super generic girl

the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


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cupcake mania

 

In the beginning of this month, I decided to start referring to it as Awegust rather than August. Because this has to be the most awesome month of the year. These photos are some of the evidence. Lots of homemade sugary treats, birthdays, a half-marathon (and plans for another one)… and to make it all even more awesome, running the risk of completely blowing up the awesomeness scale, I’m writing this post from Portugal, where I arrived yesterday for a much overdue catch up with family, friends…and summer!

So yeah, July and all the months before that, sorry but Awegust is kicking your butts. September, whatcha gonna do about it?

 

 


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A mini-guide to Rotorua

The champagne pool

Rotorua is mostly known for its boiling mud and sulphur smell (to which, by the way, you get used to quite quickly). A short 2 1/2 hour drive away from Auckland, it is the number one day trip to do if you are a tourist in New Zealand and don’t have much time to see anything else on the North Island (either because you’re headed straight to the South Island, like many do, or because you don’t have that much time in the country at all). Also known as the geothermal capital of New Zealand, Rotorua has the advantage of being jam-packed with things to see and do. There are buses running from Auckland to Rotorua or you can also choose to fly there from Auckland.

Lady Knox Geyser

A visit to Wai-o-Tapu is well worth the time and money. You’ll get geothermal activity in all its glory, with boiling mud, amazing coloured lakes and a series of hot pools like the world-famous Champagne pool (top photo). It is also where you’ll be able to watch the Lady Knox Geyser erupt daily. Staff at Wai-o-Tapu creates the eruption by dropping some sort of soap into the geyser but that is just to assure that it erupts when they want. Otherwise, it erupts on its own anyway, it’s just harder to create a touristic show around it.

One of the lakes at Wai-o-Tapu

Te Puia is one of the several places in Rotorua where you can go for a “Maori cultural experience”. You’ll be taken into a traditional Maori Marae (meeting house) and will attend a traditional Maori ceremony. Te Puia has, however, many more attractions. It’s got its own geysers as well, which was an added bonus since we visited just a couple of hours after getting all “geysered out” at Wai-o-Tapu.

Maori performance at Te Puia

It’s also got a reconstitution of a traditional Maori village and a carving school full of amazing traditional carvings made by the apprentices. But the coolest thing about Te Puia was, without a doubt, the kiwi house. It was such a surprise because we didn’t realise it was part of it all so it was extra exciting to finally see a kiwi (even if it wasn’t in the wild, where they are oh so very rare to spot!).

Maori village at Te Puia

Once you’re done with boiling mud and geysers, you should try Zorbing. I know, I know… why would you want to roll down a big hill inside a giant inflatable ball? Well, why wouldn’t you? It’s awesome! I suggest you pack your swimwear and choose the zorb ball with water for extra fun (if you choose the one without water, you will be tied inside the zorb rather than just roll around inside it). It’s a short activity – probably won’t last you more than 45 minutes from signing the document saying it’s your fault if you die inside the zorb to rolling down the hill and putting your clothes back on and heading out. It’s worth it, though! There are now apparently a few other places in the world where you can zorb but this is the original one and Rotorua is where it was invented.

Zorbing

And if the zorbing is a little too much adventure for your taste or you feel like you need a rest, the Polynesian Spa is the place to go next. It’s not terribly expensive and you can even enjoy some really pretty views while you’re soaking in the hot pools. It’s apparently ranked in the top 10 spas in the world, accoridng to Conde Nast Traveler.

A view from the hot pools at the Polynesian Spa

Once you’re done with all these activities, do go for a wander around town because there is a lot of pretty stuff to see without having to be charged an entrance fee – and yes, that includes free boiling mud as well, of course.

Rotorua Museum

For more information on the four attractions mentioned, visit the following links:

Park in Rotorua


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Getting my kiwi education – Billy T James

Last night, in another chapter of my education on all things kiwi, I headed along to a special screening of Billy T – Te Movie (nope, not a typo), a documentary about the life of Maori entertainer Billy T James.

Despite having died a whole two decades ago, his name has popped up countless times over my three and a bit years in New Zealand – so I knew he was a kind of a big deal. But didn’t know much more than that.

I knew this movie was going to be important when the email about the screening first arrived and C. immediately told me we had to get tickets for it. When we arrived at the cinema last night, there were men in shorts, gumboots, fake moustaches and yellow towels around their necks (just like Billy T’s iconic image).

I’m sure I missed a few of the jokes because of the fact I did not live in New Zealand at the time – at one stage he walked in a certain way towards the camera while saying something about bags and everyone cracked up laughing. C. later explained to me that he was mocking an ad for bags that was on TV at the time.

The impression I got was that he is mostly famous for his comedy, for being able to make fun of society like no one else was ever allowed to (he was, for example, a Maori making fun of Maori people).

For any foreigner trying to learn about New Zealand culture, Billy T is as important as anything else, really. I’m lucky in the sense that I’m pretty sure I’m more familiar with NZ culture and history than the average person that has been here for as long as I am. That’s because I have a proud kiwi as a boyfriend and proud kiwis as friends and they have long ago referred me to things like Footrot Flats (and, through it, the entire lyrics to Slice of Heaven), Fred DaggSmash PalacePoi e (before it exploded again when the movie Boy came out a couple of years ago) or taught me that the only correct thing to say when someone says “not many” is “if any!“.

