Monday, May 31, 2010

Making Use of Medical Insurance

Despite checking a few times, it turns out that I do not fly out of Wellingon today, but tomorrow.

Because of this mix up, Angie had taken the day off. Oops. But this was providence. The hand of a greater power was in motion. Or, you know, it just worked out for the best.

When I woke up, the pan was hardly noticeable and I thought – good – it's abut time it's gone One day was more than enough. I thought I'd be getting better that I didn't need drugs, and that soon all would return t normal in my travel world. That or I'd be dead. I figured that one of the two option would come to pass. Thirty minutes later when the pain had reaxhed it's fll force , I cursed my earlier foolishness, an tried t down some more drugs. Nothing was getting better!

Hunched over, I called to Angie – Time for the doctors.

I talked her out of calling an ambulance. It was only pain after all, and soon we were off and driving to emerge, where it hurt to fill out all the forms, and paperwork. But the staff were lovely. I don't understand why the staff at a hospital should be nice, as they are not an American private institution.

I was pointed to a sign listing how much this would cost – 394 dollars just to see the doctor. Everything the doc did? That was jus t bonus. What could I do? I said it was ok, and filled out some more papers.

I was shuffled from room to room before I was finally seen – but with only an hour passing between getting there, and seeing the Doc, I thought that that was pretty good – all things considered.

She felt some places, listened to some things, and then sent a nurse to hook me up to a drip. I've never had all those strange and magical things put into me. Having a tap, as if I were a maple tree, plugged into my arm was strange. And having blood taken? It wasn't the colour it is on tv. Very much a burnt red, rather than bright crimson. And then when the saline solution was plugged in – that was a strange sensation. The cool water ade my hand feel as if it were submerged in an ice bucket. But it wasn't the cold water on my hand, t was the water inside of my hand. I could feel it move through the right sde of my body.

An hour later, when it was done, and I'd stared all I could at the bag suspended before the planetary solar system wallpaper, I was told that I likely had kidney stones. There was trace blood in my urine – yay – but aside fro that, I was fine.

Ah kidney stones. Some women have been quoted saying they'd rather give birth ten times than go through kidney stones again. I was, needless to say, overjoyed by this prognosis. Well – at least nothing exploded inside me, nor was I dying It would just be a rough little while to come. I was prescribed all sorts of drugs, including codeine (in an amount which I fear will not last.)

Drugged up, I headed to a fish and chips shop with Angie who, beautifully, waited the whole time with me. Once more, while this may not be the most fun, were it to have happened a few weeks ago in China? That would have been very different experience.

The fish? Great. AND I had a New Zealand hot dog marking one hot dog in every continent.

It would have been more at home in Scotland, battered and deep fried. But still – delicious.

And the fish? So good. Blue – something. I was told, but my memory is not the bet when on the painkillers. Just keeping my eyes open can be a challenge. [authors note: it's proving a challenge now a I write this. typos a plenty. Forgive spelling errors.]

There was far too much food, and it would come home as my dinner.

Back at home, I wanted to stay awake and watch some more Office, or – so something – but between drugs, pain, and sleeping my last night passed rather quickly. It was caped with a yummy Crunchie ice cream bar though. And that's yum.

Packing up my gear, I prepared to head on out to the airport early tomorrow morning too. Then we watched some Lost. I know – I know – the ending? No good. Still, I wanted to see ho it had played out, anyway. I had forgotten quite a bit.

And then sleep. Sweet merciful sleep. As I gulped some final dugs and drained the water from my glass m leave here i n Wellington was at an end.

All things considered, it really was a great time here in Wellington.

Claims for my medical insurance? They've been submitted. Now we just have mail off some docs, and then play the waiting game. Time t find out if World Nomad's is as good as everyone says.

It Was Supposed to be Comic Book Day

It was supposed to be comic book day today! There were no comic books read by me. Not today.

Waking up at noon, after just a few hours of real sleep, I could not move on. I could not leave the house. I was in pain. Real pain. I don't often feel pain that I can't shut out, but this? This was no wonderful and happy.

I took some more pain killers, and then sat hunched over for half an hour as they took effect. I didn't even notice that the time was passing and when I saw how much had? It's strange how pain works. When you feel it, it's all that there is. And trying to make it go away, even if only by the 10% that hunched sitting relieves is everything. But then when it's gone? It's like it never existed.

They scared me – painkillers. You feel perfectly perfect, but you're not. Just under the surface the hurt is there, waiting to resurface. Which begs the question – are you daaging yourself by not paying attention to it? And if you're not, why does it have to be so cruel and bother you at all?

And – when you start to feel the drugs wearing off? Well that's a terrible thing, because even if you take more straight away, it's too later. There will be a gap between them ending and the others kicking in. A terrible terribel gap.

I did enjoy a library full of comics I was excited to read. Nor some good NZ hot dogs for lunch.

No, I had three pieces of bread, with a touch of tomato sauce (ketchup) as it was about all I could keep down. And plenty of water.

I also continued to pass in and out of wakefulness.

With this time travel in motion it was soon 5, and Angie was back from drumming for the news. The All Blacks were having an important game. Or was it the All Whites? New Zealand has some interesting team names. Their soccer team? The All Whites. Rugby? All Blacks. And basketball? I can't make this up, folks... It's the – sigh – Tall Blacks.

I'm not sure if that's awesome, or terrible.

I slipped in and out of sleep which passed the day by – pausing to watch season one of the BBC Office. I knew they carried a lot over to the American version, but the characters, plots, and gags? They also came with it. And while most characters stand alone in the American version. Jim (based on the BBC Tim) is not only the same, he looks the same, and uses the same body language. It's creepy.

Before I had time to watch season two I was falling, once more, to sleep.

After playing a wee bit of Uke that is.

So much for comic book day. And I was so excited too.

In the Middle of the Night

From being an amazing day, things took a terrible turn, ohh, around four aye em.

Angie had just gone off to sleep, and as for myself? I was thinking that would also be a most excellent idea. However, that small stitch I had in my side? The pain where it felt like I pulled something? It decided it was no longer willing to be a dull pain, instead it was going to be a sharp, ever present, reminder that I was anything but fine.

Step one? I went to the shower. When I pulled my back way back in Europe, I do believe, I went to the shower and stood under the painfully hot water. The idea? It would relax whatever muscle was being feisty and let me get on with that I was doing. So there I was, in the shower, burning hot water on my side, and for a moment? I forgot the pain. It's not that it was gone, as much as the water was far more distracting at that temperature.

Then as I stepped out of the shower, and was met with the rush of cold air that winter is known for, everything came flooding back. Yes. This pain – it was not a pulled muscle. Or if it was, not one to be so easily ignored. I tried to lie down – there was no way that was happening. I tried to sit up, just as bad. I contorted myself in all sorts of weird positions trying to find some sort of comfortable resting place. And there was none. There was no resting place. There was to be no rest.

Back to the shower. At this moment I felt like everything inside of me was trying to destroy me. It was like terrible food poisoning. Maybe it was ecoli? But at the time I wasn't thinking this rationally, all I was thinking was – my god! ow! what the hell! i want to sleep! and other such related thoughts strewn around in semi-random order.

There may have been a purging of everything in me, but that was not helping. I was not getting better. I was not feeling better. As six o'clock rolled around, I attempted to access the internet. This was not the easiest task, as focusing on anything while, a.) exhausted, and b.) in pain (trying to spend time under hot water that was rapidly becoming cold) did not make this easy.

Thirty minutes of failed attempts, and I knocked on Angie's door – a pathetic plea for painkillers. They did not work. Not right away, anyway.

Coming out to see if I was dying, she hooked up to the interwebs (of course) and started checking symptoms on the online. I recall her mentioning things like Pancreatis, or gall whatevers. I took this in, while the hands still marched around the clock, very lightly as my world started to fade out. When I woke up thirty minutes had passed. The pain in my side was lessened to the point that it didn't control my actions. But it was still strongly there.

I could try to lie on the floor, against the heating unit, turned up to the point where normal people would sweat. And then I was asleep – the painkillers having taken partial effect. Good for them.

Weta Caves and Cross Dressing Kiwis

It was astounding, unfortunately time was fleeting.

Getting up and out today may have taken a wee longer than usual. There may have been some watching of internet, namely ukulele videos. And there may have been some playing. I am starting to really quite like this monstrous little thing.

