Sunday, 28 November 2010

My Dream (28th November 2010)

Jono and I had seen a poster for the show My Dream during our recent travels in Australia and decided we would check out their Wellington performance so went to St James Theatre this evening to see show. Cost us $60 each for A reserve seats and you wouldn’t believe where we ended up sitting – right in the middle of the front row in the stall seats downstairs! And there were LOTS of Wellington-based Chinese in the theatre tonight, that’s for sure!!

My Dream is a performance of Chinese poetry, music and dance by The China Disabled People's Performing Art Troupe presented by 50 physically impaired performers from throughout China. The one-night only show started off at 6.30pm with opening speeches from newly appointed Wellington mayor, Celia-Wade Brown who sadly had another engagement and couldn’t stay for the show, as well as the representatives from the Chinese embassy and NZ Charitable Association.

Lights dimmed and a spotlight tailed the beautiful deaf and dumb host, Jiang Xintian, as she walked in elegant poise in her evening gown to the middle of the stage and began presenting the troupe and tonight’s show using hand-language. Her hands moved in sync with the English narrative coming out from the speakers and I wondered who was following who – the narrator speaking in accordance to Xintian’s hand movements, or was some sort of indicator for Xintian to know where she was at with her signing?

The first dance, Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, had the audience in awe and mesmerised – the dancers moved so fluidly in unison and those arm movements were amazing! Absolute precision in time with the music (don’t forget, these dancers can’t hear), arms ‘growing’ out or flicking in various directions from the bodhisattva, with the bodhisattva led by deaf-mute dancer and the troupe’s Art General Director, Tai Lihua. Though we sat at the front row and had plenty of legroom for us to stretch our legs, it was not so great visually, especially when watching the dancers move around the stage (they ‘disappear’ from peripheral vision). But we did get a real close look of them and the dancers all looked very young (18-24), good-looking, fit and full of zest. Oh, and if you were wondering how the dancers ‘hear’ the music, there were two stage assistants standing behind the curtains at the top corners of the stage signalling to the dancers the tempo and the actions. Quite fascinating to watch their aerobic-looking actions turn to graceful dance moves by the dancers :)

There were also two large projector screens set up, one on each side of the stage. Throughout the show, the screens would light up as necessary so the audience could follow song lyrics, translations in English and context of the performances. The visually impaired singers were guided on stage and sang with such gusto, even singing Maori songs such as Pokarekare Ana and Tutira Mai Nga Iwi. I really admired their ability to pick up local songs in foreign languages so quickly (they sing the local songs of every country they visit, IN THE LOCAL LANGUAGE). And not forgetting the brilliant visually impaired musicians who played some of the songs sung as well as other Chinese and well-known hits with a mix of traditional Chinese and modern day instruments. Jono was most impressed with the Chinese flute player’s solo and the guy behind the drum set; I kept my eyes peeled on the piano player whose hands were running up and down the keys. You would not know of their disability if you closed your eyes and just listen to the music they played. Very impressive and flawless orchestral group that wore cool-looking sunglasses on stage. And they also did a short skit with walking sticks and square grass-like boards, a long rope encircling their waists so they were always an arms length away from each other. Yes, they were performing on stage their dance WITHOUT anyone guiding them!

More dancing, singing and music, each segment introduced by the host – the audience were entertained with a dance duet depicting the Butterfly Lovers (Chinese equivalent of Romeo and Juliet), a Pointe classical ballet dance of a graceful swan, Latin dances (the cha-cha dance was brilliant!) as well as more traditional Chinese dances and music, ending with everyone on stage for the final bow. I thought using song ‘Conquest Of Paradise’ to close of the show wasn’t appropriate, giving it a grim ending. Well, it didn’t deter the crowd giving the performers a standing ovation and everyone clapped enthusiastically as the performers walked towards the front of the stage and bowed again.

The show was 2-hours long with no interval and truly amazing – highly recommended you go see the show if they come to your town. Given their disabilities (hearing and visual impairment and physical disabilities), the performers showcased their extraordinary talents with such grace, beauty and precision that makes one admire their strength and determination to overcome their difficulties to pursue their dreams. I left wondering who the handicap really is, me or them, for what I’ve done and achieved to date seem miniscule compared to what they had gone through in life. Hmm…makes me really appreciate my life and my independence to do even simple tasks on my own…

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Otari-Wilton's Bush (27th November 2010)

Another amazing day in the coolest little city in the world! Jono and I caught up with Hew and Edmund at Caffe L’affare on College St for lunch around noon today, sitting outdoors in the sun as we chatted over our food and drinks. So nice and warm! It has been awhile since I last caught up with Hew and it was great to see her again and to know that the family is doing well since her partner Jonathan (ah yes, it does cause quite a bit of confusion when we are talking about our bfs as they have the same first names AND both also known as Jono) moved to Australia for work (Hew and Edmund will be moving over shortly to join her Jono). And Edmund’s grown a lot more since I last saw him – he was so engrossed with his handheld game that he was hiding under the table so he could shield his screen from the reflection of the sun while the adults yakked away. Cute :)

Around 2pm, we said our goodbyes and Jono and I headed out to Wilton to Otari-Wilton’s Bush for a walk. Neither of us had been to this native botanic garden and forest reserve to date and it was too nice a day NOT to be out in the sun! Besides, it’s free so why not? ;)

We started off from the main entrance and carpark on Wilton Road, walking past the Kauri Lawn (a few people were lying on the grass enjoying the sun) towards the Information Centre which is open from 8am-4pm daily. We decided to skip the Information Centre and picked up a self-guided Nature Trail brochure outside, following the trail as outlined. Our walk began with the 75-metre Canopy Walkway which soars 18 metres above the forest floor – a fully accessible tree-top experience of the area. I sure can see LOTS of trees and plants from here!

We continued on the Nature Trail into Cockayne Lawn and Brockie Rock Garden, stopping to take photos of native plants along the way. There were many interesting and strange-looking plants, mostly quite spiky…I wonder why…hmm…Native birds like the tui were chirping happily, flying around and chasing each other. It was such a laugh watching Jono trying to photography a dragonfly close-up – he had to get down on his knees and moved slowly (and quietly) so as not to frighten his photo subject! Careful babe, you don’t want to fall into the pond…

Somewhere in this reserve lies an 800-year-old rimu tree so we went in search for it, taking a detour from our Nature Trail, walking through the Circular Walk that brought us to Troup Picnic Lawn. Groups of people were gathered in the lawn, having picnics and making use of the free BBQs available. That’s so cool! We should get a group of friends to come here on a nice sunny weekend with food for the BBQ and drinks – it’ll be awesome!

“Are you sure we’re on the right path?” I asked Jono after walking another 40 minutes or so, crossing over streams running through a steep forest valley. Wearing flip-flops for the walk was not such a great idea for slippery paths (well, I wasn’t expecting such a long walk in the first place)…It turned out that we had taken a wrong turn and ended up walking the whole upper Yellow Trail, no where near our tree! Argh!! We managed to work our way back to where the Yellow Trail and Blue Trail splitted, this time, taking the Blue Trail walking past mature rimu trees through kohekohe-dominated (kohekohe = New Zealand mahogany) forest. Do not be fooled by the huge rimu trees you see along the way in the first 10-20 minutes of your walk – you will know that you’ve found THE tree when you see a large sign next to it which states ‘Rimu 800 years old’. Neither of us could put our arms around its trunk (of course, we expected that)! On average, rimu grows 25mm in diameter every 10 years thus this would make the tree approximately 2 metres in diameter, which was about right as I worked out that it would probably take 6 of me with outstretched arms to circle the trunk. HUGE! Standing there looking at the towering tree, I was at awe at how the tree could survive living eight centuries through all sorts of weather conditions, earthquakes, wars etc. and still manage to stay erect until today. Wow…

Around 4pm, we backtracked towards the car, stopping for a short lie down in the sun at Kauri Lawn before heading home to crank up the BBQ. Photos taken at Otari-Wilton's Bush here.

