Sunday, 31 October 2010

Dinner at Jane & Erwin's (31st October 2010)

Jane had rounded up the ‘makan’ gang over to her house today for dinner as her parents were visiting from Malaysia. “What do you need us to bring?” I asked Jane and she responded that Erwin requested my orange carrot cake. No problems!

Around 6.30pm, Jono and I went to pick Mum up from Loafers Lodge then headed to Newlands to Jane and Erwin’s place. For as long as I’ve known Jane, the foodie gang has never met her parents so it was the first for everyone. Welcome back! Jane’s parents lived in NZ for several years but had decided to move back to Malaysia once the kids completed university. As usual, there was lots of chatter (sometimes Manglish heard in the mix) and laughs over good food and wine – we always eat too much, drink too much and have a jolly good time :)

Mum, Jane's mum and Daphnne

From left to right: Jono, Mervyn, Joanne, Jane, David and Erwin

“So, what do you think of the orange carrot cake?” I asked Erwin for his honest opinion. “Hmm, a bit dry but still very nice,” he said politely and I laughed. Yes, I’ve surpassed Mum in making her famous cake (she made the cake today) – my cake was more moist! The student has surpassed the teacher, mua-ha-ha :P

We left around 10pm and there was even food to takeaway home! “Must keep the tradition, that when guests come for dinner, they take food home too,” laughed Jane. Indeed, it seems to be the norm in the group :) Hmm, we should host the dinner at our place sometime, babe, though Mum would probably have to deal with cooking most of the Malaysian dishes. 
And I’ll make the cake!

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Matiu/Somes Island (30th October 2010)

Was up at 9am and the weather looked bright and sunny outside so I suggested to Jono to go for a walk today to make the most of the good weather. Wellington weather has been really nice of late, most days a warm 15-18 degrees and sun shining from as early as 6am (though it can get darn annoying when I’m trying to sleep those last few hours before getting up to work). We decided to go check out Matiu/Somes Island since Jono has never been there before and for the next hour, we quickly got ready and packed up sandwiches and fruit to bring along with us to snack on (there is no shop/café on the island).

Around 11am, we caught a bus into town and did a bit of shopping on the way to Queens Wharf where we bought tickets and boarded the East by West ferry to Somes Island. Normally cost $22 per person for an adult return fare to the island, we saved on our second fare, all thanks to our voucher from the Entertainment Book – 2 for 1 fare! Sweet :)

Where is team Brissa aka Ben and Rissa?? It was already 12pm and the ferry was due to leave but Ben and Rissa were no where to be seen. They hadn’t called or texted us to say they weren’t coming so must be on their way…hey look, there they are! Hurry up, guys!! We’re leaving NOW!

Hmm, the weather forecast was meant to be sunny but it’s now overcast – I want the sun! Us four sat on the top deck of the ferry despite the slight chill chatting away during the 20-minute ferry ride and there were many other passengers, both local and foreigners on board as well, all heading to the island. As you are aware, Somes Island is a scientific and historic reserve, a small island that is rat-free and home to many native plants and wildlife including the weta and tuatara, and the rangers who are based on site. Hmm, hopefully we’re lucky enough to see tuataras today (I didn’t see any in my last visit to the island back in 2008)…

All visitors were given a short briefing about the place by the ranger and we had to do a self-check to make sure we didn’t accidentally bring with us a rodent onto the island. One of the visitors wore hiking boots that were absolutely covered in dried up mud – the man had to scrape of the cemented mud with a nail given to him by the ranger before he was allowed another step into the island. Another key thing to note when preparing your visit to Somes Island – no dirty shoes!

We began our trip around the island having our picnic lunches at the benches not far from the wharf, followed by taking a casual walk along the Circuit Track to check out the lighthouse and gun emplacements, snapping photos along the way. There were lots of kakariki (red crowned parakeets) playfully chasing each other, a variety of skinks that scurry in the grass when we got too close (everyone knew I must have spotted a skink when they hear me scream in disgust every time I come across one – yuck!), giant seagulls and plenty of native plants. No tuatara in sight today :/

The ranger had told us earlier that there is a flock of sheep on the island where the gun emplacements were and that if we went to the area, we were supposed to leave their ‘lawnmowers’ alone. “There’s an inner sheepdog in everyone – please don’t go chasing the sheep,” warned the ranger. Oh, too bad for the boys then as I had totally pictured them chasing the sheep in my head when the ranger mentioned the sheep, knowing these two misfits. We were just sitting around watching the sheep graze on the grass, not a care of our presence, when Jono accidentally dropped his SLR camera lens which rolled down the hill towards the sheep, causing us to run for the lens and in turn scared the whole flock of sheep in the process! This had nothing to do with our ‘inner sheepdog’ – it was purely an accident!! The poor sheep…though it was a really funny sight, I must say…hehe…

The 45-minute return Circuit Track ended up being a walk of about 2 hours and we finally left the island on the 3.10pm ferry back to Wellington. What a fun day spent at Somes Island with our friends Ben and Rissa :) Photos taken today here

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Gene Pool (27th October 2010)

I’ve won free tickets to another show – thanks for the tickets! Jono and I went to see Gene Pool at BATS Theatre tonight, a play set in the not too distant future where human parts are genetically engineered for human survival following the world’s pandemic.