Our first stop was to head out to the Weta cave. This is the storefront for the Weta Workshop – the good people who created a number of the props and miniatures for Lord of the Rings. What is a weta? The most terrifying thing you've ever seen. Kiwis think they're cute, or are – at least – not bothered by them. Think of them as giant grasshoppers. Giant huge grasshoppers that can weight up to five quarters in weight (about 28 grams.) And if they're full of eggs, they can weight up to $2.75! That's a big insect.

They crawl around houses, just like cockroaches, but are not hated because they're slow creatures and may scare you, but don't scuttle.

On the plus side they bite, and can jump huge distances. Wait. There's no added benefit.

But here in The Weta Cave (capital T, W, and C – be afraid if someone offers to take you to “a weta cave.” Very different thing, that.) there were props and statues, and pieces of awesome from not only Lord of the Rings (I did take my picture with Gollum.) There were also props from District 9, The Frighteners, and Halo. How glad was I that they didn't have much Halo merch? There was a statue that I kinda sorta wanted though. It's for the best that I do not buy these things.

After walking the store, and seeing all the pretty things they had there, we checked out the movie explaining the shop. They showed how they began, and detailed the story of the Weta Workshop. In one rapid fire clip it looked like they had created a statue of Riff-Raff. But no, I thought, it couldn't be.

Leaving The Cave behind us, we went to a grocery store and picked up some food. A most delicious meal was prepared while I watched Once Were Warriors. This was New Zealand's shame, but also a well regarded film about the native population. Certain sections of it, anyway.

Dinner? Lamb, and salad. Fantastic lamb, and wonderful salad. It's great staying with a friend when you travel. It's amazing staying with a friend who can cook when you travel! And then dishes were put aside, and out the door we rushed.

It was time for Rocky Horror. Fantastic!

As we rushed downtown, and parked in a less than legal (read: 20% tow away chance) and then booked it down to the theatre, the social landscape began to change. There were a lot more people in their underwear. And I'm not just talking about Blanket Man (Wellington's celebrity homeless man – look him up.) There also happened to be a great amount of men dressed in black lingerie.

Stepping into the theatre, I claimed that there were no virgn's here (Angie having talked about how she'd seen the show before.) But, as we stood in the lobby, chatting with a friend of hers, it came to light that she'd never been to a big screen screening of the show. With this shocking revelation, I peeled one of her friend's extra virgin stickers from her and affixed it to Angie.

It's shameful, kids today. The first time I saw a live Rocky screening it changed my life. Everyone who comes into your life adds something here or there, and there was this one person who opened my eyes to live theatre, and wacky events like this. And (as I'm not a drama teacher - sometimes) this really was a great boon.

The pre-show took place on the stage, with staff dressed in their costumes doing terrible things to each other, and discussing rules (don't throw things at the screen!) then then reminded people that there were to be no naked flames. Naked anything else? Well that was o.k. This was Rocky Horror, after all.

With the lights going dark, and the movie beginning we were met first with a trailer (most people didn't catch on. Many virgin's in the crowd today. One of the girls with us had never ever seen the movie before – nor heard anything about it. An experience this would be. Just standing in the lobby seeing everyone in drag must have led to all number of questions.)

I wanted to scream out, “don't feed it after midnight,” as the trailer played. But I kept quiet. Screaming would come later. I said it quietly to much confusion. Apparently most people don't remember the Gremlin's trailer as well as I do. After they said, “don't get it wet,” you'd have thought everyone would be on board though?

How I wish I lived in a city where they played Gremlin's on the big screen. Actually – maybe the Bloor Street cinema, in Toronto, does. I'll have to look into that.

Science Fiction Double Feature begins to play - “and tell us, where to stand...” ON YOUR FEET! I shout out. No one else is talking. Silence. This is only slightly frightening. The entire song passes, and while people sang along to it, they did you yell at it. Therefor I withheld my, “what the [expletive]'s a Triffid?!” comment. My favourite of all shout-outs, if only due to my knowledge of Triffids.

Then when Brad and Janet started talking to each other and no one was yelling, “sult,” or, “asshole,” I really started to wonder just what the live experience would be like here.

And then the rice started flying. Ohh – rice! No longer allowed in Toronto screenings. And then people got behind the yelling.

When the rain poured down, despite my unpreparedness, I pulled out a Tokyo Map from my pack and used it as my newspaper. And I had my headlamp for the guiding light. I was good to go here at Rocky in New Zealand.

And when Rocky started running around after being born, a guy dressed as gold Rocky jumped up on the divide between top and bottom seating sections, running around, pretending to wobble. Rather than being yanked down for safety reasons, they shone the spotlight on him. And that's when I realized just how much I dislike the uber-lawsuit conscious world of Canada. Give me our maple syrup, but keep the safety regulations.

The show progressed to more call-outs, and a brief intermission (where it seemed everyone went and got themselves at least one beer.) The drinks in the theatre led to the girl behind us becoming one of my favourites. She would constantly attempt to say the words to the film, but always three seconds later than they were said on screen. And often wrong.

Then she would talk about how sad it was, and how it changed her life. Finally – which really endeared me – was when, if anyone else had the nerve to speak during the film, she would shush them angrily, and then start up talking again.

Some might have been annoyed by this? But lets be honest – when you come to see it live, you know the film completely even if no sound played (which due to the shouting at the screen, it almost seems like.)

When the final song was sung, and the mansion was transported back to Transsexual, Transylvania, the lights came up. What I beheld was carnage and chaos. Ribbons from hand held fire crackers, and slices of toast, rice, spilled beer – the ground was covered, and I remembered why Toronto banned a number of these items. And yet, there was a beauty is the destruction. A beauty I was glad I didn't have to clean up.

Just before leaving I made my way to the mens bathroom. I thought this would be a good idea, seeing as how, you know, I had to go to the washroom. But as I found it occupied by both men and women snorting coke it seemed prudent that I should just wait until I found a less – occupied – locale.

Back at home, long talks were had to Pink Floyd, where blue mood light cast few shadows. There should have been sage burning, with curly trails of smoke floating through the air. And I should have been sixteen. Ideas were put forward that I'd not considered. Much like learning of the Moa, I was shocked there were ideas and concepts I'd never thought of before.

And then night was how it should be. Peaceful, enchanting, and comfortable. For a while, anyway...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Museums and Ukuleles

Breakfast time. I was taken out to a fantastic we shop for some poached eggs, hollandaise sauce, bacon, and all sorts of deliciousness.

It was a hard choice between that an banana pancakes with bacon on them. Bacon on pancakes. There's a lovely idea. Now it looked as if they were talking about bacon pancakes, and while it sounds vial to me at the moment, I do wonder just how it would play out. Experiments must be conducted.

After breakfast Angie had to go practice with her ukulele group, and I headed off to the museum to explore. Now I can honestly say, museums? I have seen jut about enough museum. There are a great number of things that I would rather do than wander through museums. Yet, as the rain was pouring down heading along the waterfront to the dry and warm interior seemed like a good option. And it was free. Being free was a big factor in this too. If it turned out being not so great then I could just bail and find some other streets to wander.

Walking in, I headed to the information centre. If you want the French, Japanese, or German information guide – free. English? Three dollars. Very well then. I need no such information. Well, none that I can't read in French anyway.

About thirty seconds into the museum I was more than delighted that I came. There, in a large tank, was a colossal squid. The only colossal squid on display in the world. Now, in all fairness, it was only four meters long, so a small one all things being equal, but still fantastic to see. Beak, eye, tentacles. While it would be amazing to see one of these creatures swimming around live, as all attempts to capture them, or their spawn (round aquariums only if you want a squid to live. Who knows why?) this is as good as it gets.

A three dimensional video played in an adjoining room, it showed the squid as it was suspected to move deep below the ocean's surface, projecting illumination from light organs near its eyes. Fantastic evolution, is what that is.

The squid was captured by a fishing vessel. When they pulled up the line, they found it wrapped around one of their catch, ever so slowly trying to eat it. The exact line was, “now that the squid was so close to the surface it didn't have long to live.” I wasn't sure if this was because they had all plans of capturing it, or if deep ocean squid can't actually survive at that depth. Either way, it ended up within the storage tank here at the Wellington museum.