If you haven’t been to Otari-Wilton’s Bush, you should go check it out. Wear proper footwear though – some places were steep and slippery so I wouldn’t recommend wearing flip-flops like we did. Oh, and make sure you take with you some water and snacks, just in case you end up walking for a few hours than initially planned ;)

Friday, 26 November 2010

Arbitrageur Wine Room & Restaurant, Wellington (26th November 2010)

After having a few drinks with boys Jono, Shane and Lee at Dockside Restaurant & Bar in Queens Wharf, Jono and I headed over to Arbitrageur Wine Room & Restaurant located on Featherston St for dinner around 7.30pm. Neither of us had been to the Arbitrageur before and Steve had mentioned about it to us several times when the topic of food came up – an expensive restaurant that serves quality food. Since it was one of the restaurants listed in our Entertainment Book, we decided to check it out tonight. After all, we only have to pay for 1 main as part of the deal!

On entry into the elegantly designed restaurant, we were met by a French maitre’d who showed us to our seats – at the bar table. Well, I guess we were to blame as we didn’t book in advance so got the worst seats in the house. It wasn’t that bad, just we were on bar stools and had other couples sharing our long table (they probably didn’t book in advance and walked in like us too). Sitting at our table, we slowly took in the grandeur of the place, its extensive wine list (rated “One of the most outstanding restaurant wine lists in the world” – Wine Spectator Magazine 2005 & 2010) and the two menus of European cuisine to choose from: A La Carte, or their Avec Menu where wine is matched to the food. We settled for the A La Carte menu but couldn’t decide on what to get as they all looked so good (not to mention expensive – thank god we have the Entertainment Book!). Jono rang up Steve to get some recommendations and he settled for the rabbit dish while I ordered the Angus beef steak served with triple cooked chips, slow roasted tomato and green beans (the waiter serving us said it was very popular), and we shared a side dish of roasted pumpkin.

Freshly baked bread rolls were served as we sipped our glasses of red wine that Jono picked out from the wine list. Hmm, the bread was delicious, with or without drizzling it with olive oil! And French red wine – yum! Our main and side dishes were served promptly and oh my god, my medium rare Angus beef steak was DIVINE! I’m doomed – after tonight, I’m not sure I would settle for bar steaks anymore. This is just so, SO good (I’m drooling as I’m writing this…). I’m in steak heaven ahh…Jono’s rabbit dish was also very nice and I was surprised that the black pudding slices in his dish didn’t taste as bad as I thought. Tasty! Great food, nice ambience and awesome company (my baby, of course!) - I’m loving it :)

To some extent, sitting at our table felt a bit like punishment and made us feel the need to return to the restaurant another time, booking a table in advance. And despite being fine dining (i.e. costly), they were not short of patrons – the place was packed! We were quite full from our main meals but couldn’t resist when the waiter asked us if we wanted to have a look at the dessert menu – yes please! We ended up ordering 2 flat whites and shared a pistachio crème brulee served with almond biscotti.

Our dinner cost us $85 (and that is after we have taken off the cost of one of our mains). Expensive but well worth the experience. I highly recommend the Arbitrageur for a romantic evening out (hint, hint – Valentine’s Day or anniversary celebrations)! Oh, and they even have a cellar downstairs housing over 1000 bottles of wine (you can do a tour). We will need to come back another day with a small group of friends to try out the Avec Menu – that way we’ll get to sample a variety of wine and food! 

View from our seat to the entrance of the restaurant

Check out the wine selection!

Jono and the Christmas tree

Arbitrageur Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Thursday diving with The Dive Guys (25th November 2010)

We’re going diving, ON A THURSDAY!! Jono suggested we join The Dive Guys for their Thursday dive this week so we left work early and headed to the dive shop to meet Steve at 5.30pm to sort out our gear hire. Clear skies and no wind – it’s gonna be AWESOME! 

Cost us $50 each for gear hire and tank (1 dive only), this time sharing the large plastic box instead of having our own. As usual, we had to check to make sure we had everything and pack them in the right order back in the box. Steve was all laid-back and not in a rush to go diving, talking away with us and 2 fellow divers who were also at the dive shop. Oh look at those stubby tanks – they are SO cute and would work perfect for me! Sadly, they are a rare find and very unlikely that dive shops would have one for hire (the two Steve ordered in were bought by 2 female divers). Hmm, a bit pointless to buy one unless diving regularly in Wellington…can’t exactly pack it up on trips overseas, can I?

As previously mentioned, the dive site changes from week to week subject to weather conditions and divers only find out the confirmed dive site on Wednesday or the morning of the dive. Around 6pm, we headed to Island Bay – cool, a new dive site for us! Jono and I zipped off ahead of Steve and arrived in Island Bay only to find no one at the car park. Turned out they were in the car park next to where we were but we couldn’t see them as they were hidden behind the hedge separating the two parks. “Thought you kids were a bit over confident, shooting off without me,” teased Steve. Next time we’ll follow you, just in case…

There were 13 of us ranging from new to experienced divers with a few in dry suits. The fish are going to get a shock of their lives having 13 ninjas trespassing haha! Everyone was busy getting kitted up, going through their buddy checks (Jono and I buddied up this time) and headed towards the water. Though the water temperature was 16 degrees Celsius today, I still wore my thermals ;)

It was much easier to get into the water from this car park as it was close to shore – yes, I don’t have to work so hard to get in and out of the water! In pairs, the experienced divers swam out and began their dive while the rest of us waited for Steve and descended in a group. The weather had turned cloudy and visibility was about 6 metres in the slightly murky water. Still clearer than our dives on Sunday which was only a mere 1.5 metres!

Personally, I couldn’t fully enjoy my dive this time and was having issues in the water – upon descending, I very quickly realised that part of my regulator mouthpiece had been chewed off, a small bit dangling on its end (I was fearful that it might snap and I would end up swallowing the rubber) and I had a hard time securing the regulator in my mouth so had to prop it with one hand all throughout the dive. “You idiot – you should always check the mouthpiece!” went a little voice in my head. Argh! I’ve heard stories from other divers that this is common with rental gear and it always pays to check the mouthpiece BEFORE getting into the water. Never thought it would ever happen to me – a good experience and lesson for my oversight. To some extent, I was glad that it was me who got the broken mouthpiece than Jono so that his first diving experience after his course is a good one (of course, no broken mouthpiece would be even better). ALWAYS check the mouthpiece in the future!

I couldn’t quite keep up with the group and was somehow draining my tank very quickly today – it felt hard to breathe, as if I was low on air. I wondered if it had anything to do with the mouthpiece, air leaking each time I took in a breath. Hmm…Oh-o, my right fin had just come off…Gah, why do I always get into so much trouble?? “There, now you won’t be going anywhere…,” I thought to myself, fastening the strap real tight. Hey, where did Jono go? I looked around for Jono and he was nowhere to be seen (though there were other divers around). He must have followed the group and I’ve no idea which direction they went! I waited for a bit and thankfully he came back looking for me – yay! We lost each other a few times but still managed to find one another. For our first buddy dive, we did pretty well (still have a few things to work through but we’ll learn of each other’s dive styles in due course) and with the challenges I encountered today, I thought I did well not freaking out underwater and managed to get through the dive.

Jono was picking up rubbish from the seabed as he comes across them, showing me his ‘collection’ as he went. Cute :) Our dive today was 37 minutes long going down to a depth of 11.5 metres, swimming through the kelp forest and some pebbly patches at the bottom. Saw several red moki, a few sea urchins, and strange yet colourful sea creatures on the odd blade of kelp. I would have to agree with Jono that the dive at Princess Bay last Saturday was much better – more colourful and lots more fish.

