Saturday, August 23, 2008

Deafness and Photography

Someone asked me recently whether I would be so keen on photography if I had perfect hearing. I found it rather hard to answer that question as I've been deaf all my life and have never had perfect hearing. We all do things in life, the things that shape us, through our own experiences, some that aren't of our choosing, and we all tend to bend towards those that we are good at or are easy for us. If we have some sort of ability for something in the first place, then we tend to hone in on that ability and perfect it.

I'd like to think that I would still be involved in photography if I wasn't deaf, but I can't help think that if I had hearing, my life woud be totally different to what it is now. If I were hearing I'd probably have a university degree, married with 8 kids, living overseas, and doing something musical.

All those things I'd have liked to do, but in some small way each one has been affected by my deafness. I didn't go to University because back then I wouldn't have heard the lecturers, and notetaking was considered a form of cheating.

I'm single because (amongst other things) the men I have met haven't been able to cope with deafness that well, and I tend to get the feeling that men would like their females to be perfect, even if they're not that perfect themselves. Thats fine by me, I'm happy with my own company and I would rather be single than be with the wrong person.

I'd have loved to live overseas, somewhere other than New Zealand, but the opportunity never really presented itself, and I wasn't confident enough because of my lack of hearing to uproot and try.

And lastly - I would have loved to be a music performer, as I played the piano well, but I realised from a very young age I would one day be totally deaf, so I didn't pursue it hard enough. Sure Beethoven was deaf, but remember he went deaf much later.

So I can say with certainty that deafness has shaped my life to what it is today, and part of that shape includes photography which I'm passionate about. In fact, I think deafness and photography go really well together and I'm surprised not more people in the deaf community aren't serious photographers.

Being Deaf/deaf/hard of hearing/hearing impaired (whatever you see yourself as), makes us very visually aware. We become in tune with our surroundings whether it is with a group of people we communicate with, with sign, or visual clues, body language and lirpeading, or whether we are in quiet surrounding with no one about. For the latter we then became aware, for example, not of the bird singing, but of it's movement and behaviour. We will often see what hearing people don't. A hearing person may hear the bird, but not look, just simply knowing that the bird is there. We will see the bird, and often watch it to see what it does.

I'm aware of two instances that are clear in my mind today, as if they happened yesterday, where I became convinced that people with good hearing, are simply oblivious of what is around them. The first was I was walking up our main street many years ago when it was busier than it is today. It was a summer evening and we had finished work and on the way to the pub for friday night drinks. I was with a group of my workmates, all with good hearing. In front of us, was a 'golden couple'. Impeccably dressed with expensive clothes (you could tell), the male and female had their arms around each others waists. She had a perfect figure, and was very tanned, and was wearing white shorts - very short shorts so you could see where the top of her legs ended and her backside started. We were all watching them as they walked in front of, each admiring the view that was personal to them, when the female reached around to her backside and scratched it. Yet I was the only one who saw it. I cracked up because the then 'perfect' scene was ruined. Not one of the others in my group had seen it, yet they were all 'looking'.

Perhaps I was the only one admiring that particular view which is a bit of a worry in hindsight!! But it was really mind boggling to me that no one else in my group saw it happen.

A few years later I was at the zoo in the New Zealand Rainforest Aviary. There was a rare NZ parakeet were feeding up in the tree right above the pathway, yet I was the ONLY one who saw it. The other people within the aviary were completely blind to the fact that they walked under a branch with one of these gorgeous birds right above them, yet they never saw it. As an experiment, I called one back showed them, and asked if they had seen it before then - but no - they hadn't and were grateful I had showed them.

So my photography is like that - I capture things that people aren't aware of, or they are aware of, but try and present it in a different way, or angle. Or maybe I take something that people see every day, and they take for granted, and I present it so they are able to see that something in a different light.

When out with my camera, I don't have to talk to anyone, or converse with anyone which is great - it's me and my camera, although more often than not, strangers will talk to me about my camera gear and email addresses might be exchanged. I will often be given a camera by complete strangers to take photos of them in the current surroundings, these people are nine times out of 10 Japanese and no words need to be exchanged to what they want.

Photography doesn't come easy to me. I look back at the images I took ten years ago and cringe, but then remember that through trial and error and looking at work online, I have improved slowly and surely.