And if giant delicious animals aren't your thing, there's also the greatest tech demo I've ever seen in a museum within a hallway called “The Wall.” This is a digital screen as long as the hallway, not all that unlike what I saw in the Japan purple omni-dome in the Expo. Along the other wall is a set of terminals where you can scroll through pictures, add your own from a usb key, or use the webcam to take a short video or a picture. By sliding five images into a selection you can send them from the terminal over to the wall. Using a special wand, or lightsaber as some may think of it, you can point and select images on the wall, resize them, move them around, or set them on an animated run from one end of the wall down to the other end.

Like a small bird, I am easily enamored with my own image, and the ability to put myself on this wall? Well I became distracted. Thirty minutes passed before I finally decided that I'd done enough and that I should probably move on to the next exhibit.

Up the elevator I went to see the art. There was some of the best, and worst, modern art I'd seen in some time. One piece was a black canvas with a red cross painted on it. The lines were created, I can only assume, by pieces of tape laid on the canvas. Where the lines converged, you could see where the tape came together. It was not quite as crisp as the other sections. I was reminded of Atari video games, but the inspiration was probably something as a far more religious nature, as video games would not come into being for a half decade still to come.

Little quasi-holographic people danced around on a model ship showing how the voyage to New Zealand may have played out. And stories explain the lives of those who immigrated to find a better life in this part of the world.

There was also a video explaining the struggle to bring the Kakapo back form near-extinction. The video seemed to be better at home as part of a South Park episode, than at a museum. Which makes it all the better. Some sneaky person did what I thought of doing, but opted against. They filmed it and threw it up on YouTube for the viewing pleasure of the world. I looked in the gift shop to see if you could buy the film, but as that was not an option there is still this site:

When I met up in the museum front hall, after the Ukulele practice was at an end, I was told that I could not let leave. Not until I watched the video “The Way Things Were.” This threw you into a junkshop set where a video played out as little antiques came to life, complementing the New Zealand history. A large cow head hung on the wall. I was waiting for it to come to life, and when it did it was accompanied by an image of slaughter houses, an animal's belly being sliced open, blood flowing out.

And this is why I love this museum. They do not apologize for anything. They have exhibits that are hands on, and – well – fun. And fun museums, there are far too few of them.

Also – I learned about the moa. The moa? Quite possibly the first time I ever felt bad about an animal that went extinct. Only four hundred years ago this five hundred pound, 12 foot tall, real life chocobo used to roam around the island of New Zealand. The dodo we hear so much about, though their lives came to an end around a similar time. Why is this? My very quickly grasped as reason? Dodos were hunted to extinction by Europeans, while the Moa was hunted to extinction by the Maori people. The local indigenous (kinda sorta – apparently they ate the 'real' indigenous people) people hunting a species to extinction? Not as damning as Europeans coming in and do it.

The giant Haast's eagle went extinct around the same time, once their main prey was gone.

With a three meter wingspan, the twenty six pound bird of prey could fly up to eighty kilometers an hour.

The Moa. I love discovering things that I had no idea existed. Seriously – it's strange to think that there are these things like giant bird-monsters that people have no idea about. Well – maybe most people know about them? That's fair. But me? It's like a mega emu.

From the museum we headed out see more of the town, while the sun was up and the shops were open. Army surplus stores, geek shops, and bookstores. Clothing shops, and – the girl version of geek shops. You know, the ones with little cute trinkets, and all sorts of paper, things that smell like things that smell good. Mostly wee bits of paper.

Then I came across a figure shop – I went, once more, in search of a Yuffie figure. And as I walked up the stars I mentioned how I might feel like giving back over to that lifestyle when I got home (going to play CCGs and what not in shops, and finding a group to game with there.) About three seconds inside the store put me off on this. Lots of twenty somethings sitting around discussing the various teeny tiny rules and arguing over them, that's not for me. I mean, sure I'll do that with my buddies, but – you know – not in public. Third party perspective change everything.

And watching the uber geek try to flirt with the Chinese girl behind the counter? Priceless.

As it turned out – they did have the Yuffie figure I was after, but it was the most expensive I'd yet to see. Seventy NZD, which is still too much even when converted back into real money. I tell you – it's crazy. Crazy! It was priced higher than all the other figures in the same series. What's with all this Yuffie love? Nonsensical.

And then – as it was getting late, somehow it became eight o'clock as we wandered the street – we grabbed a Kabab. This one? Almost Dresden quality. The lamb was fantastic, and the wrap was well grilled. The sauces? Perfect in amount and flavour. But – it missed out on the cucumbers and the tomato. I can forgive it, but it can not be perfect – not without the cuke.

Just before heading back home, we passed the library where I was to spend Sunday (as Angie had an all day Ukulele thing to do.) I wandered the library and headed straight for their graphic novels section. With a good many I'd never read, but wanted to (rare) I was all set to spend the requisite hours sitting there and being sucked into a multicoloured printed world where all the real action happens between the panels.

Our final stop – a music shop. There, they had a Spongebob Ukulele. There were three – a Flying V, a type I don't know the name of, and a pineapple style. The pineapple style is my favourite of the Ukes, and the art on this one? The most gripping by far. It terrified me that I wanted one. Luckily, there'd be no way for me to carry it around, and as such had to remain on the store shelf.

Back at home? My desire grew. With three such instruments here, I was lent one. For the next hour or so I would try to play, and fail. I learned new chords, and tried to play some of my guitar songs on it. Some worked, some didn't. If you need the bass line you're out of luck – otherwise, once you learn the new chord forms, you're pretty much good to go. It's like a wee little guitar to carry around. I appreciate that it's its own instrument with differences enough from the guitar to make them each powerful in their own right. But I'll never admit that. Not out loud. To me – it's a wee cute toy that can make music. I want one.

But only if it has Sponge Bob on it.

I wonder if they'll have it in Hawaii?

From Auckland to Wellington

I woke up and checked my watch. I was late for my bus!

And then I woke up. Silly me, it was still four in the morning. Plenty of time to sleep and catch the bus later. So much so that when my alarm started going off I ignored it, and turned back to sleep.

I woke up and checked my watch. I was late for my bus!

This time it was no lie. The dream knew. The dream knew!

This time I found myself throwing the few things still outside my pack into it, grabbing my gear, hoping I had everything, and racing up the stairs. I grabbed my shoes, threw my keys through the hole in the office door, and then rushed up to the top of the street, getting there just as the LinkBus (to take me to my inter-city bus) was pulling into the stop. Rushing across the road, I hopped on board, and with a huge sigh of relief sunk into the cushioned seat.

For the next ten minutes I travelled without fear down to the city centre. Getting off there, I grabbed a drink from the corner store, and continued to make my way to the main stop. Having caught that bus out of luck, I now had some spare time on my hands, and when I got to the right spot, I was able to kick back and relax for ten/twenty minutes as the others made their way down.

By eight o'clock we were all on board, and I had myself a sweet seat right at the front to look out the left window, and look out the front. First order of business? Fall asleep.

There's not much to see leaving the city and if I was going to use any time to catch up on much needed Zs this would be it. And then there was some reading. And then we were out on the road.

The New Zealand south island played out in front of me: rolling grassy hills, often times rocky cliffs leading down to vast waters, and sheep. Sheep everywhere.

The landscapes were beautiful, even if only seen through the window, but I was disapointed finding myself thinking – well, it's a little like the Scottish Highlands, and it's a little like Ontario. I wanted to see this as New Zealand, and New Zealand only, but it seems as if that had been taken from me.

We made one stop letting people off, picking people up. And I was not guarding my territory enough. For the next hour, until the new passenger got off, I was crushed, and cramped in my seat – too uncomfortable to rest, not enough leg space to stretch out enough to read. It was not a fun hour. But it did allow me to pay attention as we made our ways winding along the coastline. And that was something spectacular. If only one could stop the bus, get out, take some pictures.

But we were on a mission – Wellington or bust. Only one time to stop, and that was in Rotorua. Stepping off the bus for our lunch stop I was assaulted by the heavy scent of sulpher. The thermal pools lead to making the city smell the way it does, but they have embraced it, in a sense. Their local paper is called “Thermal Air.” They know they can't hide it – why not be proud of it? I wonder how the air smells to people when they leave this town, after living here? And then how would the thermal air smell upon their return?

