Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Tentative plans...

Well, after much deliberation, I have a rough outline of what I'd like to do after my time in New Zealand. It will begin with a couple months working back in Omaha. This will serve two purposes: To save more money to extend my travels; and to wait for weather in Asia to become a bit more comfortable (less heat, less monsoon). Then, in September, I plan to head to China for a couple months, maybe more. After that, it's likely I'll visit Southeast Asia (Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, etc). And I'm strongly considering a working holiday visa to Singapore for six months in 2009. Singapore is a very modern Asian island-state, located at the tip of the Malaysian peninsula. All this is subject to change--I haven't even purchased my plane ticket back to the US yet. (I will be stateside by 27th of June for Paul's San Diego wedding though...and back to Omaha shortly after that).

So that's me, in rough pencil form. I'll begin finalizing plans in the coming months. Rest assured, though, that I will not be returning to the office any time soon. I think restaurants are where I belong for the time being.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day sucks

I'm not saying V-Day sucks because I'm one of those jealous single people--My budget is limited, and does not include taking girls out to nice restaurants. But it's because people STILL DIDN'T TIP!

OK, so I had one couple who are old friends of the owners--they had a special menu, taken from the restaurant where they met ten years ago--who tipped me quite well. But get this: One gentleman decided that the cliched Valentines Day proposal in a nice restaurant would be a good idea. He had his table booked at least a month ago. I brought out champagne when they sat down. We played their song for them while he got on bended knee. He cried; she cried. It went perfectly, he told me. Not only did this guy not tip, but he also tried to use a discount card (which we weren't accepting on the 14th) on their meal! I mean, holy shit, what does it take to get a little bit of gratuity here?! You would think that not only that guy, but every paying man in that place last night would have been feeling nice and generous, since he knows he's going to get laid later on.

I love New Zealand, but boy can it be ass backward.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Restaurant Life

It occurred to me that I have been working at this restaurant for three months now and have written very little about the goings on of my work life. I want to change that, and will make an effort to tell you more about the entertaining bits of waiting tables in New Zealand.

First off, about my restaurant: It was opened in 2000 by a Michelin-rated chef and his wife. He is from England, and got his start, along with Hell's Kitchen star Gordon Ramsay at one of London's (and the world's) top restaurants. The restaurant is one of the top places to dine in Wellington (take, for example, that my boss received hundreds of calls looking for a Valentine's Day table yesterday).

The restaurant is in a former police station, and is on two floors, with the bar, lounge and private dining room on the bottom floor. It can get quite busy on the weekends (which includes Thursday)...serving more than 100 people in a relatively small restaurant. The waiters are forced to be pretty self-sufficient. There are no bussers or anything of that sort. It's hard work, but lots of fun.

Being "assistant manager" essentially means that I am the duty manager on Sundays and Mondays when the owners and manager take their days off. I work from open to close (on Monday that means a 12-hour, break-less shift...whew).

Some interesting facts/observations:

--In New Zealand, "entrees" are starters or appetizers. What Americans call Entrees are known simply as "mains."
--The majority of Kiwis do not tip. They are very cheap.
--Three-course dinners are quite common (starters, mains, desserts/coffees). Nearly all patrons have three courses. I can't remember the last time I had a three-course meal.
--Yes, head chefs do act like Gordon Ramsay (the fuck this, fuck that, throwing things attitude).

Despite some rough, thankless patches during the holidays, I'm quite happy that I ended up in Wellington and with this job. It's a great CV builder and huge learning experience.

And now for my next test...Valentine's Day. We have 100 booked, mostly tables of two. We have at least one engagement set to occur in the restaurant tonight. It's going to be total insanity. I'll give you the scoop tomorrow.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Five month recap

I've now been in New Zealand for five months. I thought I would post some photos that hadn't yet made an appearance here. Enjoy

Early morning, Sept. 11, 2007: Nearly there

A cloudy day in Auckland

Morning at the Bay of Islands

A hot pool in Rotorua

Fire on the beach in Wairoa

Cool rock formations

Park in Wellington, where Lord of the Rings scenes were filmed

Cows in Le Bons Bay

Cool path on Otago Penninsula

Lake Wakatipu

Near Milford Sound, Fiordland

Ice blue water

Taking the train

Pavlova--New Zealand's national dessert

From atop Kapiti Island

This sums up most of my Saturdays

Cool sign near Wellington's harbour

Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Sevens

I spent the weekend with beauty queens, construction workers, flight attendants, police officers and countless others. If you Omaha folks thought baseball fans went nuts during the College World Series, you've seen nothing.

The International Rugby Sevens is a traveling tournament of rugby teams from all over the world. Gameplay is seven versus seven, rather than the usual 15, and games are 15 minutes each. So it's just a day loaded with quick rugby games. Folks from around the country have been in town and it's been just a huge party--each group picks a theme and gets costumed up. I've seen so many crazy getups marching through the streets. Check out these photos for some of what I saw.

Last night concluded with a street party on Courtenay Place, just down the block from where I live. Madness. It would be like closing down the Old Market.

So aside from nursing my mean hangover right now, things are good. I am trying to decide what I will do after my time in New Zealand. I think either I will go to China in July or I will get a job back in Omaha for a couple months and go to China in September, after the Olympics are over...all the new infrastructure will be in place, but none of the Games crowds. We'll see.