The show started at 8pm and there weren’t many people in the audience so we got plenty of seats to choose from. As we entered the smoky theatre (there was smoke coming out from the theatre all the way to the main entrance of BATS) to find suitable seats, we were greeted by a lone giant incubator with colourful lights flickering from the machine in a dark and misty forest/shed setting. The play began with a radio playing several interviews on the public’s view of using genetically engineered organs, with the channels being tuned from one to another in quick succession (this was deliberately done so we could only hear snippets of the broadcast). A silhouette of a man was seen appearing from inside the incubator but disappeared into the brief darkness. And then, a head popped out from the bottom of the incubator and a naked man was ‘born’ from the artificial womb. It was both fascinating and yet strangely weird watching a man drop head first out of the incubator. It was like watching child-birth, where a newborn (in this case, the man) was slowly emerging from the ‘vagina’ minus all the blood. Hmm…

And when I mentioned naked, I meant full frontal nudity – for the next 50 minutes, we watched actor Francis Mountjoy perform his silent character in nude, a genetically engineered human being who alone made discoveries and learnt about sight, touch, smell, emotions, how to walk and trying to communicate with his ‘surrogate’ (the machine) and eventually breaking the bond and left the familiar setting to the outside world. It felt raw watching him rub and snake his body all over the floor, trying to get to his feet and to some extent as if watching an animal documentary where a baby gorilla is learning its way of life from birth, with no understanding of the world or even humility. I wondered, was this what our caveman ancestors had to go through as part of their evolution?

Actor Francis played his role brilliantly – on top of needing a heck of a lot of confidence to perform in full nude in front of a live audience, his character required a lot of physical movements including walking on all fours with his knuckles (must be quite sore), jumping up and down the machine and occasionally falling with a thud (I doubt the protective floor mat would make a huge difference with a fall like that) There were also moments of where his moves were of sexual or erotic nature, like when he was swinging himself on the machine, or when he played with the protruding light bulb, stroking it tenderly (you know what I mean!). Jono teased me saying I’ve got such impure thoughts – he was naked for god’s sake and moving in such ways! Not my fault!! :P The only time when the actor did cover his man bits was when he returned to stage for his applause, which to be honest, wasn’t necessary by then but a tongue-in-cheek after putting the audience through so much bare skin.

Tickets cost $20 (that’s a saving of $40 for us tonight – yay!) and the show runs from 16th October – 6th November so there’s another week to go if you’re keen to check it out!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Miss La Belle's Level 2 Pleaser Course (19th October 2010)

I've been hassling Grace (aka Miss La Belle) about her Level 2 Pleaser Course for ages and finally she's conducting another 6-week block this month - yay! Cost $15 per class or $78 for the whole block, this class is for students who have completed her Level 1 Teaser Course where she will be covering more advanced movements including working on confidence and character development. I definitely need more lessons to learn new moves to add to my existing repertoire :)

Wow, Grace's burlesque classes are really taking off! I'm so happy for her that she's living her dream, to teach and impart her saucy moves and help woman feel good about themselves and their body. Go Grace! Both Level 1 and 2 had around 10 female students each, with several familiar faces often seen in the local burlesque scene. Tonight's lesson focused on using feather boas and incorporating it with glove removal building the moves into a whole dance routine. Learnt several new tricks to glove removal - the wedge-in-between knees one was brilliant! I've never used feather boas in any of my dances so it was totally new to me. Can't quite get used to all the fluff - tickles my nose causing me to sneeze. Oh, and feather boas aren't as fluffy and soft as you think. Running my hands through them, I could feel plastic bits all the way through and the trick to convincing your audience it is in your facial expression i.e. pretending that it really is as soft as it looks. Ahhhh..... :P

It was quite an honour to have fellow students come up to me excitedly telling me that I'm Shanghai Rose and their positive feedback of my past performances. Made me feel like a celebrity hehe...well, Shanghai Rose or not, I'm still Angelica and like everyone else, I'm here to learn too and shouldn't be treated differently. It doesn't matter that I've performed on stage before - the girls in my class are able to do the same too. All a matter of practice and just getting up on stage to show off your sexy bits and have fun!

Grace's going to teach us moves with a bra strap next week - more new moves for me to learn! Looking forward to it!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Beijing Restaurant, Newtown (17th October 2010)

After spending most of the day hiding at home due to the terrible wet weather and gale winds, Jono and I decided to get out of the house for a bit and walked towards Riddiford St for dinner around 6.30pm. We were looking around considering our options - curry? Or maybe pub steak...or kebab...hmm, I can't decide...

"Hey, the lights are on at Beijing Restaurant and it looks like there are people dining in...," said Jono. Beijing Restaurant had been closed for quite awhile though I somehow recall seeing the restaurant sign lighted at night whenever I drove past the street...hmm...Curious, we walked towards the restaurant to find that it was indeed open and filled with patrons! Guess where we went for dinner? Haha, yep, pretty much decided that where we were having dinner tonight :) I've never been here but Jono's has and often raves about their duck pancakes (my baby loves duck - bless him!) whenever we passed by the formerly closed restaurant.

