Sunday, November 22, 2009

November 17-NOW

You’ll have to excuse the time references, because I’ve actually written this all in the past few days, but the events took place several days ago. I’m just writing as if they’re current. At this point, lots of new things are happening that I won’t get to post until next week.
Chris came with us when we left Rotorua. We drove to Napier, a resort town along the East Coast in the Hawke’s Bay Region of New Zealand. Chris wanted to be around here to find fruit picking work, as did I. But I mostly just wanted to keep traveling with these guys.
Uri, Albert, and I checked into our hostel (the nicest one yet by far), where the guy upgraded us to a 3-person room. It was nice to not have to share with nine other people for once. The three of us went wine tasting in the afternoon.
I must say— I think I was raised pretty well; I can hold my wine better than two thirty-year old Spanish men, and I think my tastes are much more defined. I really liked talking to the guy doing the tasting at one place. He’d lived in Boston for a while, and now just wanders the country depending on the season. But he still managed to look really rustically sophisticated. I talked to him about how he got into wine in the first place, and I think that might be something I’d like to look into. Everything seems possible right now. I like wine. Maybe I’ll pursue a career in viniculture. I like traveling and meeting people from all over the world. Maybe I’ll open a hostel. I like music. Maybe I’ll open a dance club/concert venue.
We went to four places for tasting. We got one nice bottle of wine for dinner that night—(they refunded the tasting fee if you bought something), and I actually bought 2 bottles of wine in other places, too. There was one, it was more than I usually spend on wine, (but I usually don’t spend more than 10 dollars). It still wasn’t even twenty dollars and I knew if I didn’t buy it, I’d regret it for the rest of my life. (Unless, I suppose, I’m somewhere about to die and realize that a twenty would somehow save me). It tasted like raspberries and chocolate. It smelled like jasmine.
I bought another bottle of white because it smelled and tasted like honeysuckle. Everything here smells like this white honeysuckle type plant called Manuka. One sip of this wine ten years from now will hurl me back into this place.
The red was going to be a present for my dad—when I bought it, I imagined drinking it with him. But…I’m probably not going to lug 2 bottles around with me for 6 months. Frankly, I walked a few blocks with all of my stuff a few days ago, and I’m now just waiting for a good occasion to drink them because they do add a lot of weight. So. I’ll just have to order them at some point in my life from home.
Uri and Albert left in the morning, which was really sad. It was hard to say goodbye. I hope I get a chance to go to Barcelona and stay with them. To distract myself from sudden loneliness, I spent the next few days trying to find a job. I called every person I could find contact info for about seasonal work. Nothing. I had an interview at a motel for housekeeping, which went very well, and the woman was prepared to hire me…if I could commit to six months. I need the money, but I don’t want to leave New Zealand without having traveled it, and primarily spent it in a motel in this little town.
I’ve been really lucky in my life, most of the things I’ve done, I’ve kind of just fallen into. I feel like I’ve made very few things happen—they’ve just kind of happened. But maybe I’m not giving myself enough credit. Either way, I’ve called every single person I can find on the internet, every person on job boards, everywhere is full. I’m just going to hang out in this town for a few days and hope that someone gets back to me. I actually took a bus to the headquarters of Pick NZ, to register in person, which I think was a good move. The people in Hastings said there should be some fruit picking available next week. I actually will make more money doing this than I was making in Pittsburgh if this comes through, which is pretty disheartening, actually, but will allow me to buy a car. If I run out of money and do have to come home in December or January (I think I’ll find something, but it’s still a possibility), this whole trip will have still totally been worth it.
In other news, my blue pants, the pants I’ve basically worn every day for the past year have begun to disintegrate. It’s really sad. I bought another pair in a thrift store today but have to cut the legs off because otherwise they look silly. They don’t have any of my history.

Nov. 19-23

So, this is how I’ll know who’s actually reading my blog, because this entry may elicit some surprise…

In an interesting turn of events, I’ve kind of started seeing someone. The first day I was in Auckland, one of Amanda and Glen’s friend’s came to dinner. Tommy is from Australia, and he’s been working and traveling here for the past year. Amanda and Glen had reached out to him as well, when he was alone. When I got into Napier, Amanda told me Tommy was here, too, doing fruit picking. She gave me his number and I called to see if he knew how to go about finding work. When I asked if he knew of any vacancies, he thought I meant at his hostel, and thought I wanted to hang out. I’m pretty smooth, so I just went with it. We met up for drinks, and have been hanging out each night since then. The next night we saw a band, and last night we went out to dinner with close friends of his parents who happen to be on a holiday here. It’s really nice to know someone. Even though, really, we don’t know too much about one another. Only that we’re both alone in an unfamiliar place, and unsure of anything in our lives. Which is more than enough. I’ve never casually dated anyone. It’s a weird feeling. But I like it. Right now, it feels right. Maybe we’re not even dating. I don’t know. But, either way, it’s really nice to have someone here.

