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Blog – 2012 Update

Location: Shortland St, Auckland, New Zealand

Time: 8pm

 It’s certainly quite a while since I posted anything on here, I wish I had a decent excuse but I dont really. I have found myself emerssed in city life here in Auckland and all that goes with it! I find my time is more aptly spent doing other noble pursuits than blogging but none the less I think a little update is in order.

Ive been living here in Auckland for 10 months now. I came here origionaly for the Rugby world cup and ended up staying – i have a habit of doing that! Auckland is vibrant energetic city and I love living here. Its small enough to feel homely and big enough to always have something going on.

I have been working for a company called Telnet which is a Queen st based company and only a 2 minute walk from my apartment on Shortland St. I am working as a team leader for Rev/Onesmart which is an Air New Zealand Mastercard product www.onesmart.co.nz. Its certainly an interesting job and no two days are the same, it a 24hr camping and we take calls from worldwide. The product it self is interesting as its a multi-currency card specifically designed for people who travel.

                                                                  The OneSmart Card

I have been living on Shortland St, yes the same street as the tv soap of the same name. There is however no hospital on the street which is a pity as I ended needing one last week when I found myself suffering from a tonsil virus! I woke up on a sat morning with a sore throat, didn’t think much of it until the following Monday when I could no longer talk. A trip to the doctor beckoned but even that was short and sweet as she took one look at my tonsils and packed me off to hospital.

I was very impressed by New Zealand health care, no waiting around no queues, I was seen as soon as I arrived at A&E and was admitted instantly. The staff were polite and courteous and very professional. I was visited by 4 doctors in the first 5 hours I was there and although they decided to keep me for two nights it was healt care of an exceptional level.

                                               Auckland City Hospital – My home for 3 days

Thankfully I am now on the road to recovery, a course of antibiotics is helping with that. Granted it has been an expensive experience due in no small part to the fact that I do not have travel insurance – I think I will write an individual blog about that at another time! irrespective of cost however I needed to get better, the ability to drink a glass of water is priceless and a very strange sensation when you cant.

I have also had the opportunity to do some white water rafting in Rotorua recently, an truly epic experience. Done on an ancient and sacred Maori river its an experience cultural splendor with the the raft guides providing an indepth and detailed historical tour while cascading the rapids. We also had the privilege of rafting over a 7 meter waterfall – the highest commercial drop on the planet. It was a fantastic experience even if we did spectacularly capsize going over the waterfall!

                                                     Capsizing going over the 7m waterfall!

                                                                      But we survived!

Lastly my current visa for New Zealand expires on Aug 19th but I have lodged a request for a visa extenuation with NZ immigration. Im not ready to leave yet, there is still too much to do here, lets hope the good people of NZ immigration think the same…. watch this space!

2011 Comes to an End!

Location: Shortland St, Auckland, New Zealand
Time: 8pm – Only 4hrs left in 2011!!!

Where does time go?? Already we find ourselves at the end of yet another year! If feels like just five minutes ago I was ringing in the 2011 in North Carolina USA and now I am about to say goodbye to it in Auckland New Zealand.

To say its been a roller-coaster of a year would be an understatement its been more akin to a complete theme park or even disneyland on steroids! I have had the opportunity to travel more than I have ever done before and have even had the opportunity to fulfill childhood dreams by attending the Kentucky derby, climbing Machu Picchu, and getting to a rugby world cup.

Work wise 2011 began with me working on a bar construction project in Charlotte North Carolina USA and has ended with me working on an office based financial card project in Auckland New Zealand – the two couldn’t be future apart in contrast, such is the joy of “travel working”!

The rest of my year has been well documented on this site but once again the highlights have all revolved the people I have met along the way. as for a New years resolution – well its very simply to keep this blog updated more often! I am currently living and working in Auckland, replenishing the travel coffers so not much to report on, however I do have some big plans for 2012 – watch this space!

Blog – RWC Week 5

Location: Grand Chancellor Hotel, Auckland, New Zealand
Time: 23:00

Hard to believe its been 5 weeks and 46 games already! Only 6 days left until we know who the World Cup final winners will be and if this weekends semi-finals were anything to go by its already a foregone conclusion!

It broke my heart to see Wales go out against an appalling French “outfit”, I cant even bring myself to call them a team. Controversial as Sam Warburtons sending off was it has to be said that Irish referee Alan Roland made the correct call. Im not suggesting that Warburtons tackle had any malice to it but the rules are clear on that type of tackle and he simply had to go.

It did destroy the game as a contest unfortunately and although a brave Wales battled hard with there one man deficit it wasent to be. For all their heart and determination poor kicking, a basic skill of the game, let them down in the end. And so the red armies march comes to a halt and is diverted to a 3rd/4th place playoff instead of a Final.