I reckon the restaurant was closed due to renovations - the place looked newly painted and the kitchen area was visible from the dining tables (you could see the Chinese chefs wearing their chef's hats working busily in the open plan kitchen). The place must serve good food because people were constantly pouring in. Lots of people = good food! We had a Tsingtao beer each (served in a highball glass minus the bottle which felt a little odd) and shared one of their 'specials' dishes, pork slivers in a special sauce, with a side serving of rice. The pork dish is said to be a popular Northern Chinese cuisine and like eating Peking Duck, we had to wrap the pork stripes that were cooked in hoisin sauce in the pancakes provided. The pork dish came with fresh lettuce and deep-fried thinly shredded potato which I wasn't sure if they should also be wrapped in the pancake with the pork or eaten separately but they tasted really good eaten altogether! A tad messy but delicious ;) Though this dish was for 2 people, it would probably make a main meal for just one. We still had room for dessert so tried their pineapple fritter ice-cream, 2 pineapple rings deep fried in batter served with 2 scoops of vanilla ice-cream. A nice combination of warm and cold sensations in the mouth when you take a bite of the pineapple fritter and a spoonful of ice-cream.

Cost us $48 all up for our beers and food. Got to come back here another time to try their Peking Duck and many other yummy dishes on their list. My mouth is already watering at the mere mention of it!

The Beijing Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, 16 October 2010

The Song Company – Sweet Dreams (16th October 2010)

I’m glad I’m finally home! It’s such a nice feeling to be back in familiar territory (even though staying at The Langham was very nice) and mostly seeing Jono again – only 5 days apart and I’ve missed him dearly! He was such a sweetheart, picking me up from the airport last night and we spent most of the evening and today just chilling out at home. Bliss! Around 7pm, we got changed and headed to Wellington Town Hall to see vocal ensemble The Song Company from Australia perform their Sweet Dreams concert. It was a one-night only show in Wellington and I was fortunate enough to win two front row tickets to the show (it would have cost $70 per ticket) from a competition in local newspapers, The Dominion Post! Lucky us ;)

Oh no, we’re late! We drove around the block a few times to find a car park but couldn’t find any and the show was about to begin!! Jono gave up trying to find a street park and drove into James Smith Carpark on Wakefield St where we had to pay $6 for a park. “Hey, your car is NOT small…,” I laughed at Jono as he was slowly moving his Volkswagen Bora up to an elevated empty park which had a sign on the wall that stated ‘Small Cars Only’. “If my car fits the park then it’s a small car,” said Jono who successfully parked his car in the spot and I rolled my eyes but couldn’t help laughing. His car is NOT small – MY Yaris is small!

Rush, rush, rush, we quickly walked towards Town Hall and the show had already started – we were 10 minutes late! The ushers stopped us from entering and because we had front row seats, we could not go to our seats until after the first song concluded (we were told we had to ‘sneak in’ to our seats during the applause). We waited for another 10 minutes and the singing didn’t seem to end so the head usher organised for us to slip in quietly from the back and placed us on the empty seats at the back of the hall (we won’t be able to go to our seats until the interval).

I wouldn’t normally seek out events like this but I’m really glad we got the opportunity to see such amazing singing! The Song Company, made up of a director, 2 sopranos, a mezzo, a tenor, a baritone and a bass singer, each projected their individual voice yet sang beautifully in harmony as a group. The first part of the concert featured madrigals, a type of secular vocal music composition, written during the Renaissance and early Baroque eras, and closed with songs from a singing game during gatherings of revolutionaries in Siena in the 16th century. The singers imitated a Sicilian, a country girl, a German and a Spaniard in their comical singing, at times with the male singers making high-pitched girly voices that really got the audience laughing in stitches. A mix of singing songs in English and Italian – it was brilliant!

The director, Roland Peelman, was an interesting person to watch as he conducted and played musical instruments to accompany the vocal ensemble – he was totally absorbed in his own musical realm, moving expressively as the singing went. And in between the songs, he would explain to the audience the origins of the songs so we got quite an education about the songs sung tonight :)

We headed out to the foyer during the 15-minute interval for some ice-cream and bumped into Joy and her sister so had a lovely chat with the ladies while enjoying our Kapiti ice-creams. “You two really get around and do lots of stuff,” laughed Joy. Indeed we do! Our actual seats were at the 2nd row from the stage and 2 men were seated comfortably with wine in hand chatting animatedly when we walked up to them. “Excuse me, but these are our seats,” said Jono politely and the two men kindly move up front. Yay, we finally got to our seats!

Part two of the concert was all on lullabies, creating a feeling of being in a dream where we explored 3 dreams and a nightmare in song. One of the dreams was Erotique and had the singers depicting a couple flirting and eventually having explosive sexual intercourse which was such a laugh listening to the oohs and aahs, ‘not there…’ and ‘more, more…’ ;P Very clever use of glass harmonica (rubbing partially filled glass with a wet finger) as well creating a calm, continuous tone for the dream-like state. I felt as if I was in dreamland or some far away place for awhile!

The show ended around 10pm and the audience definitely didn’t want the show to end, clapping and stomping their feet loudly, beckoning an encore. The Song Company returned back on stage and performed their rendition of Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) in a cappella with the director playing on the glockenspiel – what a brilliant song for the encore, a follow on from the lullabies! I highly recommend checking this vocal ensemble out if you’ve not been to such a cappella concert. Always a first time for everything :)

Oh, remember the 2 men we shooed off our seats earlier? Turned out one of them was Jack Body, the local composer of some of the lullabies sung! Ops…but hey, he was seating on our seats so we had the right to ask him to move…we weren’t being rude at all!