I will never take the world by storm. I doubt that anyone will remember my work in my lifetime or after, but it gives me a great sense of pride and achievement when I get something right and makes others look at an image and go 'wow'. More often than not, I'm surprised to get that kind of reaction but I have realised over time that art and images are very personal, and what one person dislikes intensely, another will love it. I now find the reasons why one loves or hates an image, more interesting than the image itself, and enjoy reading the reactions of people on my two art sites - deviantart and redbubble.

If you would like to see my images, then you can go to my photography blog. I upload one image per day so it's ever changing.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Amish Apple Dumplings

While in Philadelphia, we headed down to the Reading Terminal Market as it was suggested to us that we MUST go there.

I'm glad we did. A market full of wonderful food put on by the Amish people of Pennsylvania. I went twice - once for the Apple Dumplings that someone said were fantastic, and a second time to have them again because they were to die for.

Since I've been home I've been craving them a bit - I think because of the cold weather, so I did a google search for a recipe and came up with this one.

I use prepackaged sweet short pastry to wrap them up, and I leave out the mace because - well - mace is something we spray criminals with, and there's none on my local supermarket shelf under the herb/spice section.

Upon request, I'm making it for a second time for tonight and it's also been requested for Monday nights dinner as well!!

Here's the recipe I found!

Amish Apple Dumplings

6 Apples, peeled and cored
Lemon juice
1/2 c White sugar, approx
1 tsp. Cinnamon
Brown sugar
2 Pie pastry for 2 pies

Sugar Sauce:
2 c Water
3/4 c Sugar
2 tsp. Vanilla
2 tbl. Butter
1/4 tsp. Nutmeg
1/4 tsp. Mace

Roll out pastry and cut into squares enough to cover apples completely. Peel and core apples. Roll in lemon juice. Then roll in white sugar and cinnamon combined. Place on pastry square. Stuff core cavity with brown sugar, butter, brown sugar in equal parts. (The amount depends on size of core cavity, just
stuff full.) Fold pastry up around apple to completely enclose it. Place in pan.

Prepare sugar sauce by mixing water, sugar, vanilla, butter, nutmeg, and mace and boiling for 1 minute. Let cool slightly. Pour over Apples.

Bake in 375 F (190.5C) oven for 1 hour. Serve warm.

Note: Apples may be frozen in pastry (before sugar sauce is added) if desired. Good dessert to make ahead if you have lots of apples around. Just let thaw when ready to use, and cover with sugar sauce and bake as usual.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Are Customer Service People Dense?

What is it with Customer Service people? I'm sure I've blogged about this before but..

I had to ring Southern Cross Healthcare today about a claim they should have paid while I was away - they were asking for information that they already have on file (sigh!!).

I still cannot hear on the phone, so I asked a friend to phone for me. My friend kindly explained that I was deaf and could not hear on the phone.

"I still need to talk to her" they said.

She had to explain a second time! (Double sigh!) You would think coming from a MEDICAL firm that they would understand deafness.

Maybe the misheard and thought I was dead?

Either way I still wouldn't be able to use the phone!

Is there any hope for the human gene pool???


My New Shoes

I bought six pairs of shoes home from the USA. Only one pair was not a sports shoe. A few people think I'm nuts because of it but I love every pair of them and I know I have saved a lot of money buying them in the USA.

Actually New Zealanders are being ripped off when it comes to sports shoes. Mega ripped off, and it makes me wild that we have to pay so much. Take for example the Keen walking sandal... Here's a pic of it!

Nice shoe. Looks comfortable. Versatile. Summery. Colour great. I saw this shoe on sale at Sports Authority in San Luis Obispo for $19.95 USD. Unfortunately they didn't have my size so I bought a similar pair but of the TEVA brand instead.

I went down to our local outlet centre on Friday for a flat white coffee, something I missed terribly while upover, but called into the outdoors shop for a quick squiz at what they have in stock or on sale. It's a habit of mine - I like outdoor sports shops. Anyway - there in the far corner of the store, was this exact same keen sandal. And it was on sale... for...

$167.50 down from $239.99

I now wish I had asked the store in San Luis Obispo to find my size, get it in, and ship it to me!!!

Exchange rate? $1 USD is currently $0.72c NZ. So $19.95 is aprox $24.00 NZD.

The other pair of shoes I bought were Salomon off road walking shoes. These same shoes I tried on at Christmas time when I was training for the Oxfam 100km. Here in New Zealand they have a price tag of $325.00. For that reason I left them on the shelf and bought another pair slightly cheaper for something like $280.00.

