super generic girl

the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


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Being good on Good Friday

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Look, ma, no meat!

In May, five years will have passed since I moved to New Zealand. A whole half a decade of my life spent in the last bus stop in the world, almost 20,000km from home. It’s a whole lot of time to spend in a place that isn’t your own.

Except, it kind of is my own. I came across this article today, via a friend and fellow expat, that completely translated into words my feelings about living abroad.

It turns out I’m not the only one who’s come to the painful realisation that an expat will never fully feel whole again, no matter what happens. I miss Portugal dearly while I’m in New Zealand and I think fondly of all things Kiwi when I’m back in Portugal. I say “I’m going home” if I’m flying to Lisbon and I tell people in Lisbon about things I have “back home” in New Zealand. “Home” has come to define more than one place. It sounds like – and, for the most part is – a great situation to be in, to have two special places in your heart. But it doesn’t come without a decent amount of heartache.

I’ve grown more than five years in the last five years. Timezone differences mean my mum is asleep when most of my questions arise, when I burn my food, when I’m not sure which clothes I shouldn’t mix up with which in the washing machine, or when I can’t find an important document. If I get good or bad news that I want to share, I usually have to contain my enthusiasm for a few hours (we’re usually about 12 hours apart, depending on daylight savings). For the most part, I think I’ve been doing alright. Every few months, saudade hits harder but I’m fortunate enough to be able to solve that problem with the purchase of a flight home.

Moving this far meant that I had the chance to completely break away but, mostly due to having the most awesome family in the world, I’ve chosen not to.

Today, on my fifth Good Friday at home away from home, I purposefully didn’t eat meat. I have never eaten meat on any of the Good Fridays of my life. I have no real clue as to why, if I’m honest. My mum taught me we don’t eat meat on Good Friday and my grandma taught me the same and I’m pretty sure my great grandmother and great great grandmother didn’t eat meat on Good Friday either. Something something Jesus something, of course. I never really questioned it, especially because there were always plenty of chocolate eggs to make up for not being able to make a ham sandwich for 24 hours.

So if I don’t even really know why we had to do it, why do I choose to keep doing it, right? Well, it might have religious roots but it’s most definitely not a religious thing for me (if there is a God, he/she wouldn’t want to deprive me from steak). It’s a family thing. By continuing a family tradition, even if I’m away from family and surrounded by people who don’t do it, I’m closer to that other home I’m actually away from.

I couldn’t plan my Good Friday as well as I wanted to because the supermarket near home decided to close earlier than expected last night and I couldn’t buy the stuff I had planned for my meatless meals today. This little setback made me realise that, without proper planning, I’d be the world’s worst vegetarian. Aside from a fairly healthy-ish omelette (which did contain enough cheese to feed a small army), my day has been a sugarfest. Hot cross buns, pancakes, breakfast cereal and fruit smoothies.

Days that are heavy with traditions like this one are particularly hard for people who wish they could split into two or who wish science would stop mucking around and hurried up making teleportation a reality. No amount of Creme Eggs (which, thanks to the supermarket closing too early, I also did not have today) can make up for not being able to celebrate Easter back home.

I’ll just celebrate it here at home instead. And as soon as the shops open tomorrow, I’m queueing up for Easter eggs.

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The big 2012 highlights post everyone is writing too

 

I logged onto Facebook* yesterday morning (I swear it’s not the first thing I do when I wake up… not always, anyway) and it presented me with the option of viewing the highlights of my year, according to Zuckerberg’s fancy algorithms. My first realisation was that the year is, indeed, almost over. The second realisation is that this year was actually a pretty good one. Facebook got some stuff right – my cat’s birthday really is that big a deal – but it failed to mention others. So screw you, Facebook, how about  I decide what the highlights of MY year are?

Well, it turns out that, without fancy algorithms (or proper short-term memory), coming out with a “year in review” post is quite a bit of work. But it’s also a good way to get me to reflect on everything that has happened so bear with me here.

I ended 2011 with an early night in a bungalow on an island without electricity in Vanuatu. By the time New Zealand started letting off fireworks, I was asleep. In fact, I soundly slept my way into 2012, having spent the last evening of 2011 on top of a volcano spitting lava everywhere. That new year’s eve experience is so hard impossible to top that I haven’t even made any plans for this coming December 31. What’s the point? Ryan Gosling could kiss me at midnight and it would still pale in comparison to last year’s experience (sorry Ryan, I still love you).

