Moment of awesome
(You might see this picture upside down – that’s probably because I’m down under! Apologies for any neck pains that result from looking at this image.)
Seasonal sickness. If you are reading this from the Northern Hemisphere you know what I’m talking about. That slightly depressed, low-energy feeling. All you want is have soup and watch Gilmore Girls all day under the comfort of a thick blanket. Every winter, I’m one of the first victims of winter depression going through this cycle – although I swap Gilmore Girls for endless repetitions of ‘Planet Earth’. This year, I decided to change things up. Partially due to the fact that I was forced out of the US (read week 10), but mostly motivated by subzero temperatures in Canada, I decided to head down under. In an effort to squeeze everything out of my travel budget, I bought the cheapest ticket available: a 45-hour flight from Vancouver to Auckland. After a grueling journey I have arrived in paradise! I have headed out to Opoutere and met up with a family friend. This picture was taken at a local beach that we had to ourselves that lent itself to a great game of ultimate. IT WAS AWESOME!
Read more about this week’s adventures. Read More
This week I did the great migration. The night of Sunday 1 January I left cold Vancouver in search of summer. A few weeks back I had managed to find the cheapest ticket to Auckland. The journey didn’t just cover 3 continents; it also included almost a full day in Taipei. I didn’t anticipate the jet lag to be too bad as most of the flights spanning different time zones were red eyes. So off I went. On my way to Taipei I managed to get a solid amount of sleep, only waking up for rice and chicken. Nothing better than getting fed, going to sleep, and finding your tray cleared away when you wake up.
I found Taipei to be fairly intense. It was my first time in Asia and all I knew about it was through the stories of others and TV. After getting off at the main station (descriptively called ‘Main Station’ – “these guys are creative”, I thought) I ventured around in search of breakfast. I ended up in this place that seemed to only serve noodles or rice for breakfast. A bit strange, but being a brinner lover, I went for it! After this delicious treat, I strolled down the street and ran into this hole in the wall place that served local food. I thought I’d go for my second meal – go big or go home! This place seemed a lot more local. They served fried egg sticks, green onion omelets, and all sorts of things I could not wrap my head around about what it could be. I ordered some random dish that was accompanied by a cup of warm soy milk. Nice! Next up was Taipei 101, one of the largest towers ever built (I sadly ended up not going in due to bad weather). On my way there I passed the National Dr. Sun Yet-sen Memorial Hall. The good man was the finding father of the Republic of China. The statue is reminiscent of the Lincoln memorial in Washington DC. The temple-like building further featured a photo gallery showing the daily life of Taiwanese in the past century. I found it impressive to see how fast the country had transferred from a rural swampland to a modern economy following the Japanese occupation. Having walked around for a good 6 hours after a tortuous flight, I was feeling a significant dip in energy. I soldiered on and took the metro to the Lungshan Temple. It was interesting to see how these temples (there seemed to be tons of them) popped up in the middle of busy streets. While downing a well deserved bubble tea (if I say so myself) I headed back to the airport, en route to my next red eye adventure.
Two flights, one airport workout, and 3 airplane dinners later I found myself at Auckland airport. Clearing customs was a mere formality. I’ve had more trouble ordering a meal at McDonalds than getting through customs in NZ. If only clearing US customs was this easy (yes, still a tat bitter haha). A 45-minute bus ride took me to my hostel where I’d be spending the night before heading out to meet my old-time friend / former babysitter in Opoutere. After traveling the world herself, she settled in Auckland. I had contacted her and she invited me over to spend some time with her family at the coast. Sweet! To call this place paradise would be an understatement. Their house is located on a bay adjacent to the beach, with a backdrop on the mountains. Every morning I wake up in this adorable cabin I feel like I’m still dreaming. I spend my days canoeing, biking, reading, writing, and playing with my friend’s 2-year old kid, whose trust I slowly seem to win with every candy I secretly pass to him.
This coming week I’ll spend some more time biking and hiking. My plan is to head out to the South Island for a few weeks before returning to Auckland for some time. I’m looking forward to exploring a bit further, but mostly to having a home base for some time. It would be good to spend an extended period of time in one place and create a little group of friends; something that is hard to do when constantly moving around. Anyway, I have to get back to getting sunburned. Later gator!
View on summer house in Opoutere, NZ.
Wharekawa Harbour at 5:45AM
One day in Taipei
Food for the hungry soul
Documentary: Jiro Dreams of Sushi.
This is one of my favorite documentaries of all times! It depicts the story of Jiro, a Japanese Sushi chef who has perfected the art of making sushi. His restaurant, in a Tokyo metro station, sets the stage for his apprentices to learn how to make 3-Michelin-star sushi. Only after 10 years are they allowed to make rice! The documentary is a dive into Japanese perfection with lots of great scenes that provide a glimpse into Japanese culture.
A word of wisdom
“An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind”
– Mahatma Gandhi
Dash for cash
We have all been there: you get up to pay for your groceries. You swipe your card and, in alarming fashion, the machine the machine tells you, “INSUFFICIENT FUNDS”. A surging feeling of shame bestows you. It’s the end of the month and you realize that those beers you ordered at the bar the day you received your salary seemed like a good idea at the time, but have come back to bite you. Now you’re in the precarious situation where you have to decide which groceries are essentials and which can go (flour, eggs, milk stay; overpriced chocolate-covered almonds go). I’m sure for some of you this seems all too familiar – for me it definitely does! I used to always keep some cash stashed in my piggy bank to buy milk, eggs, and flour to make pancakes at the end of the month; just in case.
One day, about a month after graduating from Business School (ironically), I found myself completely broke. I had spent all my money on a Euro trip, my piggy bank had been collecting dust for some time, and my job only started a few weeks later. What do to? I had heard about this thing called ‘dumpster diving’. Divers jump into dumpsters and fish out food that is still good, but doesn’t meet certain restaurant/store standards. As the balance of my bank account had tanked, my survival instinct surged. I went to the local farmer’s market in Amsterdam around closing time to try my luck. As I was walking around, I noticed a lot of vendors were throwing away food that still seemed good to me. I went up to one of them, pointed to a stack of pineapples, and asked if I could take it. Surprisingly, he was happy to give it to me. Apparently, he rather give the food to me than throw it away. An idea was born! I went down to the market every day to pick up this amazing food, totally free!
Desperation, once again, bred ingenuity. This new trick ended up being a lot more fun that anticipated! Every day, I would find more food than I could possible carry. My diet became a lot more diverse and healthy – mind you, fruits and veggies deteriorate quick in summer. I’d make healthy fruit shakes in the morning, salads in the afternoon, and veggie soup at night. And all this for a total cost of nothing!
In the succeeding months, I found it hard to continue this new trick due to the demands of my new corporate lifestyle. On Saturdays, however, I would head out to the market to see what I can find. I enjoyed the variety of food I picked up, I felt good about the fact that some of this food was ‘saved’, and unexpectedly there was even a social element to it. The above picture shows me and two Czech girls I randomly stumbled into with the result of the day’s harvest. You should try it for yourself sometime – get over the ‘shame’ and enjoy the free food. Happy saving!