So, last night, when Billy T was on screen saying that he was “half Scottish and half Maori”, I knew that what he was going to say next was that it was a problem because half of him wanted to get pissed and the other half didn’t want to pay for it. And I also knew everyone would laugh and no one would really take offense. And that’s pretty cool, New Zealand.

As for the documentary itself, it was pretty well done, I thought. It focused on Billy T James, the entertainer, more than on William James Te Wehi Taitoko, the man outside the stage, but it showed enough of both to suggest that Billy/William didn’t really know how to live with each other inside that one body… which is probably why his life ended up being quite short.

I can’t seem to be able to embed the video but you can watch the trailer for Billy T: Te Movie here. The NZ On Screen website has, in fact, a long list of Billy T James material if you feel like being entertained.


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Notes on running my first half marathon

I used to be one of those people that say stuff like “running? Only if it’s to catch the bus” and stuff like that. I remember the PE classes in high school and how, once every three months, the teacher would ask us all to run a mile (if I’m not mistaken, that used to be 12 laps of the soccer field in our school) so he could track how fast we could go (and by fast, I mean slow in my case, of course). Once every three months, when that week came along and I knew I was going to have to run that mile, I’d try and come up with excuses why I couldn’t attend that class. I’d go all whiny kid on the teacher and say stuff like “but my throat is sore” or “my stomach hurts” to try and get him to let me off but he never did. I hated every second of it.

That has changed. Yesterday, me and my running partner finally reached the goal we had been working towards in the past few months, as we cross the finish line at the Taupo Half Marathon. No matter what, I’m not the whiny girl trying to get out of having to run a mile for PE class anymore.

I know there are lots and lots of people in the world who can do it. There also lots of people who run full marathons and even some who enjoy running ultra marathons. Still, I’m pretty stoked about our achievement, as it proved to me that you can really accomplish the stuff you want to achieve, if you just bother to get your bum off the couch. Last year, I couldn’t run more than two or three kilometres without struggling with my breathing and just walking home instead. A year on, I’m seriously considering aiming for a full marathon.

Anyway, this particular half marathon was pretty hard work, by anyone’s standards. No matter how much you enjoy running or how good you are at it, no one can convince me they enjoy running with strong ice cold winds, rain and even hail hitting them in the face like rocks. We picked the Taupo Half Marathon as our goal because we thought it would be more scenic than the Auckland one (which happens in October) and, plus, it would be a good excuse for a roadtrip to one of my favourite parts of the country. With a couple of months to worry about it, I signed up without putting much thought into the fact that I was signing up for a half marathon in one of the coldest areas of the island (it’s where we go skiing, for goodness’ sake!) and in the coldest month of the year. Bad move.

There are some key lessons I take from this whole craziness. I guess the main one is that you can run a half marathon even if you have had lung problems or if you were a wimpy kind who thought running was for losers who couldn’t play proper sports (I grew out of that, don’t hit me). You can also run a half marathon if, only a few months before, you thought running 5km was a pretty long run (and this is why I’m not so scared of the idea of running a full marathon anymore).

One of the best decisions I made throughout the whole training process was head to the Shoe Clinic and get myself a pair of proper running shoes. I’d gone to my doctor before that about a persistent pain in my right knee after each run and he explained that the only thing that would fix it would be a pair of shoes that was adequate to my feet. The guys at the Shoe Clinic did a great job of explaining everything and showed me how I put my feet down on the ground when I run and why I need a certain type of running shoe. As soon as I put my new running shoes on, I knew we’d be great friends (even if spending that much money in one pair of shoes totally goes against my religion).

The worst decision I made throughout the whole process was to pick a training schedule and forgetting about it about, hmm, two hours later. My training ended up being frequent but very irregular. I used all the excuses I could think of and only really got into training seriously about three to four weeks before race day.

I’ve also realised that the runners who told me running was as much about mental strength as it was about physical exercise were spot on. It is as much about keeping your body going as it is about getting your brain to agree to let it keep going. I spent the entire length of the half marathon in a sort of internal monologue arguing with my weaker side that wanted me to slow down, walk, take breaks and even give up.

Having a good playlist really helped too. I spent a good few hours putting that playlist together and even tested it in some runs prior to the half marathon. Having the right songs for the different stages of the run was a huge help (call me lame but you try slowing down when Florence is yelling at your ears to “run fast for your father, run fast for you mother…”).

What helped the most, though, was having my own private support crew there. C. and his parents were near the 4km mark ready to grab my jacket off me and hand me some jelly beans and I then ran past them again at the 17km mark where they had water and Powerade in hand. We had previously arranged for me to meet up with them later in a car park nearby, because we thought it would be way too busy for them to be able to park and wait for me at the finish line. About 15 or 16km into the run, though, I realised having them at the finish line would be a way of ensuring my weaker side wouldn’t win that internal monologue. So I ran past them at 17km and asked them to be there at the end, not realising they had already decided to do so anyway. I can’t tell you how much it helped me, being able to break the run down by the stages when I’d be seeing them.

The final lesson is that this half marathon wasn’t really the end goal or the point of all this training. Not even 24 hours later, me and S. were already searching for what other running events we could do next. So far, we’ve decided to sign up for an off-road run in September (15km) and another half-marathon in November (this time in usually sunny Kerikeri). I doubt the weather will ever be *that* crappy and now we can finally say “21.1km? Been there, done that!”. Virtual high five, S.!

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