Avalanche of Culture

Luck arrived this week in the form of free tickets. Tam won two at work, and then our friend Michail provided two more free comp-tickets he had scored through his work (a transport company that among other things moves around sets for opera companies).

So Saturday afternoon we were off to the radio Tarana-sponsored Bollywood Dance competition, as part of the Diwali (festival of lights) celebrations. That afternoon was 3 hours of dancing from the intermediate and advanced groups. We were entertained b y quality dance routines to seriously adrenaline-pumping Bollywood music (left my ears ringing for an hour afterwards). The hall was large (TSB areana), and quite full. I think we had most of the south-asian community of Wellington in there with us. We disagreed with the judges over the first place and runner up in the advanced section. Having watched (and participated in) plenty of dance performances in the last 6 years, I have strong opinions on the matter now, and the runner-up’s were robbed. They had a high and consistent skill level, a kick-ass choreography, and most importanly- they could all perform.

I also had to respect the group from Upper Hutt college. That group was mainly kiwis, where most of the troups were exclusively south-asian in descent. And when asked about their preparations for the show, they admitted they only took one week for everything- choreography, costumes and practice. I hope they keep at it, as given a bit more time and experience they could be quite good.

After a quick dinner (Indian food, of course!), it was off to the Opera. Turandot, the last opera of Puccini. Executions, insane oriental potentates, a suicide, all you could ever want from the opera. The stage directiion was wacky, with only one person in period costume, but it worked for me. Ping, Pang, and Pong in their color-ccoded fur-trimmed “pimp jackets” were a hoot. The mug-shots of all the people executed (a list that gets added to during the performance) was also very nice.

So after all that culture on Saturday, what do we do Sunday? Clip alpaca toenails. But that was a worthy job, and entertaining in its own right. We also took more photos for the coming web page. Today is a beautiful fine and sunny day, the first in about a month. Hopefully that warm weather will get the grass growing, we have the moisture, now we need the sun.

Interesting people

One nice thing about The Two Sisters is it gave us a chance to get to know some of the people who we would see in Bellydance class, but otherwise never really talked to.

MJ, who played one of the Mermaids, is a fellow North American. She is here on a 9 month contract (though we can hope she will fall in love with the place and decide to stay) working as a vet at the Wellingon zoo. Beingt a zoo vet is quite a challenge, as most of the critters you deal with a complete medical mysteries. Fun!

Janjo, who played the younger sister, is also quite a cool person. As we had a dance duet, I got to spend plenty of time with her (picture the two of us standing there going “well, now what?” “I don’t know…”). I was quite surprised to find out English was not her first language. Her first language (note that I don’t say native language) was– wait for it– Esperanto. Apparently she is a third generation speaker. Now that is a seriously wacky family!

Cooling down, warming up

So, we survived. Last Saturday we had the sole performance of The Two Sisters. It went well. The technical dress rehersal was a bit of a dogs breakfast, but the show itself went with only a few minor glitches. And only one glitch, a missed “start the music now cue” would have been easily noticed by the audience.

We only had 85 people in the audience, which was a bit of a disappointment. I think it did not help that we were competing against WoW which had just started. Nor did it help that we were all so busy getting ready for the performance, that we didn’t really get to market it as much as we woud have liked.

We are talking about doing it again, and maybe taking it on the road to the nearby cities of Palmerston North and Masterton, both of which are about 2 hours away. That could be fun. I do think it is a much better piece than our first version, 2.5 years ago. Really great costumes, a tighter story, more logical stage directions, and some very helpful cast changes.

With that major project now behind us we are enjoy the warming weather of spring. Cria should start dropping in only 3 weeks. We are very excited, and more than a bit impatient!

When we get digital photos from our friends of the performance and costumes, we will post them. The evil trees were my favorite.

Crazy September

The mad month continues to march forward.

On Saturday we spent all day in a dress rehersal for the Two Sisters, which plays next Saturday. The day was chaotic and noisy, but I think good progress was made. The technical/stage directions were finalized, so that can now get passed onto the sound and light people.

Sunday we had a SCA day-o-fun. This had been scheduled some months ago, before we realized what a madhouse September would be. The weather was perfect, and about 18 people attended. While no heavy list fighting happened (few people brought armor), there was archery, some test combat archery, and fencing. We also played with a sword. Steve had discovered the joy of doing test-cuts with a sharp steel sword on plastic coke and milk bottles full of water. I am very glad I had not taken away the recycling for many weeks. I dug out my steel katana, and the fun began. When we were done 10 bags of plastic bottle had been choped into small pieces, small enough that the “corpses” could be repacked into 5 plastic bags. Almost everyone got a chance to take a swing, it was very fun. You learn a great deal more about technique when using a real sword. I will have to start accumulating more bottles in time for our next event.

