Just put that pig in the bag and relax

Tonga-time: why hurry when you’re ahead of the rest of the world anyway?

Maartje and I have known each other since we were three and we thought it was time for an adventure as far away from home as possible.
So why not try something different and travel to Tonga without doing any research or bringing a guide book? Why not indeed, so travel to Tonga we did.

Air New Zealand was once again great, providing us with food, drinks, and in-flight entertainment that works straight away, not just after take-off. And this is essential if you want to watch a two hour movie during a two-and-a-bit hour flight.
So there I was up in the air (which was also the name of the movie that Maartje watched, what a clever title), between New Zealand and the Kingdom of Tonga, watching the hardships in the life of The Young Victoria, accompanied by Schubert’s music and Dutch actors speaking English with German accents. Ah, it was wonderful. And not altogether as different from Tonga as you’d think: unsealed roads, women in beautiful dresses, pigs running around freely, and quite a few white men speaking English with German accents.

Anyway, as I said, we were unprepared, and after a taxi ride during which we probably asked the driver a whole bunch of stupid questions (“Do you have crocodiles here? Or monkeys?”. “No crocodiles, but a lot of monkeys sitting around watching tv and doing nothing all day”), we decided to walk into town to find something to eat. Unfortunately it was dark and we couldn’t find the town centre. We asked the Chinese people that ran the little store that we did find, but they didn’t speak English. So, stepping over the dead cat in the gutter, we returned home and went to bed.
The next day it all looked better and we found the centre and a nice cafe. Amazingly Tonga is still free of fastfood chains, no McDonalds, Burger King, Starbucks, nothing, which adds to the charm. They do have Coca Cola of course, and Heineken, though both are frequently past their sell-by date.

In short, we walked around (and sweated), cycled (too far), hitchhiked (and made a friend), went swimming at a beautiful beach (where we were the only ones), drank watermelon juice (delicious), waited (for everyone and everything, but mainly for the ferry), saw dolphins (from the ferry), were amazed (at how friendly the people were, and how big the guys), went hiking (to a look-out that we never found because the guide got lost), and relaxed (at a resort where we could hear the waves from our bed and once again had the whole beach to ourselves).

Other things I discovered:

1. Tongan bananas and pancakes taste good
2. Eating Vegemite (with lots of Vit.B) and liberally spraying myself with Off! doesn’t repel the Tongan mosquitoes.
3. An open sea ferry ride at 5.30am without breakfast makes me feel horribly seasick, and
3a. I can’t vomit while the captain and his friends can see me and
3b. once the worst of the nausea has gone down, it’s pretty nice to sit out on the deck surrounded by living pigs in potato sacks that are being transported from one pig-inhabited island to the other.

All the Tongan girls wanted to find Maartje and me a nice Tongan husband, but we politely declined and boarded our plane back to New Zealand as scheduled.
New Zealand: where every backpacker speaks English with a German accent. Typical, you go to the other side of the world and run into your neighbours.

| Leave a comment


I’ve got a laptop again. After serious in-depth research of about 3 hours I decided to just wave the credit card and splash out. No, that doesn’t mean I bought something fancy, it means I bought the cheapest available netbook, but that’s still a MAJOR splash-out for me these days.
Anyway, after two months without a computer I’ve gotten used to not having one, and I am not really sure what to do with it anymore. But I trust it will all come back to me soon. Next up is finding free WiFi, which on a Sunday in a sleepy Christchurch suburb (by the beach!) seems pretty much impossible. But since the library is open again tomorrow and I’ve got the whole day to myself, a new blogpost might just be on the horizon.
Next dilemma: do I take this laptop with me to Tonga or not…? Ah, life is full of difficult choices.

See ya tomorrow!

| 1 Comment

Riches to rags

So turns out a lot of you are the generous type and gave me money to donate to the Liliane Foundation, which is really great to see. As checking to total balance involved me checking my bank account and I had the feeling that would not make for a pleasant day I have been putting off getting back to you. But apparently ignoring your problems doesn’t make them any smaller (damm, I was doing such a good job!). What does help then? Confronting them? Let’s try something a bit more buddhist: acknowledge and accept. Yes, acknowledge that my funds are dwindling, that people gave me lots of money, and accept that I cannot use that money for myself.
Ah, if only I were that strong!

Only joking (though it was very tempting I must say): the grand total is 160 euros (none of that worthless NZ dollar shit in this case), and I just transferred all of it to Liliane. Thanks to all of you who contributed, and as you know I believe good things come from doing good things, so watch out! Either way I’m sure we’ve helped a few kids get a slightly better life.

