Monday, January 27, 2003

start, week 2
things are getting better here. maybe the weekend apart has been good for all of us as i have been more confident and people have been more friendly. and today i got to "facilitate" a few activities and i think it showed people i know what i'm doing, even if i'm quiet. so that was good.

can you just believe i said i was being quiet? i compare myself now to how i have been behaving in the last year and a half and i am surprised that there is quietness in me.

there's this creek/stream that runs right next to the ropes course. we're kind of in this valley and you actually have to cross the stream in the car/van to get to the ropes course. first of all, every tiem the van bottoms out (it's often full with 12 people and gear) someone inevitably talks about fatties in the back. i was flabbergasted the first time someone said that, because the first day you meet someone, you can't go making fat jokes at home. but then obesity is a bigger issue in the states, but it's becoming a bigger problem here as well. second, we can drink out of the creek/stream. it's pretty amazing. on hot days, as we ford the stream back to the road, we'll stop the car in the middle and just lean out the door and fill up water bottles. and there's no issue with ghiardia or pollution or mercury. it's great. it's amazing.


Thursday, January 23, 2003

update, week 1
it's friday, and i've just finished my first week. today was a big day for me as i both climbed up the double dangling duo element, which was pretty freaky but accomplished with much help from the three other people who were climbing with me. i also climbed up a few posts with claws -- these carabiners connected to some webbing that let you climb on your own without a belayer. these were big steps for me to overcome my fear of heights and my accustomed-ness to the belay line and my insecurities that other people won't be able to hold me or support me. anyhow.

it was also a big day because my instructor gave me some very encouraging words that helped a lot as this week has been a bit tough in trying to fit into a group of native kiwis. the group dynamics are really interesting, and i have a hard time, and they're all very aggressive in wanting to be leaders, and when i'm in a situation like that, i clam up and take a back seat. but my instructor was able to see through that, and understand the difficulty in fitting into the group dynamics, and see my potential as a leader/facilitator. well, it also helps that i'm 25 and have nearly a decade of experience working with kids and leading, but whatever. as he put it, i'm paying good money and i should get the most out of the course as i can. umm, given the amount of time i've spent dangling in trees, i'm doing pretty well. the mere thought of heights makes my knees tickly.

in other news, i've met a very nice girl at the hostel. her name is elizabeth and she's canadian, 19 years old, and very energetic and outgoing. we were thinking of getting an apartment together but have decided to get a double room at the hostel for privacy and just some of our OWN space. this way, we can still take advantage of the social setting of the hostel (there's a rugby team coming in tomorrow!) and not have to buy dishes and stuff if we get our own place. we are also thinking of buying a car (there's one that someone in the hostel is selling for NZ$1500 that i plan on driving into the ground before i leave and then donating to on of my classmates who's already asked for it). we are going to travel on weekends and just live it up. elizabeth will probably be leaving in a month or two, but we'll have a pretty great time until then.

we went to see a flat last night, and this really nice guy (robin or robert?) came to pick us up and show us the place. before that, though, he took us to check out the village for the around alone yacht race. ignorant me didn't know that it started in nyc, but who the fuck, besides rich people, keep up with the yachting/sailing scene, for crying out loud?! he knew some maori people who had a very large canoe type thing (like the type used by the first maori settlers to arrive here from polynesia) that is on display. it was just really cool in ways that i can't describe right now because i'm overwhelmed by fatigue and hunger. but this guy, (robin or robert?) was so friendly it was a bit sketch. he kind of compelled us to not leave the hostel, in all honesty. do we really need to know how he got his four kids by accidentally getting someone pregnant, at the first meeting? sheesh.

met some nice blokes from manchester (england) last night. stayed up until 2am (kind of regretted that but it was a short day today) and had my first alcoholic beverage in this country. and since some english blokes gave it to me, needless to say, it was quite warm. i think it would have been better cold.

that's all for now. have been here a while, and the rain has let up, so i'm going to go and take care of this fatigue/hunger situation.

love you guys.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

postal-love me!
I HAVE AN ADDRESS!! ok, it's not an apartment, but now you can love me in that postal way.

