Saturday, October 29, 2011

Kiwis, Koalas, and Kava... Oi, Mate!: Chapter Four, "Queenstown, 'We Are The Champions, My Tourmates!'" (Friday and Saturday, 14 and 15 October 2011)

I know you're wondering, so yes... there were baked beans on the breakfast buffet again.  It's a Southern Hemisphere thang.  I do not understand.

Our morning flight to Queenstown, "the adventure capital of New Zealand" on its South Island, was uneventful, and we arrived without losing any of my tourmates (we think).  Although we traveled South, the inverted geography means we actually traveled in to a sub-Arctic region of snow-capped mountains, stinging winds, and glaciers that roll down the streets like tumbleweeds.  Leaving the airport, we detoured to Arrowtown, a former gold mining village outside of Queenstown that kickstarted the South Island's gold rush "a few years back."  Arrowtown is now a quaint suburb, whose shops and commercial buildings maintain the rustic character of the town's original buildings, giving it an old world charm that stops just this side of kitschy.  Shabby craft shops and cafes blend nicely with modern merchants and contemporary eateries to create one HELL of a tourist trap.  My lunch consisted of a meat pie (I'm hooked) and a ginger beer (ditto) and my only "take away" was a "gorgeous" bottle of local Riesling.  (New Zealand is known the World over for its wines, a great reputation that is well-deserved.)

From Arrowtown, we detoured again to the "Original Bungi Bridge" on the outskirts of Queenstown, where bungi jumping is said to have originated.  I have always wanted to bungi jump at least once in my life, and what better place to do it than here, right?  Unfortunately, our tour itinerary read as if we would only be stopping at the bridge for photos and would not have the opportunity to try our hands (or ankles) at actually jumping, so I committed to another, less death-defying activity for the afternoon that could not be cancelled.  It was not until we arrived at the bridge that our tour operator invited someone (presumably me or one of the newlyweds) to "give it a go."  Checking my watch, I decided I had ample time to "live on the edge" and do both: bungi jump and river canyon jet boating.  And just as I had psyched myself up to jump from the very bridge where it all started... the bungi crew went on a 45 minute break, abruptly slamming the narrow window of time I had to do both.  So as a few of our tourmates stayed behind to watch one of the newlyweds dive from the bridge, the rest of us boarded the coach bound for check-in at the hotel.  It wasn't meant to be.

Though a bit isolated from the heart of Queenstown, our hotel, The Millennium Hotel Queenstown, is beautiful, and considerably more contemporary than its sister hotel in Rotorua (and no pesky sulfur smell).  I dropped my bags and left almost immediately for my "adventure" on the Shotover Jet, a high speed jet boat that runs the course of the Shotover River as it twists and turns through treacherous canyons surrounded by the Remarkable Mountains. (That's actually what they are called.)  But this is not "your father's jet boat."  The Shotover Jet's patented design makes it capable of manuevering (including 360 degree spins) at speeds of up to 65 mph (please don't ask what that is in km/h!) in as little as 4 INCHES (10 CM!) OF WATER!!!  On a "normal" day, say in the Summer, this might be a heart-pounding, exhilirating experience... but this was not a normal day.  Picture if you will a very gray afternoon with temps around 45 degrees Fahrenheit (you can figure out the Celcius temp on your own!).  There is a steady, cold rain, but the kicker is a hard, chilly wind that, at times, blows the rain perfectly horizontally in your face.  Now picture yourself on a speed boat, going 65 mph, thus insuring that the wind and rain are ALWAYS blowing in your face, on this gray, cold, rainy, windy day.  THIS... was my Shotover Jet Experience!

I've learned to dress in layers and be prepared for virtually anything, so considering the weather, I did just that: jeans, a long sleeve t-shirt, a thin fleece pullover, a thicker fleece pullover, and a water-resistant windbreaker with a hood.  I don't know what the others going on this trip we're expecting, but their t-shirts, shorts, and - good grief! - flip-flops suggested we were NOT on the same page.  As we prepared to board the boat, we were issued thin plastic rain slickers (with no hoods), life jackets to wear over them, and goggles for those not already wearing glasses.  Despite my layers and the hood on my jacket, I felt ill-prepared for the Abu Ghraib-esque "waterboarding" simulation that ensued.  I actually pitied the kids in shorts and t-shirts (except for those wearing flip-flops).  It was like being on a log flume in Alaska in January with 1,000 high-powered water hoses being fired directly at your face, while buckets of frigid water are tossed at you from all sides and dumped from above, and all that stands between you and the elements is a $0.50 poncho.  When it was all over, my ears were on fire, my face was stinging, and I was soaked almost completely... and I dressed appropriately.