I found these same Salomon shoes - same model - at REI in San Francisco. They were not on sale but still had a price tag of $84 USD - about $110 NZD.

So it's not the exchange rate. It's definitely not shipping costs. Someone in New Zealand is taking a huge slice of profit for bringing them over. Huge. That's $200 PER SHOE extra we're paying for at least - and I'm talking retail prices not wholesale. They also bring in far more than one shoe - I wouldn't care to guess the numbers.

We don't have the American's population - that I agree - but I still say we're being ripped off big time.

From now on anyone visiting New Zealand will need to make special room in their suitcase to bring me shoes.


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Best and Worst of the Say What? Club Philadelphia Convention

This is the third day I've been home from the USA after attending the SWC con in Philadelphia. So far I've done 6 loads of washing, and gradually putting things away. My house each day is looking less and less like a bomb site, and turning into a home again.

My cats will NOT leave me alone - they obviously missed me and all they want to do is smooch or sleep on me, one even climbed into my vest and went to sleep! Yes - it's much colder here minumum 7C maximum 14C which is the equivalent of 44F low and 57F high. Not that warm considering we've been averaging 36C temperatures plus wherever we've been. (97F). Of course the cold may be one reason my cats won't leave me alone. We are due for some more bad weather over the weekend, but that will be perfect for staying put and watching the olympics which start tomorrow night.

I have put in my own blog the best and worst of USA that I experienced in my 29 days upover. You can read it right by clicking here

I will now attempt to write the best and worst of the Philadelphia Convention - so here we go.

Best: (not in any particular order!!!

1). Having Kim as a roomie - she was the bestest and I'm so proud to be friends with her.

2). Meeting Brenda and Walt after all these years of correspondence.

3). Meeting Dwayne and Cheryl after so many years of correspondence. Dwayne is truly a papabear!

4). Finally meeting my friend Marty after so many years of working together on the Hospitality committee and in the chats as well.

5). Seeing Jazzy again - always one of the highlights!

6). Meeting Cathy - after all these years too.

7). Finding out how fun Linda Binns is, and so glad I was able to see her again in San Diego.

8). I can now imagine Donna at the computer when I see her messages. Great to meet her too.

9). Being surprised that the super Pearl wasn't the 6 foot plus gal that I had imagined her to be. I still say Pearl is the voice of reason, particularly in Neil Baumanns workshop. I didn't get to talk to Pearl enough but one day hope that will be remedied - we always have the NZ fling to catch up on yet!

10. Meeting Marti and Tom, Sandi, Darelynn, Susan D and Susan from Oz, Paul, and all the others that I haven't come in contact with before from other lists.

11. Lorne - holds a very special place in my heart for throwing beer over Mike!!! Mike always needs to be brought down to earth with beer from time to time!

12. Being able to show the Americans where Elthrey's Alley was cos they couldn't find it (it always takes a kiwi to work out where everything is!!)

13. Eating Apple Dumplings at Reading Terminal Market - twice. Slurp, Drool!

14. Seeing South Street on the Duck and going back there for a better look. It was the Condom King shop that got me back!! (not really!)

15. Art musuem tour was incredible - well done Marianne for organising it - I learnt so much and was amazed with what I saw and heard over the audio tool we were given.

16. Sitting next to Martin and Marianne at the banquet - lots of fun and laughs and truly enjoyed your company.

17. Going to the Zoo with a group of us the day before the convention started. What a great time with 'just' messages going out over our phones - some secret code here! The zoo was great as I saw some incredible animals - like the Douc Langur, and the prairie dog!

18. Having everyone sign my book - such wonderful messages you all gave me and the photos will go in in the next couple of weeks.

19. Enjoying interesting workshops made incredible from a super duper CART communicator Gayle, even when she was so sick with flu she still managed to get through it all. My hat goes off to you. (And I don't take my hat off for just anyone you know!!)

20. Meeting Mark Dessert and his lovely dog. Even though Mark couldn't lipread my accent (I really don't have an accent - americans do), I was able to understand Mark easily. My memory of Mark will always be his enjoyment of the NZ wine on offer.

PS for the best - I have probably missed out lots of people - there were too many to put in my top 20, however, every single person that attended the convention, was what made the convention so exciting and I was so pleased to meet you all. I will definitely, funds willing, attend another in the future, and I will get onto starting organising one here in NZ - so start saving.