Lunch was an overpriced sandwich, but a good one. And some carrot cake. And a meat pie. Meat pies are important, I've been told time and time again, and to have not had one would have been such a shame. Strangely enough, they actually tasted pretty good too.

A few more hours on the bus, between reading (A Spot of Bother – did not like it when I gave it a first shot, but now? Not too bad.) and sleeping and I was rolling up to the main train station stop in Wellington.

Getting off the bus, and grabbing my gear, I was met by the lovely Angie ( who showed me around the main streets and pointed out one of Wellington's most delightful sights, the Cuba Street water sculpture. Buckets of water get filled, they splash down into other buckets, those buckets spill. Sometime the buckets splash onto the street, but mostly – and delightfully – they splash onto the drunk people wandering by, trying to reach over and grab it. Nothing like a place where the people are trashed by 9:00pm. It's like the anti-Iceland.

Food was had at Burger King, where there's a deal called “the steal.” It's a cheeseburger covered in mayo with small fries for two fifty. This is one of the cheapest things you can grab here in NZ, as food? Pretty pricey.

But – fun fact – the reason it's covered in mayo? Because these burgers are not flame broiled as much as they WERE flame broiled, and are now microwaved. Hey – seems like a cost effective way to clear the unused patties.

After some food, and some wandering, we headed back home and I was told of the many wonderful things that Wellington has to offer. Tomorrow? The museum.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Auckland - it's not so big. And LOST? Disappointing.

So, I kinda-sorta already saw the city. Who needs to see it again, yeah?

When I first woke up I resumed my quest to watch Lost, grabbing ten more minutes of it over the course of an hour, before finding a fast stable site. Then – it was just a matter of watching the hour and a half of episode to finish off the series. I was – disappointed – by the end, to say the least.

I summed up my thoughts elsewhere, and don't feel the need to get into the angst again. But needless to say, they Battlestar Gallacticaed me, and failed to realize that if your show has a metaphor for god, you need not put God in it.

When I finally emerged from my den I walked outside and saw the most beautiful rainbow I'd seen in ages. It was simply glowing in the sky. Above it was a second rainbow. The bows cut a swath through the sky separating light from dark. I'd never seen anything like it. And by the time I had my camera out, the second rainbow was gone, with the first fading fast. Snapping off a few shots, the image was nothing like it could have been. Still – I'd seen it and that was what mattered.

Making my way up the street on this beautiful day I decided to stop in, one more, at Burgerfuel. Actually grab a burger this time – ground beef and all.

This time a limo malt drew me in, rather than the banana from the day before. And the burger? The best money could buy. $15.00NZD all on it's own. It was... alright. It was pretty good. But it was no MattyP special. They never are.

Leaving the shop I had all intentions to walk down to the bargain bookstore on Queen, but that was – of course – when the sky decided to open. Did I want to walk in the rain to see books that I knew I wouldn't buy? I did not.

Back to the hostel. Back to my room. Don't judge me.

I opened up a word file, I opened up a browser with the map of America, and I opened up Katherine's USA file. I then removed them items from alpha order, and put them in circular order I traced a circle clockwise around America, starting from Buffalo, ending with Chicago. States in the middle? They were discarded, sadly.

With that done, I was ready to begin. Another word file open, and Katherine's file traded for a browser with google maps in it. The tool of every great travel plan.

For three hours I copied, I pasted, I web browsed. But by the end of it I had a rough draft of the two month trip, where we'd spend nights, and the distance / time required to transition from point to point.

All in all, a productive use of time. And when it was done my newly met Californian was back from her day on a boat in the harbour, and more chatting, and learning of American hotspots was to be done.

But the night ended early for me, as I had a twelve hour bus from Auckland to Wellington to catch early in the morning.

You know what? As I have little else to get into here – I will recap my feelings on the end of Lost. Spoilers ahead folks.

The ending of lost - when everyone went through the door, in theory, and we were supposed to think that they all came together. Well here is why that is complete and utter horse hockey.

First you need to buy into what I'm saying about the flash stuff - it was not them all in the afterlife, but rather it was all in jacks head. Geekbox (a lovely podcast I've been following while away) also discussed this, and I was like, "that's what I said!" but no one went with it - yet it's so obvious and the only option. Why?

Because we are told that everyone was awakened like in the matrix, or more realistically the beginning of sailor moon season 2. Now the ones who are awakened are the ones who, in theory, spent the best years of their life on the island and that's why they're all together. And they built this communal place.

OK as if that makes sense. If that was true, than the dude who did science, and also cousin Iggy from super mario, and - everyone - would be there because they wanted to be there, and they wanted to move on. But "Desmond" does not wake them up to have them move on.

Is he just a jerk? No. Because Desmond is not real. He is a construct of Jack's mind, just like everyone else.

It's important to realize that anyone in that death world could be a false person. Jack has created fake beings in this world. His son. Why would the only person to have a fake person be jack? Because he is creating the world - a sort of wish fulfillment. The world is the city he knows best, LA. Jack gets to save Locke, and Jack gets this son, and Jack's father is moving on with the lost crew.

I'm sorry, what? We're supposed to believe that Jack's father spent his best days on the island with all those people? Dude was dead before any of that happened.

Now why was Desmond the person waking everyone? Again - he was the "helper construct" which is how Jack would have always seen him - helping to push the button, and helping 'til the end to try and make things right.

All the people in flash sideways were the way Jack thought of them as being - and at the age jack knew them as. Sun's baby and Aaron were young. Rose and Bernard were young, though we saw them as older, jack did not. Sayid was a bad ass, but with a good heart, kate was innocent. Sawyer was justice.

All these sideways people were not the people we knew from their flashbacks, but rather could have been how Jack imagined them from the few years he knew them. That's why the personalities were different.

The idea that Aaron would move on with them - that he spent the best years of his life with those people is ridiculous. Surely he grew up and made friends.

And Hugo? I could see him accepting those as the best years of his life - but he lived for thousands, we assume.

No, instead, I believe Jack is picking and choosing the people he cares about and bringing them along. Which is why Kate loves him. Something she never really did during the course of the show. But now in his world he can make her be with him.

Note, the flash to death land start the second after Jack dies. The plane flies over head, he closes his eyes, he's on the plane.

This is his death. He has created this fictional world, this "life flashing before his eyes" to help him let go and transition. But nothing in this flash world has anything to do with the rest of the characters - most of whom died on this island for nothing, because Jacob is an asshole with mommy issues.

Further more, I think the smoke monster guy was a good thing. He wanted to sink the island. Great. What good ever came out of the island, aside from people dying?

Now never mind that they travelled through time, or the island moved, or all that other crazy stuff. I just want to focus on how I think the end played out, and that's that. To accommodate all the other crap I have this theory (which doesn't really work in the spirit of the show, but allows me to tie everything together and would solve all problems.)

Jack is not a doctor in real life, instead he is a dreamer, an author, a writer. When he opens his eye at the beginning of the first episode he is really going to sleep. (reverse in this world) these are his creations. His characters. And as he lives through the story, he sees the flash backs, fleshing out his creations.

It is not until his real life death - which may be many years, or at the same time, as his dream death. These fictional characters have taken on such a large part of his life that when he dies these are the things that matter to him. He is picking and choosing those who meant most, while finding roles for everyone. At the end, keeping up with the theme of bad fatherhood, he chooses the fictional characters over his own son.

In this reading, his son is the only real face, but when his creations tell him the son isn't real, he casts him off and moves peacefully to his death.

As for all the things unexplained, or plots that changed, or were dropped - in dreams things come and go and we accept them. This is how dreams work, and they are not questioned. Just appreciated as part of a tapestry that allows us to view the larger issues.

Now - I'm not saying this is what the creators had in mind, but it's the only way to make sense of the show, for me, and if I look at it any other way, the finale was terrible, made little sense, and was just a painful way to wrap up what could have been a fantastic experience. Looking at it otherwise, as a "real death world" where they are all together? It doesn't make sense. Everyone from the history of time would be there. Everyone who was ever on the island (why would the japanese guy choose to bring himself and his maybe-real son there?) would be there throughout the history of time.

And also - why would the island even be there? Underwater?

Jack could have put it there as, when he died, it seemed the island might be sinking.

One could imagine Tolkien being this attached to his characters.