I should have gone bungi jumping!

Once back in Downtown Queenstown, it was dinner time.  Driving through town earlier, I learned that Queenstown has not one, but two casinos.  So on the way to dinner, I stopped in one.  My report: Queenstown's casinos "will ROCK YOU!!!"  (Fortunately, New Zealand dollars are worth less than US dollars.)

I chose a South African-style (your guess is as good as mine) steakhouse called Flame for dinner, the specialty of which is BBQ ribs.  (I was at a loss too.)  Since I was in a country known for its lamb (and having not had any yet), I ordered the rack of lamb.  It was delicious,
but was BBQed like the ribs, so it was a different taste than I was hoping for.  Walking back to the hotel, I stopped in The Remarkable Sweet Shoppe, where Willie Nelson played on the soundsystem and I tasted bubble gum-flavored fudge for the first time.  ("You can't stop modern science. Can't stop it!")  Back in the room, I opened the bottle of local wine and watched a movie.  I finished the glass of wine; the movie... not so much.

The next day, Saturday, was our only full day in Queenstown and a free day.  The biggest draw by far in this part of the World is Milford Sound (which, incidentally, is not really a sound, but a fjord, a mountain valley carved out by glaciers, then flooded by rising sea waters... THE MORE YOU KNOW(TM)), and the most common excursion is a five hour in, five hour out coach trip with a 2-3 hour lunch cruise as its highlight.  Not wanting to lose the entire day, I opted instead for a 40 minute flight in, 40 minute flight out with the same cruise.  The catch is the weather on the Sound side of the island can be very different from the weather in Queenstown, and if weather precludes flying on any given day, the coach has left hours before and you have no other option for seeing the Sound.  Nevertheless, I took the chance.

After breakfast, I waited in the lobby to learn whether I'd be flying that day.  As I waited, Uncanny Story #5 unfolded right before my eyes.  A group of my tourmates had planned a 3 hour excursion on their own and were describing it to our tour director.  She was concerned that they had booked an excursion that she knew to be really bad and wanted to warn them off of it.  The following exchange happened right in front of me.  I have NOT embellished it!

Tour Director:  What is the name of the excursion?

Tourmate:  I don't know.

Tour Director:  Is it "The Remarkable Experience" [referring to the mountains (see above)]?

Tourmate: I think so.  It gets us out of the hotel for 3 hours.

Thank goodness for bladder control.  Abbott and Costello would be proud!

Moments later, I got word that my flight was on!  A taxi van picked me up and took me to the airport, from which I flew "shotgun" on a 6 passenger, twin-engine plane over snow-capped, glacier-riddled peaks toward Milford Sound.  Kiting through the clouds, we passed close enough to the summits that I felt as though I could touch them.  But as picturesque as the flight was, and as unique as was my perspective from the front seat, nothing could have prepared me for the all-encompassing splendor of Milford Sound.

I can count on one hand the number of times I was so certain of GOD's existence that I felt as if I was sitting across from and gazing directly upon GOD's face.  Twice (a car accident and a near drowning), death seemed certain until GOD intervened.  A third time was when I saw the Austrian Alps up close for the first time.  The fourth was when I cruised out onto Milford Sound.

Never have I been so overwhelmed by the beauty of nature and so certain of the presence and influence of a higher power.  Never have I been driven to tears and simultaneously compelled to pray a prayer of thanks for such a massive and powerful blessing.  Never have I been at once reminded of how small we are as human beings and just how much we have in common, despite where we live, how we worship, the languages we speak, or what we look like.  Milford Sound is, quite simply, the most beautiful thing I have ever seen and experience I have ever had in my 41 years on this planet.  Words will never come close to doing it justice, and pictures only tell a small part of the story.  If Milford Sound is not on your bucket list, you don't have a bucket list.

I had lunch at a cafe adjacent to the Sound -yes, I had a ginger beer... who wants to know? - then flew "shotgun" back to Queenstown.  I skipped dinner and stayed in to catch up on "the footy," watching the Wales v. France Rugby World Cup semi-final.

Tomorrow we leave New Zealand and begin the Australian segment of the tour, starting with Melbourne.  Nod your heads, Melbourne.  My tour group's coming!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Kiwis, Koalas, and Kava... Oi, Mate!: Chapter Three, "Rotorua, 'And Away Goes Trouble...!'" (Thursday, 13 October 2011)

Just in case you thought it was a "big city," Auckland thing, there were baked beans on the breakfast buffet in Rotorua this morning.  I can also attest that even though you'd think it wouldn't, your nose actually gets used to the ubiquitous smell of sulfur.