Time to head home for a hot shower and dinner!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Day 2: Scuba diving refresher complete! (21st November 2010)

Urgh, I can’t believe I got woken up so early again…on a Sunday! Jono had set the alarm to ring at 7.45am instead of 8.45am – no wonder we had spare time to kill before Ben turned up in his van to get us. Jono…

Hmm, weather today was colder and looked rather grim with dark clouds looming. Not sure it would be much fun diving but we still had to get into the water regardless. The 3 of us headed to the dive shop to meet Steve at 10am, got all our gear checked and repacked like we did yesterday, and around 10.30am, headed over to Scorching Bay for our dives. Brr, it’s cold and windy out here – just look at the waves! :(

Before we headed into the water for our first dive, Steve talked us through how to use the compass and navigating our way to a target and U-turn back to where we started. Once we were clear on how to read the compass, everyone kitted up, did our buddy checks and headed to the beach into the water for our first dive. Oh god, the water was a tone of brown with shifting sand in the mix due to the wind and visibility, a poor 1.5 metres, exactly the type of diving condition I remembered from previous diving experiences in Wellington bays. Not liking this at all but I kind of expected it when I saw the incoming choppy waves. Guess we’ll just have to stick together closely. Worse case scenario, if we did lose one another, we would then search around underwater for 1 minute before surfacing and wait for our buddy to come up.

Steve got us to swim and navigate towards a buoy on the surface, having us use our compass and at every 15th kick, stop and take a look to see if we were still on course, making amendments as necessary to get back on track. I was struggling to stay on track with the waves pulling me off course and was hyperventilating by the time I got to the guys, exhausted from breathing through the snorkel and swimming against the current. We had a short rest on the surface to catch our breaths then gathered closer before descending to a depth of about 6 metres to the sandy bottom. Oh, this is just terrible – I can hardly see beyond arm’s length! We repeated the same swim and navigating exercise underwater, this time just 15 kicks towards the buoy, surface, do a U-turn, descend, and swim back to origin, all the time relying on the compass. And Steve was not coming with us since he was the ‘origin’ so we were on our own. I guess given we could hardly see each other, we had no choice but to put our trust on the compass and carried out the skill independently – Ben and I couldn’t see Jono after waiting at the bottom for awhile (turned out Jono was still descending and by the time he got to the bottom, we had already took off – oops!) and at some point, I lost both the boys but found them at the end. The brief moment when I couldn’t see anyone was rather terrifying but I was really glad that we found each other and were able to carry our exercise well despite the challenging water condition.

Back down to the sand patch, we continued on with the skills, doing the fin pivot and the boys had to do a mask removal, replacement and clearing which I was spared from doing. Phew! We did a tiki tour of the area, saw several spotty fish and loads of starfish scattered all over the seabed. I was constantly trying to keep up with Steve in fear of losing sight of him underwater and totally swam past an eleven-armed sea star. Thankfully Jono grabbed me on my arm and pointed it out to me. Wow, it’s huge! My baby must be feeling more confident and comfortable scuba diving since he was doing things like mask clicking me (bump masks) and swimming above and hover down to hug me. Aww, cute :)

Argh, WTF?! I got a fright when I saw a shoe emerge into view from the left corner of my mask. The first thought that came to mind was if it was a body – gulp! It was actually Jono showing me a shoe Ben found but I didn’t notice his outstretched arm holding the shoe, just one end of the shoe ‘floating’ towards me rather eerily…

Headed back to shore and Steve told me I had completed my scuba tune up – yippee! I could choose to sit out the final dive but thought since I’m here, might as well log another dive. Had a quick snack, warmed my hands using Steve’s hand warmer (I couldn’t feel my fingers and Steve had a hand warmer handy), swapped tanks and chatted about our dive and what was left to finish up the day. Only the guys went back into the water with weight belts, mask and snorkel to do their weight removal exercise; I stayed back to watch our gear at the car park :)

“Hehe, you look cute with the tank dangling behind you,” teased Jono as he watched me shuffle my way into the water for dive #4, the huge cylinder bobbing behind my back and you could see the end sticking way past my butt to about my knees. Seriously, there should be shorter tanks for people my size, AND lighter ones too! The water condition got much worse this time round and it didn’t help that my hair was all over the place, getting caught in my mask – each time I put my head underwater, my mask quickly filled up with water. After several attempts trying to descend with much difficulty, choking and drinking too much salt water with Steve calming me down, I managed to descend to the bottom to join the boys but spent the rest of the dive having to clear my mask so often that I wasn’t able to enjoy the dive. Gah, darn hair! The hover was the last skill we did in the water – we couldn’t quite tell if we were doing it right as we couldn’t see how far we were from the bottom and surface. Obviously did something right because Steve shook our hands to congratulate us!

We continued on diving, going through the kelp forest, no new creatures seen (still heaps of starfish and the odd sea worm that ‘disappears’ when you go near). Around 2pm, we surfaced and headed back to the car park. Congratulations Ben and Jono – you are now certified Open Water divers! YAY!! The boys were already hi-5-ing one another as they walked to shore, all excited about their recent achievement. I’m so proud and happy that they have both successfully completed their course :) Pretty proud of myself too that I completed my refresher – I wouldn’t done it if Jono hadn’t suggested I come along this weekend. Thanks baby xoxo! The refresher did help me build my confidence underwater plus work through some skills I’ve forgotten but most of all, I had fun diving in Wellington (even though the dives today were a bit s^%t). I guess it makes a huge difference when diving with people you know and trust, and also have more fun talking about the experience afterwards :)

Brr…it was much warmer in the water than out…We quickly washed all our wet gear at the outdoor shower by the public toilets. Gah, the water was freezing cold! Packed up everything and got changed, and by 3pm, headed back to the dive shop. Steve took us to The Realm Bistro & Bar in Hataitai Village where he bought us all a round of beers to celebrate and helped us complete our dive logs – thanks Steve for everything! I really like Steve (he’s laid-back, easy-going and all about diving) and highly recommend that if you intend to take a diving course and/or go out diving that you do so with The Dive Guys. Will have to go out diving with them on one of their Thursday/Sunday dives (the dive school holds regular weekly dives in various Wellington dive sites during summer)! Now that Jono is a certified diver too, that means we'll be able to dive together - woo-hoo!

Home to shower and around 5pm, Jono and I walked over to Monterey on Rintoul St to meet Ben and Rissa for an early dinner. I’m starving! I’ve never been to Monterey before and was expecting it to be a typical pub but it was nothing like that at all – the small venue had a welcoming feel as if entering a bach with décor from the 60s-70s (old radios, typewriters, books and scales etc.), music from the era playing in the background. We joined Ben and Rissa at their table that was covered with newsprint paper and crayons available for all your drawing pleasure. How cool is that! You can play cards and other board games and puzzles, or indulge in a magazine or book as you enjoy your drink and meal. And speaking of books, the menu was stuck in the front pages of old books scattered on the table (I didn’t know that until I saw Rissa so engrossed with her book and realised she was looking at the menu haha!). Serviettes were placed in opened sardine cans! Such an interesting place and their burgers and coffee were pretty good too :)

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What a weekend this has been! I’m going to sleep well tonight from all the workout…

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Day 1: Scuba diving refresher course (20th November 2010)

Boys Jono and Ben have been talking about doing the Open Water scuba diving course together for awhile and finally booked in their practical course for this weekend. Awesome! Both Rissa and I already have our Open Water certifications so once the boys have theirs, we’ll be able to go diving together :) The boys have chosen to take the course with The Dive Guys, a small dive shop based in Hataitai – they had to first complete their e-learning course and pass the final test, and obtain a medical clearance before the practical sessions which included 1 pool session and 4 dives in the sea. When I did my course with NZ Sea Adventures back in 2006 when they were still based in Kilbirnie, there was no e-learning option so I had to attend a full day of classroom work, going through a textbook full of new information and take the test at the end of the day (god, it felt like such a long day…); I reckon the e-learning option is way better as you can study the modules at your own pace in the comfort of your own home and take the final test when you’re ready. Jono and Ben spent last weekend studying most of the modules together, discussing any sections they weren’t clear off together and occasionally ask me or Rissa questions when unsure. I would ‘secretly’ test Jono before bed, slotting in random dive questions in our conversation and have him explain them to me, just so I know he’s understood and remembered what he’s learnt ;) The boys completed the last few modules on their own and Jono took his test earlier this week (we worked through the dive planning questions together, comparing our answers before he submitted his final answer to the online objective test) passing with flying colours. His doctor signed off his dive medical so all he needed to do now is complete the practical part of the course!

