Archive for the 'Oceania' Category

Adios New Zealand… Hola República Dominicana!

February 17, 2014

Hola Family and Friends,

I’m writing to you from my hotel in Dominican Republic. It’s nice! I left New Zealand last Tuesday and it was a long trip home. IMG_1172I stopped in Tahiti and then got delayed in Los Angeles. After a few days home, I’m back out on survey again, starting here in Santo Domingo and then next week in Port of Spain, Trinidad. I have this second part of the survey because the first part was short, only three weeks.

So far, DR is great. After arriving at 4:00 AM, I slept until noon and then had a pretty productive day. Lev’s here for a few days and he came to work with me today. IMG_1176It was very cool of him to spend over three hours in the crappy supermarket with me collecting prices…  I think he’ll do his own thing tomorrow.

After work, we walked around the old colonial town and had drinks and then dinner at a French restaurant. It’s really nice to have company again. I’m  looking forward to a productive day of work tomorrow! Love, Annie

Sunny Sunday

February 9, 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

Today was a nice day off. I went to the nearby cafe again and had an omelet for breakfast with bacon, spinach, feta, and tomatoes in it. IMG_1127Then I rented a bike and headed the other way down the coastal path. I biked past some cows, as you can see here. There were horses a little further down. Outside of the city, there is mostly farmland. I forgot to mention  the other day that the tiny airport also smells like a farm.

IMG_1139I was only able to ride until 2 pm because that’s when the bike store closed, so I brought back the bike in time and then headed to the beach. The beach was pretty fun, I walked for a long time.  The sand is black and I keep thinking it looks really dirty even though it’s just a darker color.


I was able to get a nice view of Mt. Taranaki today. This mountain is a huge volcano that dominates the landscape. It’s hard to see how huge it is in the picture. That bridge is pretty cool too. It’s possible to climb Mt. Taranaki but I’d need someone to do it with and probably more training.

For dinner, I went back to the South Indian restaurant and got the Dosa. I went early to the restaurant because I did not have lunch. It was very delicious. Tomorrow is my last full day! I hope you have a nice Sunday.

Love, Annie

Working Saturday in New Plymouth

February 8, 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

I hope you are having a nice weekend. Today was a much better day than yesterday. I was very productive and it was sunnier. After work I went for a run along the coastal walkway, one of the main attractions here. I have no pictures of it because I ran without my camera. It was really beautiful and I look forward to going the other way on it tomorrow. At dinner at a different Indian restaurant, a couple speaking German was sitting next to me and I kept catching the woman kept looking at me, watching what I did and how I was eating … it made me really self conscious about sitting alone at the table. I don’t usually think anything of it. I actually can’t think of a time that I’ve ever felt uncomfortable like that at a restaurant before. Oh well.

Love, Annie

Hi from New Plymouth

February 7, 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

I hope you are well. The flight over to New Plymouth was easy. The taxi driver to the Auckland Airport was from Fiji and really really talkative. The plane was small and domestic New Zealand flights involve NO security. Zero. No bag checks, no shoes off, no detectors. I couldn’t believe it. New Plymouth is really small and the town is kind of cute. It has some good restaurants. I think the coastal walk is supposed to be cool but I didn’t have a change to get there as I was working all day.

When I got to my hotel, the phone in the room didn’t work. They tried to fix it but it didn’t work so they upgraded me to another room with a working phone. I think it’s working, I didn’t try it yet. IMG_1112The local landline phone is a pretty important tool for this job, especially when it’s an English speaking city. It was kind of annoying to change rooms but this room is much better. There are no safes in the rooms so I put my passport in my travel wallet and gave it to the lady at the front to put in the safe at reception.

I went out after that whole thing and worked because I didn’t want to sit in the rather depressing hotel room and make phone calls – there was other work to be done. There are a few good stores here and a mall and reasonably priced nail salons but it’s not a major commercial centre. In the late afternoon I did laundry and worked out.


