Archive for November, 2010

Used: 2008

I just realized that I never wrote about my time in Brissy. That is because I didn’t really do much. I was still getting over my cold and I was just too excited to get back to New Zealand and see my friends and escape the heat and hell that Australia was becoming as it got closer to the hols and as I traveled closer to Sydney.

I left Noosa about 3 weeks before Christmas and all anyone on the bus could talk about was Christmas in Sydney. Knowing that all these Europeans were going to be there and hearing their plans, made me even more excited to leave. The whole thing sounded miserable to me. My timing was nearly perfect for arriving in Brisbane and I immediately got in touch with my best friend from high schools’ cousin who was currently living right across the street from South Bank Park. If you know the city, that is an AWESOME place to live. Since I had booked a few nights at Somewhere to Stay hostel and most places penalize you a night for not staying, since I contacted my friend’s cousin so late, I stayed one night and left the next day. Sidenote: the hostel was pretty cool. Huge kitchens and lounge rooms, cramped single rooms, but whatever. Wouldn’t have been the worst place if I had stayed the week.

I stayed with Amy (friends cousin) and it was heaven! I ended up taking her out for dinner and paying to get her bike fixed for putting me up for 4 nights (plus one night she had to leave for Canberra, so I had her whole place to myself!) so I ended up spending the same amount of money as if I stayed at the hostel, but her place had AC, Foxtel cable, which I had full control over and free internet and computer plus my own awesome bedroom and bathroom, it was well worth it. Plus getting to chat with someone from home! Anyway, since I was getting over my cold, I didn’t really do much and didn’t feel bad about.

I went to Queensland Museum and it was okay. I bought a day pass for the City Cat ferries for a cheap river tour and road them all over for a lovely day on the water. I went shopping as this was the biggest city I had been in in nearly 2 months. I mailed some stuff home. I talked to my sister a lot as I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to talk to her when I was in NZ, thanks to the phone situation . And I went online. A lot. I uploaded all my pictures from the last two months. I enjoyed the none-stop AC, which I hadn’t had in nearly a month (since Townsville, I believe). I watched a lot of TV. I just enjoyed not doing much after being on the go for so long! And I don’t regret it one bit.

Brisbane from Amy's apartment

Story Bridge in Brisbane. You can climb it, but it's not very high. Save your $$ for Sydney!

View of Brisbane at night. And you wonder why I never left the apartment!

Moral: Even the most seasoned backpacker needs a break. Not every day needs to be non-stop fun. Most days are, but don’t feel bad about the time you spend doing nothing. Obviously, getting a cold was my body telling me to simmah dah nah (sorry, I have been watching way too many episodes of classic SNL lately on VH-1) and even though I am sure there is tons to see in Brisbane, it was never on my city to see list, I just used it as a jumping off point back to NZ. And perfect timing that I knew someone in town! A great week.

New Zealand – Orewa

Used: 2007/08

When you head north out of Auckland on SH1, after all the northern surburbs, you hit a town called Orewa. Back in the day, I am sure this was a good day trip from Auckland, but now with all the growth, I am sure there are people that live here that commute to Auckland every day. It’s not that far, but a good 1.5 hours on the bus each direction every day is not really my idea of a good time. But a price to pay to live in a super cute beach town! The beach here is fantastic. After the nearly non-stop rain of Northland, my sister and I worked out way back to Auckland and stopped here for an afternoon. If I have known the weather would be such shit up north, we would have come back to Auckland early and just came here every day, because we had a car. It’s a quick 30 minute drive on the weekends. But oh well! We had a fantastic afternoon lounging on the beautiful, huge beach eating pub food from one of the surf clubs.

Beach at Orewa

I also came up this way twice to go to the Waiwera Spa and Hot Pools. I came on a weekend in June because my neck had been killing me for months and I wanted to relax. Plus, my room at the lodge I was living in lacked heat and I wanted to heat up so much. It was busy and packed, but I brought a good book and sat in the adults pool reading all afternoon. A year later, when I realized I had a week off between my job ending and my visa expiring, I made a note to head on back up there. This time I went in the middle of the week and spent most of my time in the movie pool watching whatever movie and tv shows they were running as the place was nearly empty, it being a weekday and all. After school some kids came, but it wasn’t nearly as crowded as the weekend.

