Sunday, May 26, 2013

New Zealand update


Right now I'm about 40 minutes west of Auckland in Waimauku, in the North island. Staying with a family in a little apartment a 5 minute walk away from their beautiful home. They live on a farm, take people in and feed them in exchange for help around their farm/home and helping them with their kids. They have two little boys and a little girl. Their English speaking abilities are impressive! Their Thai is lacking though. Got here on the 21st, staying for as long as they will have me. One of my friends put me in touch with them because she had nannied with their neighbors a few years ago. Their names are Tim and Kelly. Kelly is a chiropractor (just like my dad!) and Tim owns part of a helicopter manufacturing company and works on the farm. Spend the first few days at his shop, cleaning windows and things like that. They pay for my lunch and cook me amazing dinners at night. In my biased opinion, I am getting way more out of this deal than they are so far, hopefully I can change that. Enjoying it here, haven't spend loads of time on farms in my life so should learn a couple of things with my time here.

Got on job on Whakapapa ski hill, half way between Auckland and Wellington as a lift attendant/de-icer. Want to try the de-icer part, apparently they hoist you up close to the top of the lift, take a baseball bat and smash all of the excess ice off the chair lifts. Should keep me in shape and sounds like a hardcore way to spend your days. Off days will be spent getting better at snowboarding and ideally learning a few tricks in the half-pipe. Start work June 24th and found a place to stay. They cook you your breakfast and dinner and it is the main staff residence. Rent there is $820 a month, steep but not cooking your own food is something I've just grown very accustomed to. That's kind of what's happening so far. 
Next few post ideas will be about how much it costs to move to New Zealand and a list of New Zealand sayings that just go completely over my head and see if you can guess the definition. Hope everyone had a great long weekend, if you ever need to get a hold of me here my number is or e-mail me at bertbrandon@gmail.com. Shot my first shotgun today and they have a skeet shooting device here as well. Farm life, nothing wrong with it.


Thinking quotes for the next few weeks will be coming from things these little kids say. Taylor is the oldest, Jack's in the middle and Ella is the youngest.

Me: How do you use a 3D printer?
Taylor: We use a program called Google Sketch.
Me: What's that?
Taylor: You don't know what Google Sketch is?
Me: No
Taylor: Do you know what Google is?






Saturday, May 18, 2013

Queenstown casino!












Gambling is just great. I am overly aware of the odds being stacked against us. It is just plain fun. Get a little dressed up, find a happening craps or roulette table. Someone starts getting hot and everyone cheers them on. The sounds, the lights, the chips, I just love it. As it happens, there are TWO casinos in tiny little Queenstown, New Zealand. On my second last night in the city, I thought it is now or never. I haven't been to a casino in just about a year, the last time I was in Canada. For the record, I won a hundred dollars playing roulette the last time. I am pretty much Rain Man. So I had an amazing beef casserole that the hostel made, had a few Heinken, some Johnny Langer and found my way to the casino. I wasn't drunk, it is a rule I am good at following, they already have a big enough advantage as it is. I get there, walk up a few stairs and enter a very tiny casino with a few table games an maybe 40 slot machines. McDonald's are bigger than this casino. Put down a hundred dollars and I am the only one at the table. Such a nice treat to gamble at your own pace and not have to elbow your way onto the table. Make small talk with the dealer. Man, dealers must have some interesting stories. More of an outside man, as in red or black, odd or even than the traditional numbers players. Some casinos in Canada have a $10 minimum bet, the minimum bet here I think was $2.50. It would be stupid not to go there.




Somewhat related story, I got hold of a roulette strategy DVD that Matt and I watched while we were in university, very obscure and not very helpful. The only tip that we got out of it was the only way to increase your odds is gambling at a table that only has one zero instead of the usual two. Funny enough, a few years later while in Vegas with Matt, this DVD was playing on the TV. Turns out, this NZ casino only had one zero. The gambling gods were with me. Until I was down to my last $12-14 worth of chips. Put it all on black and waited uncomfortably for the ball to eventually stop spinning. I've been down this road before folks and it doesn't end well. Basically sure my $100 has been wasted, ready to leave while the white ball casually stops on black. Such a great feeling. 