Not to say I hated the show, because I didn't. I watched it for six years, putting in a lot of effort to watch season 6 as I've been traveling the world this year watching each episode in a different country - but I just think the ending? It was far too simple and obvious (most people predicted it from the very begging) and a missed opportunity for something so much more. Were the flash sideways world anything but purgatory, even if poorly explained, the show would have had a much stronger impact.

In a show that deals with the metaphor of religion and god, putting in God? It's not necessary.
Auckland – what can I tell you about Auckland? It has a bad they keep at minus five?

I know this because I saw it in an informational video on the plane. I didn't go to the bar. Thought about it – but the twenty five dollar cover charge seemed like a lot of money. I'd soon learn everything costs twenty five dollars in this country – but at the time, it seemed like quite a lot.

It was an interesting looking bar though, from the video – everyone wears jackets, and the glasses are made of ice. Still – twenty five dollars to get in? A five dollar charge rubs me the wrong way.

But, Auckland. When I finally got up around noon, I made my way to the office to pay, and get some information. I then headed to the Link bus which would take me into town (not that it was needed for the twenty minute walk, but when I went to catch my bus to Wellington in a few days, I wanted to know the route.)

In town I found myself at the harbour thinking, huh – a harbour, and then off I went walking to the sky tower. It's the tallest building in the Souther Hemisphere you understand. You'd think a country like South Africa would try to give them what for, but no, people seem content to let Auckland keep this prize. Maybe out of pity. They all got together one day to talk, and came to the decision that without this tower, they'd have nothing and it would just be too cruel.

I imagine Sydney was halfhearted with its conclusion though, and immediately set ot to plan the downfall of this poor little tower.

When I saw the sky tower, I looked at my map – I'd walk through the park and past the museum on my way back, but for now? This was it. This was the city of Auckland. I'd just walked through it all.

I'd seen the streets, seen the buildings. I went, as has become my norm, to a bookstore. I looked at a few but then decided that someone needs to tell this part of the world that their books are far too expensive. Sixteen dollars Canadian is not ok for a book that would cost nine back home. Are there no publishers here? When digital books reach their full mainstream potential, these shops will have none to blame but themselves for failing. No one will pay sixteen when they can buy it for much less over the internet. And let us not even discuss how pirating will play into all this.

Sure there are shipping costs and all that, but no – this is just beyond reasonable. You could buy a video game for the price of a book or two.

One of their discount books, back home it would discount for 20 bucks, was “only 60 dollars!” Sure in real money that's forty eight dollars – but still. New Zealand, I would like to know your literacy rate. Despite this it's probably quite high. I just can't see many people reading for pleasure at these prices.

Although, I guess there are things called libraries. I hear they're neat. Like video rental stores – but for books – and strangely, for free. Perhaps I”ll look into them in the future. Great idea them, must be new, otherwise everyone'd be using them, yeah?

Wandering the park, and grabbing a kebab (lamb deliciousness – which I'd had so many of in Germany) I was ready to head back. You know, as kebabs are such a staple here I'd expected more from them. But no. The meat I had? Not even cut fresh. They had the fresh thing hanging there, but what I had was cold and pre-shaved. The whole thing was grilled afterwards to heat it up. And the yogurt and chili sauce? Barely there.

I don't know if Dresden led me to expect too much, or if these are just not so hot. M'eh.

Back to the hostel I went. Three hours of exploring, and Auckland had been conquered.

For the next little while I tried, and failed, to watch Lost. I got about twenty minutes, over a viewing time of a couple of hours. I know – terrible. Eventually I gave up and headed upstairs when a guy sharing my room mentioned that the best burgers in all the world were here in Auckland. In fact they were the reason he was spending his one night in this town – the burger shop was at the top of the street. A chain in the North Island, it was called Burger Fuel. I was willing to check that out.

Just a moment, he said, he had to make a call. This call went on and on, and while waiting I struck up conversation, or had conversation struck up – a conversation began with a girl from California. Which led to all number of hours sitting on the porch, watching the rain fall down in heavy sheets – a novelty for people from that part of America, you see – and chatting. It has been a while since I had a good chat with a hosteler. And as the common room in this place was full of creepy silent folks all on their own laptops, I was delighted by it.

At some point we headed out to Burgerfuel for our 15.00NZD combos. I had a malt milkshake at last. I don't understand the point of the malt, but never mind that.

The burger? It was a chicken sandwich. I didn't read enough. But it was a damn fine one, and I'd say worth the price I paid. Having to pay extra for mayo was a little silly – for the fries, you see. As luck would have it though, they were delicious on their own and required no such toppings.

My upcoming road trip around the states was discussed, and I was given all number of pointers and tips and ideas. Eventually I'll have to think some more about where I want to go. Katherine had emailed me a list of places she wanted to see, with a lot of the legwork done. It worries me that I'll need to really go through that at some point – because USA? It's a big country.

Back in the hostel, near the common room I stared at the map of America, and ideas started to form as invisible routes were plotted. But now was not the time. I was tired, and my conversation partner had moved off to sleep – or some such thing. And now it was time I too crashed. Tomorrow. There'd be a new day, yeah?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Last Day in Singapore

Waking up at noon? Yeah – it was pretty awesome.

But then came the realization that this was my final night here. And that as I went to sleep tonight it would be on an airplane over a strange sea, headed to a place I knew not where. And that? That was less settling.

I ate lunch, and then I broke out my laptop, watching World of Warcraft being played on a neighbouring computer. While one attempted to bring glory to the hoard, I tried to book final flights, and buses.

By the time I was done, almost everything had been set in motion. I was without my ticket to Buffalo, but I did have my ticket into Hawaii taken care of. It's strange how little money seems to matter when booking a flight. The first flight I saw was hundreds more than the next, which was hundreds more than the next, if I flew on a different day.

And if I kept searching for the weeks to come, I might find one for hundreds less once again. But with flights – you just kind of book them, and deal with the rest later on. You'd never do that with a meal, ohh this meal is three hundred dollars today. Oh well, whatever. But with flights?

A lot of money has gone into them over the past few months, and I wonder how much I could have saved? Conceivably I was on the winning end of some of these, and would have spent more in another reality where I waited a week or so extra to book them. All this time later, I still don't understand how flight prices work – but that's alright, as I take solace in the fact that no one really does.

As time got closer to when I had to leave, we went out for a last meal at the Indian place just behind her house (I also discovered there was a top notch BBQ ribs place there – how that went beyond my discovery until it was too late, I do not know. Imagine, right behind your house, a BBQ ribs place? what a disaster that could be!

And the meal was good. And perhaps too large with the last – warned against – bite pushing me beyond my limit. But the lime juice? It was a delicious treat I'd not known anything like since Cambodia.

Rather than waving me off as I headed towards the airport alone, I was accompanied on the bus, all the way to the airport. Never have I had a more stress free week this year. Everything we did, perfectly planned – without any desire to stray from it. Arrival? Departure? All accompanied. And it was fantastic. Even when I had to wait an hour to check in, I had someone to hang out with, and talk to – despite constant attempts to save her the hour of waiting with me. Really, I could stay on my own – but it was delightful not to need to.

Then, as I cleared through security, there was much waving, until I finally rounded the bend, and found myself alone.

In the airport, I read, and I looked – unsuccessfully – for something to spend my few remaining dollars on. The book stores also sucked up a good hour, as I looked at every title wanting to buy some, but not having the twenty bucks to grab even one of the cheapest titles there.

And then the flight was called, and on we got.

Food was eaten, and I searched through the various movies on the in-seat entertainment unit. There were a good five I wanted to watch: Lost in Translation (though I should stay away from mopey movies while flying), Memories of a Geisha (I'd been meaning to see this for ages), Planet 51 (because I like cute films), Sherlock Holmes (It looked alright – he's like a real world Batman, though not very real world.), and Avatar – because, you know, Space Marines.

Just as I was about to start watching, I'm sure, I found myself waking up with only an hour and a half of flight left.

Of course.

German Beer and Bird Parks

There is no resting. No resting in Singapore!

I can not tell you how much I look forward to tomorrow – a day of nothing. But that day is not yet come, and as for now? Well it's time to get up, be taken to the bus stop, and head on over to the Bird Park.

