Things Are Going South, and So Are We!
We’re moving on to the South Island in a couple of days so we had to make sure we got in two of the Rotorua experiences that I had been looking forward to since we settled. A hangi (traditional Maori feast of lamb, chicken, veggies and stuffing that is cooked underground for hours from the heat of hot rocks) and the Rotorua Horse Races.
Ideally I wanted to go to a hangi in a more private and intimate environment. Possibly in someone’s backyard. We would all sit around, share stories and eat delicious slow cooked food. Then, a little drunk, the guys would do a casual but powerful haka. But because I didn’t have time to forge a substantial friendship with a Maori for a home hangi, and because we got a huge staff discount, Kyla and I ditched our rule of ‘no group tours’ and went to the Mitai Traditional Maori Cultural Experience.
There were things I loved and things I hated about this night. I loved the food. It was buffet style, all-you-can-eat and oh did I eat all I could indeed. So many varieties of potatoes made in the ground and so much garlic bread definitely not in the ground. I also loved seeing a haka up close. Haka is a Maori dance traditionally performed by the men of a tribe where they slap their chest and stomp their feet, bulge their eyes and stick out their tongues. It. Is. Terrifying. It’s done with so much power and passion that even though it was performed for us as basically a dance recital for tourists you could still feel the intensity in the room. I loved those two things.
I hated the people in front of us who answered their cell phone during the silent glow worm night walk. I hated the people behind us who also answered their cell phone during the silent glow worm night walk. But more than anything I hated the American who was asked to sing a song as a sign of friendship, unity and equality to the Maori chief hosting our dinner and chose “America The Beautiful.” And she didn’t even know the words. If you’re going to sing a song at a cultural event in a different country that highlights the beauty and “god lovedness” of your home country you better sing THE SHIT out of that song. Kyla and I shared horrified looks and agreed that for that night we were Canadians.
The whole experience ended up being pretty much what I was expecting: delicious, exciting and leaving me wanting more but in a smaller setting and with no other Americans. Next were the horse races. I had never been to a horse race but I was hoping for something very similar to a Kentucky Derby atmosphere. I wanted people in fancy hats and dresses, sipping Mint Juleps and gambling their money away in a very glamorous and socially acceptable way. What we got instead was what appeared to be the destination for a retirement home’s field trip.
My vision of attractive professionals getting day drunk was replaced with a collection of grandpas and flies congregating around the fries for sale. I didn’t know a lot about horse races or betting at the beginning of the day and I knew even less by the time we left. All I know for certain is that I lost five dollars on #10 who will forever be my biggest disappointment.
We’re coming up on our last few days in Rotorua and that means a few great things and a few sad things.
First and foremost it means no more cleaning the hostel! I can appreciate how much money we saved cleaning for accommodation but at what (psychological) cost? I did learn some important things during my time scrubbing toilets, wiping counter tops and making beds. I now know a great trick to putting on a duvet cover, a skill I’ve showcased in the video below.
I now know that my future children will never have bunk beds because after months of teetering on wooden beams to pull a fitted sheet over a top bunk mattress, potentially to my death, I’ve developed PTSD and even the sight of a bunk bed will send me into a white hot rage. I now know that a vacuum can be and should be used to pick up anything you don’t want to bend down to get. A dead bug? Egg remnants clogging the kitchen sink drain? Thick ass hair just all over everything?
If that children’s book “Everybody Poops” and my time as a “maid” has taught me anything it’s that while we all may have the same bodily functions, we do NOT all have the same amount of body hair. GOOD GOD. Hair is so disgusting to me.
Either inhaling unmarked/mixed cleaning products has finally caused severe brain damage or time has naturally desensitized me to it, but at some point fecal matter just became another thing between me and a post-cleaning sandwich.
I HAVE been able to distract myself during cleaning by listening to music. “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea is my psyche up anthem of choice which is equally empowering and depressing when you listen to the lyrics and imagine me rapping along with my face and hands in a toilet.
The end of the ‘cleaning’ chapter in our travels could not be coming at a better time, it was beginning to invade my dreams. Kyla and I woke up one night to me trying to strip her bed of its sheets while she was in them. I was still asleep in my bed so that shows you 1. just how far cleaning has made it into my subconscious and 2. how close our beds are to each other (about a foot).
Another great thing is that now that we are no longer cleaners we are also no longer staff and guests no longer have reason to ask us questions/talk to us/look at us. This might sound harsh but there is nothing like working in a hostel to make you hate everyone. This is not a language barrier thing, this is not a race thing, this is a people are generally pretty dumb thing.
We’ve had, on several occasions, people open our bedroom door; ignoring the sign that says “Staff Only” ignoring the closed sliding door, ignoring the shut curtain and ignoring the fact that it is completely separate from the rest of the house. And their response to discovering Kyla changing or in her towel? NOT an alarmed look or an apology but an understanding nod. It wouldn’t have mattered what they walked in on; a closet full of dead bodies would have warranted the same nod “hmm, yes, that is what is being held in this room, let’s carry on and open all the other closed doors, shall we?”
