Picking up where we left off last time, here are five more reasons we l-o-v-e-d our time in the land down under the land down under.
1. Amazing All Blacks. For those of you that don’t know, (I didn’t!) the All Blacks is New Zealand’s professional rugby team. The day we landed in New Zealand, they had just made it to the finals of the Rugby World Cup and were going to play France on the day we left. All week long we had locals explaining the game of rugby to us, the traditions of the All Blacks and why the rival Australian team was so bad. Every time you turned on a television or radio they were replaying the last game or predicting what would happen in the next game. These people made die-hard SEC football fans look like amateurs. Every store, restaurant, church and library you passed had All Black signs in them supporting the hometown team. It wasn’t too much though, in fact, we loved the passion and enthusiasm and found ourselves getting caught up in it. The whole country was so impressively excited about their possible world championship, they were taking along everyone on the island! The last night we were there, we sat in a pub with locals and watched the team perform the haka, a Maori dance that was traditionally performed before they went into battle. Man, it was enough to get you pumped up for anything! It gave me cold chills and made me want to jump on the field and play. The All Blacks ended up winning the World Rugby Cup 8-7, and it was amazing to think that we were lucky enough to be there for it.
2. Glaciers. I don’t know if you heard, but New Zealand has a few glaciers. We bit the bullet (spendy!) and reserved a spot for the heli hike at Franz Josef Glacier our third day there. I was beyond excited that we were
a) going in a helicopter
b) going to hike on a glacier.
But sadly, when we got there that day, the ride was canceled, due to fog. I was devastated. Then they said we could wait around for a little while to see if the fog cleared for the next flight. Of course, we did, and we even got as far as putting on our hiking boots before they canceled the next flight too. So. Very. Sad. There might or might not have been some crying in the middle of the street about this. (Dan has got to get a hold of himself about these things.) We did get as close as we could to the glacier on foot, which was pretty cool. Just not as cool as adding a helicopter.
3. Fergburger It was the best burger we’ve ever had, hands down. We went there twice and ordered the Southern Swine burger both times. The New Zealand beef was amazing and Fergburger is a bit of an institution in Queenstown.
4. Outdoorsy. We loved how many things we could do outside in New Zealand! It was perfect weather and when outside looks like a movie, why in the world would you ever stay inside? While we were in New Zealand we went running, bike riding, rock climbing, hiking (called “tramping” in NZ) and even got an invitation from the local rowing club to come out and join them for a row. It was like the best summer camp in the world.
5. Things we weren’t used to seeing in Malaysia, but missed from home. You know, things like churches, pine cones, fluffy beds, drive through liquor stores and cold(ish) weather. It’s the little things.
So that was our trip to New Zealand in the form of a top ten list. I have about five million more photographs that I will be happy to go over in excruciating detail just as soon as I get home. Let me know where to meet you and we can settle in for some more New Zealand goodness. Do you make top ten lists for vacations? Or is that just me? If you don’t, you should. It’s a good time. Leave us a comment about your favorite vacation location – we might want to check it out next!
*Sweet As is another slang phrase used in NZ. Kiwi’s use it instead of “awesome.” Go ahead, try and use it today. You will feel oh-so-Kiwi when you do.
Maybe you say/spell it “football”. Whether you say “cleats”, “studs” or “football boots”, whether it’s a “game” or “match”, “field” or “pitch”…however you express it, the passion for the sport is the same. Everywhere.
Travel the world over, and just about anywhere you go…there is football. Not American football, but what we would call soccer, of course. It is incredible how much the sport is loved and how it bonds people together. Kids who have next to nothing, not even shoes to wear on their feet, are brothers in the neighborhood game playing for hours in the center of town. Adults are unified and as devout about supporting their country in international matches as your pastor, rabbi or priest might be about their religious faith. And then there’s the Premier League.
One of my players once asked me, “who do you support in the Premier League?” I looked at him confused by the way he used “support” and unfamiliar with what he meant by the Premier League. So I turned the question back on him and he said, “Manchester.” When I realized he was asking what professional soccer team I cheered for I added, “Cool, and who’s your favorite player?” To which he replied, “Beckham”. I had heard of those two so we were able to move forward as I chimed in, “Oh yeah, me too.” Close call where I nearly lost some street-cred for not knowing the sport I coach. Premier League is serious stuff. Think of college and pro football in the US or perhaps the pride we have for our respective baseball teams. That’s how English soccer is…but not just in the UK. It’s the most watched league worldwide, because no matter where you’re from…it’s the big time and a lot of people in a lot of countries are following it. Maybe not in the US (we have the World Series, SuperBowl, March Madness and College Bowls to keep up with plus much, much more.)
