The Return to Seattle

21 09 2012

Now I know I am supposed to be writing about all that was SE Asia and its amazingness, I am finding myself wanting to write about the present.  Don’t fear faithful few readers, I will eventually write about Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, i just might take me a few years lol.

Also “Item’s I have learned today” may eventually have to come to a close as I am back at home and obviously already know everything (kidding, kidding).

For this entry it will read – “things I previously hadn’t noticed about America”

– Pedestrians really do have the right away.  I was thanked the other day for stopping and letting a car turn as I was crossing the street.. that wouldn’t happen anywhere else (or more specifically in SE Asia).. if you don’t stop… you get hit… end of sentence.. full stop.

-People take ‘National Pirate Day” VERY SERIOUSLY over here

-On a bus or in a coffee shop it’s considered perfectly natural to scream your conversation even if you are only sitting a few feet away from the person you’re talking to.  Appparently it’s very important to make sure that everyone around you can hear your entire conversation. Yesterday I learned all about how to write a non-fiction book, the best techniques in creating lesson plans, as well as the juicey gossip of some 16 year olds love life.  Good times.

Angkor Wat and I

Angkor Wat and I

It is now day 4 for me back at home.  For some reason I thought it would be hard for me to adjust, it’s not like I don’t miss New Zealand and Australia (because I do.. a lot), but surprisingly I am OK with being at home.   I have managed to go to the doctor, renew my drivers license, get re-connected to world (as all of my technology.. i.e. my i-touch and netbook could not handle SE Asian heat), and do a bit of necessary shopping.

This weekend.. the job hunt begins.  This is what I have been avoiding for the last two years.  I worked while down under, but the jobs I had were designed just to save money to travel, I wasn’t bothered about how they would look on my resume and what they could lead to next.  Now everything changes.  I also need to start working on my cover letter.  I am horrible at talking about myself (it might seem hard to believe if you have read a few entries of my blog, but it’s true.)  So to try to convince a potential employer how amazing I am in a few short paragraphs when I am not so great at selling myself is going to be an interesting feat.

The apartment hunt will also begin soon, but first comes the employment one.   Originally I was worried about having to rush to find a place to take my cat back.  I have a ragdoll named Sam that my friend Pam and her husband took in.  Now I love Sam, but he has become an outdoor cat.  Whatever place I find, I guarantee it will not have some outdoor area that I would feel comfortable letting Sam explore.  He has also come to feel at home with Pam and her husband Paul, so when they emailed they other day saying that if I wasn’t able to take him back they would be OK with keeping him, I was some what relieved.  Don’t get me wrong,  I love Sam, and I would love to have him back, but I was worried about the transition, and I know he his happy with his new family, and most importantly.. I can go visit!

I almost forgot the joys of moving and starting all over again.. it’s not so much fun. But the plus side is that I am surrounded by friends and family who are making it all a bit better piece by piece.  It’s strange to be back in Seattle after living away for the last two years.. but I must say at the moment it’s quite nice to be home (although I am just waiting for the travellers bug to kick back in).

Will keep everyone posted.. and wish me luck!

My Attempt at Photo Journaling – Bits of Thailand and Laos

20 08 2012
Floating Market in Thailand

Floating Market in Thailand

Lounging in Koh Phi Phi

Lounging in Koh Phi Phi

Entrance to our overnight camping trip (on the beach)

Entrance to our overnight camping trip (on the beach)

Maya Bay

Maya Bay

Spent the night here - its where "the beach" was filmed

Spent the night here – its where “the beach” was filmed

The White Temple in Chang Rai

The White Temple in Chang Rai

Slow Boat on the way to Luang Prabang (Laos)

Slow Boat on the way to Luang Prabang (Laos)

Mekong River - Laos

Mekong River – Laos

Baci Ceremony at Ban Lad Khammune (village in Laos)

Baci Ceremony at Ban Lad Khammune (village in Laos)

Leaving the village

Leaving the village

Pak Ou Cave with over 4000 buddahs

Pak Ou Cave with over 4000 buddahs

Saying goodbye to Wellington… (and getting the best gift ever)

3 08 2012

Item’s I have learned today

Pounamu = greenstone/jade

My Pounamu - Toki (adze)

My Pounamu – Toki (adze)

So you can not buy yourself your own Pounamu it is considered bad luck.  You also can not put it on yourself. I had just about a week left here (today is my last day.. I’m  just trying to tell this story to its fullest), and I had literally walked into work thinking of how I really wanted my own piece of greenstone to bring home with me.  I obviously was not going to buy one for myself, nor did I want to tell someone “hey, I really want a greenstone pendant will you please please buy me one? thanks.”

