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Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994
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Archive for March, 2010

Spectacular

March 29, 2010 By: jessicazafra Category: Places, Traveling 2 Comments →

Every night we had a fabulous dinner, and arguably the most spectacular was at Peppers on the Point, a restaurant and boutique hotel on Kawaha Point Road, Lake Rotorua.

The view is such that you can point your camera at random and shoot without looking, and you will get a photo like this.

Before dinner champagne and sushi were served in the chapel.

Look down and you see the paddock with Shetland ponies and alpacas.

Disgusting, isn’t it.

We had dinner indoors, and the food and wine were so great I couldn’t pause to take pictures.

The result of not pausing was that I got zonked fast and had to step out for some cold, clean air. I ran into the maitre d’ who said, “Are you expecting company?”

I said, “George Clooney.”

He said, “We all wish.”

Company was provided by the resident tabby, whose coat is so black and shiny she doesn’t turn up in the viewfinder at night.

She probably eats a lot of kiwis.

Things I’d Managed To Avoid Doing That I Had To Cram In A Week In Another Country

March 29, 2010 By: jessicazafra Category: Places, Traveling 2 Comments →

The theme of my trip has been: Things I’d Somehow Managed To Avoid Doing That I Now Have To Cram In A Week In Another Country. I don’t like being in the sun, so I get massive doses of sunshine; I don’t drive, so I have to go on an off-road safari; I don’t know anything about plants, so I spend hours in orchards; I don’t like the beach, so I have to walk barefoot on a stony beach; I don’t like my toes, so I have to expose them to public view. But all these paled next to the horror of Saturday’s activity: I had to cook lunch.

When people say they hate cooking, what they usually mean is that they don’t like it (or else they’re being dramatic, or they hate the cleaning up afterwards). But ‘hating’ and ‘not liking’ are two different things, separated by passion, and I know because I Hate Cooking With A Passion. Why, I have no idea; I don’t recall any culinary traumas in my childhood. Proximity to a kitchen fills me with dread, then despair, then insane rage, and you know that there are knives in kitchens. I tried to explain this, but everyone thought I was kidding—how can anyone not know how to cook, no one is that inept. Well I am that inept.

The setting was Main Course, a cooking school on Beaumont Street in Auckland where the chef demonstrates how to prepare a dish, then you try it, then you eat what you cooked. It’s a wonderful concept—if you know how to cook. Fortunately we had an actual food magazine editor on our team, and she put us to work on various tasks. “Make the lemon zest,” she told me. “What’s lemon zest?” “Okay, separate these eggs.” “You mean from each other or from their shells?” These are not joke questions, I meant them.

My main contribution to the cooking activity was getting out of everyone’s way, and even that I didn’t do well—while avoiding the oven my arm brushed against the handle of a hot skillet. I thought it was nothing at first, then it began to hurt.


The chef’s assistant gave me a frozen bag of raspberries to put on the burn. That’s just great: branded in New Zealand.

Thanks to our leader, lunch got cooked and the lemon tarts for dessert were pretty good (except for the one that had solid lumps of lemon zest). The chef’s other assistant came over and said, “Got a tart for me?”

If Noel and Ricky had been around, and if I had not been holding an actual lemon tart at that moment, that question could’ve been a whole improv sketch.

* * * * *

The deadline for LitWit Challenge 2.4: Death by Tennis Ball is extended to Wednesday, 31 March at noon, which should give me enough time to regain consciousness after the flight back. Good night, I intend to pass out for two days.

You learn something new every day.

March 26, 2010 By: jessicazafra Category: Places, Traveling 1 Comment →

We went to Off-Road NZ in Rotorua. Four of you get into a Suzuki four-wheel drive and negotiate a series of obstacles in a rain forest setting. There is plenty of screaming involved. The sign in the office reminds customers that under New Zealand law it is extremely difficult to file suit if you get injured doing the off-road safari which you undertook of your own free will. However, the risk is greatly diminished by the fact that instructors run ahead of your vehicle and give you instructions by CB radio.

Our problem was very basic. None of us drive. (What, and deprive myself of the joy of arguing with taxi drivers?) So we looked at the members of the group who could drive and calculated that our best chance of survival was to ride with Daniel. He seems sane, plus I figure that since luck is a large factor in these adventures, it makes sense to pick the handsome one because obviously the universe likes him and is therefore less likely to squash him like a bug while he’s driving the car we’re in. (True, I often argue the exact opposite of this “logic”. I don’t think “self-serving” is a negative concept.)