Now for the Worst of the con...

1). The heat - coming from winter the heat in the first couple of days was almost unbearable.

2). The jetlag - I was exhausted as I hardly slept coming over. Next time I will make sure I will have been in the US at least a week before the convention starts, so I can catch up on sleep beforehand.

3). Walking 18 blocks back to the hotel after the Mutter Museum. I had blisters, I had chaffing, I had heatrash, I was hot, tired and grumpy. The Phlash had stopped for the day and Mike wouldn't let me catch a taxi (grrrrr!!!) But I surived.... Just.... Mike is lucky to still be alive though!!!!

4). Breakfasts at the hotel - the service was terrible (oh well!)

5). Hotel had no hot chocolate after 10pm. No hot drinks available after 10pm!!! Sigh! I survived - just! Just had to eat chocolate instead.

I can't actually think up any more 'worst' things. Because on the whole the convention was like a well oiled ship which could have only meant that the people who organised it had worked long and hard to make it happen. So I take my hat of to the BOD and thank them from the bottom of my heart for the most wonderful time of my life. I will have this in my memory for the rest of my life.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Best and Worst of USA

Top 30 or so: (not in any order)

1. Best Swimming Pool: Jazzy's in New Jersey

2. Best Backpackers: Sacramento

3. Best Coffee: Monterey - Mexican Latte

4. Best Weather: Hawaii

5. Best Roomate: Kim from Seattle

6. Best Breakfast: Steven's Porridge

7. Best Dessert: Key Lime cheesecake from Stacy

8. Best Restaurant: Peregrino's Italian in San Francisco - Lobster Lasagne

9. Best Pub: Kiwi pub in San Diego and an Evening with Linda

10.Best Wildlife: San Diego Zoo

11.Best Tour: Hearst Castle

12.Best Food: Diana & David's in San Luis Obispo

13.Best Shopping: Sports Authority in San Luis Obispo and REI in San Bruno

14.Best Bargain: Guess Sunglasses Sacramento $8.57 (down from $40), & Hawaii Pearls

15.Best Service: San Francisco Police - Seargeant Scott Warnke

16.Best Street: South Street Philadelphia

17.Best People: Say What Club Convention in Philly

18.Best Highlight: Capturing on camera a wild Sea Otter in Monterey

19.Best Laugh: Mike getting drenched in beer in Philly

20.Best View: Empire State Building in NYC

21.Best Squirrels: Madison Square NYC, and San Luis Obispo (Ground Squirrel)

22.Best Laundry Service: Steven's in San Bruno

23.Best Walk: Muir Woods & Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco

24.Best Quiet Day: The day at Jazzy's sister's pool

25.Best Beaches: Coronado Hotel, Waikiki, Hamauna Bay, Malibu, Santa Monica

26.Best Boat Trip: Lake Tahoe

27.Best Experience: Driving on the right hand side for the first time

28.Best Shower: Jazzy's in New Jersey

29.Best museums: Mutter in Philly, Musuem of Natural history NYC

30.Best Experience with a Difference: Tijuana Mexico

31.Best Lunch: Clam Chowder at Boudin Bakery at Fisherman's wharf

32.Best Tea: Morrocon Restaurant in Little Falls

Worst 10.

1). Seeing a huge fat bum having a shit in daylight on a San Diego Street

2). Experiencing unhelpfulnes of Bank of America

3). Seeing queues of people lining up for the soup kitchens of the Salvation Army

4). Being harrassed by bums in San Francisco for change - "change" "change"

5). Smelling the stench of human urine on the steets in SD & SFO

6). Experiencing 38 degrees in Stockton the day we arrived (melt)

7). Having our airport shuttle crash on the freeway on the way to the hostel

8). Mike losing his wallet

You know - I can honestly not think of 10 worst things. On the whole my experiences of America were very positive. People are friendly and will usually go out of their way to help when help is needed. Good humour and laughter followed us around wherever we went.

I'm glad we saw some bad things though, because thats what makes us appreciate the good things more, and it makes us realise that there are always people worse off than ourselves. It makes me thankful that I live in NZ which has a Social Welfare buffer. It doesn't mean that we don't have homeless or bums, just that the problem is less, and largely unnoticeable.