Fast forward to my last Whānau group meeting at LINZ. If you have read any of my previously posts, you would know that I have recently become very heavily involved in the Whānau group at work, even to the extent of performing infront of the company at our Matariki (Māori new year) celebrations. I had expected a few hugs, and we wish you wells, and maybe possibly a card at the last Whānau Group meeting.. what I got.. was what I had cosmically wished for.. my very own pounamu.

I literally could not stop smiling the rest of the day. Each piece has a spiritual meaning, and the one that I was given signifies strength, confidence and triumph during times of adversity. I am not an overly spiritual person, but I really do feel a calming presense wearing this. It was given to me over a week ago, and I seriously don’t know if I will ever take it off.

Honestly, I know New Zealand and Australia have all been about new experiences, but being presented with this, and getting to know the Whānau group, and saying  goodbye to my New Zealand Whānau (who I have been informed will now be my Whānau (family) for life) will be something I remember forever.

I know I don’t look very happy in the picture above.. I’ve just finished packing and organising my room… but I wanted to be able to provide a visual of the gift that I love.

I will write soon about my feelings about leaving the city that I have called home for the past year or so.. until then.

It’s all about the haka… and maybe a little reunion

23 07 2012

Item’s I have learned today:

pulled = kissed/hooked up with

nibbles = appetizers (kind of sad that this now incorporated into my vocab, and I only thought to include it here when a friend from home didn’t know what the hell I was talking about)

I had my own little kiwi bus reunion a few weeks ago.  For those of you who didn’t know I toured around on one of those big green buses that all Kiwi’s love (… and by love I mean hate) for two months when I first got to New Zealand (for shame.. ) Anyway. I had a blast on said embarrassing, touristy bus known for young crazy shenanigans and had a mini reunion with Bekah (who I originally met in Auckland at the  very start of this trip) and Nic.

Bekah and Nic are both living in Australia and flew over for the test All Blacks Match vs. Ireland.  The most recent theme in my life is the fact that I seem to be attending or watching rugby every single weekend.. not because of my undying love for it… but because of my friends.  That weekend was no exception.

Nic, the ghost of Bekah and I at the match

Nic, the ghost of Bekah and I at the match

I flew out of Wellington and into Christchurch on the smallest plane that I have ever been on.  I was row 15. I remember thinking how awesome that was because I would be one of the first people off the plan… hah.  It was the LAST row.    Flight was 50 minutes… it was literally over as soon as we fully ascended

Bekah, Nic and I all arrived in Christchurch right around the same time.  We then proceeded to hire a car, and drive 6 hours to Queenstown arriving just after 11:00pm.  Brilliant idea right??  We only had four days in the South Island, so if 12 hours  were spent driving and listening to rugby anthems (not kidding,  found a cd for .97 cents at discount store.. I didn’t even know rugby anthems existed??) so that we could spend time in the place that we loved… so be it.

I had WAY more appreciation for Queenstown the second time around. Don’t get me wrong I still had an amazing time when I first went there back in November, I just seemed to some how take more in this time.  Plus it’s winter now, so it had that whole cold/snow/Christmas in July feel to it.

breakfast in queenstown.. ferg burger

breakfast in queenstown.. ferg burger



The only issue? I some how managed to catch a bug while there which made me a sh*t ton of fun let me just say. Sick, cranky Maria = not so much fun too hang out with.   So we spent one night and day in Quesnstown.  Having a car we were able to drive around a bit, explore Arrow-town and head back up to Christchurch early Saturday morning for the game.