This place is also home to my most favorite bottled water ever. Normally I am totally not a water snob, as I drink too much of it to care. A tap hasn’t gotten me sick yet so bottled water is usually a special occasion for me. I think I just liked the shape of the bottle once, so I bought it and it was so good! When my sister came, I made us buy a bottle for her to try and on my last week when I came to the spa I bought a large bottle and used the container for the rest of my travels in Australia until I realized that the bottle was going to break and I wanted to bring it home with me, so I packed it away and bought a 99cent bottle at Coles to get me through the rest of my time. I still have that bottle! In fact, I found a store near my parents house that sells it (so expensive though) and I actually bought a bottle and all they sold was glass, so I actually use the bottle as a bookshelf holder right now. I just love it.

Bottle on the left is glass from a supermarket near my house in LA and the bottle on the right is the one I carried with me from the source in New Zealand!

Moral: Orewa and Waiwera are great little day trips from Auckland! The spa, the beach, they can’t be beat! They were my favorite Auckland getaways when I lived in town.

New Zealand – Paihia

Used: 2007/08

So after putzing around Auckland for a week, I decide I want to get out of town while I wait to hear about a job I applied to earlier in the week. I chat with the travel desk at my hostel and she suggests going up North to the town of Paihia. Sounds good and since I book it like the day before during shoulder season, there is room on the Stray bus but my wish for single rooms at the local hostels is shot down. Since I am in a new country and I want to try new things, I book a dorm in the hostel the bus stops at to try something new for 2 nights and if I want to stay longer, deal with it when I get there, as I’ll be a few days out plus not over a weekend. I am staying at the Surf and Snow backpackers up the street at this point because they have cheaper single rooms in Auckland and I leave most of my stuff in their storage as I’ll probably stay with them when I return to town in a few days, so all I have is a weekend bag.

The next morning, the Stay bus picks me up and we set off to Northland. I end up in the back with a guy and a set of girls and they had been all over New Zealand already and told me their favorite parts of the country. It was really interesting to hear, since I had just arrived. I think the guy had just been travelling around all summer while the girls did a bit of WOOFing in the South Island and they told me about driving the farm equipment. Sounded fun! We stopped at a Kaouri tree forest, Goat Island for some (very cold) snorkeling, Whangarei at the bird reserve (see my first kiwi and Woof-Woof, the talking tui!) and I am sure one or two other places that I can’t remember (check out the Stay guide for more details) before we got to Paihia. When I checked into my hostel, I immediately knew I wanted to stay at least one extra day, no matter what the cost and I immediately booked one of their single rooms for 2 nights later. I stayed at the Pipi Patch Hostel which looks like it’s a Base now. I am sure not much has changed, it was a total party hostel and my room was pretty gross with kids that had been living there all summer. The 2 nights in the shared room were pretty miserable and the moment I woke up on my 3rd day, I checked out, went on my swimming with dolphins tour and came back to the hostel, checked back into my double room and pretty much did nothing all day as there was a tv in my room and I hadn’t watched tv in over a week. I know this sounds so lame, but I was so tired after 2 shit sleeps and 3 very early mornings, that I didn’t care. I actually helped some people that were on all my Northland tours the past 3 days as they had checked out of the hostel and their bus wasn’t going back to Auckland until later that day and there was nowhere for them to shower after our swimming with dolphins tour, so I let them use mine in the cute little apartment houses the hostel had. They had been all over NZ already and this was their last tour so it was great to chat with them about their favorite parts of New Zealand.