Friday, 15 October 2010

Last few of days in Auckland (14th - 15th October 2010)

Was up at 7am on Thursday for a 20-minute swim in the outdoor heated pool of the hotel – I’ve been meaning to get up early to swim since Tuesday but it had been raining. Ok, I would be wet anyway, rain or not and the comfy sheets and plump pillows weren’t much help getting me up in the morning…It was still drizzling this morning and only one other person swimming laps in the unguarded pool. It was actually quite refreshing after the morning swim – maybe I’ll do it again tomorrow :) Headed over to Costa Café on City Road for a flat white and fruit French toast (cost $12 all up) and I was off to another day in class.

Around 7.30pm, Ken came to pick me up and we headed to Lone Star Newmarket for dinner. We chatted more about our work and lives over our beers and shared entrée of onion rings and main of Redneck Ribs (cost $42.06 all up). Twelve massive pork ribs piled high on the plate, served with sides of coleslaw and buffalo chips, all I could think of was cartoon character Fred Flintstones (Fred loves his Brontosaurus ribs) while eating the ribs with my hands. Yummy but messy, sauce smudge all over the mouth and bits on the cheek but the ladies in the restaurant who ordered the main didn’t seem to mind at all! Oh well, no need to be embarrassed then :P

Lone Star on Urbanspoon

Woah, I’m absolutely stuffed! How do people finish the 12 ribs by themselves is beyond me – 6 was more than enough!

Around 10pm, Ken dropped me back at the hotel and we said our goodbyes. Thanks for another lovely evening – until the next time I come to Auckland, keep in touch!

Come Friday, I was more than ready to head home. It has been a long week in Auckland and I just want to go home to my own bed and in the arms of my baby…

Checked out from the hotel around 8am before heading to Costa Café again for breakfast and then to class. How do I find the course? Well, after 5 days of cramming quite a lot of new information into my head, I would say that the course was good to grasp an understanding of business analysis, as well as learning the many techniques to obtain information, put them together into writing and re-presenting the information to various parties, as well as ways to manage others. We had role-playing activities where Ellan played different characters (including a person who kept talking about all sorts and not answering the question to a tight-lipped character) and we had to figure out how to draw information from the various challenging people. And they do exist in any organisation, trust me! Personally, I think the course is not limited to BAs but would be advantageous for most people in the workforce. Hopefully with my new-found knowledge, I’ll be able to start working on more long-term projects (I tend to be assigned to ad hoc work, strangely enough) when I return to the office :)

The class ended earlier than usual but I was not allowed to bring forward my flight home. “Enjoy the rest of your day in the city,” said my manager when I requested a flight change. Right, with me lugging a trolley bag around, there ain’t much I could do. I took Jono’s advice to have a beer in SKYCITY Auckland and parked myself at The Deck, the bar on level 2 of the atrium, sipping my chilled Monteith’s Golden (cost $6 for the pint), relaxing on the lounge chairs hacking away on my laptop drafting a post about the week for my blog. I was quite surprised to find that there wasn’t free wifi anywhere in SKYCITY – rather odd given it’s a place that has 18 bars and restaurants, 2 hotels and a casino. Thank god for internet tethering – I SO love my iPhone!

Around 5.30pm, I hopped into a taxi and headed to the airport for my 7pm flight. Yay, finally heading home! Can’t wait to see my baby again!!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Day 2 in Auckland: Catch up with Ken & Tia (12th October 2010)

Woo-hoo! No homework to bring home today!! Day 2 into the course and I’m feeling rather unsure what exactly it is I’m doing at work – none of my classmates seem to doing the same job as me, most of them spending most of their time gathering requirements and managing people whereas my work is more technical, data mining and writing queries. Hmm, perhaps it is just because I’m in working in the data warehouse space? Not sure if I should be concerned that working in this environment may limit my BA career progression in other industries…

Ken came to the hotel to meet me after work around 5.30pm and we went over to SPE Bar & Restaurant in the hotel for a beer. The laidback setting with polished wood makes it a great place to catch up with workmates or friends for a few beers after work, which is exactly what we did :) Around 6.30pm, we headed over to Ken’s place in Mt Roskill to pick up Tia, then headed to Sapor Noodle House on Dominion Road for dinner.

I can see why you guys come here every week! For about $30, we had 3 large dishes including a plate of stir-fry Asian greens, rice with three meat (roast duck, roast pork and steamed chicken) and a noodle dish AND still enough for a doggy bag! The food was authentic, delicious and cheap for its serving size. Despite the dingy-looking place with white-tiled walls and white fluorescent lights (and toilet you should avoid, if possible), it didn’t stop the throngs of people coming to the restaurant. Reminded me much of the Chinese restaurants back in Malaysia – good food but not necessarily the best in setting or ambience.

Sapor Noodle House on Urbanspoon

God, we’re so full yet Tia insisted we walk over to I Scream Shop for dessert. “There’s ALWAYS room for dessert,” she smiled. Hehe, agreed :P Ooo, this ice-cream shop has Indian ice-cream! I tried their Kesar Pista (made with pistachio and saffron) and had a moment where I was transported back to the ice-cream shop in Bikaner (in Rajasthan, India) where Jono and I had our first experience eating Indian ice-cream. Yum!