My small list of highlights is tiny - I could go on and on and wax lyrical about each day we had in USA. No day was the same, the experience and sights we saw were totally different each day, which stimulated and excited our senses and gave us an appetite for more. It kept us energised and helped us fit in all the things we wanted to do.

I would do it again - but fully intend to put my feet up for a couple of years first. I'd like to see rural America next, I would like to see Seattle, and I would like to see Chicago and surrounds again.


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

4th/5th August - Home in NZ

Just to let you all know I'm home safe and sound. I'ts really cold too.

I didn't realise how brown I had become until I put my arm next to Anne's at the airport. Anne was there waiting for me despite our plane being delayed for 2.5 hours due to mechanical problems.

It was great seeing her, and when we got to the motorway turnoff to my place, she went right instead of left and said we had to swing by somewhere first. Turned out Anne had moved house from an apartment in the city, to a four bedroomed house down by Takapuna Gramma not far from me. David had stayed at home and cooked dinner and his family was there as well.

I semi unpacked the suitcases and gave out the pressies. The jeans I bought for Anne in New Jersey fitted her perfectly (whew). Pleased about that. it's nice being the same size as it means we can share clothes when we want to go out :)

Today - I'm just slowly getting organised and doing washing. Haven't touched my mail, or my bank accounts. Don't even want to see my credit card bill!!!! Maybe if I ignore it, it will go away???

Cats pleased to see me home, still a little unsettled but neither of them have ignored me or punished me at all which is good. Both look like they've put on weight, so they've been fed well!

I'm not interested in living out of a suitcase now for several years. No more trrips for a while. I have a lot of sleep to catch up on, I need to get back to the gym, and will keep up all the walking, as well as start running again. But first my feet need to get back down to a more normal size. I' sure the cold weather will help with that!

2nd August - Hawaii

Last day in Hawaii before coming home. I got up early and went for a swim at the hotel pool, then lay in the sun until 9am. Early but the sun was still hot at that hour. I then headed up for a shower and dressed in time to meet Larry at 9.30am. He was everything I had imagined him to be and it was so great meeting him after all these years. I was saddened that his wife Suz couldn't be over to meet us too. We headed up to the hotel pool and sat in the cabana bar and talked all morning, took photos, made him write in my book. Then we headed up to the hotel room to get bathing suits as we were going to the zoo and then to haumanu bay for swimming. However, we found out it would take us an hour to get to the bay, so decided to only go to the Honolulu Zoo instead. Larry dropped us off there, but it really wasn't far. He then went on to audition for a major role in 'LOST'. I hope he gets it :)

The Zoo was small. Didn't really allow for good photos as the cages were still those old fashioned black ones. Many of the animals were not there, or sleeping as it was so hot. Some exhibitis had no water which I thought was terrible. The rainforest aviary was good though and I managed to get some good photos there. Honolulu also had two Komodo Dragons. Highly endangered and rare, it was interesting seeing them, but were smaller than I had imagined them to be. Guess Jurassic Park had influenced my perception of these jurassic animals :)

It was really hot at the zoo, and we were finished by 2.00pm. We headed over the road to the beach and walked back to the hotel via the beach with our feet in the water to try cooling us off. Some of the waves drenched us but it was nice. It took about half a hour (about the length of three beaches) to get back to the hotel. Both Mike and I were really tired, the beaches were crowded, so we decided to relax at the hotel pool instead. So we would swim when we were hot, then lie in the sun to warm up. Blissful. Very blissful. At one stage the sun went behind a cloud and I felt cold. I laughed as in just 24 hours we would be in the winter of Auckland and it'd be much much colder.

For dinner we headed to the restaurant where we had breakfast and had an all we could eat buffet for $12.00. That included dessert, which I had a pineapple and mint mousse. Sounds horrible but was really really nice.

After dinner we headed to the Pacific Beach hotel to see an aquarium that took up two whole floors. Great spootted stingrays, and all sorts of tropical fish - was very interesting. A diver was in there feeding the fish when we got there so that was worthwhile seeing. Over to Macy's where I bought Anne her Clarins stuff, and through the market again. I decided to try one more time for a Pearl. I was able to draw a voucher and this time got a 40% off, chose an oyster, and this time got a rather large black pearl. The black pearl was larger than the other 3 I got the night before. So I was very pleased. Decided to leave it at that, and headed back to the hotel to pack. Took me about an hour to pack up everything, then hit the sack. Home in the morning - and I'm more than ready to get there.

