The Holidays

Its hard to write when you aren’t alone. So I guess it is no surprise that over the past two weeks I’ve written nothing at all. That doesn’t mean I was uninspired or out of ideas, but I need solitude to actually make something come out of this brain of mine.

It was our first Christmas just the two of us, and while I think Chris was sad and a little lonely for family, I’m still excited by new traditions forming and slow relaxed pace. I did miss the chaos and noise, but I guess next year we will more than make up for it all.

For New Years we went down to Dunedin–the city where Chris and I met. We spent the evening apart, as he had a stag thing to do, but the rest of the trip we wandered around reminiscing about where it (meaning our love–queue sappy music) all started.

In terms of tourism, I feel like Dunedin could probably occupy about 2 days of your time just wandering around the city (although I use that term loosely) and using it as a base to look at a few nature-esk things.

We had fish and chips (the fish is under there I swear)

up at the top of Signal Hill like we had previously.

Chris told me the first time I was polite, and the second time I told him I hated nature. It was a lovely day (actually Dunedin played a nasty trick on us by being warm and sunny for our entire trip) and I enjoyed the company and view.

If you make it down, the only pub I can recommend you go to is Inch bar. I love this place so much. It feels a bit like a hobbit hole, and they have a new owner since I was there. They have also expanded to have a stage. Yes–electric violin the night I was there. Pure bliss.

The reason for the trip was really our friend’s wedding. It was stunning. Nature was their main decorative theme, and we gathered around in this basen-like-hill place (I’m sure there is some technical geological term for it) in a place called Karitane (just 30min from Dunedin) and watched them hike towards us to a German singing over the rainbow on the ukulele.

It was stunning.

The food later was amazing.

Don’t mind my pissed off face, I didn’t know what Chris was doing with my phone…

Also, this is New Zealand, so it wouldn’t be complete without a visit from SHEEP. I love sheep so much.

I couldn’t think of any good New Year’s resolutions. I tend to not have any, but I’m still thinking…

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Why should we hire you?

Today I had my very first interview here in New Zealand. It was my first non-Classics related, or teaching related job interview as well. I’m sure you can imagine how nervous I was, because every single one of us has been there.

Last night while watching scifi on the couch next to Chris, I typed into pinterest ‘interview’. The site came through for me offering hundreds of links to advice from what to wear, how to answer questions and other tricky topics. Reading it at first made me feel amazing. Then I clicked over and felt worse. I typed into Google ‘how can I get a job when I have no skills’ and was reassured that just by having lived, I certainly must have something to offer. I didn’t sleep well.

The interview was at 10:30, and I nervously stared off into the middle distance while re-reading and re-researching everything I had already done weeks before. I’m not sure if it helped. I left my house way too soon, walked too quickly and arrived 20 minutes early. I pretended to look at hair dye for 15 minutes. I should dye my hair.

So how did all the advice stack up? Well, I had dressed fine, tried not to touch my face or hair, gave some eye contact, but not creepy eye contact (I hope), and the hour of grilling passed quite quickly. I can’t tell how I did though. No one threw anything at me, or shouted, so that is always a positive sign. As sick as it may be, I loved talking about how I could help, and what I could do. I felt…useful. Perhaps the best bit of advice was from something I learned from a TED talk last year about body language. And yes, I totally did a power pose before going in…

There were many predictable questions: tell me about yourself, what is your greatest strength, how would you do X, and finally, Why should we hire you? I’m not sure I got that one correct. I had read, last night, about a question “If you were a brick in a brick wall, which brick would you be?” I think that may have been the question that threw me over the edge. Obviously I would be that left over brick that people stubbed their toes on as they walked past since the manager had ordered TOO MANY bricks. Does anyone know a better answer??

Its easier to interview and apply for jobs when you aren’t in love with the job. So now I try to convince myself that I didn’t want it, so that I will be ready for rejection if it comes. Now back to more job applications. Does anyone have any useful interview tips, if I get other interviews?

In other news–it is officially Christmas since I now have a sparkling gold tree…

Real Fiction and Fake Fiction–both are Fiction

I was brought up on a strict diet of Star Trek, Star Wars and basically any scifi that my parents could get their hands on back in the 90s in Tokyo. We had friends in the USA tape the latest TV programs including Babylon 5, send then in the mail and then binge watch them, about 4 episodes a night. I have been binge watching scifi before it was even an option for the rest of the world. So it was of no surprise that the material I wanted to read the most was scifi. I tried the American Girl series, remember those? But I hated them. I would sit there and turn the page every five minutes or so rather than actually read them. Then I met Bruce Coville, and Aliens Ate My Homework and caught the reading bug.

In my naivete, I thought this was normal. I’d never met anyone who didn’t love scifi. At university I found out the hard way, and got strangely made fun of for this love. Someone told me that they only read real literature, or rather realistic fiction. What is interesting to them is real life. They don’t need to pretend. Human nature is the biggest mystery. I was surprised, I felt a bit of shame, and then I got over it and kept on reading what I liked.

