Thursday, March 28, 2013

Just Around the Bend

Although our heads are still in the clouds, we’ve established some roots in Bend, OR. After my gracious mother welcomed us in for a couple weeks after our arrival back stateside, we landed an apartment and made our way to beautiful central Oregon. Bend is a town of about 80,000 people and an Olive Garden. Mostly I care about the Olive Garden. (Although, I hear Bozeman just got one! As soon as I left, naturally.) Unlike Bozeman where everything was either on 19th or 7th, I actually have to mapquest my errands to make sure I’m not bouncing back and forth across town, but I do love the options.
The surroundings also help alleviate the impact of a population this size. It honestly feels like we are camping. There are SO MANY trees!! Big, tall, mature trees. After being in lush NZ for so long, I am surprised that I adore the high desert shrubbery as much as I do. I have also never lived in such a volcanic area either, which makes for neat geological observations. For instance, the mountains are weird. It is hardly a range, so much as random snowy cones jutting out from the horizon. They look silly, but (for all you Colorado folks) they are in the west so directions finally make sense again!

                                      Our New Apartment
We’ve moved the few boxes of our stuff into a two-bedroom apartment on the west side of town. We’ve fallen in love with the hardwood floors and granite countertops. Almost too spacious for our lack of possessions, it is just the right size for us. Don’t get me wrong, although it’s wonderful, we still have to shove the fridge door shut and finagle the occasional derailed closet door. But for us right now, it’s perfect.

Boxes of new furniture! 

Chris' creative space 

My creative space

Our new bed! With the guest tree from the wedding. 

A little slice of NZ 

View from the kitchen- those are cutting boards on the wall. 

Our couch really isn't THAT tiny! 

Some space to work out

Our New Jobs
Yay! We’re employed! Obviously, this was one of our main concerns after both being unemployed for seven months. I landed a job at a preschool in a town just south of Bend. I will be a main teacher and work part time. It seems like a wonderful, fun environment and I cannot wait to become a part of it! Unfortunately, we have to wait until the state goes through all my paperwork before I can technically start. Within the next week or two I should be good to go!

Chris has gotten a job at Seventh Mountain Resort as a banquet server with the possibility of moving up to supervisor in the near future. Again with the paperwork, as soon as all his files go through, he will start subbing in Bend. Time not at work he spends focusing on developing his comics. He has a real knack for humor and drawing, so he’s decided to take cartooning seriously and see where it goes. I truly enjoy Ripe In Parody and I am proud to be a part of his creative endeavor.

I decided to be productive and make a craft every day until I start my job. Some are more elaborate than others.

Day 1- Question Notebook- when I have a question, I write it down in here. When I have a spare moment, I research the question and write down the answer.

Day 2: Love Notes- I made cute backgrounds and put them into frames. Chris and I write each other notes about specific things we love about each other. Sappy, I know. And yes, that’s my blood smeared across that one. I didn’t know that I cut myself on the glass and smeared my wounded finger across the paper as I glued it down. I decided I’d come too far to go back and it would serve as a sign of how much effort I put into it. 

Day 3/4:Idea Boxes- I turned some silly circular boxes from goodwill into fun boxes for date and dinner ideas. We’ll pick one every month and make it a point to do those things as a date. For April, we’re going on a specific walk and then to the Deschutes Brewery! (it must have sensed that we haven’t gotten paychecks yet) 

Day 5:  Shadow Box- Basically I put my wedding dress in a shadowbox and made it look pretty.

Day 6: I found this wine bottle out on a walk one day and naturally brought it home. (I have a constant house now; I can resume my crafty hoarding ways.) This day I took some string, put it in nail polish remover, wrapped it around a specific part of the bottle, lit it on fire, and then plunged it into cold water- poof- two pieces! I collected some succulents on our nightly walk and gave them a new home.

Sanding the sharp edges 

Day 7: I created a photo album of New Zealand on Snapfish because they gave me a coupon.  I also made crepes. J

In the next few days I plan to make a meal plan board, mozzarella, another piece of art, a temporary headboard and other things that strike my fancy.

