Walking through Cornwall Park, we discover that sheep have way more in common with ants than we ever would have guessed.
We also found the center of the venn diagram where public park meets farmland. We haven't had this kind of agrarian awesomeness in the U.S. for a while. I'm glad New Zealand is keeping the tradition alive.
I don't know how many of you have tried Vegemite (or it's less famous NZ equivalent), but I'm going to guess that you've at least heard tale of how gross it is. Locals aren't any help. They're so excited to see us squirm that they'll happily dole out spoonfuls of the stuff as if that's actually how they'd eat it themselves. We're used to condiments like peanut butter or nutella, where it's key to cover the bread entirely. So naturally the first time we tried Marmite, we spread it on naively thick. The results were...not amazing. It was OK--definitely not as bad as that much Vegemite would have been--but I feel pretty silly now knowing that our friends down under don't have the alien tastebuds we originally imagined they did--they just have a much better way of eating it. So, here it is: how to eat Marmite and actually enjoy it.
Step 1: Make some toast
Step 2: Add an (un)healthy helping of butter
Step 3: Get yourself a small dollup of Marmite
Step 4: Make it nice and patchy, like your brother's first beard
For best results, eat it while it's still hot. Enjoy!
This afternoon we took a short drive to Muriwai beach to see the Gannet colony. The land is striking: a mix of wide, smooth shore, rugged rocks and melting cliffs--and flax bushes everywhere. In early November we're starting to see those first truly gorgeous spring days. There were a good dozen surfers out, at least as many fishermen, and heaps of people like us on the trail to the colony. We got to a point on our path where the air thickened with the smell of guano, and we were looking out onto 1000 couples nesting over every square foot of rock. Nothing in such large numbers is ever cute--at least not for me. Give me a single ladybug and I'm happy. Show me 1000 of them in tight quarters and those adorable little bugs take a turn for the grotesque. But once I looked closer at the birds they charmed me: creamy white and gold-washed, Gannets are made up of beautiful, clean lines, with wings that fold in with the neat precision of origami. They glide through the air on those paper wings as open and still as a kite, cutting through wind gusts on barely a flap, landing like a hang glider. They reminded me of those first canvas planes, and made me wonder if it weren't for birds, would we ever have imagined we could fly? I get the feeling nature is more creative than any of us ever will be.
Things have been busy around here since Josh and I both started working. He found a job working for a medical device company on the North Shore and I just started teaching ESL. At first I was surprised to find out there's so much demand for this job in an English-speaking country, but now that I've had some exposure to it, I realize it makes complete sense: if you're really committed to learning a language, why not do it all the way and immerse yourself completely? It's much easier to get student visas in NZ than it is in the US or the UK, so there's quite a demand for English language teaching over here. While it's been really amazing getting to know people from around the world (and to have a job that makes a concrete difference in people's lives, sorry Real Housewives) it's definitely some of the hardest work I've ever done. When I had a (somewhat normal) office job, I got to go home every day and forget about work for a few hours. The weekend? All mine. Now I work almost every waking moment, and when I'm not awake, I dream about it. I have so much more appreciation for my teachers now. Before this I couldn't have imagined the amount of sweat and tears it takes to learn to teach well. Added to that, you're not getting paid for all that extra time planning, reviewing homework, or talking with your students after class. That's all you, going on your own steam. It takes a lot of love to do this job, and this experience has made me so much more grateful for all the wonderful teachers I've had, who freely gave me so much of their time and energy (and more sympathetic towards the bad ones who sat around growling between spoonfuls of yogurt). If everyone had to try this for a month, we'd be paying teachers so much more than we do. As it is, 3 weeks in I'm not completely sure I have what it takes.
Rugby is kind of a big deal here. Every time there's a big game, gas goes on sale. People get up in the middle of the night to watch games on the other side of the world. The Rugby World Cup finals started at 5am this morning, and pubs all over New Zealand got special dispensation to open up their doors and sell beer before dawn. Getting up before sunrise to watch a game and drink beer sounded too crazy not to try, so we set our alarm clocks for 4am and headed to a pub in Takapuna.
What we didn't expect was to find almost every possible road closed for a marathon (of course there was a marathon). By the time we found a road that would take us there every pub in the area was already filled to capacity, and all of us stragglers were left to watch through the windows like a crowd of sad Peter Pans. Well, not too sad--I did feel a little teased by the promise of warmth and food inside, but it was fun to have a front row seat to many grown men jumping up and down in drunken group hugs, chat with the bouncer about highlights, and overhear friends tauntingly calling each other "Aussie" on the street. I'm not going to pretend to fully understand rugby, but there seemed to be just enough threat to make it an interesting game.
So I didn't get a chance to drink a pint at a ridiculous hour of the morning, but hey, it's always 5 o'clock somewhere.
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