There’s do-it-yourself laundry here at the hotel which is very cool. You can buy detergent at the reception and I asked about dryer sheets and they had no idea what I was talking about. I’m going to do laundry the morning I come home so the clothes will be clean. The laundry is next to the gym so you can work out and do laundry at the same time. This is really cool, and while the gym is basic with old equipment, it has high ceilings and I was the only one there so it was not too bad. The awesome gym/laundry combination was the second best thing that happened today. The best part of my day was video chatting with with Lev! I’m so excited to head home in a few days and see him for real. I’m getting homesick and antsy.


I went to dinner at a restaurant specializing in south Indian cuisine. It was pretty delicious and the staff at the restaurant were nice. I had little lentil donuts (which are apparently a popular street food) and vegetable curry. I’ll probably go back there again as there were more things on the menu that looked really interesting.

I had been feeling weird about my passport in the safe all day, just a weird feeling. So I decided to get it because I would feel more comfortable keeping it with me. When I got back to the hotel, I asked the receptionist if I could have my travel wallet from the safe as I needed something in it. She went to go unlock the safe and came back and said that it wasn’t there. She looked again and no. I said could you please call the other woman who was working here in the morning who put it in the safe, this is a very serious issue. The receptionist said “she’s working tomorrow”. I told her there was no way I was going to be able to sleep not knowing if my passport was secure. She acted like it was my fault that she couldn’t find my travel wallet and i’m so pissed about that. She acted like this was a huge burden. Please. Turns out it was in the safe and after she called the other woman it seemed clear that she just wasn’t looking hard enough. Uhh.

Tomorrow I work more and hopefully it will be sunny so I can walk around on the coastal walk.

Love, Annie

Adios Auckland

February 6, 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope you are having a nice week. I’m pretty sad it’s my last night in Auckland, it’s been really nice here. The hotel, the company, and the city itself have been excellent. IMG_1050I had a day off today for Waitangi Day, a public holiday here in New Zealand. It was an excellent day. In the morning, Ari and her boyfriend Gary picked me up at the hotel and we drove off to Muriwai beach! The beach is famous for its gannet colonies. Gannet is a kind of bird. The beach was beautiful and it was exciting to go to a beach with black sand, as I have never experienced that before. IMG_1091We walked around on the rocks and saw a gannet colony that smelled really bad. The rocks are all volcanic rock and it was easy to see that they were made by lava. The weather was not fantastic (it was spots of sunlight) so we did not go in the water. I walked into the water and a wave came and my pants got wet to halfway up my shins.

After the beach, we headed to a park where there are a lot of sheep. It is New Zealand, after all. IMG_1098I got to get kind of close to some sheep before they ran away from me. After the sheep, we went to the top of the park to get a good view of the city. At that point, we were all very hungry so we headed to lunch. We ate at a really cool Malaysian restaurant. The food was very authentic and I thought of my colleague Adam who is there this survey. I thought the curry laksa was especially delicious. IMG_1104I don’t think Ari or Gary has ever had Malaysian food before.

After lunch, I got dropped off at my hotel and swam for a bit before enjoying a spa treatment that my parents and Bubbie got me for my birthday 🙂 Thanks, it was fantastic. At the end, they let you relax with some fruit and juice and for my birthday they also gave me sparkling wine and chocolates. I saved the chocolates.

i'm still alive!

I did a little packing and then Ari came over and we got to give hugs and say goodbye. I’m going to miss her but trust that I’ll see her soon. Now I have just finished my dinner of wanton soup and rocket (baby arugula) salad. My flight to New Plymouth is at 9:00 tomorrow! While I’m sad to leave, I’m always excited to move on. New Plymouth is my last location on this leg of the survey and of course it is always very exciting to go home.

Love, Annie


February 5, 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

Nothing has been awkward about these days, I just wanted to use that title. It has been a nice few days in Auckland. I hope your week has been good. I haven’t been able to write for the past few days because I’ve been so overtired. Arriving here at 1:30 AM had taken its toll. IMG_1018On Monday, I worked and then went to Ari’s to eat dinner. She cooked! It was really nice to have a meal not in a restaurant and with some friends.