My Name (First and Last, real not camp names)
c/o Counter Mail
Books & More
17 Grey Street
New Zealand


and by the way, today went a lot better. between putting on more sunscreen, drinking more water, and just getting along better with folks, i feel good. so yesterday's post will hopefully be the aberrant one. i even got to climb on top of a very tall post and jump for a trapeze. learn by experience. challenge by choice. ain't no way i'm gonna help others do this shit if i don't do it myself. oh and there's the fact that i can't get certified unless i pass one element that's probably worse than standing on top of a very small, wobbly post and jumping for a trapeze. something to do with a rescue, scissors, knots and rapelling yourself and another person, who is connected to you, down from a height at the same time. hmm....

Monday, January 20, 2003

today was my first day of class. after some yapping in the classroom, we headed out into this lush valley where there was a pretty amazing high ropes course set up. man, i haven't been on one of those in ages. it was good fun getting back into it. a lot of the other people i'm in the course with have experience in ropes and outdoor stuff, which is great, but they got a bit impatient and aren't very good at taking direction. it's amazing to think that people like that are going to take other lives in their hands. eh, who am i to be judgmental? i think i'm just feeling a bit down; it seemed that every time i tried to make a suggestion, someone would look at me funny and then ignore me, though sometimes later someone would eventually use my advice. i think they just tuned me out like they do the telly. practically everything on the telly is from the states: er, the sopranos, indiana jones and the last crusade... i'm in sort of a bad mood and i think i have a headache from being outside all day, in the land of no ozone layer, with the glare from the sun. and i'm hungry. poo poo.

but on a happy note, i do want to say that i am enjoying this, and it's good to focus on the fact that i will be trained in all this outdoor stuff. apparently, in japan, they pay their whitewater rafting guides good money, and you can make even more money being an english tutor. who knows, maybe this will lead me to japan one day, or to even something more grand and less far from home.

Saturday, January 18, 2003

and i start class tomorrow at 9:30am. :-D

I've arrived at my temporary home in Tauranga, NZ. They've kindly given me a room with no one else in it right now, which is nice, because I have so much damn luggage and it has quite exploded all over the place. The weather is glorious, the scenery is grand (I can see the bay right through some bushes outside the window in my room), I've got groceries to my name, though i've forgotten how to cook, and i miss you. But maybe I'll go sit ouside for a little while and forget about winter and the northern hemisphere for a while. love yous.

Friday, January 17, 2003

sydney again
same city. same continent. same internet cafe. can you blame me? it's right next door to my hostel. which, by the way, is very large, like a hotel, and OLD people stay there.

and before i forget, i have a funny anecdote. while i was in newcastle and still acclimating myself to this culture, i crossed a street after the little red man stopped blinking. (the little red man being the antipodean counterpart to our red hand/don't walk signs.) as i was running across the street, a guy in a car yelled at me, "c'mon! it already turned red!" the new yorker in me chuckled. the bashful american has decided never to do that again.

the blue mountains are a united nations designated world heritage site, with good reason, too. it is one of the most amazing places i have been. you can stand at the echo point lookout and as far as the eye can see, it's untouched valleys and mountains. it was freaking amazing. i went for a little "walk" through the woods, which included 900 steps down the great staircase. now, i don't know if you've ever climbed or descended 900 steps, but even going down my knees got all wobbly. i was a little unsurefooted for a while afterwards. i then hiked a good three hours or so around the valley, through forests, rainforest, and more typical australian bush (i.e. hot and dry). i had a great time just traipsing through the woods, greeting those around me. the best places were in the middle, far from the easy entries for tourists. that was where i came across more hard core and considerate walkers. i then got to the other side and climbed 1040 steps out. these were easier than climbing the 900 back out b/c they were less steep. but by the top i had run out of water and was talking to myself in a not very humorous fashion. thankfully, the top was also where tourists could watch cheesy big screen movies and ride gondolas and shit like that, so there was a shop where i could purchase a refill for my water bottle. my own oasis. i was pretty beat after the walk and enjoyed the two hour train ride back to sydney, where i had a deserved shower. i think the people around me were grateful too.