The last time I dived was in early 2009 when I went did a live-on-boat diving trip with Helbert in the Great Barrier Reef, and with all the talk about diving in the last two weeks (including my fear for water and buoyancy issues in most of my dives), Jono suggested that I take a refresher course to sort out these problems so I would feel more confident and enjoy my future dives. Hmm, that’s a really good idea though when it comes to diving, much like snowboarding, I’m often apprehensive about attempting the sport due to previous bad experiences or accidents. With diving, even though I love life under the sea, I still have my moments when the panic button flicks on because of my previous drowning incident when I was 18 (was fished out from the deep pool in a water theme park in Malaysia) – I’ve since learnt to swim and swim regularly but I guess with me being much older when the incident occurred, the memory lingers in the back of my mind, triggering the panic attack without my control at times when I’m in the water. Plus I often break into hives or couldn’t sleep the night before diving the next day just because of the fear. In saying all that, I do want to sort out these problems so I can truly enjoy diving. I have fears but I’m not one to let them stop me from doing something. “Come diving with us this weekend for your refresher. It’ll be good for you before we take the Advanced Open Water course together, maybe this summer,” Jono suggested. Hmm, well, if that’s the case, then I had better do the refresher BEFORE the Advanced course. So I contacted The Dive Guys to find out whether I could do the Scuba Tune Up course this weekend while the boys were doing their practical – Steve Journee, PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer and owner of The Dive Guys responded promptly to my email and said I could do my tune up with the boys for $160. That’s $160 which included full gear hire, a pool session and 4 dives, which is a really amazing deal given the Scuba Tune Up course is usually a one-on-one course with only 1 dive. Well, looks to me I’m going diving this weekend!

“Argh, stop annoying me…let me sleep…” I grumbled and pulled the sheets over my head as Jono drew open the curtains and started to tickle me at 6am on Saturday morning. “You lied…you said we’ll be up at 6.30am…argh! Stop it – fine, I’m awake now!” Grr…Normally I’m the early riser and have no issues getting up early; Jono must be wide awake from all the excitement. We made ourselves porridge for breakfast (for slow release of energy) with coffees, then packed up our bags with a towel and clean change of clothes. A quick stop at Jono’s office for him to print out his test results and collect his dive medical, we stopped to pick up Ben before heading to Freyberg pool to meet Steve at 8am. Interestingly, most dive masters I’ve met to date are quite big in size (think rugby player) and have rather broad chests (more lung capacity), and Steve was no exception. Ben, Jono and I were the only students today – cool, small group means more face time with the instructor :) Steve seemed like a really cool guy, briefing us on what we will be doing today and talking us through the skills he would be showing us and later testing us on. Oh no, he’s getting me to do them too as part of my refresher!!

“Alright, let’s get our gear together and into the pool,” said Steve and we each went to our designated tank that had already been assembled in advance. Brave Jono didn’t have swimming trunks so stripped down to his Icebreaker Men's Beast Brief for the pool – I would be blushing in embarrassment if I wore my bra and undies in the public pool, even my nicest ones, but he didn’t care at all…Okay, so long as you’re comfortable in it…

Geez, remind me again why I’m doing this? I had forgotten how heavy the tank and all the gear were and it didn’t help being small in size. I felt so clumsy, trying to get to the edge of the pool with my gear and having to bend down to pick up my fins and mask. So much effort! We spent the next hour or so going through a series of skills – Steve would show them to us first and one by one, we would repeat the skills until he was satisfied we did them correctly. I had a major freak out in the water when it got to my turn to do the mask removal, replacement and clearing – water was going up my nose and I felt my throat choke, the panic button immediately triggered and my automatic response was to head up to the surface. My head was going “I need to get out of here, I need to get out of here” all the time when I was in panic mode. Sigh, why is it that I’m still so afraid of the water? Steve managed to calm me down on the surface and we returned to the bottom of the pool and continued with the other skills, leaving this one for later. Strangely enough, when I had to do the no mask breathing exercise i.e. swim underwater without the mask towards Steve, I was alright and replaced and cleared my mask with no issues. Huh, I was expecting another freak out…Check and check – passed more skills! My fin pivot wasn’t as good as I would have liked (I didn’t seem to go up much when I took in deep breathes) and had to do it several times before Steve shook my hand (when we successfully carry out each skill, Steve congratulates us by shaking our hand). I managed to do the hover and a somersault though the latter got water shooting up my nose causing a brain freeze-like sensation. Ouch. Oh, and we had to do the tired diver tow on the surface which was hard work for me even though I towed Jono, who was the lightest of the 3 men. That really got my heart racing and warmed up – I was beginning to shiver in the heated pool (that was because we were underwater and not moving all that much most of the time). I was spared the 10-lap swim (thank you, Steve!) and got out of the water to warm up, wrapping myself in my towel while I watched the boys do their laps with mask, snorkel and fins.

Woo-hoo, pool DONE! The boys did a great job with the skills in the pool – they were naturals, carrying out the skills with ease. Great job! We left the pool around 10.30am and headed over to the dive shop in Hataitai, stopping at the nearby bakery to pick up some pies and pastries before meeting up with Steve again around 11.30am.

The dive shop is tiny! This is by far the smallest dive shop I’ve seen to date!! Most dive shops would have a wet area to wash and dry the used gear, a storage area and a retail shop – this shop was all of that condensed into a small garage. Less items, of course, and the shop gave a feeling of “Let’s go diving” rather than “Check out what we have in store” which is a plus because it really is about the enjoyment of diving, not so much forcing the students to buy gear and sign up for more courses. Oh, and you wouldn’t miss the shop driving into Hataitai Village because it’s purple!

Each of us were given a large plastic box with dive gear and were instructed to check that we’ve all got everything by taking all the items out and putting them back into the box in order of what we would put on first in last – fins, mask and snorkel (I had my own – most rental masks do not fit my Asian nose), gloves, wet suit, vest with hood, reg-gauge and lastly, BCD. Weights were kept separate so that the heavy leads wouldn’t destroy our gear. I was given 9kgs of weight (same as Jono) though Steve reckons I probably only need 7kgs (rule of thumb is 10% of your body weight + 2kgs which makes 7kgs sound about right). And because I don’t consume much air, I would be using a cylinder with 150-bar for my dives today instead of the normal 200-220 bar.

Around 12pm, we headed to Princess Bay where we would be doing the dives today, the first, a leisure dive just to get used to being underwater and the 2nd dive for some skills. I wore my Icebreaker Merino long-sleeved top and pants on top of swimsuit before putting on the wetsuit – that should prevent me from feeling cold in the 15 degree Celsius waters. Gah, the wet suit was rather tight for a size 10 (I’m usually a size 8!). “We don’t get many female divers your size so the wet suit hasn’t been properly worn in yet,” laughed Steve as he watched me jump around to get myself into the wet suit. Argh, I can’t get my hand through the sleeve!! Help, please…

OK, I’m all kitted up now...Next, buddy checks following the BWRAF acronym for Buoyancy, Weights, Releases, Air and Final check – there are many memory joggers you can use for this acronym like Begin With Review And Friend or funny ones like Bruce Willis Ruins Action Films or Big White Rabbits Are Fluffy (or Bangkok Women Really Are Fellas, though I’m not sure Thai divers would appreciate the joke). As we waited for each other to get ready, a Jack Russell pup came along to check us out, playfully licking Steve’s face when he goo-gooed the dog and walking around, sniffing us and our gear. Hey, don’t lick my mouthpiece! Eew, now I’ve got dog saliva on my snorkel…The pup proceeded to sit on Jono’s snorkel, at the mouthpiece too. The little devil! Its lucky I’ve got so much weight on me that I couldn’t run after it…grr…Ben was laughing his head off at our predicament only to stop short because the mischievous puppy had run off with his gloves! Haha, brilliant!! We cracked up laughing as we watched Ben chasing the pup on the beach. The dog owner was most apologetic for her puppy’s misbehaviours, informing us she’s been trying hard to train her dog. "That was a first!" laughed Steve. Indeed unexpected and so funny!