On Tuesday, I got up early for some meetings and worked the whole day well into the night. I stopped for lunch at a restaurant called “Euro” which is supposed to be one of the best restaurants in NZ and in the world. I was expecting to be impressed but was not impressed at all. The fish was decent, but the salad was silly (soggy iceberg lettuce with salami on it… and it wasn’t even the salad I ordered) and soggy potato wedges on the side. The service wasn’t that great. I looked on trip advisor and many of the comments said exactly what I was thinking “disappointed.”

Today I worked in the morning and then… went bungy jumping off the harbour bridge! It was incredibly fun. IMG_1035I’m downloading the pictures now and they will be ready tomorrow. I was the only one who booked at that time and it was so personal. I got to jump a second time for free because they needed someone to jump for the bridge climbers as they get to watch a jump. So I jumped once forward and the other time backwards. The guys on the platform were so nice.  There was some great pump up music at the top of the platform to take your  mind off of the jumping. I was really nervous but felt safe the whole time.

I got to the jumping base early, so I got to walk around the harbour a bit. Auckland is a big sailing city. I think my parents would like it here! I took a bunch of pictures of sailboats for my dad. After that nice break, I worked again and then had dinner with Ari at a Belgian beer house. We had delicious raspberry beer. Tomorrow, we are going to go to the beach and hopefully the weather won’t be too bad.

Love, Annie

A Transit Birthday Surprise!

February 2, 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope you are having a nice weekend. I’ll have to keep this short because it’s two in the morning. After a pretty horrible and tiring day in transit, I walked out of customs and there is my friend Ari, waiting for me with balloons and a sign. IMG_0954I had not expected this at all. I burst out crying at the airport. Ari, I could not ask for a better birthday surprise and friend. My horrible day was completely redeemed. Ari drove me to my hotel and we’re going to watch the super bowl tomorrow at lunch with her friends and boyfriend. I also got an upgrade at the hotel, so this was all waiting for me when I got to the room. The internet is free and unlimited, unlike in Port Moresby.

I forward to a good night sleep and a productive day tomorrow. Love, Annie

Adios Port Moresby!

February 1, 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

I hope you are having a nice weekend. Today was an extremely boring and moderately frustrating day. After breakfast, I worked a bit more and then tried to go to a crafts market. I walked down to one on a beach near the hotel accompanied by one of the hotel security guards (it’s unsafe to walk around by myself here) but it was closed. I was told there were other crafts markets elsewhere so I called Michael, who said he would come pick me up in a half hour. Forty-five minutes later, I called him and he said my friend will come in one hour. I told him forget it.

For some reason, the concierge was not able to connect with anyone else (any other company or person) to take me on one last errand for work and a crafts market. Eventually the hotel guards were nice enough to take me on that work errand, and would have taken me to a different crafts market but by that time (1:30 PM) they were all closed. One of the guards in the car told me I was the first American he had ever met. I hope I made a good impression.

I got back to the hotel and had lunch and then sat by the pool and read. I finished The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult, which I thought started out slow but turned out to be excellent and I didn’t want to put it down. I started Gun Guys by Dan Baum. After that I worked out for a bit and checked in for my first flight and had dinner.

Tomorrow I fly to Auckland. I really hope my plane does not get delayed from Port Moresby as I have just under two hours to change planes and check in for the next flight, which is not on the same airline. I’ll be spending the whole day traveling and don’t get in to Auckland until about 1:00 AM. Auckland is another three hours ahead of Port Moresby, 18 hours ahead of Boston. That’s not the best way to spend a birthday but also not the worst as long as everything goes smoothly. This will be my third survey birthday!

