Friday, September 30, 2011

Boarding to Live

In my life, I am always asking myself questions to make sure I am living to the fullest: Am I enjoying myself? Am I pushing myself to try new things? Am I taking advantage of every opportunity? These questions are a construction of the way I want to live, knowing I have accomplished things, had fun, and am always open for more things to try.

When I am snowboarding, there is no reason to ask questions. I am flying, living in the moment, drinking in the mountain and the miles and miles of farmland I can see below and feeling the sun on my back. The rush I get from barrelling down the mountain, smooth and controlled, is like riding a rollercoaster. Only I control the coaster, and I’m riding through a  vast, undefined course, up and down ridges, going sideways and backwards, and anything is possible.

I am a beginner snowboarder; I only boarded one day before working on Mt. Ruapehu. But since I’ve lived on the mountain, boarding has turned into an obsession. With each day (or hour break I can get from work) that I snowboard, I become significantly better: I can tackle higher hills, go down steeper drops and let myself board faster and faster. When I first started out, I could only plow and feather down hills, but it was exhilarating to be able to control the board with my knees and hips. Any spare moment I get here, I am boarding. And each day I spend racing down the mountain, going up hills and drifting to the edge of the courses, anything to prolong this feeling…I become a bit more hooked.

Every few weeks on Mt. Ruapehu, they open the mountain after hours for staff only skiing. The lifts close at 4pm to the public and re-open at 4:15 to the staff, and they don’t close until the sun goes down. Last night was a staff only night, and I boarded down the mountain surrounded by co-workers and friends whistling and whooping at each other until the sun hid beneath us at 7pm. We skied and boarded for over 2 hours on a mountain entirely our own.

When I first arrived to work on Mt. Ruapehu, I have to be honest. I thought the people I met who were so obsessed with snowboarding that they talked about little else were a little weird. I wondered, “How much can you really talk about one sport?” But after three months here, I understand the obsession with snowboarding: on a board, you know you are alive. And although I’m not so in love that I am willing to live in endless winters, spending six months in each hemisphere like some skiers and snowboarders do, I feel a sense of accomplishment. I tried something new, and now I can add it to the long list of things I love about life and about travel.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Recipe Edition: Chili with Pumpkin Penne

I created this twist on chili when I had a deep craving for warm, hearty food in one of my first weeks living in the ski town, Ohakune. It is as easy as making spaghetti but much more satisfying. I have never cooked much with pumpkin before, but the Kiwis put it in a lot of dishes to add more flavour. And with chili and cheese, it is a combination to die for.

You need (for a pot that serves 4):
1 can vegetarian chili (you can also make your own chili unless you are living out of a motel room like I am and need recipes that are simple and light clean up)
½ block of Vintage cheese (sharp cheddar or any smoked or sharp cheese will do) grated
3 tablespoons of salsa
1 bag of penne pasta
1 can of pumpkin soup

To prepare:
Add ½ a can of water to the can of pumpkin soup in a pot (or if you’re like me, to the rice cooker that you use for everything because you have no stove). Add the penne to the mixture and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat until the penne is cooked and the pumpkin soup has boiled down to a thick sauce. Add salsa and grated cheese. Add the chili and cook until the cheese is melted. Serve with a bowl of spiced wine or apple cider for the perfect fall or winter meal.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Backpacker Freedom

I came to New Zealand in January, and have moved around for the entire year. My final job in New Zealand is working at Mt. Ruapehu and living in the ski town, Ohakune. And it will seem like an eternity living in one place since I am staying here for three months. Moving around so much is in some ways exhausting. But it is also liberating.

While traveling in New Zealand, I could fit all of my belongings into a single, normal-sized backpack (I use the past tense here because that was before I bought all of my ski clothes for working on a mountain). I never before lived a lifestyle where I could decide to leave one night and be traveling to a new part of the country by 7am the next morning. It is the backpacker freedom. If one place gets boring, complicated, rainy, and the wanderlust creeps in, you are free to move on.

Following are only some of the places I have lived this year:



Franz Josef Glacier





Te Puke


And finally, Mt. Ruapehu. Since I work10 hours a day on this mountain, I think I can now claim that I live there too.