that was today. yesterday, i got into town at about 11:30 am and went straightaway into the Katoomba Adventures store, which is right across from the train station. i booked myself on a canyoning tour and had 45 minutes to check into my room at the guesthouse (needed a little personal space instead of the dorm accomodations at the hostel) and get something to eat so i didn't get all sick and hypoglycemic or something on the trip. at 12:15, back at Katoomba Adventures, I got fitted with a wetsuit, a drypack, a backpack, and some shoes. and off we went to pick up four people who did the abseiling (rapelling) morning trip, and then into the canyon. we started off, very auspiciously, with a cliff jump. you could jump anywhere from 5, 12 to 40 feet. i didn't make it any past the 12, which was plenty good for me, little miss petrified of heights. i like my adventures on the ground (except for skydiving...) anyhow, then we went into the canyon.

canyoning is, essentially, hiking through a canyon. canyons are typically carved by water, so there's some swimming, climbing, hiking, wading and sliding involved. we did a little of all of it, through this really cool canyon, which was pretty tight in some parts, like you see out west. but with water. which, by the way, was very cold. if you told me there was a glacier feeding that canyon, i'd believe you. it was freezing and my hands, which were the most unprotected part of my body that was submerged, hurt from the cold. but it was an amazing trek. aah, adventure.

in the morning i'm off to new zealand to really start the adventure. i'm looking forward to using my body, and to be judged on my physical abilities, instead of what my little monkey brain can manage to pound out on a computer keyboard. i love to write and i love writing, but this is a nice change of pace.

speaking of change of pace, i went down to cockle bay and darling harbour, some of the more touristy and famous areas of sydney, and there was a bacardi festival going on. it was crowded down there, full of hoochie mamas in their little halter tops, their midriffs showing, their blonde hairs perfectly in place. the guys, of course, were enjoying the scenery, hootin and hollerin. people bumped into me left and right, nary an excuse me. and i realized i needed to get the hell out of there because that was exactly what i wanted to leave behind in new york city. hell, that was what i wanted to leave behind in freaking baltimore. that area was much more enjoyable in may. yes, the wind had a bit more bite to it then, but it was way less crowded. and besides, i've been to the ORIGINAL bacardi factory in puerto rico and ain't nothing in sydney going to do that justice. ;)

love yous. next time, i'll be in new zealand, land of the long white cloud and 8 times more sheep than people. yee haw!

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

i've done the sydney thing. it's a glorious, beautiful city, but i've seen the sights and at this hour there isn't much left to do except drink and email. i'll eat by myself, i've even started going to the movies by my lonesome, but i've yet to go to a bar by myself. don't think i'll start tonight.

so an update.

i left newcastle and hopped the train to coffs harbour. seven hours later...out i came, with my backpack that seems to gain weight as the days progress. i hitched a ride with some other backpackers to our hostel, the hoey moey. every time i tell someone i'm staying there, they sort of grimace and say something that usually includes the word "dodgy". yeah, i understand why. it's a glorified bar; they have the beds to have people to drink at the bar. when i got there, it was a bit late (remember, seven hours on the train) so i had to go to the bar to get my key. i walked by this huge tv that was showing a football game (tampa bay v. san francisco) and i got confused for a minute. nearly forgot i was in oz, i did.

i managed to book myself onto the 4 wheel drive bush tour the next day, and it was quite nice. we went into some of the national parks that surround coffs, went on a short walk in a sub-tropical rainforest, and even went swimming in a waterfall. you'd think it was fed by a glacier it was so damn cold. i met some very nice, friendly people, and two americans, though they weren't necessarily the friendliest. damn couples, they can be so clingy and have blinders on when they travel. when i got back, i took a shower (yeay) and then went to the movies, BY MYSELF. some of you may know this to be a big accomplishment for me. i saw spy kids 2: island of last dreams, and gosh darn it i really enjoy those spy kids. i had dinner at hungry jacks, which is just burger king, without the burger, the king, and the new swirly logo.

today, i went for a bike ride in coffs. it was the sunniest day yet and i managed to get sunburned...whilst wearing a tshirt. i look like a farmer, as i lamented previously. went for a walk on muttonbird island, which is a sacred place to the coffs harbour aborigines, and is now a national park. muttonbirds, which migrate to the phillipines when their internal clocks tell them to, use the island as a nesting ground. so the park service put in a path so our big fat selves don't go tramping on their delicate nests.

