Monday, February 6, 2012

New blog

FYI - anyone interested in following us on our next adventure can check out our new blog here.

Thanks for following us thus far!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Safe harbor

At the request of some of my most diligent readers, I hereby announce that we have, in fact, arrived in the U.S. and are not lingering in limbo over the Atlantic Ocean as the long, awkward pause since my last post suggests.

We arrived in early August, just in time to celebrate my parents' and brothers' birthdays, as well as our fourth anniversary and Bryan's bday (August and September are not for the faint-walleted in this family), and to see my youngest brother off to college in Newport News. My parents are very generously allowing us to regress into a childlike state of dependence, living in a spare bedroom and eating my mom's yummy cooking (vegetables at every meal? crazy!) while we stake out our next place of residence. I'm even working part-time as a receptionist at the medical practice where my mom is the office manager while they look for a permanent employee, which offers me the winning combination of income with flexible hours and is hopefully proving to be equally beneficial to them.

Bryan has just started working as a substitute teacher's aide for the local school district and so far has enjoyed most of his placements with elementary schoolers, especially the special needs kids with whom he's been working most days this week. Last month he flew to Nebraska to spend three weeks with his side of the family, which as I understand it involved plenty of bowhunting and knife-throwing with his brother, followed by cuddles and bedtime stories with the nieces. They're redefining the image of manly men. Our long-term prospects are just as vague as ever - we'd be happy to settle down here in the States if the right opportunity presents itself, but we'd be equally (or maybe more) excited about another venture overseas. Just don't mention that overseas bit to our bank accounts; they might have a heart attack.

Living in the D.C. area as an adult is proving to be lots of fun. In the almost three months that we've been here, we've frequented a cool indie theater downtown, attended a screenwriting competition where the finalists' short films were read aloud and then voted on, backpacked at Great Falls and in the Shenandoahs (but that's a very wet, miserable story for another time), checked out an exhibit on the Etruscans at the headquarters of National Geographic, and have developed familiarity with this city's inferior subway system. The only major downside is the terrible traffic, aggravated by the constant construction that is, I'm sure, designed to alleviate this very problem.

Having not yet completely resolved the psychological issues related to our uprooting from the country that we felt at home in, we do pine for all things New Zealand, eagerly using "us" and "we" when referring to the All Blacks and their dominance of the recent Rugby World Cup, "forgetting" that uncultured Americans don't understand cool phrases like "sweet as", and ferreting out local distributors for Cadbury chocolate and Bundaberg Ginger Beer (thanks, World Market!). I'm sure my coworkers inwardly roll their eyes every time I casually make reference to my recent arrival from the Southern Hemisphere. But they'll get over it...because I surely won't. :)

Thanks for following us over the past two years - if we go somewhere else that's worth writing about, we'll let you know.

-Rachel (and, in spirit, Bryan)

Monday, August 1, 2011

germany highlights

as we'll be wrapping up our two weeks in germany tomorrow, i figured i'd share a few highlights from our trip so far: 

1) road trip with ann and josh! we spent three days driving around the former east germany with our friends from new zealand, camping in beautiful old dresden, freezing in unsummer-like weather at the buchenwald concentration camp, wondering where the heck everyone was in gorgeous and underrated erfurt, and admiring martin luther for having lived so long in the crap town that is wittemberg. in total we spent about 8 hours on the road, but drove through 5 german states - berlin, brandenburg, sachsen, sachsen-anhalt, and thuringen. that must count for something.

2) cycling through munich. our itinerary only gave us one full day in munich, but at the suggestion of the family friends who we stayed with, we rented bikes and were given a personalized tour of this very pretty (and cyclist-friendly) city. on foot we never would have gotten to the outskirts of the city to see the sunbathers in the english gardens, the still-modern silhouettes of olympic park, or ludwig I's schloss nymphenburg, modelled after versailles. 

3) seeing the south in our bmw. so we paid a fortune to get a last-minute rental car, but scored a free upgrade to a brand-new bmw, which is more-than-a-little fun to drive on the autobahn. from munich we drove down to the bodensee (lake constance), where we ate ice creams on the dock at immenstaad and looked over the lake towards switzerland, and then on to our quaint gasthof accommodation outside of the black forest town of freiburg. the next day we meandered through classic wooden-village-nestled-in-the-hills scenery, sampled schwarzwalder kirschtorte (black forest cake) according to the original recipe and pretended to like cuckoo clocks in triberg, and then found a little pension with an available room right off of the main square in heidelberg. spent a half-day showing bryan around the area where we lived when i was younger, but we couldn't get onto the military base without a military ID so we spent the rest of the day at the very picturesque heidelberg castle. 

tomorrow we'll fly to london, and two days later we'll be back in DC to do...?