There was this very friendly dog in the office, and when the vehicles set off he ran along. “Ay, masasagasaan yung aso!” (The dog will get run over!) we cried. We quickly discovered that the dog runs ahead of the vehicles, mocking the adventurers. (You call that thrilling? I run faster than your cars do.)

The high point of the 4WD Bush Safari is the luge: a very steep slide with the potential for all kinds of catastrophe. The instructor had everyone get out of the car to look down the luge, and then she gave very clear, detailed instructions about how to complete the maneuver without flying, flipping over, or doing impressions of Wile E. Coyote.

“When I say ‘Hard on the brakes’, the driver has to step on the brakes and the navigator pull the hand brake.” She repeated this several times. Thanks to our seating plan I was the navigator. “Can you do that?” Daniel asked.

“Of course,” I replied. “What’s a handbrake?”

So that’s what you call that thingy between the front seats. “Do I just pull it up once, or am I supposed to hold on to it?”

Obviously we survived. That dog is laughing at us.

Too green, too blue, too lush, too fresh

March 26, 2010 By: jessicazafra Category: Places, Traveling No Comments →

New Zealand is beginning to annoy me.

The sky is too blue. The water is too clean.

The foliage is too lush; in fact the green is too green and the flowers too flowery. The air is too fresh and contains too much oxygen.

This is a lake in Rotorua. It looks like the locations in The Lord of the Rings movies where the Uruk-hai are running alongside the boats (the Argonath would be further ahead).

We rode around the lake on a boat (Lack of detail due to alcoholic stupor—the wine is too good) and the crew caught some trout which they grilled and served at lunch (too fresh). On the other side of the lake, in the forest, is a shallow pool of hot water. “Leave your shoes on the boat. There are small stones on the path, but you can walk barefoot,” the captain advised us, cheerfully. We followed his advice, and on the 5-minute walk (which would’ve been 30 seconds with shoes) we sounded like this: OW! OWW! !@#$%^&*()! OW! (My companions wish to emphasize that they were not cussing, I was.)

It was like walking on broken bottles. Strangely no one else seemed to have this problem, and found our torture amusing. (We don’t walk barefoot in Metro Manila, are you insane?) When you get to the pool you’re supposed to sit and dig your feet into the the little stones, and the little fish flitting about eat the dead skin on the submerged feet. Naturally my next thought, which I knew better than to vocalize, was “What are those?! Piranha?!” What we did vocalize, since the rest of the group were not Tagalog speakers: “Ano yan, parang lubluban ng kalabaw.”

We did enjoy the dip, and only later noticed the amended sign by the hot water pool:

I remembered all those stories about explorers tramping about the Amazon who end up with intestinal parasites 40 feet long.

Clearly I am having a fantastic trip. You can tell because I am complaining about the fact that I have nothing to complain about.

Look! More trees!

March 25, 2010 By: jessicazafra Category: Places, Traveling 1 Comment →

On an organic farm in Te Puke. Nobody laugh.

Stop me if you’ve heard this story. After seeing The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, my sister and I wanted to go to New Zealand. But we also wanted to go to Prague, so we asked Ted, who’d been to both, where we should go. He said, “But New Zealand is all nature.”

He’s right. I’m such a deprived urbanite, I spent several minutes watching some bugs on a tree. Later I found out they were cicadas.

Our hotel is along the historic Trinity Wharf in Tauranga. What will all this fresh air do to my lungs? Checking out in a bit, moving to Rotorua.

This friendly tabby lives at the Plant and Food Research center.

The driver, who apparently knows everything, says that unlike the entire history of colonization, the British who colonized New Zealand treated the native Maori well. New Zealand does not have the issues Australia has with their aborigines.

I know why the Brits had to get along with the Maori. They’re huge. It would be like oppressing a nation of rugby teams. (Although I’m told that the local passion for rugby has diminished.)

Emotional blackmail (or Fat Yagit)

March 24, 2010 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats 2 Comments →

“Fine, go on a trip. Abandon us again. Look at us, poor street cats living in a cardboard box huhuhu.”

That’s the box their new carrier arrived in. They love the box, they sharpen their claws on it. As for living on the street, they love airconditioning too much.