Around 8pm, Ken drove us all to Ponsonby to Sponge Bar where Tia was attending the 8.30pm zouk dance class. Salsa music played in the background, this chic bar transforms to a salsa dance venue for Aucklanders when not filled the usual hip crowd partying and drinking into the night. Ken convinced me to have a dance with him while the floor was still empty – you’ve got to be kidding, right? I’ve not dance salsa since Stacey’s birthday bash back in July and that didn’t even count because I was still recuperating from the sprained ankle. “Come on!” said Ken and dragged me to the dance floor. Dancing salsa again, it felt both familiar and foreign at the same time. It was good fun dancing with Ken and I think we were both equally rusty with our moves since both have not actively danced for awhile hehe…I really should get back to salsa dancing but just need to work it into my budget and schedule. Perhaps I could convince Jono to take classes together – that would make it an event in itself and more reason to return to the dance scene!

The rest of the evening was spent sipping wine and chatting with Ken as we occasionally glance at the students in the zouk class practice their newly learnt moves from our comfy booth sofas. Around 10pm, Ken dropped me off at my hotel – thanks for the lovely evening! Lovely to catch up with you and Tia again :)

Monday, 11 October 2010

Day 1 in Auckland: BA Training course & The Langham (11th October 2010)

After an ongoing battle to get myself on a training course for my role as a Business Analyst (BA) in the last year, I'm finally now approved to go on the Business Systems Analysis course conducted by Software Education and will be spending the week in Auckland for the 5-day long course. Great, I can now put more concept and context to my day-to-day tasks! It has been very challenging and a steep learning curve for me since I decided to step into the BA role, with most of my experience learnt on the job, watching what other senior analysts do and plenty of self trial and error. I'm hoping that the course will help speed up the process of me becoming a good (and confident) BA!!

Was up at 5am to get ready for my 6.30am flight. I hardly slept last night - in fact, I hardly slept last week, having worked 6 long days straight on a project doing testing and every time I closed my eyes, all I see are lines and lines of codes (... A.X = B.X where B.X is not null...). Argh! I'm just SO tired and having also worked in WOW the week before, it felt as if I haven't stopped working for the last 11 days. I’m in dire need of a holiday...I'm utterly burnt out from stress! Can't wait till next weekend when Jono and I get away to Melbourne for the weekend - yay!

What's up with the weather?! It was 6 degrees in Wellington when I left and arriving in Auckland, the weather was grey and a mere 12 degrees. Brr...I arrived in Auckland around 7.30am and upon collecting my luggage, caught a taxi at the taxi stand to the company-preferred hotel, The Langham, where I would be staying for the next 4 nights. Took us 45 minutes to get from the airport to the hotel due to the traffic – gee, how do Aucklanders cope with daily traffic like this?? It's like in Malaysia, where the stressful day begins behind the wheel…

A quick check-in to collect my keys and dropped off my luggage at the reception and off I was again to my course that was held at University of Otago Auckland Centre on 385 Queen St, conveniently located just a block away from the hotel :) As the name implied, the Business Systems Analysis course is a course on the fundamental skills and knowledge for business and systems analyst. Cost $2990 (plus gst), the course runs at the venue from 9am-5pm and included morning and afternoon tea as well as lunch over the 5 days. I was greeted by a friendly Japanese-American instructor, Ellan Young, as I entered the training room and proceeded to find my seat and introduced myself to the other participants of the course. There were 9 students who came from various organisations in Auckland, Hamilton and Wellington (just me), and most of us were originally from another country (so many different accents!). For once, this was a course that DID NOT require a computer – instead, we had a thick binder full of notes, templates, references etc. on our tables where we would be working through. I had a feeling that the course would do without the computer. After all, we are here to learn concepts and techniques for analysis, not so much how particular software works so pen and paper would suffice :) Sure feels weird without a computer handy but I reckon it’s a good thing – we would be checking our emails while half-heartedly listening to the instructor if we had computers!

Day one of the course was mostly discussing the role of the BA and the lingo used in the field. Lots of information to absorb and there were plenty of opportunities where the class shared ideas, experiences and bombard the instructor with questions. Ellan was a brilliant instructor, so full of life (she’s so excited and chirpy – I need to find out what happy drugs she’s on…) and also very experienced in her field, providing us with many real-life examples from her previous jobs. I must say, I’m really enjoying the course :)

Class ended around 4.30pm and we were sent home with several articles to read. Thankfully my baby showed me how to use the Internet tethering function on my phone last night so I was able to access the Internet on my Mac via my phone (Jono is SO awesome!!). And I love my iPhone – it's just brilliant and smart :) There was Internet available at the hotel but at a cost of $10/hour which was way too expensive for my liking.

Now, a bit more about this hotel I’m staying in. The Langham, with its polished and lavish interior, and magnificent lighted chandeliers, giving it such grandeur that on entry you know everything would be expensive (of course it would be – it’s a 5-star hotel!). You can tell that this was a posh hotel just watching the guests that were gathered in the lobby – businessmen/women in expensive tailored suits talking away on the mobile phones, flight attendants from Emirates and even Kiwi actor Temuera Morrison. Not a place I would normally find myself staying in unless it was for some special occasion. My Classic Room, with all the basic amenities of a typical hotel room, was the cheapest room type in the hotel, cost $132 (plus gst) a night! Thank god my office is paying for everything…The hotel itself was huge (as I discovered when I did a tiki tour on my own) with leisure facilities including a fitness centre, heated swimming pool, sauna and jacuzzi, restaurants, bars, ballrooms, meeting/conference rooms and their own luxurious Chuan Spa. Oh, and the customer service was top notch from their multinational staff. Well-worthy of the 5-star rating!