i then flew qantasLink from coffs to sydney. in that one hour flight, the attendants managed to offer us food and drink no less than six times. even free wine and beer. they clearly have not felt the pinch of the deregulated airline industry and i figure in a few years, all those amenities will go. i mean, they even had special candies for landing -- minty to numb your jaw a bit and make depressurizing easier.

and here i am in sydney. i didn't have chinese after all, but had some tasty vietnamese food. ahh, herbs and spices, my palate welcomes you! the food here in australia, especially in the more rural areas where people refer to african americans as "negroes" (no joke), can be a wee bit bland. i have been asked by every person i've had an extended conversation with what my ethnicity is. the first person to ask where my "people" are from gets decked, though.

i guess that's it. i need to go to bed to rest my weary, sunburned, jet-lagged, old-aged head. love you.

i'm in sydney! the YHA is right across the street from the central train station. it's a really happening place, quite like a hotel but more like a dorm. :) i really want chinese food, and i'm right near chinatown, so i think i will go get some as soon as my laundry is done. i had one glass of wine from when i sat in on a presentation on traveling in new zealand, and i am kind of drunk. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?! tomorrow i'm off to the blue mountains. i have a terrible farmer's tan from when i went bicycling in coffs this morning. it was the hottest, sunniest day yet and i was wearing a t-shirt and no sunscreen. oops. more later. my stomach and laundry calleth. i love yous! i wish someone were here with me to share in these phenomenal experiences. you should all consider backpacking/hosteling. it's an interesting lifestyle.

Sunday, January 12, 2003

adventures in newcastle
from a letter
at 12:30 yesterday, my friend's friend drove up to the hostel and picked me up. after a brief tour of the town -- most of which I'd already seen -- and an extended lesson on the mysterious sport of cricket (australia beat england) we were off to Jarod's parents' house, which is on lake macquarie, the largest saltwater lake in australia. and what did we do on this fine lake? we went scurfing. or was it skurfing? not so sure how it's spelled because i was DOING it, but the concept is fairly simple: you hold on for dear life whilst being dragged behind a motorboat, riding either a surfboard or boogie board. i managed to ride the boogie board -- on my knees -- before insecurity settled in. i realized i was giving the guys quite a show with my bathing suit hanging down, and just being with guys, and outweighing any two of the three combined.

after the skurfing we played on a power plant. no, really. there are a couple of power plants around the lake and the one we played near uses the lake as a heating/cooling source. cool water from one side of the lake enters the plant and warms up and goes into the other. well, jared, who grew up on the lake, at some point in his youth discovered that you could jump into the warm water racing down this aquaduct type thing through a hole in the fence. it's about a 15-20 foot drop, then you careen down the aquaduct, avoid one boom in the water, quickly dive under another -- towards the right bank b/c on the left is some weird gadge/sieve thing that probably chops you into bits, and then you're dumped safely into the lake. out of the three tries, i managed one, not bad for an insecure girl afraid of heights.

after i was dropped off back at the hostel and i showered, i went across the street to treat myself to a nice dinner at the bogie hole cafe. salad. pasta. nice glass of shiraz. of course, i didn't finish, and when i asked for a box, the kind waitress said, "sorry love, we don't do that anymore. too many lawsuits." apparently, the cafe had a problem with its patrons bringing leftovers home and not heating them properly, getting sick, and suing the restaurant. the server tried to tell me it was a city law that's spreading, but one of the hostel workers said it's that cafe with the problem. nice. and i had seafood pasta. the last time i had food poisoning, it was from seafood, and i ended up in the hospital. but let's not forget the pot (that shit will kill you) i had too.

speaking of altered states, today was the first time i've consumed significant alcohol since new year's. and i was drunk by noon. i went on a wine tasting tour of the hunter valley region, the oldest winemaking region in australia. picked up at 9am, i had my first taste at 10:30. i was quite ready for food when we stopped for lunch at 1pm, but after ordering, we had MORE tasting, including some chili infused wine. the wine was very sweet and thick -- like a dessert wine -- and the chilis were very hot. Why, God, would you want all those tastes together? it was like sweet and sour pork gone bad. very bad.

tomorrow afternoon i take a 7 hour train ride further north to coffs harbour. the big banana, here i come.

love ya.