Now a new week begins. More rhododendrons to move, more gorse to spray. And in the evenings more rehersals for the Two Sisters, of course. We will be very glad to get through the play and get some free time back.


So, before yet more stuff happens to us, I should try to play a bit of catch up. Don’t know when I will finish the description of our little vacation last month, but I hope to eventually.

This last weekend was MEDANZ (Middle Eastern Dance Association of New Zealand). They held their yearly event in Wellington again, which was very convenient for us. Next year it is in Timaru, so we probably won’t be going. Tam managed to get her paperwork in early this year, and thus made it into all the workshops she wanted to (last year she was late, and all the cool ones were full).

Saturday night was the “Yalla!” show, nearly 3 hours of bellydance by troupes from all over NZ, plus some guest dancers from Australia. I used to find lenghty bellydance shows a bit boring. Once I took some lessons it helped, as I knew what I was looking at and could appreciate when a dancer was doing something very tricky. (Often some of the most challenging moves look rather small and simple from the audience’s perspective.) But even so, 15 cabaret performances in a row can get rather dull and homogeneous.

Not a problem with this years show. If anything the theme could be described as: “Bellydance, it’s not what you think”

– a tribal group dancing to “Du Haast” by Ramstein. Cool and Gothic
– a tribal group called “Kiwi Iwi” doing a combination of bellydance and Maori dance. Tribal with poi! The danced to music by Ociania. (Iwi means tribe in Maori, for our overseas readers)
There was a group that did a Beegees number, while cute and amusing it was not as out-there and original as the previous pieces.
-Beverly (our teacher) led a big group piece called “feeling zilly”, where the dozen people on stage provided all their own music with zills and body percussion. Very neat and enrgetic choreography!

The result was a very fun show. The cabaret pieces became much more involving when mixed into such a heterogenous show. The two Autralian dancers were fantastic, though one had a slight “wardrobe malfucntion” which nearly resulting in her top popping off half way through her number! She managed to get everything reassembled smoothly and subtly while continuing her number. Very profession. And the final number by Sahara (a young Lebanese dancer from Sydney) was so hyper-enegeretic… well, let’s just say that if we could hook up power leads to her, she could power a small city.

Cultural Things

A little tidbit I noticed on my trip north 2 weeks ago, but forgot to mention. The airport in Kerikeri was quite small. Quite. Small. It had, as near as I can tell, 2 staff members. The plane refueled from a conventional gas pump with an extra-long hose. While waiting for my plane out a NZ Navy helicopter (one of 2 total in the whole navy?) landed, taxied over, and parked, so the crew could come into the little terminal for a coffee break!

In such a small place, there is no food service. But they had a drinks-vending machine. And they had a rack full of snacks, with posted prices, and an “honesty box” where you could pay. I think it says good things about a society when you can do food sales using an honesty box.

In other news, Tam had her big performance in the “Feet with Heat- dance your socks off” show this weekend. Our dance troupe was invted to do a few numbers (quite an honor, this is a big yearly all-styles dance show). The troupe had a big group number they wanted to do, as it had worked so well at the Yalla! show a few months ago, but the lead person was missing, so Beverly asked Tam to fill in. It apparently all went well, and afterwards they all went out to a new moorish-decorated bar/restaurant that just opened downtown. To the great delight of the Turkish owners, who suddenly had a bunch of happy, excited women in costume dancing away in the place.

On Sunday we had our first War Practive out at our place. We had 4 heavy fighters, 2 combat archers and a javelin thrower running around in the Gallop Paddock, running various practice scenarios. A really good time was had by all. Hopefully we will do this monthly, and by Cantebury Faire in Februrary we should actually be pretty good as a unit. That would be fun. Sarah and JoAnne got a surprise, and quite a laugh, when they came over the hill to collect their horses, and found the paddock full of silly people running around and clubbing each other with sticks! Added a touch or surrealality to their day.

Cheerful Conversations

Ever get the feeling that you step outside the social loop for a few seconds and suddenly everything goes wild? This happpened to us this week.

On Monday Tam ran into our friend Fiona downtown, and Fiona handed over an invite to a dinner get-together. Seems she is getting married to a young Turkish fellow (Emrah). (Married?!? She was dating?) We were a bit gob-smacked, as this really seems to have come from nowhere. We get to the Istanbul cafe last night and discover that they actually got married that day, and this was the after-ceremony celebration! Ahh! No card! No present! Oh, well, no warning either!

