Squirk's Overseas Experience

The tales of one Kiwi returning to Mother Britain and exploring the Big Wide World... without being eaten by a shark.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Touch down in Tokyo

Wow. This place is big—and I haven't made it out of the airport yet! I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed, but I am glad that I speak one of the languages used here. English—hooray for Americans!

I've discovered that my old-school Vodafone GSM mobile doesn't work here. This means I can't txt people back home to let them know I'm safe. I'll figure something out.

I've made good use of the little notepad I bought in Auckland: I've written up a few of my experiences on the trip. I'll go into more detail when I'm in a more comfortable writing environment.

In-flight entertanment

My flight from Auckland to Japan was fairly uneventful, but I was being a good little blogger and taking notes the whole time. Sadly, it took about five months before I began typing up these notes, but I hope you'll enjoy these slices of life anyway.

A cute little Japanese girl peeking over the seats seemed to be playing peek-a-boo. She wasn't part of the scheduled entertainment but it was cute nonetheless.

I almost lost my passport after a scolding at customs. I just wanted an excuse to wave my British passport around but the customs lady told me I should use my NZ one when I'm in NZ.

The in-flight movie was Coach Carter, and it was suprisingly moving. It made me wonder, though: is the sport is everything culture it depects real? Is it unique to the USA? The credits at the end were accelerated, too. Surely an unnecessary touch?

There was a Japanese special feature shown on the flight about how to properly enjoy shochu. I'd never heard of shochu before, but it seems to be a spirit made from any one of seven different bases. The base ingredient ranged from rice (like sake) to brown sugar (like no other beverage I've heard of). Apparently men are meant to drink shochu on the rocks while women drink it mixed with hot water.

There are special pots especially for the stuff! At the really fancy shochu bars, they make drinking glasses out of blocks of ice. I imagine you'd need gloves to drink out of those! At the end, the man in a white suit that had been telling us all about this wonderful beverage stood up from his throne and pointed at the viewers. He said something in a commanding voice but there were no subtitles to translate for me. I hope he didn't want me to do anything important, because he looked pretty angry.

Another Japanese show is one that I took great pleasure in watching seemed to be called Kaisoh-Taishow or Masquerade. It's not an easy one to explain, but I couldn't find much reference to it online so I'll try my best. As far as I could tell, it was a game show where teams dress up in colourful costumes and perform remarkably elaborate visual effects on stage. If you've seen the video floating around the Internet of Matrix Ping-Pong, you'll get the idea.

So much things to say!

What an amazing few days it's been.

I do apologise for the lack of updates lately—too busy in Christchurch, and no internet access in Auckland. (Who would have thought?)

I'll explain more when I've got time, but right now the clock is running out on this little Internet terminal in Auckland Internatioal Airport. Yes, I'll shortly be in the skies heading to the land of the rising sun.

In short: tears, packing, a gift, a suprisingly emotional goodbye, a flight, broken promises, partying suprisingly hard, disappearing co-workers, stealthy old flatmates, stinky Whangareians, the longest soup in the world, life on the streets and under dry trees, friendly taxi drivers.

By the way, the title of this post is not a slip in grammar standards around here—it was the title of British comedian Lenny Henry's last stand-up tour in Auckland. It just seemed appropriate.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Aw criminy

You'd think someone with far less than 48 hours remaining before he leaves town for good would have started packing.

Down I go.

Flip flop flip, DING!

Hooray, hooray! I'm happy today.

I've confirmed that I am indeed moving into that student flat in London, the security deposit is much lower, I've spoken to the chick I'm replacing, all is well with the world.

I only have one more full day in Christchurch. I've had something of a last supper with my mother, I've organised to catch up with five more friends—then I'm off. Scary.

In other news, if you'd like to do some home improvement but don't know where to start, here's someone to inspire you: John Doe's extreme redneck home makeover challenge. This guy's neighbour puts 785's mess to shame.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Blog surfing can be fun

You know that Blogger toolbar up there at the top of the page? The one with a "next blog" button?

It's become a past-time of mine to click that a few times, looking for interesting blogs. Like that of an American woman living in Germany blogging about flatulent tea and the way girls don't fart.

Also some Singaporean trendster's summation of the different kinds of love. Put me down as a Pragmatic lover, I guess. Or maybe an Agapetic one.

Theseus' threaded comment viewer

You know, writing a journal like this isn't just a cop-out so that I don't have to e-mail everyone. It's turning out to be a great way to keep myself in check.