Rainbow Springs, our first stop this morning, is basically a small zoo that features native flora and fauna, including "The Kiwi Experience," which, contrary to popular belief,  is NOT a display of live New Zealanders, but an enclosure and exhibit featuring the small, fluffy, flightless, and endangered birds. 

The Agrodome, our next stop, was a hands-on, interactive introduction to farm and agricultural life in New Zealand, featuring every breed of sheep - I don't think you heard me: EVERY BREED OF SHEEP!!! - bred and farmed in New Zealand for its wool.  If you ever saw a Merino up close (or better yet, SMELLED one!), you'd never think of wearing the wool.  Satan horns and "the funk of forty thousand years": Now... who wants a SWEATER?!?!?!?  (GO TARHEELS!!!)

It was also at The Agrodome where I was introduced to heading dogs, which actually herd sheep with a just a stern glance, and I got to pet (and smell) a Huntaway, known as the "Kiwi barking dog," a combination of three breeds noted for its particularly annoying bark and its ability not only to herd sheep by running around and barking at them, but also climbing on their backs to really drive its point home.  Let's see your border collie do THAT!

Uncanny Story #3: During our lunch stop in town, one of my tourmates wandered off, got lost, and could not remember the name of our hotel or our tour guide.  Fortunately, two taxi drivers were able to infer from her Rainbow Springs admission sticker that she had been their today, called Rainbow Springs, and tracked down our tour guide, who "rescued" and reunited her with the group.

Whakarearewa, an authentic, active Maori village, with as much thermal activity as tradition and history, was our next stop.  Here we saw everything from geisers and thermal pools to sulfur flows and "the original microwave," underground compartments used to cook and heat food with the help of natural geothermic energy.  (My colleagues at NBCUniversal-Sheinhardt would be so proud!) 

It was also here that Uncanny Story #4 occured.  While standing outside the village meeting house, where a sacred funeral ritual had taken place just moments before we arrived, one of my tourmates took it upon himself to ring a very sacred and official bell so loudly it could be heard throughout the village... on purpose... because he wanted to hear it, a single act that may bring about the 2012 doomsday the Mayans prophecied.

It's like being on a field trip with The Little Rascals.

Thursday nights in Rotorua mean one thing: night markets.  "Night markets" is a bit of a misnomer, since they open at 5 and shut down by 9; however, considering the age group I'm kickin' it with on this tour, with those hours, they could just as easily call them "after hours clubs."  Thinking "night markets" actually meant "markets at night," I headed over around 8:15 only to find the vendors ready to shutter... but what a finale it was!  I wandered around a bit and decided on "Paella in a Box" (exactly what it sounds like) as my dinner choice with a Bundaberg ginger beer (my new drink of choice) to wash it down.  With the vituals in hand, I moved on to the entertainment.

What has a balding, mullet-wearing, 50ish dude in a Hawaiian print shirt, jeans, "sensible shoes," and a soul patch and a late 40-something, Grace Slick wannabe in a blue sequined top and '80s hair and pumps?  If you guessed my tour bus... ooooh, you're so close, but....  The correct answer is, of course, SparX, the Number One classic and schlock rock cover band playing the Rotorua night markets tonight.  Imagine you've just purchased a piping hot container of saffron rice and seafood, which is burning a hole in the palm of your left hand, while an icy cool, Mickey's-sized bottle of ginger beer numbs your right, and you're looking for a place to take a load off and chow down.  You find your way to the center of the night markets, drawn there by the sounds of the aforementioned dude ripping off mediocre blues guitar solos like the average American college kid and the aforementioned chick belting out her very best, "X Factor" audition material, backed by C-grade karaoke tracks of your college bar band faves.  Noshing on Spanish food in the heart of New Zealand's North Island, you witness a performance so cliche, you can predict every vocal run, hair flip, and fist pump this duo will commit moments before they actually do.  As each song ends, you clap obligatorily, not certain if you're applauding the performance or your own apparent "clairvoyance."  You, my friend, have just enjoyed "The SparX Xperience (TM)"!