Over dinner we had many conversations, and one of them was not so cheerful. A friend of ours who is a government lawyer has been flying to Auckland regularly for meetings of a committee to discuss and formulate plans for a bird-flu pandemic. Apparently they have already selected the mass-grave sites. Eeek. We also discovered that the are pretty much going for the “we are an island, use that advantage” strategy. They watch possible human-human transmissions cases verrry closely. The cases they just had in Indonesia almost resulted in a border closure. I think they want to try to minimize the spread within NZ and hope to ride out the storm until mass-vaccine production can start. The estimates is that this will be about 8 weeks. Grim possibilities. But, it is good to know they are thinking and planning, which is better than getting caught with your pants down if a worst-case pandemic starts!

In other news I have spent the last 2 days helping a new friend from Australia search for an apartment here in Wellington. Robin and her SO Selwyn were over here back in November for Crown Tourney, and enjoyed Wellington. But they both had jobs/careers in Sydney. Then both their jobs started to go belly up, so they decided “what the heck”, and are moving over here. Selwyn will be over ina few weeks, once he packs the house and ships the cats (sounds familiar). Darton (the local SCA group) continues its “expansion by stealing the best people of neighboring baronies” policy!

Dancing, feasting, and goodbyes

This weekend was the MEDANZ (Middle Eastern Dance Association of New Zealand) yearly meeting. Unfortunately our information packet went missing for awhile before hand, so Tam registered for classes late, and only got into one. But it does sound like 90-minutes of learning how to adopt Bollywood choreography to middle eastern dance was a hoot.

Saturday night what the Yalla! show. Troupes from all over the country performed. I enjoyed the show for its variety. There were all sorts of wacky fusion pieces, from south-pacific to a latin-american fan-dance, and another flamenco-like one. (I find two solid hours of cabaret style to get boring eventually.)

Sunday evening was the Hafla, with food and more dancing. Sunday night was also our chance to say goodbye to Stephanie, who left Monday to head back to LA after two years here in NZ. We were all very sad to see her go. We also wonder how long before LA drives her nuts and she longs for the calm coolness of Wellington once more.

It turned out Stephanie was not the only one departing on Monday. Helene, the woman who loaned us her possum traps and gave us basic skinning and tanning instructions, was off to a new job- a a professional rat catcher. I think her official title is something like “apprentice pest control officer.” That will be quite a carrer change, as she will now be living in huts on deserted off-shore islands, working with others to shoot, poison and trap predator species to try and save the native wildlife. Pretty cool, and right up her alley. She commented that when we see her next, she should be wearing a lovely possum-fur jacket. 🙂

What else we've been up to

Dance practice last night went fine. We practiced five dances and only had three injuries, which I reckon is a net victory. For those of you who are *not* Medieval re-creationists, Medieval dances were pretty much about flirting and gossiping, both of which are of course easier, the easier the dance is. Most of the dances we practiced were called “bransles”, which is apparently pronounced “brawls” — proof that the English do have a sense of humor, or at least irony, since most of them consisted of little more than walking sideways. The second-to-last one we did was not a bransle, but was closer to a brawl, in that it involved body-checking (okay, well, Stephen got a bit carried away), and a certain amount of Peril (running in socks on a smooth floor).

What else ?

— Watched the extended Return of the King. I liked some of the new stuff, thought some of the new stuff probably ought to have been left out after all, and was baffled by the order that some of the new stuff was cut in. It should be noted at this point that for the last three years, a lot of Kiwis have spent Xmas afternoon at the theatre watching the new Lord of the Rings movie — three years being enough repetition to effectively create a Tradition. They’re a bit mopey and at loose ends this year.

— Stephen and I have been playing La Pucelle Tactics, in which cute little kids beat up cute little “demons” in the name of The Maiden of Light. We’re currently fighting dragon mushrooms with the aid of a flying pirate ship crewed by kittens. I’ve been watching anime and playing Playstation games so long, that I’ve lost the ability to notice how deeply weird the Japanese are.

— Our anime-night crew expanded to 5 (plus us) to watch the first disk of Cowboy BeBop, meaning that I’ve finally realized that the singsong “Evergreen” song on the still-a-mystery Pensive Mix 2003 disk is, in fact, what’s playing while Spike enjoys his endless slo-mo defenestration.

— In ‘paca-land, we got to hear first Jim, and then Cariboo, alarm call ! They actually sound kinda like seagulls. It was neat, if baffling. You know how you’ll be walking along a street and pass someone who’s staring up a building at something, and then everyone has to stop and stare to try and figure out what the first guy was looking at ? That was us and Jim. Never did figure it out.

The Weekend Report

Friday – dinner with Sibylle and Stuart, which included lovely conversation (Stuart is a lawyer for the Ministry of Justice and doesn’t have quite the… appreciation we do for the off-the-cuff candor of Kiwi politicians :^D.) and some truly amazingly yummy goulash. Germans do goulash, too, apparently, they just don’t get the credit they deserve. Sibylle, who has possibly the most complicated list of can’t-eats of any of our friends (must dig up Kathy’s Food Allergy Matrix), is also in the habit of making these incredibly sinful, bad-for-you desserts which she can’t eat herself. Hmmm. Maybe she’s secretly trying to kill us all, very very slowly. With heavy cream.

