Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Pushing My Limits

If you've talked to me for more than a minute, you probably found out that I like to rock climb. I started two summers ago, but while I was student teaching and in Italy, I didn't have good access to a gym.
Naturally, one of the first things I've done in New Zealand was find a gym. So the following is a very cheesy story about what happened when I first climbed here.
This past summer, I made good progress climbing, moving from climbing at a difficulty of about 5.8 (pretty easy) to 5.10a (intermediate). (The climbing scale goes: 5.5-5.9 then 5.10a, 5.10b, 5.10c, 5.10d then on to 5.11a.) I was able to work with a great trainer from Kites (s/o Brady!) to really increase my strength and build upon all of the training I did with my great first trainer (s/o Paul!)
I was pleased with the progress I had made, but I felt like I wasn't pushing myself as much as I could. Maybe I could climb harder than I was allowing myself...?
On a climb in Colorado!
Moving to New Zealand afforded me the opportunity to test that idea because they rate how difficult each climb is differently. I purposely didn't look at a conversion chart before I went. I wanted to see what I could do without knowing my "limitations."
I looked around at different routes and saw the lowest number was about a 15. To warm up, I climbed a 17 and 19. Neither felt too bad. So I asked my kids which route I should climb and they pointed at a 22.
Sure... why not?
So I started climbing. And I fell. And I climbed and fell again. I wondered if this was too difficult for me. I used just about every bit of strength I had, fell a lot, gained a few beautiful bruises, shed several layers of skin from my fingers, but finally, I made it.
That one 35ft climb took it all out of me. I knew it was the hardest climb I had done, but I still didn't know exactly what that would convert to in the US. So I looked it up, and it was a 5.11a. That's four levels of difficulty higher than I'd ever done before. I was shocked. I figured I could get somewhere around a 5.10c.
I will say that rating climbs is highly subjective, so it was probably on the easier side of a 5.11, but I don't let that take away from what I did.

Now, my point in sharing this wasn't to talk about my rock climbing achievements but just to show what you can do if you don't get in your own way. Pushing myself, growing, and achieving new things is why I travel. I want to become a better person all around, and that comes from taking risks and doing things I never thought I could do. And this experience just shows me that I am my biggest limitation.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Life in Kiwi Land

The following post is a hodgepodge of things that don't belong together, but I have several things to update about my life the past few weeks.

I'm going to let you in on a secret that no one else in the world knows.

Packing is hard. Really Hard.

I know. You are shocked.

I aspired to be like this guy who literally only owns 15 things (plus socks and underwear), and my friend who went to France with the tiniest of suitcases. I didn't do quite that well, but I did manage to fit everything in my big backpack and two smaller bags.

And not only is preparing to go on a trip hard, it's expensive.

Now Krayton, you might say, you spent four months in Europe; didn't you have all the traveling supplies you could possibly need?

Do you hear that? It's the sound of my credit card statement laughing at you.

Ignoring that (like I try to do every month... sorry dad),  I managed to fit it all in, and, as far as I've noticed, haven't left anything.

I didn't precisely time how long it took me to cross the Pacific, but including the time I spent waiting at the airport and clearing customs, I believe it was around 24 hours.

Susie, the mother in my New Zealand family, warned me that I was going to be "thrown in the deep end" with the kids. After picking me up from the airport around 6:30 am, she had to go straight to work, and I was left with the kids for the day. Fortunately, the kids are great, and we were able to hang out and play without any issues. I've spent my first week here getting to know them and getting settled into the family's routine.

I have successfully done something I always thought I maybe couldn't do: drive on the "wrong" side of the road. It took me a few trips over a few days to really feel comfortable doing it. The mental adjustment isn't too hard but making right turns terrifies me because intersections are so different.
Every time I drive, I have at least one wave of overwhelming panic because I think a car is going to slam into me.
The most difficult part is trying to get the correct perspective on the far side of the car. It's surprisingly hard to get a feel for where it ends and how close to get to objects. And New Zealanders park all along even the busiest of streets, meaning you have to squeeze between cars to go anywhere.
What I actually mess up the most is the blinkers because they are switched with the wipers. It's such a mindless thing--I can't even tell you how often I've hit the wrong one.
Yeah. Figure that out.
After some rather complicated turns, I always reflect: am I on the correct side? Fortunately, the answer has always been yes. I feel accomplished even though I try to enter the wrong side of the car at least 50% of the time.

I didn't take this picture, but this is just about the view I get driving in from the suburb where I live into Auckland.
I have managed to socialize a little bit in my week here. Sunday, I met a friend of a friend (and some of her "mates") out for drinks and dinner. It was the first time I'd had time away from the kids since I showed up and I was so grateful. We went to Mexico for dinner (the name of the restaurant), and I had some incredible tacos. I was so glad to find good Mexican food here because it simply doesn't exist in Europe.
 And every Wednesday a group of Au Pairs meet in a coffee shop. I went there and found that most of the girls were German or from elsewhere in Europe, so it was a nice joining of cultures!
At this meeting, there was a group of about 6 of us talking (out of about 30 girls). Two of us were from the US and the rest were from Germany. Now, I try to be aware of American stereotypes and break the bad ones, but I immediately noticed this girl was dominating the conversation and talking about herself a lot. She wasn't rude or self-centered; she was just very chatty. I wondered what the other girls thought about this, but on the way out, I was saying goodbye, and they told me they were so glad some "English" girls showed up because "All the German girls are so boring." I had to laugh, but I was also relieved that they thought our chattiness was a good thing!

On a rather different note, in my last post, I said I'd be arriving in New Zealand at the end of September, but I had to postpone my trip at the last second because my grandmother passed away.

I have written a number of different things about her and about the process my family went through, spending 5 days with her in the hospital and 10 days in hospice care through her funeral. I did it because I have to. If I can't write, I end up just swirling the thoughts around in my head incoherently until I break down and find one of my journals (I keep three, all for different reasons), or if I get really desperate, ask the person closest to me for a piece of paper.

At this point, I really can't write very much that's worth reading. It's hard to put words to how incredibly difficult everything is. Every happy reunion with family who live far away is tinged with sadness. And there's heavy-heartedness from watching nearly your entire family break down, and a deep weight that settles on your heart whenever grandpa cries.

My grandma was a truly wonderful person, and she will definitely be greatly missed by my entire family.