Guests have treated us like 24-hour on call concierges. Rushing to us at all hours of the night “I need a hairdryer” “I don’t have a converter” “these towels are wet” “what do I do when someone on the street says Hello to me?” I know the hostel is nice, especially compared to others, and I personally know the work the cleaning crew puts in, but this is not The Hilton.
I love the idea that someone books a ticket, plans a trip, packs a bag and gets to the airport realizing, “Ah! I forgot a converter! Oh well, I’ll walk past all of these converters for sale in this international terminal at the airport and instead I’ll rush into the hostel living room at midnight and demand someone to give me one! At 25 dollars a night I’m sure converters are not only complimentary but plentiful. Perfect.”
Not only has our patience for cleaning and dealing with people hit its breaking point but the relationship with our hostel owners has gone south. It could be because none of us have slept with them, it could be because it’s been two months and that’s when people stop being nice and start being real or it could be that they’re insane.
There are far too many issues, stories and scenarios that lead to the disintegration of our relationship but it can be boiled down most simply to the fact that they’re weirdly controlling of our private lives. They don’t want us to/let us drink, they don’t want us to/let us hang out as staff members and friends in the living room and they don’t want me to/let me wear a sweatshirt because when I look cold it “makes the guests think they’re cold.”
So for those reasons I’m happy to leave Rotorua in Carol’s rearview mirror. But I will miss my waitressing job. I’m not sure whether I like the actual job or just like relaying the ridiculous interactions I have with customers to my co-workers and Kyla. I have such a deeper appreciation and respect for those in the service industry and I have these people to thank:
-The woman who, after learning our garlic bread comes with three pieces, asked if she could have four instead.
-The man who asked for nothing on his burger except for the meat and mushroom sauce and then continued to order the rest of the toppings separately as sides each time I came to the table.
-Everyone who calls me over, claiming to be ready to place an order only to scan the menu for 15 minutes as I stand silently at their side.
-Everyone who wants only half of the portion of their fries put on the plate because they “don’t want to eat them all” and for some reason it’s the restaurant’s responsibility to control her eating.
-Everyone who stays late or comes in just before closing.
It’s a shame that it’s all coming to an end. I’ve really hit a stride in my waitressing career, the chef complimented me TWO TIMES IN ONE WEEK on my work. I’m not sure why I seek his approval ’cause he don’t sign mah paychecks but I desperately want it. I guess it’s probably all for the best that my time at the restaurant is coming to a close because my work shoes are so smelly I have to air my feet out before Kyla will let me in the room and I’ve been given so many free chips and desserts that my skin tight work jeans are gettin’ just a little too snug.
While Rotorua feels like home, every now and then something happens that gently reminds me we’re not in America. I saw a man on the street wearing a CU Buffs shirt and I had a legitimate freak out. I mean, come on, a BUFF. In ROTORUA. What are the chances? I interrogated him and demanded (in a friendly, we-are-comrades kind of way) to know his connection to Boulder. I treated him like a celebrity and gave little to no attention to the man next to him, an actual celebrity. Apparently this Buff was with the host of ‘New Zealand’s Got Talent’; basically Mario Lopez. What can I say? Mario ain’t got nothing on Ralphie.
In just two months we’ve really made a life for ourselves here. We know the side and main streets (knowing their pronunciation is a different story.) We’ve become regulars at a craft beer bar where I get a friendly, small town discount for working in the service industry. We know the best place to get a coffee: Lime is great if you’re looking to make your own iced coffee at the table because they don’t hesitate when you ask for a side glass of ice OR Zippy’s if you’re looking for a sweet companion to your coffee because they give M&Ms with each cup. We’ve become privy to all the town gossip, did you know that the girl who works at Glasson’s and the girl who works at Brew slept with the boyfriend of the girl who works at the hotel on top of the mountain?
And we’ve made friend(s)!
Special shout out to my crass British co-worker, ‘The Destructor,’ a nickname she earned after we were the only two waitresses looking after 36 tables on an extraordinarily busy night. She got a Superhero alias and I got a pat on the back for not passing out from stress and quick but controlled walking.
When I decided to move to New Zealand I didn’t want to be a traveler bouncing from hostel to hostel without forming any connection or relationships. Getting a job was the best way to feel connected and make friends and I’m very happy I did that in Rotorua. It’s a place I’ll have strong ties to for the rest of my life. Now in the great, if not barely known, words of DJ Amaze, “On to the next got money in my pocket!” HERE WE COME SOUTH ISLAND!
I’ll end this blog post with some great news! I finally sat at a cafe long enough (3 hours) to upload our MTV Crib’s-esque video tour of our hostel.