Around 6.15pm, I headed to SBF Brasserie for dinner. The staff were friendly and courteous, addressing me as 'Ms Tan' each time they came to my table which gave a personal touch (they had a hotel guest list and looked up my name when I walked in to request a table) yet at the same time, made me felt rather important with the formal address. I had a glass of pinot gris ($14 for a glass) with my lemon roasted chicken risotto with lemon and thyme oil (cost $27.50) from their a la carte menu while reading of the articles. The risotto was divine and nicely washed down with my wine – tummy very happy :) Photos taken of the hotel here.

God, I wouldn't put myself on an early morning flight next time if I still have to be working my brain a full day - just too tiring! Back to my room around 7.30pm to unpack, got into my comfy bedwear, did more reading and was in bed by 9pm. Yawn, need sleep…eyes shutting…

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Estadio, Te Aro & Deadly (7th October 2010)

Jono and I went to Estadio for dinner before seeing a show in town tonight. Neither of us had been to Estadio since the old Temperance Bar was taken over and converted to the now Latin American restaurant and dance venue where many of the local Latin dance schools hold dance classes and parties these days.

On entry to the restaurant from the entrance on Blair St, we were greeted by a friendly Latino (it was obvious from his accent) who showed us to a corner table in the busy restaurant. Hmm, I wasn’t expecting it to be this rowdy on a Thursday night and felt we were rather cramped into our corner as there was a large group of people in the restaurant, probably there for an after-work function. The venue now has a fresh coat of colourful paint on the outside and indoors, decorated with all things Latin American – from statues of gods and goddesses to display tropical fruits and parrots, and pictures of exotic Latin American places and life of its people – quite a different feel from when I was last here when it was still Temperance Bar.

We sampled 2 of Estadio’s locally brewed craft beers – I had their Summer Choppi (a very light lager made in the tradition of South American-style pilsners) while Jono had the Half Whit Pint wheat beer. Both tasted good but not enough to justify us paying $9 each for the beers which was really steep. They have quite a broad menu of food from across the Latin American countries though I was rather disappointed to find that they only had Caldinho de Feijao (black bean soup with bacon and croutons), which was the nearest thing to my favourites Brazilian dish, feijoada. I had their Moqueca de Peixe (steamed fish, prawn and coriander in a dende coconut broth served with basmati rice). Cost $20 and reminded me of a very rich Thai red curry, perhaps due to the dende oil used in the dish (a thick, dark reddish-orange strong-flavoured oil extracted from the pulp of a fruit from a type of palm tree grown in Africa and Brazil) which is commonly used in cooking in Bahia, Brazil where moqueca is a traditional dish in the region. Jono had the Pollo Ballotine (cost $23 for the dish which was free range chicken stuffed with dried figs, sweetcorn and bacon served with sautéed red cabbage on a port wine jus) and we shared a side of green beans with toasted pumpkin seeds (cost $5). Who would have thought green beans with toasted pumpkin seeds would be so yummy – we had to fight for our veggies! Overall, the food was good and interesting in flavours. We’ll have to come back another day to try out their desserts – they all sound so delicious but we didn’t have enough time to fit one in before the show!

We headed to Downstage Theatre to see show Deadly, a circus, theatre and dance performance portraying the relationship of a man and a woman, and the 7 deadly sins. We got 50% off full price tickets for the show which would normally cost $46 for a ticket but we paid the same cost for 2 – this is a deal I got from GrabOne, a website that has daily deals on events and dining in your NZ city that I encourage you to subscribe to if you get out and about town like me. Savings of 50% or more? Hell yeah!

The show started at 8pm and was a 1-hour show with no interval performed by Argentineans Rodrigo Osis (I’ve met him at WOW) and his partner Virginia Molina. Their act began with portraying Gluttony where the two performers were constantly trying to take a bite of each other, getting their bodies twisted up together as they reached out to find more flesh under their clothes. Greed was interesting in that it had the performers both intertwined on a trapeze. Virginia was so strong, able to hold on to the trapeze while letting Rodrigo rest his head on her heel and hanging beneath her. It was amazing to watch Virginia snake and slide her way around Rodrigo’s body – there where moments of “Will she just slide off and fall to the ground??” but she would just slide back up and down again at ease. Pride had Rodrigo showing off his fantastic skills on the Chinese pole making pole-climbing look as easy as walking; Wrath looked much like they were trying to ‘kill’ each other and Sloth had Virginia squatting on Rodrigo’s shoulders as he continued to ignore her and read his newspapers.

I’m sure they depicted all 7 sins but it was unclear to me which act is for what sin as they transitioned from one behaviour to another. Personally, I would say the show was more physical theatre than circus with a bit comedy slotted in between. Very different from most circus shows I’ve seen and it was odd for me to watch Rodrigo looking serious and dramatic for his character in this show – where’s the mischievous clown I met at WOW? Hmm, I think I much prefer him as happy, mischievous clown than all dramatic like this. Kind of felt his talents were restricted to the script(?).

Deadly is on at Downstage from the 6th – 23rd of October so if you’re keen to see a different form of circus, go check it out!

