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.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Of what I remember....

Back in 2011, I treated my family to an 8 day cruise in the South Pacific.  This was when my husband was about to undergo chemotherapy, and we all needed something to look forward to... that, and I am irresponsible with insurance money ;)

It was the best thing we could have done at the time. 

Looking back, its hard to remember the stresses or strains around why we were going.  I am a mad collector.  I believe collector is a nicer term than junk-hoarder.  I tend to gather knick-knacks and whatsits, as well as never throwing away all sorts of stuff from trips.  I would be a scrapbooker, but I get distracted by stationery and end up being too much of a perfectionist with no actual skill.  So I have taken to making photobooks.  I now have 4 beautiful photo books for various overseas trips (hopefully one for a trip to China joins the ranks later in the year) and a few from performances.

But I hadn't made one for anyone else before.

My sister is a single mother, of 3 kids.  She had 2 when we went on the cruise.  She had a particularly difficult year, and needed a break.  I don't think she had been on a holiday for over 10 years, and hadn't been anywhere with the kids.  I thought it would be great to be able to just not worry about cleaning or cooking on the boat.  That, and I love sitting around reading books. ;)

I never knew really what she thought, because, well, my experience was different.  I joined the walking group, always join the juggling group, join the spa and sit and read in the relaxation room, sit on the deck and write poems and postcards.  She always seemed manic.  And I did worry that I had stressed her out by forcing her into a holiday.

However, she asked me to make her a photobook.  Her kiddos, then 1 and 3, still talk about the boat and want to look at the pictures.  So, Mr 2 and Ms 4 demanded a book.  The book from when we went to Tonga. 

The point of all this?  Going through all the photos she took, initially, I didn't even notice it was the same trip.  My pictures are so.... involved.  Things are happening, places are important, and generally I am having to take selfies on a beach because the husband is sunbathing.  She has all these memories of people who the kids liked, the steward who made towels into animals for the kids, massive ice-creams melting onto smiling faces, sand-covered bottoms, and heaps of sleeping babies under tables, on beaches, in the arms of statues.  Basically I saw the trip through a mothers eyes.  She didn't need  to worry about cooking and cleaning... she just had time to enjoy her kids while they were small.  I definitely don't think it was easy, but I think she had a good time.

The kids definitely want to go again.  And now that there is a new baby, well.... we will have to wait until he is 3.  Next time I think Treena would appreciate being able to sign all the kids up for the club... just so she can have a chance to unwind as well.

I make my photo books on Snapfish, because it is fast, easy, and really good value.  They also save the photos at full resolution... which is super handy, as I would have lost so many pictures permanently after my laptop was stolen last year.  I heart snapfish.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The International Jousting Championships!

Nerdy me watching the female jouster getting prepared.
 Alright, those who know me well, know how much of a nerd I am.  Not only do I teach History and Drama, I am pretty obsessed with Science Fiction and Fantasy.  This is an event that caters to all my joys... and even got the husband involved.  This is somewhat massive.

Every 2 years the International Jousting Championships are held in Upper Hutt, New Zealand.  I first had the chance to attend years ago because we lived around the corner, and happened to be walking the dogs through as they were setting up.  The husbands interest was piqued and we went back to take a look.  I was hooked!  Costumes, armour, horses, roasted potatoes, literally Knights in Shining Armour!  I was such a fangirl that the Bulgarian competitor gave me a signed photograph that I still hold in my daily planner.

The event is hosted by the Order of the Boar, based in Upper Hutt, who specialise in medieval hand-to-hand combat.  This means that not only is the jousting on show, but also sword play, combat and archery.  There is also a medieval village with people happy to show how to make chain mail or talk about life for a knight.

This is as close to "Sports" as I like to follow.  We always head in for a few hours, to catch the jousting mainly, and see everything else in between.  The event is held over 2 days, and both are fantastic.  Now that the niece and nephews are starting to get a little older, I'll be tempted to take them to the event in 2015...

What I love the most is the horsemanship. The riders are completely amazing, and the horses are truly beautiful.  Having some of the best riders from around the world is fantastic to watch.  I was a complete fangirl for the guy from Sweden... but he was beaten out by the woman from Australia.

The Husband comparing himself to a knight

Sunday, March 24, 2013

To Sua Trench - Samoa

The most amazing place we went to in Samoa has to be the To Sua Trench. It literally means 'full'. The trench is a sea-fed cave in the ground... one with a giant ladder to reach the pool below.

The swimming was amazing. The pool was deep, and clear, and simply mind blowing. We could snorkel and watch tiny fish, or just swim, or jump into the water from the platform. I spent time exploring the cave leading to the empty trench. The whole complex was well maintained, and to their credit, well organised.

There was also a sampling of all the wonders Samoa has to offer, from lava fields, to blow holes, to a private beach, tropical plants, and in a pleasant turn of events, a kiosk that sold cold water! Bliss. We even saw bats flying around the trees. I would go back in a heartbeat.

Monday, March 18, 2013


I have been a lax blogger of late.  All to easily I was lured to Tumblr and Pinterest and forgot to blog on getting my stuff from my insurance company.

Anyway... since I last blogged, I was in Samoa.  Beautiful islands, and a great non-touristy escape.  Parts of it were just beyond comparison, and other things left me not wanting to look out the window of my rental car.  But this will follow no doubt.  For now, some images to wet the appetite.  We were there just 3 weeks after Cyclone Evan.... and left before another tropical storm rolled in.