Friday, January 10, 2003

greetings from down under! aka the fighting jet lag post
here i am in umm, well, it's raining so it's not so sunny newcastle! i'm fighting jet lag and my roomies at this lovely hostel (nomad's backpackers by the beach) won't let me take a nap b/c that's never a good idea. they told me to go for a walk but as soon as i stepped outside, it started to POUR so i retreated to the basement and the familiar, comforting glow of a computer screen instead. i am supposed to be meeting a friend of a friend for drinks at 10pm (it's 8pm now; my body think's it's 4am), but i don't know if i'm going to make it. he will show me around tomorrow, and sunday i've signed myself up for a wine tasting tour. eat a big breakfast, i was told, b/c i'll be having red wine, too, and don't want to pass out by the second winery, as someone else has done in the past. (and remember new year's? aah, yes, the cheap vodka and empty stomach from essentially not eating all day = diana in the bathtub puking on herself. not her most stellar moment, my friends.)

anyhow, i feel a bit silly for feeling so anxious these last few weeks b/c as soon as i got outside in sydney, at the city central train station waiting for my connecting train to newcastle, i took a deep breath, felt the cool breeze and remembered why i wanted to come back so badly. it was just a feeling in the air. maybe it's only b/c it's different from home and exotic just KNOWING that i'm 12,000 miles away from NYC. i don't know. all i know is it felt good to be here. and the real fun hasn't even started yet!

i could write for hours and hours about all the hectic shit that happened before i left, but i won't b/c that sucked and it's all in the past and thousands of miles away. let's just say: my family never fails to stress me out and make my life a living hell, and i exaggerate not.

but in more relevant news, i am LOVING this backpackers/hosteling lifestyle. people are just so damn friendly and outgoing and interested in getting to know each other. this backpackers i'm staying at hosts a free pizza dinner every friday, which is today. (i don't know where thursday went. i lost it when i crossed the int'l date line and won't get it back until june.) i sat at a table, eating pizza hut, listening to three brits discuss british soap operas. and i looked outside and we were in australia. i found it...ironic? 12,000 miles from home and i was eating pizza hut.

but as good of a time as i'm having, i do wish you could be here with me. yes, i am a bad traveling companion b/c i inevitably get annoyed with you (i'm sorry for being such a bad person) but i wish you could enjoy ALL OF THIS. yes, i'm lucky, and yes, i was stupid for being so worried. that doesn't mean i don't miss you and that i don't love you. but i'm doing long as i don't run out of money. :)

love yous.

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

i've said goodbye to all my friends, basically. i will spend tomorrow (today, really) moving and with my family, because i have to and i should. i am sitting in my closet-like apartment still, surrounded by my life in boxes. i guess it's not my life, it's my stuff, and stuff is not really important in the end, though you wouldn't know it from how much of it i have. but life is relating to people, and experiences, and memories, and love and hate and emotion. anyway, my dsl connection goes off tomorrow. and the day after, i'm off on a plane to rejuvenate on australian beaches and perhaps get a head start on this surfing business. i may not post again until i'm there. but thanks to all of you for loving me and being my friend and reading this and being supportive as i have been all over the place emotionally. i don't think i've broken down into tears as suddenly and as randomly as i have this week. nuts. see you soon. as i was told today, it's only five months. only.

Monday, January 06, 2003

a manifesto
from my journal
a friend told me to look at this experience as a sabbatical, and i think that is a good idea.

i am taking a break from american culture, from the fast life in new york city. from some friendships, from my family. from my baggage, from my screwups, from my career, from boys.

i will go and have fun, sleep plenty, rejuvenate my spirit and my faith in and relationship with God. i will learn more about this world, about New Zealand, about nature, scuba diving, sea kayaking, whitewater rafting and ropes. i will live simply for five months. i will communicate with my past solely through email and letters -- and an occasional phone call. i will start my novel or memoirs or screenplay or all of the above. i will find out who my real friends are. i will have regular bowel movements. i will exercise regularly and hopefully get to do taekwondo. i will keep abreast of current events. i will speak out against war in iraq. i will drive at least once. i will go camping. i will drink beer but will not puke on myself in the bathtub. i will make new friends. i will try to let go of anger and bitterness and be filled with compassion and love. i will be honest. i will communicate openly. i will renew my faith in the goodness of people. i will make new friends and great memories and i will make a decision on what i want to do with my life in september 2003. i will work on summer camp program and fulfill my obligations.