As for me, yes, my finances seem to have fallen off a cliff. A cliff with a beautiful viewof Queenstown, the lake and the mountains, but it was a bit of a drop nonetheless.

But whatever, who’s interested in my finances anyway. Acknowledged, accepted, next! (This next might be a phone call to the parents…)
In the way the world seems to work though, I’ve been meeting exactly the people I needed to meet, giving me guided tours, massages, meals with parents and haircuts, not to mention positive energy, insights and stimulating conversation. So it’s safe to say I’ve finally shaken off my Auckland depression (brought on by a variety of events better left unmentioned) and am now floating around in a state of bliss.
Until I remember I have no money that is, but that is a situation I can and will work on, and which will sort itself out soon. Queenstown is full of super low-paid jobs for money-deprived travelers like myself and I managed to get one of the best-paid ones around, selling clothes at Quiksilver. Only 12 days until payday, yahoo!

In the meantime, I hope that everyone that has been making me feel happier has gotten something back from me in one way or another or will do so in the future. I mean, watching that Swedish film where someone gets raped in the ass was so enjoyable, I’m sure my friends in Dunedin were delighted I talked them into seeing it and now feel culturally enriched. If not, I’ll buy you some beers next time I’m there!

My laptop died so it’s been a bit more difficult lately, but I hope to blog again soon…

| 1 Comment

Are you a giver? Birthday wish, and please also keep clicking that link to the TunaFish website!

In my last post I mentioned I was planning something for Christmas and my birthday (2 January). The something I was planning involves you, and your money. This is not sounding good, is it? Please give me a chance to explain.

Because I am practically in a different country every year, most of you haven’t had to buy me any birthday presents for a while now (ok, I do realise that this works both ways and that you probably also didn’t get a present from me on your birthday, but that’s not really the point in this post). This year, even though I couldn’t physically be further away from most of the people I know, I wanted to ask you for a birthday gift. Or Christmas gift, if that’s more your thing.
Lately I’ve been reading a bunch of books about the Tao and related stuff, and I was inspired by the idea of needing less, giving more. This led to the plan to ask you to help me raise some money for a good cause. So your gift to me would be money that we can give to people that need it more than I do.

I talked about this plan with a few people and they were pessimistic and didn’t think it would work. The word ‘recession’ was mentioned. But really guys? Please don’t tell me you can afford two more drinks, but can’t spend that same money on something/someone that really needs it. I refuse to think that’s you, so I still believe that you are generous and would love to give something, no matter how small the amount. If I am right, you can click on the ‘Donate’ button on the right (I’m very proud of my geeky me that managed to set this up). This button links to PayPal which allows you to donate with your credit card, of from your own PayPal account if you have one. The money goes into my PayPal account and you can leave a message too I think. I promise you that I will NOT keep the money for myself (unless that’s your specific wish of course).

If you don’t want to use this option please email me and I will send you my bank details (Dutch, Australian or Kiwi).

As for the good cause, I have a few in mind but find it very hard to choose so suggestions are welcome. I will let you know which one I picked. Once again, any amount is welcome, and I will donate something myself as well.

I picked a cause! I’ve decided to donate the money to the Liliane Foundation (Liliane Fonds). This is a Dutch organisation that helps handicapped children in developing countries. I picked this one because a family friend with years and years of experience in this industry recommended it to me as an organisation that doesn’t pocket your money for themselves. They only have a Dutch website: http://www.lilianefonds.nl/, so if you want to know more and can’t read Dutch let me know! I’ve been thinking about my own contribution, and decided I will sign up to give them a monthly donation.

And to keep up the spirit of giving, I don’t have anything tangible to give, but I do want to tell you all that I miss spending time with you and really think the main downside of travelling is that I don’t get to spend nearly as much time with you as I’d like. Then again, some of you I’d never have met if I hadn’t done this travelling!

One thank you in particular to B&F for supporting everything I do in every imaginable way!

And last but not least, a repeat of the request for my personal benefit: please click this link (clicking it is all you need to do).


Good news

Just a really short update to let you know I finally got my visitor’s permit changed into a working holiday permit. A word of advice for all of you thinking of coming to New Zealand: apply for your visa before you get here. Seems obvious doesn’t it? So you’re wondering why I didn’t do that? Because I am stupid?

Nope. I really tried to complete my work visa application online (I’d already filled in most of it), but I kept getting a pop-up window saying ‘Sorry, this website is currently unavailable’. I then called the immigration office and the girl I spoke to assured me I could just come to New Zealand, get a visitor’s permit at the airport and then change it to a work permit later.

