2013 Superlatives

2013 has been a year of spectrums, from long work hours to not working at all, from living where folks are comfortable to traveling extreme poverty, and from diving to the bottom of the ocean to trekking at the top of the world. We’ve had some of the most serene as well as the most trying situations that we’ve ever experienced together. It feels as though we ought to reflect on our travels and pull some sort of deep insight from our experiences. But instead, we’re going for superlatives. This is our year, in a bit more than bullet points.

Lake Hawea, New Zealand

Lake Hawea, New Zealand

Favorite City Moment
Zach: Arriving in Kathmandu, seeing nothing but Nepali signage and dust and realizing I’d entered another world.
Christina:  I got my tattoo on our first day in Melbourne. That afternoon, we went to the Central Business District to explore the town, but got caught in a late afternoon downpour and ran from bar to bar on a map that our friends from New Zealand had made for us. The kind folks at Penny Blue beer bar let us in before they were actually open, where we dried off, enjoyed Aussie IPAs and started working on the guest list for our wedding.

Favorite Nature Moment
Both: Sitting on a rock at Annapurna Base Camp watching the goats that the shepherd in the Free Tibet t-shirt brought down from the mountain, listening to the glaciers crack in the background, and sitting in an amphitheater of 8,000 meter peaks.

Best Non Alcoholic Beverage
Z: Banana lassi, India
C: Super sweet chai from street vendors in the tiny cups, India

Worst Illness:
Both: Alternating turns in the bathroom while we both had food poisoning on Gili Trawangen in Indonesia.

Biggest Adrenaline Rush
Z: Third pitch of Turn on, Tune In, Drop Out in Wanaka, NZ
C: 3am in Bali, I was laying in bed, not sleeping because my two friends from NYC were on their way to come see us. Finally hearing their voices then staying up eating cashews and chatting with them, in the flesh, into the wee hours of the night.

Fanciest Moment
Z: Drinking fancy scotch at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Mumbai
C: Having a lazy morning reading Thomas Keller’s French Laundry cookbook and drinking a latte in the library at the Pen y Bryn Lodge in Oamaru, New Zealand with Zach’s dad and Janet.

Dirtiest Moment
Z: Day three of hiking Gunung Rinjani in Lombok, Indonesia; so much dust and human waste.
C: The three consecutive days we spent on overnight buses and in dusty bus stations from Pushkar to Hampi in India.

Worst Decision of the Year
Z: Telling the Bollywood casting tout to get lost. One of our friends accepted the offer and came back with amazing stories.
C: Diving into the shallow end of the pool in Bali.

Best read
Z: Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, by Alfred Lansing
C: Michael Pollan’s Cooked or John Irving’s The Cider House Rules

Favorite Photo You’ve Taken

Kaikoura Seal Pup


 Portrait Arambol Boat Man-0009

Scariest Moment
Z: Sliding down the icy Crown Range road between Queenstown and Wanaka, NZ in our 20 year old minivan with bald tires.
C: The public bus ride in Nepal. Specifically, when it tried to cross the landslide.

Animal Highlight
Z: Stumbling over a three meter python at 10:30pm on a dark trail in Hampi, India.
C: Cuddling the nice, chubby stray cats in Istanbul.

Favorite Meal
Z: The next one!
C: Tie. Either dinner at the Francesca’s Italian Kitchen Staff Party or breakfast at Privato Cafe in Istanbul. So different. Equally delicious.

Thing You’d Be Happy If You Never Did Again
Z: Take an overnight bus in India
C: Visit East Timor

Encounter With a Stranger That You’ll Remember Forever
Z: The guy on the street in Jaipur who asked us why westerners are so rude to Indians and then immediately tried to sell us something.
C: Sitting on a stoop in Kathmandu talking with a shop keeper for like an hour. He told me a story about his friends saving up for years to apply for a US visa, then the chances of actually receiving one being like winning the lottery.

Place to Which You Are Most Excited to Return
Both: Nepal Himalaya


Christmas in the Garden

You see the problem was that there were just too many delicious recipes that we wanted to make for Christmas and we were worried that we would get too full. So our room mate Steven hatched the idea of a Christmas Tasting Menu. We celebrated on Christmas Eve Day since I was working on Christmas. There were eight of us for dinner, which started around two in the afternoon and lasted well into the night. Each person prepared a tapas sized course and paired their course with a beverage. The next person up on the menu did the washing up and then plated their course. The result was an epic garden party and a feast fit for kings.


Christmas in Wanaka

Wanaka Xmas Poppies

Gotta admit, it doesn’t really feel like Christmas here. I’m not bundled in giant scarves and wrapping presents, not getting last minute tickets for the Bolt Bus to Baltimore, not wrapping books for my students or drinking everything in sight at holiday parties. Here, the sun sets at 9:30pm and there are peonies and cherries at the farmer’s market. In New York, the words farmer’s market and Christmas don’t even go together, because I’m pretty sure the only thing being sold at the market are potatoes and onions.

It feels like the Christmas I know is only on the internet, where people are posting pictures of their trees and blogging about DIY decorations. I forget that it is mid december when I walk barefoot to the post office, past the cricket game and the rose bushes in full bloom. The sign outside the post office informs wee ones of Santa’s mailing address and the line of customers with parcels under an arm is out the door. Okay, so it is my Christmas on the internet and in the post office.

Saturday morning cricket in Pembrook Park

They do Christmas here, but it is as if you were doing a really fancy Christmas in July party. We just received the December issue of Donna Hay, which is like a cooler Aussie version of Martha Stewart. They feature DIY projects and recipes, but it is a mash up between Christmas, summer flavors and garden party. Check out the Christmas photo shoot:

Donna Hay Christmas photo shoot in Broome, Australia. Pic courtesy of Australia’s North West FB page.


The dessert recipes are for things like white peach and raspberry pie, gingerbread man ice cream sandwiches, and fig and date ice cream cake with brandy syrup. It is really interesting to see the how seasonal produce and traditional flavors influence dishes that everyone associates with Christmas. I’ve created a venn diagram to better illustrate this point:

Some things are best explained with a piece of chalk and a venn diagram!

It’s strange not doing Christmas my way, but a lovely change of pace. The most obvious difference is that there isn’t so much of an emphasis on presents and spending dough, but that may also be because we have been hanging out in a town full of travelers on budgets. I’ll miss my family for sure, but plan to eat and drink plenty at the Orphan’s Christmas dinner that we will have at our house here in Wanaka on Christmas Eve.

Wanaka Xmas


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, Folks!

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