Sunday, May 30, 2010

Yes, You Were Right

Dear Esteemed Female Family Members Who Did So Much for Our Wedding*,

You were right. I enjoy gardening and sometimes new furniture makes me giggle with glee. Proof in pictures below!

The super pretty balcony boxes. 

The pretty potted plants. We also have tomatoes and strawberries, but they weren't feeling the camera.

Our new, all grown up dining room chairs that the Mr. put together all alone while I was in London. 
Bless him!

*you know who you are ;)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The New Zealand Highlight

The longer we are back in Germany, the clearer it becomes to me that the number one highlight from our trip was Milford Sound. The Mr. and I took an overnight cruise on the Sound. I'm allowing Wikipedia to detail out what Milford Sound is; I'll stick with the pictures.

On the way there we passed some of the remaining snow and ice from the winter before. Remember it was fall, summer was just ending, so you can imagine how much snow is there each winter.

If you look carefully in the bottom right, you'll see the Mr's green jacket, giving you a sense of the size dimensions.

The boat we spent the night on. It was my first night on a boat and I was spoiled rotten.

When we started our trip it was raining hard and very cloudy. We were disappointed at first until an employee of the boat pointed out the hundred waterfalls, which are only visible when its raining. It is rare that visitors get to see so many waterfalls - it was raining just the right amount without being too misty.

A few hours later, ignoring the hard rain that had just stopped and the choppy water, we joined a few Aussies for some kayaking. I ended up rather sea sick but the Mr. held through until the very end.

The Mr. at the very end. Very, very wet and very, very happy.

As the day continued and the rain stayed away, the clouds began to clear and we could see more and more of the Milford Sound's walls.

Following dinner and as the sun sank, the wonder of the night colors began. We were rather lucky that in the sea was calm enough to enjoy the dancing colors.

When night had fallen, we were joined by a little seal who played with the rubber stairs of the boat. Even the boat employees were entranced. And then we headed to bed.

The following morning the weather was even nicer to us as the clouds hung around the Milford's mountains. The tops of the lower mountains started to pop out of the clouds, creating some even nicer views.

After lunch a true rarity occurred, the clouds parted enough so that even the top of a higher mountain and little tick of sun were visible. 

And then, right at the very end, and only for a collection of seconds, the tops of the largest mountains suddenly revealed themselves as group, the clouds thinned themselves out, and the sun peaked through, right as we were posing for that last picture.


Monday, May 24, 2010

London's calling

And we totally answered.

In summary, London = great food, great night-life, great clothes, great public transport. Saturday we walked and walked and walked and walked seeing just about everything on four very tired feet. Sunday we took one of those fabulous double-decker buses for tourists and rode around learning about all the things that we had seen the day before.

Where the decisions are made, some good, some bad but all of them surrounded by absolute beauty. Houses of Parliament.

Some decisions have pissed off some people, particularly those around the war. Since England is a democracy, they have actually permitted a permanent protest to take place across the houses of parliament. I found that really incredible; the Mr. was less impressed.

Another wonderful aspect of London – real multi-cultural culture. This is a picture towards Brick Lane where the great, great, great Indian restaurants were located as well as a Mosque, a church-based school, and a Japanese video store.

We’ll be moving in soon; the Queen was looking for entertaining, fabulous roommates. We were just willing to sacrifice for Buckingham Palace.

A very typical English dinner: a plate of fish and chips and another plate of curry.

Although the city is huge and has far too many people in it, it also has some beautiful inner-city parks.

All in all we had an excellent time together in the great city that is London.
More photos on Snapfish.


Ice Hockey!

Recently a few of my colleagues and the Mr. enjoyed a night of ice hockey* during the world championships, which for whatever reason were being held in Germany. We got to watch the Swiss play Canada. We were rooting for Canada, and the Mr. was super prepared with the appropriate mittens and attitude:

I got to sit next to one of the best watch-a-live-game-with fans ever, the delightful P-lady who made the game far more exciting than it really was.

Unfortunately the Swiss had far more to celebrate than the Canadians, and they did it in Super Size.

In the end, the night totally got a thumbs-up

As always, if you'd like a pic taken down, just pop me a line.

*before we get into the hockey vs. ice hockey conversation: Its on ice. Therefore it is ice hockey. And this is my blog anyway.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Sense of Humor Required

Before the Mr. and I really understood that the Kiwis have a very limited sense of distance or time estimation, we took an “easy, short” hike on the Rob Roy track about "thirty minutes" outside of Wanaka. From the literature available in Wanaka and the information posted for the hike itself, the hike was billed as a 2-2.5 hour hike for beginners with stunning views of the Rob Roy Glacier. One small part of that information was correct: the stunning views of the Rob Roy Glacier.

The drive out to the track was beautiful, passing through and by deer, sheep, and cow farms, and took at least one hour to drive, including a few excellent opportunities to ford the road.

Natural wonder

Deer Farms*

Cow farms and ford in the road

The track was beautiful and most of it was well formed, including the sections that you needed your hands and feet and a really good sense of humor. It started with a swinging bridge

and followed through with startling beauty.

Tree roots as the track
River that ran beside the track

Glacier and waterfall from afar

Glacier and waterfall from not so afar

We didn’t make it to the end – who knows how long the Kiwi “2-2.5 hours” would have ended up. But in the end, like everything else, the effort was worth it and we ended the trip with a smile and an extra, natural surprise.

We're-almost-there kiss

Rainbow wishing us farewell

We were both sore for a few days and that was our last hike.