The great thing about diving in Wellington is that you don’t need a boat to go diving BUT it also meant diving off the shore, having to put on all your gear and walk into the water, then swim out before descending. I was shuffling my way carefully on the beach to the water with all the extra weight on me, and by the time I was in the water, I was already huffing and puffing from the effort. And I’m NOT even underwater yet!

The first dive was cruisy, mainly for us to get comfortable in the water. It was quite calm today and visibility of 10 metres underwater which was fantastic. 15 degrees Celsius didn’t feel too bad – the Merino kept me comfortably warm, and the hood and gloves helped too :) I was panicking at the start as water kept leaking into my mask. Turned out I had to tuck the lip of my mask under the hood. Ah-ha, learn something new everyday! We did a tiki tour, swimming to a depth of 9 metres, checking out the underwater surroundings of kelp, sandy patches and a variety of fish including scarlet wrasse and blue cod. And we saw not 1 but 2 octopi (I spotted the first one)! This was the first time I’ve ever seen an octopus underwater, a sea creature I’ve always hope to see during my dives but had never seen in my past 23 dives – yes! The scarlet wrasse was funny, swimming up so close to Steve’s mask, ‘kissing’ it (I’m not sure if it was a sign of affection or aggression from the fish). I’m very impressed to see how much Princess Bay has changed over the last couple of years – it was once a barren and lifeless dive site (I did 2 of my Open Water dives here in 2006 and it was dead and gray) but since it became part of the marine reserve, it is now filled with life and colour. Just shows how much can be restored if we protect our waters :)

I needed the boys to help me up the steps to the van as I just wasn’t able to step up with all the weight :/ We were back on shore after the 23-minute dive, chatting away excitedly about what we saw as we swapped tanks, had some food and a break during our surface interval before dive #2. Photos taken during our break:

Boys Ben and Jono chopping away on their sandwiches

Diving - YEAH!

Having a fun day diving with the boys :)

Back into the water and this time, we swam out towards the dive flag then descended to about 8-9m onto a sandy patch were we did our skills. Jono had problems equalising so was stuck near the surface with Steve helping him out while Ben and I were hovering on the sandy bottom watching the fish. The blue cod was funny, behaving like a dog on guard – it would swim quite close up, then stop, planting its fins on the sand, securing a stance and just glare at you, as if protecting its territory. Quite amusing! Once Jono was at the bottom, one by one we did the skills as indicated by Steve. Oh no, mask clearing… I shook my head “No” when Steve gestured to me to flood my mask with water... he wasn’t going to let me off that easily. I had a mini-freak out doing so but he grabbed hold onto my BCD so I couldn’t swim to the surface and waited for me to calm down, knocking on my mask to tell me it’s ok to open my eyes. All is ok, all is ok, breathe...ok, I'm ok now!

We did a few more skills including air depletion exercise where we had to use our buddy’s alternate air source, as well as surface skills like cramp removal, gear removal and tired diver tow. Hmm, so nice to be towed by Jono, gradually floating in the water and have the sun shine in my face. Not so nice having to tow Jono (though better Jono than Ben or Steve) and I was quite tired after working out the whole day so we were worming our way to shore. I can’t go any faster…

We had to wash all our gear in the unisex toilets near the car park and help Steve pack them back into our boxes. Brr, it’s cold – I need a hot drink and shower! Everyone got changed and chatted more about our dives today. Steve’s a really cool guy and I enjoyed diving with him and the boys today. The boys did SO well for their first time underwater – I’m so proud :) Two more dives to go tomorrow and we’re done!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Everything Is OK (17th November 2010)

I rounded up a group of art-loving friends (7 of us – me, Jono, Liviu, Ben, Rissa, Rebecca and Lars) to see play Everything Is Ok tonight, another production from BATS theatre’s STAB 2010 season – I thought it might be quite an interesting play since it was held in a 600m sq warehouse located opposite Te Papa on Cable St instead of the usual BATS theatre. Shows at BATS are a hit and miss – I’ve seen some very good ones and some pretty terrible ones. Hopefully this one would be good, now that I’ve a group in tow. Ooo, and I wonder what the setting would be like in the warehouse – would it be on several small stages where we walked around or a sit-down show? Hmm… 

On arrival to the warehouse around 7.45pm to meet the rest of the gang, lots of people have gathered in the waiting area chit-chatting and purchasing drinks from the makeshift bar on site. The waiting area looked and felt very much like a construction site with large roles of white cloth playing images from a projector separating us and whatever was hidden behind those sheets. Cost $20 per person for the 1 hour 20 minute show and like everyone else, Jono and I gathered in the waiting area as drib and drabs of our group arrived. 

It was hard to tell where exactly we would enter the ‘theatre’ since we couldn’t really see the stage from where we were, yet we could hear shouting and some guys fighting or playing a game coming from behind the sheets. Around 8pm, the ushers ‘drew the curtain’, pulling to the side the sheets in the middle of the warehouse, as the audience shuffled in, showing the usher the stamp on their hand as they passed (we got stamped when we paid for the ticket). Oh my god, just look at the place – shipping containers, mashed up installations from discarded industrial waste including a crushed up car, old TVs, metal frames etc. – the place was like a rubbish dump! No time to settle into the new environment and check out all the bizarre and rust-dusty installations – the audience were told to stand outside the white dotted lines on the floor (the white dotted lines frame the installations) while actors Hadleigh Walker (seen in Downstage show, The December Brother) and Jeremy Randerson continued to kick ball (the ball was a crumpled plastic bottle) pushing through the sardined audience. Ah ha, so the show has begun and we’re IN it! 

The first part of the show brings the audience through a rapid psychedelic trip through the lives of the 5 people working in television. Hadleigh and Jeremy moved from their football game to a skit where they pretended to be a car salesman and potential buyer test-driving a Cadillac. Of course, the car was the beat up, crumpled, rusting metal but the two actors portrayed their role so well, admiring the beauty and speed of the car as if it was real. I can’t help but think about how much red rust dust the guys were getting their clothes on. Eek...The lights then flitted over to Tim Carlsen, who played the character of a motivational speaker (I’m not sure what motivation he was selling) – he reminded me of Jim Carrey’s character as Ace Ventura, acting all cool in his shades, ripped suit and obnoxious behaviour, AND those hip grinding movements that made me laugh and felt a tad embarrassed watching (but everyone else had eyes on him as he was in the spotlight!). Aroha White was the model for all the infomercials selling all sorts of items – as she gave her sales pitch, another actor would angle the mini-camera towards her and her face would be seen on the projector screen on the wall as well as in all the old black-and-white TVs piled up in a heap where she was standing on. And Jessica Robinson (previously seen in Circa Theatre play, The Great Gatsby) was a Martha Stewart-looking lady, teaching the audience how to cook a duck (her ingredients were all bits of industrial materials – rusty chains, part of a door etc.) and teaching good dining etiquette, playing the strict, no-nonsense mother of 4. And the spotlight flits around all these moving characters – standing in the audience, we had to constantly move about to change focus and occasionally, I had stand on my tip toes as I couldn’t see the actors (gah, the person in front of me is blocking my view!). At times, the actors were SO close to us (and they didn’t seem to care), in fact too close for comfort, that the audience would automatically make way for them. Huh, funny that… 

Oh my god! Jono got splashed!! What had happened was during the dining etiquette skit, the children (all the other actors) had to follow certain protocols as taught by their mother, and after the toast, they would all empty their glasses (the glasses were tin cans) by tipping them backwards and the mix of wood shaving and sawdust would land on anyone standing nearby. Thankfully Jono only got a bit of wood shaving on his jacket but the lady standing to his right must be pissed that her black coat now had bits of wood shaving and sawdust stuck to it! Thank god I was NOT standing where she was! Oh, but the sawdust was annoying, stuffing up my nose and making me rub my eyes now and again, though the actors didn’t look bothered with it at all, welcoming the wood shaving-sawdust ladle of soup as mother came around scooping the ‘soup’ into their mag wheel bowls. All hell broke lose when Hadleigh started to misbehave at the dinner table, causing all the other children to rebel, wood shaving and sawdust flying all over the place! What a mess! 