when i return i think i will try to live in one place for three years. i will enjoy mom's cooking. i will be more forgiving and understanding and less self-centered. i will be less frivolous. i will not be afraid of commitment and love and loss of control. i will not frown upon relationships, i will be open to God. i will trust in God and believe He has control and that the promise of good things is true.

and maybe, just maybe, i'll give this journalism thing a shot. and maybe i won't be afraid of freelancing. i will pray more. i will love my friends more. i will try to establish a community and go to church. i will act like a grown-up in life and responsibility but i will laugh as a child laughs -- quickly, easily, loudly. i will throw my head back and gawk at the tall buildings again. i will work at camp, be a good program director, leader, and friend. i will drive cross-country, visit friends, have fun, learn to surf, and drive back. i will dream, i will cry, i will scream. i will live.

and i will stop writing such cheesy shit.

Friday, January 03, 2003

good idea, bad idea
did you ever watch animaniacs, the cartoon?

this new zealand thing sounded like such a good idea at the time, in may, when i started looking into it. i wanted out of here. i loved my trip so much i HAD to go back. but the joy and excitement i experienced from that trip are faint intangible memories and the things that are in the forefront of my mind are how much i'm going to miss my friends, and how nervous, sad and scared i am. there's a big part of me that wants to back out because the feelings are too overwhelming but i know that i would wake up and really hate myself for backing out. fear, sadness and nerves have rarely made me back out of things and i more often than not manage to muddle through and have a great time. i know the same will happen here. i just need to get there.

Thursday, January 02, 2003

things i'm looking forward to, in no particular order
1.) summer
2.) being outdoors
3.) using my hands and my body, instead of my brain and my fingers, typing away at a keyboard
4.) the new friendships i will make
5.) the things i will learn
6.) plastic money
7.) reading for fun
8.) reading on the beach
9.) half flush toilets -- for lighter loads; they "just make sense"
10.) cheap internet cafes
11.) kiwi accents

hello, 2003
happy new year, friends! i hope this year is a happy, joyous one for all of you, full of love, adventure and great memories.

i feel like time is running out for me. so much to do, so many people to see, so much to pack, and only six more days. i am very emotional for so many different reasons, and i am very, very scared of being so far away, and i will miss all of you. please remember me. i'm fun, right? you want me back, right? you want work with me at camp, right? because that is my big commitment upon my return. :)

i have made my travel plans for the eight days i will be in australia. i arrive 10 jan and will head up the coast from sydney to newcastle, where a good friend of mine studied this past semester. she is going to arrange a meeting with some of her friends so i can party the weekend away with people of 2 degrees of separation. i suspect i will spend a lot of time sleeping off the jet lag and lounging on the beach. after a few days, i will then take a seven hour train ride to coffs harbour and play there for two days before flying back to sydney and playing there for a few days. i then fly to auckland on 18 january, and my course starts on 20 january.

want a postcard? send me your address!

hello, 2003
no dinner + drinking cheap vodka = lying in a bathtub puking on yourself

i thought this was the drunkest i have ever gotten, but then i remembered my friend's wedding. again, lying on the floor of a bathroom in a dress, but that time the dress cost $400 and was a vera wang, go blow it out your ass stupid designer label shit. it was an ugly scene and i was lucky.

the lowest point of the night for him: midnight, he and she were literally pressed up against me making out. my lowest point of the night: curled up in the bathtub crying my eyes out, calling him a fucking asshole. i lost control. alcohol is a depressant.

why does he try to apologize to my friends? it's me he needs to apologize to. it's me he needs to contend with. five months and i may look at him as a human being again. time is his only hope. time and the goodness of my heart. b/c even though i was calling him a fucking asshole and blubbering in the bathtub, i was told, that i kept saying over and over again that i'm going to be the good person in this situation. i want to be good and compassionate and forgiving. i also don't want him to have any reason to say that he was justified....although the sloppy drunk part is a little too late.

ahh, good times. my liver will one day regret this.

in other news, i'm really really freaking out about going to new zealand.