Sunday, 3 October 2010

World of WearableArt 2010 (28th September - 3rd October 2010)

Time flies and now it’s nearly the end of September – only 3 more months till Christmas! It’s also the time of year where arts, crafts and fashion enthusiasts from around NZ (and abroad) gather in Wellington City for a night of theatre, performances and wearable art during the annual 2-week World of WearableArt (WOW) Awards Show that is currently held at TSB Arena from 23 September to 3 October 2010 – also means another year volunteering at WOW for me :)

Like the past 2 years, I’ve applied to be a programme seller again and this time requested for the role of the downstairs foyer roaming programme seller as I had such a great time in the role last year. “Of course – you’re my best programme seller!” said Sioned, the Merchandising Co-ordinator whom I’ve worked with over the years. It’s true that I am likely to be her top seller as I’m constantly calling out ‘Programmes! Programmes!’ as I walked about in the crowd, attracting their attention (I’m tooting my own horn hehe…) and had to be quick at maths (the fastest I sort out change, the more programmes I can sell). I love it, mingling with the excited crowd and at times, got closed in and circled with people waving $20 notes at me which can be daunting for some but I like the attention haha! I’ve never attended the volunteer meeting in the past as I’ve always been away on holiday during the first week of the show (and I’m SO in need of a holiday right now – I need a break just to relax and refresh myself) so attended the meeting this year, even though I knew what my work entailed. Us volunteers gathered on the eve of the show opening at TSB Arena where we got briefed on the venue, our duties and given our volunteer packs which consisted a WOW water, the 2010 WOW badge, cast and crew top (more like a dress this time), and volunteer pass (as well as a programme which would be given to us on our first shift). There were lots of new volunteers this time round, none whom I knew beforehand. In exchange of working 6 shifts, approximately 2 hours each day before the show, I got to see the show for free and join in the after-show cast party on the final night. This year’s theme is ‘The Orient Express’ – hmm, what should I dress up as?

If you thought we had many pre-show performers last year, well, there’s even more this year! The performers each portrayed their own interesting characters and would interact with the crowd in character: Fabian the Pirate (Rhys Latton) would often be found offering ladies his service to carry their bags up the stairs; mischievous circus performers Rodrigo Osis and Pascal Ackermann would run around chasing one another, both topless, showing off different drawn-on tattoos on their body each night – these two misfits would come so close to me, pretending to steal my money when I’m not paying attention only to get slapped in the hand (haha, I saw you!); Anna Sheffield, whom I’ve seen in many local musicals and the past few WOWs played the character of Firefly, a cute lady/fairy that comes around checking to make sure the venue is free of fire hazards, tooting her horn or singing as she played her ukulele; Siren Deluxe was probably the most fascinating performer, all dressed up in a Dalmatian suit, French-kissing people as they stop to take photos with her and just full of charm, strutting with her cane; clown mimes would come and go, some stopping to copy my movements which was such a laugh – dancer Matt Gibbons was a mime clown and he picked me up a few times, causing me to squeal “Programmes!” one pitch too high up as he lifted me off the ground! :P I love being in the midst of the commotion, feeling the happy vibes from the people walking in, all excited about the show and of course, being in company of the brilliant pre-show performers – they are so much fun :)

“I’ve been watching you and you’re doing such a great job selling the programmes,” complimented Chief Executive Gabrielle Hervey on day 3 of my shift. Aw, thanks! I do my best and have successfully sold all 150 programmes on every shift I’ve been on. Some of the other programme sellers had started copying my selling technique too! Photos taken while volunteering here.

I went to see the show on Saturday after my shift and as usual, it was an impaired vision seat where I spent the next 2 hours sitting at the edge of my seat, crooning my neck so I can get a better view of the stage. Comedian Te Radar opened the show dressed up in a full grass suit, entering the stage with his accompanying fully suited flower gf, where they did a little comedy skit to brief the audience on turning off phones, photography (none allowed), toilets (the show has no interval) and exits. The show went on showcasing all the entries submitted this year (quite a few from overseas) by its sections, starting with the Air New Zealand South Pacific Section. As expected, the show never fails to give the audience a feeling of magic and fantasy – some of the highlights included a large pop-up book that was descended onto the stage and opened to reveal a castle in the ‘The Magic of Books’ Children’s Section, and the amazing Illumination Illusion Section that is always so well-choreographed and I still wonder today how do they coordinate the changes in colours on a design (computer programmed??)…

My favourite entries for the ‘The Magic of Books’ Children’s Section were ‘A Bid for Freedom’ by Kate Hellyar, where a dragon comes to life from the pages of the story book and ‘Spellbound’ by Ann Skelly, where a larger than life witch spring out from the pages of her bound book. The ‘Synchronized Grannies’ by Cassandra, Coral & Paul Bowe in the Illumination Illusion Section was brilliant - synchronized swimmers in old black and white musical movies re-imagined as mature, fuller figured, fabulous ladies where they swim in and out of darkness, as if they were swimming in a pool. Very clever! The Open Section is one where there were no thematic boundaries and designers were free to create anything they want. I wonder how the models get into some of the costumes, such as Horridus by Lynn Christiansen, that was made of copper, silver and gold plating, spiky and you can hear the metal plates go ‘clank, clank’ as the model moved with much restriction on stage. I thought ‘Breathing’ by Ru Xiang & Tang Wenjie was a clever depiction of China’s industrialisation, while ‘Non-Identical Twins’ by Margarete Palz was very shiny and futuristic. Oh, but you should keep and eye out for ‘Russian By’ by Kayla Christensen & Renee Louie – larger than life size Russian doll that opens up to reveal more dolls! The winner of the Supreme Award was ‘Loops’ by Yogesh Chaudhary & Manas Barve from India, a self-sufficient form of independence without any interference from foreign substances such as thread or glue, a very delicate-looking piece of fabric with lots of intricate cut-out designs.

