The Bonding Properties of Alcohol

Good morning, afternoon, or evening dear travelers (I try to be all inclusive in this blog).  Sorry I didn’t get this posted yesterday, I was rather busy being out on a date. (Yes, yes, a date. Calm down, we’ll get to that later.)

Now I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea about this. I certainly don’t think the only way to bond or connect with people is with alcohol. But it can be a helpful catalyst sometimes, as it was in my situation the other night.

I spent my second day in NZ driving around and looking at flats to live in. (I found one, by the way.) My last stop was a house in Matamata. I had hoped to rent a room here but as that didn’t work out they offered me their couches for a while if I needed a place to stay. What was meant to be a quick visit to see the place ended up turning into an all night party.

I hadn’t been in the house more than 5 minutes when two of the flatmates returned carrying two twelve packs and a six pack in their arms. We had a brief ‘hello’ and the next thing I know I’ve got a drink in my hand and we’re all sitting around the table talking and making jokes.

We spent the whole night hanging out and it got so late that I just crashed on their couch (funnily enough). The whole evening had a bit of surreal haze hanging over it. I’d been in the country just under two full days and here I was sitting around a table talking and laughing with these people who had so graciously welcomed me into their house. And they were all lovely people.

It’s a bit of a relief to know some people in town. One of the flatmates is even here on working holiday from the UK, so I can pester her with endless questions on how to get settled in. The stress and anxiety of moving to a new country is steadily starting to ease. Things are falling into place and my confidence is growing.

I’ll be back with the date update later today.

~Ren

Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of crowsThis book is full of characters that lack the same level of moral decency most of the readers will have but I for one was okay with because 1) circumstances required it and 2) it made for such a good story!

Six of Crows is simply put a heist book. A group of six rough and tumble gang members are hired to pull of the impossible task of springing a prison from the most secure prison in the world. Their leader is Kaz Brekker, the fearless, ruthless, impossibly clever Kaz Brekker.

Leigh Bardugo did a fantastic job with the pacing and characterization. She’s created this fantastical new world with an array of cultures and her six leads represent near every one I think. She takes the time to flesh out back stories throughout the book but does it in a way that doesn’t bog down the plot. You get little snippets of a characters past in the present moment that make you want to know more. But of course you don’t just get all in one go so you have to keep reading!

The book reads like you’re viewing a heist movie. Think of Ocean’s Eleven or something like that. You’re going along and you think you’re seeing all the pieces in play but then you get to the end and you only know half of the things! You turn the page and everything you thought you knew is wrong. Wrong! So that’s fun.

And the book ends with a surprise/twist ending that isn’t really that surprising considering it’s a heist book and a heist book without a surprise/twist ending would just be silly. It is also a bit of a cliff hanger so now I’m just over here waiting for the next one and hoping it will be available in New Zealand. Book angst, it’s a thing.

~Ren

When your safety net disappears…

Day two in New Zealand. Still haven’t crashed, and the quest to find a place to stay is in full swing.

Throughout the day I’ve been having to remind myself that I am, in fact, a 25-year-old mature adult (most of the time). But being in a completely new place where you don’t know and understand the nuances of society, or the legal ones for that matter, tends to make me regress to somewhat of an 18-year-old not-so-adult adult.

I went to look at a house this morning and the whole time I was there I wanted to look over my shoulder at someone to ask what they thought, to get their opinion so I could feel better (or worse) about my own. I was looking at cars for sale later on and again, I wanted someone there to remind me of all the things I was forgetting to consider when you’re buy a new car. But there was no one there.

This move is really going to force me to stand on my own two feet. It feels a bit like everything in my life before this was training and now I’m out in the field having to apply all that I’ve learned. There’s no one here to tell me what to do or warn me that I’m about to do something stupid. Whatever I decide the consequences (if there are any) are on me. If you’ve never been in that position before, let me tell you, it’s just the teensiest bit nerve-wracking.

Though I am quite sure, from time to time, I let myself get a little more worked up about things than is really necessary. It’s mostly a vanity thing, too. I don’t want to look like the dumb foreigner who doesn’t know anything and asks silly questions. Really I just need to get over that and ask questions when I have them. Because how else am I going to learn?

Wish me luck looking at houses today. Hopefully by this time tomorrow I will have a place to live.

~Ren

And now that everything in your life has changed?

Hello my dear travelers.

It’s been a while since I’ve written for you. But today isn’t just any other day. Today is the first day. This, October 28th (or the end of the 27th for most of my regulars) 2015, is the first day I am writing to you from New Zealand. I’m on the other side of the globe! Holy hell, how did that happen?

Well, it was a lot of time and money and planning. That’s how it happened. And lo, the past two years have now resulted in this, me lying here, quite tired and wishing I was asleep, on a very large bed looking out double glass doors onto a gravel driveway surrounded by greenery with sheep just on the other side of the fence. That’s right, sheep.

My brain is screaming at me to not even be writing this right now. But I told myself I would blog (or at least attempt to) everyday of my stay in New Zealand. Three hundred and sixty-five days in total. And this is the day that starts it all.

