All Blacks and Pinot and Pygmys… Oh My!

The following is to be read to the tune of “My Favorite Things“:

Runs on the harbor with Blue Penguins crossing…

White wines and red wines and strong coffee brewing…

Airlines that help you to laugh, think and sleep,

These are a few of my favorite things! (From my trip to New Zealand)

I had an absolutely fabulous time in Wellington, New Zealand last week.  It was everything I hoped it would be, as these trips always are.  Basically it was a work conference and it was wonderful to connect again with some of these people (many of whom I only see once a year).

Imagine my surprise and delight when one of my colleagues comes bounding up to me and says “I LOVE your blog!”  I had absolutely no idea he read this thing! OK, truth be told I had no idea that anybody but some of my family and three of my closest friends read this thing.  He asked if I had experienced any spontaneous moments of joy (or Quick Qis) so far while in New Zealand.  Well, let’s see:

I flew Air New Zealand and can I just say, as an airline…no, as a business… they so totally get it.  Every single person you come in contact with is warm and friendly and make you feel like they truly care if you enjoy your trip.  I quickly came to learn that this, apparently, is just an inbred trait of all New Zealanders.  They can’t help it.  They are the nicest people in the world.  Case in point:  We were walking behind a family heading into the International Terminal at Aukland Airport.  To our side was a group of Asian businessmen huddled around a water fountain with confused looks on their faces.  As the family passes by, the son (approximately 10 years old) runs back to the businessmen and through a series of nods and gestures, shows them how to work the water fountain. I’m just not so sure that would have happened at O’Hare.  Just saying.

Not only are the Kiwis a friendly bunch, they are more sports-crazed than any Chicagoan I have ever met.  The All Blacks, for those of you who don’t know (I certainly didn’t) is the New Zealand Rugby Team.  And apparently most of the U.S. poplulation has been living in a rugby void because just a few weeks ago they won the Rugby World Cup.  Who Knew??  Apparently everyone except Americans.  I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that one out of every four people we passed on the street was wearing some sort of All Blacks apparel, regardless of their age or sex.  Almost every house, garage, or business window has an All Blacks banner or sticker.  Everyone was so incredibly proud of their team and their country.  The interesting this is that I did not hear a single person bad-mouthing another country’s team either.  They were just incredibly happy that they won.

And finally… the pygmies.  I truly think these made my trip. Well, maybe it was all the fabulous wine and lamb and hospitality, but the pygmies sure contributed.  I’m referring to pygmy marmosets.  One morning my husband and I blew off the conference’s professional development sessions (I truly believe I am sufficiently developed professionally-speaking, anyway) and headed to the Wellington Zoo.  It is sort of a thing with me.  Wherever I am, I check out their zoo.  This being New Zealand, I expected a fair share of kangaroos, wallabies and kiwis…. but these pygmy marmosets were just amazing.  I am a sucker for any monkey or ape, but these guys were just so small, so cute, so active!  Marmosets are tiny creatures on their own, but then you go and make a pygmy version — too cute!

And like many Quick Qis….if you were to blink, you might just miss them.

Getting Your Ducks in a Row… and keeping them close!

Yes, it has been awhile.  Honestly, I have no idea what happened to October… did it even happen??  I’m gearing up for what I refer to as my traveling season.  I have several big trips planned plus all the holidays that will get me through the end of this year and on to 2012.  This has definitely been the fastest year in recorded history.

In getting ready for my trips, I started to think about my favorite topic.  Well, second favorite topic… bacon being my favorite.  Organization.  As we’ve previously discussed, I do love a good list.  Getting all my ducks in a row, as it were, makes me very happy.

I also adore traveling and find that nothing else makes me feel quite so alive and connected to the world.  I even love the whole “getting there” bit of airports and flights.  Sometimes I wish it happened a little quicker and without some of the hassles of delays and long lines, but all in all I still enjoy it.  I also always tend to do a good bit of introspection when I travel.  I take stock, make plans, wish and dream… all of which leads to …. making more lists!  Yay!

In order to get the most out of traveling; however, I have to prepare.  I have to get organized.  After all, I do have The World’s Dorkiest Cat to consider.  I have to make sure he’s well looked after.  I also like to make sure all bills are paid, messages returned, fridge cleared out, trash emptied etc….. nothing takes away from a trip more than unpleasant surprises waiting for you on your return.

While packing for what will be one of my longest journeys (to New Zealand), I realized what it is I enjoy so much about traveling.  I love being self-contained.  Having all my stuff close to me.  It’s also what I absolutely hate about packing.  I have to limit my stuff.  I cannot have everything with me.  I have to decide ahead of time what I’m going to want to wear (how can I possibly know what I’m going to want to wear next Thursday!?).    But while I’m on a plane, or in a hotel room… everything is with me.  I like that.  I’ve always been like that.  As a child, I was content to sit quietly in my room with my stuff.  No need to run wildly around getting all messy.

I also adore seeing and experiencing new things.  Not everyone does, but for me…. bring it!  The more I travel, the more I realize people and places are basically the same, but with these strange, wonderous, incredible little differences.  It makes you think.  It makes you wonder if you could or should do things a little differently.

So, as I spend my last day home packing, checking lists, and lining up my proverbial ducks I look ahead to new experiences, seeing old friends, making new ones.  All while deciding who I want to be next year and taking a few notes on that!  Bon Jour!