To really appreciate the win I think going through the loses builds the appreciation. This scenario plays out two more times, winning each time in dramatic fashion in my opinion, because of my lack of money. 
A middle aged Asian man (I was unaware that Asians liked to gamble...................) sat down beside me. He throws down maybe $150 worth of chips on red. It isn't fun to bet against someone so I thought I would try my luck copying this guy. BOOM! Red. Keep the good times going. RED! RED! RED! He probably won close to a thousand dollars. A new dealer comes in, and if you are unfamiliar with this, this is usually when you pack up, new dealer, new vibe, not good. So he puts one more bet down on black, I follow suit. Black it is. I was loving this guy, patting him on the back, giving him high fives and offered to buy him a beer. Luckily, his English wasn't very good and he ended up buying me a beer. I left the casino with a modest $135 gain however it meant a lot to me to leave a casino in the black as opposed to a few times I've left wanting a written apology from the owners. It never came. Moral of the story: Gambling is incredibly fun if you can keep it in control. A form of entertainment.


Quick update: Had a job interview today, will find out on Tuesday if I get it. I obviously wore a suit. Not surprisingly, I was the only one rocking one. The job on the hill wouldn't start until the 24th of June in the North Island so will try and find a place to live/work for the upcoming month. Flew out of Queenstown a few days ago to Auckland then a bus to Whakapapa. What a beautiful and scenic trip. Many sheep. This National Park is minuscule.  Let's just say I've had more exciting birthdays. Have a great weekend. Oh, I saw my first sheep on Monday. It was as exciting as it sounds. And I just read about the Rob Ford, crack cocaine thing? I have a hard time believing stuff like that is true but if you are doing that in front of other people, you should expect to get caught. Especially if you are the MAYOR! People are savages.















“It's hard to walk away from a winning streak, even 

harder to leave the table when you're on a losing one.” 

Cara Bertoia

Monday, May 13, 2013

Favorite Thai Foods!


It took me two years and leaving Thailand to do a post solely about Thai food. Sort of a surprise. Just looking and finding these pictures made me hungry and is pushing me a little closer to a  one-way flight back to Thailand. (ONE MORE YEAR!!) Let's just get this out of the way first. Cashew Nut Chicken is the best Thai food in the country. I don't want to hear you tell me that the restaurant around the corner in Toronto makes unbelievable Green Curry. Just stop it. This is our winner and there is no room for discussion. Price? 100 baht.
Best pork soup in Nakhon. Fills you up and taste phenomenal. Price? 40 baht. Eat it with some chili powder and chop sticks!
I MISS THAILAND!

In my opinion, breakfast is Thai foods weakest link. Not really down for eating rice every morning so to switch things up on Sundays, this is the best you can get. Technically not Thai food, this is in the Dim Sum family. Those dumplings at the top are out of this world. I could easily eat one and struggle through a second one. That red sauce they give you, ahh so good. Then these ribs, the meat just falls off the bone. IT IS SO GOOD! Price? Hmm together I'd say 140 baht maybe.



I ate this meal almost everyday for my entire first year teaching kindergarten. (Time goes by so fast, 2 years, done just like that) 

The ladies at the shop were a major reason I kept going back. All I needed to do was say how many I wanted, the two ladies couldn't speak any English but just loved me. I'm really going to miss them.   Sauce was a little spicy for me but woke you up in the morning. Price? 35 baht. The stark difference between food prices here compared to Thai food is sad and depressing.          
Chicken stalls and chicken ladies are everywhere. What makes this meal is the sticky rice. Cheap, delicious and everywhere. Price? 50 baht. 