After blogging about my poor preparation, I didn't just keep moping. The post had forced me to analyse the problem—I was ill-prepared.

With that in mind, I've since ticked plenty of items off my to-do list and I feel much better.

  • Write a focused CV
  • Book my car in for an auction
  • Do a trial pack
  • Photocopy passports and travel documents
  • Get plane tickets
  • Book accommodation:
    • Auckland
    • Tokyo
    • London
  • Print some "business" cards
  • Send personal tax summary to the Inland Revenue Department
  • Cancel telephone accounts
  • Ensure mobile is set up for roaming

Wow, that's quite a list.

So maybe we didn't win this year either...

Remember the film-making competition I was involved with this year?

Well, this evening was the big-screen premiere of our film (and probably the seven other entries in our group). In a word: impressive.

The standard of the films shown tonight was just fantastic. As our writer, Corran, put it:

Even the worst film from our heat was better than Wellington's winner last year. Miles better.

One team even managed to put together a film in half the allotted time—and it was one of the best!

Staggering. Hats off to everyone involved.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Caterpillars in my stomach

I'm feeling a little trepidatious about my upcoming move. Specifically, I'm worried that my poor preparation might cause some significant difficulty.

I have neither a job or a home ready for my at the tail end of my imminent journey. I haven't cleared out my belongings, or packed my bag.

I haven't said my goodbyes to my friends.

I haven't even got my plane tickets.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Kindred spirits

As some of you will know, I like to read web comics. While it is greatly entertaining for me, it's not something I can really talk about with people unless they have read the same comics. It's like a baseball fan being stuck in New Zealand where no-one has heard of the Major League tournament thingymajig.

Last night I found that some of my long-lost associates not only dig web comics, but several of the same web comics that I dig. Hooray!

Joel was wearing the I am ten ninjas shirt from Diesel Sweeties. He also travels the world looking for robotic insect scientists, or something.

Flat out denial, part 3

I heard back from the flat that I've been interested in. They want to give the place to someone else.


Friday, May 20, 2005

Breaking up is hard to do twice

It's my last weekend in my little hometown, Christchurch.

There's about a gazillion people I want to catch up with before I leave, but in reality I'll only see a few. Most of my friends and family here are people that I probably won't see again. Some, like my grandmother, won't be here even if I did come back.

Sad? Some would say it is. In my mind, though, I already left everyone behind years ago: when I moved to the big smoke. I've moved on since then, and not just physically.

I'm not saying that I don't want to be friends with anyone here anymore; that would not be true. I love my friends here, and I've been through some great times with them. When I was living in Auckland, I often thought how great it would be if some of them would move to the same city. I know that friendship should know no distances—I've found, though, that a friendship unattended is a friendship that does not grow.

Props to the J-Ro

I just thought I'd point out that Jeffrey Rowland is a funny man. Also I did not know what a tanuki was.

Thank you for your time.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Where are my tickets?

I am not pleased with Haley McCann.

She is a travel consultant with an agency called Flight Centre, and she has been responsible for much of my travel plans.

It would be nice if she would respond to my questions without paying visiting her branch a visit and forcing it out of her.

It would be nice if she actually tried booking at the Australian hotels we asked for.

It would be nice if she told us the truth about how busy the Gold Coast wasn't.

Right now, I'd be happy for her to call me and tell me that my tickets have arrived and that they are ready to pick up. It's getting close to departure time.

Flat out denial, part 2

Okay, so I'm a dweebling.

The flat in London didn't flip-flop and reject me. They flip-flopped and accepted me.

It turns out I read the messages in the wrong order. The first message was a straightforward Sorry, but we have to meet you. The second one was to let me know that their usual requirements could be waived for a New Zealander. Go Kiwi!

Now I've got to figure out the money side of things. Security deposits and the like, oh my!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Flat out denial

Oh, and I got a response from a London flat saying they'd love to have me. Yay! They just wanted me to send a photo as well as a security deposit. I could probably handle that, so I went and told Gran the good news, then checked the rest of my e-mail—only to find another message from the same flat. Apparently they can't accept anyone without meeting them in person. Boo.


So it turns out that I got it all wrong.

Up and down

What an up-and-down morning.

I woke up to a call from my sister, letting me know that my recidivist cousin may have been snooping around my room right at that very moment. I was in another part of town entirely, but you can bet that I got up pretty quick and got my unshowered ass back around to Gran's as fast as I could. Up for the phone call, down for the reason.

Of course she's gone by the time I get there, but it looks like she hasn't taken off with anything. Up. Poor old Gran is understandably unsettled, having had to chase one grandchild out of another's room. Down.