And as the night markets closed, right on cue, the rain started, and I took my cue to return to the hotel.  Tomorrow is our first flight as a group and anything could happen.  We may discover what happened to Amelia Earhart.  For all I know, one of my tourmates might BE Amelia Earhart!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Kiwis, Koalas, and Kava... Oi, Mate!: Chapter Two, "Auckland to Rotorua, 'That's the Name...!'" (Wednesday, 12 October 2011)

Today began with a great buffet breakfast (it appears that baked beans are a breakfast staple for my Kiwi brothers and sisters, so "ROLL that beautiful bean footage!") before we boarded the coach on our way to Rotorua.  Uncanny Story #2: Our departure was delayed again - noticing a trend yet? - this time because a different tourmate - are you ready for this? - locked herself in the bathroom of her suite.  Let me say that again: she locked herself in the potty.  I'm NOT making this up.  I don't have to.

This morning's rainy drive took us out of the urban center of Auckland and in to the lush green countryside of New Zealand's Central North Island.  After a "morning tea" (or is it "T-T"?) stop in Huntly along the Waikato River, our first stop was the Waitomo Caves and the famous glowworm grottoes.  The caves consist of layers of limestone pushed up from the sea and carved by water flowing through cracks
and joints over the last 24 million years (give or take a century or twelve).  The glowworms are actually fly larvae less than 3 millimeters long living on the cave ceilings and emitting a visible light during the 9 months they remain in the larval stage.  The light emitted is a "cold" light, so it is perceived as a greenish blue.  There are hundreds, if not thousands, of them on the ceiling of the grotto, so the image is that of a very starry night.  The glowworms are sensitive to noise and light, so we navigated the grotto in a motorless boat that our guide "steered" by means of a heavy wire suspended overhead, which he used to pull our boat through the grotto.

We stopped for lunch in the town of Otorohanga.  One of the most popular food items in New Zealand is the meat pie.  Imagine a puff pastry shell the size and shape of a Moon Pie with fillings such as steak and onion, minced beef, mutton, and sweet lamb curry (my personal favorite).  Meat pies are as popular as burgers, pizza, or chicken fingers in the States (and just as healthy) and they can be purchased ready-to-eat everywhere, from restaurants to gas stations to supermarkets.  Well, I skipped the meat pie today, opting instead for "the gospel bird."  Yes, I had my first taste of Kiwi fried chicken (KFC?) today!  The verdict? Finger-lickin' good!

About 15 minutes outside Rotorua, you are greeted by the acrid smell of sulphur.  If you've ever smelled sulfur, you know how "special" a smell that is.  If you're NOT familiar with the smell, pretend that it's 115 degrees outside when you return from a weeklong vacation only to discover the neighborhood ne'er-do-wells egged your house right after you left.  That "rotten eggs in extreme heat" odor is what Rotorua smells like.  Everyday.  Rotorua is the geothermal capital of New Zealand, known for its baths and spas, not to mention its mineral rich mud, which has countless cosmetic and medicinal uses.  Our hotel, The Millennium Hotel Rotorua, was perched on the banks of Lake Rotorua, next door to The Polynesian Spa, routinely ranked among the Top 10 Luxury Spas in the World.

Rotorua is also a focal point of the Maori culture, New Zealand's native and founding culture.  Our evening began at The Realm of Tane, an EPCOT-like, indoor multimedia/interactive exhibit and live performance highlighting the evolution of the Maori culture and how the Maori people came to settle Aotearoa, "the Land of the Long White Cloud," now known as New Zealand... that is, before the Europeans showed up.  Every American knows how THAT story ends.

From there, we boarded a coach to Tamaki Village, a mock full-scale traditional Maori village.  We learned the hongi, a traditional Maori greeting involving pressing noses together twice to share the hau, or "breath of life."  Inside the gates of Tamaki Village, we experienced an actual Maori gretting ceremony, the haka, a bold and intentionally intimidating display of pride, strength, and hospitality used to invite visitors into the village
while surveying their intentions and warning of what lies within if those intentions are not benevolent.  The greeting ceremony was followed by a walk through the mock village, where crafts, games, and traditional Maori living were demonstrated under a canopy of tall trees that shielded us from the pouring rain.  An indoor exhibition of song and dance was next and then it was time for the feast.  All of our food (including chicken, lamb, two kinds of potatoes, and corn) was prepared hangi style, that is, in closed chambers beneath the ground heated by natural geothermic steam or heated water.  ("Mmmmm... tastes like chicken... and sulfur....")

We boarded our coach to return to the hotel, with a driver who was also the Maori warrior who first greeted us at The Realm of Tane and one of the narrators of the presentation at The Realm of Tane.  In addition those roles, we discovered that he's a halfway decent standup comic, a pretty good singer, and he's conversational in about 10 languages.  And you thought Jamaicans held a lot of jobs!