The All Blacks v Australia game was a much more interesting affair…. for about 20 mins! The dominent Kiwis controlled the game brilliantly and eventually sucked the life out of a Wallaby team that really had no tactical offense whatsoever. They were made to look ordinary – very very ordinary!

Thus a 24 yr old case of “De Ja Vu” now comes to fruition here in New Zealand as the both the final and the semi final parings are the exact same as they were in the inaugural world cup on these shores back in 1987. On that occasion the All Blacks won there one and only Webb Ellis Cup and it looks as though next Sunday should be their second and heres hoping as a French win would be disaster for the sport!

The French having lost two games already at this world cup find themselves in a world cup final that they themselves cant really fathom. Rumors of discontent in their camp are rife and the stories of wide spread boozing after the game by players at the disgust of management have only added fuel to the fire. Mark Leivermant the French manager even publicly critisized his players as “spoilt brats” after they went drinking to celebrate their semi-final victory even though he specifically requested that they did not follow the mistakes they made in 1999 when a 4 day binge drinking session after the semi-final came back to bite them in the final when they were comprehensively beathen by Australia.

Auckland has come alive at the prospect of the All Blacks finnaly banishing their 24 year hodoo and you would be forgivin for thinking post match on Sunday night that they had all ready won the cup! Its a really exciting time to be here and despite my hope that it would be a Wales v Australia final I have to admit that I am now “backing Black” 100%

Apart for the rugby going on there are also lots to see and do on the Auckland waterfront and I have had a great week enjoying the various events and exhibitions. Many “Super Yachts” have arrived in Auckland harbor and some are even been used as privet chartered hotels. The Maori community have erected a tent village on the Wharf and have been displaying their art-work and heritage for all to see and visit.

The Fanzone and exhibition area have been showcasing many events including the “Taste” New Zealand festival and an exhibition of “Kiwi Innovation” which included a robot wars competition and on display is the “Jet Black” car that is hoped to break the world land speed record early next year (see slideshow above). Not to be out done the rural community of New Zealand is also being show cased and for the last couple of days there has been a sheep shearing competition on the main stage in the Fanzone – I kid you not! I shot some video of it today….you can view it here! They slide show above also shows various pictures of whats being going on here in Auckland.

Thats all the news for now…. hopefully this day next week we will have a seen the All Blacks lift the Webb Ellis Trophy…… interesting that no team that has lost a game at a world cup has gone on to win it…. lets hope that continues as New Zealand couldn’t possibly cope with the depression that a loss (esp to France) in the final would bring!!!

Blog – RWC Week 4 – The Dream is over!

Location: Grand Chancellor Hotel, Auckland, New Zealand.
Time: 11:00pm

And so the dream is over, so close yet so far. We have failed to slay the Dragon and thus the fairy-tale has come to a premature and un-scripted end.

I could blog for days about about the devastation and depression that I and the 35,000 Irish people here in New Zealand as well as what I can only assume the entire nation back home felt in the immediate aftermath of Saturday nights crushing defeat to Wales. However the greatest Irish sporting disappointment since Jack Charlton announced his retirement, has made us suffer for only the briefest of moments as we reflect and realize that the exhalation of the last 4 weeks has far out weighted the temporary grief of Saturdays loss.

Were out but were not down, we fought the good fight and in doing so we united as a nation to bring the pride, passion and glory of being Irish back into everyday life, something that in recent times has been all but forgotten due to the economic uncertainty and financial woes of the entire nation and immigration of many including the thousands of us who have been loyal foot soldiers (or more like “Camper Van” Soldiers) of the “Blarney Army” out here in new Zealand over the last month.

Never mind the Global Irish Economic Forum at Dublin castle, the real national success of last weekend was the Irish rugby team – even in defeat! The living breathing diaspora of Ireland out here in New Zealand and other migrant hubs worldwide, along with every man, woman and child back home in Ireland have enjoyed the motivational lifting of the nation and all it took were a mere 15 men and a rugby ball! You can bring together who you wish to solve Irelands current issues but the actions of Brian O’Driscal and Co here in this small country on the far side of the world will have done far more for the the immediate future of Ireland than any collection of business leaders, politicians & ex presidents! The Irish Rugby panel and staff, heros everyone of them, have demonstrated to us all that a little self belief can go along way. They have captivated the nation over the last 4 weeks providing inspiration when inspiration is in very short supply and had us all dreaming if even for the briefest of moments ….”what if”?? And wasn’t it nice to day-dream instead of worry for a change!