Anyway, sorry, I am jumping all over. My first day in Paihia, I went on the far north tour, going up to Cape Reinga and 90 mile beach amongst other stuff. So beautiful up there, just driving around. So that took all day. And then after my second shit sleep, I woke up bright and early and went on a swimming with dolphins tour (can’t remember which one) and they threw us in the water for a little bit. The water was so warm up north (this was late February too, so late summer) that we didn’t even wear wetsuits. Didn’t get to swim with them too much, but saw loads, so got our money’s worth. And then day 3, didn’t do anything as I wasn’t feeling to well either. And after a week of go go go, I didn’t feel bad about lazying around. Whatever, it’s my trip, not every day has to be “on”. And then on the 4th day, I pretty much sat at the beach all day before going back to Auckland to resume the job hunt for the rest of the week (it was Tuesday when I got back to Auckland).

End of the line, Cape Reinga

90 Miles of Beach (yet everything else is in kms)

Paihia, New Zealand

When my family was planning their trip to visit me at the end of the year and I talked my sister into staying an extra week, I suggested that we spend part of it in Paihia. While the weather was great for the part with my parents (the important part) when we got to our last 3 days in Paihia, the weather had turned to total shit and it rained nearly the entire time. And this was January! We stayed at Centabay Lodge and it was fine. Great outdoor area and we went wine tasting one day and brought back some bottles and the outside area was great to sit around and drink with a pizza. We also went on a swimming with dolphins tour, but since there were babies present, we couldn’t go in the water, but we saw loads. We also spent half a day at The Waitangi Treaty Grounds where the first (of many) treaty’s were signed between the Maori and Whitey. Would have been better if it wasn’t raining, but I still found it interesting, having been in NZ for nearly a year. Historical things were instilled in us at a young age and I think my sister liked it to, despite not knowing much about New Zealand.

We also went on like a 5 hour round trip hike over to Opau and back. It was lovely, except my toe was killing me so it was a little rough going for me. We walked past this crazy lighthouse tower and climbed up in it, because, hey, it’s NZ, no one cares about safety and had some great (but overcast) views of the harbour.

Leaf my sister found the size of her head at the Waitangi gounds

View from light tower

It was funny, the night we arrived in town, it was pouring, so we went to the info booth to book dolphin tours and to ask what was going on in town that night because of the rain and even at the info booth, they couldn’t tell us anything. Maybe I was used to answers like that or I am just a total homebody and NZ is perfect for that kind of person, but my sister was in shock that even the info booth couldn’t suggest anything for us to do! But that is NZ in a nutshell. We just ate at some restaurant and played cards all night, typical NZ!

Paihia is beautiful but a tiny town with not much besides tourism in the summer to keep it going. It’s known as the most constantly warmest place in NZ (well, it is the farthest north) and that is a selling point for a pretty cold country. It’s also a good jumping off place for backpackers to do fruit picking in the north as well. There are loads of places to do that in the area, hence some decent wineries in that direction as well. We stopped at 3 of them and my sister bought a bottle at each. There was some blend (that I can’t remember what it’s called) but it was a red and they can only make it in New Zealand and South Africa, because of the weather, so that was interesting as we have never been to South Africa.

Moral: I am really glad I have been twice, but it’s not really on my list anyone to return. Some people really really love it up there, but it seems to be hit or miss for me and there are places around New Zealand that I love more and would return in any weather. And Paihia isn’t one of them.

Concerts Overseas

This sort of goes with my music post. Once I discovered different bands and songs overseas, I put two and two together and realized that there are concert tours overseas as well! When I was really into music in college, I tried to incorporate going to concerts into my travels or vice versa.

I’ll admit it here, Hanson was my favorite band for a long time. In fact, I still go up to SF for their shows, partly because my sister lives there and it’s a good excuse to combine a visit but also since I have been to nearly every show they do in SF, I have loads of “Hanson friends” that live there and the only time I see them is at the shows! But I have also flown to Phoenix (great story there, as the time change happened the weekend of the show and I had to be in class on Monday morning at 8am, I left AZ at 7am and arrived back in Burbank at 7:20am and made it to class on time!) and a few shows in the New York area. I had a (yes, Hanson) friend who was in school at the U of Rochester and I flew there and we drove up to Toronto to see them. I was there for less then 48 hours and most of that was spent in the car. I also “arranged” it on my way to Iceland to “stop” in NJ to see them with the same friend who was back home by then. Yeah, my parents think I am pretty nuts, but hell, I won’t drive to Orange County to see them, so I am not that crazy! (Yeah right).