1st August - Hawaii

Bus picked us up at 8.30am on a tour around the island. Past Diamond Head slopes and around to Hanauma Bay which I loved. Abssolutley stunning. The tour guide was excellent and moved her mirror so we could lipread her. Unfortunately my asthma flared up on the bus and because I couldn't get enough oxygen I kept falling asleep. Further - my implant really really needs a map and I understood absolutely zilch so Mike was interpretiing for me most of the way, when I had my eyes open!!

We stopped for lunch at a golf course the ko'olau. I looked at golf gear in the shop afterwards with Mum in mind. But had to walk out in the end because there was nothing under $100. Thought that counted right? Some of these golf courses charge $100,000 per year to join!!
On up the coast - very beautiful beaches - reminded me a lot about Barbados once we got away from all the highrises of Waikiki. It got very hot, and I wanted to get out and swim at every beach we stopped, but no time. We stopped at a Japanese Buddhist Temple, the Byodo-in Temple which was also very interesting. We also stopped at the Kualoa Ranch, and was taken on a short boat trip on a fresh water lake. At high tide the sea spills over into the lake and it was weird sitting on the boat looking up at the sea which was slightly higher. This area is the site of Jurassic Park filmset, Fantasy island and a few other famous movies.

Then up to the famous North Shore beaches where the surfies are, and the swell runs hot at certain times of the year. So beautiful again - I've never seen such blue blue water. Down the middle of the island through coffee, sugar and pineapple plantations. Stopped at the Dole Pineapple plantation and went in to the shop. A real tourist trap - everything too expensive, but I did buy a pineapple icecream which was very refreshing. But even that was steep aat $4.50!!! We passed Pearl Harbour but wasn't able to stop as we were running late.

We got back to the hotel at about 5.30pm. I wasn't hungry so Mike went with his Mum to dinner while I had a shower and then headed out to buy a cabin bag for the plane as I was running out of luggage space. I also found all the manuals and charger for my phone, and took it over to the Tmobile guy and told him to give it to someone needy. In return I got free internet access and arranged to meet up with Larry Littleton the next day. Larry I met on the Say What Club years ago when I first joined. We have been talking to each other ever since online for 12 years so it was great to set this up. He and his wife moved from Santa Barbara, California to Ka'uai, Hawaii a few years ago.

After that I met up with Mike and his Mum and her partner Paul again and we walked over to the beach to watch the fireworks that go off every Friday night. Mike went for a swim and watched the fireworks from out in the water, I was minding his bag so I missed out on seeing them. I can't swim at night due to having no balance. It's bad enough trying to walk on sand in the dark, but trying to swim in the dark is worse as if a wave hits me I don't know which way is up, and the waves at Waikiki can be quite powerful!

We then walked around the shops and then Mike and I walked through the market. I decided to try for a Pearl from the Maui Divers store. It's not guaranteed you will get one, but they gave me a swing at the barrel, and I pulled out a 50% off voucher. So I could then choose an unopened oyster and pay only $7.49 for it. There may or may not be an oyster in there - a true gamble. Well - it just so happened that a fairly large pink pearl was in the one I chose. So I was rapt, and they were surprised. Deciding that luck was on my side, I did it again, and paid $14.99 for the next gamble. This time, I got not one, but two white pearls in the oyster I chose. The white ones were only marginally smaller than the pink one. Not being a gambler really, I decided to quit while I was ahead, but was really pleased about it. Will get them set back home.

Got back to the hotel around 10 to 10.30pm.

31st July - Hawaii

We had no dinner on the plane coming through last night because we had to pay for the meals and they wouldn't accept cash. I didn't want to ring up a Credit Card charge of only $5 as the fees would be that much!! We weren't impressed.

So this first morning in Hawaii we were starving. I got up fairly early, and popped down to the hotel lobby looking for an internet cafe so I could carry on unlocking the phone that we had done at the airport the night before. I found no internet cafe, but I did find a T-Mobile store (same store that sold us the phone in SFO when we arrived). I told him what I needed to do but they had two internet booths that you pay for, so I fed $5 in and got into my email. Found hte email from Tmobile saying that I couldn't unlock my phone as we hadn't had it for 3 months. Thats NOT what we were told when we got the phone, so I called over the tmobile guy and showed him the email. He asked what type of phone I had so gave it to him. Turns out that even if we unlocked the phone, we still wouldn't be able to use it in NZ becauase it's the wrong frequency. Again we had been told we could so we were not impressed.