It took a bit of time to figure out where the hostel in Christchurch was as the city centre is still pretty much closed off.  We arrived just in time to change,  layer up and go (if I hadn’t mentioned it before, it was FREEZING).  I was seriously debating staying in as I was old cold and fluey but I couldn’t miss my first (and possibly only) All Blacks game.  I was more excited to see the haka than the game, but hey.. I was still excited!  Not quite as excited as Nic who I literally thought was going to have a heart attack but still…

game time

game time

The cool part about this particular game was that it was the first All Blacks game in Christchurch since the earthquake. They opened a new stadium and we got to be there for the opening night. The atmosphere was amazing, although a bit cold.

It was also quite festive with the Irish supporters just as vocal as the All Black ones. And Ireland played well, so the game with actually quite fun to watch.. ending in an all blacks victory but not a slaughter.

bekah stealing some married dudes flag.. no joke :)

bekah stealing some married dudes flag.. no joke 🙂

Afterwords, I attempted to make it out, but the cold and fever caught up with me.. so Bekah and I headed back to the hostel.

The next day we ventured back down to Cashel mall and then to Nic’s cousin’s house for a roast.  A warm living room and a roast dinner sounded absolutely fantastic.

After that we all parted ways, with me flying back to Welly, and the girls headed to Sydney for a few days. Even though the weekend was slightly dampered by the flu, it was still really nice to see Bekah and Nic again, and knock off another thing off the bucket list.. a rugby world cup champions match 🙂

Performing with the Whanau Group: My Matariki Experience

6 07 2012

Item’s I have learned today

Matariki – Is the celebration of the Māori new year.  Matariki is a cluster of seven stars known as Pleiades that rises once a year (on the Māori new year)

Whānau- Family (In Māori)

the fam

the fam

As most of you know, I have only had one job while I have been in New Zealand, working at Land Information New Zealand.  A few months ago, one of my friends at work asked if I could help her with some of the coordination of the Whānau Group.

The Whānau Group is involved in promoting awareness of all things Māori at LINZ (Land Information New Zealand).  Now being the organising freak that I am (meaning I enjoy it), I said yes,  but I must confess that I was a little bit hesitant.  If you know anything about me, you know that I am not the best at foreign languages or pronunciation.  Half the time I can’t even speak english correctly!  All of a sudden I found myself volunteering to help organise and promote things that I don’t really know anything about.  I was worried about not only mispronunciating Māori words but also in my ignorance saying or doing something that could be offensive as I also know very little about the culture.

my family

Now, one of the things I love the most about New Zealand, is some of the efforts made to integrate Māori culture.  Every government department is written in English and then in Māori, the meeting rooms at LINZ all have Māori names,  when we moved offices, the day began with a tuwheratanga or opening of the space where all of our meeting rooms were blessed, when our Chief Executive changed agencies and left LINZ, we had a poroporoaki (farewell)  for him, and the list goes on.  I am by now means saying that Māori relations are perfect and there is no room for improvement, I just have really enjoyed being around the steps that have happened so far.  Coming from the US, it is a very unique experience for me to be around.

But I am getting slightly off track, looping this all back to Whānau Group, I was happy to get involved, but worried about some how not doing something right.

In celebration of Matariki, the Whānau Group agreed to host the fortnightly drinks at work called FEST (Friday Evening Social Time… LINZ also loves the use of their acronyms).  With the hosting of FEST, the group also volunteered to preform… oh boy.

Then came the waiata (Māori songs) practices… insert another oh boy.  The problem is.. I am definitely not Mariah Carey.  I mean, I can keep a tune, I don’t go off key, but it isn’t necessarily anything that you want to hear.  Now throw in the fact that I am singing in a completely different language and having to learn all sorts of  new action moves?  Lets just say I became very close friends with the you tube clips of the waiatas that we would be preforming.

It has been an interesting last few weeks.  I start off by just being  nervous about my involvement with the Whānau Group, now all of a sudden I am going to preform in front of the company? Uh…(gulp).  The ironic part of it all, is that  I used to love performing back when I was in high school.  I seem to have sort of outgrown that phase, the thought of doing anything in front of an audience freaks me out, let alone new material, new languages, and new moves.