U2 is my other “local”-ish band. I see them when they play in the LA area and then fly up to SF to see them with my sister for usually one show. And I always get great tickets for SF shows as the demand is usually a lot lower then the LA show(s). Like for this up coming leg that was pushed off a year, I didn’t even bother for LA tickets because the concert is in Orange County (eww) and GA tickets are super hard to comb by but I have no problem flying up to see them in Oakland for which I got GA tickets, no problem! Hell, it’ll take me the same amount of time to fly to Oakland that it would to drive to Orange County. Plus, great, easy tickets!

My first time to London in 2002 (funny enough with said Hanson friend in New York/Jersey, but we went because neither of us had ever been before) I looked up shows that were taking place in London the week that we were going to be there and a favorite of mine, Pete Yorn was playing, so I bought us cheap (like £7!) tickets. I was really excited to see a concert in another country and what happens when we show up? Both of us are under 21, so we can drink (yay!) but the show is FILLED with American college students all on their study abroad. Guess Pete hadn’t translated overseas at that point.

Then, the following summer (2003) I was back, hanging out in London, not really doing much when I found out that Maroon 5 was doing a show. They were sort of starting to blow up in the US and I immediately tried to find out how to buy tickets online. I couldn’t figure it out and freaked out that the show was going to sell out so I got to the venue wicked early for the show. Yeah, the place was dead and when they finally went on at this tiny bar-like club, there couldn’t have been more then 20 people in the room, including this American guy who was doing some research in London all summer who I talked to at the show.

Later that summer, Robbie Williams was doing some huge stadium shows all over Europe and I really wanted to go. My timing didn’t match up for his show in London (which ended up being a good thing, as the show was at Twickenham, this huuuuge pitch outside of town) but when looking at a map, I was going to be in France or The Netherlands when he was doing is show in Belgium. Perfect! So I got off the train in Antwerpen for one night for the show and it was fantastic!! It was held at a Staples Center-like place, all indoors and not too overwhelming. He was promoting his Escapology cdand the show was amazing! I love that cd and have some of his old stuff and I recognized almost every single song, except for maybe 2, which is really good for an artist who most Americans aren’t familiar with. Since he is English most of his audience banter was in English, but he said a few words in Flemish (?) which everyone laughed at but I had no idea what he said. The show was great and even to this day, I love telling people I have seen Robbie Williams in concert, in Belgium! If they even know what I am talking about, snaps!

The south pacific is pretty dead for concerts. Some go to Australia, but up until recently, when Auckland built Vector Arena, very few made it to New Zealand. One thing I do love about concerts in NZ, since very few make it there, when they do, they take over the country and everyone knows about it. Take Justin Timberlake for example. In August 2007, it was announced that he was going to be touring in NZ in October. The country went hog wild. Even though I got GA tickets (! Can’t do that in the US!) the show sold out within 10 minutes and two more shows were added immediately. I nerded it up and bought another GA ticket to the 3rd show. The funny thing was on the Ticketmaster website when the tickets went on sale, in bold letters it said DO NOT BUY PLANE TICKETS FOR THESE DATES! DATES NOT CONFIRMED because I learned with almost every concert in NZ, the dates change. Essentially, these are holding places for future dates. And within 2 weeks, the dates for the shows had changed and were confirmed. And great for me, the shows were rescheduled for Thanksgiving weekend! No longer would I be home-sick, I was going to celebrate with a fellow countryman! Good times:-) The concerts were awesome by the way (duh). And it was funny when people would ask, what am I doing this weekend, I was all like, going to see Justin and EVERYONE knew what I was talking about. Loved it.