It's things like this that make me glad to live in a different city to most of my family. Especially that side. Soon, though, I'll be living on the other side of the planet and they won't bother me. Up.

They'll still harass Gran, though. Down.

Audio post

this is an audio post - click to play

I just signed up with AudioBlogger. I figure that I might want to update my travelogue while I'm actually travelling, and so post-by-phone seems like a pretty sensible idea.

On the other hand, calls to the United States may be expensive when my bill no longer comes with a Telecom New Zealand employee concession.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Pig flesh and the ninety day week


For several months, the bedroom I usually sleep in has been dressed up as that of a disturbed eight-year old boy. Devilish posters, zombie masks, plastic toys and cartoon videotapes adorn my walls. This is particularly unusual for someone like me who chooses not to decorate my surrounds, as a rule. So why have I been sleeping with such misanthropic adornments looking over me? Simple. Corran is lazy.

My friend Corran is a film-maker, but not a very motivated film-maker. He's been directing a feature film, called Everybody Loves Murder, for quite some time: nearly two years, in fact. Far too long.

When a deal with a demolition site fell through, Corran asked me if he could film a scene in my room. I agreed, even though I knew that he'd have to spend a few hours preparing (clearing my room and laying down old carpet) and a few hours filming (cast and crew clustered around my living space).

Shooting went overtime, and he didn't quite finish everything in the one session so we had to leave my room like that until he could get everyone back. Just a couple of days away, he said, and I thought I could live with the smelly dusty carpets for a little while if it helped get the movie made.

Well, a couple of days turned out to be a couple of weeks. One of the actors was leaving the country, so I guess that spurred him on. Unfortunately, we still didn't get it all done—but at least the carpet wasn't needed for the rest.

Cutting a long story slightly shorter, Corran and his crew took another few months but finally made it around tonight and filmed some close up gore shots. Have you ever seen a side of pork covered by stiff cardboard and wrapped in layers of clothes? I have now. I saw it being chopped with an axe, and I saw blackcurrant juice being poured into the wound. It sounds disgusting, and it was disgusting.

I'm glad that's over with, but I feel a little queasy. I'm more worried about the bacterial contamination that may well have occurred with raw meat being handled in such a non-chalant fashion.


Sunday, May 15, 2005

Done and dusted

So that's the 48HOURS finished for another year...and what a 48HOURS it was.

The story elements we were required to use when making our short film were what I would call unappetising. We were hoping for our genre to be Splatter Horror but drew Romance. We couldn't even spell the our character's name, and the rest seemed like a particularly unhealthy combination. Was it just our dirty minds, or was there something unseemly about making a Romance film featuring an animal lover and a banana with the line please don't do that?

I think we suprised ourselves making a reasonable romance film -- and we didn't have to resort to dressing in drag. And we have a werewolf.

Update: Apparently the film won an award for Best Use of Character. You can watch the film online if you're really keen.

Friday, May 13, 2005

48HOURS - Furious film-making

This weekend I'm involved in a film-making competition called “48HOURS: Furious film-making”. The short of it: you've got just a single weekend to write, film, edit and deliver an entire film. We did it last year in Auckland, but the lovely organisers have expanded the competition to cover the four major cities in New Zealand including Christchurch. It's going to be rad.

We've had a slight hiccup in terms of venue — it turns out that $25 each and $500 in total aren't actually the same thing at all! So we're back to taking the “someone's parents' house” route, which isn't anywhere near as cool as the backpacker penthouse that looked like the set of Friends (except scungy).

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

How to tell if your family is white trash

My sister came over to visit today, baby in tow. She's 17, unemployed, and hasn't been in school for about three years. She's a very capable learner, and I think she could do anything she put her mind to doing—but she'd rather just sit around the house all day, getting smashed with her boyfriend. No, the boyfriend's not the same guy as her baby's father.

So anyway, she's living with our dear mother right now even though neither of them particularly like that situation. Mum's been trying to get her to move out since she got pregnant at 15, but it's difficult to convince a would-be landlord to let you take on a lease when you're a single mother young enough to still be in school and yet have no reliable source of income.

"That's why I want a Housing New Zealand house: so I can do what I want with it," she told me today when we were talking about décor. Sure, most people would say "That's why I want to own my own home..." but when there's a government-sponsored rental program, why not?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Now available in Travel!

I've decided to put my blog to good use and keep track of my travels. This way, people back home can keep track of what I've been up to without me having to e-mail them. We all win!