Singapore has one of the world's best bird parks, I am told. And as we got off the bus (not knowing it was the right stop – but since every other white person, as well as a lot of locals, were getting off there, I figured there had to be a reason) we were confronted by the sign, telling us just how wonderful the place was.

Lining up to get tickets, both were bought at once. Because of this we could only have one map. Had we bought them individually two maps would have been ours. I thought about explaining the ridiculousness of this, but then decided I just didn't care. Off into the park following the monorail path.

I have decided that I don't understand why people take the monorail. At the night zoo? Sure – it goes through places you can only see that way. But here? Here it follows the road, and it prevents you from being able to get out and stop and look at anything. Sure, you can walk the road again after, but if you do, why did you take the monorail in the first place? Perhaps their lively discussions on the PA make it all worth while? With the quality of the shows here, that wouldn't surprise me all that much, really.

Walking in, we entered the penguin exhibit. There is a lesson to be learned about allowing me near penguins, and the lesson is this – don't. Not if you expect to do anything else, get anything else done.

And when that penguin exhibit also has puffins – cute, fantastic, (not all that delicious – so guilty) puffins? Well that was just about that.

I watched them swim and hang out on the rocks for a while, before moving over to the King penguins. Watching them swim below the waters? It was a beautiful sight to see. And if it wasn't for all the Indian tourists shoving into, pushing me out of the way, children poking, and parents screaming – well I might have been able to stay there all day. But as I was not in the mood to be touched by hundreds of unknown fingers, I took it as my cue to leave.

There would be more to see.

One of the next birds that stood out to me were the marabou storks. Remembered from Africa, these are the most evil birds you'll ever see. Perhaps not really – but the way they stand, it feels like they're just waiting for death, and in such numbers, hunched over, they can be a most terrifying vision.

What I didn't understand was what was keeping the birds in the park. Were they clipped? No they flew to the top of their little area. There were no cages keeping them. Perhaps the world outside, full of heavy traffic, and urban landscapes was enough to scare them from leaving their little peace of pseudo-home, or perhaps there was something at work that I wasn't understanding. Still, it seemed as if any of the birds in this area could have left whenever they so chose.

Walking around the park took us to the African waterfall aviary where small colourful birds fluttered around under – what I'm told – is the worlds largest man-made waterfall. It was pretty big, and all sorts of people were trying to take pictures with it. How they turned out, I'm not sure, but the light was not so great.

The rain earlier in the day had cooled the place down. I can only imagine how hot this pavilion could get when the sun was really shining brightly. It must have been a painful experience, one which led to sweat dripping from all possible places, blurring eyesight, and just causing overall discomfort.

As it was, cooled down, the sweat just caused discomfort.

Outside was an exhibit titled “descendants from dinosaurs.” And while I do love me some dinosaurs, I'm not sure that they should have titled it as such. There wasn't anything making connections. Now, sure, when I see an Emu I think of dinosaurs, but without putting any signage up or explanations would your regular visitor think the same? It didn't matter. There were two cassowaries. And watching them, as always, was enough for me.

This year has shown me a number of these birds, and they never cease to impress – colourful and deadly as they are.

From there we entered an area full of toucans, and hornbills, and other birds with strangely overgrown beaks, that – when studied for a short time – stop making sense. I understand why they developed them – I just don't understand how. Tell me evolution – how did a bird go from small tiny beak to that huge one? How many thousands of years did it take for that to evolve? And why did it stop evolving? Why do we see few signs of further evolution these days, when there must have been so much in the years past?

It's said that evolution happens to allow animals to fit a new habitat, well it's also said that we're destroying habitats, and killing animals, and ruining the world, and all that other fear-mongering stuff that really means nothing (the planet will be fine, animals have been going extinct for millions of years, no one species is going to matter at all in the grand scheme. I mean – honestly – it's like being concerned that certain types of dinosaurs went extinct before others. Or that sea life went extinct. You ask me – all these giant monster things that no longer exist? That's a pretty good thing for us. So extinction – think of it more as your friend.

Unless the animal is cute, then by all means donate all your money. But you don't see many people trying to save ugly animals (you know – like people. Sure we give millions to seals, and monkeys, and what not – but social programs? M'eh. “They should have made better choices for themselves,” and thinking like that. Well – the monkey shouldn't have lived so close to the city, it should have moved away, where it could be happy. “But the monkey either couldn't find territory away, or didn't know how to live there, the change was too big for it.” Yes – yes, and that's the same with most people in need of social programs. But that's another rant, and has little place here.

Monkeys. They're not cute. They're evil. Steal your handbag they will, just as soon as play an accordion for spare change. Or a grinder.

And speaking of cute things that are probably evil, we headed into the Lorrie pavilion where you could buy food and have these birds cover you, eating from you. I did not choose to do this. But, once again, I was reminded of the pigeons covering people in Italy. They were loving it, just as much as the people here were. And what was different about the two types of birds, save for one being grey, and these ones being reds, and blues?

Birds – so many birds – we saw. Flamingos to – which seemed far too pink, to be believed. How many shrimp were they eating? As it turned out they were fed pellets to keep them that colour. But once again, I have to question – how/why did something evolve to change colour with its food? And do any other species of anything do this? If birds did evolve from dinosaurs, could there have been pink baby T-rexes? I'd like to think so. Apparently some people believe they may have had feathers, so why not?

We watched the two shows. One had a costumed buzzard, and parrots flying through hoops (ooh – the parrot section. There are so many types, and most are neat colours – but the one that looks like a super kid ice cream cone? Blue, red and yellow? I know I've seen them in movies, but seeing them and understanding that these are real animals – that they live, and exist, and – it's amazing.

O.K. I know I just railed about saving the pretty animals, and how that shouldn't matter, and extinction is nothing to really worry about – but, how amazing would it be to see these things flying in the wild? Maybe we should do something. And as it's not us, but the good people of South America who would need t make all the sacrifices, and do the work, it's very easy for me to just say – yes, fix this problem, and then wash my hands of it.

Still – beautiful.

The second show was a birds of prey one. And watching the animals attack toys on the ground to simulate snakes, and rabbits, and seeing them claw for pieces of meat? Well it would have been impressive anyway, but having just read about all of these in Vlad? It added another layer to the experience. I'm all about added layers. Especially on cake. Good cake, though, not bad cake. And good cake I had as well, as the super Chocolate cake shop in the mall, during the public transit transfer at the mall. Actually I think it was more just soft delicious chocolate with sweet cream on it. I'm not sure – they called it cake, and it was magical. I'm sure much better for those who really like chocolate, but there were no complaints from me.

The ice cream was far too rich. Again – if you liked Chocolate, I'm sure it could have been the best ice cream ever, but I like my ice cream to be refreshing. Calpis flavour, if you will.

And the day wasn't done yet. There would be no going home, ever. No escape. No rest. No – after this, we had to head out for good beer and sausage. I know, I know, it's a hard peril-filled life I lead. How do I manage?

The beer – it was micro brewed in the restaurant. This doesn't mean it's going to be great – but lord, was it great. Just like in the German beer hall – you had your two choices, light or dark. I always go with dark. And the food?

I can not say enough wonderful things about the food. Not since Poland and Germany has my tummy had such a happy time. Sure, I love asian food, and given the chance I'll eat it back home – but that's because I never knew real “white person food.” I'm from Canada – we have no culture, and definitely no food culture (ok, I'm from southern Ontario – the rest of Canada gets food and culture, we get kraft dinner with bits of hot dogs cut up in it.) But this – ten sausages, small though they may be, it was still plentiful, mashed potatoes, fantastic sauerkraut, (why do I feel like I've written about sauerkraut lately?) and as much mustard as I wanted.

This was the meal of meals. One of the best I've had this whole trip. Enough to bring a tear to my eye thinking back on it now.


And with that final memory we headed back home for a last sleep. I packed my bag, then vowed to stay up until five am doing nothing, for I could sleep in the next morning.

At 4:45, I finally drifted off to sleep.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Once more, up early. Always up early – always to sleep late. Now sure that late sleep is my fault, but still – being up and ready to go at 9am, that's too much after twelve hours under the sun. The air conditioner can only do so much.

Today should be different though. There should not be all that much going on – we're just headed out to the lovely island of Sentosa. It's cute that little Singapore has even smaller islands which once can head on over to. Sentosa is the most popular of them all. What's the least popular? Probably the military island. It's not even on the maps that you grab around here. The other tiny islands are on the map, but military island? Nothing.