After this, Mike's mother took us ddown to this really neat restuarant for breakfast - $7.95 eat all you want. They had amazing food. I honed in on the french toast and pancakes!! Afterwards I felt guilty and had some fresh fruit. The fresh fruit cancels out the calories in the maple syrup right?'

After breakfast, we jumped on a trolley bus to the Ala Moana shopping centre. I was sunburnt from San Francisco so didn't want to get more burnt, plus I still hadnt bought my tshirts I wanted to buy. Headed down to Walmart first, then over to Sears. I spent ages in the shoe section as they were so cheap, but ended up buying nothing as no room in my luggage. Instead I just drooled. Then to the women's section and I bought some jeans, tshirts and a pair of shorts. Thats it - done - no more shopping for me. That had taken two hours. By now it was very hot, so sat and had a drink and headed back to the hotel.

Jumped in our swimsuits and headed over to the beach and had a swim on Waikiki beach and lay in the sun until 5.30pm. Bliss Bliss. I wasn't hungry - still full from breakfast. We had dinner at an Ihop restaurant (cheap), and then wandered around the shops and marketplace. Eveyrthing so cheap but so much the same. Booked a day tour around the island for tomorrow.

Hit the sack early again as I'm still tired.

30th July - San Francisco - Hawaii

Up early and checked out by 8am. Luggage went into storage for the day. We then wandered down to the bus to use our off/on ticket for the second day. First stop this time was the botanical gardens again - but this time we walked over to the Conservatory of Flowers. We saw no sqirrels this time, but we did see warnings about wild coyote's in the area, warning us not to approach them if we did see them. We didn't.

Conservatory of Flowers were fascinating - much bigger than Auckland's Wintergardens, with over 29,000 varietires of plants. At one end they also had a butterfly exhibit. I saw my first 'american bumble bee' So different to our big black and yellow striped ones.

Back on the bus and our next stop was Fisherman's Wharf. I bought another jacket to bring home for $20. We also had clam chowder in a sourdough bun again for lunch. Couldn't resist as it was so yum. By this time it was getting late, so back on the bus to Coit Tower.

I found this interesting as I have read the book 'The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill' which has immortalised this whole area. We walked from the bus, up the hill, up the hill, up the hill, then up up up the stairs. This was steeper than the worlds steepest street. My legs still hurt from it 4 days later. Beautiful area though, and I recognised many things from the book. We paid $4.50 to go up the tower, to find the tower encased in glass so not good for taking pictures. I found this price a bit of a rip off actually, as we were finished within minutes, but then had a 20 minute wait in line to get the elevator back to the bottom. However, we were running late - we had to be back at the hostel by 3pm to get a taxi to the airport by 3.15pm. It was 2.40 so I persuaded the others in linne that we had a plane to catchand would they mind letting us through first. They did :)

We hightailed it back to the bus, but going down the hill was slow because of my balance and we had just missed one. There was no way we could wait half an hour for the next one so we found a rude taxi driver who took offense over everything I said as he misunderstood that I was admiring the victorian houses, instead he thought I was telling him where to turn. He got really argumentative and aggressive. Because of it we didn't want to tip him, but he wouldn't give us the correct change so he got his tip anyway. Cheeky sod.

We waited for the shuttle to take us out to the airport on the corner of Derby Lane and Taylor street where our hostel was. Also on the corner was a massage parlour. Seems we could please no one today as one of the 'madame's' came out and told us we couldn't loiter on the corner as it wouldn't please her clientele. We told her that wasn't our problem, and that we were waiting for a shuttle to take us to the airport and we weren't moving. She disappeared back inside, but she kept a beady eye on us the whole time. Weird.

To be honest - I loved the places we saw in San Francisco - Muir Woods, all the places we visited by bus, the treatment the police gave us - all were very positive experiences, but I hated the bums, the stench of urine in the streets as we walked, and hated being harrassed for 'change, change' by these same people all the time. One even followed us. Those experiences weren't so positive.