*Did you know that over 50% of the venison that is served in Germany is raised in New Zealand? Yummy.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Steinbach Clan : One Year

The Steinbach Clan is officially one year old today. Time flies and a lot has happened in this past year, some excellent, some not so excellent. We've learned a lot about being married and we've been lucky enough to share in a few other weddings since our own. We are definately looking forward to many more years together.

Thanks again to everyone - and there were many, many people - who helped make our two special days so very special. Your support and help in all the big and small ways haven't been and won't be forgotten.


It Always Works Out in the End

There are a few things that Kiwis cannot do well. The most important for all Kiwi-virgins out there is the following: Kiwis have very limited sense of distance or time estimation. They will very happily tell you Destination X is “right around the corner” or “about 20 minutes down the road” and they will be telling you what they believe is the truth.

DO NOT BELIEVE THESE PEOPLE. Say thank you and then double (if not triple) whatever you were just told before planning your next steps.

Our first learning experience with said very limited sense of distance or time estimation was our adventure getting to Baldwin Street (for a reminder, see the earlier blog). We asked a very friendly Kiwi if Baldwin Street was within walking distance. The answer? “Its about 20 minutes down the road…great weather… an easy walk.”

Please see exhibit A - you have to click on the image to get the full view. Note we were at A and Baldwin Street was B. Also note the distance and time required for said distance on the left hand side of exhibit A.

Over four kilometers and one very hot and thirsty hour later we reached the street.

But the point of this blog is not this rather endearing Kiwi weakness but actually how everything always works out. Our unexpected not-so-excellent learning lesson (repeated numerous times before we got the hang of it*) lead to an excellent experience we would not have had otherwise: Tunnel Beach.

Before the Mr. and I undertook the hour long walk back into Dunedin (because the bus wasn’t gonna happen), we stopped off at a bar called the Mannequin and met an excellent American living and working there. This Good People gave us a few tips for our trip around New Zealand. By far the best was the very little known Tunnel Beach.

Totally off the ‘beaten track’ but totally worth the detour, Tunnel Beach left us both deeply respectful for the raw natural environment of New Zealand; a chill for what a little selfishness (read the link above) can offer to others later on; and a deep yearning for the adventures coming towards us.

From the head of the walking trail down to the beach, we had an idea of just how beautiful this excursion was going to be.

After about 45 minutes of getting closer and closer, we finally reached the carved sandstone. Look carefully and you can see the Mr. and get a sense of size.

The sea was loudly pounding against the stone, slowly carving further into the cliffs, and yet the atmosphere was of absolute peace. Thinking we’d seen the tunnel (turns out that's an arch in the picture above), we were ready to slowly meander back towards the car when we noticed a – wait for it – man-made tunnel. Thus the name Tunnel Beach.

We walked down the stairs and into a stunning, absolutely private beach. It was so beautiful we forgot to take more than this first picture. Instead we sat, peacefully and nearly silently, in awe until the leg fell asleep.

If you’d like to see more, another traveler got better images.

So, yes, the Kiwis have very limited sense of distance or time estimation, but, as always, it works out in the end.


*Never, ever, ever rely on the Kiwi sense of estimation when bodily functions are at stake. Never.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Scuba Scuba

While the Mr. has both experience and a scuba diving license, I have never fulfilled my dream of scuba diving. After the Mr’s first, very positive experience with Porpoise Dive in Bay of Islands, we decided to fulfill my dream with a discovery dive.

Our guides were the fabulous couple Trevor and Bev, two dedicated scuba divers with excellent humor, the ability to make anyone feel secure and happy, and over 30 years of experience. Trevor also has an excellent tattoo with accompanying story and Bev a very deep understanding for the requirement of ‘lady space’ in wet suits. Thankfully, and for the first time, I had enough space up top and some space to expand down below.

First we took a little boat about 45 minutes out; I survived (barely) seasickness with stomach contents intact. The Mr. did a dive on a purposefully sunken ship, the HMNZS Canterbury, with Trevor and another experienced diver.

That dive was, in the Mr.’s words, “fück!ng geil!”

Then the two newbies, Michael and Nicole, learned how to breathe underwater under Bev's carefully instruction. The worst, worst, worst part is the first breath underwater. The worst, worst part is the second breath underwater. The logical survival-is-important mind wasn’t open to breathing in pure water. But after the first five breaths – I was off!

During my first dive, I got to try out this whole scuba thing – better than expected – and see some lovely, lovely fish. I successfully stayed under water and cruised along behind Bev. In fact I was told repeatedly that I’m quite the natural, and it’s been documented*!

We actually stayed under water for between 30 and 45 minutes. It was fabulous, fabulous but also a little tiring.
After a lunch break with yummy sweets, all four divers got into the water to scuba around a highly populated underwater rock. Michael and I, the less experienced, stayed towards the top of the rock, while the experience divers took off for the bottom of the rock.

There were tons of fish swimming around and even some rays! At the beginning of the dive, Trevor, the profi, very calmly tapped my arm and pointed towards a swimming ray. A swimming ray, swimming in our direction! I urgently grabbed at his arm in panic while the ray calmly, delicately, much like a Budda swam past us on his way to wherever he was headed. I’m sure it was feet and feet away from us, but for little ole me from southern Ohio, it was a little surprising for me! Especially when they are this big (regardless that these are indeed the “small” ones):

All in all, it was a great experience and will absolutely be repeated!

The scuba honeymooners

More pictures on Snapfish.
*p.s. Shortly before 30, I still haven’t figured out how to properly write the ‘e’ at the end of my name. Sorry Mrs. Nolan, I know you tried hard in 2nd grade to teach me how to ‘bring it to a good end’ but I’m still so lazy.

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