The simplicity of the sport is its brilliance. Jenny, who has never played or even watched the game, came to one of my team’s matches recently. After the game she bluntly shared, “I’m sorry…I wanted to be into it but I just couldn’t follow it. I mean, it’s kind of boring…like it’s just a bunch of dudes kicking a ball around.” Exactly. That’s it. You just need a round object (a true ball is even better but not required) and something to kick it at. Actual goals are especially nice and with nets are a luxury, but it can be anything. The open space on which the game is played can be concrete, hard packed dirt or the rough makings of a field. Grass and astro turf are a treat! And so you go from there…if I can get this round object past you and into the “goal”, I win. If you do it, you win. Simple. Brilliant.
So, while I am still very much a novice at coaching the sport, I have renewed appreciation for what was once my favorite sport (before being replaced by crew). I also am amazed at how the sport unites so many people around the globe of different colors, cultures, languages, beliefs, and social-economic status. Anyone can play the game, and when you do…it doesn’t matter who you are off the field because on “the pitch” you are on a level playing field. Everyone speaks the same “language”, shares the same desire to excel and respects those who do it well.
We recently traveled to Bali and visited the town of Ubud, their cultural capital of the small island. At the hotel we received a walking map of essentially 3-4 blocks in either direction that comprised the “city center” and the bulk of where all the shopping, dining and lodging would be. Right smack dab in the middle of our map…was an image labeled “football field”.
Everytime we walked by the field for 4 days (except at dark), there were kids playing. Sometimes there were even bikes, multiple games going on and dogs running around. No matter what, there was a ball (or two) and kids chasing it. Most did not have shoes and couldn’t have cared less that the grass was way too tall (where there was grass), mud puddles were everywhere and there were no boundary lines, no nets, no clocks or scoreboards and no referees. Just football.
At our first hotel in Bali, a little Dutch boy was kicking the ball around by himself at a small net next to the beach. So one of the staff staying playing against him. Soon there was another member of the staff and a Dutch sibling involved, and they were really good! It’s simply a contagious sport that creates an instant connection beyond borders. I don’t think it will replace crew as my favorite, but while we are here it’s pretty cool to get reacquainted.
So, what’s your favorite sport and why?
One of the first things we heard about living in KL, and quickly confirmed, is that food here can be REALLY, REALLY cheap… or it can be REALLY, REALLY expensive. Eat local, and you will be amazed at how much tasty, fresh food you can get for a few bucks. You soon realize you are better off eating out just about every night because (a) you don’t have to cook, (b) it’s fresh and delicious, (c) there are so many choices, (d) no dishes to do and (e) it’s actually cheaper in many cases!
However, if you must have the familiarity of things from home, as a Westerner you will pay for it. Things like Ocean Spray, Smuckers, Dr. Pepper, Cheezits, US cereals, and other name brands are going to be 3, 5, sometimes 10x the cost of the local equivalent. The same can be true when you dine out.
For example, every Thursday we eat dinner at the plaza across the street where there is an open air market. We can get fresh produce and full meals that are offered by local restaurants and stores that put up a tent and table for the evening. It’s always packed and we look forward to it every week. The two of us can eat dinner and have leftovers for lunch the next day for somewhere between 20-30RM (which is about $6-9). At the other extreme, if we opt for western food like we did one of the first Friday’s we were here (and if we add an adult beverage or two), the price could be in the range of 150RM (or just under $50).
Well, to trump that we heard that the Expat grocery store had pumpkins that we just had to go see. This is amazing because of course no pumpkins grow here so these were imported. A friend told Jenny that one was over $250 and we just had to go see it. We were expecting to see a giant pumpkin that rivaled her fitness ball in size, but were shocked to find what a $250 pumpkin actually looks like here in KL:
That’s Jenny pointing to the ticket, which if you zoom in you’ll see it’s just under 800RM which is around $250-260. So, no jack-o-lantern carving this year! That’s okay it’s messy anyway, right?
Happy (early) Halloween and safe trick-or-treating! By the way, what’s your costume this year?