My view of JT (closecloseclose up) in AKL

*Sorry about the lack of pictures. I am not really a picture person at concerts as I would much rather experience the show and people around me then take crappy pictures. But we all know what these people look like anyway*

Moral: I love incorporating concerts into travel. You might get a better deal on an artist you love outside the US, plus you get to experience a new place! Win-win for all.

Used: 2007

I really need to start writing more about New Zealand, the country I can’t shut up about. I am going to take it town by town that I have been to, starting with of course, Auckland.

When I first arrived in New Zealand, I thought I would just sort myself out in Auckland and then hightail it down to Wellington for work. But as with work and travel, sometimes things are just out of your control! If you didn’t know this about me (especially the pre-NZ me) I was (am) a stresser. I was a big planner and I hate the unknown. I planed for every situation, just in case. When I booked my flight to New Zealand, the only thing I thought about was, how can I arrange this to see the most episodes of LOST as I can, without completely planning my life around a tv show? I didn’t want to be that crazy. So, knowing LOST was going to air on Wednesdays in 2007, I arranged to leave on Thursday. Which meant that I would get to New Zealand on a Saturday. Which meant that I couldn’t do anything work related until Monday. Since that was out of my hands, my stress level on finding a job and just living was put off for like 2 days, which for me was great! In the past, I just jump into everything and stress out when it doesn’t happen immediately. But in arriving on a Saturday, it was out of my hands, nothing I could do but enjoy this new country for a few days!

When I arrived, I didn’t really do much that first day. Dumped my bags at ACB and wondered around Queen Street. There is a Starbucks at the Corner of Victoria and Queen and I ate my first meal. At first I was really mad at myself for doing this (I came all this way to eat at a fucking STARBUCKS?!) but then got over it. Hell, it’s my first meal in a new country. I don’t have to kick myself just yet. I wondered up to K Street and find a cheap internet place to check email and LJ for an hour and head back down to the wharf and up to the Sky Tower and just sat around the base, not going up to the top yet, just waiting to be able to check into my hostel so I could shower. I found a pharmacy and stocked up on shampoo and soap, which I never bring when I travel, I just buy it where ever I go. 1pm finally rolls around and I can check into my twin room. I take a long shower, clean up, return to the front desk for phone cards, call my parents, write for a little bit, go out and get dinner from somewhere (can’t remember where at the moment) and crash out around 8pm. Not too bad for a first day!

First Meal at Starbucks on Victoria and Queen.

I wake up the next morning around 7am, ready to start the day! I got 4 brekkie vouchers, but the place to use them isn’t open on Sunday, so I head back to the ‘Bucks for more coffee and figure out my day. Since the following day is Monday and I am going to deal with phone, bank, IRD and job hunt then and who knows what that will bring, I decide to just live with no regrets and do all my Auckland tourist stuff today. Who knows how long I’ll be there! I have 4 nights at my hostel and who knows after that!

I figure out the Link bus that goes in a giant circle around town and hits all the major sights, so it doesn’t matter which direction I get on as I’ll make it to the Auckland Museum at some point. The museum was fabulous! A great introduction to New Zealand. I head down to the caf to grab some lunch where I come across my first bit of New Zealand language translation. On the menu there is something called “wedges”. A wedge of what? I ask the gal at the counter, prefacing it with, I know this is going to sound stupid, buuuut… Wedges are potatoes! YUM! I get a bowl. This is my kind of place.

Wedges in at Auckland Museum

Auckland Museum, haven't quite worked out the camera settings yet

I then take the bus to the wharf and take the ferry over the Devonport, a cute ‘burb on the North Shore. I walk around and hike up Mt. Victoria for a nice view of the city. So lovely! I take the ferry back to town and walk up Queen Street to Sky Tower and go to the top. Yay for student discounts! The view is fab and I take a million pictures of the view and myself. That night, I crash out in preparation of starting the job hunt the following day.