Bedtime, but tomorrow is a full day in Rotorua, when I find out once and for all who "built this city" and which genre of music they might have employed.  Sparks - I mean, SparX - will fly!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Kiwis, Koalas, and Kava... Oi, Mate!: Chapter One, "Auckland, The OTHER, 'Other City By the Bay'" (Tuesday, 11 October 2011)

Not only was my flight from Los Angeles to Auckland, New Zealand the longest flight I have ever taken, but due to crossing the International Date Line, for the first time ever, I effectively skipped a day.  It was Sunday, 9 October when I left LA and Tuesday, 11 October when I landed in Auckland: I didn't have a Monday, 10 October. (What's the OPPOSITE of "Groundhog's Day"?)

Immigration and customs in Auckland was as easy putting together a puzzle with two pieces.  I kept thinking I had "skipped a step" somewhere because I was through both parts of the clearance in about half the time it takes to listen to a Sex Pistols song.  The conversation with "the Customs Dude" (TCD) went something like this:

TCD:  (Taking my passport)  What's up, Brah?

Huey:  Good morning.

TCD: (Looking at my passport) Oh... you're from the States. KICKASS!!!  I love Justin Bieber!

Huey:  Uh... he's from Canada.

TCD:  Whatever, Brah!  Don't be hatin'!

Huey:  I'm sorry.  I didn't mean to "hate."

TCD:  (Stamping my passport)  It's all good, Playuh.  Game rekonize game!  I ain't mad atcha.  (Handing my passport back to me)  Holla at me... AIGHT?

I claimed my bag and then had to go through the Biosecurity check, intended to prevent the immigration of substances and elements that may pose environmental or ecological risks to New Zealand.  I put my bags on a conveyor to be X-rayed and the conversation with "the Biosecurity Dude" (TBD) went like this:

TBD:  Is this your bag, Sir?

Huey:  Yes it is.

TBD:  You got some of that "sticky icky" in there?

Huey:  No, I don't.

TBD:  You want some?

True story.

When I got to the lobby of Auckland International Airport, I met our charming and chipper New Zealand tour director Julianne and our North Island driver John.  I also met the "cast of characters" for the NZ-Oz portion of this junket, and with the exception of a young couple on their honeymoon (to whom I will likely be turning for relief often) and me, the average age of the people on this tour is Paleolithic.  Now don't get me wrong: I do and always have loved and appreciated older people.  They have so much to share with and teach us, and they demonstrate the value of living a good and healthy life.  But I'm just not sure why you book an "active" tour to a country halfway around the World with a very distinct and different culture, then complain non-stop about "all the walking" and why "they do that."  It's "Uncanny," but more on that later.

We checked in at our hotel, Stamford Plaza Auckland, in the heart of Auckland's City Centre, just blocks from the stunning Waitemata Harbour and the iconic Sky Tower, the tallest structure in the Southern Hemisphere, and had just enough time to drop the bags, shower (I'll spare you the details on how badly I needed a shower), and change before the sightseeing began.  Uncanny Story # 1: we all gathered in the hotel lobby to board the coach for our sightseeing tour, only to learn that we would be delayed because one of our tourmates fell.  She didn't trip.  She didn't slip.  She didn't bump in to anything.  She just fell.  In all fairness, there are two people in my life who are very dear to (and the same age as) me who randomly fall out of chairs (while wearing bathing suits, no less) or simply trip over invisible obstacles (you two know who you are), but... well, I guess that's the same thing, isn't it?

Never mind.

Our sightseeing took us to the top of Mt. Eden, a dormant volcanic cone and one of the highest natural points in Auckland, which afforded us 360 degree views of the City and the isthmus (I FINALLY get to use that word!) formed by the coming together of the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea.  From there, we cruised from Princes Wharf on to Waitemata Harbour, stopping at the lush, green volcanic Rangitoto Island, and passing under the Auckland Harbour Bridge.  Returning to Princes Wharf, we were immersed in the fever surrounding Rugby World Cup 2011, of which New Zealand is the host country.  The national symbol, the Silver Fern, and assorted rugby brick-a-brack can be seen everywhere you turn, and Kiwis (what New Zealanders call themselves, not to be confused with the small, fluffy, and endangered flightless bird or the fuzzy green or gold fruit, more precisely referred to as "kiwifruit," a name given to the Chinese gooseberry when New Zealand began to commercially exploit it around the World) love their All Blacks. ("GO THE ABs!!!")