I went ahead and spent the first day of 2012 with a kastom tribe on the island, making January 1 2012 the best January 1 in the history of January 1. A couple of days later, I flew back to New Zealand and, just a few days after that, it was off to Las Vegas, a trip where I got to see the opposite world of what I’d seen in Vanuatu. Also, my first time flying business class long-haul (full sized bed and unlimited alcohol on the plane? Yes, please).

February was a quieter month and was also the month I ran my first half marathon of the year, the Cathay Pacific Half Marathon, in Auckland. It was a great summer day and I was happy to be ticking off 1/4 of my half marathon goals for the year (little did I know I’d go beyond that goal in the end). March seems to have been a little less eventful on the running front (and I can’t remember what I was doing instead) but, by the end of the month, S. had convinced me to sign up for a 35k trail run in May. Shit was about to get real.

April was all about freaking out about May. It started with a bittersweet PR at the Whenuapai Half Marathon before a first (and non-official) off-road half marathon. I squeezed in a work trip to San Diego (where I got to run in both Balboa Park and along the city’s stunning waterfront) before returning to New Zealand and getting into full on trail running training mode. It was also in April that we decided we needed bigger motivation for this run and so we started fundraising for KidsCan. The response from people we know was amazing and we even got $20 beyond our goal, in spite of starting fundraising so late.

May came and, with it, the final stretch of the big training plan. And then it came – May 26, the big day. The anniversary of my move to New Zealand and the day of the biggest physical challenge I’d had to date, a 35k trail run with a heart-attack inducing elevation chart. It was every bit as amazing as I had hoped it would be. After that, I didn’t think the year could get much better. But of course it did.

The next month, we flew to Wellington to run the Wellington Half Marathon. It was the first time we flew on purpose for a race. The weather wasn’t fantastic and my body wasn’t exactly up for a long run that day but it was still a great experience. In August, it was time to finally head back to the trails and get some mud on our shoes. And our shorts. And our shirts. And our underwear. And everywhere else. It was great.

The really amazing month, the one I wait for every year, was September (I mean, rocktember). I got to finally fly home and see my family and friends again and, this time, the long way around, with the final leg of the trip being done by car (after two flights), via 13 countries in 6 days, in an epic European road trip I won’t forget any time soon.

In Lisbon, I entered my first urban trail race (and a night one, to make it even cooler) and loved every second of it. A week later, I ran the hardest and simultaneously most amazing half marathon of my life, along the waterfront of the city I was born and grew up in, with my family cheering me on. The finish line took a while to get to but the reward was grandma’s tomatada so life was pretty much as perfect as it gets right there and then. Back on this side of the world, later that same month, it was time to finally run the Auckland Half Marathon and cross the bridge in a bright green tutu. People were extra cheery thus scientifically proving that costumes are definitely the way to go.

Then November came and I didn’t think I’d be running any more half marathons this year. Turns out, I was wrong (I was shocked too). The ADRA half marathon in Auckland was a last minute decision but resulted in a PR and one of the easiest and most enjoyable half marathons I’ve ever run. I know the year isn’t over yet but I think I can safely say that I closed my half marathons cycle for the year, with a total of six official road half marathons run this year, two over my initial goal of running one every season.

It was also in November that S. and I decided it was time to bite the bullet and commit to bigger challenges. And so we registered for our first full marathon. Come next March, we’ll be seen running/walking/dragging our asses along the course of the Mountain the Surf Marathon in New Plymouth. It sounds maddening to me still but, then again, so did that 35k in May.

December has been a quieter month, with lots of training runs but less long events. We had an amazing time running from one coast of Auckland to the other and I chased my Christmas spirit in the rain in a santa suit.

There were a bunch of other awesome things that happened this year and I’ll probably write about them as soon as I find the time/patience/inspiration to do so on here (must. record. everything) but this is the recap of the stuff I managed to keep writing about as the year went by. Winning lottery has, apparently, been put on hold once again (your move, 2013) but, all in all, I’m happier and healthier than I was last year. Wasn’t that the whole point to begin with anyway?

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*Speaking of Facebook, I decided it was time to stop annoying the hell out of my non-running friends with my running-related posts so created a page for the blog on there. It’s actually a secret plot to unleash my running geekery onto the world guilt-free, since I noticed I had to stop myself from sharing running-related links there (remember?) because, apparently, not everyone in the world is as interested in them as I am (whaaaat?). Check it out if you want, like if you like.

P.s.: For a really cool and almost tear-inducing video about this year, check out Google’s Zeitgeist 2012.


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Lisbon Rock n Roll Half Marathon recap

Cropped out of the picture is the half eaten Magnum ice cream I was holding in that same hand. Because ice cream is just what you need after two Gu energy gels. Silly Vera.