View from Mt. Victoria, Auckland, NZ

Rangitoto Island in the distance

Finally figured out my camera settings


Me popping a squat at the SkyTower (full disclosure, my sister took this pic a year later)

Two weeks later I get the best job ever! and I hadn’t even left Auckland yet (except for a quick jaunt up to Northland, coming soon). And I am out of stuff to do, tourist-wise! That is what I get for doing everything in one day:-)

Moral: I don’t regret doing all the stuff I wanted to do in one day because what if I had left Auckland? I then spent my weekends wondering around other suburbs and just living. If Auckland is known for one thing in New Zealand, it’s just living.

New Zealand – Bank

Used: 2007/2008/2009

As part of my working holiday starter pack, it included info on how to open a bank account. The office gave me a registration sheet for ASB bank and essentially “sponsored” me. All I had to do with finish filling out the sheet with my details (I used the hostel as my “address”, which is really common) and went to the location on Wyndham and Hobson in Central Auckland to activate the account. I went to the bank on a mid-Monday morning and the place was empty. I was quickly helped as the people there knew exactly what to do. I was given a checking account and EFTPOS card right then an there. I had to call the 0800 number to cancel my paper statements so I wouldn’t be charged a monthly fee, which I was a little nervous about, having come from America and banks here are notorious for wait times and just a million hoops. But as I would soon learn, NZ is so super easy! I made the call later in the day and my account was quickly switched over and I would deal with my account solely online. And as soon as I got my IRD number, I could just go to any location and tell them it for tax purposes.

EFTPOS has to be one of the greatest things that America is missing (after the world-band SIM card, which we are finally getting on). Unfortunately, I don’t think EFTPOS would work well here as we are just a huge population and it works better with smaller numbers. But it would eliminate so much debt and just make things so much easier, but that is just not the American way. EFTPOS stands for Electronic Funds Transfer (at) Point of Sale. The card is just like a debit card, but with less security. My name isn’t on it but there is no Visa/MC logo on it either and the card can only be used in New Zealand. I am sure they have cards that are like our debit cards in the US, but since my bank account was the lowest on the totem pole, this is what they gave me. And it was perfect! You can use your EFTPOS card for EVERYTHING in New Zealand, even just a pack of gum. No one looks twice when you buy something for 50cents and put it on your card. Swipe your card, type in your pin, press checking and you are off! No service fee either for using your card (in 99% of the places I went). I used my card so much that not only did I not use my US credit card for about 6 months, but I walked around with the same $20 in my wallet for weeks on end before I spent it. The money is immediately taken out of your checking, so there is no fear of overdraft either.

No worries about ATM’s either. There is seriously like one of every bank in every town. Some people will say that other banks are more prevalent, but I was in cities most of the time and never ever had an issue. Taking money out of your banks ATM is free, of course. I don’t even know if my card would work in other machines, I knew better then to try (and get charged a pointless fee, which is like totally against my religion).

Since New Zealand is so small, a lot of the time when transferring money to another person, they just give you their account number and you can deposit money directly into their account. It doesn’t matter if they are at a different bank. I did this to pay for my electric bill and it was like auto-pay. I would get a paper bill once a month and it would say when the money is going into their account. Easy!

(Side-story: When I got back to the US and had a large refund check in NZ dollars to deposit, I went to my local Chase bank and asked if they could take it and they said no. Then I asked if she could get her manager to see if they knew what to do and she said no. They were of absolutely no help. This transaction made me miss the helpfulness of New Zealand so much!)

And talk about no bank lines! I rarely had to go and talk to a teller, but the few times I did, there was rarely a line, even during the “busy” lunch hour. Some instances I had to talk to a teller:

-To find out how my parents could wire me money. So freakin’ easy! They sent me money a few times (including a large dump before they came, so they could save on fees) and it only cost NZ$25 to accept the money on dumps ranging from $1000 to $3000 (not sure how much it covered).

-Before I went to Australia on holiday, I ordered a load of currency (which you can do online!), so I wouldn’t have to take any out of the ATM there. When I went to pick it up, besides no line, they were like, if you ever have to take out like less then $5000, just show up. No need to pre-order it, we’ve got it!