At the airport we nearly missed our plane. We wandered in and asked where the Air New Zealand counter was. They told us at counter 3, but it wouldn't open until 5.30pm. I wondered about this as our flight was at 6.55pm and I thought that was late. However, we went and had a coffee, and I remembered that we had to try and unlock our cellphones so we could use them back home in New Zealand. Not being able to use a phone, we asked twopoliceman having a break to help us. That they did - rang the 611 for customer service and got our phones semi unlocked. We were told that an email would be sent to us and we had to reply using an unlock code number within 24 hours. Not a problem. Again wonderful service from San francisco's finest.

By this time it was 5.30pm and we wandered back to counter 3 to find no lanes unopened, so while I went to the restroom, I got Mike to ask again. Turned out that our flight was an alliance flight with United Airlines ande had been given the wrong info, and final check in time was fast approaching. An airport official found us a trolley, loaded our suitcases on it, and we raced to the terminal. We tried to check in using fast check in to find we coudn't so had to join a long queue. Hearts beating, hot and bothered, and in front of an old man who continually farted something terrible. People as far as 6 or 7 back were holding their coats/scarves/tshirts over their noses it was so bad. I hid in my coat.

Finally the old man got served and left and the air pollution gradually cleared and before long we were finally at the counter checking in. Unfortunately Mike was overweight again in his baggage, so he was dividing things between suitcases. Unfortunately, because we were on such a tight timeframe, he got flustered, and his behaviour was noted as suspicious. So as we were going through security we were separated and Mike was tested for drugs. Oh well - all adds to the experience of travelling. I also set off the alarms - my bra wires do that to me every time. One of these days I''m going to go through airport security topless. Might save time.

No sooner we got through security - we were racing down to our plane. It took off as soon as we were seated, however we were not the last ones on the plane. Close though! Flight to Hawaii uneventful. Arrived at 9pm Hawaii time and got a shuttle to our Hotel. I was exhausted so went straight to bed, however Mike's mum and her partner was also here, so Mike stayed up talking to them.

29th July - San Francisco

We waiting around at the hostel because Mike's replacement credit card was arriving sometime between 8am and 10am. It arrived just on 10am, so as soon as we had it, off we went on the city tour bus from Union Square. We got the one that was $32 but the tickets lasted for two consecutive days instead of just 24 hours.

First stop was the Painted Ladies at Alamo Square. Picture postcard Victorian houses in a row, probably the most photgraphed site in San Francisco next to the Golden gate Bridge. Took photos then waited for the bus and reboarded. It was a little longer than the 'every half hour' they said it woudl be.

Next stop was the Botanical Gardens. It was a glorious summer day, and it was really pleasant in the gardens. I wanted to see the Flower Conservatory (or covered hothouses), but we weren't sure where they were so didn't chase it up. We did see another Squirrel though. I know I know - I can hear you all sighing - but they're sooo cute!!

Back onto the bus, and our next stop was the Golden Gate Bridge. We walked over it to the other side. It was lovely and warm as the su was shining but that wind was a bit nippy, but we kept on walking fast so kept ourselves warm. Mike now has 459 photos of San Francisco City from the bridge, as he would take 10 steps and the take another 7 photos!! At the other side of the bridge, we once again had to wait for the bus to turn up, but it was very pleasant sitting in the sun.

Next stop was to see the crookedest street in the world. We were going to get the cable car up, but we were too stingy to pay the $11.00. Besides, there was an hour long wait. So we decided to walk up... the steepest street in the world. After we had walked up the steepest street, we walked down the crookedest one. Lots of photos. By this time it was getting late, and the last bus left around 5.00pm. I wanted to make sure we got the bus back to Union square i time. so we walked to the Fisherman's wharf bus stop and and got one straight away. Got off at Union Square. Mike's replacement credit card wasn't working, so we did try and get some help from the banks, but they woudn't help us as we weren't 'customers'. I've found this attitude in USA banks before when I've wanted USA travellers cheques cashed, and they wouldn't do it because I wasn't their customer! Sigh - of course I wasn't - I'm an overseas traveller wanting international cash and these are international cheques - I found the attitude appalling actually as it simply wouldn't happen in NZ. Any bank in NZ will help you whether you are a customer or not.

After not getting any help there, we headed to dinner at a diner on the corner of union square. Always full so looked good, and it was - a great meal and cheap. Back to the hostel for another early night, but also to pack, as we have to check out of the hostel in by 8am and put our luggage in storage until 3pm as were heading to the airport late afternoon to fly out to Hawaii - eat your heart out!.