What I was hoping to talk about in this post was going to be the answer to the question posed in the title. And I’ll do that, a bit, but due to the aforementioned tiredness I think it best to wait till later to really flesh that out. Instead, part of this post will be a few pictures I took during by 18-hour travel day(s).

Besides being tired and not crashing my car, a good chunk of my time today was spent trying to wrap my brain around the fact that everything I’ve ever known, anything familiar or normal to me, no longer is a part of my life. I don’t have a favorite grocery store or well worn driving routes. I don’t know all the good restaurants and bars or where to pick up little knick knacks or home goods. I have to completely rebuild my life. New friends, new home, new job, new town.

The lack of responsibility or need to be somewhere is odd, too. Until I start working my time is filled only with those things I want to be doing. I mean, there are things I need to do, but a bulk of my time is still open to the imagination.

Oh my, it’s so weird and wonderful. It’s a bit like floating. Here I am, hovering above this new place, but where I’m set to land is still unclear.

Alright, enough of that for now. Here are a few pictures from my trip.

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My last look at the snow-capped Rockies.

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A Hobbit-themed ride down to Auckland.

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Art on loan from Middle-Earth.

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My room view.

Till tomorrow, travelers.

~Ren

Review: Egghead or, You Can’t Survive on Ideas Alone by Bo Burnham

eggheadLike many of Bo’s poems, I hope to make this review short, thoughtful, and to the point.

Bo Burnham has been called, singer, songwriter, actor, and comedian (but he says comedian is enough). Egghead is his first book of poetry.

His style is very similar to that of Shel Silverstein but the content is definitely not for children. Many of the poems are crass, rude, and vulgar. Others are just plain silly and fun, poking fun at the ridiculousness of the English language (homonyms, strange adjective choices, popular vocabulary, etc.) and other awkward situations people find themselves in. But be warned, other poems are very poignant and leave you feeling like you’ve just read something very profound but your’re not sure why.

There is nothing Bo Burnham has created that I didn’t enjoy on some level. He is insightful, clever and creative in all the things he does and is unapologetic and unafraid in his craft.

I’d also like to give props to Chance Bone for creating beautifully disturbing images. Well done, sir, well done.

~Ren

Review: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

will graysonI’ve read all of John Green’s books, and I’ve read several David Levithan books, and I’ve enjoyed every one of them. So it would stand to reason that I’d love a book written by both of them. And I did!

So the premise really quick. Two boys, both named Will Grayson, meet unexpectedly one night on the streets of Chicago and both of their lives are changed, with everything culminating in a high school musical the likes of which have never been seen before.

These two authors have distinct writing styles but are good enough to be able to capture each other’s characters when there is a crossover. Green writes in a style that is easy to read and very accessible while still being insightful and though-provoking. Levithan is raw, emotionally charged and gives voice to his characters well. The two styles compliment each other very well in the book. They create two very different characters who, at first, seem to have nothing in common, but as you read you see they are both trying to overcome the same problem: they are afraid to let themselves care about someone, they are afraid to feel.

This book made me want to be a teenager again. And I’m not joking when I say that. Even though all the characters (including great supporting characters like Tiny Cooper) are going through this tumultuous, angst-filled time in their lives where hormones are going crazy and they are just trying to make sense of the world and themselves, all that seemed exciting compared to the marginally-figured-out-adult-life I’m living now.

Maybe it’s only in hindsight going back to teenage years seems inciting. The first time around you feel like everything is going to bring about the end of the world. After you grow up you realize it wasn’t, not even close. But I think what is appealing about those emotionally charged teenage years is it was so effortless to feel something about anything, whether it was rational or not.

I’ve gone off topic a bit here, so I’ll end by saying Will Grayson, Will Grayson was a funny, emotional, crass book to read and I look forward to reading more by these authors.

~Ren

Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

OceanI’d read two Neil Gaiman novels before picking up Ocean, and enjoyed them both (The Graveyard Book and Stardust for those wondering). I’ll admit when Ocean first came out and I read the description it didn’t grab me in a, ‘Oh wow, this could be so cool!’ kind of way. But when my bookstore won a visit from Gaiman back in February I decided to up my Gaiman book count before he arrived, and Ocean was nice and short.

The premise of the story is simple: a man returns to his childhood home and falls into the memory of his early childhood and the odd events that took place then. I think the opening epigraph sums up perfectly what this story really captures. “I remember my own childhood vividly…I knew terrible things. But I knew I mustn’t let adults know I knew. It would scare them.” – Maurice Sendak, in conversation with Art Spiegelman, The New Yorker, September 27, 1993

There is a definite transition that happens between our youthful years and our “grown-up” years, so to speak. It can be frustrating and terrifying and awesome (in the classic sense of the word) being a child. The world still holds so much joy and mystery for you but you also find yourself confronting the adults in your life who just can’t seem to understand what you do.

Gaiman’s writing is simple yet elegant and very succinctly captures the emotions of the characters only to elicit them in the reader. Ocean is somewhat of a modern fairytale but not the least bit Disney-fied. It is creepy and beautiful and wondersome all at once.

To end, I’d like to say I really like the Hempstock women. They kick ass.

Also Neil Gaiman hugged me, and it was awesome.

-Ren