The point of all this blabbering though, is that I did it, or more importantly the Whānau Group did it and it was actually a lot of fun. Of course I was incredibly nervous, and had woken up at 7am to practice in front of my mirror (a bit ridiculous.. I know, lets just erase that mental image right about now). I also some how magically got bumped up to the front row literally right before the performance started.  But, I didn’t forget the words, or the actions, and the group sounded amazing. Afterwords it was a great feeling knowing that we all came together and pulled it all of, from blacking out a huge meeting room, to drawing constellations on the walls, to putting up fairy lights (christmas lights), creating a stage, chopping vegetables and preparing some amazing kai (food).  It was a job (and performance) well done.  And let me just add for the record that my nerves were INCREDIBLY happy once it was all over.

Becoming involved in the Whānau group has been an incredible experience, it has not only allowed me to learn a bit more about Māori culture  it also really kind of sort of has started to feel like a family which for someone like me, who is a million miles away from my actual family is exactly what is needed.

Oh look.. I’m famous

2 07 2012

Ok, maybe not.. maybe this was just posted on my companies internal newsletter…

But still. I will take my 5 minutes (more like 30 seconds) of fame thank you very much!


When Maria Vandenburg, MSA Landonline & Geospatial Services and Hydrography, left Seattle on her big OE, she never imagined that less than two years later she’d be standing up in front of a room full of people and performing as part of a kapa haka group.

Maria left the United States in 2010 after four years working as a project co-ordinator in the advertising department at the Seattle Times, a major daily paper. “I was frustrated with the job and in the economy at that time there wasn’t a lot of room for career growth in the States,” says Maria. ”So I grabbed the opportunity to go abroad!”

She spent her first year in Australia, with six months each in Sydney and Melbourne, but she still wasn’t ready to go home. So Maria applied for a working holiday visa for New Zealand, arrived in October 2011 and travelled for a few months before looking for work. It was then that Maria began work at LINZ.

“I was initially hired as a temp, but ended up staying on. I’m now the MSA (Management Support Administrator) for two teams – Hydrography and Landonline & Geospatial Services.”

Maria first heard about the Whānau group and the work that they did when the Welllington Office moved from Lambton Quay to the Terrace.

“The tuwheratanga (opening) for the new building was my first exposure to Maori culture, and I found it really intriguing.”

While it was the ever-persuasive Paula Dixon who gave Maria the final push to become involved when she asked her to help out with some of the administrative tasks, Maria is now fully immersed in the group and she’s stoked that she stepped outside her comfort zone.

“At first I was totally intimidated; an Arab-American with no idea how to pronounce any of the words let alone knowing anything about Maori culture. But the group has been so welcoming. That’s been the best part, you really feel included and the group does come to feel like a family.”

Maria’s biggest achievement with the Whānau group so far has been performing at the Matariki event in June. “It was a great feeling standing up and performing the waiata and actions as part of the group – I can add kapa haka to my bucket list! If you’d told me when I came to New Zealand that I’d be performing in front of an organisation in Maori I would have laughed.”

She recommends getting in there and becoming involved with the Whānau group to everyone at LINZ.

“Being part of the Whānau group has been one of my best experiences so far at LINZ – the people are fantastic. You really don’t need a background in Maori culture to be involved, all you need is the desire to learn more.”

Hanging out with my bosses Fam

13 06 2012

Item’s I have learned today:

your man = that guy

The way Kiwi’s say their “e’s” sounds like the way Americans say their “i’s” so Yes becomes “Yis” … pretty sure that will be the only word that I will actually be able to say in a Kiwi accent when I get back home.

So back to the title of this blog… it all started on Christmas Day.  I had been working at LINZ (Land Information New Zealand) for  about 2 weeks… and had been in Wellington for about a month.  I was already quite homesick as the holidays were right around the corner, and I had to say bye to most of the friends I had met travelling. I was also stuck working 60 hour work weeks which didn’t leave much opportunity to make any new friends.