Back on land, our coach took a quick trip over and back on the Auckland Harbour Bridge, with its "Nippon Clip-Ons" (additional lanes literally clipped on to the span of the original bridge by the Nippon engineering firm from... you guessed it, Japan) and ventral bungy jumping pod.  Apart from the spectacular view of the Auckland skyline, it was very much like driving over a bridge over water anywhere else in the World.

Imagine your grandmother throws a dinner party and invites her "peeps," a few gals from her Pinochle crew, the girls from the shop where she gets her hair done,
the ladies from Bible study, and a handful of chicks she met going to the restroom at bingo.  Then imagine they all bring their recalcitrant husbands.  That event would closely resemble our Welcome Dinner.  Questions heard around our tables include "Pin-nut noyer: is that the same thing as red wine?" "Can I get the sal-mun with the fish on the side?" and "Is this cheesecake or Jello?" 

GOD bless them.

Tomorrow morning we drive to Rotorua, a hub of New Zealand's Maori culture and one of the most geothermically active areas in the World with an aroma you can't forget.  It's time for bed, but first... the potty.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Kiwis, Koalas, and Kava... Oi, Mate!: The Prologue

Back in 2008, the World was a very different place.  Children still played outside way past dark.  Candy still cost a nickel.  The "Spider-Man" movie franchise was only in its seventh "reboot" and no one would have EVER thought to base a musical on that property.

It was a simpler time.

Back in 2008, I swore I would never (1) have a profile on MySpace or Facebook, (2) set up a Twitter account, or (3) write a blog.  One by one, the "InterWebs" made a liar out of me.  I still firmly believe nothing I do (or what just about anyone does) is so important that my friends and associates need to know about it instantaneously.  Nevertheless, thanks to my Twitter account (@hueyesquire), you, too, can be alerted when I arrive at the train station to commute to work every morning, and thanks to Facebook, you can enjoy a seemingly endless (and up-to-the-minute) string of non-sequitors and photos of cartoon bears from me.  Who could ask for anything more?

 It was also in 2008 that I wrote my first blog, detailing one man's quest for CAKE!!!, the very best Wagyu beef, and finely tailored clothing during one very hot month in Asia.  But the blog novelty - the "Blogelty," if you will - wore off almost immediately upon my return to the US.

Fast forward three and a half years, and just like that OTHER famous guy from Austin known by just one name, I am "going for 7."  Continents, that is.  My love of travel is no secret, but what many DON'T know is that I set an arbitrary goal to visit all 7 continents before I turned 41.  That deadline came and went a few months ago, but the goal lives on.  ("41 is the new 40, kids....")

When today, 9 October 2011, began, I was three flights, 17 time zones, and about 11,000 miles from Continent Number Five: Oceania.  As I type this, I am just hours away from boarding a 13 1/2 hour flight from Los Angeles to Auckland, New Zealand.  Three weeks from today, I will have visited the North and South Islands of New Zealand, Australia (Melbourne, Cairns, and Sydney), and the main island of Fiji.  Three weeks from now Africa and Antarctica will be all that's left to be conquered.

For those of you who remember the Asia blog, with this new blog you can expect the same self-deprecating, tongue-in-cheek, flippant approach to blogging you've already come to love (or loathe).  For those of you reading a Huey blog for the first time, I won't promise you funny.  I won't promise you insight.  I won't promise you hard-hitting, in your face journalism.  I CAN promise that on more than one occasion, you will read this blog, scratch your head, and think to yourself, "WHAT?!?!?!?!?"

To kick things off, here's a strange, but true story from the first day of my Oceanic (no foreshadowing intended) excursion.  I'm sitting in my seat on my Dallas to Los Angeles flight today, eager to get the second leg of my trip started in order to get to the third and final leg.  Staring out my window, marveling at the rain - yes, RAIN... IN TEXAS!!! - who should board my flight and sit two rows in front of me, but one of the Jonas Brothers.  Which one, you ask?  $@&# if I know... but a diligent Internet search on my Blackberry commenced and the answer was revealed: NICK JONAS.  Nothing turns a 757 full of weary travelers in to a bunch of cell phone picture-taking, whispering, giggling, texting, pretending-not-to-look-at-him teenyboppers faster than one of those Jonas moppets sitting in plain view of everyone who boards the plane!

And so it begins: "KIWIS, KOALAS, AND KAVA... OI, MATE!!!"