Archive for December, 2010

One for the road

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

It’s good to be back in the States, there are lots of things we don’t normally get to do. We bake Slovak Christmas eve bread hams…

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admire our nieces’ artistic talents…

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and we ride Seattle city buses to and from work in the cold dark drizzle of the Pacific Northwest winter. It’s hard to believe that 3 weeks ago we were riding Nadi city buses in the sticky fragrant heat of the Fijian summer.

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We got to Fiji the easy way.

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Since we had traded what would’ve been our Fiji time back in September for more time in Tonga’s Ha’apai Group, we were excited to get to pass through Fiji on the way home from New Zealand.   We had six hours between our connections so we made a beeline for the airport door as soon as the plane landed (and Customs gave the nod).

We maximized our short time by hopping on the first bus heading to town, with all our carry-ons in tow. The people we met were super friendly and fun.

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The most comfortable buses were air-conditioned with real air.

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Many Fijians approach life with an energetic mix of hospitality and an earnest salesmanship, especially with the consumer-based holidays just around the corner.

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We met some friendly characters who were just about to close up their souvenir shop for kava-time as we walked by.  Maikeli heard about our compressed schedule and invited us in for a complimentary and solemn kava ceremony to bid us welcome to Fiji and wish us safety on our continuing journey.

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The kava he made comes in a powder but he let us examine a bit of whole kava twig as he prepared the brew.

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The we learned the special sequence of clapping (slowly, three times) and Fijian salutations that go with each shell-full. Vinaka vakalevu.

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The kava itself is pretty tasteless and provided a mild numbing sensation in the lips. Good fun but we doubt it will catch on. It may have provided our hosts with the liquid courage to make good natured demands for personal subsidies and shameless 200% mark-ups on small token souvenirs. But Fijian good nature and hospitality is a sincere part of life in these islands.

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It is a very smiley place…

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… even in the face of 5 years of  bad luck and with some very real racial tension simmering just beneath the surface.

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As the time for our flight to LAX drew near, with our baggage a little heavier and bellies full of lamb curry we caught the last bus out of town back to the airport, excited by our rich and vibrant afternoon and a little stunned by all the Fijian dollars we lost to our clever and crafty hosts.

17°47.50′S 177°25.00′E 27-Dec-10 01:55 UTC

Moving to Madrona

Friday, December 10th, 2010

We like Auckland even thought it often looks like this:

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But there is such a thing as too much fun, for us anyway, so we’ll be spending most of the northern winter in Seattle’s beautiful Madrona neighborhood.  As for the boat, Bint al Khamseen got hauled, washed, propgreased and gelcoat patched in one day and will be waiting patiently til March for bottom paint and maybe a topside buffing to round out the well deserved spa treatment.

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In the meantime, snug in her cradle, she’ll enjoy the warming southern weather with her classy hardstand mate Lady Ava.

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36°52.70′S 174°54.10′E 08-DEC-10 02:55 UTC

The Lawn Bowlers of Waiheke

Saturday, December 4th, 2010

We’ve spent a lot of time anchored off the village of Oneroa on Waiheke Island. It’s an unusual place for New Zealand, the locals get so much tourist exposure that no one offers to lend you cars, take you on errands or chat through your life story. They are more like unusually friendly Seattleites.  But we like Waiheke because the bays have decent coverage from squirrely winds and it’s fun to walk the picturesque country lanes and see the semi-rural lifestyles of Auckland’s gentry. 

After a couple of days without making any new best friends we took some initiative and invited ourselves into the local lawn bowling club for a cup of coffee from their newly commissioned cappuccino machine. We took our well-crafted artisanal drinks out on the terrace and watched the ground balls gracefully roll.

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The nominal age at the club was probably near 70. Our mate in the stands had just passed her 80th, but was still hoping for a bloody war and a quick promotion to one of the active teams. We could tell there was some serious skill and tradition in play here.

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The game appears to be similar to Bocci from what we can tell. A small ball is chucked onto the green and consecutive teams try to bowl large black balls as close as possible to the little white one (we know, Aaron, we know).

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There’s an inspector who indicates the vagaries of each toss…

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and a great deal of inspection to determine just what has ended where.

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Sometimes it doesn’t always go your way.

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No one says much, it’s all been seen before.

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We like this combination of moving body physics, white clothes, ancient friends, gravitas and luncheons. If we had time, we’d be looking for a club sponsor.

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36°49.00′S 175°00.50′E 04-Dec-10 01:55 UTC

Candid Auckland

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Auckland is a very stylish city. It seems to be working hard to compensate for vast rural areas of the country where gummy boots and floppy hats are the typical accessories. In addition to the attractive residents, many of the style conscious are tourists and none can out-dress a wealthy Japanese couple on their honeymoon.

The Honeymooners

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The Maori Sisters

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The French Crocodile Dundee

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Hats!

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Tights!                                     Mr. Big and the Silver Slipper

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Ciggy Chics

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Lemon Tennies

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The Cougar

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More Ciggy Chics

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A Celebrity (no idea which one)

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A Guy With a Great Drum

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A Guy With a Great Body

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The Clothes Horse

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A Wise Beard

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The Male of the Species

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The Borg ‘do (with Nacho Libre belt)

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36°51.00′S 174°45.00′E 03-DEC-10 01:55 UTC