Now Ron, one of bosses, asked what I was doing for Christmas.  In my ridiculously retarded little mind (sorry rashi.. I still use that word.. all the time)… I immediately jumped to the conclusion that for some reason he might need me to work.. and I could earn some time and half.. and save up a bit more! WAY FESTIVE of me, eh? I immediately responded by telling him I had no plans.  “Well, that means you can come and spend it with my family and I”

Uh.. what?  Don’t get me wrong, I was incredibly grateful for the invite, and the idea of spending Christmas with a family was quite fantastic.  I literally didn’t have any other plans… other than having to work at the hostel at 7:00pm.. but I am bit shy/quiet/reserved until you get to know me and I feel comfortable. The problem was I didn’t really know my boss, nor had I met any of his family before.   Of course I accepted immediately.. and stressed out about the appropriate gift to bring along even though I “wasn’t supposed to bring anything.”

So Christmas day comes along and it’s a pretty wonderful day. I meet his wife Judy, and his three daughters (Nicole, Michelle and Carina) who are all relatively close to my own age.  As well as Alysia (Michelle’s childhood friend) and her parents and boyfriend.  I was worried about feeling out of place or invading their family time, but I didn’t feel that at all.  All was still a bit strange to have Christmas be a gorgeous sunny day, but that just goes with living in the Southern Hemisphere.

Alysia, Niki, Carina, Judy, Nicole and I at Nicole's place after the fair

Alysia, Niki, Carina, Judy, Nicole and I at Nicole’s place after the fair

So a few weeks ago I received invite number two, to go to the Martinborough Fair “with the girls.”  It’s a big huge NZ craft fair that’s held twice a year about an hour outside of Wellington.  It’s aim is to give local crafts people a chance to display their goods, and it has grown to be so popular that demand for the stalls exceeds the space available.

Carina,  (my bosses youngest daughter) picked me up, from there we went to Ron’s house, grabbed his wife Judy and his other daughter Michelle.

Nicole, the eldest and Michelle’s best friend Alysia and her mother Niki met us at the fair.  Were there a lot of craft booths? yes.  Did I stuff my face by eating pretty much everything in any food booth we walked past? yes.  Did we all sit down and eat at the side of building making us look “like homeless people” (according to Ron), yes.  But did I have a great time? Of course.

nice quiet place for a meal...

nice quiet place for a meal…

I don’t think this sort of thing would ever happen at home, or at least if it has, I don’t hear about it often.  Where you move to a new country and then sort of get adopted into family events. I must say aside from the amount of crap Ron gives me at work… and I mean that sarcastically of course (he often says things to get a rise out of me.. currently being that I should learn to wash out his coffee cup each day if I want a good reference from him).. I think that it’s incredibly nice/sweet/wonderful that both him and has family have welcomed me in… every now and then.

One of his daughters made me laugh when she asked me if I have been adopted by all sorts of New Zealand families and brought along on their family trips.. Nope.. Just hers 🙂

My new found love for rugby??

27 05 2012

Item’s I have learned today:

Lost the plot = gone crazy

Kiwi’s are incredibly environmentally conscious, garbage bins don’t really exist over here (you buy bags at the grocery and stick them outside when full, the rubbish collectors come by everyday to pick up what may or may not be stuck out there).  Other examples include the fact that there’s a compost bin at work, and my garbage can at my desk is literally the size of hand…

Apparently it’s also really fun to have different names for fruits and veg:

mung bean sprouts = bean sprouts

sultanas = raisins (there is a cereal called Sultana Bran here)

croquettes = zucchinis

chick peas = garbanzos

SOOOoo… rugby and Maria.  It’s all kinds of ironic, because back in Seattle I was friends/acquaintances/what have you with a few of the guys on  the local rugby team (or league.. or whatever?) and I made it to all of one game. Actually, technically speaking I made it to half of one game.. and probably paid attention to 5 minutes of it.  I am obviously really REALLY into rugby.

Since I have been in Wellington, I have been to 4 matches… in the last month.   Now I don’t pretend to actually understand everything thats going on,    any type of foul or technical call goes way over my head.  I also have not been the organiser of this rugby viewing activity. but I must say that it actually has been quite fun attending the games live.