-I went to deposit some cash into my account and there was no line of course. So I go to the counter and the women tells me that if she accepts it straight out, they’ll charge me $3 for the service. But if I fill out a slip (paper waste) and pop my money in the plastic bag (plastic waste!) and then hand it to her, FREE! I was like, are you serious, rolling my eyes. And she returned it, knowing what a waste that is, but bank policy. I think normally I would have had to drop it in the box, but since the bank was dead empty, she did me a solid and took the money immediately. Even the employees know their system is kind of retarded.

-I bought some t-shirts off a New Zealand company and one way to pay is to deposit the money directly into their account with the reference being your order number. As soon as the money was received, they shipped and I got my shirts within 2 days! At first I couldn’t figure out how to send the money online, so I went to my closest branch, waited in line and when I told the teller my issue. She shut down her window, took me over to the general use computer they had in the lobby for online banking (for those who don’t have a computer, which are kind of a lot in New Zealand!) and showed me how to send money. You would never get that kind of personal attention in the US!

-Before I left New Zealand when my visa ran out, I went to the bank to ask about my account and since I was going over to Australia, they opened my account in Australia for me! All I had to do was go to the central Commonwealth Bank in Sydney and they would have everything for me. My experiences with them, coming up next. *Whoops, I switched some posts around and my Australia Bank post actually posted first. Sorry about that!*

Morel: Whew, I ended up saying a lot about ASB! I loved banking in NZ. So easy, so nice, never a hassle. When I closed my account after my trip back in 2008/09 because at that point I didn’t know when I would be back and I didn’t want to get charged anything if their account terms changed, I nearly cried when the lady cut my EFTPOS card. It was on its last leg anyway. Apparently, you are eligible for a new one every 2 years and I was just at that mark. I saved all my paperwork, if I ever go back and need an account in NZ, should be easy peasy to re-open it! I know I am not worried.

Australia – Bank

Used: 2008/2009

Banking in Australia was very smiler to New Zealand, but just for some reason, not as good. I joined Commonwealth Bank because it was just easy to open an account with my sister bank from New Zealand but when I was there, as far as I could tell, there was no free account option at any of the banks, which annoyed me right off the start. I only paid $4 for my account per month, but it was still annoying. They have EFTPOS in Australia, but it wasn’t as wide spread as it was in New Zealand and if they did accept it, almost every place (except for huge companies) charged a fee for the privilege, which sucked. Same with credit cards, but I was trying very hard not to use my cards because of the small fees and why should I when I was earning local money? I ended up paying cash for almost everything in Australia and was always going to the ATM, which thankfully are everywhere. I never had a problem with Comm Banks ATM’s except in Airlie Beach when it was out of money and I had to go to Cannovale to take out a wad. My EFTPOS card in Australia had my name on it, though they were used the same way. One thing I did at Comm Bank was open a savings account where I could get interest paid into my account. Since I saved so much in New Zealand and transferred it all over to Australia and put most of it in my savings and accumulated a little bit in interest in the 8 months I was there, which was kind of nice and sort of paid for the fee I had to pay for the accounts, is the way I looked at it.

Like New Zealand, everything was done online but I didn’t have to do anything to change it over, which was nice. It was also super easy to close my account, but I kept my card and chopped it up myself. I didn’t feel as attached to it, as I really didn’t use it that often, only to take out cash and rarely in my everyday life. Paying cash for everything was just easier in Australia so you didn’t have to worry about minimum charges or fees, which was annoying as a traveler to walk around with all that cash. Well, I would just take out enough cash for my time in each town as well as my first night in the next hostel and then decide how much I would need pay off the balance and just take out more. I knew the ATM like the back of my hand.

Moral: Australia was a slap in the face after coming from easy easy New Zealand. Between New Zealand and paying for everything on my (EFTPOS) card and in the US where I pay for everything on my (credit) card, having to pay cash for everything sucked. Australia is easier then the US in a lot of things, but not when it comes to paying for stuff.