All men need to serve two years in the national defense forces. And it's strange to look around and think that they all have that training. I've mentioned this before, and when wandering around I mostly forget this fact. But how does that service colour their experience? The way they see the world? The way they see each other?

Ironically if the men were ever called back to serve, they'd be under female officers, who join by choice and often stay on.

But again, we were not headed to this Battle Royale-(I can only assume)-esque island, we were headed to Sentosa(!) and with a myterious VIP card that was obtained some how we speak not of, it was free. All free! Entrance and transportation to the island? Free. Access to the fort? Free. Checking out the Merlion? Free. The night show? Free. Sky Tower access? Well free, but it was sadly closed. But there would have been no time for it anyway.

And today was supposed to be a quick day.

Heading out to Sentosa required, first, passing through another bookstore. And some toy stores. These never work out for me. But, I noticed I still had money. I wasn't spending any, how could I not still have money in my pockets? And toys, well, they're interesting. I saw one on the shelf, but didn't purchase it. I wanted to – but it just didn't work out. I considered, rather than the awesomeness of it, the space it would take up in my pack.

This would haunt me all day. Well – not really – but I would think back to it now and then.

Over on Sentosa our first order of business was to secure tickets to the show. It would not be for eight more hours, but the pamphlet said to get your tickets early to avoid disappointment. Disappointment was the thing I wanted! So, tickets secured, it was time to see the beach.

A free tram (once you pay to get onto the island) took us down to a stop that was listed as the Southernmost part of Continental Asia. I don't know why it feels it can make this claim, as Singapore is an island, and this is an island on an island, and Indonesia is far more south. But the sign says so and how can I possibly argue with that? Especially since it allows me the opportunity to claim that I've been to the southern most part of Asia, Africa, and South America. I'm not sure that any of those claims are accurate – though I think Africa would have been closest to the truth.

A few people were swimming, and playing with floating beach balls, and running in and out of the water. I was more engaged with trying to figure out how to get my camera to accurately record the greens and blues that I was seeing with my eyes. It was not as easy as I felt it should have been.

After climbing the tower settled at South Point and taking a few shots here and there, it was down the tower and off to the East beach.

The east beach? Despite everyone going to it – staying on the tram, leading me to follow them – is like the South Beach, with one difference: It's covered in earth movers, and other big trucks that want to run you over and crush you. This was not a safe place to be. Teachers walked by with their high school students from the American International school in tow. Going to the beach as a class trip? A terrible idea for so many reasons. Success that we live in Canada where dealing with beach weather during the school year will never be an issue. No one will create a yearly annual trip to collect shells or anything like that. Ahh pretend work on field trips. The trick every teacher employees that's so obvious in retrospect, but never gets found out by students. Mind you, I guess we've conditioned them to accepting ridiculous busy work as just par for the course (note that I'm thinking of myself as a teacher once more. What does that mean?)

Leaving the beach of doom, we headed down to the fort. Fort Siloso, if memory serves. It was once a British fort, and then a Japanese fort (oops) and now it's a Singaporean tourist attraction fort.

Created when the Brits came in to help build up the Singapore people the fort served during World War II to keep the angry Japanese away. There would be no adding Singapore to their new Asian Empire. Nothing could get through the defenses facing out to sea.

Oops. The thing that they forgot was that the Japanese military was a little bit crazy. Far more willing to deal with terrible conditions than the Brits themselves were willing to deal with. Marching, and cutting their way through, two hundred miles of jungle they were able to approach Singapore by land. The island guns then faced inwards, but under constant arial attack, and without any reinforcements the battle was decisive and final.

Walking through the fort today, Valentines day is depicted, also Chinese New Year, and finally the day Singapore fell. The surrender chambers feature models of all the key players signing the surrender. A video explains how the Japanese demanded an unconditional surrender of the British forces. Why anyone would surrender to the Japanese is beyond me. By this point in the war, people must have known that they were not going to let you live. They made the Germans look like pussy cats. A white flag means you're no longer human – you have no honour. And many officers lost their heads in the coming days.

As for Singapore, a history of the occupation in an adjacent room, detailed the horrors that they faced, being forced to wear stamps on their clothing, keeping them unwashed to avoid ruining the ink, else they be classified as undesirables and be marched away never to be seen again. Torture, senseless murder, and slaughter of the Chinese. It was the Japanese way, and it hit Singapore hard.

Not until the far-too-delayed surrender of Japan after the dropping of the nuclear bombs was Singapore released... one month after the Japanese surrender.

The people? Not very happy about how the British acted towards them in their time of need. There was no going back to the way things were, and the seeds of independence starting to grow.

It's hard to picture the horrors in Singapore, an island that is – today – so different than what it once was. And it's hard to picture the Japanese as the monsters. So much has changed in so little time. But old wounds are hard to heal. Still – the modern generations, either forgetting, ignoring, or being unaware of, the sins of their father are helping to merge cultures once more. They forgive because they must.

After leaving the fort behind we headed off to see the Merlion. The Merlion is a giant building shaped as this kinda-sorta mythical creature. Walking in we were subjected to images of horror movies, and creatures of the deep, all leading towards a room that showed a film that explained the story of the Merlion.

You might think that the Merlion is the product of some sailors story... wait – did I properl describe the Merlion? Half fish, half lion? Yeah. So – you may think it is a sailors tale, or the product of some Lovecraftian indunced madness, but no nothing quite so magestic. The tale of the Merlion is this – when Singapore was discovered, the founder was met by a lion who, after whom the island as named. Never mind that lions have never lived in Singapore, we just have to accept this part. What happened next is only based on my conjecture.

The good people of Singapore decided that they needed a new country mascot (this part is true) and they set about to create it. Entering their secret lair, they set to work trying to choose the best possible creature. A gryphon? one might have said, using the lion as a starting point. A sea serpent! another would have shouted. But no, these were all just bad ideas leading to nowhere. At this point they all pulled out their little altoids cases, rolled up something green, and started to smoke.

The next few hours were passed with 'brilliant ideas', laughing, and a phone call to a builder, for something they couldn't really recall. But it must have been funny as there were random pictures are cartoons everywhere, and writing on one of the guys faces.

It wasn't until they walked out of the building, seeing the rushed product – the Merlion - built. Apparently, the contractor said, they had called up and asked for a giant statue you could walk inside that had the HEAD of a lion, because of the original lion, and the BODY of a fish, cause like, the harbour is important and stuff.

It was at that moment that the Singapore people realized the err of their drug addled ways, and came up with the countries new slogan – to be written on all official documents: DEATH to drug traffickers!

I'm pretty sure that's how it went, anyway. It's the only thing that makes sense.

After wandering inside the creature's mouth, looking out, fighting the urge to say Cal-li-for-ni-a we headed down and out to the show.

The show about Oscar. An evil evil fish who wants to bring nothing but darkness to the planet.

Mind you, that's just my interpritation.

I think children were supposed to take the following away from it:
a few teenagers have fun at the beach singing and dancing and playing guitar. One of them sings, and a princess appears in the sky (projected on a sheet of water, in front of a traditional stilts supported fishing village) and he falls in love.

Oscar the fish appears floating with his sea dragon, and squid friends. Oscar tells him to sing and wake her up, and along the way he restores the power of the spirit of fire, water, and light.

The princess wakes at the end, and smiles.

All is well.

But no – that's not what's really going on. I am no small child wiling to just accept what is beng spoon fed to me. I question, I think, and i fear. I fear Oscar the fish.

Yes the kids were at the beach singing, yes a girl appeared, but then Oscar came, far too quickly – and was accepted by all. A princess in the sky? Fine – we can accept that – but a giant talking fish? That really is too much, but no one questions him. Oscar has put a spell on these people, as he has his two friends (more on that to come.)

Oscar says the guy needs to sing. The next time he does, an ancient evil awakes. A molton rock monster. He tells the guy to sing more and restore power. (I think the boys name is Lee – lets go with that) Lee sings and restores the power. The monster then causes fire to erupt from the village, and shoot out of the ground.

Oscar congratulates Lee and sets the next stage in motion, where Lee meets the Light spirit. Once more a creepy floating power demands Lee sing to restore the power, but Lee says, look I just want to save the princess, maybe I'll just go to the village and see if she's there?