Laura, Rachel, Bex and I at a hurricanes match

Laura, Rachel, Bex and I at a hurricanes match

Wellington is such a small city, that the players then head out and about afterwords.  Since I am not a jersey chaser, and I don’t really pay that close of attention to the sport, I don’t know who anyone actually is.. but I find the whole concept kind of amusing.. that after the sport you could literally stalk the players.. lol.  Ok, well maybe stalk isn’t the right word…. ahem.  And I definitely don’t anyone who would conduct such ridiculous behavior.. ahem 🙂

The local team is called the Hurricanes. The national team is called the All Blacks.  That’s probably a duh statement for most of my 2 loyal readers, but I actually didn’t know that prior to arriving here.  There’s also a difference between rugby league and rugby union.  I have asked friends multiple times to explain it to me… which usually just results in me smiling and pretending to understand.  Differences do exist… I apparently just don’t have the mental capacity to understand them… something to do with tackles.

In a few weeks I head down to Christchurch for the All Blacks test match against Ireland (although, we have yet to get tickets for it… but that’s a whole separate story for another time and probably another entry).

If you would have told me 6 months ago that I would be planning a weekend trip around a rugby match.. I would have laughed in your face.  Oh how times have changed..


there is a lot I can not post.

13 05 2012

Items I have learned today (for those new to my blah blah blah’s I usually try to start each entry with some new term/way of wording things that are different than back at home)

So I have learned the title of this post.. again and again oh and

It’s becoming really hard for me to identify what I can publicly post and what I can not.

The problem is that I am maintaining a public blog that is associated with my first and last name which means.. anything I might write could basically come back and bite me in the a** at some point in my life. So although I have written quite a few posts recently that I  would love to vent and put up here.. I can’t.

It’s not because I don’t love and trust my loyal followers, it’s because they are entirely too personal, and you never know what can happen when the wrong people misinterpret you posting about a crappy work week or whatever else I may really want to write about.

So, as much as this pains me to say.. if you find yourself amused by what I publicly post on here.. then email me.. and then I might possibly (if I get to point of some what trusting you) divulge a bit more.. But I can’t on here. is all about glitter, and sparkles, and the joys or travelling.

The end.

A “work” related trip to Somes/Matiu Island

2 05 2012

Being the INCREDIBLY hard worker I am…  it was really hard for me to make the decision of whether or not I wanted to spend the day in the office or head over to Somes/Matiu Island (not).

Somes/Matiu Island

Somes/Matiu Island

Let me back up a little bit. I am currently working at LINZ (Land Information New Zealand). Our Chief Executive has since left the company to move to the Department of Internal Affairs. Prior to his leaving, it was asked that each business group film a going away video for him.  So two teams that I work around: the Topo and Geo Teams (not with, but they were generous enough to allow me to tag along on this highly important business trip) planned a day trip out to Somes Island to track down a trig for Colin’s (our former CE) video.

What’s a Trig? Good question.  I had no idea.. lol.

Apparently they are survey marks.. more importantly hunting one down is justification to take a ferry and go treking around during a work day.  I now love them.

Now the past usage of Somes Island is somewhat depressing.  It was originally used as an internment camp, as well as quarantine area for both humans and animals.  The buildings still stand, it’s a bit irie to think about their past and to walk past the cemetary/memorials of those who’s lives were lost on the island.

Currently it is a predator free  (no rats, rodents etc) scientific reserve. So when we got off the ferry we were asked to look under our shoes/check our bags/hair etc to make sure we weren’t introducing any new uh… wildlife (rodents, ants, etc…)

Not kidding. They even had a “biodisposable bucket” aka a paint bucket for us to dump any mice that we have unknowingly brought over in our purses (hand bags) 🙂

We spent the day walking around and looking at these little lizards called skinks.  We even managed to see a Tuatara (these adorable lizards that have been around since the dinasours… they don’t move much.. literally) The Tuatara we saw was in the exact same place that two members of the group had seen him/her/it a YEAR ago. I told you I wasn’t kidding when I said they don’t get around.

The island also has Weta’s… nasty NASTY looking creatures.  Yes, I did see one of those as well.. and by “see” I mean I got incredibly silent, hunched over/put my arms around myself to protect me from the beast, and walked about 10 feet around so I wouldn’t have a panic attack and freak out.  I’m not a wus/super ridiculous  at ALL.

We had a picnic at the top, filmed and recorded the trig and our farewell message, then we slowly made our way back down and over to Wellington.

Probably the best day of work I have had so far.


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