A more traditional Thai meal, Pad Krapow. This lady was also extremely friendly. Breaking news: Thai people are crazy friendly! Doesn't quit fill you up but is an above average Thai food that should be eaten with egg and not missed on any Thai menu.

Massaman curry is just A-1. Made with chicken, potatoes and peanuts (and I'm assuming other ingredients) it is a Farang favorite. Price? Maybe 60-100 baht. 

Chicken fried rice. A Teacher Bert go to his first few months in Thailand. Wasn't really into Thai food and wasn't really sure what to eat in the beginning. Chicken fried rice is simple and tastes great. Almost everywhere makes it so convenience is the key here. Price? 35 baht

Favorite fruits are mangosteen and mango. Tons of fruit stalls around, all very cheap. They are both so juicy and unique tasting. Price? 20ish baht.

There are things I really enjoyed that didn't make it here. Isaan food is amazing, definitely eat at a Isaan restaurant if you go to Thailand. Amazing meats, sum tom and fried fish. 

"My favorite animal is steak." Fran Lebowitz

Cashew nut chicken recipe:

Massaman Curry:

Chicken Fried Rice:

Pad Krapow (don't forget the egg!)








Thursday, May 9, 2013

Fergburger vs Brettburger vs The White Lady






Before we get into my own made up burger competition, let's talk. #1 I have no friends. Isn't this a recurring theme from when I first left Canada and complained about not knowing anyone? Not much is different. I'm not overly worried though. #2 Job prospects are bleak. Applied to about 6-8 ski hills jobs, only heard back from one so far but it is in the North Island and is expensive to get there. I also want to live in the South so just waiting to hear back. If not, plan B will need to be made/implemented. #3 Everyday people go skydiving and bungee jumping and other fun activities. People come back and talk about there day and ask me what I've been up to. Well, I slept in till 12, read a chapter in my book and now I'm watching the Star Wars trilogy. This is the type of adventure you were expecting to read about right? Miss Thailand, my girlfriend at that time, Canada and my family. Nothing serious just miss people. Things will get better once I get a job, a place and a bit of a routine. Competition time!


Fergburger is a Queenstown staple. Everyone raves about it, it is one of the 'must-dos' while here. I'm not against eating massive hamburgers so last night I took the two minute walk in the rain to order my first Fergburger. Not crazy busy inside but had to wait not too long for my $15 double pattie burger. Why get one when you can get two? 













Having hears tons about this place, uncontrollably my expectations were slightly raised. Which as we all know, is a terrible thing. It wasn't bad, filled me up, a lot of food for sure. But if it wasn't such a big deal, I wouldn't tell anyone they HAD to go here. Out of 16 Burgers, I would give it a 14.75. Apparently open till 5 am which is a plus but wasn't the best burger I've had in New Zealand.  There is a letter in the store from a doctor who had to treat an Irish man who had a broken jaw, holding a Fergburger saying that a Big Al was the culprit. NEXT!












Meet the Brettburger. Advertised in my hostel as better than Fergburger, the owner of the hostel (can you guess his name?) makes a Sunday dinner every week and different meals on Wednesday's. This happened to be his burger night. $10, didn't have to leave the hostel, just sign up by 12 pm and wait till it is ready. Again, saying his was better than Fergburger raised my expectations a tad. A big burger, fresh meat, great sauce, nothing wrong with this burger. I would give it 15 of out 16 burgers. I had this one the day before I had Fergburger so the comparison was fresh in my mind. This is what occupies my days here, spacing out my hamburger choices. NEXT!!



We have a winner folks! The first weekend I got here, I read about a burger place that only opens at 8 pm till late. After a few drinks, I found this place and wasn't disappointed. I think the main difference is having buns that aren't too big and getting the best meat as possible. All three places made them when ordered. This place had the best atmosphere in my opinion as well. Maybe it is just me trying to be different and saying I liked The White Lady more, (I ate there twice) but I really do think this place tops Fergburger. And the chef was Canadian! I would give it 15.4 burgers out of 16. Almost forgot, the other night after going to country bar that has a mechanical bull but no country music, not impressed, I stopped at McDonald's. I might have eaten a Double Quarter Pounder with cheese then ordered 10 McNuggets and ate them at my hostel. I'm becoming quite the fatty. Double Quarter Pounder=15.2 out of 16.