Not since the days of Sonia O’Sullivan, Michael Curruth, Italia 90, and Japan/S.Korea 2002 has the entire population of Ireland found itself setting the alarm clocks to rise at all hours of the morning to cheer on our national sporting heros, and I can guarantee that as the kettles were being boiled at 5.45am last Saturday morning there wasn’t a living soul in the Ireland worring about mortgages, credit card debt or employment prospects!  Instead I like to think that families sat together in front of TVs in living-rooms across the land and looked on in ernest at our sporting heros do battle, and even though we lost  it warms the heart to know that in some of those homes the next Brian O’Driscal’s, Ronan O’Gara’s, Paul O’Connel’s & Sean O’Brien’s were sitting eating their breakfast and being inspired by their idols on the TV in-front of them. In a modern day Ireland that is pre occupied with finding itself a new identify in the aftermath of the Celtic Tiger it is important that the innocent consistencies of childhood remain the same and with national heros like our entire rugby team the guarantee that there will be kids inspired to play and achieve like their idols in the future is now as perennial as the grass upon the fields which they will play – and thats the real victory of the last 4 weeks, Webb Ellis Trophy or not!

Granted it is easy to get carried away with sentimentality – it is only a game after all – but sport is one of the few things in life with where emotion is accepted and even expected and the symbolism of what RWC 2011 has meant to Ireland over the last 4 weeks cannot go unnoticed. What I mean by this is that irrespective of the teams performance, the RWC cup has highlighted and brought to the fore-front the issue of the mass immigration from Ireland. Its no secret that Ireland have been the best supported foreign team (by far!!!) at the RWC and likewise it is no secret that this is primarily because of recent economic migration from Ireland to this corner of the globe. New Zealand and Irish media have eluded to this in numerous broadcasts and bulletins since the beginning of the RWC and even George Hook jumped on the band wagon by expressing his “sadness” that so many young people have had to leave Ireland. Well George while I appreciate that your “sadness” is with the best intentions it is like much of your punditry – mis-directed, as sadness is certainly not a common trait you will find among any Irish person who has found themselves on this side of the world.

Yes we all miss family and friends that is of course a given. However beyond the occasional craving for Tayto crisps or withdrawal symtoms from the lack of a proper “Shnacck Box” there really isent anything to be sad about being temporally away from home at all! Each and everyone one of us are here because we want to be here and we are making the most of the opportunity we have been given – even if due in some cases to a negative circumstance for Irish people. However this so called “forgotten” generation who have had to immigrate are resilient people and we are getting on with the situation we find ourselves in with smiles on our faces. We are playing the hand we have been dealt and by god are we making the most of it as only Irish people know how!!

The reality is that us Irish people have always traveled and not just for economic reasons, were island people and thus its in our souls to want to wonder and explore, to see what’s over the hill in front of us or around the next bend in the road – sure our beautiful Island would never have even been discovered unless our ancestors had thought the same way! Us modern day Irish nomads are no different in spirit and I think we are uniquely a nation who can go forth, explore and be welcomed and integrated to any world culture and yet still remain true to our own proud heritage. Here in New Zealand during the RWC we see a living example of that. To the best of my knowledge (I did try to have this confirmed but no joy as yet) not one Irish person has been arrested for any disturbance during the RWC. We have been loved and embraced by the local people in every-town the “Blarney Army” have traveled to for a match and yet not an ounce of trouble despite drinking New Plymouth & Rotoura dry!

So instead of being the “forgotten generation” I for one believe we are the “Lucky Generation” for we have gotten the opportunity to escape a socially decrepit Celtic Tiger Ireland where begrudgery and “keeping up with the Jonses” was the order of the day rather the more honorable endevours of helping your neighbor and community spirt. Here in New Zealand we (the Irish) help each other out and look out for each others well being. There is always someone new arriving and no-one wants for a place to stay to get settled or a contact for a job. Its exactly how I imagine things were years ago when Irish people immigrated to London or America, they would turn up with just a sleeping bag and a phone number (As Tommy Terinan would say) and they would be looked after by there own!!! (The Irish) The most positive of out comes from the RWC has been re invigoration of the Irish communities pried here in New Zealand of the country we come from. We all know that we will return home one day – visas dont last forever! – and we all look forward to it, but in the mean have no fear, the irish people here in New Zealand just like our rugby are doing the country proud and will continue to do so in the aftermath of the RWC and what returns from New Zealand to Ireland can only be a benefit for the nation also. Dont be sad for us all George, or anyone who shares his view – be sad for those who dont have the opportunity to travel and experience some of the world at all, as that’s a worse tragedy.

Ok so ill get down off my soap box now!!! – Im backing Wales all the way to the world cup final. Great to see Australia winning also as it highlights how good Ireland had to be to beat them. The semi-finals are looking like great matches and I do think it will be a Wales v Australia final.

Interesting to note the the All Blacks are the only unbeaten side left in the comp and an unbeaten side has always won the RWC.!

Until next time…..

Blog – Proud to call myself a Carlow man!