She was right, it can be done. It just takes a lot more time, and the system will automatically ask you to do a full medical exam. To cut a long story short, my application was approved yesterday, and I didn’t have to do a medical.

On a very different note, I am planning a little something for Christmas and my birthday, so please keep checking in because I will post it online soon. Actually, I will be emailing you about it too, so there’ll be no escaping it.

Also, if you are reading this (and I know you are, because well, you’re reading this), I’d love to hear from you through the comment section. Most of you are not too familiar with the blogging world but you’d be surprised what happens out there/in here. (It’s wild man! Or, you know, just fun)

Last but not least, I am entering a competition to win a ticket around the world. Jesus, has she still not travelled enough?! No, I haven’t. I will address this subject soon. For now though, I need your help (read: a mere click of the mouse) to win, so please click here to see the website of my travel agency, TunaFish. The more hits they get via my blog the more chances I have of winning the ticket. I’ll be forever grateful and will bring chocolate/speculaas/cheese when I visit you on my trip.
Don’t worry though, this blog is not all for personal gain. The Christmas/birthday thing involves this competition but also something else, so stay tuned!


I like shooting too

New Zealand, country of sheep, kiwifruit, hot guys (or so I have been told), and sheep. Apart from all these wonderful things, New Zealand is also known for it’s amazing natural beauty and crazy adventure sports. Yes, New Zealand is a country for the great outdoors. Dutch people in general are not used to the great outdoors, probably because we don’t have a lot of it, and I especially are not an outdoor thrill seeker. I don’t surf, I don’t do rock climbing, mountain biking (except in Argentina and only downhill), I’ve never tried wake boarding, snow boarding and anything on a board for that matter, and I’ve never found a good reason to try things that involve elastic ropes and high altitudes. Even scuba diving is not for me. I do like snorkelling and I am highly skilled in floating in caribbean waters.

Do I sound boring? Maybe, but I don’t really care. I still consider myself pretty adventurous and cool and I don’t see why my self image should have to relate to reality. I mean, what good would that do?

Seriously though, last week I spent some time in a shop called Ocean Hunter. Why? Because my new flatmate has a hobby called spearfishing. This involves diving without oxygen tanks, a gun (not a spear apparently), and lots of other interesting equipment that I had never heard of. Like a shark shield. Except when I just googled this device I found this result. Aah!

Next up was a little trip up North from Auckland, to a place called Pataua, an almost deserted peninsula with a few houses, boats, and a campsite.
While my flatmate went off to shoot some fish, I thought it would be good if I did something adventurous too, like climb the weird looking hill at the end of the beach. But it was 6.30 in the morning and I quickly abandoned the idea. Instead, I did some shooting that is more my kind, the one that involves a camera. Below are some of the things I shot. Yep, myself too.

and one pic shot on One Tree Hill in Auckland


The question is: what is the question?

People love asking questions. Actually, that’s not really true. A lot of people prefer to just start talking about themselves, and there’s also a group of people that ask questions just so that once you’re done answering, they can tell you their answer (which is always bigger, better, more impressive). But I think it’s fair to say that most people do like to mix in a few questions when engaging in social talk with someone they’ve just met.

In the Netherlands, the favourite question usually revolves around the way you make your money: ” Hi, I’m so and so, what kind of work do you do?” If you don’t really know how to answer this, you’d be surprised how quickly they start mumbling something about going to get a drink or spotting a good friend across the room. Not that I’ve ever experienced this of course…

I guess the best answer to this question involves something that implies status, money, and hard work. Whether you like your job or not isn’t very important. Oh, and adding something like “and last month I used my annual leave to help build houses for orphans in Africa” always works well too. The more exotic the better. For example, Australia is cool because it’s sunny and far away, but really, it’s kind of ‘been there done that tell me something new’.

In Central and South America the first question is ALWAYS “where are you from?”. They will utter some positve oooh’s and aaah’s about the Netherlands, immediately followed by “what do you think of Costa Rica/Chile/Argentina/Paraguay?”. If you tell them you love it, the only question you’ll have to answer from then on is whether you’d like some more food and drinks. Yep, it’s that easy.

Here in Australia the question they ask me seems to be either how long I am here for (is it worth befriending you), or where I live (North or South of the Harbour).
On top of that, the Australians have also been asking themselves a question:

“I wonder if we can make new Uggs that are even uglier than the old Uggs…?”

The answer?

“Hell yes we can!”