I was kind of sad when I woke up this morning. Yesterday was beautiful, but (with the exception of dinner) lonely. I didn’t sleep well. My roommate makes horrible horrible disturbing noises in his sleep. At some point, between grunts and snores that mimic gulps of last breath before death, he started breathing really loudly and rapidly. And then he started chanting in, I’m assuming, Maori. It really scared me.
This morning I forced myself to talk to someone, because I don’t want to spend the next several days alone. I met a German girl named Steffi who’s staying here. I’ve realized that in hostels, where everyone is alone, everyone wants to talk, but everyone’s a little nervous about it, too. What I’ve realized about myself is that I really want to listen. I could probably go forever without talking. But not having people share their secrets with me—that would destroy me. I think I judge my relationships not by how comfortable I feel with people, but by how comfortable they seem talking to me. With a very little prompting, people usually seem to just open themselves to me. I’m really lucky in that way.
A little history on Napier. In 1931, an earthquake destroyed the town. Everything was rebuilt in the 30’s, and everything is Art Deco. It’s actually very strange, because everything also seems new, but meant to look old. I feel like I’m walking around the movie set to Back to the Future. Everything is a caricature of a perfect town, a place New Zealanders escape to because it seems like idyllic version of the past. Which of course means that bad things are probably brimming under the surface of everything—clean stucco walls and in the ink of the perfect block letters, and in the faces of the locals who run baby boutiques and ice cream shoppes.
This morning, Saturday, I came to the busy part of town, where everything was bustling. As soon as I saw crowds of people meandering slowly, dipping in and out of shops, pausing to listen to the street musicians, I felt better. And I had a flashback. I used to do this in Prague. Go to the main square of town and watch people interact with one another and their surroundings. I imagine lives for some of them. What that couple last fought about, if they’re going to split up. What that kid in the stroller may grow up to be. How many people who pass me have experienced true love. How many of them are heartbroken in some secret way. What side of the bed someone sleeps on and why they have that preference. Sometimes, observing is enough. Sometimes, I just need to surround myself with people, strangers, and watch them live their lives.
UPDATE: I’ve befriended my roommate, despite his horrible noises and my inability to sleep through them. He’s a kiwi, working on orchards. He’s going to try and see if there’s work for me. I think I’m buying a car tomorrow. Tommy is going with me to look at it since I know basically nothing about cars. It’s about $750 U.S. dollars, which will be worth it. I really want to travel in the countryside, and see wilderness. And, if math is to be trusted, if I sleep in my car once a week for the length of time I’m here, I’ll save about $550 in hostels. I think it’s a good investment.
I keep thinking I’m broke. I’m not. I just have money set aside for future things. The mindset here is not to save. You spend, you work, you spend, you work.

Nov. 23

I moved back to my old hostel just for a change. I’m really getting sick of hanging around this town. I’ve been here for almost a week, doing basically nothing. I walk around the city (about 4 square blocks). I sit on the pebble beach and read my book. I write messages to the world on leaves and stones and hope that someone will find them and somehow know me. I have the same conversations with different people in my hostels. I eat rice and beans and rice and beans and rice and beans. I go out with Tom; we don’t even really know one another and he feels like my only friend in the world. I sleep. I have nightmares. I’m sick of hearing German. Everyone speaks German, Deutsch. Nobody travels alone. I try to break into groups that don’t understand my words. I worry that they talk about me in their secret code. I write. I walk by stores that I almost go into, and then decide to wait—better give myself something to do tomorrow. I desperately need a change.

P.S. Tom and I drank one of the wines last night. Gamay Noir 2009 from Woodthorpe at Te Mata Estate.


  1. Thanks for being our eyes, Rachel. The light of the sky, the smell of fart-town, the sound of waves and pounding sufuric waters. Great description of the urge to run on the beach -- what else to do with all that space?

    And I love Gamay, but don't worry about bringing any back. Just describe it next time!

  2. Rachel-- I feel as if you are my travel twin! soo many of the same thoughts, experiences and while is 10+ yrs since I was there seems just the same. Ohh yes I agree NZ is the place of kind, genuine nice honest people you can trust with anything and would do anything for in a heartbeat...ENJOY!! I already know you are ;-)