Sunday, 24 August 2008

Work: Pros and Cons

Working with animals has its hazards...

occupational hazard

I can't remember the last time my hands were scratch-free

On the other hand, I get to cuddle kittens

kitten season has officially started

... and on a good day, I might even get to cuddle a lizard!

blue tongued skink at work
the nice lady who owns this blue-tongued skink lets me have a cuddle whenever she sees me in the shop

Thursday, 21 August 2008


Last week we went to a Cuban cafe near our house. It had a mural on one wall and a huge photograph of Havana on the other.

Cubita Cafe wall mural
(detail from the mural)

Sitting in that cafe brought back memories of my visit to Cuba. We mostly stayed in Havana which is not what I'd call a relaxing vacation, but it was one of my most memorable experiences. We stayed with locals. We talked with artists and taxi drivers, with actresses and University professors. We met people who had devoted their lives to the revolution, and people on the street trying to make a dollar off tourists so they could get to America. It was amazing. It was a beautiful city. In the evenings we'd sit around and talk about politics and about our day, trying to process what we'd seen, trying to make sense of the strange world around us. There were five of us: myself, my parents, and two of my cousins. My younger cousin had just graduated high school and had never left the States before. My older cousin is a gay rights activist in Florida. My father was the centre point of our group; the one who devised the trip.

I took some fantastic pictures on my old 1950's era split screen point-and-shoot. I am now feeling inspired to dig them out of the closet, get them onto disc, and also get copies sent to those who were on the journey with me. It's way overdue.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Foreign Things

Last week on the way to the pharmacy I noticed a little Asian market, so of course I had to check it out. It was pleasantly homely, with crowded shelves and, for some reason, an impossibly tiny driving range in one corner. Browsing the aisles of mysterious goods with undecipherable text it occurred to me that I am an immigrant living in a foreign land and yet I still have this impulse to put myself in strange and unfamiliar situations.

What does that say about me?

Stranger still, I encountered several familiar products among the exotic wares, items I hadn't been able to find New Zealand before. I found Dr. Pepper, and what must have been Gatoraide though it was only recognisable by the distinctive lightning bolt logo. And, most amazing of all, SPAM!


(only the most expensive SPAM I've ever seen)

In fact, I realized later I'd walked out of there with two comfortingly familiar items:
strawberry mochi (for me) and Dr Pepper (for Loren).

strawberry mochi

(the mochi was very tasty!)

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Wellington goes to the Movies

Written Friday, August 1st

Wellington is considered the Hollywood of New Zealand, and with this title comes a dizzying number of Film Festivals, the biggest being the NZ International Film Festival, which is in town right now. I am determined to make the most of the festival this year, and by the time it is finished I will probably have seen more movies on the Big Screen in two and a half weeks than I have seen previously since we moved here. So this seems an appropriate time to talk about the Wellington movie-going experience.

Wellington has 5 major movie theatres - four within a couple blocks of my apartment. They co-exist by filling different niches - the art house theatre, the cheap theatre, etc. - but the fact that they coexist at all in such tight quarters is a testament to the enthusiasm Wellingtonians have for cinema. There are two significant differences in the basic movie-going experience here vs. the States. The first is in the refreshments. There is usually the familiar concessions counter - here called a "candy bar." However, you may not find some of the basic items Americans associate with movies - popcorn and hot dogs. On the other hand, most "candy bars" will be happy to sell you a beer or a glass of wine. Many theatres are also associated with a full cafe, where you can get a beer or a cup of coffee, a muffin or a toasted sandwich, and either enjoy them at the tables (often on the 2nd floor and overlooking the street) or take them right into the movie with you.

The second difference is the hardest for me to get used to: assigned seating. When you purchase a ticket for a film, the ticket is for a particular seat, just like if you were going to a play or a concert. This means if you are going to a popular film you can't just rely on buying tickets right before the movie - you may get stuck with the worst seats. You need to plan ahead, and you need to know what the good seats are for that particular theatre. Mostly box offices will have a seating chart to help you with this. The plus side is that with a little planning and know-how you can get your favourite seats, and you don't need to show up early and wait in a long queue for a popular film on opening night.

The NZ Film Festival also uses a couple of less conventional theatres: the Film Archive, and Te Papa Muesum's Soundings Theatre.