It was fascinating to watch the audience’s behaviour and as the actors disappeared to the back of the warehouse – everyone automatically proceeded towards the last remaining actor, as if beckoned to follow him. The second section of the play brought us further back to the warehouse where the audience got to sit for the rest of the show. Jono immediately went for seats in the front row! Hmm, I’m not sure that is a good idea, babe, after the wood shaving incident…oh well, fingers crossed! The stage was set up with 2 opened shipping containers, one stacked on top of the other depicting an apartment block of 4 shoe-box sized units where we visited the lives of the inhabitants living in today’s modern world, how they are struggling to cope with their lives, pretending all is right. Hadleigh played a man in the verge of committing suicide; Aroha, a telemarketer cold-calling to sell Freedom (I couldn’t make out if she was selling a service or a store card – her sales pitch were all about breaking free and getting the things you want); Jessica and Jeremy played a couple who has fallen out of love yet continued to live together; and Tim, a former child TV star still trapped in his own childhood stardom. Daily routines were portrayed in dance, showing actions of taking a shower, putting on mascara, drinking coffee, and eventually walking out the door. Similar to the first part of the show, the spotlight focuses on each of the units, pausing much longer this time to look into what the characters were doing: Hadleigh was packing up all his stuff into boxes and making recordings of himself speaking as if he was attending his own funeral while Aroha was constantly trying to clinch a sale. Tim was seen acting out scenes from his previously aired TV series, using cut-out cardboard stands of the characters in his TV series, reviving his character within the four walls of his room. Jessica played the character of a woman full of disgust for her jobless partner and wanting to run away from their relationship, gradually showing the cracks of the relationship climaxing to an aggressive brawl and ending in tears. There was a moment where Jeremy took his pants down, flashing his butt cheeks to the audience as he used them to ‘talk’ to his partner, trying to cheer her up. Got a smile out of her but not enough to save their relationship with cheek-talk. 

The show is a satire of modern life that will challenge your sense of living in the modern world. An interesting play that is part interactive and well-portrayed by 5 brilliant actors, it is worth checking out (season runs from 6th – 20th November) though do not expect to walk out feeling upbeat and happy – this is not one of those happy-ending plays. Oh, and be prepared to be pushed around and possibly receive a cupful of wood shavings and sawdust!

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Vector Wellington Orchestra Presents 1710 - Organ Symphony (13th November 2010)

The week is just filled with events – we’ve been going out too much! I’m not complaining as I’ve enjoyed all the events we’ve been to; it just so happened that they were all on the same week and it felt like we were out every night! Tonight’s event was yet another free event (for us), again, courtesy of The Dominion Post – I’ve won us a double pass to Vector Wellington Orchestra Presents 1710 - Organ Symphony :)

The Vector Wellington Orchestra presents a series of concerts in Wellington and as part of their 2010 Subscription Season, they have showcased great works connected with the years 1710, 1810, 1910 and 2010 with the one from 1710 being the last of the 4-part subscription. I’ve not seen this orchestra perform – I guess I never saw myself as a classical music fan (even though I spent years playing classical music on the piano) so never actively sought out such events. Great for me to score free tickets (normally $56 per person) as I get to sample new things and in the process, find out if I like such things/events or not. I’m definitely looking forward to see the Town Hall organ in action tonight, something I’ve never seen before!

Funnily enough, the last time we attended an event at the Wellington Town Hall, we were in a rush to get there on time and tonight, despite leaving home early for the 7.30pm concert, we STILL got there late (by a couple of minutes) but thankfully they have not yet close the doors when we arrived so we could get to our seats without missing the start of the performance. Phew! Plenty of others were like us, rushing to get in and I was impressed to see such a large crowd tonight, with the audience ranging from young children to senior folks. The concert opened with the overture from Le Temple de la Gloire by 18th-century composer Rameau, with the full orchestra led by music director Marc Taddei, and this was followed by harpsichord Concerto in D Major, F.41 from Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (JS Bach’s oldest son) performed by gifted harpsichordist-pianist-organist Donald Nicholson. This was the first time I’ve seen a harpsichord and it looked quite similar to a piano though smaller and somewhat fragile-looking. Widely used in Renaissance and Baroque music, this was the instrument that gave rise to the piano. According to Jono, the key difference between a harpsichord and a piano is that when a note is played, the string is plucked on the harpsichord instead of being hammered on (like the piano), and as a result, no matter how hard you played on the key, the loudness of the note would remain the same. How interesting…It was fun to watch Donald perform – he looked like he was having a ball playing the song, moving his whole body expressively to the music. We were sitting on the 8th row from the stage in the stall seats downstairs and despite a smaller orchestra (half of the orchestra left the stage for the harpsichord pieces), the sound from the harpsichord sounded rather soft; I wonder if the audience far back and upstairs were able to hear much. Poulenc’s Concerto "Concert Champêtre" was played next, this time on a modern harpsichord (apparently made in Auckland and only 13 of its kind ever made) though I couldn’t hear much difference between the two harpsichords, both still of a delicate tone. Ah but the modern harpsichord had 6 pedals, making it much more challenging an instrument to play! I kind of wished we sat upstairs so we could actually see what Donald was doing, his fingers playing with tremendous speed, especially when he was performing his encore, a continuous set of tremolos, showing off his agility and superb skill on the keyboard. Doesn’t his fingers and hand get tired doing that?!

Oh my god, guess who I saw walking out of the hall during the interval? Jack Body, the composer we shooed off our seats a couple of weeks back when we were here!

The concert resumed after about a 20-minute interval, this time with Saint-Saëns’s organ symphony, Symphony No 3 in C minor "Organ", with Douglas Mew on the organs. We giggled watching Douglas getting ready for the performance, checking his teeth and smile in the mirror above him (the mirror is there so that the organist can see the conductor’s hands while playing back facing the rest of the orchestra). I was expecting a sudden loud tremor from the organ (hands ready to cover my ears) but it started off rather mellow, eventually climaxing to a deep, earth-shattering vibration. Not only can you hear the vibrations from the gigantic pipes of the organ, you can actually feel it go through your body – it was a strange yet pleasurable sensation, as if your soul or insides were given a good shiver.

Ah-ha, I thought I heard the sound of a piano! I was looking around to see which instrument was producing a piano-like sound since we couldn’t see a piano on stage – were my ears playing tricks on me? Turned out the piano was at the far back, hidden behind the violinists. All I could see from our seats was a bit of the opened lid and you had to really look hard to find it. So I wasn’t imaging the piano sounds!

The audience, at awe with tonight’s performance, clapped, stomped and cheered for an encore but none was given – the musical director was plain evil, teasing us by re-entering the stage and making his orchestra bow but not play and after about the 4th or 5th time, the audience got the gist and stopped their applause.

We left for home around 10pm and I must say, I may have found new love for classical music :) I really enjoyed the concert and look forward to see more concerts by this orchestra next year!

