'll be in Beijing for a week, where I plan to see the Great Wall of China, the Olympic buildings including swimming in the water cube, and I will find panda bears.

I'm a little apprehensive about being a vegetarian in a country where I can't read or speak the language, and quite worried about whether I will be a successful teacher there, but it will be a wonderful experience.

I'm hoping to be able to update the blog while in China, and I am thinking of posting similar content on "At home with the Lunchbox Guru".

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Meet Deirdre!

Its been a while since the last post.  But there are plans, oh the plans.  In the meantime, meet Deirdre.  She is my new car.  Well, she isn't new, but new to me.  We are planning on going boldly where no man has gone before.  No.... wait.... we are planning on going places that roads exist. 

Andre, the green SUV you see there, and I have travelled the whole of New Zealand together.  It took 9 years.  But it was time to send him on his way.  Deirdre is a Suzuki Swift and soon to be a key component in my next novel.  I love her to bits, and you shall see more of her.

Deirdre and I in Wellington on the Waterfront

Tackling mountain roads

Dealing with the locals

Friday, April 26, 2013

Destination Friday: When in the World?

Well, given that generally I choose a place in the world, why not pick a time? I am totally a geek at heart, and clearly, I should get out more. ;) The International Jousting Championships in Upper Hutt. Totally one of my favourite events (held every 2 years)... and this year made the ESPN list of top 10 re-enactment events to attend in 2013.