Had it not been written in 1859, I’d say Dickens’ famous “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” quote from A Tale of Two Cities was about my half marathon in Lisbon a couple of weeks ago.

And now that we’re past the snobbiest introductory paragraph in the history of running recaps, we can move on to the reasons that made me say that and forget that I actually quoted 19th century British literature in a running post.

The Rock n Roll Half Marathon in Lisbon was my absolute favourite race ever. I very much doubt anything will be able to top that any time soon. It’s not your fault, races in the rest of the world. This one had lots going for it. For starters, I got to run for a bit along the longest bridge in Europe, a bridge which is about 10 minutes from where my family lives. I remember that bridge being built and slowly reshaping the landscape. No one is ever allowed to walk or cycle there and, yet, it was the start line for this run. I was more excited about that than the eHarmony girl is excited about cats. I want that bridge in a basket with a bow tie (weirdest sentence ever I’ve ever written? Probably.)

So on top of the coolest start line ever, and being a really well organized event, what else did this run have going for it? Well, I was home. My BFF was running it with me and it was his very first half marathon. My mum got to drop my off at the bus to the start line. My family was watching on the street as I ran past. I got to run along the streets of the world’s most beautiful city. I got to finish that run and walk to my grandma’s house and eat one of my favourite summer meals ever, because I had asked her to make it and she never says no (one of the criteria that got her the title of world’s best grandmother). Do I need to give you any more reasons? I didn’t think so.

It was also the worst of times, though. Lisbon, in all its end of September glory, is one stinking hot mess. This was my sixth half marathon ever and fourth this year (on road, excluding offroad ones) and it was my slowest one so far. It started off great, I avoided the much dreaded stitch pain and the adrenaline and excitement got me along and off the bridge in pretty high spirits. Seeing the family in the first 4km really helped but, from then on, it all started going downhill (and, unfortunately, only in a metaphorical non-topographical sense). My body started to over heat and there was not enough water that I could drink or pour down my head to help me cool down. The air was much drier than I’m used to, living in mighty humid Auckland, and I felt like, no matter how much I tried, no oxygen was getting to my lungs. This feeling lasted for about 16km which is a really long time to feel like you can’t breathe.

I had never thought about quitting a race as much as I thought about quitting during this one. The thought just wouldn’t leave my mind. My brain and I fought a very tough battle not to quit. I didn’t want my first DNF to be in my hometown, with my family waiting. But I couldn’t breathe and my entire body felt weak. I can’t say I enjoyed the run.  I never expected a personal best in this one, seeing I didn’t train for it, but I didn’t think it would go quite so bad. I felt out of breath and in pain pretty much the entire time. Nothing could distract me from it. My sole focus was on trying to not give up.

This lasted until I saw the 19km marker. From then on, I knew I could do it.  We re-entered the Parque das Nações area (damn you traditional Portuguese cobblestone streets destroying my feet) and, with more and more people cheering on the runners, it got slightly easier. Then, with barely 1km to go, right in front of Gare do Oriente, I spotted the family. Mum, being the giant bag of cuteness she is, even joined me for a couple of hundred meters, wearing sandals. When I crossed the finish line, they were all there. The pain was gone for a while. It came back around about the time dad informed me we had to walk about 15 minutes to my grandma’s house, where he had parked, and then climb the stairs to the fourth floor where she lives. That kinda hurt, dad. I’ll remember that.  But all good, I had my medal so my sweat and my wobbly penguin walk were sort of justified.


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Lisbon Urban Trail recap

I had never heard of the concept of urban trail until I came across the information about this event. As soon as I read about it, though, I was sold. Urban trail is a style of running that combines a couple of my favourite things in the world (running and tourism/sightseeing). The whole idea is to enter a running event in a historical or cultural significant area mixing running with sightseeing. Perfect, right? I thought so too.

The inaugural Urban Trail in Lisbon took place last month, while I was in Lisbon, proving that somewhere, somehow, the running gods decided to sit around a table and conspire in my favor over a few glasses of Powerade.

It was one of the best running events I’ve ever entered (and, as my credit card statement insists on reminding me, I’ve entered a few).  Lisbon is my absolute favourite city in the world so running through its historic parts, even with all those awful hills and hundreds of steps, was the best experience this little running nerd could ask for. When you have a run that passes through some of the most beautiful monuments in Europe and includes a medieval Moorish castle as your halfway point, you know it’s worth waking up with a sore body the next day.