Friday, 12 November 2010

Me and Robert McKee (12th November 2010)

Jono and I are off to see another play, this time at Circa Theatre, a play entitled Me and Robert McKee, a story about an out-of-luck writer. Sounds a bit depressing, I know, but I found an awesome deal on GrabOne for the show - $19 per person for a ticket (usually $38). Jono was keen so we’re going to see it tonight! 

The show started at 7.30pm and was about 90 minutes long with no interval. We had wonderful seats in the middle of the theatre (we were in the smaller of the 2 theatres for the show) and wine in hand, sipping away as we watched actors Christopher Brougham and Paul McLaughlin play their characters Billy (the writer) and Mac (banker and Billy’s best friend) respectively. Billy was a middle-aged script-writer whose life is falling apart – his marriage ending and the likely end of his writing career, he nurses his sorrows by drinking and relying on teaching for a living, constantly teetering on the edge of self-destruction. Mac, his best friend and producer offers him a screenplay to write and a roof on his head though Mac had plans of his own… 

The play started with the audience as students in Billy’s writing class where he would open his classes with a joke each time. In class, he spoke about the art and craft of writing, quoting (and often ridiculing) techniques from script guru Robert McKee. "Robert McKee says that if a gun goes off in the last act, it has to be seeded in the first act. So here it is," said Billy pulling out a revolver from his jacket and pulling the trigger. BANG! I totally wasn’t expecting him to pull the trigger and the accompanying sound to be so loud – I was shaken and spilt some of my wine on myself :/ 

While Billy tries so hard to find ideas for his script, he resorted to prying into Mac’s past, learning of his best friend’s terrible past and the death of his abusive father. As time went on and Billy still couldn’t produce anything (he was getting more erratic), and on the verge of killing himself (out comes the revolver again), much believing that he has lost everything, including his job after his breakdown in class and his gift of writing, Mac broke the news that it wasn’t the script that he needed but to use is as a part of his scam – Mac was scamming their sponsors for money so he could ‘disappear’ (he was in financial crisis, owing large debts). There was no movie to produce! Things took a turn for the better – Billy’s outburst in class got him a permanent position teaching while Mac took the money (Billy didn’t want any) and bid his best friend farewell for good. A somewhat positive turn in the sense both men were moving ahead in their lives but not truly happy (both lost their marriages). 

The play is a sophisticated black comedy that takes scalpel to the art and craft of writing and mid-life crisis, and you do need to concentrate in order to catch the jokes slotted in between. Great acting and a cleverly weaved plot, the show runs from 6th November – 4th December so there’s still time if you want to check it out. 

Oh, remember what Billy said about the gun at the start? BANG! “Someone has to die in the end!” reminded Billy, waving the revolver around at the audience, seeking out a ‘sacrifice’. “Or maybe just the dog…,” his voice trailed. BANG!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

German telefeature 'Bunch Of Magic' shoot (11th November 2010)

It has been a long time since I got a job through my casting agency, Kirsty Bunny Management – most of the acting/modelling work I’ve done this year were sought out on my own or unpaid roles I got casted via StarNow which were good fun even for little to no money. Roles casted with my agent usually pay a lot more and for large productions both from NZ and abroad. The production I got casted this time was for a German TV feature, “Bunch of Magic”, a screen adaptation of romance and mystery novels set in Australia and NZ written by American novelist Emilie Richards. I’m playing an extra role as a pedestrian in the sets today!

After dropping Jono off at work, I headed over to Tanera Park in Brooklyn for the 9.15am call time for the shoot. The parking area that was our main base was filled with vehicles and trailers, cast and crew getting ready for the day ahead. A full breakfast buffet was laid out for everyone and I was told to help myself to the food – damn, shouldn’t have had breakfast at home if I knew they would serve a full brekkie! I made myself a fresh orange-carrot juice instead, using their industrial juicer, a mean-looking beast of a machine that just liquidates the fruit in seconds. Hmm, nice juice :)

I was one of 8 extras (various ages and I was the only Asian) from the agency on set and we each had to bring along 3 changes of clothes (casual wear, no big logos). One by one, we were called into the wardrobe trailer where the dresser went through our items and picked out 2 sets of clothes which we would be wearing. The trailer was literally a moving wardrobe, filled with clothing, shoes, accessories etc, even a washing machine and dryer – how cool is that! The lovely lady picked out my clothes and I got to wear flip-flops (my new Havaianas), t-shirt and 3-quarter pants the whole day – yay! The weather is a warm 19-20 degrees Celsius today, a great day to be wearing summer clothing!

More waiting at base and about 10am, the cast and crew were shuttled to Aro Street where the 3 scenes would be shot today. The extras were dropped off at the unit base (the abandoned petrol station next to Aro Valley Community Centre) and we helped ourselves to the coffee/tea, biscuits and fruit available as we waited to be called on set. Having worked as an extra previously, I was prepared for a day of waiting around with a book to keep me occupied. I found my previous extra roles tend to be 2-3 hours of actual work but I would spend a total of 8-10 hours on set. Of course, pay is by the hour so I’m quite happy to be paid to sit around and catch up with my reading hehe…

There sure are lots of Germans on set! Scene 1 was shoot near Four Square on Aro Street where Kiwi actors Gina Vanessi and Dave Jamieson met outside an obstetrics and gynaecology practice (there’s no ob-gyn practice on Aro Street – it was an empty shop lot with a fake signboard) and several of us extras would be walking past them on the footpath. I looked much like a college student with my backpack and summer attire :P We did several takes from various angles until the director was satisfied that he had enough video footage before moving on. Photo taken of the camera crew on set:

Scene 2 was located across the street outside the dairy with German actor Kai Schumann making purchases and Aleni Tufuga (who played the role of a detective) asking him questions. Me and a few of the extras weren’t too sure at first if Aleni was an actor or a real police officer – he just had the gruff look about him in uniform. Like in the first scene, the extras would walk along the footpath on the cue of the assistant director while the actors played their part. One of the male extras had to don on a grocer’s attire and wrap up the snapper that Kai was buying – it was quite funny to see them repeat the scene multiple times, the snapper being taken off the fish bin, wrapped in paper and unwrapped again to be placed back in the bin. Thankfully I didn’t have to handle the fish!

Around 1.15pm, everyone was shuttled back to the main base for lunch. An awesome spread of grilled steak, lasagne, salads, breads AND fruit salad with ice-cream for dessert! This is another great thing about being a paid extra – you get fed throughout the day and usually very well :) And we are treated with respect and cared for regardless of our role (nothing like what you see on TV where the director shouts around at the extras). People are just laid-back and easy to work with – it’s great!

Ooo, better put on some sunscreen…the weather is SO amazing and some of the guys managed to squeeze in a game of football during the lunch break at the nearby field haha! Around 2pm, the extras had a change of clothes and were shuttled back to our Aro Street base. More waiting and about 3pm, we were called to head over to Aro Café where the final set was shot. The extras were split up into groups – some of were customers, some pedestrians and I played a customer exiting the café. Still looking like a college student in my t-shirt and shorts, flip-flops and backpack ;) Scene 3 had Kai and German actress Nina Bott sitting at a table outside the café, chatting and laughing (and a little flirting) as they shared their banana split with young starlet Paige Henry sitting with them, quietly licking her double scoop ice-cream on a cone. With each new take of the scene, the props guy had to throw away the ice-creams and make a new serving each. That’s A LOT of ice-cream in the bin! The poor actors must be sick of eating so many of them though it would be a great way to cool down from the warm summery day. Photos taken at the set:

“It’s a WRAP!” called out the assistant director at 5pm. Yes, finally we can go home! Though I’ve not really done much today, it did felt like a very long day and I’m glad we’re done. Not sure if I’ll be able to get my hands on a copy of the TV series when it’s out – after all, it is to be aired in Germany so we might not be able to see it…oh well, it’s ok. I doubt I’ll be in clear shot anyway so you won’t be able to tell if it was me (only I know!).