These are the things that have been happening, I will try harder for better stories. Thanks for staying in touch, and if you aren't satisfied with my posts, started reading this guys blog who actually has things to say. Check out more of his articles if you don't like this one:
 http://www.raptitude.com/2012/07/most-lives-are-lived-by-default/














"Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.'" Yoda

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQ4yd2W50No

Sunday, May 5, 2013

New Zealand!

Goooood Day Mate! You alright?
Auckland skyline











New Zealand eh? Arrived in Auckland May 2nd, uneventful flight. Stayed at Base Hostel, clean, safe and pretty central downtown Auckland. If you check out the map below, Auckland is in the North Island. The biggest city in New Zealand but no the capital. The capital is Wellington. Auckland has so many book stores filled with English books, endless food options including Japanese, Indian, THAI, bagels, burritos, kebabs etc. Just phenomenal. Everyone understands me when I speak to them and there are hundreds of different beers to drink. New Zealanders are very friendly and hospitable. Went out a few nights and every night someone comes up to talk to me because they see I'm alone and invites me into their group. My Maybelline eyelashes might have something to do with that too though. Enjoying it so far, even the rainy/mild weather. Love not working. It is crazy expensive. $30 for a movie, are you kidding? Went to an art gallery, took some pictures but can't find my little cord to upload them, will hopefully do that soon. Got to Queenstown today, raining, checked into my hostel, Adventure Queenstown.  Organized, clean, safe and has cool people around. If it wasn't for the internet showing me the best places to stay, trips like these would be much more difficult.

Looked at getting a roommate in Queenstown, looked into buying snowboarding gear. Can you guess if that will be cheap or expensive? Nothing crazy has happened, just enjoying not being different and understanding everything around me. Oh, and what sort of surprised me is the amount of Asians that live in Auckland. I love it! I guess they go there to study and end up staying. Was a welcome surprise. 
Have a job interview on the 17th in the North Island and should have a few more by the end of this week. Will also look into getting a second job so that I don't die starving on the street in this place. The time difference is big and I still don't understand it. Right now it is 12 am, Monday morning. So in Ottawa it is 8 am Sunday morning. I think of it as I'm 8 hours ahead, minus a day. Thanks for staying tuned in, should have a tale or two to come in the coming weeks, enjoy your summer!
Last night in Nakhon

“You are what you think about all day long.” Robert 

Schuller

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Quick thoughts on Singapore


First, I'm still alive. Yaaaaaayyyyy! Got to Hat Yai okay, got on a bus to KL, then an overnight bus to Singapore, spent the day in the Singapore airport. Got stopped at the Singapore border for having Mr. Johnny Langer with me. Thought I was in big trouble. When a Singapore border agent asks you to step into the office, you consider running. Border agent "How much does this bottle of whiskey cost?" Me "About $3". Took pity on my obvious lack of wealth and let me go. Conclusions I have come up with about Singaporians. They love to party. I got there around 6 am this morning. There were still a good amount of people out, after bar eating and debotury. It was TUESDAY morning people!! What recession? If I knew that I might have come a day earlier but I'm not made of money.

Second interesting timbit is throughout my 11 hour stay in the airport, I saw tons of junior and high school kids hanging out and studying. As I was sitting down to eat my first Carl's Jr. Burger, I asked one of the kids why they do this. "Different than studying at home" he said. Kids take a 10 to 30 minute journey to get to the airport...to study..........together...................at the airport!. Kids today and their airports. Waiting to get on a flight that hopefully lands safely in Auckland May 2nd. Enjoy your day everyone!

"Quack, Quack"