Location: Auckland, New Zealand
Time: Midnight

Sean O’Brien the current colossus of world rugby, the man who has made Chuck Norris redundant and the first man in history to whom “Twitter” has “joined” rather than the other way round! is currently taking the rugby world cup by storm and in doing so is putting my home county of Carlow firmly on the map.

Whether its the now infamous “#seanobrienfacts” or the “Tullow Tank” winning the the Player of pool C award, the Carlow man is all the talk at the moment even in an Auckland pub last night when  a Cork chap says to me “ye must be delighted about Sean O’Brien – finally something good to have come out of Carlow!!!” To which I replied “sure were all as awesome as him in Carlow – Sean is just the first Carlow man to play in the rugby world cup!” and we all had a laugh and and a joke and drank our beers…. but it got me thinking…… Do people really think us Carlow people had nothing to be proud of before Sean O’Brien????

Yes we may be known as the “scallion eaters” and granted we might not find ourselves in Croke park in September very often but I for one am a very proud Carlow man and have made it my mission to show my county pride everywhere I have traveled around the world in the last 21 months.. My Carlow jersey is my most prized clothing possession and I have enjoyed being photographed in it at many many world sites – my photo album is a testament to that! At all the Irish world cup games here in New Zealand I have proudly worm my Irish jersey but underneath has always been my Carlow jersey – closest to my heart! Pulling a jersey over my head is easy however, anybody could do that so let me explain exactly why I have pride in my home county.

Co Carlow is chiseled into formation by the natural boundaries of the Blackstairs mountains to the east and the Barrow river to the west, between them lies a patchwork quilt of picturesque fertile farm land which all combined make Co. Carlow a landscape of undeniable beauty. Ive climbed Macchu Picchu and it was breath taking, and climbed in the Rockies & the Andes but give me Mt Leinster with its summit view any day! Ive had the privilege to swim in great rivers like the Amazon, the Mississippi and the Hudson and while all great experiences, none were superior to jumping in the Barrow in Clashganny, St Mullins or Leighlin bridge! I do believe we often forget the beauty that lies on our own door step and while personally I am currently traveling and seeing the world and loving every minute of it, the reality is there is nowhere like home and I view the world while traveling as though I have already come from the best part (Carlow) …. and thus far im not wrong!

While the landscape makes the countryside ascetically pleasing its real achievement is in being the foundation upon which the real treasure of Carlow – its People – have been shaped. Carlow people (even pre Sean O’Brien) are made of stern stuff and always have been. Patrick Reid the first and only man to lead a successful escape from Nazi Colditz prison was Carlow man, another, Arthur McMurragh Kavanagh was a famous politian, horseman and sailer despite having no arms or legs!

Carlow people have historically been at the fore-front of science and innovation, men like Willian Dargan the “Father of Irish railways” and John Tyndal the man who explained to the world why the sky is blue were both proud Carlow men. Pierce Butler, one of the founding fathers of the USA was also a Carlow man having been born in Carlow in 1744. He went on to be a representitive for South Carolina in the US Senate.

Carlow people are are no strangers to the arts and entertainment world either with academy award nominee Saoirse Ronan, kathryn Thomas and the infamous Richie Kavanagh all proud to call themselves Carlovians! Even Michael Flatly has an ancestry link to Carlow in that his mother hailed from St Mullins and indeed the only man to win both a Nobel prize and an Academy award – George Bernard Shaw, was a property owner in Carlow and now has a theater named in his honor in Carlow town center.

Now of course added to the list of famous Carlow people we have Mr Sean O’Brien! Named as the “Player of Pool C ahead of some big name stalwarts like Sergio Pieriso and David Pocoke, Sean O’Brien has launched himself into the spotlight of world rugby and yet off the field remains the cool, calm, collective and modest farmers son that he is and was reared to be. Being a Carlow man myself listening to him being interviewed in his Carlow accent is welcoming on the ears but watching him being interviewed is painful as I can see in his eyes what he really wants to say but which he knows he cant because the world simply would not understand… for Sean O’Brien wants to tell the world is that the reason he is so awesome is because he is a Carlow man!

Sean O’Brien’s character epitomizes the people of Carlow with his grit and determination, his work effort and his never say die attitude. He wears his pride on his sleeve for all to see – except of course when its hidden by the rugby ball tucked tightly in his arm as he goes on another line breaking run! Sean O’Brien has made us all proud to be Irish and has reminded us Carlow folk of the pride there is in being from Irelands second smallest county, and Sean we thank you for it.

The rugby world cup has given us a local super star but it has also answered a 5000 year old question as to how they managed to put the capstone (which is Europe’s largest at 100 tones) on top of Carlow’s famous Brownshill Dolman…………………… It was Sean O’Brien of course!!!

Sean, your doing your country and your county proud……. from one proud Carlow man to another – keep it up son!