What the Future Holds
As far as what will happen next, I’m not really sure. As of now, I will still try to get a job in the public school system for the coming school year.
We really want a dog (our apartment now doesn’t allow them though).
We’ll buy another car soon because both of our jobs are out of town in opposite directions. We’ve got our eye on a specific Prius, but who knows!
As long as it doesn’t conflict with work, we’ll be in MT for a wedding in mid May. I’m not sure when we’ll make it to CO, but I’m still hoping for this summer sometime!

We will miss everyone on Easter!

Sending our love from this side of the world (unless you are our NZ fans ;))

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Go Big then Go Home

Venturing off to a foreign land was certainly an interesting way to start a marriage, but we have grown immeasurably because of it. When we left, we had the idea to stay here and live for a while, possibly gaining residency. Since then, we’ve come to the realization that NZ really isn’t much different than The States in the aspects that are most important to us. As Jenny from Big Fish would put it, “If nothings gonna change then I’d just assume it not change in the way things haven’t been changing all this time.” We can find what we want in the U.S. while being closer to our families and not run the risk of being booted out of the country. We kept hearing people say they wished they had stayed and lived here, well we’ve gotten a taste of living abroad in NZ and although it is beautiful, it still falls victim to the ills which every country succumbs to. With this as the case, we set our sights on Oregon where we plan to forge our own version of a home.

What we’ve learned in NZ:
2.     The world is smaller than you think (yes, in a big philosophical way, but we’ve also seen multiple people with Colorado shirts on, one campsite owner whose son lives in CO, and the brother of the people we housesat for lived in Bozeman for a few years)
3.     What ‘essential’ means- surviving out of a suitcase & a car while stifling the urge to by because of want 
4.     The skills to integrate into a new culture
5.     Great teachers exist regardless of educational style

What we’ll miss:
1.     Morning tea time
2.     The ocean
3.     The beautiful people we’ve come to know
4.     Meat pies (not so much Chris, but man I’ve gotten use to egg, ham & cheese pies J)
5.     No tipping

What we’re looking forward to:
1.     Knowing where everything is in the grocery store (or at least be familiar with the logic behind it!)
2.     Target & Michael’s
3.     No more 15% GST on everything (Oregon doesn’t have sales tax at all!)
4.     Creating the things I’ve pinned (I’m about to burst with great ideas from Pinterest!)
5.     And of course, FAMILY!

We jet off Saturday evening at 7pm and arrive in CA at 10:30 Sat morning- creating the longest Saturday EVER. At the moment, we’re mostly anxious and just want to be on the plane with our luggage checked in! Soon enough!
The relationships we’ve created here are priceless and we will cherish them for the rest of our lives. Honestly, it is because of these fabulous people that our trip has unfolded so flawlessly. Congratulations, you’ve made the Christmas Card List.

People say, “Go big or go home!” Well, Chris and I have gone big and now we are happy to return home. You can have both.

My head is already in the clouds, so here are some pictures.
See you soon ‘Merica.

Maori start to the 6 hour hike 

Dinner & drinks with Lauren and Simon who we met on our hike 

Lunch with our German friends, Elisabeth & Melina, in Christchurch 

Hard to imagine the devastation 

A freshwater eel 

Jailhouse Hostel in Christchurch 

Monday, January 28, 2013

South Island Whirlwind

Well hello there! It’s been a while- we have been navigating the winding roads and cozy hostels of the south island, which does not provide much opportunity for Internet access! As I sit amongst the most glorious home garden listening to the squawk of the pukekos, I can’t say that I’ve really missed constant access to the World Wide Web…. But I figure that if I don’t provide an update now, I will never get around to it!

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of rain & shine, smiles & tears, excitement & relaxation, and everything in-between.  Because you have a life, I’ll just provide you with some highlights along the way. I hardly know where to begin...

close to The Beginning

Day 4- It started to rain… and it didn’t stop; subsequently, we we’re unable to hike into our campsite on the Able Tasman Great Walk. Bummer, right? But it turns out that our judgment was spot on because that same day a flooded river washed two campervans away just northeast of our trek (everyone was fine… surprisingly relaxed even as they described waking up partially submerged). Our journey could only go up from here!!

Day 7- We came upon Fox Village, the most beautiful place in the whole country. Surrounded by lush rainforest ascending into snow-capped peaks and blue glaciers, this area surpasses any other location we’ve been.