Love, Annie

Working Friday in Port Moresby

January 31, 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

Happy Friday! I hope you are well. Today was another solid day in Port Moresby. I had all my meetings and finished up most of the work, sat by the pool for a little, and then worked out. IMG_0887For dinner I got the salad buffet because I needed vegetables. I don’t think it will make me sick. The picture is outside of the building where one of my meetings took place. I had scheduled a meeting with this woman a few weeks ago, and when I went into the office, they said that her last day at the company was last Wednesday. Hmm. My left arm is burned from being on one side of the car and the sun blazing down. The right is not burned at all.

Looking forward to February and finishing up my work. Hopefully I’ll have the time to do a cool touristy thing tomorrow.

Love, Annie

Top-notch Thursday in Port Moresby

January 30, 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

I hope you are well. Today has been the best day yet this survey. One of those days that when it ends you think “this is why people travel”. This is why this job is so cool. It doesn’t hurt that I’m in an excellent hotel. Despite going to bed really late, I woke up before my alarms to a nice bright room. Turns out, my window looks out over the water. I didn’t know that last night because it was already dark when I got in. I started my work in the room by making phone calls and setting up meetings.

IMG_0844The hotel concierge manager, Arare, was so nice and sat down with me and helped me figure out a schedule for work, telling me what would be closed on Saturday. He set up with a driver, Michael. We went to some grocery stores, some home goods stores, and he dropped me off at a mall for a few hours and then came to pick me up. Our phones connect when I call him. He calls me “sister”. Another woman also called me “sister” at the hotel “good evening sister!” I think this is so cool.

Australia was nice and highly enjoyable, but Papua New Guinea is so much more interesting. I feel like Port Moresby is comparable to some of the cities in West Africa, just greener. Some of the customs are different. In the mall and in the markets, I saw a bunch of people walking around barefoot. I saw a dead dog on its side at the edge of a field where kids were playing football and doing conditioning training. That wasn’t that great to see, but definitely interesting. I didn’t get a look at the dog’s face so I don’t feel so terrible about that. There are a lot of products at the markets that cater to the Asian expat community – huge sections of Chinese, Thai, and Indian products.

IMG_0882I happen to like hardship locations such as this one (as long as I’m in a decent hotel). I enjoy the routine of it. I work efficiently because I don’t want to waste any time with the driver. I enjoy getting to know the driver and about life in the as we work together to cross off the places on my list. I go back to the hotel because it’s unsafe for me to wander around or do other things, work out, sometimes have a glass of wine, and eat dinner. I had a late lunch at the mall, a grilled eggplant sandwich, and hope it doesn’t make me sick. It was hard to find somewhere acceptable to eat. In part because I’m picky, and in part because there’s a high chance of getting food poising here, so I can’t just eat anything.

Tonight was even better than the routine! After getting back to the hotel around six, I had an excellent work out. I walked into the bar area and realized that my hotel is a big hangout for expatriates and a hangout in general. IMG_0842I was going to go somewhere quiet and transcribe my work but got invited to have a drink with a group of men from all over the world. They knew each other because some worked together. There were two from New Zealand, one white and one Maori, two Australians, and English guy, an Irish guy, a guy from Papua New Guinea, and me. They said that as an American, I rounded out the group. We ended up having dinner and everyone had the special lobster and steak dish that I would have never ordered on my own. It was delicious.

The group was great company and it was a fun, goofy dinner. One of the men passed out for a half hour right there at the table. He woke up happy that he had a “power nap.” Everyone made fun of him but not too much because he was the one paying. I got to learn all about working for a company in PNG. Most people in the group were based in cities other than Port Moresby that have traditional tribal laws governing the cities. I got to learn about how these people from different nationalities view each other and view Americans. Most of the men work for companies based in Texas and in my opinion had a strange view of the US. They couldn’t believe a “yank” had traveled to so many countries because apparently Americans don’t travel.

After dinner everyone moved into the bar to have more drinks but I’d had enough. After thanking everyone for the companionship and dinner I excused myself and now I’m about to sleep. I’m looking forward to some meetings tomorrow!

Love, Annie