Grace performed on stage this year in the Avant Garde Section, as the Hungarian bearded lady, lip syncing to a Hungarian song, shimmying and dancing with the clowns in the circus-themed section (I can still picture her shimmying to the words of the song – very saucy hehe…). Oh and the cute little dogs dressed up like baby elephants that walked out with the clowns, wagging their tails as they trotted and posed for the audience. Adorable! My favourite entry for this category has got to be ‘The Ring Mistress’ by Ruchelle Dynae Rudeen, a gown where the bottom half is opened to reveal a stuffed monkey and tiger in their cages. The Bizarre Bra Section is back this year and had Taane Mete in drag, dancing and lip syncing as Carmen Miranda in a comedy skit which got the audience laughing. I like ‘Time Waits For Nobody’ by Jeanine Oxenius & Jayne Broome best, using Salvador Dali's superb depiction of the irony of life and makes fun of inevitable aging of our bodies, with a melted clock on a protruding right breast that is propped with a walking stick as it was too ‘heavy’ from cosmetic enlargement.

The show continued on and at some point, Rodrigo Osis and Pascal Ackermann were on stage where Pascal performed his famous Fire Web act where he does his aerial moves as Rodrigo spins a lighted rope around Pascal’s body. The two finished their act climbing the Chinese poles that were set up on each side of the main aisle of the arena with Pascal closest to where I was sitting – they made it look so easy but I bet you they are not! Acrobats ZimboyZ also showed-off their fantastic acrobat skills on stage, with the grand finale of a human tower with no safety harness attached to them in event someone slipped! All in all a great show but perhaps I’ve been to the WOW show every year so didn’t felt that it had more WOW factor than the previous show – the show were all so amazing :)

Brought Mum to Victoria Street Market on Sunday morning and boy has it been ages since I last came here! Bustling with farmers and shoppers, the market is a great place to buy fresh produce for cheap (though it doesn’t usually last as long as the produce I buy from the supermarket somehow…) and make sure you do a walk around the market before making your purchase – the stalls may be selling the same items but the prices vary. Also remember to bring along cash for your purchases as EFTPOS is not accepted. Photos taken at the market:

Mum at Victoria St market buying fresh produce

A busy day at the market

Mum standing at the pedestrian path on Ghuznee St

A quick stop in my office to pick up my belongings and Mum wanted her photo taken by my desk:

Mum at my office desk

Empty office floor on a Sunday

Mum has been raving about her visits with Auntie Daphne to Mount Cook Café on Wallace St, how the Korean family who owns the shop makes delicious pastries and cakes. I’ve driven past the café for years but never bothered to check it out so we decided to have lunch there today. A cosy corner shop, the café has 3 areas for dine-in patrons to choose from: the café area, the lounge or the backyard. We went for the backyard since it was a sunny day and had coffees and our meals out in the sun. Food and service are good and affordable (to cater for the university students studying nearby) – will need to bring Jono here another time for brunch.
Final day volunteering at WOW! It’s been rather tiring working a full day in the office and then volunteering (even though volunteering is more fun and didn’t feel like work at all). Not sure if I want to be roaming programme seller again next year – I would still like to be part of WOW but much prefer to be on stage like Grace than working behind the scenes. We’ll see how it goes. In the mean time, better get dressed up and ready for the after-show party tonight!

I went to The Costume Company on Saturday and got the lovely ladies at the costume shop to kit out a costume for me for the party. We settled for a 1920s flapper costume which included a beaded long dress, white faux fur stole, black heels, bob wig, headband with a feather, a cigarette holder and accessories to match, costing me $80 all up. The Costume Company is the place I go to if I want to impress at a costume party and they did a fantastic job again! I received so many compliments from other WOW crew tonight :)

The party this year was held at Foxglove where the whole upstairs area was booked out. The ‘Orient Express’ (this is a name of a long-passenger train) theme is so broad with the train's history of routes passing cities like Istanbul and Paris over the years since late 19th century thus party-goers where dressed in all sorts – cheongsams, 1920s flappers, men in suits, a train (yes, someone came wearing a cardboard train!) etc. I like how the WOW crowd are so creative and most people came dressed up in costume, making the party all the more fun. Around 9pm, several of the WOW crew and cast showcased a series of dance performances including swing dancing by Amy and Vanessa, Grace performing her bearded lady burlesque dance as well as Taane Mete dancing as a drag diva accompanied by two other background male dancers. Both Taane Mete and Taiaroa Royal closed off the show on a high with traditional Maori dancing flitting between male and female moves - they are such brilliant dancers and so versatile in movement and portrayal of characters regardless of gender. A wonderful show that got us all screaming in delight and cheering for the performers!

My evening was spent mostly with Grace and Dan, and Grace introduced me to several other people she had worked with at WOW which was really nice. I’ve made more friends :) Sadly I couldn’t stay long as it was a Sunday night (damn, have to work tomorrow!) so left the party around 11pm for home. Photos taken at the party here.

What a WOW of a week it has been – looking forward to WOW 2011!