Saturday, July 23, 2011


slept in and had brunch with josh at this fantastic little cafe in the southern suburb of schoeneburg; it's the bilder buch (picture book) cafe, where even at 11 am on a weekday a pianist was playing lovely little whimsical tunes to a packed room lined with bookshelves and filled with mismatched old furniture. it was all perfect save for the exceptionally rude waitress, who had zero patience for our pitiful attempts at ordering in german. most amusing was bryan's "ananassaft, bitte" ("pineapple juice, please"), to which she responded "orangensaft?" ("orange juice?") and immediately darted off with impressive speed before he could correct her. good times :)

Friday, July 22, 2011


somehow we've been in berlin for four days now and have barely done anything here. part of the reason is that we came here to visit friends, so we've been spending time with them, but the other reason is that we tried a new travel experiment, planning our trip on the go, but it's been a sad, sad failure. especially as we're here during the peak season, we're just wasting our time and money and stressing ourselves out. back to the hardcore advance planning in the future :)

we did spend all day yesterday in the city, mostly visiting museums as it was raining steadily outside and i'd recently thrown our last umbrella away in disgust when it failed to withstand the christchurch winter winds. we wandered around museum island (though the lines were so long that we didn't actually want to be in any of the museums), eating wurst with hot mustard and cheese pretzels from the street vendors in the shelter of the neues museum's long portico overlooking the river.

 after lunch we took the underground train (getting anywhere takes three matter how close it may be) back to potsdamer platz to hit up the film and tv museum...can you guess who was particularly keen on seeing that? the displays looked cool, but didn't actually give enough information for us to understand why this particular director/film/actress was important to german and world cinema. there was a big exhibit on fritz lang's "metropolis", a very small one on michael haneke's "the white ribbon", and plenty of information about marlene dietrich, but overall we were a little disappointed. that didn't stop us from seeing the final harry potter movie at the english-language kino next door, though, and overhearing this conversation in the row behind us, just as the film was starting (the cinema had assigned seats):

young man: excuse me, but i think this is my seat. i wouldn't normally say anything, but it's quite full and we've actually just had to move as well.
woman: i'm sorry, but i'm sitting here now. you'll need to find somewhere else.
young man: it's just that the theater's quite full, so there aren't any other seats together. i did see a seat at the back that you could sit in, though.
woman: i'm not going to move. the movie's about to start.
young man: what can we do, though? these are our seats!
woman: you could find a cinema employee and they could find you other seats.
it continued in this way for a bit, but the guy finally gave up and he and his girlfriend went down to sit in the front row. poor guy.

my highlight of the day was our evening visit to the gemaeldegalerie, which houses the paintings of the berlin gallery that survived the bombings of WWII and subsequent fires in the underground storage locations where they were hidden. in new zealand i'd had a copy of the berlin gallery guide from the early 80s that painted a bit of a pathetic tale about the then-current state of the collection, divided as it was into multiple inadequate gallery spaces on different sides of the city and having lost many of their principal works during the war, so it was exciting to see the collection back together in a new building, looking towards the future. i got to see andrea mantegna's "madonna with sleeping child", a lovely, delicate tempera painting that i'd admired in pictures but had never seen up close. travelling in europe is so much fun...


Monday, July 18, 2011


clockwise from top left: st vitus' cathedral, bryan eating pig's knee, view of prague castle from charles bridge, st agnes' convent, wallenstein gardens, aidan and franta fighting over the "missile launcher"
prague is a very cool city, and we have spent a fantastic four days here with bryan's cousin matt, his wife olivia, and their two boys, aged 6 and 8. they lead the kind of life that we aspire to - no car, top-floor apartment in a historic building in the central city, raising their kids to be comfortable in a foreign culture. it's immensely attractive and a lot of fun to be able to experience their lifestyle for a few days.

in the time that we've been here, we've learned that the hearty czech cuisine need not be bland (delicious goulash and the huge hunk of meat that is pig's knee are proof of this), we've seen evidence of the arts and culture scene that's been thriving here for hundreds of years, we've gotten sunburned while paddleboating on the vltava river, and we've been impressed countless times by the public transport system, which has never been overcrowded, even at the peak of the tourist season. will write more later - this is just a glimpse of a city that we're absolutely loving. leaving today for train :)


Thursday, July 14, 2011

leaving already?

flying to prague this afternoon - how is it already time to leave london? we definitely didn't allow enough time for this portion of the trip, and will have to schedule a few more days here at the end.

yesterday was devoted to seeing london city, the old part of town with ancient roman walls and beheadings at the tower of london and such. it was...fine..., but i am now convinced that i will never again come to london in the summer. the tower of london was horrendously expensive (and they include a 10% donation in your ticket price that you have to awkwardly ask them to take off if you don't want to pay it...what crap!) but completely unenjoyable because you're stick in one endless line, pushed past anything you might want to pause to read about by the pace of the crowd behind you. seeing the crown jewels was like going on a theme park ride that seems not too crowded by the size of the line outside but is secretly hiding a much longer line inside the building. yuck. it was a little bit cool seeing the crowns (apparently there's one for coronations and a different one that is then worn for the procession out), and i think bryan liked checking out the armor and weaponry in another building, but otherwise i would have been happy walking around the outer perimeter of the building...for free. had fish and chips for lunch but didn't get any vinegar with it, which i had been led to believe was standard. hmm.

crossed over the river via the tower bridge, which was more colorful than i'd imagined it, wandered past the globe theater and the prison that gave the moniker "the clink" to the rest of the world, then re-crossed on the harry potter bridge (you know, the one that's destroyed by the death eaters...) and spent some time at the museum of london, learning about londinium and plagues and great fires and beatles and telephone booths. it's amazing to realize that this city has 2000 years of history behind it already - how much fun it must be to be an archaeologist here! maybe i'll go back to school...