With summer around the corner, there would be a lot more work of this nature – looking forward to next one!

Monday, 8 November 2010

Tarot reading and dinner at Rasa Malaysia & South Indian Restaurant, Te Aro (8th November 2010)

Have you come across this little Asian tarot reader on Cuba Mall? Jono, Steve and I were walking towards Steve’s new place when we saw a young Chinese/Japanese lady with her tarot reading stand (more a small box, really) in the middle of Cuba Mall. I’ve never seen a busker that reads tarot in town yet – this was a first! For a mere $2, you can find out an answer to any question you have in mind, be it your career, money, love, whatever. Steve was rather interested and intrigued so we approached the lady and Steve got a reading on his love life.

Jono and I stood on the side while Steve sat down in the brick steps where the tarot lady sat. She first asked of Steve’s age and used that became the number of times she shuffled her deck of cards. Next, she spread the cards out faced-down, asking Steve to pick 7 cards and she picked 2 – these were the 9 cards that would reveal Steve’s past, present and future love life! One by one, the lady explained the meaning of the cards to Steve (and us) in her limited English. According to tarot lady, it seems that Steve loved someone very deeply in the past but the woman only had one foot in the relationship thus it didn’t last. She continued on telling us that Steve’s looking for a strong in character yet kind woman, then paused at the next card, looking perplexed, as if finding the right words to explain the unfavourable meaning of the card. “What? Tell me, I can handle it,” said Steve, getting concerned. “You are not a good man,” she said and all 3 of us were surprised. What on earth does she mean??! For the record, Steve’s a really nice single man with a great sense of humour and a love for food and cooking so I’m confused – does she mean he will cheat????? Turned out what she meant was that Steve’s the kind of man that when he’s set the rules, he expects them followed and that in turns makes him a bad man. Okay…I’m not sure that this is true…Steve’s a pretty laidback and easy-going person…The tarot reader moved on to tell us about Steve’s future, that this strong-willed woman of his will cause him much pain (I guess she meant 2 strong characters will often end up loggerheads) but that she will compliment and complete him. And he will meet this woman around about March/April next year. Well, we’ll see about that!

As we walked over to Steve’s, we discussed the outcome of his reading and laughed at the fact he was a ‘bad man’. I guess we were all expecting worse than that (broken relationship or cheating and the like) but to be told his supposedly stubbornness makes him a bad man, sorry, we can’t help but laugh. All in all a bit of fun for the evening and something to talk about :P But in all seriousness, I do hope Steve meets a lovely girl soon – he deserves someone nice and I’m sure the right girl would be absolutely adored :)

A brief stop in The Wellington Apartments on upper Cuba St at Steve’s apartment to drop off our bags, we then headed over to Rasa Malaysian & South Indian Restaurant across the street for dinner. I’ve never been to Rasa and always intrigued by their dosai (fermented crepe or pancake made from rice and black lentils) and thali (a selection of different dishes, usually served in small bowls on a round tray) dishes. Jono ordered a dosai with his prawn sambal dish while Steve had goat curry with rice and both boys washed down their dinner with teh tarik. I had a Penang laksa – hmm, not the best laksa in town, I must say, but the dishes both the boys had were nice. Jono’s dosai took a long time to come out (there was a sign in the restaurant stating that it takes time for them to prepare the dosai) and was served like a cone shape on a plate. Tasted sour which wasn’t quite what I was expecting – I was thinking more roti tissue (the thinner version of traditional roti canai). Should have looked up the meaning of dosai before we came here! The price of food averages $15-$30 and for the tiny restaurant, it sure get busy and very crammed when the place fills up. Hey, but busy restaurant means good food so it’s all good :) Oh yeah, if you’re thinking of doing takeaway dinner here then you’re out of luck – the restaurant does not do takeaway dinners. Strange but I guess given the small space, there was no where people could stand to wait for their takeaway meals…

Rasa Malaysian Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Back to Steve’s after dinner and the boys sipped their whiskeys while Steve introduced us to his recent find in Sydney, Mr Vampire TV series on DVD. “Oh my god, Steve – this is what you were raving about? I’ve seen them when I was a kid!” I exclaimed. I could not believe Steve would find interest in such old 1980s TV comedy horror series from Hongkong about a Taoist priest, his inept disciples and of course, vampires. “They are so funny,” explained Steve and I have to agree, it’s still funny watching it today. Silly type of funny where the inept disciples always gets in trouble and the priest comes to the rescue. Ah, but these vampires are quite different from those seen in Western vampire series – to start, the “jiang shi” (Chinese ‘hopping’ vampire) are dressed in traditional Chinese attire and hop around, killing living creatures to absorb life essence from their victims. These vampires are immobilised with blood pricked from the priest’s fingers drawn on the vampire’s forehead and they hop on their feet on the sound of the bell (the Taoist priest does this to transport them for proper burial). Wow, a real flashback from the past – I used to love watching the series with my brother, even though it crept me out watching it late at night. Still creeps me out today actually…hehe…

Around 9pm, Jono and I left Steve’s place for home. Thanks for the fun evening Steve – we’ll need to catch up again!

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Super, Island Bay & Bolton Street Memorial Park (7th November 2010)

Another gorgeous day in the coolest little capital in the world (as acclaimed by Lonely Planet)! Jono and I headed out to Island Bay for brunch at a café on The Parade called Super. Jono tells me that I say the word ‘super’ very often and when he saw the name of this café while flipping through our Entertainment Book, he said we should go check it out the ‘super’ cafe one weekend. That’s a SUPER idea! :P

Around 11am, we arrived at the empty café and wondered if the food was any good (remember the rule: lots of people = good food). “Since we are already here, might as well give it a try,” said Jono and we headed in to find ourselves a table. Interesting interior of a Kiwi bach/beach house and a small courtyard with garden round the back, the menu choices were pretty standard like in most cafes. Jono had a Super breakfast (big breakfast) while I had pancakes with banana and bacon with our flat whites, costing us around $35 less the 25% discount we got from the Entertainment Book. For a café in the suburbs, it sure has a lot of workers both front of house and in the kitchen (where they expecting a mass crowd?). More people started to turn up, mostly young couples with children and we even saw 2 local comedians. So perhaps they do get busy after all!

Around 12pm, we headed over to see Ben and Rissa and ended up chatting in the sun over tea outside their house before we piled into Jono’s car and headed for a walk in the Botanical Gardens. Ben was keen to check out the Bolton Street Memorial Park so all four of us went for a walk along the burial ground of 1,334 visible gravestones/memorials of many early pioneers and historical figures from the 19th century including Richard Seddon, NZ’s longest serving prime minister.

You can see that many of the gravestones have been lost or destroyed over time, splits and chips visible. About a third of the graves were moved due to the motorway work and reinstated, being placed as near as possible to its original location. On closer inspection, we found that many of the dead were children, reflecting the high mortality rate in the pioneer colony from diseases such as tuberculosis. One wonders if there are actual bodies underground – some of the graves were placed so close to each other! Jono and I can’t help but wonder if the dead bodies were placed underground vertically or perhaps first cremated then the ashes placed underground. There was just no way to place the bodies horizontally! Though the open space park was neatly maintained, I don’t think I would want to visit the place when dark falls. The gravestones may not have frightening gargoyles or statues but the idea of visiting a cemetery at night brings shivers up my spine…

The boys were having a fun time snapping away on their respective cameras. “These two can behave like little boys when together,” I said to Rissa and she nodded in agreement as we both laughed. Rather endearing watching the 2 big boys enjoying their time together and seeing hints of playful and mischievous teenagers in them hehe…We spent the rest of the afternoon chilling out in the sun on the lawns of the Lady Norwood Rose Garden watching life pass us by – parents running after their kids, an old lady feeding the rather domesticated pigeons and ducks by the fountain, couples lying together on the grass – a very relaxed and chilled out day for all. Photos taken by Jono this afternoon here.