I wasn’t exactly prepared for this run. I didn’t run at all for the three weeks prior to the event, aside from a couple of really short runs that same week. Plus, I sat in a car for six whole days the week before and the only exercise I got during that time involved bursting open packs of road trip food like biscuits and gummy bears. On top of that, about five days before this event, I caught a virus that ensured food wouldn’t spend too long in my stomach for the next couple of days and, as a result, on the night of the urban trail, I was one real unfit mess.

But I was excited. Adrenaline was really the only thing I had going for me that night and it ended up being all I needed. I didn’t run fast and I even had to walk a couple of those hills but, with my reflective yellow shirt and nerdy head torch, I really felt in my element. Having entire streets that I am so familiar with closed off for all of us runners that night, running alongside hundreds of other people in the city I was born in, and seeing entire crowds cheering for us along the way gave me the energy of 100 Gu shots. Portuguese runners, it turns out, are also an amazing bunch of people. At one point, I stopped my iPod and just enjoyed hearing the random conversations going on in the little running groups that kept forming and dissolving along the way. They were all hilarious and cute and witty and I wish I could run with that bunch of people every week.  Also, I ran across Rossio and it was all closed off and I could run wherever I wanted and OMFG LISBON IS BEAUTIFUL.

I took the GoPro strapped onto my wrist but, as predicted, the excitement made me completely forget about it during the run. Luckily, other people are far smarter than me and so there are some neat photos of the run out there. You can check them out here.

So yeah, you get the message. I loved it. I want more night races. More reflective shirts and head torches. More historic streets. Hell, I even want some more of those super steep hills, especially if there’s a medieval castle at the top with a panoramic view of the city where I was born and someone is up there waiting to hand me a muffin (true story).


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snapshots from the past month

The last month came and went in what felt like approximately 2.4 seconds. In the last 28 days, I packed a journey that passed through 14 countries and included hundreds of photos and endless hours of footage that will surely take months to sort through.

It also included a huge lot of sightseeing, too many hours on planes, an enormous amount of time inside a car, pretty mountains, old monuments, snow, beaches, coffees in multiple countries in a day, running on the longest bridge in Europe (well, part of it), entering my first ever night running event (and loving every second of it), visiting the world’s highest glacier palace, and some of the world’s smallest countries (Liechtenstein is so cute I wanted to put it in my pocket – and almost could!).

It included the bitter cold of winter, the crunchy leaves of autumn and the warmth of summer. It had long overdue hugs from family and friends. It included my favourite people, my favourite places, my favourite food.

What will follow, once jet lag finally abandons my body, is a whole lot of blog recaps of all the cool stuff that happened last month, running events included (spoiler alert, I ran the coolest half marathon ever and didn’t die). For now, bed time. Unpacking can wait.


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Portuguese food in Nelson

Ever since I visited the top of the Sydney Tower a few years ago and the first voice I heard was one of a lady telling her elderly mother “olha ali! olha ali!” as she pointed at the view, I’ve become more and more convinced that it is true what people say about Portuguese people being just about everywhere. When I approached Senhor Jorge last Saturday morning at his stall at the Nelson markets, it was only around 10AM and I was already his second Portuguese customer of that day.

I had no idea I’d go all the way down to Nelson (at the top of the South Island) to find some Portuguese deliciousness but that was exactly what I found. My stomach is not normally ready for something as heavy as beef and mustard in a bun quite so early in the day but the excitement of seeing and smelling the food got the better of me and a few minutes later, after having a bit of a chat with Senhor Jorge, as he prepared the food, I was digging into this.

Senhor Jorge’s Fernando’s business is not just a market stall and he sells his own homemade chouriços and other stuff online as well (I have a feeling I’ll be placing an order very, very soon). He let me have a slice of chouriço and asked me if it tasted like home. And it sure did. He also told me he’s working on some ideas for what other Portuguese traditional stuff he can start selling in New Zealand and there was a mention of pasteis de nata (real deal ones, not the fake portuguese custard tarts you find in other places) so I’m sure as hell going to keep checking his website for new stuff.


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lomo love ❤

It’s Friday evening and my brain has turned into mush. I haven’t made any sense in hours, keep misspelling words and getting confused about stuff I should know off by heart. It’s just been one of those days.

Instead of boring you with how lame today was or try to come up with something clever to say (and probably fail), I’ll just share some old photos. I came across these the other day and got thinking about how much fun it was to use up that roll of film with friends during a lomo competition. The photos even got me a first prize (who would have thought, eh?) and I scored a much loved Diana fisheye camera and – coolness of coolnesses – a fisheye submarine!

I brought the underwater case to New Zealand with me when I visited home last month. Now that I’ve sorta maybe kinda learnt how to swim, it’s time to head up to the islands and get this underwater thing where it’s meant to be. Roll on summer!