Saturday: We lit out north. Stopped in at the Lindale Farming Center (I mean, “Centre”) for french toast in the their cafe, and to see if they had the lambskin aviator cap I’m lusting after in my size. (they didn’t. Ah well.) Hit the Farmlands in Otaki for clippers, fencing supplies & assorted things-the-local-Wrightson’s-failed-to-provide.

Then up to Alpacas Unlimited (otherwise known as “Thief of Hearts”) to see if Eric had any alpacas for us to buy. As it happens he didn’t, as he pretty much keeps his females and sells the males (unless they’re potential stud material) as pets. We got to look at his setup, though, and a *lot* of alpacas, including a good two dozen cria — Cutest. Babies. Evah. Just looking at tons of different animals is tremendously educational, because you really start to learn what you’re looking at, and what you’re looking for. We also got to just talk with Eric for a while, and that was good in itself, as he’s been in the industry for quite a while, and has some pretty strong opinions about various things (and various people). As we’ve mentioned before, getting three alpaca people in a room nets you five different opinions on any given subject & Stephen and I are just sponging up everything & gradually sorting it all out for ourselves.

After spending a good few hours with Eric, we swung by the house/workshop of the guy we sold some of our old fenceposts to. He’s got this secret little hideaway almost, down a driveway that runs between a saw factory and a licorice factory, that you’d never have known was there if you hadn’t been told. We picked out a big chunky garden bench that he’s going to drop off for us next week & we’d better have decided by then where we want it to go, because it looks like it’ll take three people to move it.

After *that*, we phoned Elise at the Straw Llama — we had been planning to phone her up a good bit later, as she’d been recommended to us by Linda at Willowbank as a place to maybe find a llama, but she was right there by Levin, and Eric recommended her as well, so we rang her up and she told us to come on out. It’s “Straw” Llama, by the way, because she lives in a big straw bale house. Very, very cool.

The first thing we saw at Elise’s place, though, was our very first “berserk” alpaca, a rescue from a farm park where he’d been over-handled. Male camelids (and to some extent females, too) can develop severe social problems if you coddle them too much while they’re young — *especially* if they’re alone & don’t get proper socialization from the herd. Basically, they don’t distinguish between people and camelids, which makes you fair game for challenges to the pecking order. What this means is the alpaca or llama that seemed “friendly”, because he was running up to you and rubbing his head against you and being all cute, eventaully takes it to the next step: chest-butting you to the ground and stomping on you. Not so cute. Especially not so cute in something llama-sized, with fighting teeth. Anyway, as we drove onto the property, this black alpaca *charges* the car. As the car turns to drive along the fence, the alpaca follows at a run, tossing his head. As we park the car and get out, the alpaca, eyes rolling, repeatedly throws himself against the fence. When that doesn’t work, he snakes his head between the wires and tries to bite our shoes. “Don’t get to close too that little black alpaca,” says Barney, “He’ll bite you.” Yeeg. Sydney the Berserk Alpaca. Scary, and yet also really sad and pathetic. *People* did that to him.

Elise is a neat lady, though, and we got tons more information and opinions from her. She’s been doing llamas and alpacas almost since the beginning, and I didn’t realize until afterwards that several of the articles I’d read online were hers. She had a pair of male llamas that she’d really like us to give a home to, as they were not exactly thriving in the current pecking order — even some of the alpacas were higher than them — and she hoped getting them out from under the dominant male would perk them up. We took pics with the digital. Elise gave us a ton of contacts to follow up & then we scurried into Levin for dinner before making our way home.

Sunday: Stephen went to fight practice, while I went to a yum cha (dim sum) organized by Alan. Ooof. Stuffed. The Radfords Furniture across the street is having a 20% off sale on its leather sofas !!! Stephen was too hunger-blinded to shop, though, so we went home. The sale runs to the end of the month, though….

After lunch, we played with the ‘paca — Oak is getting really really good at leading (much better than he is at standing still), and with Stephen steadying his head, Chris let me pick up and hold his feet ! I want to try clipping his other front one today, and check the one we nicked to make sure it’s healing up clean. Pointer is Passive Resistance Lad. I need to figure out what I’m doing that’s confusing him.

After ‘paca, we killed a couple hours on the Playstation (finished FFX-2 and am now finally starting on Wild Arms 3). Then Sunday night was the first “Turkish Delight” night at the Blue Note, organized by Stephanie’s troupe, Sisters of Sindbad. Sort of a belly dance Open Mic. Very cool. Stephen and I were DJs. Tangerine was there playing live, so there was plenty of boogie for all.