In honor of today, I am going to write about my experience of the 2008 election while being overseas. Normally I am pretty engaging in politics. Yes, I am a fair weather fan and usually only jump on bandwagons like a year out, but that is still better then most people my age (or it was in the olden days). Take what you can get.

I completely missed the 2008 election. I left for New Zealand at the end of February, 2007 and didn’t return until March, 2009, well after the inauguration. While I hear it was a HUGE deal here and like people were dancing in the streets that first Tuesday in November, it was a huge deal overseas too. Not quite as crazy as the US, but still a big deal to people who had no say in the matter, which was a very interesting aspect to me. Everyone had such strong opinions yet they had no say! Unheard of in the US. If you can name one other head of power in even just one other country, you are a rarity. At Friday afternoon drinks at my job in New Zealand, almost every week, the conversation came around to the election at some point. And it was kind of fun being the center of attention when this topic would roll around!

I saw more Obama stickers on cars and people wearing t-shirts once I got to Australia. But still, it was kind of weird to me that a population was so into something that couldn’t participate in! Though to everyone who was wearing a shirt, I would always stop them and say I like your shirt. It was a pretty good conversation starter, especially when they would find out that I was actually American:-).

Car In Syndey, Australia, 2008

I was in Australia when the main event rolled around. I went rafting on election day and when we got back to base, the tv was turned to Sky News, where of course, it was election coverage all day. They weren’t declaring a winner at the moment and it was hard to tell what was going on, so I called my mom and she passed on the good news. While everyone said it was a landslide, I guess I am kind of jaded, especially after 2000 and don’t believe anything until it’s called (and even then, who can say). But when my mom told me what was up, it was time to celebrate! The group I rafted with bought me a beer in celebration! Being an American was FINALLY paying off!

The next day, I just hung out in Mission Beach and got online for the first time in a while. I tried to buy a SMH, but the town is so small that they only get two copies a day and of course, had sold out at this point, so I was stuck with the “local” paper of Cairns. Still, very interesting to be in a small town for this.

Newspaper in Cairns, Australia on Thursday, Nov 6th. 2008

A few days later, when I was on my tour of Magnetic Island, when we all sat down to morning tea, the conversation came around to the election and since I was the only American, all questions came to me. One of the big ones was, do you think people overseas know more about American politics, then Americans? I had to say no on this. We might not know a lot about politics, but I have to assume we know more about ourselves then other people do!

When the inauguration came around in January of 2009, I was in Melbourne at this point. In my days of wondering around the city, on this day I wondered into The GPO on Bourke Street and I looked up and saw an American flag hanging over the balcony. Awesome! I went up to Octane Espresso cafe and started up a conversation with the owner as she was wearing a Gap t-shirt as well. We got to chatting and that spilled into free food and drink for me for the rest of the afternoon. SCORE! Plus some good conversation as well. A very interesting day.

Australian newspapers on January 22, 2009

Flag that got my attention and scored me free food for an arvo!

Oh yeah, did I ever say that I didn’t even vote in this election? Whoops! I love voting and have taken part in nearly every single election I can since I turned 18 (minus maybe one or two local elections). But maybe I should start NOT voting as every time I have in the past, my person never wins. Superstitions anyone? I love voting. Back in day, we punched cards, but now we stamp in California. I even voted early once and used those computer-based terminals and they sucked. The kicker was it was a bunch of old people running the voting post and as we all know, old people know SHIT about electronic stuff. Not the best experience. I hope we don’t go that direction in the future. Too much can get fucked up, in my opinion.

Moral: Out of all elections, this one probably would have been the most fun to be at home for. It was still interesting to get another countries perspective of it. Also, everyone was so excited for change and promises and whatever and I don’t know if I just wasn’t here and that made a difference, or I am too jaded when it comes to this, but I was like, why is everyone getting so hyped it? Yes, it was different and interesting because of the people, but in what they are saying, nothing is going to change. Can we say, CALLED IT!!