Oscar steps in. “No, you don't want to go to the village. You might get trapped by the spell on their... their... well.” Ahh yes, the magic cursed well in 2010. For this takes place in modern times. While Oscar was clearly reaching here, Lee does not question it, I believe due to the glamour Oscar has cast.

Lee sings and restore the light being's power. Lasers are shot out at the village.

Next Lee powers up the water monster, who causes great waves to crash down, and soak the village.

Finally the princess is seen and Lee sings, waking her. She smiles and quickly disappears Then everyone sings about how “Lee did it!” But the friends of Oscar have no memory of this, claiming - “who did it? Who did what?” This seems odd as they encouraged him the whole way. No longer needed, Oscar released his hold on them, and went off.

No there are two ways to see the end. I saw it as Oscar waking the Princess, where once she was safe – though in stasis – she is now free, but in the dark, alone, and soon to die of starvation, suffocation, or fear. Another way to see it – as my faithful companion did, the princess powered up her generals – Oscar acting as herald as they slumbered. Now the forces of dark are ready to rule once more.

Look – all I'm saying, is if your first singing cause a fire being to blow up a village? You should probably rethink your actions.

Seriously – what a bad day for the inhabitants of that town.

Leaving the park we made our way to the mall to catch the train. This time my wacky sized head plush venom was purchased. And all was right in the world. Except for Oscar, who distresses me still.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Botanical Gardens of Singapore

I tell you what – I'm starting to like pulp. Time was that I wasn't very keen on it. Time was, I wasn't very keen on Orange juice, but all that changed in Europe where I was bombarded with it – orange juice and hot chocolate, it was the perfect way to start every day. But pulp – I still wasn't a fan of pulp.

Now, you ask me why – I tell you, it gets stuck in the mustache. That's just how life works. But since I've trimmed it a bit shorter in spots, that's not much of an issue. And ever since having the jelly drink in Japan, I've started to come around to drinks that you need to chew. Like bubble tea – but different.

Now, the last few places I've been, have had juice full of pulp – super pulp – a mouthful of pulp in every gulp. And I've decided that I love it. There, I've said it. Moving on.

But not really moving on, because Apple juice, it too is good. But only Minute Maid in bottles nice and cold, the way you can get them – over priced – at the TTC stations in Toronto. The only other place I've found them (and believe me, I've looked) is in a vending machine at costco. Not in costco, but in the parking lot. One day I will roll up with a big box and feed loonie after loonie (I almost forgot about that coin – strange) into the machine and start pulling drinks and boxing them myself. On the plus side, you don't even need a membership card for this.

Why is there not an easier way?

But I can distract myself no longer. For at some point, one needs to embrace their fear. And here is mine – outside. In this part of the world. You see, inside is so nice and cool – even without the aircon, there's still a fan – but outside? Outside there is heat and humidity and other things that want to destroy your life! Like – you know – more heat. Or bears. I hear there are bears outside too.

Our first stop was the Thai embassy where they were having a firesale, ok – ok – that's probably bad wording at this point in time. They were having a wonderful sale on lots of jewelry and food and other Thai related things. It seemed strange in contrast to the country where Bangkok seems to be falling more and more apart by the day.

We only stopped there as that was where the bus happened to let us off, and after seeing the front page of the paper – plumes of smoke shooting up through one of Asia's largest malls, I couldn't help but have Thailand on my mind. Our true stop for the day was the Singapore Botanical Gardens.

This is a place that, no doubt, my father would love. He'd have walked in, not thinking about the sweat the rolled so freely from my forehead, back, and just about every other place where pores can roll sweat from. No – my father would have walked in and started talking ab out how it was still too cold, or how it was a nice winters day in Florida, or something nonsensical like that. Never you mind that it felt like 45, for him – it can never be hot enough. For me? A big part of me just wanted to run through the gardens and be done with it, say I'd seen it, and escape to some place more conditioned with cool air, and with all the cooling coils one can find to remove the humidity.

There was a lovely lake, full of swans, and giant swan statues if the birds themselves didn't feel like making an appearance. Little teacup humans walked around it, with their teacher in tow, trying to make sure none were lost. I thought it might be a fun game to pick them up and splash them into the pond as if they were bicycles left on the Amsterdam streets after the bars all closed down. I felt secure in the fact that the teachers would leave me alone, as I ran to avoid the coming Singaporean punishment, as they would be focused on saving the wee ones. They would be, right?

But no – there was no injustice done today, and screaming the tiny near-people simply walked by. Unaware of how close they were to peril.

Through the botanical gardens one comes to the Ginger Gardens, and let me tell you – I love ginger. I do. It is fantastic. I never appreciated it before Asia, but I have learned the error of my ways, and may I be forgiven for not understanding the power of the root until now. Also, bananas and ginger are related somehow? I don't know – the sign seemed to think so.

Past the ginger gardens, though, is what you really came to see. The Singapore Orchid Gardens. Where for 5 SingDollars you can walk amongst some of the most delightful and fragrant flowers you've ever seen. You know – if you're into that stuff. Once more, I picture my father not simply walking around thinking – neat there's a red one! - but, instead knowing what it was, how to grow it, and all sorts of other things for which I can't even conceive of the questions.

Still – just saying, there's a purple one, there's a red one, there's a yellow one – that's entertaining in its own right – especially for those overhearing who seem to know more than I did.

There were some flows, an unnatural coloured orange that reminded me strangely of my childhood. But before I could think too much on that, there were plants with giant leaves. And I mean giant – bigger than me. The type that people in Egyptian movies use to fan their leaders. Why the leaves had to be that big, I did not know – but they were impressive. Once more it dawns on me that Singapore (a.) is not China, and b.) is a tropical country.)

At one point we entered a cool house – which, while not a concert venue neat a mis-spelled government, was still highly desired. For a few seconds, standing next to a waterfall, I was at peace with the world around me. More to the point, my back wasn't sweating where my pack connected with it. Such are the choices on a hot day – wear the backpack and sweat through my shirt, or don't wear it on both shoulders and hurt one shoulder – oh the damage I've done by keeping this pack on me all these months.

Back out in the sun we continued to make our way through the flowers before finally heading out, and moving through a gift shop where everything you could think of was covered in the slogan “Singapore in a FINE country,” with pictures of all the things that you will be fined for.

Seriously – who makes chewing gum illegal? One thousand dollar fine. Ai ya.

From there we went to the mall. Hours were spent in a bookstore, well maybe just two. I discovered the following:

I want to read Metro 2033. There's a book called Gone that might be good, or might be terrible young adult garbage (I will need to research this some more.) There is a book called The Hunger Games which seems to be a total rip off of Battle Royale, the manga – which is based on the novel – which is good. The Hunger Games, with a title like that, and your choice or either male or female cover, I can only assume is a terrible terrible rip off. I'd like to research this some more too and discover how similar it is. A Lion Among Men is the third book in the “Wicked” series – and while some of me wants to read it, I keep reminding myself how terrible Wicked was as a novel (musical, amazing – novel poorly written. I am sure the author changed gears half way through writing it and then just said, screw it – I'm not rewriting the beginning, explaining all the disconnects.) And the second book, Son of a Witch, as garbage too. So this one? I hold out no hopes.

It also seems I have a note reading Brave Story. Ah yes, I think that's a Japanese novel? It had a neat cover and interesting back cover write-up. Once more, research is required.

Lunch? Okonomiyaki. Well Hiroshima Yaki to be truthful. I thought I would never have it again. And while not as good as the one outside of Tokyo, still delicious.

With some delicious bubble tea (I need to learn how to cook the pearls at home) we headed for the bus, and returned home. I watched a WoW raid (intense crazy wacky stuff) and talked to the guild leader – who, is a buddy of mine from back home. This is how I got to know my current host.

She came to Canada to visit him, and he came up to my family cottage. She came with him. Thus we got to know each other. And one year later, here I am visiting her. Who could have possibly foreseen that turn of events?

I also played some Zelda Spirit Tracks (too hard, I hate it. Curse you Zelda!) and The World Ends With You. My favourite DS game of all time. Sigh, it's so pretty. I wish I could have found an art book for it in Japan, but no.

And that – is - that.
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