But I disagree with his premise. I have read widely now, and I do like ‘real life’ fiction, but it will never be scifi. Less imagination, and it is only with scifi that you can test human nature to the ultimate limits–see what those characters are actually made of. I can go through my own life experiences real life, I want my reading to be more than that. Also, I want to believe in more. I want to believe in the impossible. There is a sort of optimism in scifi even when it turns to horror from humans experimenting where they shouldn’t. We are curious. We push boundaries! Its exciting.

So I guess I’m wondering, is there a stigma against reading scifi? Or did I just meet a few jerks back in university (very possible)? Is there a stigma against writing scifi? I was excited to see that locally here in New Zealand this one guy has just set up his own scifi exclusive publishing house. It is beyond cool.

Ngawi baby seals

Thanksgiving came and went, an overall success of a small group of friends filled to the gills with food. Since then we have had turkey and stuffing burritos for every lunch and Turkey soup twice. The fridge is still quite full, but I love the left overs.

On Saturday Chris got the urge to “get out of dodge”. Those are his words and I’m never quite sure what they mean. Well–okay–they mean he wants to get in the car and drive for a minimum of an hour one way to do something. So he looked it up, and we packed a picnic. We went to the Ngawi baby seal area with a view of the light house as well.

The first spot we tried was a little too close to this mama sized seal, who was camouflaged so we moved.

They played and splashed while we ate.

Dessert was tasty

There were quite a few people there, but nothing compared to the crowd that would have gathered in other parts of the world on a perfectly beautiful Saturday.

The lighthouse was a bit far for us to visit this time.

I was reminded of visiting the lighthouse out on Vashon island with my Aunt and cousins. We saw a baby seal then too. But Chris got in trouble for walking too close to it and taking a picture. That would ‘traumatize’ it apparently. No one said that here as everyone snapped pictures from as close as they dared. Sometimes people are just busy bodies, and the seals don’t care. Other times humans catch and kill or torture seals and they should be in trouble. Here, the seals out numbered the humans. They probably should have caught us and returned the favor.

Just to give you an idea of the area:

If you haven’t, everyone needs to go to New Zealand at least once. If Lord of the Rings/Hobbit doesn’t convince you, perhaps baby seals will.

Obligatory Thanks Giving Post

I know its a day early here in New Zealand, and it is two days early for the USA, but things will be a bit busy on the day, and I was told if you can’t be on-time, be early.

I have a lot to be thankful for this year–you wouldn’t think it from a vast majority of my complaining–but things are actually quite good. But before I dive into some long laundry list I’d like to take a moment to consider Thanksgiving outside the USA.

Growing up, my family wasn’t big on celebrating random USA holidays, and I remember the infamous story of either my sister or I asking my mother on what day we were supposed to celebrate the 4th of July–I’m sure she laughed, but the answer really was that we didn’t. But we did always have Thanksgiving. We’d order incredibly expensive and hard to find turkey (when we could find it, since turkey is not popular at all in Japan–one for now, and then one for Christmas later) and invite everyone we knew. We almost always hosted, and we would gather students, missionaries and randoms–most of whom were not american. My sister and I always helped (and I hope it was help and not getting in the way). It wasn’t about a family gathering. It was gathering people and eating.

I can’t remember the last thanksgiving I had with my family. I celebrated approximately 4 in the USA, one for each year of university. It has always been important to me though. The first time I decided to host Thanksgiving, completely on my own, was actually here in New Zealand, and it was also the first time I celebrated it with Chris. Despite being British, he has completely and utterly embraced the holiday albeit a strange morphed version which I grew up with. No where else in the world has the week off, so often I’d have to take a day off to cook along–and last year I was so stressed all I could manage was to walk across the street to the local pub and order a disappointing turkey meal with new friends.

One thanksgiving action I regret, is that someone I didn’t know once got left out. I still kick myself to this day for it. I didn’t know her, and I was told later I made things awkward since everyone else in the office was invited bar her. I keep replaying it thinking how to fix it. But drama will always happen, and all I can do is swear that next time a few unknowns feel free enough to pop in dragged by their friends who I do know. Because that is the point.

So what is thanksgiving to me? Its an excuse for a party. Its when you get to invite people to your house and cook. I miss the family element. The delegation of duties between the three of us girls. I’ve never done the ‘thankful’ bit aloud. It always seemed a bit too much like bragging. So I’ll make my list in my head.

Now I must start the prep work. Not just the cooking but buying enough plates so that people don’t have to eat with their hands.