We enjoyed a unique perspective of the village and surrounding area when we jumped out of a plane 12,000 feet above it on Day 8. After a restless sleep (afraid we would miss the alarm), we fumbled around in a nervous, sleep-deprived stupor to get ourselves in order. Everything happened so quickly once we arrived- no time to feel worried! Following a quick debrief and some GoPro photos, we boarded the tiny red & yellow plane.
 As we gained altitude, we each got a personal tour of the Tasman Sea, rainforest, glacial valleys, and the Southern Alps below. Consistent with the rest of the morning, there was no mucking about once we reached 12,000 ft; Francois threw open the door and he and Chris scooted toward the gusty threshold.
Chris about to jump! 
Then POOF, they were gone and it was my turn. Mere words are cruelly inadequate to illustrate what happened, but we were too cheap to buy the DVD package! As we sat at the edge of the plane, all I could do was smile. Tilting, tilting, whoosh! We were just falling- but it hardly felt that way because there was no point of reference. Forty-five seconds felt like an eternity as we gracefully careened toward Earth. I thought the view from the plane was gorgeous, but the scene exhibited a profound new grace when unobstructed by man’s mechanical fowl. Our descent gently eased as the parachute billowed out behind us. Fluidly, we glided through the atmosphere. After minor acrobatics, a turn for me at the reigns, and wistful updrafts (that I wished would keep us up forever), we aimed for the tiny red arrow in the landing area. 
Kim & Paul

Chris & Francois 
Reunited on the green grass, Chris and I reveled in our leaps of faith- drunk on altitude.
Then it was all over and life as we knew it was the same. You expect an event like this to change your life in some way. It was incredible and we will never forget it, but there will never be anything quite like being in that moment. This is certainly not our last skydiving endeavor.

Day 10- Driving into the Queenstown-area valley was something out of a dream. Billowing hills folded endlessly in and out of one another. A curious river wound its way among the nooks of the valley floor. A lazy blue sky sheltered the lush greenery below. The shadows of playful clouds danced amongst the deep slopes of the knolls. Along with every other car on the highway, we skidded to a swerving halt at the scenic lookout precariously perched on the side of a cliff.

If we decide to live in NZ someday more permanently (and have heaps and heaps of money) we will move to Queenstown. It has such a wonderful vibe.

Day 11- We decided that we needed a few more “extreme” ventures on our itinerary and we knew that this was the town to do it in. Our day began with a white water rafting trip. To get to the starting point we had to drive (the bus full of people with a trailer of rafts attached) over the most dangerous road in the country, Skipper’s Canyon. Once we reached the water, it was smooth sailing with Class 3 to 5 rapids. The water was absolutely frigid, but our wetsuits were 5mm- we went for a swim when we got the opportunity. Our guide took a swim too… involuntarily on the last, most violent, rapid. He was fine and the photographer got a great shot of his leg peaking out above the crashing waves.
There is a better picture where Chris is epically charging into the rapid, but I don't have it yet. 
            Next on the thrilling agenda was the Nevis Swing, the world’s largest swing. For some strange reason, this procured far more anxiety than skydiving and it was not nearly as fun. Freefalling 30 some meters into a canyon was very exciting, but it is something we are fine doing only once.

That tiny spec is us falling... 

Now we are onto Day 19. The past week we have been WWOOFers at Halfmoon Cottage. Beyond relaxing, we spend the first few hours of the day (starting at 9am) working on the expansive and enamoring garden and then doing daily housework for the 5-room hostel. Around 11am, we’re summoned for morning tea and then the day is ours. This is the life.  
Our own little cottage

We had a “day off” a couple of days ago and we took the kayak into the bay. Paddling along, we made friends with some dolphins!! After following one for some time, he got too far ahead and we began to mull about in a stony outlet. Only a few minutes later, our little friend popped back up and played with our kayak for another half an hour. I can't seem to get the video on here, but you should check out our epic encounter on Facebook.

We have a few more days making our way back up to the North Island where we will head to Auckland, sell our car, and venture back into The States. I still need to pet a sheep- as it turns out, they are pretty skittish.

Sending heaps of love!