Let’s get personal

I don’t know what to say today. The ‘purpose’ of the blog is sorta fulfilled. I wanted to tell about my short summer journey, and now its over. But here I am in a new country, unemployed and alone. So I guess I should say what my ulterior motive was for starting this blog:

I want to write. I want to tell the world what I’ve learned and how I’ve suffered. I want to give back to the community that I’ve been reading online that got me through some of the darker parts of the past couple years. But to do that I have to go back to a question I asked a few weeks ago. Who am I? Most tie this answer to their job. I always tied it to my education since that was where I was. I took refuge in quotes like this:

“I like him,” said Lord Henry. “A great many people don’t, but I find him charming. He atones for being occasionally somewhat over-dressed, by being always absolutely over-educated. He is a very modern type.”

Thats a quote from one of my favourite books–the quote usually attributed to Oscar Wilde is

“You can never be over-dressed or over-educated.”

but, now I disagree with that. Both are very possible. The first quote shows that one can atone for one such social faux pas with cultivated intelligence. The man in question is quirky, and Lord Henry wants to hang out with him–but as he admits, most don’t like him. So perhaps forgo the gown and PhD.

But, this is from The Picture of Dorian Gray, (and if you haven’t read it you should) which is based around the upper non-working class. How to fill your days with entertaining things, not get bored, that is the point that I am except I’m not fabulously wealthy nor inclined to the level of debauchery these guys get up to.

Perhaps as a member of that upper class over education wasn’t an issue. Educate yourself if you have no need for a real-world job. But I was silly. I got my PhD. The last job I applied for was basically to photocopy documents for people. So what went wrong? Nothing really. I decided I didn’t want to be in academia (although it was mutual–okay, a mix of too much reading, rejection, waking up crying and then realizing it was mutual), and now I have to pay the price of not having real world experience and being in my late 20s. It could be worse. I have a husband who supports me, emotionally, mentally and financially.

So what do I do all day? (Upsettingly, people ask me this all the time now) I read a lot. These guys are all amazing, although some stop writing:

The professor is In

Sell out your soul

Jobs on Toast

Pan kisses Kaftka

Versatile PhD

From PhD to Life

and this is not an exhaustive list. If you are in the same position as me, I recommend them. But the problem is, now that I know the answers how do I implement? So, starting from scratch is rough. I’ll try and document this now. My rejections, my newest flights of fancy: one day I swear I will be an editor, then a social media expert, then a researcher. On my best days I feel like I’m 5 years old and I still get to choose what I want to be when I grow up and ANYTHING is still an option. On my worst days, I cry that I ‘wasted’ almost a decade with education and learning when people are both unimpressed and repelled by my qualification.

This post is perhaps more suited towards Livejournal levels of wallowing, but for those who type into Google: “Why did my PhD make me unemployable”, “Unemployed PhD with no prospects” and the like, I can’t say it gets better yet. But life does go on. Hang on to the good days. Write something or create something. Read something. Then repeat it tomorrow.

Wellington LitCrawl

So here we are settled in Wellington, New Zealand. For those of you that don’t know, it is the capital city, but still quite small and intimate. A friend told me that one of the amazing things about Wellington is that if someone puts on an event, usually the entire city shows up to support it. I saw this in action Saturday night.

I surf the web in my spare time looking for jobs or interesting things, when I came across this idea of a LitCrawl. Basically, the premise was that they would gather all these local writers and have people go to hear them. They had so many different venues going on that it was not possible to see them all, and in fact this would create further conversations. A tailor made experience for all.

So, gathering up my courage, I wrote the organizers and said I’d love to help. Although I’m not quite sure why orange was the colour chosen, I don’t look too bad in my volunteer gear:

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I started at Ferret bookshop with the theme of rejection. I preferred the rejection letters themselves since I am, at the moment, on the receiving end of so many of these. Failure loves company. The place was packed out, and more people who showed up late kept knocking on the door to get in, so in the end we left it open. This was good because of the much needed air circulation to keep the smell of HUMANS at bay, but it did mean that the man standing outside shouting could be heard by all. Critique of anyone’s work, including my own, is full of strange vagueness  that I never can understand. I feel like I missed that day at school where they taught you what “sharpen your argument” means and “it drags here”. You know what I mean.

Next I was off to the Embassy Theatre. Here is when my friends ditched me, but it was okay, I was ‘working’. This place was absolutely jammed full. The problem was that the mike wasn’t loud enough. Everyone inside loved the event, but since I was standing outside with the donations box, I got quite an earful from various people. Most were polite.

When it finished, it ended late, and people stayed to finish up their drinks, I ran over to the Little Beer Quarter to see a third event for fun. On the way–some dude spit on me! Okay, it was an accident, but it was disgusting. I haven’t yet recovered from the incident.

I missed the first speaker, but again, it was a full house, and I LOLed a little to often for comfort.

so crowded!

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Some speakers

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I hope I can help again. I feel inspired. Oh yes, and one last quirky thing about the event were the random letter boxes. You were to write something–anything and address to someone you don’t know.

This was the bright orange writing station (with a performer in the background)

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Apparently Chris tried to get a letter to me, but it seems to have ended up with a beautiful American lass wearing orange that Chris doesn’t know. So to that girl, and in the words of my sister, “STEP OFF MY MAN!”